(the above photo is from the Tot School blog and shows the standard way to do workboxes, head on over and check out her posts on how she's implemented Workboxes with her toddler!)
Everybody uses this system differently, but the basic concept remains the same. Your child has work in a box/basket/file/hanging pocket that is to be completed that day. For a toddler you might want to start with just 5 boxes of 'work'. For a preschooler maybe 9 would be a good amount to fill up the learning time. Ideally most of the work contained in the boxes will be activities that your child can complete independently. For a toddler that's just not going to happen completely, so expect to at least supervise each activity.
- teaches care for toys
- keeps the learning time moving without constant direction by mom
- better focus
- does not work for messy/complicated activities
- requires more prep time the night before
- physically finding the space to set up boxes can be a struggle at first
We have only done this 2 days so far (Monday and Wednesday) and I am already loving it! Oh, and Tobias loves it too ;) I fill each box with an activity the night before and the next day when we have a good 1 hour time slot for learning time I tell Tobias we can do his boxes now. He gets each box out, completes the activity as quickly or slowly as he'd like, and then puts everything back in the box and returns the box to its shelf. Then he grabs the next box on the shelf until he's done all five. No clean up for mom, and more independence for my toddler, can you see why I love it? :) Below I have two pictures of how I've set up our workboxes. The containers are photo boxes from Joann's that were $2 a piece. In the second picture you can see today's activities all set inside each box.
How do I get started?
Round up five boxes if you have a toddler, nine if you have a preschooler. You can use anything, shoeboxes, photo boxes (this is what I used), those plastic toy storage bins, etc. Pick a good place for them to go where your child can reach them easily.
The first day, choose easy activities because your focus is to teach your child how to get each box, complete the activity, and put the box away properly. There is to be no throwing or banging of the materials, which is what I mostly had to correct Tobias for. We had two time-outs when he threw a toy and when he refused to put the materials away in the box. He only got off time-out when he was willing to finish up and he did that happily both times without any further discipline. For a toddler, this skill of getting out one toy, playing with it, and putting it away neatly is huge! It's useful for mom, useful for Kindergarten, and useful for the poor toys who take all the typical toddler abuse normally, lol!
What activities can I put in the boxes?
I am choosing 4 activities that have a clear purpose and 1 that is open-ended right now. The open-ended toy comes last so Tobias doesn't get bored before completing all the boxes. Some activities we've used include:
Lauri Shape Sorter
Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs
Small Spaces Activity--we used the puff balls and a yogurt container activity
Transferring Activity--we used wooden toast grabber tongs to transfer puff balls from one basket into another
Cutting Activity--safety scissors and strips of scrapbooking paper worked well (this was very difficult for Tobias so don't be discouraged if your toddler can't do it either)
Stamping--this was great fun, but also a bit of a mess so we might put this away for a few months and come back to it
Coloring--crayons and paper are always fun :)