I love thinking of ways to incorporate learning opportunities in to our regular daily routines. For example, we do a lot of reading aloud while we’re gathered around the table eating. We listen to our Scripture memory music while we’re out and about in the minivan. For the littlest ones, we sing the days of the week, the months of the year, the alphabet, and the vowel song while we’re taking walks in the neighborhood. Not only does this approach to teaching and learning help to consistently foster a love of learning, but it also removes a little bit of the pressure that comes with feeling like you always need to be sitting down to “do school” – especially with your younger children.
Do we sit down and have focused learning time where we trace letters and create patterns and sort shapes and read books? Absolutely! But when you’ve engaged your children in learning while they’re going about their day-to-day, much less time is spent sitting. Much of the “work” has already been done! You’ve already been singing and memorizing and reciting and discussing so many things on the “to-do list”, and it’s happened in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.
This approach works well for our family, and as I began to think of ways we could extend it in our home this year, I started thinking about our bath time/bed time routine. Yes, since our oldest kids were wee babies, we have used bath time as a opportunity to sing and read and talk and play games together. Following bath time, we always read a Bible story and do our bedtime prayers – but I wanted to take things even further.
How could we use this time in the evenings to engage with our children even more?
The answer to that question was the Bedtime Basket! Well, I actually started out calling it the “Bedtime Box”, and my children quickly corrected me, “Mom, it’s a basket, so we have to a call it the Bedtime Basket.” They won! 😉
What on earth is the Bedtime Basket and how does it work?
Well, what I did was gather a variety of items from my Homeschool Closet. Here are a few ideas you might like to browse!
- a few picture books
- a box of One Sentence Bible storybooks
- a handful of learning games
- a small matching puzzle
- an animal activity
- math flashcards for playing number war
- tell-a-story cards
- Bedtime Math
I put them down in a basket – a basket that only comes out at bedtime. After bath time is over, everyone gets in their pajamas, brushes their teeth, and it’s time for the Bedtime Basket. Each child takes one turn [per night] choosing something they want to do, and the entire family engages in the activity together.
This is a glimpse into our Bedtime Basket, and after a number of weeks (once we’ve made our way through most of the activities), I will swap a few items out for new ones – once again making sure to include a variety of items that will not only peek the interest of my older kiddo, but the younger ones as well. If you have older children like we now do, maybe your older ones can guide/teach the younger – which serves as a fantastic learning opportunity for everyone involved. There are so many options for making this work well for your family.
A Couple of Family Rules We Have:
Rule #1: Take turns with patience.
*Depending on the numbers of kiddos you have, you may want to allow only one child to choose per night.
Rule #2: Have a good attitude even if you don’t like what someone else chooses.
Rule #3: Mom and Dad reserve the right to cancel “Bedtime Basket Time” due to poor behavior choices or a late night out somewhere.
*Our kids know we do not do Bedtime Basket on AWANA nights or nights we have swim lessons. All other nights are wide open for Bedtime Basket!
How on earth does this work without meltdowns?
I once read that making sure your child is getting enough sleep is JUST as important as making sure they are eating well. I have never forgotten that, and around here, we take bedtime seriously. Our kids go to bed early (most nights, anyway). They are early risers (no matter their bedtime…no matter their performance at nap time ha!), so it’s really important that they go to bed early and get enough sleep. (If only I would follow this same routine for myself!)
The key to Bedtime Basket Time going smoothly is starting it early enough.
You don’t want it to feel like one more thing you have to do. You want to give yourself time to enjoy the time together as a family. Around here, the whole bathing, pajama dressing, tooth brushing process starts about an hour before we want our kids to actually lay down, and then we do Bedtime Basket, Bible time, and prayers. We do this same routine every night. We are in a habit of doing it…the kids know what to expect…and it works really well for us.
Quick Tip: We have used a variety of different children’s Bible for Bible time, but our absolutely favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible. We come back to it often as it is written in such an incredibly powerful way! “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” Goodness gracious, I love that part.
As our family as grown, we have explored a variety of different excellent resources that are out there!
When lights go out, we play either classical musical, nursery rhymes, read-aloud chapter books, Scripture memory music, Bible stories, or Adventures in Odyssey. As our kids fall asleep, something is playing for them to listen to – and the CDs that come with The Jesus Storybook Bible Set have become some of their favorites!
Quick Story: When my oldest was in Kindergarten, I decided we would memorize “The Lord’s Prayer”. When it came time to dive in to our Scripture memory practice of it, my little guy looked at me and said, “I already know this.”…and he did. He sat right there and recited the entire thing for me. How was this possible? Because he had heard it many times already as he fell asleep at night.
Mamas and Papas, please do not underestimate the power of your children learning God’s word. When you get right down to it, it’s the most important thing they will ever learn…and Satan doesn’t want them to memorize a lick of it.
Now, back to the Bedtime Basket!
The two best things about the Bedtime Basket:
Perk #1: I’ve mentioned before that my hubby works long hours, and Bedtime Basket Time gives him an opportunity to engage in learning activities with our kiddos. He loves playing number war with the kids (whoever draws the highest number wins!). This kind of thing gives him the opportunity to a part of their math learning. He loves doing the tell-a-story cards, too – something that has given him a chance to listen to our kids use their imagination to tell stories.
Perk #2: Very much on purpose, I have included activities in the Bedtime Basket that reinforce concepts we are working on in our homeschooling. Moving on to some new concepts? Swap out what’s in the basic! When learning opportunities are presented this way, the kids are having so much fun, they don’t even realize that teacher mom is at work…even at bedtime. 😉
Homeschooling has gifted our family with great flexibility. We are not bound by a school calendar or ringing bells. We are able to create routines and traditions that suit our family unit, and this is one little system that has been a fantastic addition to our evenings together.
Would this work for your family? Would a different time of a day be a better fit for your family’s schedule? Could this be tweaked in a way to better suit your specific daily routines? Do you have older children who would also benefit from something like this – maybe with a different variety of activities, of course?