"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Tiny Tots Week continues! Now that you’ve gotten an idea of the fun you can experience doing Tot School, as well as how you can enjoy it on the cheap, let’s look at some ways to keep all the fun organized. I’ll share two big things today: How I organize my supplies and how I organize my plans. These are the things that work for me, although I’m continually tweaking to make things better. As always, I hope you’ll share your own ideas in the comments below.

1. Organizing the stuff

First off, I try to keep as many of our tot school resources as possible together in one place. This makes it so much easier to actually sit down and do the activities. I use a set of wire cubes (purchased from Target) and a set of plastic shelves (picked up from a yard sale) to corral our tot school goodies. Both are set up in our school room near the bigger kids’ learning materials.

I keep the things that have lots of pieces (like pompoms, cotton swabs, and dry pasta) in baskets on the higher cubes, just so they don’t end up all over the floor. Stickers go here, too…for obvious reasons.

On the lower cubes and shelves, I keep the items it wouldn’t kill me for her to get into, like her chalkboard, stacking cubes, and so on…

…as well as floor puzzles, book & tape sets, Little People toys, magnetic sets, and lift-the-flap books.

By the way, that package to the left of the shelves in the above picture contains a big foam floor puzzle. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done, Remi style.  (And yes, she was wearing a Pull-Up when I took this picture…really…I promise!)

Next to the cube tower is another set of cubes (on floor level) which contain the items I want my toddler to have free access to, like blocks and sturdier toys. (The lidded tubs contain multiple-piece toys, but since she can’t open the snap-on lids, we’re safe…for now.)

In addition to these items, I have quite a few supplies stashed away on a couple of bookshelves tucked back in the schoolroom closet. These are kept behind closed doors, either because they are things that she can only use with me (like scissors, crayons, and Play-Doh) or because they present a choking hazard (like beads, marbles, and games with tiny pieces).

(Granted, some of these aren’t really dangerous; I just got tired of having them as floor decorations…)

You may have noticed one of my main principles for organizing tot school (or just about anything else) is this: Label everything! Unless it is 1) in a see-through container, or 2) in its original container with a descriptive label clearly showing from its position on my shelves, it gets a label. Even a lot of my clear containers are labeled, just because I have multiple storage pieces that are similar and this makes it easier to quickly identify what’s inside each.

By the way, those blocks in the top container aren’t wood. They’re foam! And I love them more than I can say. They’re quiet (nice when the tower falls) and they’re soft (nice when she’s happily hurling them across the room), and I found the whole lot at a garage sale for exactly two bucks. {happy dance} If you can find some, buy them. Today.

2. Organizing myself/my plans

So, there’s a glimpse into how I contain all the little goodies we play with in our tot school. But, I’ve learned that the more fun stuff you assemble, the easier it is to forget 1) what you have to choose from and 2) what you haven’t played with for a while. Here’s the system I came up with to make sure I’m providing my little one with a variety of different experiences which address different areas of growth and learning.

I started with a plastic file box (labeled, of course!) so I’d have a place to keep all my plans and ideas together, even if the supplies they use are on different shelves or in different rooms. (Like the kitchen, remember?)

I then made a card for each type of activity I want my toddler to be able to do. (My cards are 4 x 6, just because that’s what I already had on hand.) Most of the time, I just make a note of the supplies needed for the activity, and the plan is obvious. Here’s an example from one of the activities I showed you in Tuesday’s post:

If there’s a chance I won’t remember what I’m planning to do with the supplies by the time we get to the activity, I make some additional notes or sketches to jog my memory.

Finally, I made a set of dividers with the different categories represented by the various activities I’d planned.

Obviously, you could skip this step, and if you’re just starting out, maybe that would be best. I just found that it made it much easier for me to rotate through different kinds of activities if I divided them this way. While I don’t really want our tot school to be a structured endeavor, I also don’t want to get into a rut of working puzzles every day but never focusing on my toddler’s motor skills, or building with blocks every day without ever practicing visual discrimination. And it probably doesn’t even matter, as long as she’s playing... I just want to be well rounded in my efforts and I know my own tendencies. Some people have organized minds…I don’t. So, I rely on external organization (i.e. lists, card files, etc.) to keep me on track. Go with whatever you own personality dictates.

If you do decide to divide the activities this way, I suggest labeling each card with its related category (See the top line in my examples, above) to make it quick and simple to re-file the card when you’re finished with it. (If you have a question about what’s included in any of my categories, let me know in the comments and I’ll explain and/or give examples to clarify.)

Once you have your supplies and your ideas organized, it is so simple to sit down and enjoy fun learning activities with your child whenever the mood strikes either of you!  Here’s how I do it:

1. Grab a card from the file box (from the next category, OR whatever category we feel like enjoying)

2. Grab from our stash whatever supplies are listed on the card

3. Find a good place to “work” (Read: PLAY)

4. Have fun together—learning, making memories, and probably making a mess along the way, too

5. Stop while she’s still having fun, so she’ll look forward to next time

6. Re-file the card in the BACK of whatever category I took it from (if I didn’t do this right away), and put away the supplies for another day

I should tell you here that if she is really loving a certain activity, we may do the same thing for several days in a row before retiring it to the back of the section. We are NOT slaves to this system!

NOTE: Don’t forget to take some pictures during some of your activities together. Your tiny tot is growing up too fast, and you’ll always want to remember how much fun this time together was for both of you! Get a good shot or two, then put your camera away and just be in the moment with your little sweetie.

I hope you’re enjoying Tiny Tots Week, and that you’ll jump in and share your own great ideas with us in the comments section below. Tomorrow I hope to show you some of my very favorite resources and my own toddler’s all-time favorite activities. In case you missed any of the other posts in this series, here’s the rundown:

Monday: Helping our wee helpers

Tuesday: Tot School fun

Wednesday:  Tot School on a shoestring

Thursday: Tot School organization

Friday: My favorite toddler resources

And, see the bonus post here.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Comments on: "Tot School organization (Tiny Tots Week, Day 4)" (20)

  1. Edy Cozort said:

    I love how organized your school stuff is! I love tubs, totes, and labels and cannot wait until James is older and I can have a space for him and his “school” items. I have to ask….where do you find all of your stuff? I would love to find more puzzles for James with the knobs, but am having a problem finding them at a reasonable price. Thanks for the post today.

  2. I am always on the lookout at bookstores, used book sales, yard sales, thrift shops, homeschool stores, and stores like Target and Hobby Lobby. I purchased the last wooden puzzle I bought at Mardel Christian Bookstore. You can also search online. Go to christianbook {dot} com and type “wooden puzzle knobs” in the search box and you’ll find a ton of them. My last post in this series is coming later today (computer problems=had to delete and start over) and in it I tell where I get all my favorite items.

  3. I absolutely love this!! Can’t wait to make my own! Just came across your blog tonight and am so excited. Love your ideas! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. […] also bookmarked this post at Why Amy Smiles that is full of tot school organization and planning […]

  5. I’d love your actual activities if you’re willing to share. Thanks very much!

    • Rachel, if you click on the link that says “tot school fun” at the bottom of this post, it will take you to a whole bunch of them. Thanks! 🙂

  6. This is AWESOME!! I love this post & I relate to your level of organization. Structured, but not too structured.

  7. … and I want to add. I love that your labels are just plain white, handwritten binder labels. When I see these photos of super cute printed labels on decorative backgrounds and tied on with ribbons, I think, “I can never do that”. Yours seems within reach 🙂

    • Thanks, Micah Grace! I have been using those white labels all over the place for years! So fast and easy, but they serve their purpose well! Thanks for your comments.

  8. Thank you for this. I have triplets who will be one on January and I want to homeschool, but I don’t have a clue where to start so this has been very helpful

    • What a blessing, Shina, to have triplets! I’m so glad this helped you. Homeschooling is not easy, but it’s WONDERFUL and you won’t regret investing in your children this way.

      • I think that is my fear, that ill find it too difficult, but im definitely going to pray on it and give it my best. For sanity, i have to be as organised as possible so Im starting planning foe next year now. Do you have any tips or anything I should focus on first or start with please?

      • Shina, you might also want to check out my other blog, Cheerful Learning, for some preschool ideas for your little ones. You can see it here: http://cheerfullearning.wordpress.com/

        • Starting from the beginning makes it so much easier than pulling them out. You can do it! There are tons of free resources nowdays. Check Pinterest, homeschool blogs, the library, etc. I base our school around the Bible. The most important thing we can teach our kids is to love God. There’s a book called “Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready” that starts out very young (infants). Remember, there’s not a lot that has to be done those first years. Read to them a lot, play with them a lot, pray with them a lot! Let me know if you have any more questions!

  9. I love how you incorporate the Bible in your day to day planning. Ive been doing morning worship withheld girls for a few months now, but always wanted to do more and not just keep it to family worship, so your ideas have been an answer from God. It truly has been.

    I will look at your other blog and get some ideas and go from there.

    I’m very excited to start

  10. Amazing post. Great Simple Useful Ideas! By the way – I love the foam floor puzzle. What is the company for that puzzle – tried to look online – no luck.

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