Starting school is an exciting but somewhat daunting event… more so for the parents than the kids! There are “back to school” specials across the web, and plenty of websites with practical tips on how to make sure your child is school-ready, but what about those of us with a younger child to contend with too?
How do you make the most of your time with your baby or toddler while the big kids are off at school?
My children are always at their best in the morning, happy to play creatively and quietly. The first couple of hours on a Monday morning are spent in pyjamas, creating a whole world out of Danger Boy’s wooden Brio train tracks, farm house, and gathering all the HappyLand people to watch the tiny trains. Eventually we get dressed, have a nice snack, and then head out to a friend’s house or an organised playgroup or music session.
With school starting, however, mornings are going to have to be tackled with military precision, with no time for playing or dawdling. Disaster!
Ever tried to rush a toddler or preschooler? Tantrum potential is huge, and no doubt you’ll mourn the loss of those precious few calm hours with your kids. Below are our tips on how to make school days less stressful, and how to make the most of term-time with your younger children.
Young children hate being rushed, so give yourself as little as possible to achieve in the morning and give yourself plenty of time. You’ll save precious minutes and (hopefully) avoid arguments if you get lunch, outfits and school-bags ready the night before.
Your reception-age child is the least of your worries… remember to factor in oodles of time for your preschooler to try to dress herself, and for your toddler to have a meltdown over which colour bowl you give him at breakfast.
Make it fun
Make a fun game around getting dressed, eating quickly, and getting into the buggy or without a fuss. We recommend Tunes 4 Toddler Tantrums, a unique children’s music CD with lots of fun songs about all those things… and it genuinely works.
Plan stimulating activities for your baby or toddler
Most of us will end up spending at least 2 hours a day getting our older children to and from school or preschool. Bear in mind that also means your baby or toddler will spend at least 2 hours a day sitting strapped into a buggy or carseat. For heaven’s sake, make it worth his while! Rather than running errands on your way home from school drop-off, head straight to the playground, a friend’s house, or a stimulating activity.
There are plenty of excellent term-time activities for under 5s to choose from. We’d recommend:
- Rhyme Time at your local library (check your council website or your library)
- Playgroups or messy play sessions at your local Sure Start centre
- Music sessions like Mini Mozart and Monkey Music
- Movement and Dance classes like DiddiDance and Tumbletots
- Mini drama classes like Debutots and Perform’s Mini P’s
Enjoy Mummy and Me time with your baby or toddler
One of the most difficult things about having a second child (besides crazy bathtimes, bedtimes, and pretty much everything else) is that you always feel like you’re missing out on those special times with just the two of you, without your older child demanding your attention or bossy their younger sibling around.
This is your moment. Forget about the chores – they can wait.
Take these precious few hours while your older child is at school to do something really nice with the little one. It could be something as simple as a stress-free day out exploring your city without having to cope with children darting off in opposite directions. We also like the idea of doing Mummy-and-Baby Yoga classes, baby swimming lessons or Tumbletots – all of which are usually physically impossible to do with more than one child.
Do you have other ideas you can share with parents of children starting school or preschool, or can you recommend some great term-time or mummy-and-me activities? Please leave a comment below!
Photo by Phil Roeder on Flickr