Are you wondering how to keep a toddler busy while you are homeschooling your other kids?
Teaching homeschool can be tough – and trying to teach homeschool with a toddler around can be even tougher!
If you are a new homeschooler in what experts are calling “the world’s homeschooling moment,” let me reassure you that you can homeschool with a toddler at home!
Many toddlers want to be involved in the action of school, but aren’t quite ready to learn in such a structured format. Other toddlers may have extremely short attention spans. Some feel they need constant attention, or some enjoy distracting their siblings from their learning.
Trust me, I know what it is like to try to keep a toddler busy during homeschool – I’ve done it with three separate toddlers running around over the past eight years!
When I asked my fourteen-year-old son for advice on how to keep a toddler busy during homeschool, he said, “Well … screens are easiest. Buuuuutttttt it’s probably good to consider other options.”
Haha! I died!
Keep reading for tons of mostly screen-free ideas to help keep your toddlers content while you homeschool your older kids!
Free Homeschool Resource Library
First, I have to tell you about the free Resource Library I’ve got for you here at the Reluctant Homeschool Mama. Click below to get access to tons of great downloadable free resources – things like family and individual reading lists, sample weekly schedules, recommended curriculum, binder covers, and more!
Okay, let’s get started! I’ve got some great ideas below for time-consuming toddler activities, awesome preschool homeschool options, and the best toys to keep a toddler’s attention.
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Preschool Activities at Home
There are so many easy and inexpensive preschool activities you can create for your toddler.
Here are some of my kids’ favorites:
For animal match, you’ll need a pack of small plastic animals. I really like this 54-piece Mini Jungle Animals set because it has a ton of great animals and is made from non-toxic PVC.
Once you have your animals, you’ll need to find and print out small pictures of the animals you have in your set. 3×3 or 4×4 squares and a Google image search will be best.
If your toddlers are the way my toddlers were (aka kinda slobbery and rough), you’ll probably want to print your animal cards on cardstock. If you want them to be extra durable, you may consider laminating them as well. I’ve owned this inexpensive laminator for years and it still works great!
After you have your animal cards ready, you can give your toddler the animals and the cards and have him match the animals to the cards. Often I’ll spread the cards out all over the kitchen table or living room floor and put the animals in a bag.
My toddler then has to pull out one animals at a time and find the right card for the animal he is holding. More often than not, my toddler ended up playing independently with the animals for quite awhile after making all the matches. #winning!
Ball and pipe cleaners
This ball and pipe cleaners toddler activity is completely no prep on your part and will help keep your toddler busy for a good chunk of time.
For this activity, you’ll need a few small practice golf balls with lots of holes in them (if you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about – check out the picture or click on the link!). You’ll also need a pack of pipe cleaners or chenille stems. This pack of chenille stems also includes 150 googly eyes too!
Simply give your toddler one holey golf ball and a handful of chenille stems. She needs to push the stems through as many holes in the ball as she can.
It could be really fun to make this holiday themed too! For example, you could give your kid an orange ball and black chenille stems for Halloween or a white ball with red and green chenille stems for Christmas time.
“Money” and a bank
Give your toddler an inexpensive unbreakable piggy bank like this and a pack of fake money like this. Set him on the floor nearby while you homeschool and let him fill the piggy bank with the fake coins. I was always amazed at how long my kids would be happy to put the coins in the bank!
A fantastic bonus for this activity is that the fake money can be used for math lessons for older children and the piggy bank can become your kid’s bank to keep his money when he is a little bit older.
Bears on Chairs
There were many days years ago when my toddlers would ask specifically to do “bears on chairs.” This is such a simple and fun activity for them!
You’ll need a pack of bear counters – and just like the money and piggy bank activity – these bear counters will be something your kids can use for preschool and early elementary math activities. I especially like this set of counting bears and coordinating cups.
Next, cut several pieces of cardstock into long strips and place one row of colored sticker dots in a long, straight row on both sides. You can have the dots arranged in a recurring color pattern or put them on randomly. (Again, if you want to make sure these last, run them through a laminator!)
Then give your toddler several of the cardstock strips with stickered rows and have her put one bear of a matching color on top of the matching sticker dots or “chairs.”
Color drop wall
This simple color wall drop maybe no-cost if you have some colored paper and a bunch of craft pom poms on hand. If not, here’s a great pack of inexpensive pom poms that you can use for lots of other preschool activities and crafts
You’ll also need six empty toilet paper rolls (or paper towel rolls cut down to size) and some colored paper or construction paper.
Wrap each paper roll with one color of paper and staple or tape in place.
Then stick your colored rolls onto the wall with masking tape or sticky tack at a height where your toddler can reach. Place a small cup or bowl on the floor below the colored tube. If you purchase the counting bears set above, you’ll already have the perfect cups that you’ll need for this activity too!
Your toddler’s goal is to drop enough of the corresponding pom poms through the tube to fill up the cup below.
For this great activity to keep your toddler busy, you’ll need an empty shredded parmesan cheese container with the lid and some plastic straws like these. Wash out the container really well and pull off the label if you can.
Then cut the plastic straws into two inch pieces and put them in a bowl. Open the lid to the container and let your toddler drop the straw pieces into the small holes one by one.
If the container is clear, your toddler will be able to watch it fill with the small colorful straw pieces and be entertained for a good amount of time!
Homeschool Preschool Curriculum
Purchasing a simple homeschool preschool curriculum is a a great way to help your toddlers feel involved with homeschool.
Don’t feel the need to do anything rigorous. Instead, preschool should provide a seamless transition to more formal learning that will begin in elementary school.
These two options are my favorites to help you create a homeschool preschool experience that will help your toddler to feel included in your family homeschool.
Center Stage Preschool
This online preschool is going to be fantastic! It kicks off on September 8th and my four-year-old daughter can’t wait!
Every month students will receive an email with links to the classroom videos, monthly newsletter, shopping list for the optional crafts and activities, and a story book list.
Typically three and four year olds meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and four and five year olds meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
If you can’t attend live, you can choose when to hold your homeschool classes with your toddler or preschooler.
The classroom sessions will include Circle Time for you to watch with your child. Next you’ll do the worksheets. Then it’s time for the optional craft or activity. It’s that simple!
The two teachers have over forty years of experience teaching preschool.
Even better, the tuition is very affordable:
- $4o a month for the three year old class
- $60 a month for the four year old class
For more information, click the button below and use code RHM20OFF to get a 20% discount off your first month!
Five in a Row
Another fantastic homeschool preschool curriculum is Five in a Row!
Five in a Row is an easy-to-follow preschool curriculum for teaching Social Studies, language, art, math and science using wonderful children’s books for each weekly unit study.
Lessons include discussion questions, hands-on activities and suggestions for further study. We love Five in a Row at our house!
Educational Toys for Toddlers
Sometimes it is easiest to have a few great toys to pull out for your toddler to entertain him during school hours! I’ve always felt that toys that are somewhat educational are best to keep your toddler busy during homeschool.
To make these toys extra special, you may consider only getting them out while homeschool is happening.
Here are a few of my favorites:
PlayMags magnetic tiles
These magnetic tiles have entertained my kids for hours on end! The extra strong magnets inside allow toddlers to build really fun structures they aren’t able to build with traditional wooden blocks.
This great set includes 82 colorful tiles as well as some fun windows with alphabet click-ins to increase the educational factor.
Magnetic white board with shape magnets
We used to tote this awesome white board and shape magnet set around with us to different co-op groups and sports activities because it entertained my toddlers so well.
My favorite parts of the set are the little picture cards that give suggestions of how to make different pictures out of the magnetic shapes.
Wooden ABCs and 123s with flashcardsThese wooden alphabet and number blocks are perfect for matching with the included animal cards. They would also be extremely useful without the animal cards as your toddlers get older and begin preschool and kindergarten.
Shape and Color Match Eggs
This fun shape and color match toy has always made me smile! If you have an inquisitive toddler, he or she will enjoy opening the eggs to see which color and shape they’ll reveal.
When all the eggs are broken, your little one will learn about colors and shapes as they put them back together.
Final thoughts about how to keep a toddler busy while you homeschool
I hope that you feel excited that you CAN keep your toddler busy while you homeschool!
I’m not gonna pretend that it isn’t a challenge.
By creating a few inexpensive homemade activities, involving your toddler in his or her own simple preschool curriculum, and investing in some great educational toys, homeschool can become a more peaceful learning experience for everyone in your home!