Having something, or someone there just for them. When Logan was born I had a babysitter lined up to come play with her during the day the week. She has a babysitter that she really loves to spend time with and so I knew it would be a big treat for her to have some time with her “adult friend,” as Autumn called her. I also made sure that Autumn had some new ‘school’ books and activity books she could sit next to me and work on when I was nursing Logan… which brings me to the next thing.
We registered for things just for her for the baby shower. Some of them the things she got immediately after he was born, but some of them got put away for days when she might be feeling a little left out or when she needs something new to keep those hands busy and make sure she’s having a good time. One of the best things we got for her outside of the shower gifts were the Wipe Clean books from Usbourne. (I actually wrote a review of them you can read here.)We got the starter pack with 7 books (which you can find here, it’s a little hard to find on their site), because I knew when I ordered them and I knew they could grow with her as she transitioned from coloring to tracing, then to writing.
Creating routines to help keep some things the same after baby comes. With Autumn, we started on her morning and bedtime lists and went from there. We spent time every morning and evening encouraging her to do things for herself, but teaching how to do it for herself if she didn’t know how yet or encountered a problem she couldn’t solve herself. One of the best things I did, and managed to do consistently even after Logan was here, was I made her a Morning List that she uses every morning when she gets ready that is posted in her room. I started using it months before Logan came so it wasn’t a battle when he came.
Teaching confident and fun independent play time as a normal part of their day. This one took a lot of effort at first, but now that we’ve been at it for a while it’s just like the morning list, it’s so normal for her she doesn’t know any other way. A lot of her toys and activities are in boxes or containers in the office. When we first started, we would set a 10-15 minute timer for each activity and then it was done as soon as the timer went off. Now that she’s been at it for a while and I know that some activities will last her longer and she has a much better ability to self regulate when she’s bored instead of just getting restless and distracted or grouchy, I don’t always use a timer. I’ve noticed that when I don’t hold her to a lot of structure she will often say cheerfully, “I’m going to get an activity!” or “Can I please go choose an activity?” which is pretty awesome. It’s better than her always asking to watch a movie.
Incorporating them into normal everyday activities that let them become true ‘big helpers’ and not just observers. Autumn doesn’t just do ‘little kid things’ to keep her busy when we do chore time. For example when we’re in the kitchen there are lots of things tasks she can help with. I marked the ones she needs help with with a *
- wiping off lower cabinets, walls and baseboards
- unloading the silverware from the dishwasher
- unloading dishes from the dishwasher*
- putting groceries away, where she can reach
- sweeping and using the Swiffer
- putting clutter away that is sitting on the table (this is huge because the table is a spot where clutter accumulates a lot!)
She also keeps her own room clean and takes care of most of her own laundry. When Autumn came home full time and wasn’t in daycare anymore, I tried to make sure she had a good mix of fun and practical things that kept her happily occupied, and I am so glad I did this one. Now only is it a good activity for her, but it is really helpful to me. I’m really great about keeping on top of washing the laundry, not so much on putting it away. To make it easier for her I labelled all of her drawers with pictures, just like the morning list.
Let them be involved with baby things. My attitude with Autumn and Logan was pretty relaxed. I know Autumn is very nurturing, so there would be no “Don’t touch the baby.” happening here even if I wanted that. I got inspiration from this post from Still Playing School and used it to give me ideas for things Autumn could help with. She’s always very excited to help, and there are a lot of things she does a lot to help with Logan.
- human gopher – she is always grabbing me things like my water bottle that I inevitably forget to grab before I sit down to nurse, wipes for diaper changes or binkies. I think sometimes she knows where things are more than I do.
- soothing baby – We made it a rule that before she put in Logan’s binky she asked, so that she wouldn’t put anything else in his mouth to try to soothe him and once she got that rule down I could confidently let her give him the binky if I was doing something where I wasn’t wearing him or if I just needed another minute before I have my hands free. He also has a bouncy seat she spends a lot of time playing next to when she id doing her activities, so if he makes noise (even if he isn’t actually fussing, she usually reached over and bounces him which cracks me up.
- sorting his laundry – because I need to have those onesies sorted from the sleepers, even if they are all going in the same bin. 😉 Actually, this is a chore she took upon herself because she thought it needed to be done. Now I just simplified it and wash their clothes together because she’s going to want to sort them even if they are washed separately.
- holding baby – Autumn loves to hold Logan, so I’ll use that time to open the mail or journal, basically any little task that is easier when I have both hands free. Autumn likes to use My Brest Friend pillow or the free pillow I got from NursingPillow.com to hold Logan on her lap, so it’s more comfortable and she doesn’t have to hold him so much, just keep an arm on him.
Be honest with them. It’s easy to say “In a minute.” and get sidetracked, then realize at the end of the day that you promised your toddler could paint later, that you would brush her hair and put in her special bow, that later on you would fix her favorite princess tiara and a dozen other things. I quickly had to learn to read just my expectations for what I could reasonably do (which includes both things that I remember to do and what I have time to do – mommy brain is a thing people!) after I finish nursing or whatever I happen to be doing at the time. I learned to say no and we’ll see more, instead of just promising to do things later and then feeling bad when I realized I wouldn’t be able to do something.
I thought it would be really hard to have two kids, but I’m realizing that although it can be challenging and it definitely has it’s moments, it’s just a different dynamic. I would say if I could recommend one thing to new parents it would be to have them build as mush independence in their toddler as possible, and to make it so normal that by the time baby comes it’s just normal. It’s made things so much easier at my house, so I hope it makes things easier at yours!
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