How to Keep Toddlers Occupied While Homeschooling Older Children

It’s been a challenge keeping up with the difficulties of this year's virtual schooling which certainly seem to be a little more complicated than the first time around. I have only one “Zoom School” on the go with the added obstacle of keeping a preschooler occupied and out of range of the laptop's microphone and camera.

For me, the hurdle has been maintaining her attention for those two-hour daily sessions of homeschooling, which sounds easy. But when your own attention is divided between rebooting internet Wi-Fi, helping with Irish or Geography homework, and making sure the toddler isn’t climbing the kitchen cabinets, it can be a test.

Luckily, toddlers are receptive to particular types of play to keep them entertained.

Create A Space for Them

When they see their big sister or brother set up with their schoolbooks, pencils, and laptop, toddlers want to dive in and join them in this little experiment. By creating a space specifically for them with varying toys or activities in a box of their own, they become consumed in their little world. While big sis is at “Zoom School” we use a separate play area, donned with boxes of jigsaws, puzzles, and activities and do our own school activities as though she is at Montessori.

Give Them Your Attention

Toddlers crave attention, but surprisingly when they have their fill, they are happy to continue on their own. Give them your attention first. Sing songs, read stories, play games. And then when you are called away to help their older siblings, they are content enough to seek out their own playtime.

Experiment and Create

Now, admittedly experiments with a three-year-old are either a big hit or a terrible miss. If planned, they can be a worthwhile distraction while older children are consumed in their homeschooling. There are lots of simple experiments, which won’t test the patience of toddlers (or you). A quick Google search can do the trick. If all else fails, take out the playdough and create. Spill the colouring pencils or blast the paint against an old box. Let them get messy and explore colours, textures, and their imagination.

And Finally, Pull Out an App or Two

It’s a controversial opinion I know. But the rules are well and firmly out the window the past year with Pandemic Parenting. If you have tried everything, or if you are beyond exhausted with virtual homeschooling and the workload of life, take out an app or two. Our kids are the technology generation, and there are plenty of learning apps which are beneficial.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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