The majority of the time that I spend working with the children on school is spent reading aloud and discussion. This time generally takes upwards of 2 hours each day. In addition to this we often read aloud for fun in the afternoons and evenings. Most of this reading and discussing is something that we want our little children to hear, so we like them to be in the room, but to be quiet so as not to be a distraction.
One of my favorite ways to keep my little ones quiet while reading and talking with the older children is what we call blanket time. Each small child gets a designated area or a blanket and a special, only-during-school activity. We typically have 3-4 preschoolers at a given time so we set up 3-4 areas with different activities, varying the activities from blanket to blanket or area to area. Each child begins on a blanket or area and then when their time is up they all rotate to the next blanket or area.
I think that it is important to have a clearly defined area to use for blanket time, an area that is obviously clear to the youngest child doing blanket time. We have always started the children on an actual blanket. The blankets we use are small, the idea is to give the child enough room to do their activity, but not enough room that they are tempted to stand on their head, do flips or hop like a bunny. 🙂
As our children learn what is expected during blanket time, we give them a little more freedom, using not only blankets, but space at the activity table and the whole area rug. Time on the area rug gives them the opportunity to get some of those wiggles out and having only one child on the rug at a time generally prevents the activity or noise level from escalating.
We allow each child to choose an activity and then they start with that activity. Sometimes I will have more than one activity in a certain area. For example we may have a puzzle on a blanket for our older-little ones, but when the baby gets to that blanket he will get some Matchbox cars instead of the puzzle. I also put a few books in each area in case they tire of their activity.
Our blanket time rules:
- Toys may not come off of the blanket, carpet or table.
- Children or parts of children may not come off of the blanket, carpet or chair. 🙂
- No noise with your mouth.
- You do not have to play with the activity or read the books, but you must have a happy face.
- Pick up your area before you go to the next activity.
My ideal would be for each activity to keep the children happy for half an hour, but it’s usually more like 15-25 minutes. We allow them to switch whenever they get antsy as long as it’s been at least 15 minutes. This usually gives us about an hour and a half of calm quiet preschoolers during school time.
Types of activities for blanket time:
- Pattern Blocks
- train with tracks
- matchbox cars
- DUPLO’s or blocks (I love finding old sets of Jenga blocks at yard sales, perfect size for blanket time)
- one person games
- stickers and paper
- crayons or markers
- preschool activity bags
- doll with clothes
- lacing cards – Our kids love this Lacing Kit with Pattern Cards
When each child has had a turn with each activity we put everything away and they may play quietly together in the room. Often these two activities will keep our young ones entertained for the whole time that we are busy with school, but here are some other things that we have used with success:
Room time – Each child gets to go play in their room while listening to a story on CD.
Play-Doh, Finger paint, Acrylic paint or other messy activity. I get everything and everyone set up outside on the deck at a kid sized table. Often the big kids will join in and we will move our reading and discussion outside too.
Plain ole “go run around the playroom (or deck)” time.
When the toddler begins to get tired as we near lunch time, they often will come and snuggle in my lap as I finish up reading, special for mom and special for toddler. It doesn’t get much better than that!
For lots more ideas and links check out Preschool Activities.
How do you homeschool with preschoolers and toddlers in the house?