One of our biggest challenges in homeschooling has been creating a space that works for us! So, here is how we created a Toddler Proof Homeschool Space..
In the beginning of our journey this wasn’t hard because we only had T (who was 9 at the time) and Izzy who was a newborn. So we didn’t have to worry about kids getting into our school resources, or keeping others entertained while we worked. Nowadays, I teach Izzy while Mickey Blue (3) and Little Lou (18 months) are with us and need supervision and for lack of a better word, entertainment. Have a toddler proof homeschool space has become imperative!!
We’ve had multiple different set ups for our school classroom over the last 2 years.
Originally when we moved into this house we did all of our schooling at the kitchen table with our resources and supplies arranged in the spare cupboards of the kitchen island. However, once Mickey Blue began exploring, we had to lock up and move a lot of our resources (specifically anything that was a choking hazard).
We ended up turning our spare bedroom into a classroom. This was a great idea! The only down side was that I didn’t factor in how much time I spend in the kitchen. The spare room is close to the front of our house and out of sight and hearing from the kitchen. Now for a lot of mom’s this might not be an issue, but Mickey Blue is our Houdini! He’s gotten out several times despite all our caution and toddler proofing. So we didn’t end up using the classroom space as much as I had hoped.
So, at the end of the last school year we made another switch. We have a small open space off of our kitchen that had been set up as our music room and was off limits to the little boys.
We swapped our classroom for this area – and you guys – it’s the best space I have EVER had!
It’s not that there is anything magical about this area of the house. It’s just that it has little benefits that had never been an issue before:
- it is visible from the kitchen
- it’s within our baby gated areas of the house
- in the summer it’s cool (our previous classroom only had a sliding glass door we couldn’t open and no windows)
- it will be warm in the winter (it’s the room our wood stove is in for heating our house)
The other thing that has made this homeschool room work so well for our family is that I have finally created a space that works for all of my kids! And I want to share with you how to create a space that will work for your children from your smallest to your tallest!
These are the top 5 things you can do to improve your homeschool space when you have little ones…
- Create an area that is special for your youngest kids
- Have resources that are only for them to use during school time to keep them fresh and exciting
- Use the space for activities that you can do which include all your children
- Keep the classroom area open so they have room to play
- Minimize the amount of stuff in your room so that there isn’t a lot they can destroy
Create an area that is special for your youngest kids…
I found inspiration from two bloggers with toddler and preschool friendly rooms.
Elissa, from Mrs. Jones’ Creation Station has this beautiful playroom / classroom combo. I love the order in the room; everything clearly has a place.
Also, note that everything meant for play is easily within reach, while other items are placed out of reach from little hands.
There is a wonderful imaginative play station in the kitchen area and a large chalkboard perfect for the budding artist!
The child sized table and stools are a great addition for smaller kids to have their own place whether they are working or playing.
This is the kind of classroom any toddler or preschooler could enjoy!
Another such classroom is Jessica’s from Sweet Little Ones. She created this budget friendly preschool room for homeschooling.
Her tips for using what you already have, shopping deals, planning ahead and being patient are really practical. And she created an appealing room doing just that!
She used the toys and resources that she had to create a bright and colourful space that is still open and ready for play time and learning.
Jessica has also done a great tutorial on all of the resources that she has in her classroom and how she stores them. Lots of inspiration here!
Have resources that are only for them to use during school time to keep them fresh and exciting…
Early on in my homeschooling days I invested in 2 expedit (now kallax) units from Ikea! They have been the best addition to organizing our homeschooling resources. I have one on it’s side that allows my little boys to reach everything that is in it and on it. This shelf is filled with items they love to play with and can take out as they desire.
The other shelf has 4 bins of toys that we are working on taking out one at a time. Our Ikea baskets finally broke down after years of my kids sitting in them! So we got some new ones off of amazon and although they’re a little bit smaller, I am really happy with them. (Check out the great deal on these ones right now! More than 50% off!!)
I’ve pared the toys down enough that even if they dump all these bins out, we can clean our classroom in about 15 minutes.
Above the 4 baskets we have shelves filled with resource books, nature study books, reference books and Izzy’s work books.
Then on to of this book shelf, we have 8 storage bins that house our extra resources and toys. These are some of my favourites and we leave them tucked away for a rainy day – and because they tend to have little pieces or lots of pieces.
Some of our favourite resources for keeping little ones busy include:
- Hape preschool sized dominoes
- Magformers – we got the large set with gears, remote controls, lights, etc.
- Kiva Blocks – these things are so cool! Based on old school mathematics!
- Space sensory bin with TOOB toys (don’t know about sensory bins? Check this out…
- Rainbow pasta sensory bin
- Math-U-See blocks
- Farmyard Math – the cutest preschool math program that is hands on story based learning!
- Play dough and accessories
Use the space for activities that you can do which include all your children…
In the morning we’ve started doing morning basket time where I read aloud to the boys from a variety of books. They love this time together.
I sit in the antique old rocking chair and they can play with any of the classroom toys as long as they aren’t being noisy.
Duplo has been a recent addition for us. Mickey Blue just loves getting into Izzy’s lego but this is a great alternative for kids who feel the need to eat everything non edible.
I think the importance of this time is that it includes the littles kids.
They don’t just have to stay play and be quiet in Izzy’s space, it is their space too and they have things to do there also.
One activity we’re going to add in again this year is our calendar activities. Izzy doesn’t need them anymore but he can help to model how this time works for the little boys. We can introduce them to basic concepts of early learning; understanding the world around us.
We have the calendar board printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler and they have been with us through many classrooms and years. They were definitely worth the effort of printing, laminating and cutting out!!
Keep the classroom area open so they have room to play…
Little kids love to play and play takes space. It doesn’t matter if it’s an open floor concept or a special area tucked away for them, kids need a place to spread out their creativity and bodies. We have a few little areas in our classroom just for this purpose.
Our first nook is the dress up area. We have a beautiful old steamer trunk from when my grandparent emigrated to Canada. It’s a stand up style trunk and houses our dress up costumes, costume accessories, and the bottom drawer has all the boys toy cars (hot wheel style).
We have 2 tables in the classroom that are perfect height for little bodies. Our lego/train table is where our Duplo currently lives. We also have a kitchen table that we cut the legs down on to make it toddler height. It’s covered in a dry erase sticker for added fun.
Between these areas is open floor space to lay down and spread out. We put down a Melissa and Doug play mat for added activity ideas and coziness.
Our space is a decent size, but we’ve had smaller classrooms and also schooled in the dining room many a year. In smaller spaces it’s still possible to make these areas, we just have to be more creative!
Minimize the amount of stuff in your room so that there isn’t a lot they can destroy…
This year in particular we’ve worked hard to really minimize the resources in our classroom. We’ve downsized what we are using and keeping in general, but for any books or items we aren’t ready to get rid of yet, I’ve put them away in under-the-bed storage bins in our rooms.
This has 2 benefits, they aren’t sitting out making me feel guilty for not using them – and they aren’t out for the kids to add to the daily mess.
With less stuff out we are also really using what we do have out in the classroom.
This has allowed our classroom to have a sense of calm and order even during messy days because we have removed the overwhelm. Everything has a place and it’s easy to return everything to its place because everything fits well.
If storage is an issue – be creative. We have some unit study supplies in rubbermaid containers in our crawl space. We use the tops of our bookshelves to house extra resources. Under the bed in our room has been an invaluable space. And if you don’t use it and know you won’t use it, pass it along!
It’s hard not to hang on to every little thing – we want to be thrifty, and we want to be resourceful. However, not at the expense of maintaining order and calm! So be honest with yourself as you go through all your supplies.
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