Essential Lists & Tips

Fun Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy While You Homeschool

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Homeschooling at my house has seen a few changes over the past two months. Intent on copying his older brother, Piglet (now 21 months old) has become a regular (and intense!) participant during seatwork time instead of toddling around the house.

That tugs at my heartstrings. Piglet’s grown up all too quickly!

I think Piglet finally decided he was ready to join us permanently at the table sometime mid-August last year. (Note an absence of blogging after that! This sudden development together with all the other accompanying growth spurts – and toddler mess – has been energy sapping to say the least.)

While Lamb works, Piglet would clamber up onto his own chair and wait expectantly for a lesson of sorts. I have to keep the activities rotating quickly. After two to three minutes, Piglet’s done! Consequently, I have had to increase our resource of homemade toddler activities.

It took two to three nights putting together new ones and all of them were cheap, just what I like. Many thanks to Stacie of Motherhood on a Dime for some cool ideas.

Here are some old activities I posted about before and new ones in action. Some are small enough to stuff into my bag and keep Piglet seated, peaceably entertained (most times), at the restaurant.

Busy Toddler Main

1. Coloured sticks

I name the colours as Piglet puts them in. Or say: “Put in the blue.” Or count the number of sticks. A favourite that goes often in my bag.

Materials: Plastic bottle (recycled Gatorade) + coloured ice cream sticks (I found these at a cheap toy store in Amcorp Mall, top floor, a few shops down from Book Excess).

2. Sing songs

Count. Sing. 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe.

Materials: Shells + plastic tub.

3. Homemade picture cards

Rather dull in my view, but sometimes Piglet just wants whatever his big brother’s doing.

Materials: Lamb’s picture cards (used for phonics).

4. Toddler math

I discovered Piglet liked this when Lamb was using them. See that concentration!

Materials: Construction paper (print numbers 1-10, trace circles, laminate) + coloured counters (we got these from Sonlight).

5. Tear and paste

Materials: Plain paper + scraps of coloured paper/wrapping paper (waste not!) + glue stick.

Tear a little bit on the paper edge, to make it easier for wee hands to tear off strips. Like this:IMG_3157

On the paper, draw a shape (circle, square, whatever). “This is a circle (or whatever). Can you stick the paper in the circle?” Demonstrate how to apply glue and paper. On another day we might stick paper outside the circle.

6. Beading

When Piglet started beading at 20 months, I noticed how methodical he was. He’d get all the yellows in first. Then blues. Then reds. On some days, anything goes.

Materials: Pipe cleaner + coloured beads with big holes + plastic tub.

7. Playdough

Homemade playdough rocks. These are mango-flavoured. Enough said.

8. Stuff beads into a bottle

Why is it that 12- to 24-month old people seem to love any kind of stuffing activity?

Materials: Plastic bottle (Gatorade again) + coloured beads.

9. Stuffing pom poms

Told you, another stuffing thing!

Materials: Plastic tub (IKEA) (cut a hole on the lid) + coloured pom poms (purchased at Art Friend, Mid Valley Megamall).

10. Fishing

The #1 Game. Four-and-a-half-year-old Lamb loves it as much as 21-month-old Piglet does. Bring this out and academics go up in smoke.

Why is it listed here? It’s just fun, fishing is. The preschooler benefits anyway. Good for developing their hand-eye coordination.

Materials: Felt (cut into fish shapes) + plastic eyes + metal washer (placed in between two felt pieces and glued together with UHU glue) + magnet + pencil + string + plain paper (draw your own pond).

Pay attention to the Glad Zipslide. I’m always so glad I got these because the little one can pack up and ziplock close on his own.

11. Finger drawing

When Lamb practises letter writing, Piglet must have a tray too. Of course.

But I ain’t giving him rice because I don’t want a mess.

Busy Toddler 16a

Chickpeas will do.

But leave out the car.

Because the preschooler will follow suit.

Busy Toddler 16c

But never mind. The latter gets done. Via car.

Busy Toddler 16b

12. Hang loose

A change of scene midway through lesson time (from school table to kitchen table) is always an effective way for all parties to have a break and maintain learning interest simultaneously. Sometimes, though, you just have to chill out. By all means do phonics with the preschooler while you both enjoy a snack.

But let the toddler roam if he so wishes.


And explore happily.

While teaching your preschooler how to blend sounds, I wonder what’s going on in that toddler’s mind that makes him do this:


And don’t get too discouraged about having to pick up because Piglet’s off running with Lamb after school’s done for the day. (Self talk here)

Because everyone had fun, learned the 3Rs, and got some snuggles ‘n’ kisses in between.

Enjoy, guys.

Jin Ai traded refugee work for diapers, dishes and homeschooling. She blogs about parenting, home education and life as mom to four kids at Mama Hear Me Roar.