How to set up a learning area for toddlers at home

Homeschooling your toddler might feel like an impossible task, they move so quickly from one activity to the next so how are you supposed to keep their interest to teach them? What learning area do you need? What should it include?

This post is part of our  homeschooling  toddler series with the goal that by the end, you will have all the tools you need to set up a homeschool program at home

Homeschool toddler series include: 

Today, we are going to talk about how to getting started. And the first thing to start is creating a learning space.

A learning space at home should have

  • A comfortable desk
  • Storage space
  • A reading area
  • A visual schedule

The first thing you are going to need to do is set up a learning area for your child. Where do you want to sit down a few minutes each day to work together?

Locating the perfect space at home

While it might be tempting for you as the parent or guardian to skip this step, just take a few minutes and choose a location.

When my son was one year old, I had a small desk next to mine in the office. I had a designated shelf in my office to some of his homeschooling learning supplies.

Each morning, after breakfast we would go to the office and sit there for a few minutes to practice whatever lesson I had planned for him. Some days it was 5 minutes before he decided to move to something else and sometimes we spend 45min to an hour.

Invitation to play: Color sporting using peg dolls

Now that he is two, we do a lot more learning and I have a lot more supplies so I have created a work space in his playroom.

No matter what you choose, just find a place you can both sit each day to work, ideally there is a comfortable child-size table and chair they can sit.

Try to locate the homeschooling area in a place where there is excellent light and a comfortable temperature. The ideal place would be near a window where your child has access to natural light and fresh air.

If such a space does not exist in your house, as long as the weather is fine, feel free to get creative and you could always position your child’s work area outside, such as in the garden (or in my case, the garage)!

4th if July activity set up in our garage

Natural light and fresh air have been shown to boost performance, wellbeing and creativity no matter the age! so make sure you are giving your child an environment which is the best one for their learning!

Choose different seating options

Your child is going to be sitting in their workplace for some time each day – so make sure they are sitting in the right chair! In the ideal scenario, your child will be sat in a chair that is comfortable and appropriate for their size.

A place they can easily get in and out independently. Look for a table that supports their frame whilst also allowing them to place their feet on the floor. If they are too short to touch the ground you can place a small box to support their feet while sitting. That rules out kitchen stools or deep-set sofas unfortunately!

By setting up a learning space we are also creating good study habits they will use throughout al of their school years and beyond. 

If you are able to, it might be a good idea to set a variety of seating options for your child to choose from. Remember, when they are at school or nursery, they do not stay sat in the same classroom seat all day, they have regular breaks, room changes and reading corners.

By offering your child a variety of seating options they have the same sort of freedom they have in school or nursery to move about and explore while learning. For example, you could install a reading corner in your child’s study space, a sit-down area where they complete creative and arty tasks and an outdoors space for physical activities and break time.

From our playroom redesign: Reading nook created using a dog bed and some pillows

You might also be interested in: 6 reading nooks that inspire anyone to read more

Minimize distractions

After you’ve located what area your child will be working in, it’s time for a declutter. It’s extremely hard for your child to concentrate when they’re surrounded by towers of toys, books and supplies that create a feeling of chaos. And, of course, distracting tablets, TVs and other technological devices are a big no-no unless they are required for your child’s learning.

You learning area can be in the playroom, just like mine now. But if you see, my desk is looking at a wall and my desk is often empty with just the supplies needed for the lesson.

Reducing distractions means to lay out only the items that your child will need in their learning. This also means that before you sit down with your toddler to learn at the table you have all the supplies needed for the lesson. The last think you want is have yourself kid sitting at the table and you having to run all of over the house gathering up materials.

Designate A Storage Area

Now that you are going to start homeschooling your child, you are going to start gathering a lot of educational supplies, learning resources, art materials and such. If I can give you some advise is to try to set up a place where you can keep all of these supplies together so you can easily gather the materials and keep them away from “regular playtime”.

Go into any school classroom and you’ll see just how much teachers rely on storage – why not steal the secrets of their trade? 

For example, installing multipurpose furniture can reduce the feeling of mess in your child’s learning area while also providing adequate storage for your child to access what they need.

Storage doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be Tupperware containers form the dollar store in a spare closet.

image from Dollar Tree Classroom

A rolling cart with drawers, plastic sleeve folders with a button (I just got them to store puzzles and activities that have loose cards like some of our free learning printables). I also got (thanks to my friend Lucy), 2 closet hanging shelfs to store toys and supplies I’m not using.

A storage space will allow you to easily gather your materials before each day to set up the lesson. It will keep the materials fresh when it’s time to play so you get more attention span from your child and allows you to stay organized and see what supplies you are running low on and might need to replace soon.

Start with circle time

finger puppets from “familia dedos” Sing & Learn Pack

While you want your child to be able to concentrate to the best of their ability, this doesn’t require silence 24/7. One of my best tips to start the day was to always do a circle time routine.

You can participate in a virtual class, create tour own song sequence and finger play rhymes or use the Sing & Learn Play Packfor inspiration.

You might like to participate in a pre-recorded Virtual Mommy and Me class

At home, it could feel a little weird to do circle time alone. At least it did for me and my son at first. But I soon found out circle time helps us set the stage to start the day. I always do about 3-4 songs.

  • A good morning song
  • A song to use our favorite scarfs
  • A weather song
  • a color/counting/or abc song

I try to use them same songs with the same hand motions for a few weeks to create expectation and a sense of routine. At first he just watches (just like when I start a new session of sensory classes- the kids just stare and you wonder if you are doing things right…) but a few weeks in, and the kids know the hand motions, face expressions and some will join in with a few words as well!

Take advantage of visual resources

The key to home learning is building in a variety of tasks each day. This will keep the experience exciting for your child and ward off boredom. Just like at school, it might be a good idea to create a schedule with your child where you lay out all the different activity time slots you want to complete each day.

create a visual schedule

Try and make this timetable as visual and understandable as possible by using lots of coloured pens, highlighters and stickers. Then place the schedule in an area where your child is always able to see and refer to it. Make sure they also have access to a clock. Even if they are too young to tell the time, it is a great opportunity to introduce the concept of time and numbers. Sometimes it will just be fun to see the clock and other times you can point to the clock and say “it is time for art, let’s get our apron ready”

Alongside schedules, for older kids (after 3yrs old) reward charts where your child can earn stickers and treats as they complete certain tasks. From brushing their teeth to completing a project. Rewards are a great tool for kids of all ages.

use educational Posters

from the learning binder: I know my shapes

Use educational posters, learning printables and place them at your child’s eye level. 2 or three posters should be enough, we don’t want to have visual clutter either!

Choose posters that are not too busy and are age appropriate. You can even make dollar store posters interactive by buying two of the same posters and create a matching activity by cutting the pieces on one poster and adding Velcro and keeping the other poster intact. Similar to our learning binder.

Don’t know what poster to use? You can always tape one of the interactive sheets from the learning binder and keeping it at eye level to work on throughout the day and leaving it as part of your learning space.

Make the space personalized

If you go into any adult office you will see pictures, cards and objects that make the employee’s working area feel more personal. Why not recreate the same personalised look and feel in your child’s learning space?

Select an area where you can display the art and work you do together. Displaying their art not only gives it a vibrando look to the learning space but also says to your child “what you do matters and it is worth placing it where everyone can see it”.

Don’t wait until your child is older and in school to display their creations. Even when they are young toddlers and are just working on exploring textures and materials all of this art is worth displaying.

Displaying a child arts low where they can see it increases self esteem and encourages creativity

final thoughs on Setting up a learning environment at home

setting up a learning environment is the first step for successfully creating a homeschool program at home. It can be very simple and using the furniture and materials you have already at home.

Now that you have all the tools, start setting up your learning space.

learning Space Checklist

  • A child size table or learning table
  • A reading nook
  • A place to store supplies
  • A place to display their artwork
  • Educational posters or (a learning binder page)
  • A visual schedule (free template) and don’t worry we will cover the what to write in it later in the series)

Next, will be to gather common art supplies that you will probably need for creating lesson plans and activities at home. Followed by how to choose activities and how to your own lesson plans (coming soon).

Next steps…

Continue your homeschool setup journey with learning how to Create a homeschool schedule