Before this school year started I thought and thought and thought about what I could do to keep my three-year-old happily occupied while I taught my easily distracted first grader. Last year (for Kindergarten) we did the more difficult school work during nap time, but I knew that this year we needed to do more in the morning.
I liked the idea of Tot Trays, so I started looking around my school room to see if we had a place to do this. I had to box up all of the contents of one shelf from this bookshelf to make room for the trays, but it has been well worth it.
I usually put educational activities in his trays for him to do, but sometimes I will put a favorite toy in one of the trays. Most of these activities he is able to to independently, but I am also available to help him if he needs it. I usually give him all new activities at the beginning of the week changing them out in the evenings if he is uninterested or finished with them. Most days he is excited to see what is in his trays, and he often asks me, "Can I start my trays now?"
His first tray on this particular day contained stacking pegs from the Lauri Toddler Tote. As much as he likes to make towers I would think he would enjoy these, but mostly he just pretends they are guns.
I found these Highway ABC Cards over at makinglearningfun.com. He spent about 30 seconds driving his cars on the Letter L and the rest of the time lining his cars up in a row on the table. And that's perfectly OK with me, since this is about him having fun while he learns.
I love these Lauri Alphabet Puzzle Boards! They are made from the crepe rubber that feels so nice to work with and is also quiet on the table while big brother works on his school work.
My preschooler seems to think he is above playing with this stacker toy, but my first-grader and I both love to play with it. It usually goes untouched if I still put it in his trays.
As I mentioned above, the original idea was to keep him happy and busy while I did "real" school with my first grader, but I have enjoyed finding fun and educational activities to put in his trays. I am also pleased to say that this system really works well for us in so many ways. If I am feeling creative I can find specific activities to emphasize a letter he is learning or a skill like cutting. But if I am busy with other things that week I can just grab a puzzle, some books, and a couple other educational toys.
Tot School can give you many more ideas for teaching little ones. Check it out!