Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How Do You...Keep Young Children Occupied During School Time?

How do you keep your younger children occupied while helping the older ones with their school work?

As of today, we have only five days of school left {woo-hoo!}, but Alaine won't begin kindergarten until our 2015-2016 school year so I have another year of preschool-age fun ahead of me. Alaine has always been content to stay near me during our school time.  She'll sit on my lap to listen as I read or she'll play in the living room, happily occupying herself.  She also enjoys a collection of preschool workbooks I picked up at the dollar store. However, there are moments in every school week when I need a quality independent activity to keep her hands and mind busy.

Benjamin is finishing his first year of kindergarten so his pencil work takes less than 30 minutes so it's handy to have a few activities at the ready for him, too.

Over the years, I have pulled together 12-15 busy bags that are simple enough for my little ones to do without my help and also clean up without a lot of hassle. In the second part of this year, I had to update my stash when I realized that bags that were the right fit in the fall-- matching shapes, counting, sorting buttons by color, and ordering lids by size-- had become too easy.

I chose to focus on the alphabet, letter recognition, and letter sounds.  I picked up a set of dry-erase alphabet cards at Target.  Some of the cards have the kids tracing upper case and lower case letters and some of them are about matching common objects with the letters they start with.

Another favorite is this ABC Busy Bag which also focuses on identifying beginning letter sounds. This free printable has 3 sets of cards-- upper case letters, lower case letters, and pictures. I have options when I give my kids this activity.  I can ask them to match the pictures to the lower case letters or the upper case letters.  I can also ask them to match the upper case letters to their lower case counterparts.

Around Easter, I picked up a jumbo bag of plastic Easter eggs at Walmart. I selected 26 eggs of a variety of colors and with a Sharpie, I printed an upper case letter on the top half and a lower case letter on the bottom half.  Then I separated the eggs and put all the pieces in a gallon bag. I chose to make the matching letters the same color (ex. P and p, both on green halves), but for an added challenge, you could print the letters on different colors (ex. P on blue, p on red).  (See the original busy bag idea here: Upper Case and Lower Case Matching.)

Do you have ideas for activities young children can handle independently?


My How Do You...? series is back for a limited time.  I'm in need of some fun ideas for topics.  What do you want to know? Leave a comment here or on my Facebook page

In the meantime, you can browse the archived index of past topics.

1 comment:

  1. We use similar activities for Eliya and Amelia. We also group our busy bags and independent toys together in "school time bins" that they play with while I work with Emahry and Jonathan.

    We also aren't adding any additional students to our official homeschooling next year, but it'll be interesting to see how school time will work with four younger siblings (4 1/2, 3, 1, and newborn). I think I might try to draft my mom to come one morning a week for some more focused learning time. School might also need to be moved to afternoon nap time some days. Thankfully, Emahry and Jonathan will only be in 2nd and 1st grade so we can still be pretty relaxed and flexible.


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