If anyone ever tells you that homeschooling with a toddler or preschool is easy, they either have a calm little girl that sits quietly and colors all day, or they are a big fat liar, LOL! Marlie was pretty chill, she was the little girl that sat quietly much of the time and colored and did crafts all day. Mason is not that child! No matter what kind of toddler or preschooler you have, homeschooling with little ones takes planning. You can't just wing it ever day, if you do, you'll end up with a crying mama and a screaming toddler (or a screaming mama and a crying toddler!)
Yes, you really need a plan for how you are going to manage the little ones. I keep a bunch of toys and crafts that are *only for school time*. The newness is key. If you keep some toys and activities separate from every day toys, they will keep the kids occupied for a longer period of time. So here's how I do it. I sit down with my toys and activities and make 2 lists. 1 - art and crafty type things, and 2 - toys and other activities. If you don't make a list, when you are trying to think of something for little jr to do, instead of color on the walls, you often panic and can't think of anything for him to do (or at least that's what happens to me!) Here's part of my 2 lists (my full lists are much longer)
3. color wonder
4. aqua doodle
5. white board
1. light bright
3. abc blocks
4. Little People
Once the list is done, I print out an online calendar and plug everything in. I plan 1 art activity, and 2 regular activity's per day. I'm not married to the schedule in any way, if Mason wants to play with play-doh, I'm not going to tell him he can only have markers. But I have to have some sort of plan or I get all flustered when he's whining about being bored, and someone else needs my help. This is my September plan. It's hanging on the side of a cabinet right near where we will be doing school so I can see it. It's an easy month, not a lot of messy art projects, and the activities I planned aren't anything I have to prep for. Wednesday the big kids have classes all day, so it's just Mason and I. We have playgroup that day, so I don't plan for that day.
As far as other activities goes, I keep a huge list on my computer of things for siblings to do while the older kids are homeschooling. Here it is in it's massiveness, LOL
Give them a pipe cleaners and a little bag of beads. Let them string the beads on the pipe cleaners. When they are done, make a little circle out of it, twist and trim the ends and you’ve got a bracelet.
Little notebook and either the stickers or the stamp and some colored pencils.
Lined paper and envelopes, tell them to write Daddy a note
Plastic (or cardboard) coins and a piggy bank- bought or home-made.(Pringles can, slit cut in top)
Playdoh with a plastic knife, rolling pin, cookie cutters, small plastic toys, etc.
Painting; watercolors, paint books, or food coloring in water with a Q-tip.
Chalk or light color crayons on dark construction paper.
Sscissors and paper (no other objective in mind!)
Easy-to-use paper punch and strips of paper.
Stencils, paper, colored pencils.
Lacing cards; Cardboard shape with holes punched around it.
Attach yarn,wrap masking tape around the end.
Plastic canvas with yarn attached, wrap end in masking tape.
Poke holes in thick cardboard with a tack.(Just be sure you know where the tack ends up!)
Shallow bucket on a towel on the floor add water, boats Plastic fish,measuring cups, etc.
Writing tray; Put a layer of rice or cornmeal in a cookie sheet. Good for spelling practice or picture-drawing or practicing A B C?s.
Mini-sandbox; Put a layer of sand in a box the size of a banana box. Add trucks, cars, Popsicle sticks.
Make a tunnel of kitchen chairs.
Give them a crochet hook and a length of yarn. Demonstrate chain stitch afew times. if you refuse to do it for them,you'll be surprised at what they figure out.
Stack cups or containers of different sizes.
Nuts and bolts, same or different sizes.
Scrap wood, hammer, nails.
Bucket of water and a paintbrush-for outside painting. Works best on wood or concrete.
Chalk on sidewalk or steps.
Let them "wash" a few plastic dishes. Put an egg beater, measuring cup and baster in the water.
A cup with non-toxic soapy water and a straw to blow bubbles. You may put it on a sheet of paper and add food coloring to the water.
A retractable measuring tape to measure with.
Arrange blocks by size, color, or shape.
Make a necklace or snack chain with yarn (masking tape on end) and any cereal with holes; Fruit loops, Cheerios, etc.
Dip string pieces in thinned poster paint. Fold a paper in half. Lay string on one side and fold over to create designs.
Flash cards; ABC?s or what ever you may have.
Pictures with colored glue. If you put these on a smooth plastic sheet, it can be peeled off when dry.
Super ball or small car and a paper towel or Christmas paper tube.
Draw roads, houses, etc. on large paper or cardboard. Use cars and trucks on it.
Tops- bought or made with ½ toothpick and cardboard disk.
Look through the button box.
Water colored with food coloring, eye dropper or paint brush, coffee filter. Once this is dry, you can iron it. Then cut the center out of a paper plate. Glue filter to it for a sun catcher.
Beanbags and a bucket.
Magnet and paperclips, washers, a nail, etc.
A large box. (yep, that's all!)
Throw a blanket over a card table or a couple of chairs. Offer clothespins.
Glue and glitter pictures...get them into old clothes and onto a plastic drop cloth or old sheet first though.
A variety of magnets and the refrigerator door.
Stickie notes and a pencil.
Refrigerated cookie dough and a cookie sheet...they can play-dough the stuff into balls and you can all eat the results.
Tattooing...give them watercolor markers, get them into an old pair of shorts and let them do the body-paint thing.
A stack of puzzles.
Ice trays and buttons, beads or marbles for sorting.
A marble maze - set it in a large cookie sheet or a shallow box to cut down on the lost marbles.
A plastic bottle (clean milk jug, well rinsed detergent bottle, etc.)and items such as clothes pin, straw, penny, etc., to drop in and then shakeout again.
Ice cube on a sidewalk. Works like sidewalk chalk, but requires no cleaning.
Damp washrag and a dirty wall or a window, paper towels and a spray bottle with a little water in it.
Colored rice to pour through a colander or funnels.
Colored rice or colorful cereals to glue on paper - write the child's name in big block letters and let them glue stuff inside the letters.
Tape a sheet of freezer paper or newsprint to the floor and trace around the child (have them lie still on it with their arms and legs a little outstretched) and then let them color their self portrait.
Single hole punch and a ruler
Lakeshore’s Do a Dot Markers
Tape and paper, (I buy tape at the 99 cent store and showed her how to use it sparingly.
Metallic or Glitter Crayola crayons
A few other helpful tips for homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers...
Assign each older child 20 minutes to play with the little one. With 3 older kids that worked out to 60 minutes that Mason was occupied. It gave me a chance to work 1 on 1 with a big kid while Mason was busy.
Be open to schooling in different places. I can't even count how many times, we've tossed all the school work in backpacks and headed to the park. The big kids worked under the shade of a tree on a blanket, while Mason played.
Use nap time! I often had the older kids do their independent work while Mason was awake, and then we did things that needed more of my attention while he was sleeping.
Start early end early. There's nothing worse than getting a late start on school and being stuck still working at 3:00. By then your toddlers and preschoolers are totally done, LOL! I know you late sleepers will shudder, but I have my kids starting on school at 8:00. If they are up and ready earlier, then they know to start earlier. Blake usually starts by 7:30. To his credit he's been finished by 12:00 quite frequently! If you put your kids to bed earlier, then they will get up earlier ;-)
Hope that helps all the homeschooling mamas with littles!