We have just one preschooler, Carmen, who turned three in January. I no longer have babies and young toddlers to tend to, but the challenging part of having just one preschooler is that she’s the only one not doing school, and I think she feels like the odd one out sometimes.
For most of this school year, I’ve been kept busy finding activities that held her attention span long enough so that I could read aloud a chapter to my seven-year-old, or do a science lesson with my middle three, or anything else that took my (more-or-less) undivided attention. I searched other homeschool blogs and found wonderful ideas. Then I joined Pinterest! Boy, did I ever load up on good ideas for keeping toddlers busy then!!
Then around a month or two ago, independent play starting gaining more and more of Carmen’s time and affection. 🙂 Let me make it known right here and now that I am a huge fan of independent play! I love it when kids make up their own play creatively and imaginatively.
So nowadays, since Carmen is much more likely to keep herself entertained, I’m relying less and less on my well-thought-out tray activities. I still use them, just more sparingly. I want to include enough structure to keep things flowing smoothly, but not so much as to stifle her new-found interest in independent play.
The difficult thing for me is the unpredictability. I don’t know exactly what Carmen will be doing at each point in our schedule, like I do with my older kids. But I have found a few routine activities that give as much predictability as is possible at this point, I think. These are some of the regulars:
- Watching a video when I need un-interrupted time with the older kids, such as giving a dictation lesson
- Having a snack while I read aloud to my seven-year-old at the kitchen table
- Playing “Endless Alphabet” on the iPad during math lessons
- Doing one tray activity with Mommy when everyone else is working independently
- Cutting and pasting pictures in her “Animal Notebook” during science lessons
She chooses pictures of animals to cut out, then I help her paste each picture into categories such as fish, birds, and furry animals. We also have a page for “bugs” as well as one for scaly animals (reptiles)
Not all of these things happen every morning. If she’s sitting on the livingroom floor “reading” a book to her dollies, or outside loving on the cat, I smile and let well enough alone.
Here are a couple of the tray activities Carmen has enjoyed recently.
Placing an assortment of items (beads, buttons, counting bears,etc.) on to the matching Play-doh mound.
Using a small household hammer to hammer nails into a foam produce box.
Grinding egg shells in a mortar and pestle. (I’ll use them later for garden fertilizer.)
I found almost all these ideas on Pinterest. I have many, many more toddler and preschool ideas pinned to my boards there, so why don’t you hop on over and take a look if you’re in search of ways to keep your little ones busy during your school routine. 🙂
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like more ideas for preschool activities I shared here: