Keeping a Younger Child Busy (and Happy) While Homeschooling
Homeschooling with a younger child around is not the easiest thing to do. The older they get – at least before school age – sometimes the harder it is to keep them entertained. If you have a baby currently sleeping during your school day – please remember this and be thankful for this time, masha’Allah. Anyway, in my own experience – once they get closer to school age it does get a little easier, insha’Allah.
Some days you will have a lot of success homeschooling with a younger child – who knows, things just work more smoothly that day. Other days you will wonder if you will get anything accomplished. Insha’Allah – you will have more days like the first example – and I thought I’d share some ideas with you on how to keep your younger child busy while homeschooling your other children. While these activities may not work for everyone – they are at least a starting point for you to figure what will work best for your child – in your situation. Insha’Allah you will find some benefit in it.
To start – I would like to mention some things that do or don’t work or at least share some general advice before I get into specific activities that I recommend insha’Allah.
#1 Do not allow your child to watch a lot of television. Television is tempting – you can just sit your child in front of it for hours and keep them occupied. However, it is a terrible trap. Try turning off the television – you child will scream as if you just cut off their arm – demanding that you turn it back on. After a while, your child will only be able to entertain themselves with the television – it is like they will totally forget how to play – how to keep themselves from being bored – all they want is more television. You will find your child may be more aggressive – you might find that they are always whiny – while this can be common at certain ages – it seems like television (for some reason) makes these problems much worse. Now, all this information sounds great on paper (or computer) – but where did I get that information anyway? Experience is the best teacher.
My youngest had a terrible time in the beginning of the year – she didn’t want to play – she only wanted to watch television. This behavior started right away when I first let her watch a show or two while trying to get done with the day’s schoolwork. I only allowed her to watch cartoons in Arabic – and they were always educational – but that didn’t matter – it still affected her. She would fight anyone who would turn off the television. Once I found out how it was affecting her – I turned off the television and kept her away from it. The changes were rather quick and dramatic, masha’Allah. She needed me to remind her how to keep busy – how to play – but once she got started, she kept herself busy for quite a while. Now – please do realize that at younger ages children are not able to keep themselves occupied for long – expect them to “get finished” rather quickly with anything you give them – that’s just in their nature at that age. They will be able to play by themselves for longer and longer periods as they get older, insha’Allah.
#2 I don’t really follow any certain methodology for homeschooling – but I definitely do see the benefits of some methods and I have incorporated some of them into my own homeschooling experience. In particular, I really love Montessori activities – especially for a pre-school age child. I also use some of their activities with my school age children. There are many websites out there that share Montessori activities – there are many that also share how to make your own Montessori materials. Just search for it online and see what you can find, insha’Allah. There are also many fabulous Montessori books that have been published. I recently purchased “Teach Me To Do It Myself” by Maja Pitamic – I am intending to use the activities in that book with my preschooler this year, insha’Allah. I can’t stress enough how wonderful these activities are to do with your child – and there are many activities that your child can do next to you while you are teaching your other children.
#3 If you are sincerely interested in keeping your younger child busy while homeschooling – I have to admit right now – it is going to take a little work. I highly recommend – first and foremost – that you try to see what books are available that have activities for your child’s age. I have one wonderful book that I found a long time ago at a library book sale entitled “Learning Activities for the Young Preschool Child” by Watrin Furfey. It has a lot of wonderful learning and fun activities to do with a preschool child. Sometimes you are fortunate to have good materials like that just fall into your lap – other times you have to hunt them down, masha’Allah.
When my daughter was younger, I also had a book entitled “Toddler Play” by Gymboree. It has some nice activities for a toddler.
I really love a Publisher known as Gryphon House. I think they have a lot of wonderful educational books, masha’Allah – they are one of the few publishers that I probably wish I had almost everything they published. They have many activities from some of their books located here. Two books that I intend to use with my preschooler this year is entitled “The Giant Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Children 2 to 5” and “The Giant Encyclopedia of Circle Time and Group Activities.” While they are mainly used by teachers in a school setting with lots of children, the activities can be easily adapted to a homeschool environment – even with one child.
Another highly recommended book for a young child is entitled “Slow and Steady, Get me Ready.” I actually purchased that book on the recommendation of another homeschooler. The book has 260 weekly developmental activities from birth to the age of 5. The book is filled with many excellent teaching ideas, masha’Allah.
I am sure there are many other excellent materials out there – perhaps even some sitting on my shelves but I haven’t finished preparing our school room for school this year so things aren’t where they normally are. If I find any later – I will try to remember to share them with you, insha’Allah. So – definitely look at your local library (or online) to see what activities or activity books are available for your child’s age range. Look them over and try a few activities. Not all books will pass the test – but keep trying. Insha’Allah at some point you will find what works for your child.
#4 There are two types of activities that you can use to keep your child entertained while homeschooling your older children. The first type of activity is one that you can introduce to your child and they can keep themselves busy with that activity until they grow tired of it. How long it takes for them to become bored is entirely up to your child, their interests, and their age. The second type of activity is actually one that you will have to do with your child. For much younger children – they will most likely prefer the second type of activities more – but as I said – as they grow (and they will – I promise, insha’Allah) they will be able to do more of the first type of activity.
So, now you are wondering – if I am already homeschooling older children – how am I going to have the time to keep my younger child entertained? The answer is – you need to. Your younger child needs you still quite a lot – and if you don’t meet those needs they will demand that you do – with bad behavior. Is your child super whiny, destructive or demanding of your time every minute of every day – for some reason they are feeling like their needs are not being met. So, what do I suggest? I have found that if I set up some time at the beginning of my lessons to do one activity with my younger child – she is more willing the rest of the day to allow me to attend to her siblings.
Try to make a routine of it – if you can’t do it in the morning, then do it before or after lunch. Just make sure that you set aside some time with your younger child – you will see a definite difference in their behavior and in their willingness to allow you to homeschool the other children. Since my youngest sees homeschooling as a positive thing – she always calls this her school time. She proudly tells everyone she meets that she has school too.
Now, a book like The Giant Encyclopedia of Theme Activities is excellent because on any day you can just open the book and do an activity. However, sometimes you might want to follow a theme throughout the week. There are also many websites with lists of activities like these arranged by theme – that could be your starting point. So, if that is the way you want to go – simply plan on the weekend what theme you are going to use. Find some books at the library about the theme and then during the week do an activity a day related to that theme. It may seem like a lot – but if you invest some time during your day to making your younger child feel as important as their siblings – it will make a large difference in how successful your homeschooling day goes, insha’Allah.
If you don’t want to follow themes – then set aside some time each day to work with your younger child. On one day – play with blocks with your child. On another day, play tea party or play with your son’s cars. On yet another day, read a book or play a game with your child. I found that if I did these types of activities with my child first – it made her more willing to let me homeschool the rest of the day. It doesn’t mean that every day is perfect – it just means it makes it a little easier. It’s like she had her time with mommy so everything was okay. If your child is willing and able to wait until later in the day – then do that – do whatever it takes to make them feel secure and important and then you will see a difference in your homeschooling day, insha’Allah.
#5 Another final point to make is that you need to realize that when your child is younger they need a lot of input from their parent. Older children do too – but I am focusing right now on the younger child. For example, we have a bedroom that we converted into a playroom upstairs. My youngest still does not play up there unless her siblings are with her. She likes (and most children like) to be close to you when they are playing. When she was younger (and less frequently now) – she would often play and then come to make sure I was around – return to playing – come to make sure I was around – and so on. You need to realize this need when arranging your house for homeschooling. Does your younger child have playthings near the schooling area? If not, you will find it more difficult to keep your child occupied. Sometimes your child may also come to you only because they want you to hug them or cuddle. If you hold them in your lap for a little bit while homeschooling – give them a hug and a kiss – they will often just get up and return to what they were doing – they just wanted a little love. While it can sometimes be difficult and time consuming, just don’t forget that they love to connect with you.
Okay – well this post is already long enough. Yes, I could go on and on – aren’t you glad I stopped?!? Anyway, I have a list of different types of activities you can do with your child to keep them busy during your school day. I will share that list with you in my next post, insha’Allah – along with other ideas and resources. Insha’Allah it will be a good starting point for you in keeping your younger one busy while homeschooling this year.
By the way – the picture above is a mistake I learned quite early while homeschooling. Even if you are only quickly going to make wudhu – make sure you put up ANY MATERIALS that your younger child should not play with. We were in the middle of a phonics lesson when prayer time came in. We all went to make wudhu and my youngest found the dry erase markers we were using for our lesson. Needless to say, she colored all over herself and our new couch. Ouch!
Sumayyah Umm SAA