I would guess that anyone trying to homeschool more than one child (especially when one is a toddler/ preschooler) experiences the frustration of trying to meet the needs of the schooling child and the young one at the same time. Tough stuff! This is the first year I'm dealing with it because my oldest is now doing second grade work, which is requiring more of my help, and my youngest is, for the first time, not interested in what his big brother is doing! Up until this year, I simply would give my young guy the same materials my older one had and he would happily mimic his big brother until said brother was finished with his work (which usually wasn't very long; after all, it was first grade). This year - no dice.
When you type "homeschooling preschoolers" into search engines, you get lots of fun activities and suggestions returned. Most of them are for things you little one can do independently while your older(s) work. Many suggest having lots of things prepared and ready, either in bags, shoe boxes or even storage containers (one container per activity) so that you can just pull out 2-3 per day for you little one. I love this idea and have begun making several of these with things we have around the house.
One idea (and I honestly cannot remember where these all came from, but must be honest and say they were not my ideas) was to put the numbers 1-5 on index cards and on the back of each card, the corresponding number of dot so that you have self-correcting flash cards. These go into a zip-top bag with several manipulatives (bingo chips, counting bears, pennies (only for children no longer putting things in their mouth), etc.) and the object is to match the number on the front of the card with the correct number of counting objects. You child flips the card over to check their answer.
Pictured here today is another idea - felt play. Make a flannel board from a project poster board (foam core) and a large flannel remnant (we found one big enough to make 2 boards on clearance at our fabric store for .99 cents). We taped ours to the foam core poster board with packing tape. Make shapes from felt squares (the kind that are .20 cents each) in various colors. Your child can be given the assignment to make a town, building, person, pirate ship, etc, from the shapes. In this picture my guys are making "mommies" out of the shapes and some "clothes" I cut out for another activity, clothes line hanging.
For this one, you will need some "clothes" shapes cut out of felt, some yarn (for a clothes line) and some clothes pins. You hang the clothes line somewhere that you know it will be safe (like between two door knobs) and let your little one hang the laundry. Manipulating the clothes pins is a great small motor development exercise and you would not believe the concentration your kiddo will demonstrate with this one! I'll get more of these ideas posted over the next week or two. And please share your ideas!
Edited to add: click here to read "Part 2" with more ideas!