My biggest struggle with occupying my toddler while homeschooling the older children, is the fact that he has such a short attention span. Not many things hold his attention for more than five minutes. I have an array of time stuffers that work on some days but miss the mark on others.
What I focus on is variety. I have containers with groupings of items such as blocks, marbles, paper/crayons, and clay which are called centers. On Monday’s I replace each center with five new ones, containing new items.
Each week he has the option of choosing from five containers that hold fun stuff like puzzles, paint, blocks, cars, craft sticks and glue or noodles and string for jewelry making. After he chooses a container he is instructed to play quietly with its contents for ten to fifteen minutes while I get the older children started on their first subject. On a good day this takes about ten to fifteen minutes. After I get the older children situated I sit and play with the toddler for a few minutes as well.
I try not to require him play alone for longer fifteen minutes, unless he wants to. If I find that he is becoming bored I direct him to begin cleaning up so that we can move on to another center. I have four sets of centers, which I rotate in and out each week.
I try to find inexpensive things to add to centers such as .99 cents puzzles and clay from the discount stores. I have allowed him to play with some colorful plastic hair rollers that are assorted sizes. He loves to stack them and watch them fall. He has dominoes, cards, mini blocks, large blocks and homemade lacing boards. I made the lacing boards out of cardboard that I punched wholes in with a hole puncher. I wrapped scotch tape around one end of the yarn to form a sturdy point and then attached the other end of the yarn to the cardboard. children will work tirelessly to try and lace the entire board.
Another tool I use is the kitchen sink. I fill it with water and allow him to play with his toys at the sink. He also spends time on the computer playing a variety of educational games.
The main thing that I try to do is offer a variety of items that will challenge my toddler. I try to remember that my toddler is not mature enough to sit for extended periods of time. Toddlers are not robots that can be programmed to play quietly each day. Sometimes as a homeschool mom I have to put school on hold and just be mom on some mornings. Find out what your child enjoys whether it is books, coloring, building or exploring and create a variety of time stuffers that will help him of her stay busy doing things that they enjoy.