Getting Organized

Posted on Sep 25, 2010 in Learning | 2 comments

“The best thing I did was fill the house full of projects they could get out and do themselves.”

My sister said this to me recently when we were discussing her 7 years homeschooling her 4 children. One of the things that comes up for parents who have multiple children learning at home is how to keep younger children occupied while you are working with an older child on something.

This dilemma has been on my mind quite a bit, particularly because the younger children I’ll be wrangling will be a toddler and a newborn. I’ve been reading some posts on how to handle wee ones underfoot while learning with older kids but so far I keep coming back to my sister’s advice.

I decided to gather a bunch of kid-friendly projects in one spot. We have this great bank of built-in cupboards at one end of our dining room.

This has a bunch of random stuff stuck in it (even in the visible areas, as you can see). I spent Thursday afternoon re-organizing so that now it looks like this:

Everything in this cupboard is for the kids. The very top shelf has some items the kids will need help with, but the rest, they can pretty much just go for. The beauty of this little cubbie is that we already had almost everything you see there but it was stored all over the house. The only things I bought were some of the art supplies.

The storage boxes are shoe boxes I picked up for free from Payless Shoes after calling them and asking if they’d be willing to set aside boxes that were roughly the same size. They were very accomodating – you can bet I’ll be getting Rain’s new sneakers and Noa’s new rubber boots at Payless after that. Then I covered the ends with scrapbook paper thanks to this idea from Our Big Earth.

Wanna see what we’ve got in there?

The top shelf has a box of lacing cards, painting materials, notebooks, pencil crayons in glass jars, a box of crafting supplies, a box of art supplies. The middle shelf has foam puzzles, a giant floor puzzle, and various kid games including Mighty Mind*, Memory, Uno, Tangrams and more. The bottom shelf has big kid puzzles and a stack of toddler puzzles.

I imagine that the contents of this area will change now and then over the course of the year to keep it fresh and to make space when we get new things. In the mean time, the kids are already thrilled to be able to open the two doors and choose whatever they like to work on. Now if we can just get some kind of handle on a routine for the day, maybe our lives will be as organized as this cupboard.

What tips do you have for keeping younger kids busy while you help an older one with a project? What solo projects can your older kids do while you’re busy nursing a baby or putting a toddler down for a nap? How have you organized your house to make it kid-friendly? I would love more ideas for the year(s) ahead.

*By the way, Mighty Mind is pretty darn great but their website is terrible, which is why the link above takes you to a place to buy the product. It shows an actual picture so you can see what it is. I’m not trying to make you buy it.

2 Comments

  1. It looks great! Love the organized boxes. Can you come and do my craft cupboard?

    And, um, I think I forgot to tell you about one little thing…

    it’s great when they can learn and explore independently.

    The tricky part is the clean up! 😉
    If you can keep up with having a place for everything, and doing projects and clean up like they do in Montessori, you might have more success than I’ve had.

    A few more tips:

    1. When they’re small, the little ones want to be right on your lap doing the same things as the big ones.

    2. Try setting the timer for even 5-10 minutes of quiet solo activities in the same room, or on the couch beside you. That way you get at least a short break to nurse and/or read for yourself. This works best if you have a planned together activity for them to look forward to after the quiet break. Hopefully you can lengthen the quiet time gradually.

    3. What works one week might not work the next week. lol.

    4. Try to relax and go with the flow if you can. They’re learning all the time. You couldn’t stop it if you tried. Some days or weeks you won’t manage any structured learning or activities. If you just watch, you’ll see the kids have discovered something new of their own. Even if it is a new drawing on the bathroom wall. 😉

    5. I’m embarrassed to say videos and computer learning games for short periods ended up being the secret to my sanity. (well, the sanity part is debatable.) We’ll just say they freed me up enough to make meals.

    Love the post, as usual.
    Twitter: melaniemcintosh

  2. I have all our homeschooling stuff in a buffet cabinet. It wasn’t being used for dishes and there’s no windows so it’s great. Speaking of MIghty Mind, I just got that for my dd’s birthday. It’s very cool. Now I just need a calendar to organize our plans for the week.
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..An Emotional Day =-.
    Twitter: bfmom

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