One of the most common things that I get asked when people hear that I am homeschooling is how in the world I entertain my little ones during my homeschooling day. I am proof that it can be done, and the whole family doesn’t have to suffer while home educating! I present a few ideas to you to think for keeping babies, toddlers, and preschoolers busy during a normal home school scenario.
- Make sure everyone is well-fed. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I cannot tell you how many times I have lost my cool over the symptoms of a slightly hungry kid! (This really goes for ALL of the kids, baby through school aged.) Keep easy snacks around so that taking a snack break is less stressful. Pre-wash and cut up fruit and veggies, have single serving containers of yogurt, portion out snack baggies of homemade trail mix, get the squeeze-type baby food for your baby. Do what you can to make sure that hunger doesn’t ruin your educating efforts!
- Do school while your littlest kid(s) sleep. This one can sometimes be easier said than done, particularly if you have more than one younger child to deal with. Juggling the time can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible! In our household, the baby likes to sleep in until 9:30 or 10 AM after he nurses in the morning. That little window of time is the perfect time to get your most difficult work done or the work that requires little pieces or anything messy. Maybe for you, this will be in the afternoon while your toddler snoozes. You may even put your youngest to sleep an hour early at night and work on school with the big kids later in the day. Don’t be afraid to try new things and do school in snippets!
- Wear your baby! I get so exhausted holding my baby all the time while doing school. My current youngest is 5 months old and over 21 pounds of pure chubby goodness. Not only does my back get out of whack, but my hands aren’t free to help my older kids if I’m holding him in my arms. I enjoy wearing him in a baby carrier, such as my Boba. With this, I can get things done, still get my baby lifting workout in, and I am still spending quality time with all of the kiddos.
- Use ordinary things to make extraordinary toys. My youngest kids love to play with plastic food storage containers, highlighters, dry erase markers and boards, plastic silverware from IKEA, and so much more. Go with it! Let them use pencils as drumsticks (and old plastic Easter baskets as drums). The more you let go in this area, the happier everyone will be! You might find that your youngest kids get bored with their own toy collection the second their older sibling(s) get going with schoolwork. That’s totally fine. Give them something else that is usually not considered a toy to play with and they’ll suddenly feel included!
- Consider buying school supplies for your younger children. For me, this included purchasing some preschool flashcards, workbooks, Brainquest cards, and an extra set of school supplies for my (newly turned) 3 year old. He has a binder with a folder and blank paper inside, as well as scissors, pencils, a pencil sharpener, a box of washable markers, and a box of crayons. He feels so grown up because he has his own school, but he rarely asks to use any of it. It is there when he thinks about it, though, and that is great so he can join in without me needing to scramble to find something!
- Create educational centers for your little kids. Some things to include might be a cookie sheet and a set of magnetic letters, some Bendaroos, a ziploc baggie filled with food coloring-dyed hair gel and taped close (to practice tracing letters), and a few little kid board games. Things like this encourage learning without being expensive. Make sure you set this close to where you’ll be working with your big kid so you can keep an eye on them.
- Use technology! No, I did not just say to stick your kid in front of the TV. Obviously you can, but I recommend choosing something educational at least. PBS or Nick Jr are safe bets, along with any of the Leapfrog DVDs. Beyond the television, feel free to browse the web for fun computer games to play! My kids love Starfall and PBS Kids. There are also lots of games available for the Nintendo DS, the iPad, the Nook, and more. Don’t be afraid to use these as learning aids in your home school. Most people would be surprised how early children can start learning from and getting the hang of different programs.
- Do things together as a family. If there are books that your kids need to read for school, consider reading them altogether as a family. Another thing to think about is that if your older child is doing research on something, say sharks as an example, be sure to check out books at your youngest child’s level about sharks as well. Incorporate all of your kids in the learning and hit various age levels! The older kids can still learn from more children’s books and this creates a great family bonding time. If your local gym offers homeschool gymnastics, see what age they begin lessons. At my local gym, it starts at age 3, so 3 of my 4 kids are old enough to go and participate together!
- Know that it is OKAY to let go of the expectation of perfection. If the house is messy, get the kids involved to clean it! I got my kids little stick vacuums and they fight over whose turn it is to use it! They also fight over who gets to spray cleaner and wipe the table after we eat. Improvise! Get creative! The kids will end up with a well-rounded education, an awesome family bond, and you will stress less.
Homeschooling is quite rewarding and can be a fun experience for everyone. Incorporating the littles into day to day life doesn’t have to be a hassle! A little creativity goes a long way to making each day fulfilling and fun.
Jennifer is a Dweebette – a regular contributor to Mama Dweeb!
Author BIO: Jennifer is a homeschooling mother to 4 precious children. When she isn’t blogging on Jenn’s RAQ, she is very involved with Girl Scouts and her homeschool playgroup. She enjoys the thought of taking a nice, warm bubble bath while sipping on a frappucino and eating decadent chocolate, but hasn’t been able to do that in years. To connect with Jennifer, check out her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.