Including a Toddler in Home School

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Heading into the eighth week of home school, I have a much better idea now for how to entertain an 18 month old and teach kindergarten lessons at the same time. It felt like an apt time to share some of this newfound wisdom, breaking things down into six steps.

Step 1: Start with a “busy” activity. I’ve learned to find even mundane materials that keep little hands occupied, and this is usually enough to keep Veronika happy during the first lesson of the day. To wit: today she had construction paper to tear, put in a bin, and then attach to a sheet of sticky contact paper!

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Step 2: Give them similar materials. This is usually the second tactic of the day to come into play, when Veronika tires of her busy activity. So, for example, today Travis had a math lesson involving gemstones. I gave Veronika an age-appropriate version: large wooden beads hidden in a set of nesting boxes that quickly became toddler gems and treasure!

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Step 3: Give hugs. Inevitably about mid-morning, Veronika walks up to me and says, “Hug”. She’s tired just from watching all the home schooling!

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I sit her on my lap, and soon she’s feeling better. She might just suck her thumb and watch Travis work during this period, or flip through a toddler magazine quietly as we snuggle.

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Step 4: Contain them in a high chair. If we’re involved with something messy, I strap Veronika into the high chair and make it her work station. Some go-to activities? An empty paper towel tube to scribble on with markers is perfect. Or stickers. Or both! Veronika can never have too many stickers.

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But if she fusses about being contained we head to…

Step 5: Help them feel like a big kid. Give your toddler the same thing that the older sibling has, but once more in an age-appropriate way.  So if Travis is working with real scissors, she gets safety scissors. If Travis is using permanent marker, she gets crayons. You get the idea!

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Step 6: Don’t forget the magic of food. I’ve learned to time Veronika’s snack around the lesson when Travis needs my focus the most each day. Set out favorites that your toddler can feed him- or herself. Favorite finger foods here are mini boxes of raisins, sliced olives, animal crackers, and juice boxes.

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How are you keeping a baby or toddler occupied during coronavirus home schooling? Please share in the comments!

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Kindergarten Home School Week 8: Monday

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Before I dive into Monday, a quick note on the weekend! I had planned to do a shadow activity on the previous Friday but the weather was too cloudy. So it made for a nice Saturday morning activity instead. After tracing a maze in his summer workbook (helping a camel follow shadows to a shady oasis), Travis and I talked about shadows and then headed outside for a shadow chalk experiment. Full details are here.

Meanwhile, it’s Monday and we had a successful morning, once more going off-book from teacher suggestions.

9-9.30: Math: The corresponding page in his summer workbook involved counting jewels from a box of hidden treasure. This was great because all the numbers were in the teens, and he was due for a review.

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There were so many ways to extend the play from there! We did a repeat craft of old “acorn jewels” (although to make it quicker I filled them with hot glue instead of waiting for white glue to dry) and then hid them all around the house. We also pulled out an old treasure box to play with.

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9.30-10: STEM. Floating fish made for a quick lesson on density and buoyancy.

10-10.30: Snack/recess. We played a game of tag out in the yard, which counted both as play and exercise, since I knew he would nix any gym suggestions from the P.E. teacher.

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10.30-11: 20 minutes on Lexia, once again working on story sequencing.

11-11.30: Science. Our encyclopedia page of the day focused on rocks.

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After a quick watch of the QR code video, I pulled out an old set of rocks and a magnifying glass for further exploration. Just as I hoped, the props from the day were now coming together in imaginative free play. You’ll notice the rocks and minerals are being guarded as treasure, as the pirate ship comes to plunder!

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11.30-1.30: Lunch/free play.

1.30-2: Spanish. His teacher had recorded a wonderful read of Mouse Paint using the Spanish words for colors. Travis flipped the pages of our home copy to follow along.

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I didn’t want to deal with the mess of paints, so we mixed food coloring to see how this worked in real time, naming all the colors in Spanish as we went.

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2-2.30: Outside. We walked in a local park and picked flowers for Teacher Appreciation Week!

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2.30-3: Art. Back home, we fit in some last-minute art in a project that was actually intended for baby sister, since he wasn’t interested in his class’s standard “Over the weekend…” writing and drawing.

His bedtime story was Ira Sleeps Over.

Drawing on the Floor

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Usually both my kids love to color in pages that we print from the internet, but with our printer out of ink, I had two kids clamoring for an alternative! This art project saved the day, and can apply to either a toddler or an older child, depending how you tailor it. Either way, half the fun is the novelty of drawing on the floor!

First, I taped a long sheet of craft paper down to the floor. At intervals, I added some fabric prints we have of Van Gogh paintings, like Starry Night.

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For younger kids, these pictures can simply serve as visual stimulation; I had no expectation that Veronika would do anything other than scribble, but hopefully she was inspired by the beautiful artwork around her.

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Certainly she loves to talk about colors these days (“Yellow!” Purple!”) as she draws, and I could point out examples of them in the artwork.

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For older kids, encourage them to try and copy what they see in the famous paintings. Or, simply let the artwork act as a catalyst, and see where it takes them. Travis didn’t exactly copy Starry Night, but he did make big swirls of color in imitation.

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You could even use the project as a jumping-off point for deeper exploration into a certain artist or particular piece of art, as many museums are offering free tours these days. 

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Even if it just turns into messy scribbling on the floor, your kids will have had fun.

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Peach Raspberry Compote

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This easy compote is a nice alternative to maple syrup as a pancake topping: sweet, without any added sugar!


  • 1 and 1/2 cups peaches
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the fruit begins to soften and break down.

Serve with your favorite pancake recipe!

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Floating Fish

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This little balloon project is a fun way to teach kids about buoyancy, and more specifically about how fish can swim in the water without either floating to the top or sinking to the bottom. As a bonus, it starts out as science and ends as a bath toy!

To set up, first insert a marble into each of three uninflated balloons. You’ll have to open the neck of the balloon wide to do this, which can be a bit tricky.

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Using a funnel, fill one balloon with 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Fill the second ballon with 1/3 cup water. Blow up the final balloon with air until it’s roughly the same size as the balloons with liquid.

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You can add fishy faces or fins with permanent marker, if desired! Next, fill a craft bin with water, and set your fish loose. Travis’s hypothesis was that the oil-filled “fish” would be the one to neither sink nor float, and he was so proud to be correct!

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As you can probably guess, the water + marble sinks to the bottom. The oil + marble manages to be midway in the water, just like a fish swimming. The air + marble floats on top…not where a fish wants to be!

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Once the science was done, we brought the fish upstairs at bath time, where they made for extra fun!