Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back to school for toddlers.

  As a stay at home mom of two toddlers, it probably seems silly that I'm writing a back to school post. Neither of my kids are really in school! Caleb will be going to two half-days of preschool this Fall, and Tyler will be doing one half day at the Bible study I attend. Besides those combined 6 hours, both kids are home with me. And here is where I have to admit that being creative and naturally having structure to our days doesn't come naturally to me. Even still, I know its really important and we all have better days when we know what to expect!

  I tried a few things last Fall that I ended up loving. I'm not talking about a homeschool-like atmosphere. That isn't my strong suit and not something that fits for our family. I'm just talking about simply taking some time to pool ideas, organize them and create a gameplan for the next few months. It helped us a ton last fall and I'm excited to do it again this year- especially now that I have two toddlers who can join in!

 Over the last few weeks, I've come up with a few simple goals, a general routine to follow, and lots of resources to fill in and pull from. I'll list my favorite resources below! And honestly, you could just do a google/pinterest search and find A MILLION ideas of things to do with your kids. (my favorite things to search are "diy sensory bins" "toddler crafts" "toddler activities") The problems is that you have to actually do them! (No? Am I the only one who doesn't follow through??) To fool proof this for myself, I'm working on making bins and getting little kits together so that I can wake up and voila! I just need to look at my planner and see what activities we can do that I've already prepared. (I've even thought of making themed bins and trading with friends! Anyone in?) In fact, I'm heading out today to buy some bins and get started. My goal is to have three bins made each month- that is a realistic number for me!

  If you have little ones at home and want a bit more structure or just fun in your days, here are my back to school tips for you! Anyone who has an hour or two over the long holiday weekend can do them.

Set goals. What do you hope to teach your kiddos or what memories do you want to make? Do you simply want to establish a routine and start talking about Jesus and the ABC's everyday? Be specific!

Create a schedule. I am 100% about being flexible, but writing down a general guideline for how our days go helps me a ton! It shows where learning time would fit best and helps build intentionality. Decide simple things such as talking about the weekly Bible verse at every meal, doing ABC flash cards during lunch every day or making the mornings for independent play and craft time. Remember, it doesn't have to be fussy!

Find resources. Talk to friends (the best resource!), google, or head to the library. Don't make this a bigger deal than it should be! Just find a few fun things to try- an art cart, some sensory bins, a DIY alphabet book, etc.

Do it! Maybe that's stating the obvious, but put all of those Pinterest boards to use. You could even make a date of it and invite some mama friends over! Or just start a text chain asking if any mama friends want to swap/share resources. Then pick a day, and start implementing little routines!

Here are some of my favorite resources (lots that I actually use!):

ABC Jesus Love Me: This is great because its free to download and comes in lots of age groups! We bought the hard version last year (lesson plans and worksheets) and I LOVE it! It's just a great guide and resource to have on hand. It includes short lessons, focus for each week, activity ideas and books to read, etc. I want to be more consistent with it this year! My favorite part is the Verse of the Week. We tried this last year, but I wasn't the most consistent with it. I'm doing it again and I really think Caleb will love it this time around!

Fruit of The Spirit Curriculum: I really like this! I'm thinking of buying it (only $14!) and has really good reviews for being a great (toddler-friendly) way to talk about the Gospel more at home. You can even download one free lesson plan to check it out. I did and it's so simple that it seems silly to not try it out!

DIY home art center: I'm doing a version of this in our basement right now! It's been in the process for months and I'm finally on the home stretch. It will have baskets/bins with games/puzzles/specific activities/art supplies- all loosely sorted and easy to pull from!

Printable Routine Cards: I haven't tried these, but I am positive my kiddos could benefit from them

Printable ABC book: I just printed this and can't wait to try it with C. He thrives with tangible, building lessons so I think it'll be great for him.

Busy Toddler: My all time favorite instagram account to follow for toddler ideas! She's really creative and ALL of her idea's are simple. Great for inspiration!

Teach Preschool: This is basically my dream preschool! She has indoor and outdoor classrooms, is an expert in all things preschool (literally!), and just does the coolest things with her students. Its actually down the road from us and Caleb was on the waitlist- but I simply couldn't justify the cost for our family (and we have a preschool across the road from us!). I still love to follow her account and get lots of fun ideas! If you are local to the northside of Indy and have toddlers, this is an amazing preschool for your kiddos!

My pinterest round up. I'm (slowly) growing my list of activities and ideas to help my kiddos grow and for us to try. Share your favs with me!

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