Home management, homeschooling, and your little people can be challenging to fit together. Learning your little children’s unique needs and personalities is one challenge. Home management is another necessary challenge. Homeschooling your older children is incredibly rewarding work. Keep reading and learn how to fit it all together.
Little People: Babies
Babies are an adventure, an adorable bundle of joy, and often-times, a challenge to fit into the home life.
Create Your Baby Routine
Babies, if you’ve had more than one you know that each one is unique. Some babies fall right into a routine without any effort on your part and others require more effort. If you’ve read my book, you know I go into more detail about life with baby.
The bottom line is that a life of routine makes life with babies much more pleasant. I found the best way to create a happy baby routine is the order of sleep, eat, play. Keeping a consistent schedule from one day to the next cements it in their circadian rhythm and makes their bodily functions run like a clock. If you’re breastfeeding, it does the same for you.
Let me be clear about baby routines here
If your baby is hungry, feed your baby. A routine is your tool, it serves you. A routine or schedule is not your master. Pay attention to your unique baby, watch for the cues that your baby gives you, be sensitive to your baby. Your baby is the most vulnerable person in your home, be mindful of that priority.
Feeding Time, Reading Time
Baby feeding time is an opportune time for reading. Read books for yourself, read aloud to your children, or work on reading with a beginning reader.
Because babies need fed multiple times a day you can structure your day to do all of the above. This is an example: 7 am read your Bible, 10 am work with your beginning reader, 1 pm read aloud to the children, 4 pm read a book for yourself. Personalize it to fit your baby’s feeding routine.
Baby Feeding Routines
With the sleep, eat, play routine give some thought to what you and your baby will do after eating. Be consistent so that it becomes a habit. Ideas: change laundry loads after each feeding, go to the kitchen and do some prep work for the next meal, go the bathroom and clean one thing in the bathroom.
If you are going to fold laundry then lie baby beside you on the floor for you and the children to play with while you fold. Maybe you need to work in the kitchen, then put baby in a front carrier, in a swing, or a pack-n-play. Think about your routine, make a plan and write it.
Plan your day for what you will do during your baby’s play time. Some activities work fine, and others need to be reserved for your baby’s sleep time. Be deliberate in how you plan your day in accordance with sleep time and play time. Write it out.
Be very deliberate about naptime. Many times, it is the only time of day when you feel “free” to do as you please. Save it for those things that you absolutely cannot do when your baby is awake. It seems obvious but give it deliberate thought and then plan. Write down your ideas to jog your memory when your tired brain can’t remember what you were going to do.
Some of my babies slept for 1 ½ hours at a time with no problem, others didn’t. Some would stir at the 45-minute mark and then go back to sleep, others didn’t go back to sleep. Be sensitive and respectful of your baby’s individuality. Try to fit your baby to the schedule that you desire but be ready to fit your life to your baby’s unique needs.
No doubt, it can be frustrating. Breathe, relax, have a cup of tea, put on some relaxing music, and make the best of the day. A lot of times, a situation that you encountering this week is gone and replaced with a different challenge in a week’s time. The most important thing is that your baby and children feel the love that you have for them.
Communicate with your baby
Each baby is different and you will discover the nuances of what each baby prefers. Pay attention to their body language and be respectful. Body language is how babies communicate with you. It is a language that you need to learn with each baby.
I had one baby that was only happy in the swing during the late afternoon. Another baby was not very cuddly and was very happy in the playpen. Yet another one was happiest being in the front carrier for play time. Your baby is special, unique. Love your baby.
Little People: Toddlers
If you’ve had a routine with your babies and they are accustomed to a structured day then that lifestyle naturally progresses into the toddler years. The sleep, eat, play routine gradually changes to fewer naps and a longer one in the afternoon. Next there are two naps and then one.
The transitions can make for some rough days. If you have a deliberate plan for your baby’s nap times and play times, yet are flexible with a Plan B, C, and D, then you’re golden. If you’re not utilizing a home management book to plan your days, then use a paper and a to-do list. You might not be a pencil and paper person but if you have little children… the brain can get mushy. Been there, done that, #Isurvived. Know what you are going to do during your toddler’s sleep and play time, make a plan.
Better Days with your Toddler
Create time periods in your day with your toddler. This helps with routine and structure. I have found with experience that happy little people occur when they have a sense of knowing their personal routine.
Your first toddlers will need to be taught how to do these things but later on your younger children will just do what the older kids are doing. Teach the little children how to do these “Times” start with short time periods and use a timer. If they wander take the child back to the area and tell them again that it is “Book Time”. Be patient and gentle, it will take effort on your part at first. If something you are trying isn’t working, stop and reevaluate.
Each child will take to these activities differently. If the child dislikes an activity then keep it short and be very gradual about extending it. Or learn what makes it more enjoyable for the child. Sometimes a child will love an activity and will make it longer or ask for it at an unplanned time of the day.
Take these ideas and make it fit your life. What worked with my family may not with your unique situation, get creative and tweak these activities to suit you.
Of course, be sure that potty and drinks are done before starting one of these “Time” activities.
Toddler Time Activity Ideas
A planned activity in our day was Quiet Time, this was when their play was to be quiet with quiet activities. Some of the children were very happy doing this in a playpen, even when they were too big for the need for a playpen. Some years we had a designated corner of the house for Quiet Time activities for the little children. Try putting on a classical music playlist for Quiet Time.
Exercise Time is the time to do stretching, jumping, and dancing to up-beat music and Simon Says activities to get out the energy.
Book Time was when I had the children of all ages sit in designated comfy spot and look at books. They chose or were given a stack of ten books or so and then “read”. Quiet, soft music is helpful to signify this time period.
Chore Time with toddlers is fun. Hand the child a cleaning cloth and ask them to wipe. If you make the cloth damp they will be able to see what they have wiped. Pint-sized hand brooms to sweep with are fun for toddlers.
There are endless ideas for preschoolers at home to keep busy with and increase their skills. Ever since learning about the Montessori theory of education I have loved it for my younger children. I took the ideas and made it fit my unique situation and the seasons of life that our family has gone through.
If the preschooler has older siblings, they will be interested in doing school like the big kids. Look for activities that keep stretching their dexterity and development. Make their “Preschool” special by only getting the “Preschool” activities at a certain time of day. This helps give structure to the day.
Helpers for your Home Management
Preschoolers are great helpers and so willing! They are so excited to do things with you so use that enthusiasm! Let it make your days more joyful! Let them do things with you, do not swish them away so that you can do it faster. You will be so grateful that they are learning while watching and doing with you. They will grow up to be amazing people that just do stuff because it’s in front of them.
Now, let’s be real for a little bit here too. There will be messes. You will be inconvenienced.
Preschoolers are not perfect people. They do not know what they do not know, remember that about your children. Do not expect them to be mini-adults, or to always know what they should or should not do. They will do things that will inconvenience you or that you do not understand. Their prefrontal cortex doesn’t stop maturing until they are 25!
Activities and locations and times
Much like the specific activity times for toddlers, continue to use those times in your days with preschoolers. These activity times will help the child to grow their self-control and focusing. They also help you to plan activities for yourself that would be more challenging with little children distracting your focus.
Room Time is the same idea as Quiet Time but is a time for independent play in their specific rooms, even those that share rooms. It brings the noise level and raucousness down (remember that I have a bunch of children and it can be loud and crazy even when they are having fun). Sometimes they just needed split up for a half-hour to quiet themselves.
I have created a workbook for you to think through making better days with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. It is available in the Free Resource Library.
Food for Little People
Meal Planning, a Home Management Tool
Planning your meals ahead, creating the grocery lists, and being deliberate about your shopping makes days with little children easier. Having a plan gives you confidence and peace. Having the lists made a route planned makes grocery shopping with little children easier. Set yourself up for success.
Plan for health, for their ability to chew, texture aversion, and for gradually introducing new foods. These are tricky things to consider and it is easy to default to cheese sticks and PBJs. Have your default foods on hand but plan for healthy choices too.
Think ahead to simple foods to keep on hand for snacks and lunches. You are the person responsible for your children’s healthy eating, be mindful of your choices.
Think about school lunch menus and use that for a guide. There are cute plates available to help plan a plate of healthy foods. Get your little ones involved in choosing healthy foods at the grocery store.
Keep it simple, know your season, know yourself
Keep in mind that a child will often need to have multiple exposures to a food before they will accept it. Avoid arguments about food and be gentle. Be aware of your own food biases, preferences and habits.
If you’re in a busy time in life, acknowledge it. Decide what you are willing to compromise on and be easy on yourself.
Take a look at the Free Resource Library, it’s full of workbooks to help you think through making your best days even better.