In our household the old adage of a sane Mummy equaling a sane family holds true every day. Today marks the second day that most families in the UK have resumed the daunting task of educating their children at home. Home Education is a challenge for every parent, but especially those who now face juggling more than one child and multiple ages, often alongside working from home and making sure that meals, laundry and other household tasks don’t get too out of hand. Here are 10 tips from The Terraced House for staying sane, whilst homeschooling with a toddler or baby.
- Start Small
Begin by just setting aside 5 minutes a day for formal learning, start with very small periods of time and gradually build up to longer periods over the course of days and weeks. This will allow your baby and toddler to understand that there is a predictable pattern to the day and what may be expected of them. The key to success here is to work around the youngest member of the family and teach them to play or join in independently while learning is taking place.
2. Use a tray activity
Try setting up a small activity on a tray which your toddler can enjoy independently. Perhaps a small shape-sorting activity or stacking toy. Remember that the activity at this stage needs to be very short, the main aim here is to teach your toddler or baby to play independently.
3. Establish a predictable rhythm for the day and use a visual timetable to communicate it to everybody.
Decide on what needs to happen during the day ( work, household tasks, exercise, quiet time ) and make a simple plan. We don’t put times on our plan, just go with a predictable rhythm of what happens next. This helps children to understand what is going to happen during the day and eliminates a lot of poor behaviour triggered by transitions from one activity to the next.
4. Less is more
Pare down play areas so that just a few key toys are available to play with. Children who have fewer toys play for longer, take better care of their toys and have much greater concentration levels.
5. Rotate toys and store away the bulk of the toy collection.
I store most of our toys out of sight and just put out a few things at a time for our toddler to play with. I then regularly rotate the toys which helps to keep them fresh and interesting for the boys.
6. Have a favourite toy that just comes out at home education time
In our household we just put the Duplo out at formal learning time. For ease of getting out and putting away, we use this wonderful mat made by my dear cousin.
7. Set up Montessori-style shelves for toddlers and babies
Set up a small shelf or open cupboard at a height which your child can access and see easily. Put a small selection of independent activities on the shelves, perhaps with a linking theme. Regularly observe your child to see which toys pique their interest and provide those sorts of activities to encourage independent play. This week we have enjoyed a book passed on by a neighbour- Harry and The Dinosaurs.
8. Scale down the educational activity which older children are doing and allow your toddler or baby to explore .
If your youngest really wants to join in , have something available on the table for them. Little A will often play happily with the Mathematics manipulatives or draw using the pencils on the table.
9. Make the most of targeted displays for learning outside of formal learning time.
These don’t have to be complicated or fussy, just a little invitation to learn at the child’s own pace. This week I simply stuck some bird identification cards onto the back of a writing pad and hung it in an area near to the bird table. ( for extra bird visitors at this time of year, try putting out a pear chopped in half, some unsalted nuts or seeds from the food cupboard or some dried fruit. )
10. If all else fails move to the outdoor classroom
Go out into the garden, park or street. Talk together about what you can see, read roads signs and speed limits, look at how houses and apartments are numbered, look at the clouds and predict the weather and just enjoy the fresh air, knowing that you can start again tomorrow.
Make sure that you make time for yourself, we have quiet time in the afternoon when our toddler naps and my eldest has a short programme, followed by lots of time to independently investigate- vital to my mental wellbeing.
Best of luck !