This post contains affiliate links, which are noted by asterisks. Please see my complete disclosures here. As always, my opinions on awesome stuff for little kids are 100% my own. Keep in mind that all toddlers do things in their own time and on their own terms. What one is ready for, another might not be. Please use your best mama judgement when planning activities for your little kids.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I realized the little guy needed more – more structure, more stimulation… More something. And I started reading and researching, but of course I had absolutely no idea exactly what I was looking for at that point. I wanted books, crafts, and activities for toddlers. That much I knew, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across the 1+1+1=1 blog that I put a name to it.
Carisa was the one who came up with the concept of “Tot School.” What exactly is “Tot School,” you ask? You can read more about what it is in the Tot School…FAQ on the 1+1+1=1 blog. And of course this creative mama’s all like “Where do I sign up?” Lol… After all, I’m always up for learning through play.
What does the term “Tot School” mean to us?
The idea of “tot school” isn’t about overwhelming your toddler, it’s about learning through play. I want the little guy to be exposed to letters and numbers, colors and shapes, seasons and weather, and even basic anatomy. I don’t necessarily expect him to truly understand some these things quite yet, though. Like I said, little kids do things in their own time and on their own terms. Although, he definitely amazes me sometimes.
We sit down together. We take turns. We talk, at least as much as we can. You know, considering the little guy is just starting to use his words. One thing that I do feel very strongly about is challenging him, which means that occasionally the things we do are meant for little kids slightly older than him. As always, everything we do is 100% supervised.
Remember, you’re talking to someone who’s pro-homeschooling, but that’s a post for another day. Suffice it to say that I believe all children should learn in an environment that allows them the freedom and flexibility to be themselves and to focus on what they’re good at. I want to create a love of learning. And with that, we start our homeschooling journey with “Tot School.”
I’m not necessarily saying that my long-term plan is to homeschool. And for that matter, I’m not saying I won’t ultimately enroll the little guy in public school. I’m simply saying that for now, I’m making a conscious decision to be more intentional about what we’re doing. I want to see him spend his early years learning and growing through play.
What do our “Tot School” days look like?
When we get up in the morning, we go downstairs and do our calendar. We talk about the month, the day, the season, and the weather. I know what you’re probably thinking… “But Cristi, he’s only 18 months old. He has absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” And, at least to some degree, I would probably say you’re right.
He loves it, though. That’s what’s important. As far as I’m concerned, it’s also accomplishing a few important things – developing hand-eye coordination/fine motor skills as he adds each day to our calendar and encouraging language and literacy skills as we talk through the days of the month and the months of the year, the seasons, and the weather.
“It’s January. Let’s count the days – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, which means today is the 9th. Can you put the 9 right here? Yesterday was Friday, which means today is Saturday and tomorrow is Sunday… It’s definitely winter, isn’t it? The weather is sunny – Can you see the sun? And cold – Brr…”
We got our calendar from Amazon. It’s the Creative Teaching Press Chalk It Up! Calendar Set*. And of course we got it laminated at Staples. I also added clear velcro to each piece.
Once we finish breakfast, it’s usually time to go to school and play with our friends (side note: school = daycare where the little guy spends a few hours in the toddler room and I teach the afternoon Preschool class. He actually says “schoo” now and it’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. He can’t quite say the “-l” yet, but…).
Our schedule couldn’t be more perfect because he eats lunch and takes his nap at daycare and not too long after he gets up, it’s time to come home. We usually get there between 11 AM and 1 PM and we’re almost always home by 6 PM. Lunch is at 12 PM and nap time is 1 PM-3 PM, so I’m really not missing much these days.
What are our favorite “Tot School” activities?
In the evenings, we read books and do puzzles like this Janod Dinousaur Chunky Puzzle* and this Janod Chunky Marine Puzzle*. We spend a lot of time playing with letters like this Rubbabu Lowercase Alphabet Set* and this Mudpuppy Painter’s Palette Uppercase Letters Wooden Magnetic Set* (These letters are recommended for ages 4-8 and contain some small pieces. If your toddler still puts things in their mouth, you probably want to stay away from these). We found this awesome magnetic Art Studio* and translucent Activity Tub*, so we of course do a lot of creative and sensory projects too.
I also set up a “Tot School” space and activity baskets for him, which I’ll be sharing next week. Don’t forget to check back if you’re interested in how we’re keeping all of the little guy’s stuff organized these days.
There are so many things I want to do with him throughout the next few years and if you’re interested in following along with what we’re up to each week, definitely sign up via email and/or follow The Keeper of the Memories on Facebook and Pinterest.
Looking for more insight & inspiration? Here are the top 10 most popular posts from The Keeper of the Memories. You’re definitely not going to want to miss these!
Thanks so much for visiting. See ya next week!
This post was linked up with Tot School Gathering Place Week 157.