I first heard about Tot School years ago, before I even knew whether I would ever be a parent myself. I thought it sounded like such a cool idea, and I’ve been excited about giving it a try pretty much since I found out I was pregnant. But now that Little Buddy is a toddler, I’m realizing that it’s not as easy to jump into teaching a toddler as I expected. It’s taken a little more research and a lot more effort than I expected to find ways to do Tot School with him in a way we can both enjoy. I’ll be sharing a series of posts on Tot School in the upcoming months on the blog. In this first post, we’ll discuss the basics — what is Tot School and why give it a try?So What Is Tot School?
The term originated on Carisa’s site 1plus1plus1equals1, and here’s how she explains what it is:
Tot School is basically like a pre-preschool, but it’s important not to make the mistake of making it too structured.
Children, especially very young children, learn best through play and naturally exploring the world around them. In fact, I’ve seen Tot School simply defined as being “intentional play,” accomplished through reading with your child and giving them plenty of time for independent play. It’s important for Tot School to be child-led. In other words, activities are chosen based on what your child is interested in, good at, and ready to learn.
So the great thing about Tot School is that it doesn’t involve grades or tests or evaluations. There is no set curriculum or “right” way of doing it. It doesn’t involve forcing your toddler to learn or play in a certain way. In fact, it’s important to avoid doing so because you don’t want to turn learning into a negative experience for your child.
But that can also make it challenging because it means you have to come up with craft and activity ideas that will benefit your unique child. And it also means that some, or even many, of the things you try are not going to turn out the way you expect. That’s totally fine, but it can also be frustrating at times.
All of that being said, you may be wondering: Why even do Tot School at all then? Is it worth it? I think it is, and here’s why:
The Benefits of Tot School
- Children and Parents Thrive on Routines. Children like knowing what’s coming next and it makes the day go more smoothly for mom and dad as well. Having time set aside for various activities makes it more likely that they’ll actually get done. That’s true for chores and errands–but it’s also true for fun activities like play and reading together.
- Modern Life is Full of Distractions. Things like screen time, over-scheduling, and other distractions can keep us from giving our children enough opportunities to freely play and learn and keep us from taking the time to sit down to read and play with them regularly. Having specific learning activities planned for the day or week makes it more likely that we’ll actually do them rather than letting those distractions get in the way.
- It Encourages You to Try New Things. It can be really easy for many of us to get into a bit of a rut doing the same activities with our kids day in and day out. Sometimes it helps to get a little extra push to try new activities and crafts instead of falling back on the same ones all the time.
- It Can Help Build a Lifelong Love of Learning. By following the child’s lead and keeping activities play-based, Tot School can help your child develop of love of learning.
So Tot School may not be for everyone, but I do think a lot of us can benefit from it. Personally, I feel like I can use the extra bit of structure and planning to make sure I’m using my time with my son more wisely.
My goal with Tot School isn’t to teach my son all his concepts and skills by a certain age. It’s to help me stay focused on providing an environment that gives him plenty of opportunities to learn and grow and try new things. Our Tot School will focus on easy ways to teach concepts as part of our daily routine, reading lots of books together, trying new crafts and activities, and spending plenty of time outside.
What Other Moms Have To Say About Tot School
Here are some great blog posts you might want to check out if you’d like to learn more:
Tot School FAQ from 1plus1plus1equals1
What Is Tot School? from Sicily’s Heart and Home
Tot School Overview from Simply Learning Kids
Why An At-Home “Preschool” For Your Toddler Is a Bad Idea from Seeme and Liz
I’ll be sharing my favorite Tot School resources and supplies in an upcoming post. And I’ll share more of our journey in greater detail in the future. If you’d like to follow along, stay tuned in here on the blog and you can also find me on Instagram and Facebook. I also have some great ideas collected on my Tot School Pinterest board.
I’d love to hear about your Tot School experiences: Have you given Tot School a try? Why or why not? If you’re interested in trying it, what would you say your biggest obstacle is to getting started? Maybe I can help with a future blog post!