So You Want to Tot-School?

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Tot Schooling is a general term for intentionally homeschooling your child between the ages of birth and three years old. Some people consider three and four-year-olds to be “preschool” and tot-school to only be 0-2.

Whatever definition you choose, the options cover that 0-3 age range before more traditional academic training begins. Instead of focusing on ABCs and 123s, Tot School is all about early literacy, colors, shapes, spatial awareness, motor skills, and emotional connectedness.

Often similar to concepts taught in daycare or early preschool, these skills may be naturally picked up through everyday life, but for most children, learning with intentionality has positive social-emotional benefits. It’s not about cramming early academics, but rather enriching your child’s brain and body to master essential skills for the future.

Popular Choices for Tot Schooling

When starting your totschool, your first task will be to pick a curriculum! There are multiple options, and here are some of my favorites.

#1 – Timberdoodle Tiny Tots Kit

My homeschooling journey started with a Timberdoodle preschool kit, but I sincerely wish I had started my daughter with the Tiny Tots kit. As I browsed materials for our second little one, I have gone completely starry-eyed for the 2022 Tiny Tots Curriculum Kit.

Featuring three different options, Infant (0-12mo), Toddler (12-24mo), and the complete Birth to 2 set. You can also customize any of the kit options if you wanted to take out, add, or replace an item.

2022 Tiny Tots Curriculum Kit

The Best Features:

• I love that Timberdoodle’s kits are a one-time purchase that takes you through one or two years of education (depending on which kit you choose). Though the upfront cost is higher, if you were to theoretically break up the investment into monthly chunks, it would look like $31/mo for the Infant kit, $51/mo for the toddler kit, or $40/mo for the birth to 2 kit. Compared to preschool prices and other subscription box offerings, this is a pretty average number.

• Timberdoodle offers the unique educational aspect of picking and packing their educational materials into 6 developmental categories: Language Arts, Math, STEM, Emotional Intelligence, Motor Skills, and Sensory Skills. While other materials may cover various aspects of these, I have never seen such an encompassing structure ready to go–literally curriculum in a box.

• Tiny Tots is not just a toy box or book box or craft kit. Rather, it’s filled with a variety of hands-on tools, toys, books, cards, manipulatives, building sets, mobility aids, and sensory materials. In addition, it comes with two guides–the Handbooks and online scheduler and the book Active Baby, Healthy Brain. Timberdoodle Handbooks are invaluable in showing you how to use each item in your kit, encouraging your teacher’s soul, and helping you make the most of your kit.

• Colors, senses, cause and effect, matching, building, balance, concentration, building speech skills, engaging activities to do with your baby, early literacy, art, and more are covered in this phenomenal kit.

#2 – LovEvery Play Kits

LovEvery has created some very beautiful toy kits for young children. Many are rooted in Montessori, which many families gravitate towards in the early years. These kits are innovative and visually appealing, in addition to being sustainable, organic, and well made.

The Best Features:

• Since it’s subscription-based, you have the option to break up your payments into smaller chunks, even though each box still breaks down to an investment of $40/mo. Infant kits (0-12mo) arrive every 2 months, and the 1, 2, and 3-year-old kits arrive every 3 months.

• It’s appealing to receive the targeted toys and materials your child will use at each stage as they grow. Each kit also comes with a small Play Guide with tips for using the activities.

• While each kit is filled with manipulatives and hands-on items, they are mainly toys, with only a small book in most kits. Children can certainly learn many wonderful things from these toys, but there are lacking areas of gross motor skills, targeted social-emotional development for each stage, and building skills.

• While each kit isn’t overfilled with items, if you keep your subscription for awhile, you could end up with quite a few items that are stage-specific (though they do say that many items can grow with the child). To some, this may be the perfect amount of items, and for others, it could be too many.

#3 – KiwiCo Panda Crate & Koala Crate

KiwiCo Panda Crate (0-24mo) and Koala Crate (2-4 years) are subscription boxes that focus on hands-on fun learning activities.

The Best Features:

• When you sign up for KiwiCo, you get to choose what kind of subscription you want. While crates ship every 2 months, the longer time commitment you subscribe for will lead to cheaper prices per crate. The monthly investment ranges from $17-$22 for Panda Crates and $19-$24 for Koala Crates.

• With a lower price, each crate includes fewer items than the more pricey subscriptions and curriculum kits. As such, this would not be considered a real “schooling” option, but more of an enrichment tool that you can expound on. It must also be noted that many of the boxes contain cardboard or less long-lasting quality items. It’s often focused on an activity, game, or art project rather than durable or reusable educational materials.

#4 – Go Rogue and Piece it Together

If you love DIY and want to tailor Tot School to your specific child, there is one final option to excite you. Yes, you can absolutely go to Target, Amazon, or Lakeshore Learning and handpick toys, books, games, and activities for your kiddo!

Your budget will determine how expansive or limited your collection ends up being, but your choices will be massive. Melissa and Doug, Hape, Haba, Green Toys, B Toys, and more have wonderful early learning products. Usborne books carries a variety of beautiful baby books. And of course, your local library is stocked with books for all ages and stages.

The pros of doing it yourself–you get to browse and select literally whatever you want within your budget. Cons surround the fact that there is just so much to choose from and it can become an overwhelming and time-consuming process. But the flexibility is there if that’s your style!

Launching Your Tot School

Once you’ve settled on your tot school curriculum, it’s time for the fun to begin! Some choose to spend individual time with their infant or toddler, while others use some tot school activities to entertain youngsters while older kids complete their school work. Your family dynamics and schedule will likely determine how tot school plays out for you.

You can do daily activities, or choose one or two days a week to focus on dedicated learning times. Flexibility is key, especially if you have older children. But the simple act of being intentional in learning activities will pay off in huge ways over the years.

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