One of the biggest questions of homeschooling when you have multiple children, is “What do I do with my toddler?!” I’ve had many days that I wanted to pull my hair out because my toddler took every opportunity he saw, when I was busy working on school work with my older children, to find trouble. I probably can’t count the hours I’ve spent on Pinterest looking for ideas and activities that my extremely active 2 year old boy will actually want to do for more than 5 minutes!!
There are tons of great activities out there, but my favorites are the ones that he can do independently, take little prep, and don’t make a big mess! Messy activities are fine occasionally. However, the last thing most mommies need after homeschooling their kids each day is a big mess to clean up! Today I want to share with you five of my favorite simple activities I use for my toddler that work and help us get a little more done during our school day!
1.Dyed Pasta Play
One of Little E’s (my 2 year old’s) favorite activities is when I let him “make pasta.” This activity consists very simple of a $1 dish tub from Wal-Mart, filled with different sizes of pasta dyed in different colors. Add a few containers, measuring cups for scoops, tongs, and large spoons, and you have a toddler activity that they will love!! I spent one evening, after my kids were in bed, dying several different types of large pasta different colors . It was so easy and was definitely worth it!
When it’s time for him to “make pasta”, I lay out an old baby blanket on the kitchen floor and put him, the tub of pasta and all his “tools” on it. (Make sure you monitor your child and teach them not to put the pasta in their mouths!) I use the blanket so I can teach him that the pasta needs to stay on the blanket. Before I started using the blanket I dreaded cleaning up all the pieces of pasta scattered all over the floor! Now that most of it stays on his blanket I can just gather up the blanket and pour the pasta back in its tub! I found a great tutorial on hellospendid.com! I loved the bright colors her method gave us!!
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2. Dot Markers
I discovered do-a-dot markers several years ago, when I first started homeschooling my oldest son. They are basically just markers that make large dots. However, kids love them!! They are also big and easy to hold which make them perfect for toddlers and preschoolers! Also, I love all the skills he is working on when he uses them. He loves to twist the caps off and on, which is great for fine motor development. He also likes to take all the caps off, mix them up and then put them back on the right markers, so he is learning to match colors. There are some amazing free or low cost printable dot markers pages that I use on a regular basis. Little E loves to carefully make a dot in each circle. He is so proud when he fills in all the circles on his picture!
The resourceful mama has some great dot marker printables on her blog! I printed these this week for my little boy:
Here are a few links to find some dot markers of your own!
3. Painting with Water
This is one of the easiest activities I’ve been doing with my Little E since he was about 1 and 1/2. All you need is a few pieces of construction paper, a small cup or container, a paint brush and some water. Put just a small amount of water in the cup. Give your toddler a piece of construction paper and show him/her how to dip their brush in the water and paint on the paper. The construction paper will change colors when it’s wet so they really feel like they are painting!! Now it is inevitable that they may spill a little of their water and wet their whole paper or spill a little on them but the great thing is, it’s just a little water. As long as you don’t give them a huge cupful it’s very easy cleanup! Also the paper will dry so you can keep reusing the same pieces of construction paper.
Maybe this is an obvious one, but it’s always been one of my go-to activities for young children. And it works!! I’ve not met a child who doesn’t like stickers! I stock up on stickers when I see them on clearance. I also find a lot great stickers at the Dollar Tree! Peeling stickers off a sheet is great fine motor practice of little ones!! Give your toddler a piece of paper and let them go crazy putting as many stickers as they want all over it! Then if you’d like give them some crayons to color on the paper as well! You will have kept your toddler busy with some great early fine motor skills and you will end up with a nice piece of toddler artwork to hang on the refrigerator!
5. Dry erase markers/crayons
What my toddler loves more than anything is doing anything just like his older brothers!! He sees his older brothers using their dry erase markers, colored pencils, and crayons in their daily work notebooks every day. Naturally he wants to do what they are doing. So I made Little E his own “workbook” with laminated pages he can write on just like his brothers. He loves these letter pages my sister and I created a few years ago. The letters are large and very easy for toddlers and preschoolers to practice tracing. Right now he scribbles all over the page more than anything else, however he is attempting to tracing some. Also, it’s never to early to learn the alphabet!!
If you would like get a copy of this “Pre-school learn to write the alphabet set”, check it out
A tool that I highly recommend purchasing to help you put together the type of activity is a laminator. I use mine for everything!! The small cost of a laminator has actually saved me a lot of money because I reuse pages multiple times with dry erase markers. I also love crayola’s dry erase crayons and colored pencils. My kids love them and I love that my toddler makes less of a mess with these then with normal markers. Simple print out some simple shape pages, letter pages, or number pages of your choice. You could also laminate some coloring pages of some of your child’s favorite characters. Then run them through your laminator, punch holes in them and put them in a notebook or 3-pronged folder.
Below are all the exact tools I use for everyday for school with my kids! I love all of them and so do my boys!