One thing I have struggled with as a homeschool parent of multiple ages, is finding ways to keep my youngest occupied while I’m teaching my oldest. Inevitably, my daughter needs me as soon as I’m in the middle of a lesson with her brother.
She has just one more question, even though she’s already asked 18. She needs a hug and who can resist? You know, pretty much any and every idea she can come up with to interrupt, because I’m busy and it’s not with her.
I started using baskets to create stations in my homeschool as a way to keep my kindergartener busy when I was teaching my fifth grader.
It still is the main reason I set them up. But, they have evolved into a great way to create purposeful learning for my Kindergartener.
These stations can be as simple as setting out a puzzle.
The point is that it’s purposeful. You are setting these up before they are needed to stop the stress of having to occupy those adoreable little hands when yours are busy.
You’re not already being interrupted before you get the puzzle out.
Here’s some other great reasons to have these stations set up for the 5 and under crowd.
Less Stress on you
Planning a little ahead of time by having these stations will help keep stress to a minimum during school hours. Whenever you need one on one with another child or you just need to occupy little ones for a few moments while you get ready for a project, you can direct them to a station without having to prep anything new.
Initially, I set these stations up to stop that kind of stress. But, I soon found that they we’re an exciting way to create quick and easy learning opportunities for my kindergartener.
As they discover what goodies you put in the basket stations each week, you will enjoy watching them experience what surprises you’ve put together.
They Encourage Independence
Everything should be set up in a way that makes it easy for your child to do the work independent of you. In the beginning you may have to give some direction, but after that they should be simple and easy enough for your child do on their own. The whole point is to create rich learning experiences that also keep you from having to come up with on the spot activities.
They’ll use them all day
Your child will come back to these stations naturally throughout the day. They will have a new outlet for their curiosity all day instead of just at “school time”.
These stations are really just directed play, so your child will love it and come back to it.
Here’s a list of ideas for your stations:
I like to set mine up in baskets. But, any bin will work. The reason for the baskets is that it naturally limits what you can fill it with. These parameters make it a quick thing for you to set up and limits mess.
Quick and easy. Yes, says every homeschool mom in unison.
I switch out the baskets weekly or as we naturally start learning about different themes. But, you could leave the same baskets out as long as your child shows interest.
This can be as simple as some paper and writing implements. You can add sight words or themed words to the station for your child to practice and change them up periodically.
Some things to use at this station are dry erase boards, colorful markers, crayons, colored pencils, envelopes and stationary.
You can also use a tray of rice or sand for your child to trace letters or words in.
We are using my apple sight words for this right now. They are part of an apple literacy pack coming to my store soon.
Great things to use for a math station are dominoes, Legos, blocks, counters, plastic bottle caps.
To use Legos, try putting specific colors and amounts of Legos in the basket. This allows for a purposeful guided math activity. Try putting just three colors of Legos in the basket and have your child make patterns with them. You could do a few example patterns to add to the basket also, to eliminate the need for direction.
Another thing I love to do is combine books and math. 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle is a favorite and great for a basket math station. Add some rubber ducks and your child can count and story tell all at the same time.
Fine Motor Skills
Scissors practice is always fun and super simple. Just set out some paper and scissors in a basket and you’re done. Try using colorful tissue paper, wrapping paper and newspaper to change it up. My daughter also loves to cut yarn to shreds.
I have no idea why she loves this so much, but I don’t ask questions when kids are happily busying themselves.
We also love lacing cards and use these a lot. If you don’t have any you can make your own by using cardboard and a shoelace.
I just started setting up an art station for my daughter. I tape up an art print on the wall and leave paper and art supplies for her to do whatever she wants. She loves this and It’s an easy way to expose her to fine art.
This basket is for learning about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. She decided to take this basket outside so I taped up the sunflower prints to the porch railings. I bought a large Van Gogh book for $5 years ago when it was discounted at the bookstore. I carefully tore out the pages of the book and use the prints for art study. It’s super cheap and saves me a ton of money on printing my own color versions on a printer.
A music station can have actual instruments at it, but they can also be homemade. One thing I love to do is provide materials to make homemade ones. Something simple like a coffee can and a few pencils will do.
But, if you need it to be a quieter activity you can provide a set of headphones and some music for them to listen to. This is great because you can plan ahead and expose them to different types of music purposefully.
I find that when I turn on music as a quick distraction I don’t always have the time to think past the moment and choose varied kinds of music for my kids to listen to.
I’m currently putting this station together with a cool library book I found last week. It’s a music maker’s station. I am putting in toilet paper tubes, a red solo cup, rubber bands, a pie tin, a wooden spoon, and some other things so my daughter can make instruments.
History & Geography
In this basket I put items from a historical time period or items from a geographical location.
I put the above basket together with maps, postcards, pictures, and other things relating to Hawaii. I also have a scrapbook from my lonely gypsy days that has photos and memories of my trip to Hawaii years ago.
What ways have you found work best when teaching to multiple ages?
Let me know in the comments