Do you need help managing your toddlers and/or preschoolers during homeschool?
With homeschooling, the family learning environment provides great benefits. My first-grader and kindergartener can learn at the kitchen table, and their three-year-old sister can play nearby. However, the family learning environment sometimes pushes a momma’s sanity level to the edge.
Those are usually the days my three-year-old wants all eyes on her. All the time. On those days, she will resort to anything, even fits and whining and causing utter chaos to get what she really wants – my rapt attention, catering to her every whim.
I try to include her as much as possible: letting her sit quietly on my lap, getting one of my sons to read a book to her, letting her water color or draw when my boys are working on writing lessons. I also read aloud to her or play with her before school to give her a few minutes of undivided attention from me.
But on days when she can’t seem to occupy herself, I pull out my bag of tricks, which entertain but also provide great learning opportunities through play.
Here is a list of my favorite activities for the Toddler and Pre-School Crowd During Homeschool:
Keep it Simple:
This is my go-to section. The simpler the better, right?
Pipe Cleaners and a Strainer: Poke pipe cleaners through a strainer (idea via Connie at Smockity Frocks)
Plastic Cups: Stack them, line them up, play with them in the sink, pour water in them, hide small toys underneath them. The possibilities are endless, and if they break, no big deal.
Laundry Basket: For pretend play (a boat! a train!), a bean bag basketball goal, or a stuffed animal sled
Play Fort: A simple sheet draped over a couple of chairs becomes a magical fairy land for most littles. Add some puppets or a flashlight with a stack of books for extra fun.
A Box: Seriously, my girl loves a box. Like the laundry basket, you can do just about anything with one.
Art Table: If possible set up a ready-made art station for your toddler or preschooler. (Teach Your Children Well has some fabulous ideas for age-appropriate materials and guidelines.)
Rip or cut paper. This is a great activity for the table while the older siblings are doing school work.
Magazine Pictures: For pretend play or for making a collage with construction paper and a glue stick.
Stickers: I make blank books on occasion, the perfect size for scribbles and stickers. I have some Melissa & Doug Sticker Pads that are great. I like this idea from Testy Yet Trying, using dot stickers and a paper towel roll for a matching activity.
Big Paper or a Flattened Box: We have a roll of butcher paper on-hand for extended doodle and water color time. Older preschoolers could get a flattened box and some markers.
Pre-Writing Cards: I like these printables from ChildCareLand.com (scroll down to find the Writing Skills section).
Play Dough: It’s a classic for a reason. This is my favorite recipe.
These take a little prep work, but they can provide a few minutes of undivided attention.
Pom-Pom Push: Truth be told, this is absolutely my daughter’s all-time favorite toy to date.
Button Snake: This is an easy sewing craft, even for a non-sewer. Sew a button onto a piece of wide ribbon. Cut out squares of felt and let use the felt to button onto the ribbon.
Memory Games and Pictures
Make a photo book with your favorite snapshots and dollar store albums.
Make your own Memory Games with Scrapbook Paper and card stock (shown above)
Bank. Toddlers and preschoolers love putting small things into big things. Cut a slot in a coffee can, and give her a cup of pennies. You could also use small plastic lids as “money” to slide into an oat container.
Mail Station: Make a mailbox out of a cereal box. Have some envelopes, blank index cards, crayons and stickers ready for letter writing.
Costumes: Of course, all this pretend play wouldn’t be complete without donning favorite costumes and accessories.
Paint with Water. If you cannot spend your time watching your toddler, this is a great activity. You only need some construction paper, a paintbrush, and a small glass of water.
Wash Dishes. Fill up the sink halfway with water and lots of bubbles. Give your sweet one a wash cloth and some plastic dishes.
Water Station: Set a cookie sheet on the floor with a shallow bowl of water and an assortment of scoops, cups, funnels, and spoons. (Keyword: SHALLOW!)
Food and Food Related Items
Pretend Kitchen: Give your little one some play food but real pots and pans.
Sort and Scoop Dried Beans, Pasta, or Rice.
Melissa & Doug Play Food Kits: This set is worth every penny.
Things That Go
Matchbox Car Track: Take a few minutes and make a race car track on the carpet with blue painter’s tape.
Paint with Cars: If you don’t mind a little messy, have your preschooler paint on butcher paper with little cars.
Cars with Chutes: grab any kind of tube from the house – paper towel rolls, PVC pipe, wrapping paper tube, and shoot the little cars through the tube.
Magnets and Lights
Magnet letters and a cookie sheet: A great table time activity.
A Flashlight and a Closet or Large Box: Closet for older kids who can open a door on their own, box for the toddler you need close at hand. You could also break out some glow sticks for a special treat.
Small Magnets and Paper Clips: Give your child a couple of magnets and a small assortment of metallic and non-metallic items. Older kids can sort magnetic from non-magnetic items.
Light Box: This is a great idea from No Time for Flashcards.
Need More Ideas? Check out these websites for even more toddler and preschool activities.
My Pinterest Board: Follow my Pinterest board for Kid Fun.
No Time for Flashcards: Allison is a pre-school genius. She and her team offer simple, educational, and fun activities, usually inspired by books – always happening in and around the home.
What Do We Do All Day: Another great website for practical and simple indoor activities and crafts for kids of all ages.
Money Saving Mom: Check out Crystal’s huge list of busy bag resources.
How Do You Keep Your Little Ones Occupied During Homeschool Activities?
Please note that not all activities are appropriate for all ages. Please take these suggestions as ideas and adapt them as best you can to your own family needs. Thanks!