Becoming a parent is life-changing. You’re thrown into a whole new world where your baby’s needs are all-consuming. You’re running on little sleep while tending to a new tiny human’s every need. It’s beautiful and rewarding, but oh so exhausting.
But then, you find your groove. You decide to add a new little one to the mix. And this is a whole new ball game. You’re thrown back into the baby life, while also taking care of your older one — the one that used to have all your attention. There’s more love, but also a lot more friction. And you begin to experience a whole different kind of exhaustion.
Whether you choose to stop at two or you have a van full, adding more kids to the mix is tricky. Everyone needs time to adjust. And you need some time to yourself.
This article is more than trying to manage both a baby and toddler. This is your guide for navigating sibling relationships throughout the years. If you’re looking to keep all the kids entertained so you can finally take a shower, we’re here to help! The tips below will not only keep the kids happy, but may even give you enough time to blow dry your hair!
Let’s get to it… your loofah is waiting!
Give your children some space
Space to work out their differences
First off, if your kids are at least ages 2 and up, give them a chance to work out their differences on their own. Siblings are going to fight. That’s just a fact of life. But being able to work through their disagreements without your input is an important skill — one that will benefit them for years to come.
Of course, step in if things get physical. Remind them there are other ways to work through an argument. Set some ground rules, like no snatching, hitting, or name-calling. But be wary of taking sides or making a judgment over who needs to share (the most common argument in our house by far).
All parents want to jump in when we hear the yelling. It’s in our nature. But next time take a few moments to listen. If they come running to you or you do need to step in, ask questions before giving commands. And encourage your children to talk to each other as much as possible. The more they learn to talk, compromise, and work together, the easier your life — and theirs — will be.
Space to be alone
Another time your child needs space — when they ask to be left alone. Maybe they need a break from their sibling or from the noise of the house. Maybe they just want a chance to do their own thing without distraction or interruption. Either way, give them a space that is theirs when they need to retreat.
Their space doesn’t have to be big or elaborate. It can be their room, a reading nook in a closet, or a curtained-off bunk bed (perfect if they’re sharing a room). As long as they can get away for some quiet time, then they should be all set.
Find age-appropriate activities for everyone
This is the trickiest of all our tips, but it is totally doable! If you have tiny little ones (crawling babies and toddlers), some of your big kid’s toys have to be put away during the day. Make a new rule that Legos (and other small doo-dads) must stay packed up until nap time. Or give them the option to play with them in their own, secure space while the littlest one is awake.
But now you need some other options. So, what are some great activities everyone can enjoy?
Arts and crafts
One of the best ways to keep multiple kids entertained — art supplies! The trick here is to keep plenty of low-mess options. Crayons, paper, wax craft sticks, and stickers are safe bets if you aren’t going to be able to constantly monitor. If you’ll be hanging in the same room (or if the kids are a little bit older), then feel free to break out the markers, glue, stamps, and glitter.
Need a little more direction for your craft projects? Check out our huge variety of craft kits! Your kids can color their own messenger bag or water bottle, create a custom picture frame, or even make their own lip balm (science for the win!). Our kits come with everything your child needs to create. Find the right kit for your kids’ ages and skill levels here.
Board games are difficult for the 2 and under crowd (there’s just too much destruction in those little minds), but for 3 or 4-year-olds (and up) board game time can be a blast. For the younger kiddos, look for simple cooperative board games. A few of our favorites are Count Your Chickens, Hoot Owl Hoot, and Dinosaur Escape (all from Peaceable Kingdom). They are simple enough for your pre-K littles, but still fun and challenging for you and your older kiddos.
The best part — board games make learning fun! And as your kids get older, you can rotate in some of your favorite classics. Think Scattergories, Pictionary, Taboo, and Trivial Pursuit. Math, language, and critical thinking skills can be practiced and honed while sharing some great family time.
Puzzles and blocks
This kind of play can last for hours! Keep the pieces big and chunky if you have toddlers, and then step back and watch them problem solve and create. Legos, wooden blocks, large floor puzzles, color-in puzzles, magnet tiles, and shape sorters can keep kids busy for ages.
Your child can experiment with balance, magnetism, and spatial reasoning. They can build a marble run, skyscraper, or castle. If they’re playing together, great! But be wary of the younger ones near the older kid’s builds. Make sure everyone has their own space to create and keep the fun going well into the day.
Encourage imaginative play
Kids have active imaginations, so this is an easy one. As early as 18 months, your toddler may be ready to act out their favorite animal by imitating their movements and sounds. Get the older kids involved and watch a lively game of animal chase or zoo happen with little more than a suggestion from you.
If your children have been building with blocks, ask them about their creations and encourage them to keep the story going. Break out some action figures, dragons, dolls, or monster trucks, then watch the action unfold.
To keep playtime civil amongst siblings, make sure everyone knows their role and respects the game. Will things fall apart? Eventually, but in the meantime, they can create and problem-solve together.
Get them outside
When the chaos is just too much, throw on some shoes and get your munchkins outside. Whether you’re in a small apartment or a four-bedroom house, being together all the time can be tough. And there’s been a lot of that lately.
It’s time to break out of the house! Take a walk around the neighborhood, or just send them out to run while you finish cooking dinner. Everyone will breathe better and play nicer after a bit of fresh air.
Trade off with your partner
One kid can be a lot some days. Add in one or two more and it can feel like a high-stakes juggling act. When possible, take turns trading off a kid or two with your partner. If you know one kid would love a trip to the grocery store, while the other would prefer to stay home, divide and conquer.
Your load will feel much lighter with only one to watch, and they’ll get some valuable one-on-one time with each parent as well. That’s a win for everyone!
Enlist your kids’ help
This can work in two ways. First, if your littlest one is constantly wreaking havoc and creating sibling tension, try pulling them away from the conflict. How? By inviting them to help you with your daily chores!
Toddlers love helping with laundry or even washing dishes. Are they the best helpers? No — you will likely spend double the time finishing your tasks. But sometimes that’s a fair trade for a little peace between the kids.
Second, ask your big kids to help out more. This is especially great if you are juggling a baby and an older child. At a calm time, let them know you would appreciate them helping you around the house. This can mean cleaning up their toys, throwing away their snack bags, or doing more to get themselves dressed before heading out.
Keep the request age-appropriate, and start small. Be sure to share how much these little tasks will help you and what a great role model your child will be for their younger brother or sister. They’ll enjoy feeling like a big kid, and you may get a little extra help around the house. Just remember to temper your expectations to keep your stress low.
Don’t worry — you’ll find your parenting groove!
Every stage of parenthood feels like something new, and it takes time to adjust. Whether you’re figuring out how to balance both a baby and a toddler, or you’re parenting elementary kiddos and teens, it’s an adventure. And you’re doing great.
Try out a few of our tips to help keep the peace while maintaining the fun!
Have a favorite multi-age activity? We’d love to see it! Snap a pic and share with us on our socials @PLBfun! Thanks for reading!