Introducing…Little Minds “Tot School”

One of the reasons that my blog posts have been a bit sparse lately is that the twins and I have embarked upon a new adventure…school!

Several months ago, I read an article asserting that one of the reasons twins often lag behind their singleton peers developmentally is because their parents are more likely to operate in “survival mode,”  leaving less time for focused play and stimulation.  The article gave me pause, because I often feel like I am doing well just to keep the babies alive, fed, and (mostly) clothed for an entire day!  From my work as a speech-language pathologist I do know how important it is to take time to play and talk with your children on a daily basis, but sometimes that’s easier said than done at our house!

I do try to keep the twins busy with playgroups, outings, story time at the library, etc., but I felt like I needed something a little more organized to ensure that they are getting enough stimulation from me and to keep us from getting into a rut.  There are preschool programs available in our area for young toddlers, but I’m not quite ready to let them go (or pay the hefty bill) just yet.  I began looking online for homeschool preschool programs for early toddlers, but wasn’t impressed with a lot of them, and I had tons of materials and ideas for activities that I have collected over the years already at my fingertips. I just needed a way to organize them!  Then, one of my friends from high school, who also happens to be a mother of twin toddlers, told me about “tot school” and I was instantly excited.  And so the fun began!

Tot school was originally introduced by a homeschooling mom of three who wanted to be sure that she was spending quality, one-on-one time with her youngest each day, exposing her to early learning skills through play.  She developed a method to accomplish this goal and began blogging about it, and the tot school phenomenon was born.  You can check out her amazing website by pressing the button below…it tells you all you need to know to begin your own tot school at home!

Tot School

I like the concept of tot school because it is not a curriculum, but rather a method, so I have the freedom to choose my own goals and activities based on the twins’ needs and interests.  As the weeks have gone by I have slowly added more structure to our “school time,”  organizing our activities around themed units and starting each session with a very short circle time, consisting of a welcome song, weather check, and short book.  Since the babies are so young, I don’t expect them to sit and listen the entire time, but want to expose them to a routine similar to what they would see if they were in a preschool program.  To make it even more fun, we partnered up with a good friend and her son who is the same age as the twins, so we are able to switch off each week for a group school day and then carry the activities over at home for the rest of the week.  I refer to our version of tot school as “Little Minds,” since that’s what we are working to develop!

The goal of Little Minds is simple: to support cognitive, linguistic, motor, and social-emotional development by providing fun, play-based, developmentally appropriate activities for our children.  I will talk about this a little more in a future post…there is a method to our madness!  Most importantly, we follow the basic premise of the tot school method…we expose rather than force learning, so that the children will enjoy our school time and begin to love learning at an early age.  We plan lots of activities, and if the kids don’t like ’em, we stop and try something else!  It’s all about being flexible when nourishing Little Minds!

The purpose of this post is to give a little background information on Little Minds and show you a few of our early activities.  If you follow our tot school posts from now on, you will be able to watch how our sessions became more structured over time as we saw what worked for our little group.  We’ve tried lots and lots of different activities…the pictures below showcase some of the most successful…meaning that they kept the babies’ attention for more than 30 seconds 😉

Young toddlers learn best by using their senses, so we try to include many activities that expose the babies to a variety of sights, sounds, textures, and even smells!  Most people who post about tot school include the ages of their children so people who are looking for inspiration can get an idea of how appropriate the activity might be for their own tots.  I will include both the actual age of my babies and their corrected age, which is where they are developmentally since they were born almost two months early.  Believe it or not, two months can make a lot of difference in babies and early toddlers!

Early Little Minds Activities

*Please use common sense when doing any activity with your baby or toddler that involves small pieces that could be a choking   hazard!  

Actual age: Almost 15 months. Corrected age: 13 months.

Playing with cornmeal. It feels so good! Notice that there is no dress code for tot school…a definite plus!

Just when they were getting bored with the cornmeal, they discovered the faces of babies and children that I had cut out of magazines and taped to the bottom of the pan. This was a big hit!

Simply providing different types of containers and small objects provides hours of entertainment (and fine motor development). Here Little Man is having a blast putting bean bags into an empty wipes box and a waffle box with a hole cut in the side. Nothing high-tech here, folks!

Toots is having fun putting the bean bags (and herself) in an old red wagon that once belonged to Daddy.

Making “alphabet soup” with refrigerator magnets. Getting them out of the container was almost as fun as putting them in the water!

Not all our activities go as planned. Here is Toots enjoying her shaving cream squishy bag…as a hat.

Transferring wooden eggs from one side of the pan to the other. A very serious matter, indeed!

Fun with pinto beans!

Moved out on the back porch for easier clean-up.

One day we “kicked it up a notch” by filling a small baby pool with beans and multi-colored pasta.

Little Man is signing “baby” in this picture. Isn’t he proud of himself? Sign language has become a big part of our day at the Twodaloo house. I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming post.
P.S. – Did you know dogs like to eat raw pasta? Apparently mine do!

Our friend “Tex” and his mommy came over to play in the pasta with us. Great fun was had by all!

Look at those cheeks! I could eat him up.

Most of our kitchen tools end up outside by the end of any given day.

The next set of pictures are from the first day that Mama Tex hosted at her house. This was the day we started the tray system, which you can read about on 1+1+1=1, and had our first real circle time.

Mama Tex found this rainbow drawer organizer at Costco several years ago when she was teaching. It was perfect for organizing the babies’ “work” during school.

Our first set of trays was a set of wooden blocks. Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun.

Another favorite tray from this session was full of brightly colored feathers, pom poms, and glitter bells.

Toots in particular enjoyed this one. She spent a long time “cooking” the feathers in a little frying pan. Even with very young toddlers it is important to provide opportunities for pretend or symbolic play. Believe it or not, symbolic play is important for early language development!

After playing with the trays, we headed out back for some more sensory play. This idea came from the wonderful world of Pinterest…water beads and google eyes. What more could a kid ask for?

*Find more about this idea at I Can Teach My Child.

Oooh…slippery!

Fun, fun, fun!

I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to our new adventure.  I have enough pictures for about five more Little Minds posts to catch us up to the present, so look for those in the next few days if this has peaked your interest.

Until next time,

Twodaloo!

2 thoughts on “Introducing…Little Minds “Tot School”

  1. This post was just what I needed! I have a 27 month old who is currently receiving services for SPD and a speech delay. He was just reassessed today for speech and cognitive development and he almost tested out of the program. While this is great news that he is progressing it doesn’t mean he’s caught up, it’s just his delay is almost not great enough for the state to fund services. They are pretty sure they can keep him for another 6 months by finding ways to creatively yet still truthfully write up his eval. All of this to say… it’s a heads up to me that I need to figure out how to provide what he needs when he’s out of the program in 6 months, or (now if we are unlucky). I used to teach and have been planning on homeschooling, but I don’t have experience or formal education for teaching children this young. I especially don’t have the training for dealing with any of his developmental delay types of issues. Thank you for providing this resource and linking to the tot school!

    • I’m glad you find the information helpful! It motivates me to write more often and include more developmental information and suggestions. The evaluation and qualification dance can be very frustrating, both for parents and for SLPs who want what’s best for their clients, even when the state decides services are no longer warranted. I was the queen of the “creative yet truthful” write-up! Please let me know if you have any specific questions or ideas for posts, because I’m sure other parents have the same questions and concerns. Also, it may be helpful for you to “like” my facebook page because I am going to be sharing links to early childhood activities, some from speech-specific websites, that may be helpful as you plan activities for your little one. Thanks for your comment, and your blog is lovely!

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