affiliate links below
After the Fall Circle Time post I received several inquiries as to how to keep the under-three crowd busy for all that time:
"I like the idea of doing most subjects during Circle Time, but what do the little ones do during the 2 hours?" -Christy
"...the challenge was how to manage my 4 and 1-year-olds. We don’t have TV, not that I’d stick them in front of endless videos anyway, but I’m just at a loss as how to occupy them, still be present for them, etc. I’d like to include them, but its distracting to the older children." -Kelly
"I have introduced many of your ideas for our circle time, the only problem is that the attention span of my 2 year old boy is not long enough for my agenda!
I have given him paper to practice cutting with scissors and paper to color on, but he still tires of sitting at the table for more than about 15 minutes.
Should I just reduce my expectations for circle time until he is a little older?" -Jennifer
*Affiliate links ahead.* We started our official school year on Monday. I'm not sure what in the world I was thinking, but somewhere in my head I thought that our 18-month-old would be content for at least an hour at the table during Circle Time. About 5 minutes into it, the thought, "Um, Kendra? How long have you been parenting that it didn't dawn on you that Christian would not be happy for all that time at the kitchen table???" arose. Duh.
Compounding the problem was the fact that I wasn't planning to have all of our Circle Time at the kitchen table, but was going to move upstairs to the schoolroom. We don't own a high chair; instead the little guys sit in a chair that attaches to the table. But it doesn't attach to the schoolroom tables. Duh number two.
After three days of tweaking, scribbling down battle plans, and implementing new ideas, here's what I've come up with:
During the first half hour, Christian can sit at the kitchen table with us. We've just finished breakfast and he can be kept busy playing with a bowl and some kitchen tools. He won't be silent. Peace with preschoolers does not equal a quiet house, and Christian will make noise, try to frantically sign "please" 53 times during the course of Circle Time, hope we'll let him out of his chair, grumble, whine, and even cry. He's a preschooler! But we forge ahead merrily, reminding him gently and sometimes sternly to wait, play with his toys, and stop fussing. The key to training a little guy to sit happily is to communicate that this is what is required of him. In other words, if we were to heed every complaint and give into every demand, we would effectively be training him that by complaining and demanding, he will get what he wants.
During the second half hour, he goes into the playpen and watches a short video in another room, so the video doesn't distract everyone else. Currently he's viewing Signing Time.
Now, the solution to the third half hour came to us today in a moment of God-given inspiration and grace. Our schoolroom is connected to our laundry room, which has doors on either end. We shut the door between the laundry room and the hallway and erected a safety gate between the laundry room and the schoolroom. Voila! The perfect little playroom where he can enjoy our presence but stay contained and happily wander around doing what 18-month-olds do. Today it was yelling at the Wedgits when they wouldn't stack for him and playing with a box of clothespins.
Big Sis Helps With Simple Circles
During the last half hour of Circle Time, big brother takes Christian with him while he gets a morning break from his own studies. He's 15 and only joins us for the beginning of Circle Time, but 90 minutes later he's ready for a break himself. He's been taking Christian outside for walks and has been thinking up other things for the two of them to do together as the days go by.
And there it is- two happy hours filled for one busy 18-month-old boy. Our solutions might not work for you because we live in different houses with different children. But this I know: God is faithful to give you answers, so if you're wondering how to constructively fill up those hours for your littlest ones, ask for wisdom and He shall give it freely. He promises so.
Many more Circle Time resources: