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Parenting Multiples (AKA “Zone Defense” parenting)

Last April, my husband and I moved from a man-to-man defense to a pure zone defense. Or, to put it another way, our third child entered the world and our family. We quickly became aware of just how outnumbered the “parent team” had become! Recently, I got to experience a more-then-normal lopsidedness to our household balance, because my DH headed out of town for a few days.

I began to think of strategies – some time-tested, others new – for parenting 3 kids by myself. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I’m going to just come right out and say it – TELEVISION. I’m not a strict no-TV mom, but I usually limit the amount of time they get to watch it to 3-4 times per week. But when things get really rough, out comes the DVD collection. Even if it’s just a 30-minute video, it gives me a chance to catch up with the baby, especially for important, full-attention activities like bathtime. One DVD I really recommend is a recent birthday gift – the Dora Dance Along Adventure Mat. My 3-year-old loves to dress up in the costume and dance along, and I feel much better about her watching TV when it involves exercise!
  2. Snack time – this one is easier to be healthy, fortunately. Think about it – what takes longer to eat, ice cream or carrot sticks? The crunchier the snack, the more time I can focus on another child who needs my complete attention.
  3. Family snuggle time – the kids all love the big bed. So we pile everyone in and pull up the covers. A little tickling and a lot of snuggling go a long way towards killing some free time in a VERY positive way!
  4. Time outs – I don’t mean punishments by this, so don’t get me wrong. When emotions run high and everyone starts to break down, I will sometimes send the kids to their rooms for 10 minutes. My two older kids are very competitive, so it’s good to separate them at times. To keep this from feeling like a punishment, I sometimes give them a reserved Happy Meal toy as a treat, or a task to complete (like drawing a picture).

Single parenting is something I hope I never have to do long-term, but strategies such as these definitely help when I’m the only adult and completely outnumbered! Do you have other ideas to share?

3 – 2 – 1 Blast Off To A New School Year!

It is that time of year again – school is about to be in full swing!  Some schools have already started, some will be this week, and others will start over the next couple of weeks.  My older son will be in second grade starting August 27, and the younger one and I will return to our preschool on September 5th.

So, what can you do to get your kids ready to have a terrific year in school?  PLENTY.  Here’s what we’re doing at our house:

  • Cutting back on TV. As much as I would love to say I adhere to the one-hour-a-day rule I mentally made for myself this summer, it didn’t happen.  My job(s) and life took over, and there were times when the Koala Brothers were my Best Friends.  However, it is time to start cracking down.  No more TV at night, and TV at all is limited from now on.  Once school starts, our schedule is pretty tight, so TV is usually an afterthought by then.
  • Mind your mouth (and what goes in it).  Things are pretty lax around here during the summer, but it is time to start focusing on fun HEALTHY snacks and not just popsicles and sodas.  Not only are sodas not great for teeth, but those with caffeine will only make sleeping issues worse and the sugar in them is enough to put your child on a sweet high for a while.  We’re also spending some time this week remembering what foods we like best in our lunch boxes at school so that I can stock up on the essentials next weekend at the store.
  • Tick Tock – time for bed!  While my kids have been pretty good about hitting the hay around 8 each night, it is easy to slip out of that habit with the longer days.  If your child has been up later than normal for the summer, ease back into the routine, going to bed a few minutes early each night.  Hopefully you will be back to your start time in no time!
  • Wardrobe check!  Now is a great time to clean out those closets.  Make sure everything fits and purge those things that won’t work this year.  Donate your gently used clothes to your local Goodwill or thrift store, or pass them along to another child or sibling!  Don’t forget to check shoes, socks and underwear, too.
  • Rehearse the first day.  This is something we do every year.  A couple of days before the actual start of school, we do a “dry run” of our drop off and pick up routine.  Riding the bus?  Practice getting to the bus stop (and time yourself to make sure you’re not late!).  Carpooling?  See if there is a time you can all go through it together.  The more familiar kids are with what is to come, the more comfortable they will be with the situation.  Our school district hosts an open house at each campus a few days before school starts, and kids can drop off their school supplies at that time.  This is a great time to practice routines!
  • Supply yourself with extras.  Snag a few extra boxes of crayons while they are on sale.  Pick up a couple more packages of notebook paper.  Later on in the year, you’ll be looking for a few replacements, and if not, you can always save them for next year’s list!

Easing back into the way things work during the school year is much better for your child than flipping over to “school mode” in one day.  What are your suggestions for making a sucessful transition into the school year?

Wisdom

I’m not a “young” mom by any stretch of the imagination.  Oh sure, I had grand dreams of three kids before I was 30, but I was blessed with two wonderful boys who both showed up when I was 30 and 35.  That doesn’t qualify me as an “old” mom either, but I think it does put a different spin on the parenting stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article in the USA Weekend magazine in my local paper written by Philip Lerman.  He wrote a great piece on why being an older dad is so much better in his case.  And, a lot of what he said rang true for me, too (even though, obviously, I’m not a dad!).  Here are a few of his points that I found especially close to my own parenting style…

  • TECHNOLOGY – in this day of cell phones, blackberries, PDAs and instant messaging, it is rare to see any parent without some sort of device along for the ride.  The important thing to remember is that, while your work might have access to you 24/7, your family needs the same.  Be sure to pay attention to your children and not be so distracted by outside influences.
  • TIME – unfortunately, so much of our time isn’t spent with our families anymore; it is spent at our jobs or other commitments.  However, kids are kids, just as they were 30, 50, and 100 years ago.  And kids still need their parents.  Take a few nights a week to make a point to eat together as a family (if you aren’t already doing so).  Every once in a while, burn a few vacation hours at work to enjoy your kids for an afternoon.
  • BUYING THAT Wii – While I’m not going to knock my friends who have the latest Playstation/Wii/xBox, I will say that I do have a good chuckle at my friends who buy these things for their kids.  What happened to Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys?  Where are the dolls, the paint and the balls?  The simplest toys are what every child needs to develop creativity, motor skills and thought processes, not the latest version of Super Mario.
  • TV TIME – Television isn’t what it used to be.  What we watched as kids on Saturday morning doesn’t hold a candle to what is out there now.  That’s not to say that ALL programming is bad - Dora, Little Einsteins, and Cyberchase still offer great messages in a format better suited for children.  What is essential is to sit down with your child and watch it WITH them.  Discuss what you see.  You might learn something yourself!
  • PLAY PLAY PLAY!  As exhausting as it is, playing with my kids is the best thing I can do for them.  Our time together, whether it is a rousing game of Monopoly or Memory or a book or puzzle we share or even a game of wiffle ball in the back yard, will be some of the best memories they take through adulthood.  TV can wait.  But our kids grow up.  And quickly.  Take advantage of every moment you have with them.

As Philip Lerman says, “When you have a baby, the nights are very long, and the years are very short.  Amen, Philip!

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