Easy Activities to Keep Your Toddler Busy While You Homeschool
The year I began homeschooling, my oldest was 5-years-old, plus I had a 4-year-old, an almost-2-year-old and an infant. They kept me hopping!
Most days, I had to remind myself that my work was being measured in years to avoid feeling like a complete failure!
These days, things are much easier, which is why I have the time to blog about it all!
Over the last several years, I’ve gathered a ton of practical, EASY ways to keep my own little people happy and occupied, so I could homeschool with fewer interruptions. I want to share them with you today in hopes that they can help you, too!
Most of these ideas are free or very inexpensive (and did I mention EASY?). The homeschool toddler activities that cost money actually serve a dual purpose in that they’re educational and I also use them to teach my preschoolers skills. I keep a wish list of good quality toys like this for grandparents to choose from, and I also give them for birthdays and Christmas so that I don’t have to spend a fortune.
Grandparents would really rather spend their money on things that you’ll enjoy and use than things that will get broken and thrown away.
(Please note that this post includes affiliate links for your convenience. They’re boring, but you can read my full disclosures here if you want.)
Here are 35 easy toddler homeschool activities:
First, a little advice from a mother who’s been there:
Include your toddler in your homeschool whenever possible. Never underestimate a toddler’s ability to learn! Little people are sponges! They probably have shorter attention spans than your older kiddos, so you have to allow for that. But I usually call my toddlers to the table as we all start school, together, and include my toddlers for as long as they want to be included.
Sometimes, when a toddler’s attention is waning, but I still need to be at the table with the other kids, I’ll grab some art supplies and divert my toddler with a coloring project. That way, he feels like he’s still at the table, working with the big kids, but he has his own work.
Storytime, read alouds, art projects, science experiments and PE have all been favorites with my toddlers, and will bring them running from the far corners of the house so they can participate.
Give your toddler a job. Little people like to feel useful. Sometimes they get into trouble simply because they’re trying to be helpful. Have you noticed that when your little one spreads flour and sugar all over the kitchen, it’s usually because he was trying to cook? He just wants to be like you!
Cleaning is especially fun if your toddler has his own, child-sized cleaning tools for helping around the house. These simple chores are great for little people, with minimal training:
- Help mommy fill or empty the washing machine and dryer.
- Sort laundry into darks and lights.
- Fold laundry and stack it in the right drawers.
- Set the table for meals.
- Clear the table following meals.
- Help empty the dishwasher by stacking cups and plastic dishes on the counter.
- Straighten the toy cubbies by separating blocks, plastic animals and vehicles into the appropriate boxes.
- Fetch things, such as a diaper and wipes to change the baby, or your phone.
- Clean the floor with a hand-held vacuum, or a washcloth.
- Make their beds.
- Gather and empty trash cans from all the bathrooms.
- Watering plants.
- Dusting (especially baseboards) with a long-handled duster.
- Washing cabinet doors with a barely-damp washcloth.
- Stacking pans in your pan cabinet.
Give your toddler a few minutes of undivided attention. Little people wanted to be treated like they matter. While your older children are working independently, take a few minutes to pull your toddler on your lap to read a story or sing a silly song. Those few minutes will go a long way to making your toddler feel valued.
Toddler Art Supplies for Homeschool Activities:
I keep our art supplies in a large art caddy, so I can easily grab it from the closet when I have a toddler getting restless, or when I need them for a homeschool project. I never set the entire caddy on the table, because it would get torn apart. Instead, I just take out the supplies we need, and then we replace them before getting out any other supplies.
Stencils. Toddlers will carefully trace the shapes and figures with a pencil or marker, and then proudly show you the finished product. They can even help with letter and number recognition, and writing skills.
Stickers. These are considered an extra special treat at our house, because I only bring them out occasionally. I’ll often fold cardstock into card shapes, and let my toddlers decorate ‘cards’ for grandparents birthdays or other special occasions. They always feel so proud of their creations.
Stamps. Self-inking stamps are the easiest for chubby little hands to use, but slightly older toddlers do well with a regular ink pad, too. Just be sure to use washable ink pads! My toddlers would spend 10 minutes filling an entire page with stamps. It’s a great way to stretch time a little.
Reusable stickers. These are perfect activities for church and long drives in the car as well as for keeping toddlers busy during homeschool. My best tip for making these last awhile is to tear out each scene, laminate it, then staple a ziploc bag to the back of the scene to hold all of the pieces. That way I can hand out one scene at a time to several different children (my older kids LOVE these, too!) and they don’t end up a gigantic mess with missing pieces.
WikkiStix. These are a little like wax-coated chenille stems. They are easy to mold into shapes and completely reusable. My toddlers would play with these for hours if I also gave them a scene from a sticker book, making people or animals to populate the scene.
Markers. Be sure you only purchase washable markers! I like to buy several sets during the back-to-school sales in August, when they’re less than a dollar a set.
Crayons. These chunky crayons are great for small, pudgy hands.
Coloring books for toddlers. I’ve purchased fun coloring books at the dollar store on occasion, but they aren’t always the best for toddlers. Toddlers need large, simple shapes and sturdy paper.
Assorted supplies. This kit includes craft sticks, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, foam shapes and letters, glue, pom pom’s and pretty much everything you would ever need for any art project. Save a couple of toilet paper rolls and let your toddler create silly animals. It will keep him busy for awhile!
Play dough. We have a large bin full of Play Doh tools and containers of Play Doh in all the colors of the rainbow. It would be disastrous to hand that to my toddler while I was trying to work with my older kiddos. Instead, I’ll give him just one small container of play doh — one color — and a couple of these play dough mats to work on. It usually keeps him busy and happy for at least a half hour.
I Set Aside Special, Quiet Toddler Toys for Homeschool Activities:
Toy Cubbies. I keep a nice-looking, decorative trunk in my dining room, which opens to reveal several toy cubbies. My toddlers can’t open it on their own, and I only open it during school time, and only occasionally, so these toys are kind of a treat. I only open one cubby at a time, and each cubby is filled with something like plastic ocean animals or plastic jungle animals or a little train set or things like that.
Books. Board books work best for times that you can’t supervise, because they’re more durable. If you purchase books with little doors to open, or different textures to feel, they’ll keep your toddler busy longer.
Wood Puzzles. Just keep in mind that toddlers will be frustrated with and lose interest in anything that is overly complicated or with tiny pieces.
Counting Bears. Have your toddler sort and categorize things. I like this set of counting bears, because it will keep a toddler busy for a good long while, sorting the yellow bears into the yellow cup and the red bears into the red cup… Preschoolers will enjoy setting up the bears in different patterns. And I also use these bears along with Saxon Math as a manipulative.
Button Board sets. Toddlers snap buttons onto pattern cards to improve hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and creative thinking.
Chalkboard. Toddlers love to draw and erase, over and over. A plain old chalkboard will keep them busy for awhile. If you have a magnetic chalkboard, they could also use magnetic letters. A dry-erase board would be fun, too. But dry-erase markers can stain clothing, so be careful.
Pegboards. These make great color-sorting toys for toddlers. They help improve fine motor skills. I also use them for counting, sorting, patterning, stacking, toddler art and color matching games for my preschoolers.
Snack time. This applies to your older kiddos as well as your toddlers. Because I guarantee you that you won’t get away with just serving your toddler a snack while the others watch, lol! Your older kids can eat while they’re working, and your toddler will be happily trapped in the high chair.
NAPS! If you’re a toddler mom, you know how welcome and valuable naps are! Use them strategically!
Electronics. When my oldest was born, I swore she’d be screen free. But that resolve didn’t last long, ha, ha! I still try to limit screen time, but I have been known to hand my toddlers a tablet from time to time, when I felt desperate for a few more minutes to finish math corrections. My younger kids knew the tablet and laptop passwords before they could read, and they could navigate to their favorite apps and programs by voice. Sad but true fact: my younger children have learned all of their letters and numbers almost completely from educational apps.
Building toys. It depends on the child, but most of my toddlers will spend at least an hour if I get out a building toy, like Lincoln Logs, Duplo blocks, a gear set or wooden blocks. Especially if I get out a few small vehicles to let them race through whatever they build.
Scissors (blunt) and junk mail. Toddlers love to cut and will happily spend ten or twenty minutes just cutting stuff up. It’s a great way for them to work on small motor skills. And then you can get them to spend another ten minutes cleaning up all the confetti they made. They also love hole punches!
Lacing. Have your toddler thread yarn through fruit loops or salad macaroniJust wrap a piece of masking tape around the cut end of the yarn so it’s easier to slide through the pasta and doesn’t unravel. Alternately, you could use large buttons (small ones will be too hard to hold) with large enough holes to thread the yarn through.
Toddler busy board. These are such a fun way to work toward skills for independent dressing! You can build your own, too, with a little creativity.
Putting things in and taking things out. I don’t know why this is fun, but it will keep your toddlers busy for awhile if you give them a laundry basket full of small stuffed animals, let them take them all out and then put them back in.
Sorting. Place a different colored sticker in the bottom of each hole in a muffin tin, and give your toddler a bowl full of legos (of corresponding colors) to sort into the muffin tin. Alternately, you could have your toddler sort buttons or small toys or candies or pom poms. Just make sure you put them away afterward if they’re small enough to be a choking hazard!
Dress up. Your toddler could spend hours dressing up and parading around in oversized clothing and shoes. Plus, he learns great skills while working to put on and remove clothing.
I hope activities help keep your toddlers busy while you homeschool! Good luck! 🙂 If you have any fun toddler homeschool activities that I’ve missed, please share them in the comments below!