The toddler age is one of the most precious stages. Your toddler is exploring their world, asserting their voices and very curious about everything. But they do make homeschooling a challenge, no question about it.
Whether it was flipping light switches, running away, climbing tables, opening cupboards or just creating general chaos, my toddlers made a simple to-do list of school subjects feel like a massive undertaking on some days.
Homeschooling with a Toddler
Even though something is hard, that doesn't make it bad. In my years of homeschooling with a toddler underfoot, here are a few of the things I did to navigate this often challenging season.
1. Re-frame My Own Thinking about Toddlers: The first and most important thing I did when managing toddlers and homeschooling was to re-frame how I thought about my child. Toddlers are not a distraction or interruption from "the work". They are the important work too!
Re-framing my thinking to see all of my children as equally important made me more patient when plans went off the rails. I never wanted my child to feel like an annoyance (even if they were) so remembering what a privilege it was to be together as a family helped my attitude too.
We get to be together. Relationships are forming between my children that wouldn't happen if everyone was in school. And the way I respond to my toddler tornado, models and impacts the way my other children view and treat the toddler.
2. Make a Plan for The Toddler, Too: Just as important as planning out my older children's subjects and lessons was making a plan for my toddler too. If I went into the school day just assuming my toddler would sit on my lap and listen quietly, it seemed to never fail that, that day, they wouldn't.
I needed to pull out some novelty toys that only came out during lessons or find a way to include them in what we were doing.
Some of my favorite things to set up for them--when they no longer put things in their mouth-- included: kitchen items and pom poms (like scoops, measuring cups, tongs, etc), kinetic sand, magnets, window clings or craft supplies (stamps, big crayons, water cup and construction paper, etc). You can find more ideas here in my amazon shop!
3. Give Them Your Attention First: One of my best tips would be to sit down with your toddler 10 or 15 minutes before lessons start and give them your full attention. Play, sing, dance and give them lots of eye contact.
Their need for your attention should be somewhat satiated by this extended time of play so that when you shift to lessons they are more content to play independently near by. Days that I did this saved me a ton of headache and interruptions.
4. Expand Your School Hours: If you're finding yourself frustrated by lesson times that keep falling apart, expand your idea of school hours. First, you may need to open up your schedule a bit so that it can adjust for interruptions, diaper changes, spills and messes.
Secondly, consider doing school in the evenings or on weekend when you may have an extra hand to help. School during nap times or during meal times when your toddler is contained and occupied in a high chair or crib. School doesn't have to be done before noon (despite what veteran homeschoolers may tell you) and it doesn't even have to be done during the week day hours!
5. Call in Reinforcements and Add Water: If you have multiple children, it might help to assign an older child to your toddler for play and entertainment while you're doing one on one lessons (and then rotate). This isn't my favorite way, but it is effective!
For my kids, their favorite activity to do together was anything involving water. I often let them play together in a sink or with a big bowl (with a tiny bit of water) and measuring cups and little figures and a lot of towels! That kept all of my kids interested and busy for quite a bit of time! In the warmer months we did this outside and any form of water play was always a hit.
Toddlerhood Isn't Forever
No matter how many kids are in your family, the toddler years are not forever. When I was in them, I felt like they really would last forever and then I woke up one day and they were in the rear view mirror!
It's wild how much things change when you aren't looking, and it is my hope that in the hard there can also be a deep cherishing of the season your toddler child is in!
*Disclosure: I do receive a small compensation from anything purchased from my Amazon shop.