I consider myself a veteran homeschooler. I have homeschooled at least one child every year for 17 years now. I’ve had anywhere from one to five children homeschooling at a time – and usually with a baby or toddler (or both!).
Homeschooling with a toddler is probably the most difficult homeschooling season I’ve been in. Homeschooling with a baby is easy in comparison- they can’t crawl on the table and throw everything on the floor yet.
The only time a toddler is still is when they’re sleeping!
I’m not going to pretend that I have learned the magic secret to homeschooling with a toddler without losing your mind. Other than hiring a babysitter, you’re out of luck. The most honest piece of advice I’ll give you is this – This too shall pass.
However, there are a few things that I’ve discovered that may help occupy your toddler long enough for you to read the directions on a worksheet or explain a few math problems.
But first – allowing a toddler to run free while you’re trying to help your older children with schoolwork isn’t always the best idea. You’ll be running ragged trying to make sure the little one isn’t swishing their hands in the toilet or tearing pages out of a book or putting things in their mouth. But if everyone is at the table, you can bet your toddler will want to be right in the middle of everything! There’s no way around it. I’d rather try to entertain my toddler at the table than chase him around the house while I’m trying to teach other children.
All the world’s a stage!
If your little one doesn’t mind being strapped into a highchair or booster seat at the table (Zoey will tolerate it for longer than any of my others did), this is the thing to do when you really need to devote most of your attention to the other kids. A few snacks, a coloring book and colors, or a small container of play dough should probably work to distract your toddler for a little bit. If he starts to get bored with the activity you have provided, quickly switch it out with another. This may extend the time that they’ll spend contained in the seat.
Water painting is fairly mess-free!
The next thing that works well for me is a “tot tray.” This is just a tray that contains a small activity that your toddler can do independently. Pom-poms and bowls, craft sticks and a water bottle, or magnets and a cookie sheet are examples of simple-to-set-up tray activities. I like these to have as few moving parts as possible, so I will usually provide three or four pom-poms or a small handful of craft sticks. Filling and dumping are two things that toddlers love to do!
I also have some toys and games that are pulled out only during school hours. This makes them more exciting and keeps your little ones interested in them longer. It’s almost like a brand-new toy! Forbidden toys are the best, am I right? Again, I make these toys that don’t have tons of moving parts and can be played with open-endedly.
Playdough is only pulled out during schooltime!
And my last resort is just to put the toddler in my lap. If I’m holding her, she can’t get in to any trouble. She will usually be satisfied with a board book to look at, a pencil or crayon to draw with, or sipping out of my cup. For a few minutes anyway.
When all else fails, snacks usually prevail!
If you’re homeschooling with a toddler underfoot, I suggest you learn to multi-task as well as just embrace the chaos that undoubtedly comes with the territory! And remember:
THIS TOO SHALL PASS!