Homeschooling with toddlers; activities for two-year-olds

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After updating our preschool activities last week it was time to do the same for my two-and-a-bit year old. I was so thrilled when he was old enough to use some of our many table activities and they did keep him going for ages, but after almost two months with the same tubs, he was ready for a change.

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This is his activity cupboard after the change-over. We use these activities after breakfast while he is still in his high-chair and occasionally before dinner, also in the highchair. Learning to sit, focus and concentrate for an extended period is such a valuable skill for later in life and so helpful for those situations when you need a toddler to stay in one place and play quietly (think restaurant.) See this post for more information on highchair time.

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A gift from Nan and Grandad became our first new activity. Posting 50 cent pieces through the money-box slot, then removing the rubber stopper and taking them out again was a hit.

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This opening and closing containers activity tray was my favourite so I was pleased to see he like it too. Open-ended play opportunities will keep a toddler going for quite some time.

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I had placed a couple of the counting bears in each container to start with and part of the fun was opening each one to discover the bear hiding there.

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This tub holds different kinds of pegs to slide or peg on to containers or place into the popsicle mold. Pegging is another great fine-motor skill. Be sure to choose pegs that do not have a stiff spring or little ones will not have the strength to open them.

(This activity did not grab my little guy at all. Activities that are too easy or too hard will not keep young children going for long. Knowing where your child is at developmentally is important. If you aren’t sure, try it anyway but be prepared to leave it for later. I have tried certain skills that didn’t work at all, but within just a few months the same child found it riveting. This one will come back out in a little while.)

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Poking toothpicks into florist’s foam.  I have since been told that the grey foam should crumble less so if you are purchasing it specially for this purpose, then go grey! The green block I have is slowly disintegrating and does shed green dust.

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This activity is a little young for him but as the money-box packaging was perfect I decided to introduce it again. All he needs to do is poke the plastic sticks (penne pasta, straws etc.) through the holes then tip them out of the  box and go again. This is fascinating for babies once they have the hand control to do it and will keep a toddler interested for a little while. The fact that the box has a window adds so much more to the interest level as they can watch the items drop into the box.

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After watching older siblings draw and use stickers, he has an early interest in these.

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Tong transfer activities are another hand strengthening pastime that will help make pencil grip a breeze later on. Placing pompoms into a container like this ice block tray also develops an  understanding of one-to-one correspondence.

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Similar activity – tong transfer – but these toast tongs are a little harder to manipulate.

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Two hands proved necessary to achieve the task.

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This wooden puzzle set from Melissa and Doug uses basic geometric shapes to complete simple pictures. They are a bit easy for my little guy so are not holding his attention like they probably would have a few months ago.

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Fill and spill bottles are wonderful for younger babies. They just love to plop items in and tip them out again. At two, our toddler will still do this but it won’t keep him going for long.

While our two-year-old works on his activities after breakfast, the older children start their independent homeschool work and I work with the 2 preschoolers. The toddler then moves to playpen time and I work with the older children while the preschoolers do their independent activities on their mats. We all (except the toddler) get together then for circle time before the younger 3 head outdoors and the older 3 finish up their schoolwork if they haven’t already. All up, we are going for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I am often asked how I manage such a large family and homeschool. This is how folks!

This set of activities will need to be changed fairly quickly (possibly after two weeks?) as there is no way they are going to keep his attention for a whole month. Next month I will move to more involved tasks that take more time and provide open-ended options. With my basic categories in mind, it’s really very easy to come up with a new set of tasks and the beauty of this style of play is that often the toddler and the preschoolers can share the same activity. This will definitely be the case with our next change-over when I get ready for our new baby with activities that do not need to be changed frequently or have help to complete. Stay tuned!

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4 Responses

  1. I love the toothpicks and florist’s foam idea!

  2. Love the photo for each activity, so helpful for visual learners!
    I am wondering, how many of these activities might your toddler go through while he is in the high chair? Do you give him one by one, the same one first each morning? Must he complete them all before he goes into playpen time? What if he is bored and then throws the activity on the ground?…. My issue right now!

    Do you have a list of categories for the different types of developmental activities that you do?

    • Hi Lisa, I aim to keep him in the highchair for 30 to 40 minutes. Over that time he would go through several different activities. I rotate them each day to keep him interested and he would only do a few, not all each time. Some of the transfer trays for example take just 5 minutes or so to transfer the items out and then back again so I change them right away. The sensory tub style, drawing and stickers etc keep him going for much longer. He is very used to this style of table activity and when he is done packs up and asks for another. (One at a time) Sometimes I ask him to wait until I am ready to change his tray. Because he is happy to wait when instructed to do so, I generally get the next one as he finishes. If the activity has an end point I ask him to complete it first e.g. put all the coins in the horse money box before we put it back. It is important for the child to know that you choose the activity and set the pace, regardless of whether they choose to drop it or not. I have written about that under choices here: https://angathome.com/2011/10/22/choices/and highchair time here: https://angathome.com/2011/10/05/routines-highchair-time/ If your son is throwing the activities I would suggest using a timer – the next tray will not come out until it buzzes at 5 minutes for example, regardless of whether he chooses to dump it or not. I do have a list of categories, have a look under the “Brief Montessori Overview” tab at the top of the blog page for some ideas. My categories do change over time depending on what skills I think we need to work on.

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