Troubleshooting: Very Busy Boys

Shannon wrote:

I have two strong willed children–I used to think ALL of my children were strong willed (until these two showed up)- one three, the other five. The five-year-old I cannot find enough to do with. I read with him almost daily and he is doing very well, but honestly there are not enough trees to keep him occupied with worksheets.

The three-year-old is bright, but doesn’t show ANY interest in anything educational for lack of a better word.

What do I do with these two short of sitting them in front of the “box”?

And Diana wrote:

Still need help with very active Boys! My boys are now 4, 1 and 3 months….what are some good standard boy toys? What do you do to entertain ages 4 and below during the school day?

And Amy wrote:

My question is what to do with my two-year-old daughter while the rest of the children are being taught.

Last week I was doing a history lesson with four of the kids in our schoolroom, which is right around the corner from my room where the 4-year-old and the 2-year-old were supposed to be watching Sesame Street. In walks the 4-year-old declaring, "Mom, Joey's playing with the water in your bathroom!" Off I run to survey the damage, but Joe isn't in the bathroom, he's in the playpen where I put him to begin with. Hmmmmm...

What I did find was a massive flood, caused by one naughty 4-year-old who stopped up the sink and flooded the entire bathroom, soaking the bottom of a suitcase I had packed and filling toothpaste holders in the cupboard doors. And he tried to pin it on his younger brother!

I feel your pain.

Today I sit 2500 miles away from those little boys, my head a little clearer and a plan forming in my mind. When I return, I am going to structure their mornings differently, with the operative word being "structure". So far, what they are doing to fill a few morning hours has worked, but obviously I need to give them a few more planned activities, don't you think?

I'll start by making a list of all the possibilities, and an estimate of the time they will take to accomplish:

chores with an older sibling (15 minutes)

coloring at the schoolroom table (5 minutes)

put away coloring (1 minutes)

Sesame Street (1 hour)

ride cars on back patio (15 minutes)

build trains in family room (45 minutes for 4-year-old) At the same time... in play yard (45 minutes for 2-year-old)

reading time with mom (15 minutes)

play outside on trampoline or with sand and water table (15 minutes)

clean up for lunch (2 minutes)

sit at table and look at books while lunch is being prepared (15 minutes)

lunch and clean up (20 minutes) 3 hrs 25 mins

play outside or toys inside in family room (30 minutes)

Total: 3 hours and 55 minutes, which will take me from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We generally finish breakfast, short devotions, and breakfast clean-up by 9:30 a.m., and naptime is at 1:30 p.m.

On the other end of this are 5 students who need to be doing productive things during our mornings. Once I have a good flow for my little guys, I can figure out how to direct the traffic of the more independent kids during that time. I'll oversee the little ones, but I can keep a good eye on the older ones and make sure they're on track.

Make your list first. What are all the possible ways you can keep those very busy guys busy? Brainstorm everything from crafts to workbooks to reading aloud to taking a walk to an exercise DVD (Tony and the Kids and Shaun T's Fit Kids Club are our favorites) to simple chores to baking to riding little cars outside, etc.

Figure out how much time you need to fill, and how much time each activity will take. Be realistic. I don't know about your boys, but mine have the attention span of a gnat. Coloring truly lasts only 5 minutes.

Make sure you have enough activities to fill up the time you have. If you don't, you'll find a flood in your bathroom.

Speaking of floods, my young man was supposed to be doing something but wasn't. Clearly, he had disobeyed. We are working on him staying where I've put him for as long as I say he needs to be there, but he continues to push me on this. I say, "Sit down in your seat" [at the table] 157 times every day, and I know I'm not going about it the wrong way. He gets disciplined. It's not a training issue.  It's the child.

Some of them need maturity to get over things, some of them need time, some of them take years to get something, some of them never get it. But that's like me, and isn't it like you? I'm 40 years old and I am still working away on character issues and sin and bad habits I've carried around for all of my 40 years. What I need for this little boy is heaps of patience and grace and long suffering.  Just like our patient and gracious and long-suffering God.