Many families have started a new school year with all things running smoothly. Some families are wondering about the preschoolers. Should they have a plan? Do they need a plan? The answer can vary from day to day and be different for each child in your preschool age group. We have developed a plan for our little ones that we use when needed. Sometimes the little ones are content with their toys and have a great play day during the school day. Other times they come asking for "twin time".
We call it twin time (named after our twin daughters) but the name really doesn't matter. I'll explain how we use it in our home and then you take the parts you like along with your own inspirations and develop something that works for your family. We've been doing twin time for several years and have used a variety of subjects such as: music, craft, religion, storytime, learning, outside play, playtime, and you can add more. I then assign each of my older children to a subject. In our family there are usually about 4 or 5 older kids ready to have a fun time during their twin time. We rotate the subjects among the older kids about every 2 months because all the big kids usually want a turn to do craft time, plus it keeps fresh ideas and approaches to utilize during that special subject time.
So what happens during twin time? My older child takes a timer and sets it for 25 minutes. During that time they have fun with the little ones focusing on the appointed subject. During craft time for example they might do some painting, make something out of popsicle sticks and construction paper, or use yarn, glue, glitter, foam, colored tape, and other supplies to make a mask, puppet, or decoration. When the timer beeps, the timer is reset for 5 minutes which is clean up time.
The older kids get a break from school and spend some sibling time with the littler kids and the little kids have fun. Some days all the subjects are covered, other days the little kids are playing with their toys and then will decide they would like to have some twin time. Usually if one of my older kids is done with their school work or almost finished I will let them take the first turn, other times an older child simply would like a break and volunteers.
One of the key points is preparedness. Before anyone leaves with a timer they have an idea about what they will be doing. We make boxes that are filled with ideas for each subject and add to these boxes throught the year as we come across clearance items, gifts, or ideas in magazines or newspapers. This time can be very simple or can get very enlivened. My big kids thought it would be fun to have weekly themes. So they made a list of themes for each week of our school year and focused their twin time around that theme.
For example "At the Beach" could consist of reading books about characters that take trips to the beach for storytime. During craft time the little kids can make clear bottles become a beautiful table centerpiece with layers of colored sand. At playtime they can pretend they are packing for a beach trip by getting their gear together. They then put on sunglasses and lay out their beach towel and play games with an inflatatable beach ball. What about religion? The mercy of Jesus is usually described as an ocean. Talk about the ocean, show pictures from books and show how much water is on the earth with the use of maps and globes then do an experiment. Fill a container with water and get an eyedropper and take a drop from your container and put it into an empty container. The little kids will delight it doing something with their hands and getting a turn to put drop after drop into the unfilled container. After a while they will get the idea that God's mercy is very great and more than we can imagine.
What I like best. The little kids are learning and having fun and developing strong bonds with their older siblings. My older children are loving their younger siblings and learning how to teach and have patience. We do have a simple rule that the little kids must listen and follow directions or they can be excluded from that twin time activity. It happened in the beginning a few times that a little one was sitting upstairs doing nothing while mom graded papers or helped another child. My little ones quickly learned that they would rather mind than miss out on the activity.
What about Mom? Well I don't have an official twin time. I am usually the first stop in the showing off of the craft, color page, or getting to hear the exciting activity that just occurred. And when your a mom time with your little ones can really be called anytime.
EXTRA TIPS for very young ones:
Put your little ones in the high chair for craft time. This helps your older child keep things under control since they can easily remove finger paint or other messy substances easily and not worry about it getting everywhere.
We also have a set of small old t-shirts we use as smocks that can get messy so their daily wear doesn't get stained.
Very small kids will not always stay still to hear a story or do an activity so train your big kids to go with the flow. A storytime can turn into reading one page from 10 different books. Sitting on the floor singing songs can turn into a parade singing around the room.
If you have a wider age span in preschoolers (an 18 month old and a 4 year old) consider having seperate fun times for each of them or have 2 older children assigned to the subject to help their partner at their age level. There are many ways to work it out with your specific situation. Even coming up with new subjects that appeal to both of them can be an option. How about snack time? (You can get fun and fancy with this one too!)
Remember to create something that works for your specific family and keep changing it as your family changes!