Homeschooling Your Toddler Tornadoes

Originally published in Timberdoodle’s 1990-1991 catalog.

Don’t you just love toddlers? They are so enthusiastic, loving, curious, confident, and innocent. However, to a home-educating mom, they are also exhausting, impatient, loud, and unpredictable. But how can we incorporate these tornadoes in with the older children in our education program without making them the center of it? Here are some ideas that have worked for us.

1. Pick up a few school supplies for them. Construction toys, beginning thinking skills books, and even Kumon workbooks are all great choices for toddlers and will let them participate in school alongside their older siblings.

2. Most toddlers will be blissful if you let them participate in your art lessons. If you are using expensive supplies that they will destroy, try buying inexpensive sets that are just for them. They won’t know the difference between deluxe and cheap paper, and a set of twenty-four markers for $3.00 will look like more fun to them than the $3.00 per piece art markers! It helps to buy an art bin or caddie to store all their supplies in (markers, glue sticks, scissors, stickers, and so forth). Not only will this encourage orderliness, but toddlers love to sift and sort through their possessions.

3. Involve them in your music or foreign language program, especially if you are studying sign language. Remember that, to them, every language is foreign! When you find their interest is lagging, then that is the moment to give them some individual time, while the older children are being taught by the DVD.

4. Add some inexpensive workbooks to your school supplies. We like to use those with lots of different pictures on each page. For toddlers, we never follow the prescribed instructions; instead, we make up our own very basic directions. For example, we’ll say, “Circle with your red marker everything that has eyes. Cross out, or scribble over, with your blue crayon everything that has wheels. Put a sticker on anything that does not make a noise.” Our toddlers have all loved their workbooks, and following verbal directions is an indispensable skill.

5. Our most obvious suggestion: Keep a box or a shelf of items that can only be used during school time. This can include art supplies, workbooks, puzzles, blocks, and other hands-on materials that are only brought out during this time. This distinction will add to their attractiveness and make the “learning hour” something your toddlers will anticipate every day!