16 October 2006

How to entertain a toddler while holding a newborn? Talk amongst yourselves.

Charlie is not only a supplier of cool PR samples, he's also the father of a newborn. And he needs a hack.

How do you, a stay at home mom, play with your toddler (3) while also holding your baby (8 weeks)? That's a major challenge facing my wife right now. On top of that, my oldest really misses playing with other kids. What do parents do to supply their kids interaction opportunities (prolly a lot of Gymboree and playgroups, right?)?

This was my response to him:

oh, man! I so remember those days! For us, using a front carrier (Bjorn) really helped. Just tote the baby along while you take the toddler to the park or dance around at home. How old is your oldest? We are lucky to have kids in the neighborhood, so that's how he stayed happy while our youngest was a little baby.

does that help?

And here's what he said:

Yes. That's pretty much what we're doing, but it's hard to get down on the floor with our three year old, you know? Then the baby goes, "Waaah! Hey, I wanna walk around and bounce."

We don't have that many kids in our neighborhood, so that's been kind of a drag for our oldest son, too. He went from part time daycare to nada. Oi!

Can you offer Charlie any advice?

Your comments

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I actually remember my feelings of sheer terror when I knew I would be home alone with the baby and my 2 1/2 year old just after the baby was born. My poor, addled brain could not figure out how to manage it. My best advice is to get grandma/grandpa/aunt/uncle or a good friend to come stay as long as possible. If that's not really workable, check out story times at your local library, "classes" at your rec center (i.e. places for the 3 year old to burn off steam) or go to a playground where you can actually get pretty good at climbing the equipment wearing a Bjorn/sling. We actually kept our older child in daycare because a) I was going back to work and b) the routine felt really important to all of us - it may be worth looking in to if it's affordable.

How about a mother's day out program? He would get the one-on-one time with other big kids that he needs, would give mom a break, and isn't as costly as full-time daycare.

I used my stroller inside a lot when The Boy was that size. I could keep him moving, but if he fell asleep I didn't have to move him anywhere.

When my 2nd was born I did a lot of baking with my son (2.5 at the time) while the baby was in the sling.With her in the sling I could also play cars, blocks, and read stories to him. We visited the Children's Museum, and went to the park with friends.

I'm sort of curious why you would pull a toddler out of a daycare he's enjoying under these circumstances? I can see it as a financial consideration, but it seems like it would create a lot of havoc for just the short period of a maternity leave.

Oh man - I will be watching this post for ideas. I am in this exact same circumstance - except my 16-month old isn't yet walking on his own - so I have to carry my almost 4-month old around AS WELL AS my 16-month old (up and down stairs, etc.).

Rather than spending money on the Bjorn, spend the money on a mei-tai. You can carry a heavier child than the Bjorn (which only goes to about 20 pounds, if that - my mei-tai can carry 30 pounds easy, I've done it, and I hardly feel it.) and can switch to carrying the child on the back or the side if you prefer.

I got a very inexpensive mei-tai at wallypop.net. It's not fancy, but it's durable and handy.

Put the baby in a sling. Then you have hands free to help or play with the older child.

Sit in the floor to play.

Get puppets or make some from old socks. You can play one handed with a puppet with the older child.

Set up a table near where mom nurses with a bunch of craft supplies for the older child.

Have a basket of books near mom's nursing station for the older child so mom can read to the oldest while caring for baby. If necessary, the older child can hold the book and mom can tell him/her when to turn the page.

Play "I spy" with the oldest.

Be sure to spend some of the baby's nap time having one on one time with the older child.

Involve the older child in baby care. Ask him to fetch diapers, wipes, bibs, burp cloths, sing to the baby while you change her, help pick out her clothes, etc.

I had two boys within 12 months and 26 days. My oldest son learned to walk a few days before his brother was born. I used the Bjorn at home, and bent over A LOT!
I agree that your oldest son would do well in some sort of mothers-day-out type group. That helped with my sanity as well. As far as giving them equal attention it's almost impossible. The baby is a black hole at this age. Your 3 year old should be ok with some alone play time and maybe some one on one while the baby is sleeping. Sorry I don't have anything more profound. Parenting is by far the hardest job out there.

Serious problem indeed. I'm not sure there is a comprehensive solution for this situation, it's just one of these periods that you have to let pass while trying not to lose your sanity. I was in the same situation myself before my 10-months old started crawling, and had to be carried around all the time. My 3 years old felt very neglected and we were duly punished with an assorted variety of tantrums.

I think the best solutions were suggested above: 1. The bjorn, or any other sling to your liking, that leave your hands free so you are partially-functional and, 2. One-on-one mommy time, when someone else is with the baby and you can have some quality time with your older child.

Personally I remember that it was hard for me to do the one-on-one time with my older because I was very attached to the baby and did not want to leave him, while my older was so difficult I did not look forward toward spending time with him (as hard as it is to admit it.) But when we did do it, it was totally worth it: the sweet, charming kid I remembered reemerged and we had so much fun together.

Good luck!

Tribal day!

Put up flyers at library, book store, etc. and get together a group of other stay-at-home parents. A sort of homeschool/plygroup co-op. Take turns meeting at each others' homes for lunch or games or cleaning the kitchen, etc. Many hands make light work, or something like that. Always hands to juggle babies and negotiate squabbles over the toys while someone else does the dishes or whips up lunch.

We have 10 month old twins and a 2.5 year old (23 months between them). We enrolled our 2.5 year old in preschool two days a week. She gets to do something special for just her with other kids and it is educational. She really enjoys this as it is just for her and not for her younger siblings.

I am going to be in this spot in just a few weeks! We have our 3.5yr old daughter in preschool 2 mornings a week, she will continue to go to day care 2 full days a week (she can play and baby & I can bond/veg) and grandma and grandpa will be over on the one remaining weekday morning. If I can get her to take a nap when baby does in the afternoon, we can all rest together and I think we can make it til daddy comes home! My daughter is so excited about her baby brother I think we will have more control issues (she has told us she will be taking care of everything except diapers) than jealousy.

Best luck to us all!

I see a lot of people have posted regarding wearing your child. I have two kidlets that are 23 months apart and the youngest is now 5 months. I use an Ergo baby carrier (http://www.ergobabycarrier.com) and love it, however I would recommend checking out http://thebabywearer.com/ for advice on any carrier. We had a bjorn too, but it becomes a literal pain after your child reaches a certain weight. You could recommend different types of carriers until you're blue in the face, but the fact is that everyone is different, and it's better to go with what you know you'll like.

As for entertainment of my older child, we go to a parent-assisted preschool program in our community, but I waited until the younger one got her 4 month shots. You can always invite another mom with kids over to play, or join a Mops group or something.

Thanks so much for these hacks, they are taken to heart and I am keeping an eye on this. The answer to the earlier question about why take the oldest out of daycare - we can't afford it. We would basically sign my wife's entire paycheck over to the daycare place!

My oldest has gotten a lot more comfortable with the arrangement in the past couple months. Play dates, outings, and one-on-ones with both parents has been super-helpful, as has the grandparent involvement. We also just discovered a co-op and are very interested in trying that out!

Thanks so much, guys. Best to all of you!

Charlie, I don't know what state you live in, but a few have "First Steps" programs (IN & SC come to mind, google it) where they support parent/child preschool programs and they're free! It's part of public school funding, and it's a kind of like going to a structured playgroup with kids your child will probably be in kindergarten with.

Free?! I'll have to look into that. I'm in Michigan, by the way. Thanks, galatae.

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