Homeschooling older children with little ones in the house can be a real challenge. Toddlers and preschoolers are energetic, inquisitive, and mobile. They make things happen. Woe to you if you’re not watching them while they’re making things happen. But how can you occupy them in a way that will still allow you to also teach older ones?
One of the things that has helped me over the years is an idea adapted from Montessori preschools. “Play stations” are independent activities set up in designated spaces on the floor. Children stay with one activity for 5 to 10 minutes. When a timer rings, they rotate to another station. Good activities include: dollhouse and people, Cheerios to string, blocks, stacking cups, Legos, simple puzzles, and stories on tapes.
Play stations require a little bit of training. At first you may want to be flexible with the time. With young toddlers, you’ll want to keep the time short– maybe 2-3 rotations of 5 minutes each once a day. Or you can let your child do an activity for as long as it holds his interest, and then pull out the next thing.
As kids settle in and their attention span increases, you can gradually increase the number of rotations, and the amount of time at each activity. If play is going really well, I’ll sometimes just turn the timer off rather than interrupt the child when he is really engrossed in an activity.
Vary activities often to suit your child’s interests. To keep several kids occupied at once, 4-6 activities are adequate. Set up stations a few feet apart to avoid squabbles. The time it takes to set up play stations will be rewarded by the sight of your little ones learning to play happily— and independently — near you.
1.) Indoor ‘sandbox’: Put uncooked rice into a large bowl on a bed sheet on the floor. Add cups, funnels, and spoons. Afterward your child can help clean up with a small broom and dustpan.
2.) Toy Dump: Suspend a plastic bucket from the ceiling about a foot off the floor. Put a plastic dishpan under it full of small toys. Toddlers fill the bucket and dump it back into the dishpan.
3.) Ball Toss: Use a bucket and aluminum foil balls, and make a masking tape ‘free-throw’ line to stand behind.
4.) Sewing Cards: Glue a picture to cardboard, then outline the picture with a hole punch. Your child ‘sews’ the picture using a long shoelace.Pin It