I work with my preschooler right after breakfast, when he is the most likely to pay attention. This usually lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. After that, he's over it. So keeping him busy during the rest of the school day can be a challenge. I don't want him in front of the TV for the 4+ hours I'm teaching my older kids. Not that he doesn't watch TV, he does! Nothing wrong with a little Nick Jr. every now and again, but not all day, every day. Here are a few of the ways I've found to keep him engaged, while we work. These are not crafts. Those require more supervision. These are ways to keep him occupied, while my attention is on the older kids.
First up is what I call "Hallway Bowling." The set up is pictured above, and clearly simple. Stack some paper cups in a pyramid, and hand them a ball. They delight in both knocking down the cups, and restacking them. See:
Next is my love of pom-poms. I love these, and their many uses. Here, my preschooler is sorting them by color, in an old egg carton, using tweezers. Sorting, color recognition, and motor skills...score!
I have this white board, that hangs above my desk. It's not the one we use for lessons, but the place I write myself little notes. I pull it down, and hand it to my preschooler, along with a few markers. He'll sit like this for at least 20 minutes. Yay!
Here is a great idea, for those magnets lingering about. Write the alphabet on a poster board, and stick it to the fridge. Then, have him match the letter magnets to their corresponding place on the poster. Simple.
Cutting Practice: Just a few sheets of scrap paper, and a pair of safety scissors can keep a preschooler busy for a while. If you prefer, give him specific shapes to cut out. Remember to be encouraging. Cutting can be a difficult skill to master.
Sensory Play: Fill a plastic bin with dry rice or beans, or water. Add a few cups, spoons, or toys, and you have an hour of engaging fun!
One more tip: Toy Rotation
I don't suggest hiding his favorite truck, or her favorite doll. But I do have a shelf where I keep things, like play dough, a bin of potato heads, lincoln logs, puzzles, paint, etc., out of his reach. Then, I pull one out when I need him busy, and he's all the more engaged, because it's not something he has on hand 24/7.
Here's to a peaceful, successful homeschool day!