Confinement :) Yeah, yeah. Doesn't sound all sweet and probably somehow, very politically incorrect, but in truth, the gentle ideas I'm about to share are all about confinement.
The booster seat or high chair is your friend. While you're having lessons with one child, put your toddler in a booster and give nominal, time taking tasks.
- Cherrios in a cup - give a pile, give a cup, give instructions to take them, one at a time, and put them in the cup. If they eat them, no worries. It will keep them busy for a brief lesson. M&Ms or any snack will do, so long as it can be picked up by 2 fingers :)
- Coloring during lesson, only if the child won't eat the crayons.
- Water colors clean easily and provide much fun. Fingers work better than brushes for these little hands.
- Finger paint, better yet, washable finger paint.
- Textured items like sandpaper, velvet, anything that he can touch and feel the difference. Use the same items during one-on-one time with him and he'll repeat the process on his own.
Practice whispering this, "Shhhh Mommy's teaching a lesson, we'll talk later. You may not interrupt me now."
- You really can teach a toddler to sit in circle time, hands in lap, and be quiet while we read this story; or sit and look through your book while I read; or sit and play with your toy while it's story time.
- As soon as a moment presents itself, acknowledge the little one, but train them to be good listeners and respectful toward the studies of their siblings school time and the conversations of others. It is honestly amazing to see how capable a 2 year old can truly be.
Focused school during naptime - baby or toddler sleeps, you teach reading and math, or whatever else requires your deep attention and no distractions. Face it, you can train a wonderfully behaved toddler, but you have to keep your mind and eyes on them all day, so do the tough stuff during nap time!
Potty Train during breaks - It's too important to drop either school or potty training, so don't do them at the same time.
Special Toy Box - keep a box of schooltime only toys. It makes them feel special and like a big kid!
Reinforce quiet time for older children, not yet in school, particularly those who no longer nap. Put a timer on for them, allow certain books or toys in their rooms or beds only and they must be quiet. If you can't leave them in a room alone, put them on the couch or a blanket where you can watch. This age group can enjoy all the activities I listed above for toddlers. You can add puzzles to the list. When my daughter was 3, she became a serious puzzle doer. She loved them! Still does, btw and she just turned 12!
Big Kid Breaks - sorta :) have a middle schooler take the little one(s) out back and play outside for a play break while you work with the 4th grader on math, etc. Everybody taking a break will be happy.
Big Kids in Life Skills - take a year to teach the life skill of cooking, use your actual cooking time, a special class during school time is not necessary...think Charlotte Mason in the kitchen :) Breaks like summer and holidays are great times to ramp this up. Teach them how to make specific items, you know, the ones you make all the time for lunch and during school days! Then you can say, "Daughter dear, can you please start the noodles for spaghetti for me?" and you have the chance to finish up that reading or spelling lesson. All chores apply to this thinking. Sometimes, having a big kid help out means the difference in enjoying your day and being swallowed by it.
Recently, my two oldest asked if they could start doing their own laundry, as the no longer wanted to wait for my laundry day for certain things (teenagers sometimes care what they wear, remember that?). AMAZING what a difference not washing for two children is. Amazing! The burden of laundry has been lifted from me and I'm still washing for five people. Amazing! Learning these life skills prepares them for the real world, taking care of others, self-reliance, etc. You know the saying, "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for life." or something like that..too lazy to look it up right this minute.
Anyways, I think my immediate thoughts on the subject are done. I hope these ideas help someone keep more peace and balance in their homes.