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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Use with playdough
- Sort by color or shape
- Toss onto a dowel
- Lace together with string
- Cut sandwich bread
- 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
- Push through hole in a 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
- 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
- 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.
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)
- Meet Penny Free Printables
- Confessions of a Homeschooler
- Homeschool Creations
- Spell Outloud
- Have Fun Teaching
- 2 Teaching Mommies
More great resources
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