Homeschooling can be challenging as it is. Add in a preschooler and maybe even a toddler or baby and homeschooling can get downright difficult! Today I’m sharing a few tips to help you homeschool with babies and toddlers.
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I’ve been doing some sort of homeschool with my children since my oldest turned 2. So when he was tot-schooling, I had a baby. Then in the middle of my son’s Kindergarten year, I had a baby and a toddler. Now we have an elementary, a preschooler, and a toddler who will be tot-schooling before I know it. Needless to say, I know a thing or two about how to homeschool with toddlers and babies.
First, let me just say that the season of homeschool with babies and toddlers does indeed end. Unless you plan to pop out babies for 12 years straight, (more power to you momma) then there will come a time when juggling naps, nursing, and diaper changes will end. Hang in there.
Be gracious with yourself and with your children. Just know that, while it may be exhausting and stressful right now, there will come a day when you look back and miss this crazy season of life. So savor it as much as you can. They are only babies and toddlers for a short time.
But during this short season of life, how can we manage the lessons, the nursing sessions, and the toddler that get’s into everything? Here are my top 12 tips for how to homeschool with toddlers and babies:
Tip #1 Love on Littles First
Prioritize quality time with the little ones first. You may have heard this tip before but it’s so true.
Filling up those little one’s love cups make all the difference. Even if it’s just a quick five minutes of snuggling and loving before the school day begins.
My toddler practically demands her one on one time with me usually right after breakfast. I’ll get an “up peese!” on repeat (and at the top of her lungs) until she’s firmly in my arms. Often she just wants me to hold her close, even while I empty the dishwasher.
Then she’s happy and off to play and I’m free to get our homeschool day started. When they’ve been reminded of your love before you are distracted with homeschooling the older ones, they are less likely to need more special time until after the school day has ended.
Tip #2 Outside Time
We go on a morning walk every day before school. It’s only about half an hour but it makes a big difference in my little one’s cooperation during the school day. Getting outside before the school day begins is best but regularly scheduling outside time for the littles is ideal. This really helps everyone to get the wiggles out and prep their mind’s for learning.
For the babies and toddlers, fresh air and room to run freely set’s them up for more quiet, relaxing activities when it is school time. Which brings me to my next tip…
Tip #3 Special Toys
Have a special box of learning toys that are only for school time. When you need to sit down with your older for some one on one learning time, pull this bin out and your toddler can play quietly on his own until you are done.
It must be a box of toys that she is not allowed to play with at any other time of the day though. Otherwise, she may lose interest. Having it only during school times keeps the toys fresh and exciting and may just keep them pre-occupied long enough to get your lesson in uninterrupted.
Tip #4 Sensory Bins
Now if your toddler is anything like mine, your typical toddler toys just won’t keep your little one engaged. My older two weren’t like this but my third has given me a run for my money! For the longest time we had a few tubs of toys downstairs for her to play with but she never played with them.
We always found her (and still do today) getting into things that are not hers. (books, bowls and cups, art supplies – pretty much everything BUT her toys) For whatever reason, she’s just never been too interested in toys.
Enter, sensory bins.
Now these thing always gave me anxiety just thinking about setting one up (MESS) but with my youngest, I had to give it a try. For as hands on as she is, it just made sense that she would like them and sure enough, she LOVES them. I’ve kept it to edible sensory bins at this point and I always remind her to KEEP IT IN THE BIN. At 18 months, she’s done very well with it.
These bins give me a good 15 minutes to half an hour to get a lesson done because my toddler enjoys them so much. Just put some dried beans and a few measuring cups into a bin and they’re happy – who knew!
Tip #5 Snacks
If you can plan lessons around snack time or meal time, the better. I specifically do our history and geography lessons during lunch time because I have a captive audience! Likewise, when the littles are engrossed in snack time, you are freed up to do a lesson or a read aloud without interruption.
My toddler has what I like to call her ‘second breakfast’ after our morning walk, during our morning basket just to keep her preoccupied while we have our Ambleside Online readings. She’s quiet and happy and I am able to get some good reading in.
Tip #6 Include Them
My children have always been interested in doing school with their older siblings. At 2 and a half, my middle child would be at the kitchen table with us, reciting memory work, coloring, and otherwise totally involved in our school day.
They don’t have to do sit down, workbook type lessons but any time my littles want to join in, I let them any way I can. Even if that means sitting at the table with a crayon and some paper taped to the table while their older siblings work on their handwriting. The little ones love being involved!
If you plan tot-school type lessons and activities, this also sets them up for the future expectation that they are going to be homeschooled as well. AND they come to love learning at home! Win win!
Tip #7 Big Kids Teach
Along the lines of including the little ones in your school day, the next tip I have for you is to have your older children practice their skills with the littles. The child who is learning to read can practice reading aloud to his baby sister. The child who is learning fractions can explain to her kid brother how to halve the snack into equal pieces.
This does take a little bit of over sight on your part. However the little ones feel included and the big kids feel important as they share their knowledge. Plus, you get some rest!
Tip #8 Big Kids Babysit
Calling in the cavalry, I mean the older siblings, is also a great way to keep your little ones preoccupied. I have “special sibling time” where my preschooler will play with my toddler. This frees me up to have one on one reading lessons with my son. When he finishes his lesson, he takes over for his sister so she can have her lesson and then he gets the special time with his baby sister.
This special time is just them playing together but they love it! They learn a lot during this time too. Like how to handle toddlers and babies, have patience and relate to younger children. It’s a great education in the art of baby sitting!
Tip #9 Use Time Wisely
This next tip really sums up all the above in that when you homeschool with babies and toddlers, you really need to use your time wisely. During meal times and snack times, get some family subjects done. During baby’s morning nap, instead of cleaning the kitchen, get that math lesson out of the way. If you’ve got a nursing baby, do a family read aloud during that time.
If your toddler is busy at a sensory bin and you finished the science lesson with your kid, go ahead and vacuum the living room. Do what you can in the time you have. Even if it’s just small pockets of time.
In this season, homeschooling in those small pockets add up. If you fill every small pocket you have with catching up on dishes (does anyone really ever catch up?) or scrolling Pinterest, your homeschool will suffer. So make wise use of your time, prioritizing school during school hours and you’ll be just fine.
Tip #10 Baby Wear
Now for those days where you’ve tried every trick in the book and your toddler or baby is just having ‘one of those days’ strap them in to a baby carrier. Recently my 18 month old was not having a good day. She was super clingy. She was not happy doing anything, anywhere. So I grabbed my ErgoBaby carrier, strapped her on my back and continued on our day.
If you have a baby from newborn to 1 year, I highly suggest just wearing them for all of homeschool time. It’s easier on everyone when their source of food, comfort and care is literally with them constantly. They aren’t upset, you aren’t distracted, and your big kids can still get their lessons done.
Tip #11 Keep the Littles Contained
In the same vein of wearing a baby (or toddler), a good way to ensure those little ones are staying out of trouble is to confine them to a pack-n-play or highchair. Toss them a few of their special learning toys, some board books or snacks and let them be. You don’t have to worry about the sudden silence in the middle of your math lesson and they don’t get in to trouble with freedom to roam about the house.
Tip #12 Technology
My final tip for you may get a bad rap these days but let’s just be real here. There is a time and a place for technology. If you have come to the end of your rope and it’s only 10am, it’s time to pull out the TV entertainment.
Having a good selection of shows for your little ones is a solid back up plan with the day turns to poop. Some favorites of ours are Character Builders and Super Book on RightNow Media. We also enjoy the PBS shows Super Why, Word World and Wild Kratts. A few educational DVDs I highly recommend are the Leap Frog DVDs, especially Letter Factory and The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park.
So there you have it! 12 tips for how to homeschool with babies and toddlers running around. It’s definitely not a cakewalk but with the right tips, a little planning, and a whole lot of grace, it can be done.