Toddlers are learning all the time. Part of it is the way their brains are wired, constantly soaking in new information about their worlds. Part of it is a natural curiosity that begins in this early days and can be nurtured for the rest of their lives. And part of it is that when you’re a toddler, the entire world is new, and different, and exciting—definitely worth being explored.
When you’re homeschooling with a toddler at home, it can be easy to let your toddler take care of their own learning throughout much of the day. Sure, you sit down and read a book or two every once in a while; but when you have the chance to just let them play by themselves, you’ll take it! After all, you have an older child (or more) to focus on, and their learning is actually being measured!
There are, however, some things that you can do to increase the odds that your toddler will be learning alongside your bigger kids—even if you aren’t necessarily hands-on with them all day.
Set aside notions of gender-appropriate toys. That doesn’t mean that you have to buy your daughter as many trucks as she has dolls, or that your son needs as many kitchen toys as he has balls. It just means that you allow equal opportunities for toys that are typically ascribed to one gender or the other. Let your son have a doll or two. Give your daughter a ball if she shows interest in one. It will expand your toddler’s view of the world and allow them many more opportunities for exploration.
Get messy. This one does require some hands-on attention from mom or dad, but that’s okay—the big kids can participate, too! Toddlers learn a lot through exploration of different textures and substances. Get out the shaving cream—you’re not wasting much even if they go through an entire can! Break out the paint, play in soap and water…let your child do some exploring!
Get outside. If you have outside toys for your older kids, don’t automatically make them off-limits to the younger crowd. They’ll benefit from the physical activity and be learning more about their world all at the same time! Take a walk and discuss what you see. Visit with the neighbors, and talk about their pets. Pick a flower or two from the side of the road. Let your child be as aware of his world as possible.
Keep your home child-friendly. Don’t put yourself in the position of saying, “No, no, no!” all day. Instead, put things that your toddler isn’t supposed to have or that can hurt him out of reach, and allow some free exploration. Let him bang on the pots and pans. Allow her to pull things out of kitchen drawers. Just keep the knives and other sharp objects out of reach. Is it a little messier than installing locks on everything and keeping your child out of all of the things they want to explore? Sure. It might be quieter, too—but it’s not nearly as much fun!