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How to Keep Your Toddler Busy While Caring for Your Baby

So now you’re a mom of two and now you’re outnumbered.  The logistics become a little tricky when you have two children who are very close in age.  My boys are all around two years apart, which means that I had a toddler in the house when my youngest two sons were born.

One of the most frustrating situations for me when I had a newborn and a two year old was nap-time.  Figuring out how to keep a toddler busy while putting baby to sleep was difficult.  My middle son was not a great sleeper and took a long time to fall asleep for naps, if he took them at all.

My oldest was pretty active and couldn’t be left to his own devices for the time it took me to get his little brother to see to sleep. It wasn’t safe to leave him alone for the amount of time it took to get the baby to sleep, but if was in the room with us, the baby wouldn’t settle enough to sleep.

I spent many days very frustrated because the baby wouldn’t sleep or wouldn’t fall asleep quickly enough and my oldest son needed me to help him stay busy and quiet.  As it turns out, my middle son is sensory sensitive with Asperger’s, so I realize now that his sleep struggles were likely related to his sensory problems.

One of my biggest challenges in those early days was figuring out what to do with my oldest son while I calmed the baby for his nap.  Often I would finally get the baby to sleep only to have a bored toddler burst into the room, waking the baby.

I didn’t have age-appropriate expectations for a two-year old back then.  Even so, I knew that leaving a two-year old alone for 20+ minutes was not okay and would never work.  I had to think of ways to keep my two year old safely entertained while I helped the baby fall asleep.  Here are some tips for effectively parenting a toddler while helping a baby to fall asleep.

At Least One of the Baby’s Naps Each Day Should Coincide with the Toddler’s Nap

Try your best to schedule at least one of the baby’s naps at the same time as the toddler’s daily nap.  This makes it easier to lay down with the baby and get rest yourself, or to get up after the baby is sleeping and get a little housework done.

Use a Sling or Baby Carrier

Get a sling.  Only one of my children enjoyed the sling and lucky for me, that was my middle son.  He was able to nap and I was able to engage with his older brother at the same time, providing him with quiet entertainment.

Use Electronics

I get that it’s controversial.  I also get that if you have a baby who has trouble sleeping and a noisy toddler who sometimes interferes with what little sleep that baby gets, the pull of the TV/Tablet to entertain the toddler is huge.

I say give in.  I know I did.  My problem was that my oldest wouldn’t sit through more than 5 minutes of TV at a time until he was 4-5 years old.  It was both a blessing and a curse.

Electronics should be used sparingly and this is a great example of a time when electronics make life easier and probably safer for you and your child.

Create a Busy Box for Your Toddler

Have a special nap-time toy box.  From time to time I’d pull out a small storage container of quiet toys. I kept a few of them to switch around.  I’d include crayons, legos, very small bits of play-doh, etc for my toddler to play with in the same room that I was putting in the baby to sleep. (Use this lap desk that you can carry from room to room to give your toddler a surface to play on.)

Take a Drive

If your baby refuses to sleep or if your toddler cannot manage quiet play, put them both in the car for a drive.  It’s likely that the baby will fall asleep and the toddler might, as well.

How to Keep Your Toddler Busy While Caring for Your Baby

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