Children Independently Reading and Parents Prereading Materials

Dear Carrie

What is the philosophy behind the increase in children independently reading, and will I then have to preread the materials?

This is my first year homeschooling, and my oldest is using Little Hearts for His Glory (which we love)! Now I am trying to research the future years in Heart of Dakota. I wanted to ask about the philosophy behind the increasingly independent work. By high school, I know working independently will be a necessary skill. I can see it is good to work towards that. However, which parts are independent? And how do I stay involved in those parts? I guess I just want to be reassured about this road to independence. One follow-up question I have is, do you then preread/preview the books they are reading independently? Prereading seems like a daunting task. I guess until I am comfortable with not reading the content, we may need to read it together for awhile. How have you handled this? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials,”

I remember feeling the way that you do when my oldest son was as young as your oldest kiddos. When my children were young, I did preread everything that they read. As they grew older, and became avid readers, it became nearly impossible for me to preread everything before my kiddos read it. I then realized I had to begin relying more on booklists and publishers that I trusted.

Around third grade is when kiddos begin to prefer to read their material independently to themselves.

Around third grade is usually the point at which this begins. This is when your kiddos really begin to out-read you on a daily basis. This is also, hopefully, the time when they have found great joy in reading and no longer want to be made to read aloud to you. Instead, they begin to prefer to read their material silently to themselves around this same age (as Charlotte Mason so wisely mentioned – around age 9). Moving toward independence is honestly a stage in reading. It is one that comes after the child has emerged as a reader and is a joy to behold!

Our goal is to train children to read their own books independently with moral discernment.

At Heart of Dakota (HOD), our goal is train children to learn to read their own books but to read them independently with moral discernment. This is a goal that is necessary lifelong, as we know as parents we will not always be with our children as they choose what to read, and our children will need to grow in discerning for themselves how what they are reading is lining up with the standards God sets forth in His Word. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHR) is based upon this. This is also why we wrote DITHR to work with any books. So, this leaves you in the driver’s seat in this important area, if you are wanting to be there. Otherwise, we have done our best to choose our favorite books within our DITHR book packs.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Creation to Christ

At HOD, we do read aloud the history spines to our children all the way through Preparing Hearts. We read aloud all of the science material in the guides up through Bigger Hearts. Each of our guides to follow continue to have many areas of interaction for both parent and child. For example, in Creation to Christ we are able to do a thorough Genesis study and a Geography Study of the Bible Lands (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Write with the Best, and reading aloud Storytime). We see or hear about every other part of the guide, through the kiddos’ notebooks and narrations.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Revival to Revolution

In RTR, we are able to spend time doing a purity study, study higher level poetry like Emily Dickinson’s, and do picture study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, and reading aloud Storytime). In the Revival to Revolution, we do a worldview study Who Is God? and also do a composer study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, The Wonderful World of Creative Writing, and reading aloud Storytime). We continue to see or hear about every part of each guide through the daily assignments. I could continue, but in these listings, you can see that at HOD we hold back a variety of important things for our interactions between parent and child and allow the child to do the parts independently on their own that they are ready and trained to do well.

We train our children to read well but also to love what they are reading and to discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Imagine that on top of all the things I’ve shared above that you were still reading aloud all of the history and science each day and guiding every activity. Would you truly have time to get done the wonderful studies that I’ve mentioned above? Or, would they quickly fall by the wayside in the overburdening of being the sole reader and the sole purveyor of information? It is evident that God desired for our children to read for themselves, or He would not have written His Book to our children and to us. Understanding and making sense of the written word is an integral part of education. This is why through HOD, we train our children to read well independently and to comprehend what they are reading, but also to love what they are reading and discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Encouraging Children to Gradually Move Forward in Their Reading Independently

After our children have had years of very focused teaching attention, they are ready to move forward a bit more on their own independently, and we encourage this growth. This happens very gradually about the time of Preparing Hearts, but only in two subject areas (both of which are quite short)! In the guides which follow Preparing Hearts, I cannot imagine my older boys (6th and 9th grade) waiting on me every day to read their material to them, nor of me reading aloud the same history and science material to all of my children (from aged 15 down to 4).

Our children have a thirst for their school books, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material.

While I do truly love reading aloud everything to my 4 year old and 2nd grader right now, they still need me to do it! But, there is so much difference in my children’s maturity at their various ages (and will likely be for your kiddos too), so there should be a difference in what I expect from them. It’s so important to recognize that difference and to award children with independence accordingly. Right now, all of my boys love books, and my older three boys read avidly independently. I am glad they out-read me! They have a thirst for their school books that I never had, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material (as CM would say). Instead, it is our desire for them to develop their own relationship with the reading.

Our goal is to incrementally train children how to learn independently, so they become lifelong learners.

I do preread the books we use in our guides very carefully, and I write the key ideas to give parents a great look into what is being read too. The narrations both oral and written are another window into the readings, and I always have the book in hand when my child is narrating to skim over. Since you are the parent, you can be as involved as you choose to be. It is your children’s education. Our goal is not to “hand off” the child’s education to them, but rather to incrementally train them how to learn so that they become lifelong learners.

In Closing

In closing, I leave you with this thought to ponder: If our children, as they mature, see their schoolbooks as only being mine to read to them, when will they ever make the leap into learning for their own sake? I agree that it is a new stage in the child’s learning, but one that is important to take or the child’s learning will forever be dependent on us.


P.S. Carrie’s children were ages 4 to 15 years old at the time of her answering this question, so this is a vintage ‘Dear Carrie’ response!


Dictation skills help in many areas of your child’s schooling!

Teaching Tip:

Dictation skills help in many areas of your child’s schooling!

One of my absolute favorite Charlotte Mason-style teaching strategies is the way she uses studied dictation. This is because studied dictation encompasses so many skills within a short session.

What skills are included within a studied dictation lesson?

Before the dictating begins, studying the passage first encourages students to picture correct spelling and punctuation on their mental blackboards. As the passage is dictated, students hone their auditory and verbal skills as they listen and repeat the passage before writing. Correcting their own passage by checking it against a correctly written model practices proofreading skills. Immediately fixing any mistakes means errors in spelling take less root in the child’s mind. Repeating a missed passage once daily until it is written correctly helps students replace an incorrect model with a correct model in their mind. Through the studied dictation process, your children are learning spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills too.

How can you help your children carry dictation skills over into their written work?

Once your children are making progress in dictation, it is time to begin helping them carry these skills over to their written work. One easy way to help students do this is to begin having them read aloud to you anything they write for school. As they read aloud what they have written, they will begin to catch some very noticeable mistakes. These obvious mistakes usually include missing words, double words, or very long run-on sentences with no punctuation. As students read aloud their written work, it is important that you are next to them with your pencil in hand. As they read, gently point out a few things to add. Often these things include missing words, periods, capital letters, commas, and question marks.

How can you address incorrect spelling in written work?

After your child has read aloud his written work, go back and write in pencil the correct spelling above any word that needs fixing. Then, have your child erase the incorrect word, copy your correct spelling in its place, and then erase your word (leaving a clean copy). If you do this regularly, your child will start to notice errors more and more on his own.

Proofreading takes training.

Proofreading takes training, just like anything else. It doesn’t happen naturally. One side note of this process is that you may see the volume of your child’s writing decline for awhile. This is alright, as it is honestly better to produce less quantity that is well-done than volumes written poorly. So, try having your child read aloud his writing today, and let the training begin!



Questions About Using Original Thought in CM-Style Narrations and Placement

Dear Carrie

Would you recommend PHFHG or CTC for my son who struggles with using original thought in his narrations?

My 6th grade dyslexic son has overcome his reading difficulties and is now an excellent reader. However, he has trouble with verbal expression. When we read a passage and I ask him to narrate, he gets a deer in the headlights look. We did WWE for 2 years, and it led us through a guided narration with shorter passages. At first, he only had to write 1-2 sentences. He did alright until the passages became longer. It is the original thought that is difficult for him. I really want to switch to Heart of Dakota, but would Preparing be too easy? He can handle all the reading in CTC or RTR. But, I worry about the narration and writing. He just has to put A LOT of effort into writing anything. It seems like CM-style narration is different than classical narration, and I’m not sure how that impacts placement.


“Ms. Please Help Me Understand Original Thought in Written Narrations and How That Impacts Placement”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Understand Original Thought in Written Narrations and How That Impacts Placement,”

I just want to encourage you that Charlotte Mason-style narration is a skill that takes time to hone. It is not a skill that is developed overnight or even in a single year. Think of it as a slow burn that takes time to build but does eventually become a raging fire! Even if you’ve had practice in the past with a classical-style of narration, it will take to transition to a CM-style of narration. As you’ve already realized, CM-style narration does incorporate original thought. So, first I’ll explain how original thought is part of CM narrations. Second, I’ll share some placement suggestions for your son.

How CM-Style Narrations Encourage Original Thought

One way we assess kiddos through HOD is with CM-style oral and written narrations. Written and oral narrations CM-style look very different from child to child. This is different than written narrations done classical style, which result in more of a summary (meaning most kiddos’ narrations will look very similar when done summary-style). These are two different types of narrations. One is a summary, with certain key points being required. The other is a true written narration CM-style, where the child sifts and sorts through information, choosing what to write about and borrowing words and phrases from the author to write in the author’s style (without having certain key points that MUST be included for the narrations to be “correct”).

The sifting and sorting of what to include in CM-style written narrations is left to the child.

In this way, a classical style summary can have a specific answer key. A CM-style written narration wouldn’t even know where to begin with an “answer key.” Instead, each child is to draw out or seize upon different points to express. This is why in HOD’s guides, we may ask leading questions to get the child thinking about what he/she read. However, we leave the sifting and sorting up to the child, as far as what to write and how to write it. The key idea within our guides on written narration days will provide you as the parent with a summary of the reading. This is so you can see if your child is on-topic in his/her narration. However, it is not intended that the child include all those points in the key idea within the narration.

A balance of summary and descriptive styles of narration is important. But, it is also important to understand the difference between simply summarizing and narrating.

We do have children practice orally narrating in both summary style and descriptive style in our upper HOD guides. We consider it important to have a balance of both styles of narrating. However, we also consider it important to understand the two different styles of narrating. There is much more to narrating than simply summarizing what was read. Otherwise narrating in general can quickly become an exercise in outlining key points and can completely lose much of what makes CM-style narrating meaningful.

We tend to use ongoing books for written narration practice and R & S English for summarizing practice.

Since summarizing lends itself well to outlining, and these skills are both important, we teach these areas through Rod and Staff English in conjunction with science or history passages that are more factual. This is because a summary lends itself well to being written from just a portion of a book. In contrast, a written narration is instead intended to pull from a more continuous ongoing story, rather than just an excerpt. So, we tend to use ongoing books for written narration. Knowledge gained as the child continues reading the same book provides insights that can then be drawn upon and pulled together as connections when writing the narration. This process requires a different set of skills than those required to write a summary from a passage plucked from a source, where the goal is a summation of the key points in the particular excerpt or passage instead.

We see narrating CM-style as being very different from summarizing and outlining.

We delineate that summarizing and narrating are two different skills with two different styles. It is important to note that narrating CM-style is a very different skill from summarizing or outlining. I do skim the text as my child is orally narrating to me, holding the book in hand. This helps me see if the child is including ideas, names, places, etc. from the text, but it also shows me that the connections are those which the child has made! I hope this helps as you ponder how oral and written narrations are handled within the HOD guides.

As far as placement, I would lean toward Preparing Hearts for your son.

As far as your placement questions go, with the thoughts you’ve shared so far about your son’s writing especially, I would lean toward Preparing Hearts as being a good placement. While it is possible that your son could handle the reading and the independence of CTC, my concern lies in the amount of written work and writing instruction. With all children, but even more so with those who have learning challenges, it is so important to challenge them without challenging them to the point of frustration. This is the balance we are seeking for your son. Plus, the switch to a more CM-style curriculum can take a bit of getting used to as well, so we want to give him every opportunity to thrive. I think that Preparing Hearts would do this, and there are many important skills in Preparing that will literally prepare him for the rigors of CTC.

I would recommend the Extension Package and the studied dictation in Preparing.

With this thought in mind, I would recommend the Extension Package of Preparing rather than the Deluxe Package (because your son is a strong reader). I would also recommend that he do the studied dictation in Preparing to help with his lack of proofreading skills and to help him pay attention to including punctuation in his writing. The exercises in studied dictation do eventually carryover into the child’s writing. Again, this takes time (at least a full year) to see results.

I’d also recommend DITHR for help with analyzing various story elements and with digging deeply into literature.

I would also definitely add DITHR for literature study for your son, doing either Level 4/5 (if he has not had much in the way of formal literature instruction) or Level 6/7/8 if he has had quite a bit of formal study in analyzing literature. You could then add the appropriate level book pack to suit his reading level. I would lean toward either the Level 5/6 Boy Set or the Level 6/7 set. You will see wonderful graphic organizers all throughout DITHR, which really do help with analyzing various story elements and with digging deeply into literature. However, these organizers are not to be narration helpers, and literary analysis and narration are two different skills. Instead, to help with narrating, we have step-by-step directions and guided questions to set the stage for a narration and get it started on the right foot. This method is very CM-oriented.

I’d recommend Rod and Staff English 4 or 5, as well as an upped level of math.

For grammar, I would lean toward either Rod and Staff English 4 or English 5. You will be completing an entire level of Rod and Staff through Preparing, so there will be plenty of grammar and writing instruction there. You will also have a once weekly writing lesson through the poetry of Preparing Hearts. Last, you’d need an upped level of math. Preparing does schedule Singapore 2A/2B, 3A/3B, and 4A/4B, or you can use your own math.

Your son could do his own history and science readings, based on his age.

You could also have your son do his own history and science readings, based on his age. Take care not to allow him to read ahead though, even if he wants to, as you will get better narrations with slower more thoughtful reading (of a higher level). This is the approach we take to reading in all areas and is definitely a trait of a CM-style education. You can see as you look at this plan that there will be plenty of writing and steady challenge across the guide, rather than making it too heavy for your son and ending up dropping needed things (which is often what happens when we get too much rigor or change all at once).


How can you challenge your child to take a more active role in his learning?

Teaching Tip:

As your year progresses, are your children becoming more comfortable with their HOD guides?

As the school year progresses, I am reminded of a tip that is helpful as children get further along in their guides. This tip is especially targeted at students in Little Hearts for His Glory through Preparing Hearts for His Glory. As your kiddos travel through their guides, they will become comfortable with the patterns in their particular guides. They will begin to instinctively “know” what to do when they come to certain parts of their day. As your children’s comfort levels rise, they are ready for more of a challenge.

How can you challenge your child to take a more active role in his learning?

When your child seems comfortable with the guide, it is time to start letting him take a more active role in his learning. One easy way to do this is to allow your child to look at the daily plans and get out his own materials. Once your child excels at getting out his own materials, move on to letting your child read directions from the guide.

Allow your child to read directions right from the guide.

Allowing your child to read directions right from the guide helps him prepare for the learning coming that day. Reading directly from the guide is also great preparation for what is coming in future guides too. Future guides begin labeling boxes in the plans as ‘T’ = Teacher Directed, ‘S’ = Semi-Independent, and ‘I’ = Independent. As your child matures, the move toward more independence will be encouraged and expected.

Allowing your students to read directly from the guide has many benefits.

Reading directly from the guide allows students to become more self-propelled learners. It also allows students to take more responsibility and ownership for what they are learning! So, once your students are ready, start letting them read directly from the guide. Begin with only one or two boxes at a time. See what a change you notice as your children enjoy taking ownership of their learning.

With growing independence comes greater accountability.

Just be careful that you don’t let your children’s new ownership nudge you out of too many areas! It is still important to oversee and check each part of your children’s school work. Accountability becomes even more important with independence.


What can my toddler do, so I have time to teach my 9 year-old?

Dear Carrie

What things can my toddler do, so I can have time to teach my 9 year-old daughter?

I am new this year to Heart of Dakota, and I love the content and approach! However, I don’t know how to structure my day. I have 4 kiddos who are 9, 6, 4, 2 and a baby due in January. We are using Beyond Little Hearts and Preparing Hearts. My 6 year-old doesn’t take long, and my daughter is able to be independent. However, I want to be involved and do the teacher recommended stuff with her. With my littler ones, I find it hard to keep them busy and also play/interact with them. Especially my 2 year-old son! I am looking for suggestions on how to balance different ages and abilities. Specifically, I’m needing ideas on what to do with my little ones (especially the toddler), so I can get time alone with my daughter. Thanks! It is much appreciated!

“Ms. Needing Things for My Toddler to Do, So I Can Teach My 9 Year-Old”

Dear “Ms. Needing Things for My Toddler to Do, So I Can Teach My 9 Year-Old,”

I agree that schooling with a 2 year-old (or any toddler) can be very interesting! It will be even more important to figure out a routine for that particular child than it is to schedule your older two. This is because a 2 year-old can make the best laid schedule come apart at the seams very quickly.

I would move your toddler from thing to thing every 20-30 minutes.

So, with that in mind, I would begin the schedule thinking of how to keep your 2 year-old moving from thing to thing every 20-30 minutes. I would take time to truly train that child with his/her schedule, as this will make your school day go so much better! This can be done in stages, so please don’t get overwhelmed with my post below, as it is just full of ideas! Remember, you can gradually consider doing whichever ones might work for you! Just think that anything you do for your 2-3 year-old will really pay off! I’ll combine some of my previous posts below of things we’ve done with our schedule for our little ones at that age, and you can see what might work for you.

Try letting your toddler sleep until he wakes up and have him eat breakfast later.

We usually let our little ones sleep later in the morning and get up when they wake up. This means we do two shifts for breakfast as the older boys do get up and get started on time. The little ones eat when they come down. We make oatmeal and leave it on warm on the stove, as it can be eaten easily anytime. Our other breakfast is eggs in the microwave that the boys make on their own. Just crack 1-2 eggs in a microwave safe cereal bowl, stir, microwave and add a touch of salt or shredded cheese when they’re done. We add yogurt and peanut butter toast, and breakfast is a quick affair. This allows us to eat in shifts as needed. Our meals where we typically sit down together to eat more as a family are lunch and dinner.

Your toddler can start eating lunch earlier, and you can read aloud as the olders eat as well.

Another thing that helps is for us to start the 2 or 3 year-old early on his lunch. Toddlers are usually hungry earlier than the older ones, so having them begin eating earlier is helpful. It buys me about 20 minutes more work time with my other children. We usually work right at the table where the little one is eating, so that child feels a part of what we’re doing, but is happily engaged. Once our toddler finishes eating, he is happier as we read aloud with the others at lunch and is more willing to either go play or play with cupboard toys while the rest of the kiddos are eating. I also often read aloud at lunch to my kiddos when they are all eating, as full mouths are quiet mouths (and their minds are listening)!

Try clearing out a lower cabinet and stocking it with toys for your toddler.

Another wonderful thing that is well worth doing is to clear out a lower kitchen cabinet and stock it with just your toddler’s toys. I only allowed my 2-3 year-old to have one toy at a time out of the cupboard. We placed child protectors on the cabinet doors to enforce this. Then, I filled the cabinet with all sorts of quiet items that the 2-3 year-old could get out (one at a time) and play with quietly at the table or on the floor by the cabinet. Often my boys spent much time just getting one thing out and putting it away, so they could get the next thing out of the cabinet. The rule was only one item out at a time, and it must be put away prior to getting out the next item. This easily took 25-30 minutes and can be used anytime you need it.

Cabinet toys are special for toddlers, and toys with many pieces can be stored in clear tubs with lids.

Many days my toddler just spent a lot of time taking out one toy, scattering it on the floor, picking it up, putting it away, and getting out another one (which is great for fine motor muscle building and for practicing the skill of picking up)! We did put child protectors on the cupboard doors, which my son could open. But, it slowed him down and kept him from just unloading the cabinet. We tried to put the toys in the cabinet that had many pieces in storage boxes WITH LIDS. This kept my son busy every morning, again in the afternoon, and in the evening. It is still the first thing he heads for when he comes downstairs, as he knows it is his. We also have a playroom with his toys, but for years he often only ever wanted what was in the cabinet.

There are some inexpensive things you can place in a cabinet for your toddler.

Some examples of inexpensive things to place in the cabinet for your toddler that you may already have on hand would be a bucket of cars, a lidded container with macaroni noodles and a measuring cup, play food that he can cut or put together, and a can of tennis balls with a lid. You could also include a container with a blunt tweezers and small objects to pick up with the tweezers (like small pieces of yarn). If you have one, a Cheerio book (where kiddos put the Cheerios on the openings in each page) works great! Or, you can make your own Cheerio book! Just use coloring book pages and draw circles where your kiddo should place the Cheerios (and then eat them)!

Toddlers also love a container with trains and a track in it or a magnadoodle. Anything your toddler can pound like a ball pounder also works well. You can also have colored cups with a small container of legos chosen to be the same color as the cups. (So, your toddler can sort the colored legos into the matching cup.) A lidded tub filled with stuffed toys, a container of megablocks, and some tractors or other vehicles works well too!

Here are some toy suggestions for 3 or 4 year-olds, which will work well for your 4 year-old daughter.

Toys for a 3 or 4 year-old could have smaller parts and more involved steps. Thinks like simple puzzles, possibly playdough or moon dough, large gears, objects for sorting, alphabet letters, foam blocks, large tangram shapes, and a dry erase marker board and low odor marker (only when supervised) work well. Likewise, stacking cups, nesting boxes or other things that fit within one another are fun and educational. Finally, large lacing beads, snap cubes, and patterning cards work well for this age too!

Try a high chair time with your toddler!

Another help for a 2-3 year-old toddler is high chair time. This usually buys about 15 minutes. We tried to have a high chair time each day for our kiddos when they were that age. We also attempted a playpen time and a play at the table time each day. Here are just a few ideas we used in the past for our high chair time for our busy, busy boys at that age:

1. Save the plastic eggs that snap together from Easter and place a Cheerio or other edible object inside each one. Then, have the child open and eat them. Or, if possible, have the child put the object in and then take it out.

2. Do paint with water books in the highchair. Tear one page out of the book and tape it to the high chair tray. Give the child a small plastic container of water (flatter is better than taller, so it doesn’t tip) and a paintbrush to paint on the water, and watch the colors appear on the paint with water page. Often the paper ended up so saturated, you couldn’t see the picture! However, the time it gave me was worth it!

3. Cheerio books you can get at almost any book store. These have an indented spot to place a Cheerio in on each page creating a scene. We bought them for our first son and have had them for each child ever since. These work great in the high chair as well. Simply give the child a small cup of Cheerios to place on each page, reusing the Cheerios as they go. Then at the end they can eat them. (Or, they can eat as they go sometimes too!)

More high chair time ideas for your toddler!

4. Tape a white piece of paper to the high chair tray.  Sprinkle a bit of Kool-aid or Crystal light powder on the page. Then, give the child a paintbrush and some water and let them paint the powder.

5. Give the child a singing book to look at while in the high chair. Ours have the buttons you can push down the side and sing different songs or make noises.

6. Try having the child look at a pile of lift-the-flap books with very large flaps while in the high chair. Some of my boys liked this better than others!

7. Use dot paint markers. These markers have paint inside them and make paint dots on paper when pressed down. Just tape a paper to the high chair and let them dot away! Make sure the paint is washable though, as they often dot the tray and themselves!

8. Magnetic train cars to push around on the high chair tray work well if you happen to have any of those. Each of our boys have loved these.

9. Sometimes a combination works too. Start with one high chair item and when the child is finished do another one. We tried for 15-20 minutes in the high chair at a time mid-morning.

Try a playpen, crib, or room time with your toddler while you teach the left side of Beyond to your 6 year-old!

A playpen, crib, or room time is another great help with a toddler. When my toddler is doing this, I typically do the left side of LHFHG or Beyond (as it takes about 30 minutes to do the left side). One Managers of Their Homes’ idea that I really liked and used was the Mommy Tape/CD/recording. I recorded myself reading short Bible stories, nursery rhymes, counting, saying family members’ names, singing short little songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” etc., to last 30 minutes. During the recording, I said my little one’s name over and over, like I was talking to him. I played it every day while my little one had time in his room with his toys (we do that time in his crib for safety reasons). When the recording ends, the child knows the time is up.

A Progression of Playtime to Try with Your Toddler As He Grows Older

Playpen time amounted to a singing tape/CD with toys in the playpen. My toddlers were required to stay in the playpen for 20-30 minutes. When they outgrew the playpen, we moved it to time in the child’s crib. Then, later we began assigning an older child to play with the younger one during that time instead. Once the child was not such a danger to himself, we switched this time to being playtime alone in his room. This happens around age 4 at our house.

Try having an older child play with the toddler.

Another thing to consider is having an older child play with the younger child. We required the kiddos to play in one room for that time. I rotated the room by day, once the older child was responsible enough to be out of my sight with the younger one. For time with another child at this age, we had the older child have an assigned card with an order in which to do things with the younger child.

Ideas to Include on a Card for An Older Child Playing with a Younger Child

The card for each day usually included some of the following:
1. Read two board books to the child.
2. Do 1 or more fingerplays with the child. ( I had a list and taught the older child how to do them.)
3. Walk around with the child in the house and point to and name 10 objects, having the younger child repeat back the name of each object.
4. Count from 1 on up to… (whatever is most appropriate) with the child, having the child repeat each number after the older one says it.
5. Sit on the floor and roll a soft air-filled ball back and forth. Then, stand and bounce it back and forth. Last, gently throw the ball back and forth.
6. Stand back and toss beanbags or rolled up socks into a laundry basket.
7. Follow along in a book with an audio book while having the younger child sit next to the older child or on his/her lap.
8. Play with an assigned toy. (I assigned a different toy to each day, so the older child knew what to play and where to play it.)

I also have assigned an older child to sit and do educational computer time with my kiddos aged 3 or 4 and help and guide them. So, this is an option as your toddler gets older.

Try table time with your toddler!

For our toddlers, we’ve also had table time. This is similar to the cabinet idea but gives another thing for toddlers to do each day. For this, we used 5 different tubs (that slid under my bed for storage when not in use). We numbered the tubs Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5. Each day we took out a different tub, and the boys played with the items in the tub. I just used things we already had on hand. By placing them in the tub to only come out once each week, the items seemed new and exciting. Then, if anyone ever gave us something new, I placed it in a tub. Tub items included puzzles, books, toys, short books on tape/CD, etc. We set the timer and required the boys to play with the items in the tub for 20 minutes.

Try scheduling some 1:1 time for 15 minutes with your toddler!

Last, I’ve found that if I schedule some time to be one-on-one for 10-15 minutes with my little one, early on or midway through the morning, then he is more willing to go play on his own. Even reading a book or singing a couple of songs with him will give him that one on one time. Of course, you can start Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven guide half-speed during this time as well!

You can see that as much planning goes into the 2-3 year-old’s day as goes into any part of HOD! There is also much training there too! But it pays off big dividends in your year all year! Not to mention, it gives you important, necessary time to teach your 6 and 9 year-olds!