Planning Busy Activities for Toddlers During Homeschool

what to do with young children while homeschooling

When I first started homeschooling, I could not imagine what I would do with the other children while I focused on a child’s lessons. Now, I realize that the best thing to do with those littles is to have them learning right beside their older siblings. Of course, having an abundance of ideas (or a closet full of educational toys) available to keep the young children busy is always helpful.

Planning for homeschooling with young children

My mother taught me a valuable lesson early in my parenthood: Keep excess toys in the closet and rotate. Each time you pull something from the closet, the child will act like they have a new toy.

So, I keep everything under lock & key. Not really, but I do have a child-safe spinner on the closet door.

When it is time to settle around the table for school time, I start the younger children with a stack of worksheets that I have printed. One day, they will use Do-A-Dots. The next day, washable markers. Dry erase on page protectors. Crayons. Water and paint brushes. Chalk. ROTATE.

Next, I pull two or three educational toys from the closet. We never get rid of an educational toy and after nine years, we have a nice collection. ROTATE. (Note: If you are thinking about the expense, just keep a running wish list and when someone inquires about what to buy your child for a birthday or Christmas, mention a few from your list.)

Finally, I have one or two skilled activities available. Sometimes, when I need to spend time specifically with one child, I can have the other older sibling work with the youngers to accomplish these projects. I am willing to bet that you have enough stuff in your home already that you could put enough projects together for a week. ROTATE.

Busy activities with items you (probably) have already

NOTE: As you well know, tiny objects should be kept away from young children. Small + small = BIG trouble. Not all of these activities will apply to all ages. Please use your own discretion when selected games for your child and keep a watchful eye.

Balls (various sizes)

  • Place balls in an egg carton
  • Roll balls through cardboard tubes
  • Hide a ball under disposable cups
  • Balance balls on golf tees hammered into styrofoam
  • Roll balls across the floor to ring a basket on its side
  • Float in water
  • Transfer by spoon to a small-mouth bottle
  • Roll across a wall using continuous contact with hands

Laundry Basket

  • Make a train
  • Lace ribbon or string through the slats
  • Pretend its a boat and use large spoons for oars
  • Toss a big ball into the basket
  • Give stuffed animals a ride
  • Shove pompom balls through the slats

Jumbo Buttons

  • String buttons on chenille stems
  • Move buttons from bowl to bowl
  • Sort the colors and shapes
  • Make simple patterns
  • Lace string through the buttons
  • Sew to felt and have felt squares with slits for practice
  • Drop in a clear, plastic vase filled with water


how to occupy toddlers during homeschool

Mama’s Learning Corner has an ULTIMATE guide to busy activities.

  • Use Q-tips with washable watercolor paints
  • Press with do-a-dot markers on fill-in-the-blank pictures
  • Squish together two colors of liquid tempera paint or finger paint in a gallon freezer bag zipped and sealed with packaging tape
  • Let colored water drip from a medicine dropper on a coffee filter
  • Paint… with pudding

Hairbands/Ponytail Holders

  • Stretch over a doorknob
  • Hook around buttons on a button-board
  • Group around a cardboard tube
  • Sort by color
  • Loop to create a chain
  • Play a gentle game of tug-o-war

Cookie Cutters

  • Use with playdough
  • Sort by color or shape
  • Toss onto a dowel
  • Lace together with string
  • Cut sandwich bread

Dry Beans

what to do with little kids during homeschooling time

Visit Preschoolers and Peace for more great ideas & encouragement.

  • Pour from one container to another
  • Make a noise maker in a cardboard tube
  • Sort the different types into an egg carton
  • Sift with a slotted spoon
  • Glue to paper
  • Use with sandbox tools (buckets, sifter, shovel)
  • Stir with kitchen utensils
  • Pick up with tweezers or tongs


  • String through pasta
  • Sort by color
  • Blow through to push paper across the floor
  • Stand in playdough
  • Push through a Parmesan cheese container lid
  • Practice cutting


  • Drop into a narrow-mouth bowl or jar
  • Hang cards or baby clothes on a suspended string
  • Write a letter or number on each and place in order
  • Clip to the side of a bowl
  • Attach felt squares to a cooling rack


activities for young children while schooling older kids

Visit This Reading Mama to see how she modifies schoolwork for littles.

  • Push through hole in w wipes box
  • Pick up with tongs or chopsticks
  • Sort by color or size in an ice tray
  • Pour from cup to cup
  • Attach magnets and play on the refrigerator
  • Fill-in or Do-a-Dot pictures
  • Practice simple patterns

Chenille Stems

  • Twist into shapes
  • Lace through a colander
  • Push through holes punched in a plastic lid
  • Sort by color or length
  • Thread large beads
  • Poke into an egg tray or styrofoam


  • Flip with a spatula/turner
  • Toss into a laundry basket
  • Push through a hole in a box
  • Stack
  • Play “catch”

Our favorite busy (but educational) toys

I love collecting educational toys and games and stashing them in our hall closet for those moments during homeschool when I need extra time with one of the children. This is a double blessing when it comes to the littles since they can only have their pick from the closet during school.

Here are some of our favorite educational toys for toddlers:

Storage solutions for busy activities

Organize by activity in gallon-size plastic bags and hang from a rod using binder clips and rings (Small Potatoes)
Store miscellaneous, age-appropriate items together in a plastic storage container (Learn with Play at Home)
Dedicate a closet to educational toys and busy activities (Meet Penny)
Use plastic shoe boxes and organize by day of the week (Tweetie Pie Baby)
Gather activities into pencil bags and place in a plastic basin (The Princess and the Tot)
Keep everything together in one box (Raising Arrows)

Preschool printables


Confessions of a Homeschooler

Homeschool Creations

Spell Outloud

Have Fun Teaching

2 Teaching Mommies


More great resources

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Find more on my Pinterest boards.

How do you plan for toddlers during homeschool time?

activities for baby toddler during homeschool


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