One of the biggest challenges in homeschooling more than one child is what to do with the ones you aren’t teaching at that moment. As they get older, they can do some of their other work independently or occupy their time in some other kind of meaningful way (or play ninja throughout the entire downstairs part of the house), but when they’re smaller, sometimes it’s hard for them to give you a few minutes alone.
There are things like activity bags and boxes that are great, but you have to take the time to put them together and switch them out every so often, and unfortunately, I’m not always consistent with those kinds of things. Also, sometimes I gather up things I’m sure will keep my daughter engaged for a long time only to find that she’s bored within ten minutes. What I really want is something that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep and will keep her busy for a long enough time that I can work with my son. Happily, I think I’ve found it!
My four year old is the creative one in the house. Every day she makes something—a picture, a project, an invention, anything she can think of. She’s constantly on the lookout for any kind of material she can use, from toilet paper tubes to old Wallflower containers (used to make her own special kind of air freshener). We buy tape in bulk at Sam’s and we still run out. I don’t know why it took me so long to think of it, but I finally set up an art drawer for her and it has been a lifesaver!
Actually, I do know why I didn’t do it sooner: the mess. The vast majority of our art supplies are stored in my laundry room cabinets because they’re either messy, like paints, or they can be used to make a mess, like pony beads. For quite a while I knew she would love to have easy access, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for it! I finally looked through the cabinets and tried to pick out things that weren’t too messy and that she could successfully use on her own. I filled her drawer with paper sacks, glitter glue, googly eyes, tape, pipe cleaners, foam pieces, and several other goodies. Things that could be easily scattered such as beads and sequins are in there, too, but I only put in small amounts so that if she does spill them, it’s not a major safety hazard. Things like paints are still stored away, but she has lots of other options available.
The result? When I need some time to work with my nine year old (or do other random chores) and she doesn’t seem to be doing anything productive, I steer her toward her drawer and she’s busy for at least half an hour. She’s made violins, binoculars, puppets, and more—often when she gets into the drawer on her own. Every so often I look through it to see if she’s running low on any favorite supplies, but otherwise I don’t have any upkeep. She gets to create when she’s ready instead of waiting for me to get down the supplies and I am able to get some things done, too!
Your child may not love to create things, but if you think about their interests you can probably gather up some things you have around the house and make a drawer or box for your little one. It’s definitely worth the time!