Last year, whenever I helped my daughter with her school work, I used to feel like I was trapped in a constant balancing act between her and my three year old son. My daughter needed help figuring out instructions, problems, and word lists. All the while my son was tugging on my pants and calling my name in an increasingly urgent voice.
Helping my daughter with her work was becoming impossible. Every five minutes he was racing into the dining room with some sort of emergency or he was upset that I wasn’t paying attention to him or he wanted “school” too. I felt bad just plopping him in front of the television everyday, but I couldn’t concentrate on helping my daughter, with all of his interruptions.
School work that should have only taken an hour was dragging into multiple hours and often ending with one or all of us crying. I was at my wits end. A friend mentioned to me that she made a “school box” for her toddlers every year. I pondered on that for a few nights and figured out a plan for our “school box”.
Every year, my son was always so jealous of all the new school items his sister got. So I began by getting a large plastic tote.
On the first day of school, while his sister was arranging all of her brand new school supplies, I pulled out the tote and gave it to him. I told him that it was his very own “school box”. I wrote his name on it and gave him plenty of stickers to decorate it with. He was so excited, and he showed it off to everyone.
During all of the back to school sales, I purchased some very special school supplies just for him. After he decorated his tote, I presented him with a folder (Spiderman, of course), crayons, a pencil box, markers, and watercolor paints. With shouts of delight, he quickly placed each item in his school box.
The key to the School Box is to fill it with items that will keep little hands and minds occupied, while you are working on school work and homework with your older children. I looked for items at garage sales and clearance sales. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to build a fantastic School Box. A few items in my son’s School Box are:
A sewn bag with pockets for alphabet shapes:
Colorful shapes and pegs:
Pom-poms: Young children love to sort. I have him sort these into muffin tins. Sometimes I give him different kitchen utensils to see which utensil picks up the pom-poms the best.
Paint chip cards: These are free at Walmart and paint stores. I have two of each color for matching and sorting. Sometimes, I will have him go find an item of each color and put it on the matching card. I also got gradient chips to work on lighter and darker shades of color.
Junk Mail and safety scissors: I always have an abundant supply of junk mail. Every time I get more junk mail, my son puts it in his School Box. He loves cutting up each letter. I keep him up to the table for this activity, to help keep the mess in one area.
Alphabet search: I have him turn this bottle around and look for letters.
Colored bears for sorting, counting, or attacking Lego people:
Workbook: He always wants to do worksheets just like his big sister. I found this workbook at a garage sale. Workbooks are usually on clearance in May and June, when school is ending. I just tear out a few pages and hand my son a crayon. He feels so grown up doing his own worksheets.
Dry erase board: My son loves to draw pictures and shapes and erase them.
Preschool Program: It has sections on colors, letters, numbers, and shapes. He puts the puzzles together and looks at the books.
Sewing cards: These are great for fine motor skills.
Number and letter books: He looks to find the matching numbers and letters.
This is just a small sample of all the items you could include in a School Box for your toddler or preschooler. You can customize it with activities that your child is particularly interested in. I only let my son play with the items in his School Box, while I am doing school work with his sister, and we cycle through the different items to keep them interesting. Having a School Box has made it so much easier to do school work with my daughter. I simply pull out my son’s School Box and get him started on a project. This frees me up to give my daughter the one-on-one time that she needs. School work is no longer a fight and rarely ends in tears.
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