By Karen Dennis
In my experience, trying to juggle several children at once is easy – if managed correctly. Just like in the working world, it’s a case of learning how to share yourself with multiple people.
Here are my top tips for juggling two or more children:
Helping younger children to feel included
When my boys were little, I made it my aim to make sure everyone was included and nobody felt left out.
My youngest son, Adam, always wanted to be treated as a ‘big boy’ due to the fact that he had 3 older brothers. One day he picked up a book that one of his brothers had been reading and pretended he was fully engrossed in it, too. The only problem was he was holding it upside down, much to everyone’s amusement
Homework time can be family time, too
One another occasion, after a session of speech therapy, the therapist said to me, “I would like Adam to practice these words at home.” He became very excited by this and said “Have I got homework, like my brothers?”
So from then on, whenever my older children were sat around the table doing homework, I would give Adam a note book and crayons and encourage him to sit with his brothers and draw a picture.
My older boys used to have weekly spelling tests at school which they practiced for at home. One day on the school run, I was testing them on their words and Adam looked up and said “What about me?” So I replied “Adam, spell dog.” When he actually came back with “D-O-G” we were all surprised. Maybe it was a fluke, but reminded me never to underestimate what young children can pick up on their own.
For babies who are just too young to join in, you can still sit them in their high chair next to their siblings. Keep them entertained with a healthy snack or small toy and they’ll get used to fitting in with the family routine.
Plan activities everyone can enjoy
As a childminder I always had to juggle a lot of children. Most days I had three under-fives, and even more in the school holidays.
To make it work, I tried to plan activities that every age group could enjoy. There’s usually plenty of overlap when you dealing with young children. Even a baby will sit happily on your lap while you read a story or sing.
While any child requiring a nap were asleep, I would read the other children a story, or encourage other quiet activities.
At around 18 months, most kids can play with dough or draw using chunky crayons. If you need your hands free, sit them in a high chair nearby.
Enlist the help of older children
I also used to encourage the older children to help with the little ones.
I had one particular eight-year-old girl who loved to help. When we were getting ready to go out, all the younger children would find their shoes and sit on the stairs, waiting for this little girl to put them on. This worked really well for us.
Older children can help with pushing the buggy or a child in a swing. And most will happily cuddle a younger child (under supervision, of course).
Simple craft activities are great for all ages. One time the children were junk modelling and a young child happily stuck masking tape onto a box and then pulled it off again. He still took this home (after I explained it to his mum).
If you let all the children share your time in this way, hopefully it will avoid jealousy as no child appears to be getting more attention than another. GOOD LUCK.
As always questions/ comments are welcome.
About the Author: Karen Dennis is a mum, step mum, grandparent and blogger at The Next Best Thing to Mummy. She also worked as a childminder for 14 years, until ill health forced her to give up. She has an NVQ Level 3 in early years care and education, as well as many more qualifications. She has also been employed as a pre-school development worker and by the children’s centre as a support childminder.