If you’re already at home virtual schooling your big kids, it probably makes little or no sense to pay for daycare or preschool for your little ones. After all, you’re home; and it seems silly to pay someone else to keep your children when you’re available to do it. Most of the time, your days still run pretty smoothly. You can care for your younger children while working with your older children, just like you look after them all on a typical day when school isn’t in session.
Except that sometimes, it gets a little crazy. Sometimes, you’re trying to figure out how to explain a science experiment (or help do it), and your toddler is tugging at your leg, or your baby is crying, and you don’t have any idea how you’re going to get through the entire day.
Sometimes, you wonder what on earth possessed you to agree to stay at home with more than one child at a time.
Take heart! You can virtual school your older children with your little ones at home. It just takes a little bit of extra preparation and effort.
Have activities already planned to distract them. Depending on the age and capability of your child, this may be anything from painting to cutting with scissors, or a particular toy or game that only comes out when you need them distracted for a little while. It could be playdough. It could be a sensory activity. Anything that your child can do semi-independently is fair game.
Let them join in. You might be surprised by just how much little ones have to learn from what their older siblings are doing. Your toddler might enjoy looking through a microscope, watching an experiment, or reading a story alongside an older child. Your baby might enjoy being read to by her big brother or sister. Don’t be afraid to let them participate even if it seems way over their heads. They’ll absorb more than you think they will—and as long as they’re entertained and not playing with harmful chemicals, there’s no reason why they can’t join in. Just be sure to carefully supervise any activities involving your toddler, lest it become twice as frustrating as before for your older child.
Have the older child “teach” the younger. Most children will retain more information if they are teaching it to someone else. In “teaching” it to a younger sibling—even one who doesn’t yet understand—your child will retain more of the information in the long run.
Plan around naptime. Those activities that are very, very difficult to complete while your toddler is awake? That’s what naptime is for. It might not be the kick-your-feet-up break that you really need (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that some days, either), but it’s a great time to work one-on-one with older kids who might need a little bit of extra help with a given topic.
Take time just for them. Especially at the beginning of the school year, it might be hard for your toddler to see how much time and effort goes into what his siblings are doing—particularly if he’s used to being the center of attention! Make sure you still take that special time out for your youngest, even if it seems hard to carve it out. Encourage your older child to spend time with your toddler, too. A little one-on-one can go a long way toward keeping the day running a little bit smoother.