Tips for Toddlers

playing peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo, toddler, lady smiling, lady in box, lady hiding, baby playingDelana H Stewart

After perusing several articles on home schooling with toddlers, as well as “pre-schooling” toddlers, it was easy to notice that each 7, 10, and 12 tip plan could easily be grouped into five major categories.  So, whether your toddler is your oldest or only and you are just getting started, or you’re stressed because you are schooling older children and you have a toddler to occupy, these five tips should come in handy.  I’m not writing from theory, but from practice, as my three sons were once 1, 3, and 5 years old when we were just getting started. And, if you need some help with potty training, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Initiate a Plan:

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe in planning and organizing.  After 19 years of raising children and 11 years overseas, however, I have learned that flexibility is the key to sanity!  Have a plan, but hold it loosely.

*Plan around your toddler’s schedule.  When he is content to play alone or when he takes naps, might be the best time to school your older children.  Obviously you can’t teach everything during nap hour, but you might want to teach the most difficult or time intensive subject.

*Plan a schedule for your toddler.  She will enjoy her own special routine and come to look forward to it.  Use a timer to remind you and her that it’s time to change activities.  Activities will need to change more frequently to keep her interested.

*Plan an area designed for your toddler’s special activities.  An area that is near where you are and keeps him fenced in a bit is ideal.

*Plan other areas of your life so that your time is freed up.  Plan your meals, schedules, errands, and other essentials ahead of time.

Invite Help:

*Invite (or assign) older children to watch or “teach” the toddler for particular times during the day.  I remember teaching my 5-year-old something and then letting him “teach” his 3-year-old brother while I was bathing the baby or cooking a meal.  My younger two actually learned to read by playing phonics games with their older brother.  The older sibling gains confidence and learns about responsibility and leadership.  Big brothers and sisters who are learning to read can also nicely entertain younger siblings by reading aloud to them.  Your hands and eyes are free to do other things as you monitor your young student’s reading skills from a distance.

*Invite a neighbor, spouse, or house-helper to spend some time with your toddler while you are teaching a lesson to older children.  Neighbors who I’ve helped with various needs often appreciate an opportunity to come and lend me a hand.

Institute a Co-op, Playgroup, or Toddler Swap:

*Consider a toddler swap.  Find another family with young pre-school age kids and you take their toddler for certain days at a certain time, and then they do the same for you on a different day.

*Start a co-op of sorts.  You can agree to work with each other’s older children on the days that you are without toddlers.  The kids get to enjoy having certain lessons taught in another setting by another teacher those days.  Parents can also enjoy their strengths.  One parent may really enjoy science experiments and the other may be gifted in language arts.

*Arrange a toddler playgroup.  This could even work with local friends.  Agree to watch several of your neighbors’ toddlers one day a week (tell them their toddlers will get exposed to English early on this way).  In exchange, ask each of those neighbors to pick one day to watch your toddler for the same amount of time (1-2 hours max).  If you have three neighbors with toddlers, then you get three days with some toddler-free time, in exchange for one 2-hour period of watching their kids.

Involve Your Toddler:

*Ever hear of osmosis?  Having your child sit in your lap while you read a history or science lesson will have amazing results in what they “catch” just by being around.  Let them get involved in science experiments, art projects, and creating a history or family time-line.

*Sometimes toddlers just want to feel like they are a part of the action.  Have a special coloring book or project book that they can do some drawing and writing in during certain classes.  Their attention span is short, but this can be helpful for certain periods of time.

Include Special Projects Just for the Toddler:

As mentioned in the planning section about making a schedule for your toddler, and in the section above about involving your toddler, you can prepare special boxes or bags that have projects just for your toddler.  It is best not to give the toddler access to all of these projects at once, but have them where you can easily change them out for a new project (once your toddler is bored with the old one).  These projects can be somewhat related to what you are doing with your older kids, or can just be random items.  You can have a set of items that you allow her to choose from in the morning and another set for the afternoon.  Design a “menu” card of sorts for your toddler to choose from.  Put a picture of each of six items on a card and let her point to the one she wants to do first or next.  On the next page I’ve listed some ideas to get you started.  Choose toys, items, and projects that toddlers can do by themselves without help or close supervision.

Toddler Kits—

  • The Drawing Box:  Toddler-sized crayons, 2 coloring books, plain paper.
  • The Duplo (Toddler-sized Legos) Bag: In this large bag (or pillow case) include an assortment of Duplos or blocks and a sheet.  Spread the sheet on the floor and put your toddler and the blocks on the sheet.  Train the toddler to keep everything on the sheet and then it is easy to clean up the mess. It is not difficult to train your toddler to do keep the blocks on the sheet.  The first time they throw anything off the sheet, all blocks get scooped up with the sheet and poured back into the bag and put away.  Stick with it—don’t give in!  Don’t let him have those to choose from again until the next day.  {Legos or blocks can be sorted by color or shape or size when your toddler gets a little older.  This is a good activity to do with Mom or an older sibling.}
  • The Lincoln Log Bag: Same as above.
  • The Place Setting Box: Include a toddler plate, cup, spoon, doll or stuffed animal, teapot, pretend food, and “table cloth.”  Child stays on “table-cloth” with the items (as mentioned above with blocks).
  • Clothespin Can: Take a coffee can or large cup and 10 clothespins.  Give your child her bathroom stepstool to stand on and ask her to drop the clothespins into the can one at a time to see how many she can put into the can.  Tell her that once she has tried them all, to pick them up and try it again.
  • Felt Bag: Place into a bag a foldable felt board or roll of felt, flannel, or similar material.  Also in the bag place several felt shapes of various colors and sizes.  Let your child create scenes for you on the felt.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.  Tell your toddler that when the timer rings, you will take a picture of his creation.  He will spend more dedicated time on this project knowing that you will make a fuss over it when he is finished.
  • Domino Bag: Let your child match the dominoes end to end or try to set them up to knock them over, or whatever she pleases!  Dominoes are always fun for toddlers to experiment with.
  • Trucks and Cars Bag: Of course trucks and cars are needed for this, but you can also have a parent, friend, or sibling draw some creative roads, houses, and shops on an old sheet that can be used for the playing surface.  Keep the sheet together with the trucks.  Include other small items that the toddler might like to have with the cars.
  • Dress-Up Bag: This is pretty self-explanatory, but don’t feel like it is just for girls.  Costumes and daddy’s big shirts and old ties can be fun for the little guy, too.
  • PlayDough: Use this only if you are all in the kitchen together or some other “safe” surface.  Peanut-butter dough is fun, too, and can be eaten (unless your child has a peanut allergy, of course).
  • Sewing Cards.
  • Puzzle Bag: Put simple puzzles in individual bags for this project.  You can even make puzzles using photos or magazine pictures and gluing them onto heavy cardboard.
  • Baby Jars Box: If your toddler will be in a carpeted area where these won’t break (or if you have plastic containers with screw on lids) this can be a fun project to test his skill.  Give him the box of containers with their lids.  Ask him to screw all the lids onto their containers.  At first use containers and lids that are all alike.  Later use ones of differing sizes.
  • Others: I’m sure that you can look around and see what toys or items you have around the house that are toddler safe and create your own activity boxes or bags.


Potty Training

And, if you are struggling with potty training your little ankle biter, you are in good company! You may want to check out this Mom’s blog:

Need a laugh? Check out Veggie Toilets.

Need help? Check out this article on Focus on the Family…


4 thoughts on “Tips for Toddlers

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