We just added a 15-month-old little boy to our family…he joins our 4-year-old son. It is a great blessing, but I am wondering how others occupy these very, very busy hands while schooling another child. At 4, obviously, we’re not spending lots of time with formal lessons, but I’ve been accustomed to reading for long periods of time with my oldest and am planning to start teaching him to read this fall. Just looking for general tips from families who’ve succesfully done this!
I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you one thing that helps me. When my little ones begin to outgrow their morning nap, I continue to make it a habit to put them in their crib with a few toys to play alone for one hour. Then I at least have that one hour of devoted, uninterrupted (hopefully) time.
We have lots of busy little hands at my house(5 children: ages 8, 4, 3, almost 2, and 4 mos). I am of the include them mindset. If we’re coloring, they can color, etc.
Specifically for reading aloud my best suggestion is to find a room that has a door to close and move your read alouds to that room. It keeps the littlest one in view(so they are not off getting into things while you are occupied), they can hear the story too. When we are in that stage we usually choose a bedroom. There are quiet toys laid out for the toddler, and even the older children may play with a toy quietly if they wish, so long as they are listening to the story. I ahve one kinestetic learner who remembers what I read better if he has legos or something similar to build with while I read aloud. I have one auditory child who would remember every word I say so long as she’s in the room. I have one child who much prefers to snuggle next to me while I read. Then I have the toddler who ranges between all the above and adds in climbing on mommy sometimes too!
Enjoy the business. Be sure to take time to look at a quick book for the toddler too. Start off read aloud time with that before moving to the one for your 4yo. If you are reading a chapter book aloud, intersperse chapters with a toddler friendly book for the little one.
My “baby” is 9 but I sure remember what it was like when he was a toddler! Things that worked for us:
I spent time with him right before I needed him to let me work with the others for a bit. I kept a special box of activities that he didn’t get any other time–the novelty factor helped his attention span! I “blanket-trained” him for reading aloud times. I did a lot during his naps. I did include him whenever possible–for example if we were doing a science experiment using water, we set him on a towel with a pan of water and some measuring cups. We tried to remain flexible–every so often, something just had to wait until I had more “hands” available.
But for all that, still be prepared for fun. :-) Try to remember to laugh first, lol. We had a few classic moments with this particular active little boy. Once when I was busy with an older child, he managed to climb up on the counter and began emptying spice bottles and rubbing the spices into his hair. And one memorable day, when I went to the bathroom (it was just for a couple of minutes, really!) he got an empty chicken package out of the trash, dumped some leftover chicken juice on the floor, got into the pantry, added some baby rice cereal, pancake syrup, and then some cooking oil, and when I came back down the hallway, was belly-sliding in it, laughing wildly. (So were his older brothers!)
Funny, if you’d told me then that I’d miss having a toddler, I’m not sure I’d have believed it.
That is a hilarious story…of course, I didn’t have to clean it up! I’m curious, though. How did you handle that situation? My husband tells me all the time that I take things too seriously and that I need to be able to laugh and have more fun. I tend to sweat the small stuff, and I think that situation would have put me in a tizzy! Did you laugh about that at the time? Did the boys get in trouble? I just don’t know what to do when huge messes are involved, but the kids are having fun.
I wish I could say I handled it beautifully! Actually, I think I shrieked, started to work up to that tizzy, then saw the startled faces of the boys, calmed down a minute, then I did laugh some. (It is definitely funnier now, though!) What else was there to do? It was either a “laugh or cry” situation, and crying gives me a headache. LOL Then I made the older boys work on the floor while I scrubbed the baby, then we had a long talk about how it was funny, but not very safe, not to mention wasteful, and they really needed to get me when Noah started to do things like that. (Plus I put a lock on the pantry door, and was more careful what I left in the trash!) It wouldn’t have been much use to lecture the toddler, he wasn’t much over a year old. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get a picture!
One blessing I’ve always had, since my family is small, and took us some time and work and prayer to get them all here–I’ve often had running through my head the thoughts “God didn’t have to give me a family, but He did, and this might be the last time this ever happens . . . ” I’ve always tried to focus on the moment. I’ve done a little better than some of my friends, but I certainly could have done much better. I spent all too many days just getting through the day, I’m afraid. I wish I’d laughed more, worried less about getting it all done. I still work on it, actually, especially now that it appears that it all IS the last time, and the time is fast approaching when they will be gone . . . It goes so fast.
I actually have a book recommendation for you, Faith. It’s actually from a sort of a Waldorf point of view, but it’s a good read for helping us moms to focus on the moment. It’s called Mitten Strings for God, by Katrina Kenison.
Leah, that is a great idea,
When my little ones begin to outgrow their morning nap, I continue to make it a habit to put them in their crib with a few toys to play alone for one hour.
And Tristan, I am going to be following you! You have about the same age range as my kids, only my oldest is 6 yrs. That is one of my “problems” I’m working through right now; how to keep each young one engaged (i.e. of trouble) without constantly interrupting instruction time with their older siblings.
I love everyone’s stories and suggestions! Mine aren’t toddlers anymore (youngest is 4) but it wasn’t too long ago we were in the same boat… take a deep breath and try to embrace the moment, it will go by in a blink! For blkateri14 children’s ages I would suggest a lot of outside learning time. Charlotte Mason wrote, “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” We did most of our learning phonics/numbers games outside using sidewalk chalk, mud, rocks, leaves, flowers, bubbles, pinecones… well, you get the idea! I saved quieter read-alouds for AFTER putting the youngest down for a nap, that worked best for our family and I was constantly reading to the little one too, so she wasn’t being left out of reading time. One other thing I would highly recommend is homemade play clay, loads of it! I can’t even imagine how many hours of lesson time we have been able to accomplish because of this stuff! Best wishes, let us know how it goes! Rachel
I do a combination of all of the above ideas. At some point I have roomtime/ playpen time for my little DC and then I include them in other things. I do try to have reading time or a preschool activity first and then let them play while I am working with the older ones. For read alouds we are normally altogether as mentioned above.
I think you have to find your balance and your breaking point…if I have one child who I am in the midst of training for no touches, and other obedience stuff..I would be more apt to put them in a playpen or roomtime..so as not to let them get away with some things that I should be training for but am “to busy” to attend with. I know I should be better at being able to juggle it all..but with a 4th, 2nd, K , 3yr old and a 6m crawler..I know if I am in the midst of a fun math lesson or whatever..I am not going to be as disciplined to stop everything and attend to my crawler..so he will be in the pack and play for those times.
It’s always good to have lots of different options to choose from and what works one day might not work the next but you can pull from your reserve ideas in your head to be able to keep them busy and make it a great day for the whole family.
I thought I would share this post about what happens sometimes – even when you try to keep a lookout! This is at my house today and one of the bigger kids left the bathroom door open. The 1yr old took advantage. At least it wasn’t the toilet!
Thanks so much for the book recommendation, Bookworm! I put it on hold at the library, and I will let you know what I glean from it. I will remember your advice.
Tristan, those pics are priceless! I admire you for taking pics and recording the moment instead of instantly scolding! Something I am still working on. For example, I babysit for a 20-month old girl and she takes her naps in our school room. She was obviously too close to my daughter’s desk, and I found her with black marker all over her clothes, legs, and the crib sheet! I panicked immediately and took her into the bathroom to clean her off. I found, to my relief, that it was only a dry erase marker and not the sharpie that I feared it to be. In hindsight, it would have been a very cute picture! Instead I focused on cleaning up the mess. Oh well. I’m learning to be a little less uptight in situations like that!
Wow…you have exceeded my hopes for ideas! Thank you so much everyone. Blessings to all! As we get going in the fall, I will be sure to post.
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