Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Are you going a little insane after 5 weeks of quarantine with a toddler? This survival guide provides tips and ideas to maintain your sanity during this crazy time.
Going on day 39 of quarantine with a four-year-old has me questioning a lot of things.
I typically spend my days with high school students—how hard can it be to entertain one four-year-old? My average class size is near thirty-five—surely, I can handle a class of one? Right now, I should be teaching 9th graders how to effectively write an argumentative essay in MLA format—obviously I can teach my toddler to write his name?
WRONG. All wrong. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more wrong. Being at home with a toddler has tested the limits of my patience and forced me to dig deep into my teacher toolbox for creative methods to maintain what’s left of my sanity.
I am sharing the ideas, resources, and tips I’ve found for surviving quarantine with a toddler in hopes of helping other parents out there who are close to losing their minds.
1. All Things Letters
We have been working on learning, writing, and identifying letters of the alphabet for what seems like forever, so I knew I would need to be creative and find lots of options for letter work during quarantine.
Zeke, our energetic four-year-old, doesn't stay interested in one task for too long, so I try to find learning tools and toys that allow him to be active while learning. I found these Literate Dinos when searching for active learning toys to help toddlers learn their letters. These adorable dinos have a capital or lower case letter on each half; thus, your toddler must find the match and put them together. I love these because they are also great for enhancing your toddler's fine motor skills in addition to literacy skills. They also have other options available, such as these super cute Alpha Pops.
Alphabet puzzles are another one of my favorite learning tools for letter learning and phonics. These puzzle cards ask your toddler to find and put together letters of the alphabet with a picture that begins with that letter. I picked these up from the Target dollar spot!
Since day one of quarantine, I have been determined to teach Zeke how to write his name. This led me on a tireless search to find the best methods to teach my toddler how to write his name.
Now, I do want to remind you that I am a High School English teacher and no expert on teaching in the early elementary education setting. I am positive that there are research-based methods out there to successfully teach your child to write his or her name. I am simply sharing what methods worked for me.
My first approach to teaching Zeke to write his name included purchasing several workbooks on Amazon. We work on writing letters every day for 30 minutes using one of his letter workbooks. The first letter tracing book we used asks toddlers to trace a BIG version of each letter before tracing smaller versions.
This is the book I used to introduce Zeke to writing the letters in his name. First,
we traced each big letter with our finger, then traced it using a marker. After completing the big letter, we then traced the smaller versions of the letter. After tracing, I would ask Zeke to try and write the letter on his own on a separate sheet of paper.
We worked on these for several consecutive days before he began recognizing and writing the individual letters on his own. I think the key was working on those specific letters every day for a short amount of time, using the same method each time.
Once I felt like Zeke was writing each individual letter of his name pretty well on his own, I came up with a song/chant that spelled out Z-E-K-E. He learned the song pretty quickly, so we then began writing out the letters while singing the song. After doing this for a few days, Zeke began to write his name on his own.
After he was writing his name on his own for a few days, I purchased a Writing Paper Workbook for him to practice writing his name and other letters on the lines.
Now that he can finally write his name, I ask him to pick one or two new letters to learn during our letter time each day.
We follow the same process outlined above when learning the new letters as well since it worked pretty well for him.
I have recently found several FREE resources online to help Zeke practice writing his name on lines.
This website allows you to create and print worksheets with your child's name for free! I love this because I was having a difficult time helping Zeke write his letters on the lines.
This website also allows you to create and print customizable name worksheets and also has personalized printable name books with awesome activities for learning one's name.
2. Daily Schedule
If you're not already following a daily schedule with your toddler, I would highly recommend it! We did not start using a schedule until week 3 of quarantine. After hearing the question, "What are we doing today?", for the 3,457th time, I had enough and created this schedule.
I found all of the clip art on Google and created the schedule on Microsoft word. I bought these magnets to help Zeke navigate his schedule after being initially confused by schedule jargon such as, "What's next?", "What comes after lunch time?", etc. We are still working on understanding these phrases; but overall, transitioning to using a schedule has been very helpful.
3. Flash Cards
As a teacher, naturally, I love flash cards. I am linking some of my absolute favorite flash cards; some even come from my childhood with a teacher Mom.
But seriously, I had Brain Quest cards and workbooks for PreK-8th grade. And now, I love using them with Zeke!
Flash Cards like Brain Quest and Smarty Pants are awesome because they introduce and teach words and phrases that I wouldn't necessarily think of teaching. I also love how they teach toddlers about order, patterns, and prepositions that are helpful in every day life.
I try to remember to go through a few Brain Quest or Smarty Pants cards every day with Zeke.
4. Fine Motor Skills
Another important learning task for toddlers includes fine motor skill development. There are so many great options to help your toddler work on his or her fine motor skills.
I recently picked up several resources from the Target Dollar Spot, including these felt lacing & learning shapes. I have previously purchased other similar resources from Target geared towards fine motor skills.
Another great way to help your toddler develop fine motor skills is by practicing scissor skills. I just ordered this workbook on Amazon for Zeke to practice cutting.
5. Number Work
In addition to letter work, we have also spent a lot of time working with numbers.
One awesome activity I saw on Facebook includes using paper plates to create a life-size phone to teach your child his or her phone number, as well as important numbers such as 9-1-1.
We had a lot of fun with this activity, and it was a great way to review numbers in a different way as well.
I also ordered a pre-school math book to get Zeke started with working on math skills on his own.
Another math skill we have started working on involves money recognition. I picked up a Velcro money resource at the Target Dollar Spot and also bought a play money set on Amazon to begin introducing the names of different coins. I am also considering ordering this cash register from Amazon because I absolutely love it!
6. Art & Music
I have tried to mix it up during quarantine when it comes to arts and crafts. However, the reality is, arts and crafts time frequently looks the same every day; so, I am linking some of my favorite resources.
I LOVE magic ink coloring books and have found some awesome ones lately that Zeke really loves!
This Arts & Crafts library from Amazon is awesome and also develops fine motor skills.
Overall, COVID-19 has brought some challenging times, especially for those with little ones at home. Trust me, teachers are experiencing the same difficultly that all parents are experiencing as we navigate quarantine and the coronavirus. I hope you found some of these tips and resources helpful to you in your own journey with surviving quarantine with a toddler. Hang in there, parents! We got this.