Some of you might be rolling your eyes with “school” and “15 month old” together, but before y’all fuss at me, let me explain.
“Tot school” is intentional playing and reading with your child during the ages of 1-3, before preschool officially starts.
Babies and toddlers are ALWAYS learning and it’s never too early to engage them and their sense of curiosity. Very young children learn through play, interaction with adults, and modeling. Toddlers are like sponges and literally soak up everything! It’s totally fine to just let them play all day if you want, but I choose to do a version of tot school with Penelope. I am eventually going to homeschool her, so I am setting the groundwork. I will also say that we don’t have a strict schedule, but we do follow a routine every day. While I don’t necessarily believe that a strict schedule is the way to go for us, I love having a routine because it helps both of us.
It’s important for me to point out that I never force her to do anything. If she’s not feeling a certain activity, we skip it and try something else. I want learning to be fun and I want her to be excited about it.
Here’s what our day looks like (I won’t put times because it varies, and also, make sure to narrate your whole day! They learn from you even if you feel silly talking through every little action):
- We wake up slowly with lots of hugs and cuddles. I sing some version of a “good morning” song with her. This takes about 10 minutes.
- We open all the curtains in the house. She gets excited about this and starts to point out the window before we even open the curtain saying “bird”, “tree”, etc. We spend about 5-10 minutes doing this. I point out the sun, we talk about the weather, bird, trees, cars, grass, etc.
- We feed the puppies. She has to say good morning to the pups. This only takes about 1-2 minutes.
- Change diaper and put on clothes for the day. Brush hair (she helps).
- She watches nursery rhymes on a tablet and snacks on something (usually cheerios), while I get her breakfast ready. This takes about 5-10 minutes depending on what we are having for breakfast.
- We eat breakfast together, and talk about each item that she is eating. I point out the colors, the textures, etc. At the end of the meal, I usually let her play with yogurt for a while. This is great sensory play and she loves it. Breakfast takes about 30 minutes usually.
- After breakfast, we wash hands and clean up the table. She’s learning how to wipe down the table and high chair.
- Time to take the dogs for a walk! We try to spend about 30 minutes outside at this point with the dogs. We talk about leaves, grass, sticks, rocks, etc. She loves exploring outside and it’s important to me to let her play in dirt, feel the grass, etc.
- When we go in, we wash up and usually have another quick snack.
- At this point, I will try to do some kind of organized activity. Most of the time, it’s “art and music” time. She is learning to color, and also plays with her musical instruments (this includes maracas, a xylophone, a triangle, and a drum). This really varies based on whatever she is feeling at the moment. Sometimes it lasts 5 minutes, other times it can last 45 minutes!
- It’s time to walk the dogs after art and music time. We explore outside again, but usually not as long as we do in the mornings.
- When we come back in from our walk, it’s lunch time!
- After lunch it’s nap time. Usually she takes one nap a day and will sleep anywhere from 1-3 hours (sometimes it’s 3.5-4 hours though).
- Once she wakes from her nap, Daddy is usually home from work. They get alone time to wrestle/play/go outside/explore for 1-2 hours.
- It’s time for dinner after Daddy time. Dinner usually lasts 30-45 minutes.
- Bath time is after dinner.
- We unwind together as a family in the evenings. We pretty much follow her lead and do whatever she wants. We read books, play games, watch a show, etc.
- Once she gets tired it’s time for bed!
This isn’t a hard and fast routine, there are days when we don’t do anything but cuddle or nurse (when she’s teething or not feeling well). Also, we go to a playgroup every other Monday and music/storytime at our local library every Wednesday, so those days are different as well.
However you choose to do Tot School, make sure it’s a fun and enjoyable experience for you and your little ones.