Toddlers are busy.
Let's just establish that right now.
It seems toddlers are never so busy as when you are trying to accomplish something yourself.
Like, say, when you're homeschooling.
In the middle of explaining Algebra to your 8th grader, you hear "Mom! Ruby got into my purse!"
During a particularly fascinating dissertation on vowel sounds, you hear that the water is running in the bathroom sink.
Twirling the globe in an attempt to point out the setting of the latest book you are reading with the children, a little person makes her way past, working hard to bring the step-stool with her. She's clearly up to something. Up to something she can't reach, quite obviously.
What's a mom to do??!!
Be proactive instead of reactive.
I need to remind myself of this daily. Ok, hourly.
I firmly believe that children need to learn to entertain themselves and to NOT need to be entertained by others.
Moms need to lay the ground-work, though, in order for it to happen.
I'm also a firm believer in totes. Totes, tubs, bins, whatever you wanna call 'em. Big totes, little totes, baskets, boxes, etcetera.
If similar items are in a bin that the child can carry, they are more likely to only empty out the one bin, rather than dump everything from the toy box onto the floor.
We have several tubs, each with a specific type of toy in it. They stack easily on the floor or a shelf and are easily carried/pushed/dragged by our little folks.
Now-- for me to say "Go play" rarely results in "play."
However, "Hey--how about taking out the car rug and the boxes of cars? That'd be fun!" is usually pretty effective.
But when I'm doing algebra/grammar/geography, and my toddlers need some direction, I seem to draw a blank more often than not and I default to "go play."
So I finally made a list, for my sake as much as anyone else's.
Our list includes:
cars and the car rug
cereal laces (cheerios, fruit loops, etc. for lacing on a shoe lace. edible craft!)
Some of these are "go in another room" type activities, while others are more for "sit up to the table and join us" type fun. Some involve a slight mess, like play-do and cereal. You'd have to weigh that out to see if you had time and energy to clean it up that day. Some days, a little mess is fine. Other days call for a more so-help-me-if-I-have-to-wipe/sweep/vacuum-up-one-more-thing type of project.
Remember, we are homeschooling.
We are home.
Our kids are home.
Therefore, all the kids will be around--pretty much all the time.
I can't tell my younger ones to go away so that I can be with the big kids any more than I should tell my big kids to go away so I can take care of the littles.
My point is that I need to be proactive when they need a little direction instead of reactive when they've found stuff to get into when I shooed them away.
I keep my list in the kitchen on the side of the fridge so that I can assign one of the bigger kids to go get them little ones started on something if I can't leave what I'm busy doing with another kiddo.
We call this "toddler time" and the big kids have as much fun as the little ones! It gives big kids a chance to play with some things they've outgrown. The little ones think spending time with the big ones a super fun treat. Building block towers, setting up pretend farms, construction sites, using silly voices with dolls--it doesn't take much at all to get them busy doing something you'd like for them to be doing!
How do you keep your little folks busy?
(you must know--I have been known to let a child rip pages out of a notebook for the simple reason that it kept her quiet, happy, and not bothering anyone. It cost me 10 cents monetarily, but much was gained for the mommy's state-of-mind. I have also let them float boats in the sink, even though I had to wipe up the bathroom floor with more than one bath towel. So even though this post may imply that our home is all sunshine and lolli-pops, I assure you, it is not.)