Behind the Scenes ~ Where do I Begin?

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I get this question a lot, the one from a mom trying to do the best for her tot, but feeling a tad bit overwhelmed when she stumbles upon my site and others geared towards educating tots at home. Thankful for the info, but still overwhelmed. This particular mom put it nicely…

“I just feel like a tiny ant with a huge mountain of information and ideas dumped on top of me!!”

This post is for her and any others who feel that way…hopefully to help you navigate through the mountain of ideas dumped before you!!!

The mountain IS big, but that doesn’t mean you need to climb to the top right now, hanging out at the bottom with a few good ideas is just fine…slowly climbing as you feel less overwhelmed.

I too feel overwhelmed sometimes and honestly when the idea of Tot School first hit me, I overwhelmed myself, trying to put my thoughts all in order. Sure I had the early childhood education, I knew the right and wrong ways to teach a young child, but I was still a mom with a tot-trying to do my best for him.

First things first, if you are new to my site or to Tot School, please know that I am not perfect. My long time readers are aware of that fact and have often comforted me through my “I’m such a bad Mommy” times. I am not a bad mommy, and I am not a perfect mommy, I am mommy-just like you. My blog may make it appear that things like Tot School run perfectly in our house-but let me assure you-we have most if not all of the same stumbling blocks that you do.

Go here and read this post if you have never seen it. It gives a minute by minute account of a Tot School hour in our house. Krash was 27 months old when I wrote it and as you will see he was screaming in protest within the first 5 minutes!!!

After you see that, then go here and read through my Tot School FAQ page. Be sure to read the part about my beliefs on educating young children. I am certainly not claiming my way is the right way but it is good for you to know what I believe. These beliefs are what guide my decisions for every Tot School decision I make.

Now that you’ve read both of those, let’s talk about what YOU are going to do to get going with Tot School at your house. Here’s a few recommendations for you, that can hopefully help you climb that mountain slowly and feel more confident as a teacher-mom.

  • Make a List! Get a note pad and a pen and go around your house and find every toy that you already own that could be used for exposing early learning skills (this will be most toys if you think hard enough!). What skills you ask? Go here to this post to see the checklists I provide to give you some ideas. None of these skills are skills a tot HAS to learn, they are just skills to be exposed-key word-EXPOSED. Do not feel you need to teach your tot-you really are just playing with a purpose!
  • Now, go here and look through my Tot School Tools Store and see if you already own any of these and forgot to list them, and if there are a few that really stand out to you-write a list of your “I hope to own” tools. But don’t go buying anything yet unless you have gobs of money to spare. You can also go here to see my Behind the Scenes post on storing our Tot School Tools, to see more ideas of toys that can be tools, and answers to some other common Tot School questions.
  • In order to keep things simple, let’s stop here. Look at the first list you made and select 5 toys you think your tot would enjoy playing with-WITH you. Try to choose things s/he hasn’t played with in awhile or ever…to peak his/her interest. For example’s sake let’s say you choose these foam blocks

Here’s what I would do to purposefully play with my tot…

  • Sit on the floor with him.
  • Show him the blocks. If he dives right in, let him and just sit back and watch him explore without teaching anything or even saying much. (If he doesn’t dive right in but just waits for you, begin stacking or lining them…inviting him to join you.)
  • After he has explored on his own for a bit, join in with him, by doing whatever it was that he was doing (stacking, scattering, lining them up, etc.) Start using purposeful language as you play…” Look at this pretty PURPLE block,” “oooh I see an A on this one,” I am putting the RED one on top of the BLUE one.” Just your simple phrases are teaching your tot SO much.
  • Now try to show your tot how to do something different with the blocks. If he was stacking, why don’t you try lining. If he is resistant to you, try lining them up next to him while he still stacks. Then just invite him to join you.
  • Add something else into your play-maybe a toy car to drive along the line of blocks you made.
  • Maybe get an empty laundry basket and toss the blocks into the basket.
  • Hide some blocks around the room and go find them, announcing the color each time he finds one.
  • The opportunities are endless with just this one toy…. this is why I said you don’t need to go buy new toys-you just need to think deeper and use the ones you already have!!!
  • Here’s the kicker to this whole process, especially if your tot is on the younger end, STOP when he loses interest. You can try to re-engage with a new addition (like the basket or the little car). But when he’s done-he’s done. Let him wander off, and be done. Forcing Tot School (purposeful play with your tot) on him isn’t going to do either of you any good.

Each day, try to purposefully play with your tot like this-using the same toys if s/he really loves them, or bringing out something different each day. If something doesn’t work, have a back up ready to go. That’s why I said to have 5 in mind when you begin. It is frustrating when your great tot school ideas are rejected by your tot-but don’t let the frustration last for long! Just try another toy and keep playing!

Now, for a bit more of the Tot School mountain….

  • I recommend going to my most recent Tot School posts and glancing through the list of moms linked up. They are all putting the ages of their tot(s) in ( ) now. Find a few blogs that show tots that are within a couple of months of the age of your tot. Visit their blogs and glance through some of their recent Tot School posts. You don’t even have to read them, just glance at the photos-I promise you’ll be filled with ideas in just a few minutes! If you like a blog, be sure to add it to your blog reader. If you don’t know what a blog reader is, go here to read that post.
  • Please remember that ALL TOTS ARE DIFFERENT, even if the ages are similar. Not everything that works for one will work for another. Don’t let that frustrate you!!!
  • If you have your own blog, start recording your Tot School adventures and start linking up. More about that can be found here!

As you slowly climb the mountain, begin exploring the following ideas as you feel less overwhelmed. Don’t try to do this all at once, your tot just needs YOU. Each new thing you add is just a bonus.

If your tot is almost 3 or over 3, you might want to read this-which is my post about transitioning from Tot School into Pre K.

In summary-in case you now feel even more overwhelmed after reading all of that…here’s the basics…

  1. make a list of tot school tools you already own
  2. choose 5 to purposefully play with, with your tot
  3. sit and play with your tot, exposing early learning skills
  4. find other moms online who have tots the same age as yours
  5. expand slowly to include more ideas into your Tot School
  6. remember that your tot needs YOU, not stuff…give your tot purposeful play time with you each day…that’s Tot School!

Have fun!