Homeschooling With Multi-age Children

When homeschooling with multi-age children it can be very difficult to teach long division while your toddler is clamoring for attention. How can you keep little ones actively engaged while homeschooling your older children and not lose your mind? Toddlers need their own ‘schoolwork ‘so they feel like they are a part of things. Busy bags, or activity bags, are a cheap and effective way to keep them happily occupied when you need to devote your full attention to homeschooling your older ones.

What is a busy bag? It is a Ziploc bag (or a small cloth bag with a draw string if you prefer not to use plastic) that you fill with different manipulatives for specific activities. All these bags should be clearly labeled and kept in one large box or shelf. The busy bags can only be taken out and used during homeschool time so they stay special.

For the messier activities in your busy bags keep a small plastic pool or inflatable pool available just for indoor use. You can set it up in the kitchen or the bag porch and let them paint, write in shaving cream, play with Playdoh etc. When finished simply take it outside and spray it off.  Voila! No messy kitchen!

Homeschooling with Multi-age Children

Here are some busy bag ideas when homeschooling with multi-age children to get you started.  The ideas are really limitless.  


  1. Measuring Bags
  • Place several plastic fishing worms in a bag. Cut out several different sized fish and have your child measure them using the fishing worms.
  • Place a set of measuring cups and a few different sized plastic bowls in a bag. Give them water and let them sit in the pool and measure it into different containers.
  • Put a tape measure in the bag and pictures of various things in the house. Let your child choose one picture at a time and measure it.
  • Trace and cut out their feet on different color card stock. Cut out a dozen or so. Write a different number on each foot. They are to find something in the house that is that many foot-lengths.

 2. Sorting Bags

  • Place an egg carton in the bag. Fill several bags with small things they can sort. You may use tiny shells, beads, beans, rocks, etc. Let them sort the manipulatives as they see fit.
  • Cut out circles of different colors using cardstock. Have the children sort the objects by color.
  • Collect 10 small plastic butter containers. Write a different number in permanent marker on each lid. Have fun items like rubber bugs for them to sort into the containers by number.
  • Cut out one of each shape using cardstock: triangle, circle, square, rectangle, and oval. Buy a bag of foam shapes for your child to sort.
  1. Letters Bags
    • Place a small toaster oven sized pan and magnetic letters in a bag for your child to make words with.
    • Draw each letter in the alphabet on cardstock. Place a bag of Wikki-stix in the bag and let them make each letter. This also works with Playdoh or clay if they roll it.
    • Print out large empty letters onto cardstock. Place the letters in the bag along with letter stamps. Have them stamp the letter all over the correct letter.
    • Place a small dry erase board, markers and letter stencils in a bag for them to trace.
    • Fill a bag with shaving cream and let them trace their letters on the bag. Make sure to duck tape the bag before they start.

 4.   Books on tape

  • Place a tape recorder, headphones, tapes and books in a bag. Let them tell the story into the tape recorder as they ‘read “it. They can then listen to their story.
  • Download books from the library on their IPod or checkout books on CD. Place them in a bag along with a small personal CD player and headphones for them to listen to.
  • If you have a tablet or phone they can use then introduce them to music and they can develop an appreciation for music. (Sponsored Link)
  1.   Art Bags
  • Fill several bags with paper, glue and different mediums like feathers, pom-poms, yarn, etc. Let them make their own creations!
  • Fill a bag with different cut outs of blank faces. Place glue, googly eyes, yarn for hair, different noses, mustaches, etc. Let them make faces.
  • Place coloring books in a bag with crayons, markers, or colored pencils.

 6.  Sand Play

  • Purchase a bag of colored sand. Place funnels, cups, basters, colanders, and strainers in a bag. Let them sit in the pool and play with the sand.
  • Fill a small plastic shoe box with sand and very small toys (artifacts) along with a plastic spoon. Let your child be an archaeologist and ‘dig’ for the treasures.
  • Place sand in a plastic sandwich sized container. Place the container and a spray bottle and alphabet flashcards in a busy bag. Your child can spray the sand and trace their letters in it.

Homeschooling with multi-age children can keep you on your toes. Hopefully your toddler’s busy bags will help during those moments when you need a few extra minutes!

You also might like our free download on Keeping Student's Engaged While Reading.


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Irene Reardon

Irene holds a Bachelor of Science (Applied Psychology), and Certificate in TESOL and a Certificate in the Teaching of Children with Dyslexia. Fifteen years experience in developing education programs and resources for Early Childhood and Primary Educators.

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Learning To Love Literacy - April 11, 2018

Thank you Mother of 3 for leaving a comment. Lego is always a good option to keep your children busy while you are working with another sibling.

Mother of 3 - December 5, 2017

Fun ideas! My boys often take off to go play with their Lego sets or toys while I work with another sibling.

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