Balancing your time between multiple children can be challenging. How do you make sure everyone is getting enough individual attention? We’re here to take you through some options to share your time more effectively, without exhausting you in the process.
Older kids can often fall off the radar when a newborn arrives. And wide age gaps can result in some kids feeling ignored or neglected if they can’t keep up with or are bored by another child’s activity. It takes some careful planning to split your time between your kids, but believe us; it’ll make a big difference. Kids do love that special one-on-one time with you.
But keep in mind that perfection isn’t the goal. It’s okay to have times where you focus more on one child—such as tending to the demands of a newborn. Don’t worry; you’ll find your groove with it all.
Develop a Routine
The more that you can plan things, the easier it’ll be to carve out time for each child. For example, if you have one child who naps and who one doesn’t, you can set aside time each day for a fun, quiet activity together. You can plan certain mornings out for one child’s focused activity, such as a baby playgroup, and the remaining mornings for the other child, such as going to a tumbling class.
If you’re able to write up your schedule, you’ll be able to show your older child(ren) the routine. “Right now, it’s Susie’s time; we have to do what Susie wants. But at 1:00 she’ll be napping, then we get to do what you want.” This has the added benefit of not only decreasing your stress about it (because you’ve planned it out), but the kids get to see that there is special time allotted for them.
Find Joint Activities to Do Together
Aim to find activities, or places, where everyone can have fun together but not necessarily doing the same thing. Places like the beach, playground, and library are all good options for multiple ages to enjoy.
Does your older child enjoy riding her bike? Find a safe bike path and let her ride while you push your younger child(ren) in a wagon, stroller, or tricycle. If you have a child who loves building with LEGO or bringing out small toys that might be a choking hazard for younger babies, consider babywearing so you can keep baby snug and safe, while helping your older child sort and design his next LEGO project.
Nature walks are another great option for balancing time together. Let everyone enjoy the sights and fresh air. Once the baby falls asleep in a stroller or baby carrier, you can talk about the different trees, leaves, and flowers with your older child. You can even use some washable sidewalk chalk to draw pretty pictures and practice writing letters.
Cater to Individual Interests
Making sure that each child is engaged and stimulated daily is essential. This means finding out what interests them the most.
One child might love books, whereas another child loves music. So take a trip to the library, letting one child read new books, while the other listens to music on headphones. Thankfully it’s easier than ever to find new media like books and podcasts, and many local libraries and community centers have extensive calendars with engaging kid-friendly activities
If their interests take them to separate places—such as a dance class and swim lessons—just make sure to schedule them every week. They don’t have to happen at the same time. It’s totally fine to have one child sitting on the side while you focus on cheering and supporting the other child during his swim lesson. Just make sure to do the same when the other child has her lesson.
Keep a Log of One-On-One Time
This might sound a little clinical, but we assure you it can be beneficial to keep track of what sort of activities you do throughout the week. You can write down a quick summary at the end of the day, such as how much time you spent singing to the baby and how much time you spent reading books to your 5-year-old. You don’t have to be exact; a rough estimate will do. That way, at the end of the week, you can see if anyone needs a bit more one-on-one time.
Usually, older kids come out a bit short on time if a baby is around. This is normal since babies have so many demands and needs, such as diaper changes, feedings, and needing to be held a lot. Just make sure there’s some dedicated time going towards the older child(ren) every day, even if it’s only ten minutes here and there. Remember, a little bit of one-on-one time goes a long way.
Plan a Special Activity Once a Month
Older children can benefit from having a special outing or activity once a month. These are often called “Mommy and Me” or “Daddy and Me” dates, or something equally fun. You can do anything that interests your child, such as going to the movies, museum, laser tag, out for lunch, buying a new toy at the toy store, horseback riding, and so on.
It’s not as important to do a special one-on-one outing with babies and small toddlers since they tend to get more of your attention daily. The excursions are usually best for older siblings.
Have your children write up ideas on notecards in advance, then draw one each month for a fun surprise.
Involve Older Kids in Daily Chores—But Make Them Fun
As children get older, they can get more involved with the daily chores. But you need to make the chores fun; otherwise your children will feel resentment that they have to work while the baby gets to play.
You can even give the baby a rag and say that she’s “cleaning the floors” while you each grab a broom. Play some music and turn it into a dance party. Put on swimsuits and go outside to clean, using soapy sponges and a hose to have an impromptu water fight.
Using chore charts and reward stickers will go a long way, too, especially if you praise each child at the end of the day.
Hire a Babysitter or Mother’s Helper
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or frazzled by all that’s going on in life (let’s be honest, who isn’t?), then consider hiring some part-time help. A mother’s helper is a young teen who comes to help out with the kids while you’re home. She can play with the baby while you do a specific activity with an older child. Or she can take your older child to the park while you relax at home with the baby. Even just an hour here and there will make a big difference, taking off the pressure for you to be everywhere at once.
Try to avoid having your older children do too much childcare for younger siblings. It’s one thing to ask them to grab a diaper or help you pick out a new outfit. But don’t expect them to “watch” their sibling for long periods. They have their own interests, and they still want to be free to be a kid.
Set Different Bedtimes
This is a great way to set aside some dedicated individual time at the end of the day, even if your kids are close in age. You can space out their bedtimes as little as 10-15 minutes apart. This gives the older child a sense of specialness, which may have been forgotten if a new baby is in the house.
During this time, you can play a game, read books, do a puzzle, talk about your child’s day, write in a daily journal together, color, and the list goes on. Try to avoid TV or screen time. Use this opportunity to have some quality one-on-one bonding time with your child.
If you have several children, you can give each child ten minutes of quality time before bed. Find independent activities for the older children to do while you spend this time with each child.
By being mindful about your interactions and time spent with each child, you’ll gain more awareness of how to direct your energy. Involve both parents, if possible, or grandparents, friends, neighbors, etc.
Sometimes a child wants one-on-one time with you, but sometimes he just wants dedicated attention from a person he loves. Bring in your whole community, if possible. Just know kids really love it when they receive some high-quality attention, even if it comes in short spurts.