JUGGLING TWO CHILDREN
Relax and understand that if you have children closer than 3 years apart there are going to be problems until the older one is over 3 years of age, that’s when the older one will conceptually understand that s/he is not just your one and only and the child will end up enjoying helping with the baby. If your child is tough going in the first 6-12 months realise that it will get easier later when they are mates and can play with one another.
I have found lately that giving baby a voice (ie saying “May, is baby making you smile?” “Baby, look how awesome May’s Lego tower is!”) helps May find the baby more interesting to him and want to help. Then if baby later keeps trying to get May’s things to hold (like Lego) it’s clear s/he just wants her to be old enough to play with him.
One little tip is bath time- if older child or in fact anyone is upset e.g. in the late afternoon jump in the bath with baby and 1-3 year old as it calms them down and occupies older one for a little while. Baby later will even be old enough to handle getting splashed and just loves watching older one.
I think it’s important that Dad takes the baby when he comes home from work at some stage, so Mum and older child can have some time together, e.g. maybe getting dinner. Or Dad can take the baby and toddler for a walk in the pram and be chatting/interacting with older child, whilst baby just sleeps or listens as he is settled by the movement of the pram. Dad can take older child out for a ball game in the backyard and Mum and baby can join them. Even if Mum is feeding baby, she can be seen to be watching, commenting etc. on older child so s/he feels she is watching him and not just involved with the baby. As a note of caution, keep repeating how older child should interact with the baby. Take him to baby and take his hand/s arm/s and show him how to gently interact “baby is fragile, they break easily, you have to be very gentle”. 3-4 year olds will know how to treat babies pretty quickly, 2 year olds – we have been practising with dolls and you can pick up his/her doll and demonstrate too.
BOX OF GOODIES
Have a box of toys (can be from second hand Good Samaritians) and only bring them down when you are feeding the baby. Have some books in their too that you can read to the older one whilst you are feeding the baby. Games: Matching card games are good at this age and even playing Snap with children’s card designed for this. Make sure this box goes away when baby is feed – so it’s seen as a special treat. Children dominoes etc. Books from the library are great if they are kept for such special occasions – one book per day that mum reads at one feed, then lets junior explain the book back to her at another feed or just lets the child wander through the book at another time. Sometimes just sitting and leaning against mum when she is sitting down is so precious for a child – they don’t need to be entertained all the time or you will teach them that quiet times are not important. Or you can just get a bag of pegs and colour match them or count them, or see what he/she does with them! So feeding time can be reading and game time for the older child.
Changing Baby: Have a different box of toys in the room where you change the baby and keep this door closed. So when your child comes in with you to change the baby – it is a fun room because there are things in there not available during other times of the day. For example, there could be a little table set up with crayons and paper one week and playdough another week. Children get bored so just change what is on the table from time to time. It’s a great room for him/her being able to do such things because you can keep an eye on the older child whilst the younger one is being changed. Maybe surprise them with a sticker strip or book one week – they will soon love the baby being changed. Make sure you keep it special – we have finished changing the baby, next time I have to change him/her, I bet you will love to come in here to do some work? You could also have some bits and pieces on the table e.g. feathers, leaves, cut up bits of paper and a pot of glue with paper. It doesn’t have to be a full-on arts and craft experience for your child. You child has to learn to use their own imagination and entertain themselves (and like their own company); this is also part of growing up and a skill adults need to have. So nappy changing can be art and craft time for the older child.
Use the time to sing to baby and let the big one join in. Have the words stuck on the wall at head level if you are not sure e.g. Twinkle twinkle, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Heads and Shoulders Knees and Toes, If you are Happy and You Know it Clap your Hands, Five Little Ducks, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Ring and Ring a Rosy, Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet. You could even give your child a different musical instrument each day, e.g. pot and wooden spoon one day and a shaker another etc. Make bath time a fun time that s/he looks forward to too because s/he knows that it’s Music time with Mum. So bath time becomes music time with mum and baby still gets washed.
Take both children outside for some time. Maybe baby in the bouncer or pram and you can play with older one. You can also change baby outside and have snacks meals outside. In regards to backyard games a) bat and ball, b) hoola hoop and ball (aim ball to go in hoola hop lying on the ground), c) you can buy relatively inexpensive (Toys R Us) 2 compartmented sand/water bowls on legs with lid (great if cats lurk – keeps sand hygienic) – always empty water before you walk away, toy trucks in the garden, d) make a cubby (old blanket with some sticks or outdoor chairs to support each end), e) old stuff (e.g. pieces of timbers, an old tyre or two, some old pavers/bricks for him to manipulate into something (mind need your help to start e.g. plank with brick as each end becomes something you can walk on or drive trucks on or pretend it’s a bridge and drive your trucks under, f) have morning tea or lunch etc. on a rug outside and say you are having a picnic – leave the rug down and put some books on it for him to have a nice spot to read or just lie back, g) have a table outside that you collect things and put on them to examine e.g. leaves, twigs, pebbles and he can make it into a piece of art that you can photograph for his later enjoyment h) go hunting e.g. for bugs, snails, lizards, butterflies etc and have a book from the library to identify what’s in the garden, i) buy a paint/chalk board that stands outside under the verandah where he can paint and use chalk whenever he likes, j) buy a mini garden set tools from Bunnings for him to use in a vegie patch, h) set up an ant farm ($20 from Parent Direct) or i) a worm farm and or a j) compost and involve him. When you hang out the washing have a mini washing line for him to hang out (using his own pegs) and get him to help you fold items from the line that are dry, k) spot birds in your trees and then go on line and see if you can find them on You Tube or CSIRO or some science show to understand more about their habits etc. l) take a CD player outside and let him have a couple of CDs of his own music that he can put on when he is reading or something on the rug or he can dance around, m) help him to climb trees or have obstacles he has to climb/get over/under etc., n) play hide and seek in the garden, o) play chase in the garden, p) run with a small home made kite, p) bubble maker use outdoors, q) google outdoor natural play for children and see what you come up with
In regards to sleep at day care, I have a water-tight-rigid-routine leading up to sleep. I find if you change it, try different things etc. the child actually thinks they can start playing up and find every excuse/behaviour not to comply.
I don’t recommend mum settles baby and uses the afternoon sleep to play with older child. Train baby to have one of his/her sleeps when your older child needs their sleep. Baby can have a morning sleep but make sure one of his sleeps are at noon or 1pm when you want to put both children down for a rest. This is what I do and it works! The routine is Sesame Street goes on at noon whilst I get their lunches and then have a little table in front of the tv (morning & arvo tea we have of course without tv – in fact this is the only time of the day the tv goes on as I find it starts to quieten them if they are not playing leading up to eating). I then serve lunch in front of the tv and I sit down too and have a cuppa and eat and talk about the last ½ of Sesame St as they are watching and eating. The TV goes off at 12.30pm and they finish off their lunch at the table as they see me set up the room for a sleep. I pull the curtains, put on lullaby music, lay out their mattresses and pop their special teddy on their bed. I also put a book on their bed or a puzzle and one by one take each child to the toilet/potty as the others sit quietly on their bed and read whilst I get children ready. If anyone gets up I tell them it’s now quiet time and they need to read or do a puzzle on their bed. Once they are all changed I then sit on the floor, on one of their beds and the others gather around on my lap etc. and I read one book only. They can ask questions and we can take our time but it’s only one short book really. By 1.15pm they are usually all on their beds as I clear the table and put things in the sink/bin etc. They are tending to drop off to sleep but if anyone is still awake by 1.30pm, I come and beside them (sitting on the floor) sitting on my haunches and facing their feet (NOT their face – this engagement of eyes face can keep them awake fighting sleep for ages). They only see your back but know I’m there as I pat their back (I pop them face down during this time) saying gently I just help you settle quietly. I pat their back rhythmically to the music and 5 mins they are usually asleep, although the ones who might fight sleep when they first start here, might take to 10-15mins of gentle patting on their back. Roll them back over when they are asleep. I never change the routine and try not to change the time. I always show a body language and mindset that I know they are going to sleep. If you look like you are not sure they will sense it – little ones are super sensitive to what you are thinking – it’s part of survival instinct. If you have an attitude “well maybe they don’t need it etc. etc. … they will hang out and be on overdrive all afternoon, running on empty and driving everyone mad with their antics because they have not had enough sleep. If you implement this realise it could take 21 days until it is just a way of life for Finn. When he first arrived here it was like “I don’t sleep” and now he drops off within 5-10mins and sleeps soundly till 3pm. He really needs it and I think they all do until they start school and as the research shows they develop better if you continue the day sleeps. Have faith, keep at it.
By the way, in the past I have also had babies at the same time as having 2-3 year olds. I do exactly the same with the babies (they sit on my lap whilst I read the book) and they always have the afternoon sleep at the same time as the older children, even if they have had a morning sleep. I just might change them before lunch and put them straight to bed first and then sort the others out. Within no time, if the house is kept quiet during sleep time and darkened, everyone winds down in the afternoon. Like an Italian Siesta…