Toddler Joy in the Home School: Tips to Teaching Your Kids Without Letting the Toddler Destroy the House!

Sharing is caring!

Toddlers are so full of wonder and enthusiasm for life.  They bring us joy. But when we are trying to explain a difficult concept to an older child, or delve into some Biblical wisdom, or even have a nice read aloud,  we can sometimes feel like we’re in the midst of a tornado!  Our Desi is now 3, however she is still in the stage of full -speed – ahead, full- motor- employment exploration!

Home Schooling the older kids has been a challenge with her, to say the least!

Rudy, my first kiddo with Down Syndrome, would sit quietly for long periods of time when he was little, looking at a photo album, or even a book (he liked the really thick ones) just turning the pages.  He loved to explore and run also, but he was always keen on his quiet time.

Not Desi.

She runs at life full-speed ahead. Fast and Furious is her motto.


I have no idea how much longer this stage will take!  That’s the quirk with developmental delays.  Each stage takes SO MUCH LONGER.  Which is great in the sweet baby cuddle stage 🙂   – – -but you pay later!

So, one minute without full supervision and she’s pulling on the drinking water spigot full throttle (she can reach it now, and it can’t be raised) and you are dealing with a flood on the floor.  While you are cleaning up that, she is dumping the plastic gladware all over the floor. It’s more of a flinging, actually.  She’s starting to understand about picking up, thankfully, and she’ll help with that.

Until she realizes that if she dumps them again, the fun will continue!

After picking up a few this time, she grows tired of the game and pushes a kitchen chair up to the sink where there is fresh dish water – her newest joy is to help with dishes!  Which is cute. And exhausting.  It’s like a race to get all of the knives rinsed and dried and out of her reach before she tires of the two measuring cups she is transferring water between, and decides it would be a great idea to dump the water into the dish drainer, instead. Or the floor. The taking the dishes from the dish drainer before they are dried and put away doesn’t bother me so much, until they start going back into the soapy water.  And then cupfuls of soapy water going back into the rinse water!

So, when we are talking toddler chaos in the home school – I hear ya!

What to do?  You can’t just put off school with the older kids until they grow out of it! . . .  Wait! . . . Can you?


Unless you are in the position to hire a toddler nanny, you are going to need to cope with the two diverse worlds!

This year, I’m armed.  With a list.  and ready made action kits on the shelf. Lots of them. ‘ Cause,  Attention span.

I thought my list for keeping my toddler engaged and entertained (and safe, as well as the house safe!) might help some of you, and maybe spark your imagination for more ideas!  And if this happens, or you have any ideas you already use for keeping your toddler engaged and entertained during your older kids study time,  PLEASE SHARE in the comments section below!

As an added bonus, as if a little bit of sanity and peace are not enough, all of these ideas help to practice a developmental skill, or explore exciting concepts of the world around them!

I like to have everyone at the table for a while, at the beginning of our day for Bible reading, math, and group activities.  At this time I put toddlers in their high chair with their own activities.

This post contains Affiliate links in order to support my blogging endeavors.  I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase at NO Extra expense to you.  

At the Table

  • Play dough.  Make your own with ease.
  • Coloring
  • Painting – for this stage I just use the cheap-o water colors and a little water in a bowl
  • Tongs and a bowl of small gladware, small silicone containers, cups, bowls, anything that can be picked up with the tongs easily
  • Gluing.  It is easy for a toddler to make a great collage if you draw a picture on paper with the liquid glue.  Big bold shapes, or numbers or flowers.  Then give them something to ‘collage’  dried beans, split peas, rice, colored rice, macaroni, little scraps of colored paper, crayon shavings, salt, etc.  I LOVE this one because it can be so varied.  They can do it over and over and it’s all new with new materials.  and it takes very little prep. and very little brain power on my part, whatever’s on hand. and the child has so much fun and feels like they really created something special.
  • Collage.  cover most of the paper in a thin layer of glue and set your child up with lots of little pictures of fun objects, or people, or colored paper in different shades of the same color (to learn colors)

  • Barrel of monkeys
  • Checkers and an egg carton
  • Stencils.  If your child’s motor skills are not able to cope with smaller stencils, cut a large shape out of a coffee can lid (or yogurt lid, etc). Or here are some cute stencils
  •  Cut a slit in the lid of a coffee can, or yogurt container.  Put the lid with the cut out back onto the container and the child can fit the flats of canning jar lids into the slot.
  • Write and wipe books, here are some Write and wipe pre writing skills books
  • safety scissors and strips of paper (about an inch wide and 5 or 6 inches long make learning to cut easier) the child loves to just snip away! These have served us well over the years.
  • Black line drawing of a sheep (or clouds).  The child can glue cotton balls onto this.
  • Puzzles-  love, love love Melissa and Doug Puzzles as well as Lauri Puzzles
  • Mr Potato Head
  • legos
  • matching cards – Eric Carle here or Dr. Suess here for fun options
  • Magic picture.  Draw a simple picture with white crayon onto a paper.  give your child some watered down paint and a brush, as they paint, the picture will appear
  • Textured drawings. Tape a piece of sandpaper, a leaf, or any flat object with cool texture to the back of a paper and let your child color on the front.
  • Marble tracks.  tape a piece of paper to the bottom of a shallow box. Add a dab of slightly watered down paint. Add a marble or two.  let the child swish the box from side to side to make cool designs.  (this might be one that an older sibling can help with while you are working with another sibling)
  • Sewing Cards.  Using cardstock or cardboard, cut out a simple shape.  Punch holes around the edge of the shape, about 1/2 inch apart.  Tape the end of a ribbon, to make it stiffer, or use a shoe lace.  The child can thread the ribbon through the holes. Or Melissa and Doug Farm Animals Lacing Cards are really cute!
  • Air Painting.  Tape a piece of paper onto the bottom of a shallow box.  Put a dollop of watery paint on the paper.  Give your child a straw to blow through, blowing the paint into fun shapes and designs.
  • Stringing objects.  Necklaces.  Thread a plastic needle with embroidery thread.  The child can then make a necklace or string of a number of objects.  Macaroni,  paper clips, spools, etc. or you can buys some like these
  • Simple mazes, you can draw very simple ones yourself.  Or here is a great book of Mazes to purchase
  • Color with chalk onto black construction paper

While we are doing read aloud, or notebooking, or other activities, I choose activities for the toddler that allow for more movement, but will still keep them occupied and out of trouble.

Activities that require more space

(Large Motor)
  • Play in the sink with measuring cups (plastic or stainless steel)
  • Flannel Board.  This can be simply a piece of flannel on the back of the couch and shapes cut out of contrasting colors
  • Butcher paper, craft paper, or paper shopping bags.  Kids love to draw on the big surface.  Tape it to the floor.
  • Hammer and nails
  • Tumbling toy tower.  Show them how to stack toys into a tower.  Encourage them to make it as high as they can.
  • Tunnel.  cut a half moon shape out of both ends of a box.  They can speed their toy cars through it.
  • Spinning.  Give them ribbons sewn onto embroidery hoops and let them dance, spin, and hop with them. Make your own variety, or let Janet at Bear Paw Creek make them for you- get them here!(I’m not an affiliate, I just think her stuff is cool)
  • Ice art stick.  Freeze water in a used, rinsed out cardboard juice container, or a square plastic container to make a giant ice crayon.(for outside!)
  • Water Painting.  A bucket of water and some paint brushes on a sidewalk or deck.
  • Marble Race.  Ours is similar to this one and ALL of our kids have enjoyed it!
  • Cleaning Windows.  a rag or a paper towel and a squirt bottle of water.  Keeps them occupied for LONG periods of time!
warning:  your windows won’t look very good after this . . .
  • Plastic cups to stack into a pyramid.
  • Bean Bag Toss! make some, or get some cool ones from Janet at Bear Paw Creek!
  • Cup/Ball catcher.  Give them a cup and a ball that fits in said cup.  Show them how to throw the ball up in the air and catch it in the cup.


I’m gathering the materials and putting together several of these activities at a time to have “on the ready” for our homeschool mornings.   If you fail to prepare – – – you prepare to fail! (right?)


You can get your copy of these activities along with printable planning sheets!


Click Here for your Free Toddler Activity Planning Sheets now 🙂



Here’s to Mommy Sanity!

Have a blessed.  AND PEACEFUL.  Homeschool year!



One Comment

  1. This is an awesome list! I can’t imagine trying to homeschool my older ones while caring for my littles. So many awesome ideas, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.