I’ve had a few requests from fellow mamas who are juggling infants, toddlers, and preschoolers WHILE leading the way on educating grade school kids about how I keep my little ones engaged/entertained/occupied during focused schoolwork time.
And when they asked … I chuckled. Because holy cow this is the ultimate beast when it comes to homeschooling in my opinion.
My quick, default answer is television. Not the most brilliant advice, but it’s with no shame and mere surivival that I offer screens. Because yes, I 100% offer a show to my little boys when I need quiet time with the older kids. Now, we have differentiated between a TV free for all and what we call “learning shows”, but regardless, I do call upon screens for the littles and if you do too THAT IS JUST FINE.
When I dug deeper though, I realized that I do access an arsenal of activities to occupy little learners while simultaneously explaining fractions, long division, compound nouns, and proper apostrophe use. So, here you go! A bundle of links and resources for keeping your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers out of shenanigans while overseeing the education of your older crew!
Back in the day, my sisters and I built creations and maintained them for days, but I’ve learned with my little boys they build with one purpose – to destroy! Still, it’s an activity that keeps them building for quite a while! We have these cute robots, Playmags, these giant blocks, and these colorful ones are on my wish list. Duplos are a major hit too.
Traditionally an outdoor activity, the Plasma Car has become such a favorite here that I picked up an extra as a designated indoor toy. My boys take turns pushing each other through the an entry-kitchen-hallway loop. It’s not super quiet but it is super fun!
Yes! They do come for littles as young as two! Peaceable Kingdom is the brand we tend to collect and both my little boys love Bunny Bedtime and Hoot Owl Hoot. When I need to focus on something with one big kid I’ll task the other with facilitating a favorite board game.
Since you aren’t locked into schooling at desks move read aloud time into the bath room and contain little kids with a shallow splish splash play bath. My boys love these jelly fish (they stick to bodies and the tub walls!) and these bubbles’ scents are calming for everyone.
Books, Books, Books!
Little ones really do love books, especially interactive ones! This post has gobs of our favorites from Usborne broken down by age group. So many of them are search + find and lift-the-flap – the kind kids love. I frequently add to the book section of my Amazon shop too.
I’ll also use story time as a way to both teach and occupy. For example, when I’m reviewing math with one I’ll have the other read a story to the little ones – reading practice for them and book fun for the littles.
Water Beads + Giant Tweezer
Water beads are a great porch or bin activity. I usually fill up our water table with them! To up the fun (and time they spend playing) I’ll hide little plastic animals or collectibles in the water beads and then have them use giant tweezers to pinch them out into a cup or bowl.
Wikki Stix are an A+ fine motor skills activity; my big kids equally love twisting up creations.
By 2-3 years old my kids are puzzle crazy. Grab this 12 piece box set from Melissa & Doug or browse eeboo’s amazing collection of 2 piece matching puzzles. Both of these are sturdy which means less puzzle frustration and a longer lifespan.
Play Doh is messy (at least I think it is!) but fun and definitely worth a sweep later. I put high chair age kids in their high chair so they have a close up table to work.
Two is the perfect age to introduce audiobooks. I have our iPad geared up to run Audible and the specifically search/buy audiobooks that have synchronized images like “The Napping House” (only 69 cents!) and “Burt Down: Deep Water Man” ($1.95 but 24 minutes long!) Just search synchronized images on Audible and currently 187 options will pop up under the children’s category.
The Good and the Beautiful also has free audiobooks for 2-5 year olds here.
Yes, paint sounds messy, but, I promise, as long as you opt for washable … you’re in the clear! Dot paints are one of the first I start with and then we move up to paint brushes. Currently my 3 and 4 year old love washing them painting shells, sticks, and rocks that we find on hikes; and this car painting project is the next paint experience I plan to introduce.
“New” Toy Rotation
Almost everything from Learning Resources will prove to capture kid’s attention. We have a handful of sets from Learning Resources and I keep them on rotation to pull out as “new” toys every few weeks.
Last, but definitely not least is the magic of ups. When I have tiny ones they are almost always on my front or back while I homeschool. A wrap like the Solly is my favorite in the beginning (up to about 15 pounds) and then they graduate to the Free-to-Grow Tula. From there the Toddler Tula. Because yes, I still boost up my preschooler when he needs to be close to mama.
How do you engage your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? I’m ALWAYS on the look out for new ideas from mamas in the trenches of homeschooling with a range of ages so don’t hesitate to comment and share what works for your family.