I love being a mother. I wouldn’t trade my little guy for anything in the world. But it is a struggle to figure out how I am going to accomplish my to-do list every day. Working with a toddler in the home is definitely an art to learn.
And by learn, I mean re-learn with each stage my toddler is going through. And then re-learn everything again with multiple children.
I’m no professional (parent or anything), but I don’t want my whole household to revolve around my kids.
You Are in Control
Let me say that kids will learn what they see sooner than what you say.
If your children see you washing dishes and making supper and raking leaves, they will understand that you work hard to make a home.
If your work is at a desk, let them see you working (not on social media even if that’s what your work calls for) and explain to them that this earns money to buy food.
It’s okay to let your kids play by themselves. It develops their imaginations. It’s okay to include your kids in your work or let them see you working.
As the parent and the one in control, you have to model to your children how the household is run.
And then you make time to sit on the floor and play. Or read stories. Or build forts. This lets your children know that they are important to you but their individual demands don’t always come above the well-being of the whole family.
Life Isn’t Perfect
Just to clarify, this will not get you the perfect home.
There will be the first warm sunny day of springtime and you will want to play and work outside all day. Supper might not get made so pizza or carry-out it is.
You or the kids will get sick. Laundry will pile up and the kitchen will be a disaster. Life happens.
But when life lends you a “normal” day, your kids will know what to expect. They will expect that laundry has to be washed, folded and put away and that dishes need to be done.
Working with a Toddler in the Home is Hard
Rather it means that you are committing to teaching your children what it means to be part of a family unit. It shows them that they aren’t the most important person in the family.[Don’t get me wrong! You should definitely make moments or days all about your kids, but not on a regular basis.]
And oh, the messes.
Letting children help with chores creates more messes than get cleaned up. Until they learn and master those skills.
And with my little guy playing at my feet by himself, he has all my lower kitchen cupboards emptied before the dishes are done.
A Few Tips for Working with a Toddler in the Home
Give your toddler play space in your work space. Cupboards, plastic lids, canning rings, baby food jar lids are great things to entertain a toddler. Give him a container that he can put little things into.
My little guy loves putting all the baby food jar lids in large tin in my pantry. In and out, in and out go the lids and always, of course, making the loudest noise.
Don’t pick up your toddler every time he cries. This is a hard one and took a while for me to learn. For a while, my little guy would come cry at my feet so I’d pick him up.
It’s difficult to work with only one arm!
Finally I realized that it’s ok to let him know that I am working and he needs to go play. I tell him this and then I ignore his crying until he rambles off to his toys.
Include your toddler in your work. Kids are curious creatures and want to see everything you are doing. Set them on the counter in their Bumbo. Slide their high chair over and let them watch from there. Or pull up a chair for them to stand on and watch or help.
Give them their own “work.” Toddlers mimic. If you are doing dishes, give them a bowl with a little bit of water to do their own dishes. The plus side is if/when it spills your floor gets mopped! Making pies or cookies? Give your toddler his own wad of dough and a cookie cutter. And don’t forget the apron. An apron with pockets for them is even better.
One time my husband was knee deep in catalogues and notebooks trying to figure out his seed purchase for next year. Our little guy wanted to be by him in the worst way. So finally I scooted over the high chair and put him in. I gave him his own little note book, an old catalogue and a crayon. He had a blast doing what his daddy was doing!
Maximize nap time. By the time your child has reached toddler stage, hopefully you are getting more sleep and don’t need to nap as often. If you don’t need to sleep when baby sleeps, work! Use nap time to work on the more intensive, focus minded tasks you have.
I like to do our book work during naps because I don’t have to be conscious of my son’s whereabouts. And I’m less likely to screw up numbers!
Exercise with your toddler. My little guy thinks it’s hilarious when I jump around like a crazy girl with my work-out video. Or I’ll take him outside with me in his wagon or stroller for a walk or run.
Put your older kids in charge. Most kids love being in charge and bossy. For an hour or so, put one (and only one so they don’t fight) older child in charge of the young one.
Don’t feel like you have to pay them for babysitting, but rather explain that being the oldest is special because it gives the privilege of being the boss for a bit.
Growing up, I never got paid for babysitting my younger brother. But the minute I knew I was in the house by myself (while the rest chored or cut firewood) I took pride in my job and bossed my little brother like crazy. I loved it. He probably hated it! No pay was needed.
Set your toddler to the side. When I am mowing lawn or doing other things outside that my little one can’t help with, I set up a pack-n-play for him to play or nap in.
This keeps him contained but he can still see me. He doesn’t like it at first, but he gets used to it and can see where I’m at.
It will take time and hard work to figure out how to incorporate your toddler into your work schedule. But just think how much of a help they will be in five or ten years in the kitchen, around the house and outside.
Teach them now from these tips on working with a toddler in the home.