Curious how to homeschool with a toddler?
First, allow me to assure you that setting up homeschool with a toddler may be bumpy with interruptions, and that is okay.
Three-year-old’s need the freedom to roam around. Toddlers crave learning through their senses, testing ideas, and zipping from one activity to the next. Child-led learning is a beautiful experience for toddlers, and we do not want to take that away from them.
Here’s how we can make this work, along with giving ourselves some grace.
RELATED: Our activity cards are an excellent resource for ideas in an instant to keep at home.
Phases of homeschooling with a three-year-old will go something like this:
- ALL IN. I am here; I am ready to be just like the big kids.
- Two minutes later, I want to play.
- Three minutes after that, I want plaaaaaaydouuuugh. – which was most likely not even set out.
- Oh, look, my train…
Just a quick reminder that if this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Things are as they should be. If you only have a toddler at home, try this predictable routine!
We begin our morning with a Breakfast Invitation, and then the rest of the learning is up to him.
RELATED: Wait. What is a Breakfast Invitation? You can find a short video on our homepage to learn more!
Phase ONE; my toddler is all in.
Here, I want to remember to include my three-year-old and welcome him in and out of the classroom. This way, he is not fighting for even more attention. He feels like “one of the guys” and in his eyes, doing “work.”
When he is interested, I have something for him. I like to use many ideas from this great list of 40+ toddler ideas. Keep one or two ideas in your back pocket to pull out when needed.
When he wants to play, he can do so, as long as he doesn’t disturb us with endless cat purrs—no idea how that started.
Which brings me to phase two.
Phase TWO; my toddler is off to play
About two minutes into the classwork, my toddler remembers that he has magnetic tiles to play with and is off.
Here, I remember that he is three and that young children learn through exploring the environment.
I know that my three-year-old will gain a lot with learning through play, and I picked these hands-on toddler toys with intention.
Set boundaries that he cannot disrupt what I am trying to say to the older two. I also try to include a group activity during the day that he can participate in.
Small noises are okay, and loud intentional crashes are not. When this happens, I will guide my three-year-old to another room and remind him, “If you want to make loud noises, you can do it here in the kitchen. The classroom is for soft noises. Please join us when you are ready to play quietly.”
I take the time to set the boundary and remind him that he has more than one play area. Over time, this will get easier. Your toddler will begin to understand the expectations of remote learning.
I also try to step back and enjoy small moments where we are. Right now, the only option for us is to homeschool. I need to let go of some of my own expectations and have a little fun along the way. If we get thrown off for a few minutes, I cannot let that throw off my entire day.
RELATED: How do you set up learning at home? Read our tips for remote learning here.
Phase THREE; my toddler would like to play with playdough
Here we are, remembering the playdough we played with last week and ready to put it on repeat. I get it. Playdough play is for learning. But what happens if I do not have time to stop what I am doing and pull it out?
Now, I set and remind my toddler about the boundary:
If the playdough is in my reach, I do not mind opening it and allowing my toddler to work.
If the playdough is in another room, and I am in the middle of a math lesson, I will do this:
- Remind my toddler that playdough is not available.
- Redirect my three-year-old his options for play – “The playdough is not available right now. I do see your magnetic tiles and Mighty Jets. You are welcome to get those to play with.”
- Share with my toddler when playdough is available. – “I am happy to get you the playdough when I stand up. When you see mommy finished here, that means I can help.”
- Invite my toddler to join me in the lesson if he is still not happy with the arrangements. Most likely, what I am working on needs a few more minutes where my toddler can sit on my lap as I talk.
I know. That just took a lot of patience on our end.
Stay consistent. Your toddler will catch on overtime, even when the first few weeks will bring some redirecting. Over time, toddlers will understand the new routine better and adjust.
Please give yourself a lot of grace that there will be interruptions and reminders knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Phase FOUR; my toddler finds the train he had forgotten.
Just as my toddler frolics from one idea to the next, he will also begin to remember something else.
Set the boundaries, take a deep breath in between each play transition, and with practice, you will see your toddler begin to take the lead on something else.
You will notice your toddler comes in and out of disruption and new interests.
Remember, you are doing a great job balancing learning at home with multiple ages.
Here is a quick list of ideas that will encourage more play at home:
- How to Introduce Sensory Play
- 40+ Best Activities for One-Year-Olds
- All New Activity Cards
- 25+ Cutting Activities