My biggest daily homeschool struggle right now is the same little question! “What do I do with my 3-year-old during our homeschool times?” My Little E, like most younger kids do, wants to be involved in whatever his older brothers are doing. He doesn’t like to go play by himself, and I don’t want him to sit and watch tv for hours every day.
I am happy that my little guy wants to be “doing school” with us. However, my Little E is a VERY active and talkative three year old! He has quite the dramatic personality and is ALWAYS talking and on the go (like most 3-year-olds!). It is not easy to homeschool each day, especially when you have other little children. You have to be creative, patient and flexible! If you are struggling to homeschool your older kids and also manage your younger children, here are a few lessons I have learned:
1. Be Prepared:
If I’m not planned, organized and prepared each day, my children will run all over me. I have to have my older kids lessons ready, and activities ready to pull out for my 3-year-old.
2. Plan “schoolwork” for your younger children as well
One thing that has really helped my 3-year-old recently is that I plan “school work” for him as well. I include him in everything that is appropriate for him. He comes and sits at the table while we start with a Bible time. I keep it short enough so that he can listen to our Bible story each day as well. Then when my other kids start their lessons, I give him something to do for school as well. (Keep reading for a list of my favorite activities I give my little E!)
By doing this, Little E gets some routine and structure to his day and he gets to be a part of our school time. His school time usually lasts no more than 30 minutes. After that, he has play time. There are some days that I let him watch a show he likes while we work on school work. I also make sure to include him in whatever science experiments, crafts or little projects we do!
3. Encourage Playtime:
Three-year-old children are not meant to sit at a table doing school work as long as an 8-year-old. It’s not going to happen. After your three-year-old finishes his “school work”, it is good to encourage them to move and play. It is important for kids to learn to play independently for short amounts of time. Young children often learn better through play. As much as your younger child wants to be doing what his older siblings are, its good to encourage them to have play time on their own. Help them pick out some toys, and set them up playing somewhere nearby where what he is playing won’t be too distracting to your other kids.
4. Be Flexible
There is one thing I can tell you about all 3-year-olds. That is that they are all pretty much unpredictable! One day will be absolutely perfect, my 3-year-old loves tracing his letters, and playing with playdough. He will sit for an hour, (doing a few different activities) happy to be doing school. Then he will go and play happily until the end of school! Other days, he may only scribble for 2 seconds, throw his play-dough and get into trouble constantly. I keep many different activities ready on standby to help keep my 3-year-old busy in case what I planned isn’t working. Some days end up looking a bit different than I planned and that is ok!!
My Favorite School Activities for 3-Year Olds!
For the past few months, I’ve been trying to gather as many little activities as I can for Little E’ school time. Some things I have found have been wonderful and keep his attention anywhere from 15-30 minutes at a time. Here is a list of my favorites!
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Paint with water activities!
All my kids love to paint! I love finding good paint with water activities! It’s no mess but they still get to paint real pictures. There are some wonderful paint with water books out there! Melissa and Doug have some great ones. I have also gotten lucky and found some good paint with water books at the dollar tree!
Lacing beads onto string is a wonderful fine motor activity for young children. And most kids love it! I always keep beads on hand! This past year I was so excited when I found foam bead shapes! They are a bit larger than pony beads, but quiet and don’t fly everywhere if they get spilled out! I small bowl of foam beads, and a plastic sewing needle has been one of my favorite school activities for little E this year! You can also use pony beads and string, or pipe cleaners! They even make giant lacing beads that my Little E enjoys also!
These bingo dauber markers are almost always Little E’s first request for his school work! There are tons of free Dot marker activity pages out there! You will find tons of them on Pinterest! I print out at least 1 page for every day, some letters, shapes, and season pictures! All I have to do is hand him his paper and dot markers, and my 3-year-old is pretty happy filling in each and every circle! This activity also gives me the chance to work on beginning, letter, number, color, and shape recognition with him!
A good collection of puzzles is a must have for toddlers and preschoolers! Some of my favorites are the foam letter and number puzzles! They are simple and are quiet! Quiet puzzles help a lot if you are trying to do school work with your other kids!
These simple shapes that link together are also a lot of fun for kids! They can begin to learn patterns, shapes, and colors, and work on fine motor skills while playing with them. My little E likes to put them together, and then take them apart over and over again!
I love dry erase activities! You can use them over and over again so you don’t have to prepare anything! You can find preschool dry erase activity books about anywhere you look right now! I have found them at the dollar tree, the target dollar section, and at Wal-mart! There are ones to let them trace letters, and numbers, shapes, and all different pre-writing skills! Little E’s favorite right now is a book he got for his birthday this past year! It is a beginning search-and-find book. He loves that he can circle all the things he is supposed to find!
Any little kid loves using markers!! If you are like I am though, you dread letting your little one use them! Little E loves to color with markers but isn’t the greatest at staying on the paper! If you haven’t tried the color wonder markers for your little one then you and your kids are missing out. Your little one will feel like he’s coloring like the older kids, but these markers won’t leave any mess at all!
Play-dough is one of those little inventions I thank God for regularly! It is great for fine motor skills, creativity, and there are tons of tools and resources to use with it! You can use letter or number stamps, printable play-dough mats, cookie cutters, roll snakes and make letters, or just let them squish it, play, break it into a million tiny pieces and make whatever they feel like! You can also easily make it yourself if you don’t want to spend the money to buy play-dough already made! I highly recommend investing in some good play-dough tools! You won’t regret it!
Kids love stickers! You can find sticker books for young children everywhere if you look! I love the simple early sticker books where the kids match and put the stickers where they go. There are also some great sticker books that the kids can place stickers where ever they like in a scene making their own, farms, zoos, cities, etc.
Another important resource I use for my little guy is a good collection of magnets! Magnetic letters, numbers, and shapes are great to use for matching activities or just play! You can set your little guy up playing on the refrigerator or one of my favorite things is to use the cheap dollar tree sheet pans! They make great trays for playing with magnets!
There are so many activities that are perfect for “preschool” activities for a 3-year-old! I find more things everytime I stop by the dollar tree or the target dollar section! Now I do admit, that some days nothing really works! Those are the days when I go for the episodes of Team Umizoomi or Paw Patrol!
Be encouraged! The more consistent you are with them the more you will find your little kids can do! Remember to have fun with them, find opportunities to include them and activities just for them. You will be surprised at all they learn right along with your older kids!
Are you trying to homeschool your older kids while trying to keep up with your little ones? What works for you? What are some of your favorite activities you use for your little ones? Comment below!! I always love new ideas for my boys!!