Keeping Toddlers Busy While You Homeschool

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One of my biggest challenges as a homeschooling momma is juggling a toddler (and infant) while I teach the other children. Keeping my toddler Daniel busy while I homeschool can be a little like nailing Jello to the wall.

Today, I’m sharing some of my best tips that help us manage our homeschooling days with a toddler tornado in the house.

keeping your toddler busy while homeschooling pin

Let’s take a look.

1. Get Up Early

My first rule for keeping toddlers busy while homeschooling is to stay a step ahead.

As much as I’d love to sleep in, smoother mornings start early around here. If I’m able to catch a half hour of time alone in the morning before the day starts, I have a better attitude and I’m primed for success.

2. Feed the Hobbits Well

Around here, food is fuel. If I’m starting everyone with junk in their tank, then they’ll run out of gas quickly.

On school days, I try to make sure everyone’s gotten a good dose of protein to fill their bellies and get the day started right.

We also stash healthy snacks in our workbox drawers for break time.


3. Create Simple Routines

Every family’s homeschool routine looks different – the key is finding a routine that works for you.

We start off our day after breakfast, and move on to school or field trips. Toddlers learn best by repetition, so it’s best to keep them simple and consistent.

Take a look at these tips for helping to establish a routine for your family.

4. Consider a Circle Time

Toddlers aren’t very patient, so you’ll need to tend to their needs first.

Start out your day with circle time, focused on your little one, with plenty of songs, books and fingerplays just for them.

Once you fill their tanks, toddlers can snuggle on your lap or play close by while you teach lessons. If you’ve got a toddler you can’t put down, think about baby wearing.

Wearing your toddler keeps them close and connected to you.

5. Be Just Like the Big kids

My toddler doesn’t seem to notice that her older siblings are taller, stronger and more coordinated than she. She thinks that she can do anything they do, no matter if it’s painting a picture or riding a scooter.

I see the most success in my homeschool days when I plan a toddler sized activity to coincide with our lesson plans. If we’re reading aloud, I make sure we have board books on hand as well.

Working on math skills with manipulatives?

I make sure my toddler has her own set of blocks to explore. We even incorporate small canteens, tiny lunchboxes or desks so that our toddler feels like she’s part of the action.

6. Our Favorite Supplies, Tools and Ideas

I created a box of toys and activities especially for Maeve. I keep them put away when we’re not doing school. She knows that these items are special, and she’s excited when I bring them out.

What do we keep in our special school box for toddlers?

toddler fun basket

More Ideas for Keeping Toddlers Busy While Homeschooling

  • Foam Stickers
    Foam stickers are great for toddlers and preschoolers! They’re a great way to practice fine motor skills, counting, sorting and more!
  • Do-a-Dot Markers
  • Stringing beads
  • Puzzles
  • Play dough for strengthening muscles that will later be used for writing
  • Felt board with felt story pieces
  • foam stickers

  • Small hand puppets
  • Paper Plate Craft Kits
    I like to be able to have everything ready to go at once, and these paper plate craft kits fit the bill. If we’re studying ocean animals, it’s great to have a craft ready to go that matches my theme.
  • Foam Dice
    We use foam dice as a math tool with the older children, so I needed to grab Maeve a set of her own. She loves rolling them, throwing them and pretending to count the dots.
  • Ice Tongs
    Another fine motor skill tool – we use ice tongs for transferring pompoms from container to container. We tried them with the ping pong balls, but they weren’t quite flexible enough.
  • maevepaint

  • Pompoms
    We use pompoms for counting, sorting and all kinds of activities here! Maeve loves pouring them into a bowl and ‘mixing’ them, or plucking them with a set of tongs.
  • Mini Writing Tablets
    Grab crayons or some of the foam stickers and let your toddler play. Maeve likes to write or place stickers on the pages.
  • Sticker Assortment
    Stickers are fun for counting, sorting, or wearing as temporary tattoos!
  • Jumbo Crayons
  • Take and Toss Containers
    Perfect for snacks, or playing with pompoms, ping pong balls or water beads.
  • Mini Bubbles
    Bubbles keep Maeve occupied for at least an hour. These tiny containers are perfect size for her, with minimal mess.
  • Bead Necklaces
    We use bead necklaces in sensory bins, or just for fun. My kids love to take them on and off, over and over again.
  • Water Beads
    If you haven’t tried water beads …. you’re missing out! These are tiny polymer beads that grow in water, then shrink back when dry. So much fun for sensory play!
  • Create a Town Sticker Scenes
    We love these fun sticker scenes – I help Maeve identify the different parts of the town. Great for fine motor skills and literacy/vocabulary.
  • Color in Sticker Set
    Let your little ones make their own fun stickers with this color-in sticker set.
  • Construction Paper Pad
  • Ping Pong Balls
    I picked these up on a whim, and they’ve been a huge success. Maeve loves pouring the ping pong balls from bowl to bowl, ‘mixing’ them with a serving spoon, and counting them.

Don’t miss our Resource Page for a complete list of helpful toys, tools and activities we use to keep our toddlers busy.

What’s your favorite way to keep your toddler or preschooler busy while you work with older students? I’d love to hear about it!

P.S. If you’ve got a preschooler at home, don’t miss our playful preschool ideas!




  1. Playdough and sensory bins are always winners at our house for the younger ones.

  2. Jess McCarthy says:

    It always works out better when I would work/play with my toddler first and then do some school. They are more content and able to play with themselves. At least for awhile. 😉

  3. I’m due any day now with my second, so I don’t have any practical experience with keeping a toddler busy but I’m definitely going to need it! I have a feeling there will be stickers involved and lots of open-ended toddler safe manipulates and toys.

  4. Kristina Mete says:

    My little one sounds just like yours! If I. And give her something her size to do while we’re working I have more luck. Well also let her “have a turn”. We’re still learning the ropes, and grateful for your ideas!

  5. I’ve been homeschooling for nearly 20 years and these are some great tips. Thanks Dianna!

  6. Great list! I’m going to be dealing with this in about a year, so I’m studying up! Also going to share this on my blog’s facebook page!

  7. Cindy Howell says:

    Even if you don’t homeschool, these tips could benefit any parent who needs to occupy a toddler while their older children are doing homework in the evening. Thanks for the wonderful advice!

  8. amelia w. says:

    Magnifying glass!

  9. While it’s getting harder and harder keeping Jude occupied, usually I can usually count on a 45-60 minutes of him entertaining himself with the book box I set out for him.

    Now, I’m sure our nice little routine will change when Lydia stops napping in the morning, but I’m not going there just yet … 🙂

  10. Thank you for the advice. I have a preschooler as well as newborn. These will come in handy

  11. We loved Toddler Fun Books (educational pages) to let our kids do while I homeschooled older siblings. Now I don’t have toddlers anymore but I still give friends a Toddler Fun Book when their kids have birthdays.

  12. Scissors and strips of paper are my favorites for toddlers around here!

  13. I use toddler workbooks because my son loves them!! He also loves to cut and glue so he does a lot of that as well!

  14. Oh this is so tough. I have two rough boys. We use work boxes. Playdough and Preschool prep DVDs. But its still not enough. Lol!!

  15. Christina S. says:

    My son will play with play doh for an hour straight! Thanks for all the tips!

  16. He loves dot markers and playdough.

  17. Thanks for the great ideas!

  18. he has his own journal + likes to draw when we are working at the table…

  19. Sheila @ BrainPowerBoy says:

    I like this post very much. Including toddlers by paying close attention to them is a great way to start the day. We all want to be included and I like the way you choose thing for them to do while still being able to hs your older kids.

  20. I don’t have any kids to homeschool but I do have two toddlers to entertain and these tips are brilliant. I have to get up an hour earlier than anyone else in order to function! I’m going to check out your busy basket and see if there’s anything there we haven’t played with yet.

  21. I love this post! Great ideas and so informative. Thanks ☺

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