Toddlers. Opinionated. Willful. Energetic. Emotional. And so demanding. I love toddlers. They are so much fun. But they can really make life challenging at times, including homeschool life. I’m not going to lie, it can be remarkably frustrating to be trying to diagram a sentence with an older child when your toddler decides to write on the wall with permanent marker, has a potty accident, or throws a fit. But there are things you can do to help your toddler to stay happily engaged in your homeschool life, and help your homeschool day go more smoothly despite that terrible two year-old.
Fill the Bucket
Fill your child’s need for attention first thing, before you start school for the day. Spend some time reading together, cuddling, playing a game, or doing a puzzle. Try to let your child choose the book or activity. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time – 15 to 20 minutes will go a long way.
Trying to power through several hours of schooling while your toddler happily plays alone may not be a realistic expectation. It can help to break up the day and do things that your toddler can easily be involved in – a snack, a little exercise outside, some music, or a story that your young child will enjoy.
If the weather will allow, work on schoolwork outside on a blanket or picnic table. Most toddlers can find lots to occupy themselves with outside. Or, it can be really helpful sometimes to spend time at the park or on a walk or bike ride early in the day. Sometimes a toddler will consume enough energy and get enough stimulation by doing this that they will be content doing a quiet activity while you work with other children on their schoolwork.
Toddlers love novelty. And mess. Combine the two, and your toddler will be happy for quite some time. A great strategy for helping your toddler happily occupy himself is to have several different bins containing different activities that your toddler only gets to do during school. The messier the better. This can be play-dough, special sand toys, water play, a sensory bin, items for coloring and cutting, paints, etc. For sanity’s sake, I suggest having a strategy for containing the mess. One of my favorite things has been to put a kiddie pool inside and let my toddler stand in it (dry) with a bucket of water, measuring cups, and other water toys. She thought that was great fun. Play-doh can be done on the back porch so that it doesn’t end up stuck in the carpet while you are attending to your 4th grader’s math. Paints can be done in the bath tub if you have one within ear-shot. Or the kiddie pool will work for that too. The way to keep this interesting for your child is to rotate the activities. For example, you might have 10 different activities that only come out during school (or when you are trying to get something else accomplished). If you use one a day, your child only gets to see that activity once every two weeks. Keep the novelty alive. And the mess. Your toddler will be happy.
Field trips are a great way to learn and they keep your homeschool fresh and interesting. Plan field trips that your toddler can participate in and enjoy. You will all benefit from a regular change of pace.
The final thought I have to share with you is this: expect hard days. They are going to happen. Your toddler will be cranky and uncooperative sometimes, and you will be impatient. It’s ok. If you are having a really hard day, just stop. The world will not end if you skip math one day because your toddler is having a meltdown. Do an art project together. Go outside and play. Spend time in nature. Read stories together. These are all still worthwhile activities. Remember, there are no perfect days in homeschool (or at least not many) and that’s ok!