I am a mother of 3 awesome, but sometimes difficult children, ages 20yrs, 5yrs and 7yrs. I had my son at only 17 and didn't have my others until my early 30's and they were only 17 months apart! So at the same time I had a teenager and two under two. The way I parented when I was a teenager is much different when I was married and stable. I handled situations much different and was able to learn from my past mistakes. Having 2 under 2 is challenging, but thanks to family, friends, teachers and yes even strangers, I learned how to find my rhythm. I am a true believe that every family needs to do what best works for them. My way may not be the right way, but it did work for me and that was important. Also, do not judge other families if they do things differently as we have no idea of their situation. We need to be more supportive to others instead of giving them a nasty eye when their kids are screaming. I learned a wide range of parenting between being a teenage mom then of 2 toddlers that I picked up valuable tips and tricks along the way. Now some of these are obvious or some you heard before, but if you can learn even one more thing that helps you I will be happy. After making the same mistake over and over I finally found a different way to do it!After several people told me I should share I finally felt it was time to give it a go, so here I go.
I don't just want to offer advise, but to start great conversations and learn more myself along the way. Everyday may bring a new challenge and I have to learn how to handle that without steam coming out of my ears! I never pretend my family is perfect, so when I see that mom at the grocery store paying the clerk with one hand and holding on for dear life to the child screaming and kicking, I just say I know exactly how you feel. Or if a child comes over for a playdate I tell the mom "kids are going to be kids. They will get wild, may not share, may hit and act out. But that is ok they are just being them so no need to apologize. Unless there is blood or something harmful I don't want to tell you anymore how your kid did this or that. And don't ever say your sorry to ask me to help you out. I wouldn't offer if I didn't truly want to do it. I would not have survived without the help of many.
When a new mom walks into a group just go say hello and make her feel welcome. I don't understand why women can be so freaking catty! I don't care if my friend is hotter (am i not confident in my relationship or think my partner is so vain?), smarter (they may be more knowledgable-great teach me something, richer (I love what I have and will tell you how much I like yours) religious (i may not agree but I respect that and will always keep an open mind). The fact that they want to tear each other down is just plain sad. If you are nice and kind I will love to be around you. But we as parents need to be more supportive and encourage each other and share information.
I amazed that little tips and tricks helped me keep my sanity. Here are just a few to get started:
1. I always park right next by the shopping carts so I can put my kids straight into the car without taking my eye off of them. I used to park at the closest spot but didn't like having kids in the pouring rain while I unloaded because I didn't want to leave them in the car while I walk my cart back.
2. When kids were toddlers my must have products were the Snack Trap and Bottle Links. I would have an extra link and attach the snack trap on one and the other on their zippy cup or bottle. I would attach them to a cart in the store which kept them occupied and not having to constantly pick them off the floor! I did the same thing on the carseat, stroller, highchair.
3. Stick to a schedule. Kids really thrive on a schedule, even on weekends. Of course you won't always be able to do this, but the more I stuck to it the better we all adjusted. And they knew what to expect so less nagging.
4. Instead of bulky diaper bags and a purse which are super heavy or too much it will knock over the stroller, carry a larger cross body bag, which allows both hands to be free and when you bend over it doesn't fall. I learned you don't need to bring everything, just the basics.
5. Pacifiers were tricky as our youngest daughter would make herself sick when we took them away. We finally cut off the tip and it worked the first night. Thanks for that tip!
6. When I was loading and unloading the 2 under 2 in the car or into the stroller I would get the toddler settled in first, as they were the ones that could run away.
7. I was screaming at them one day and saw my face in the mirror. I didn't like what I saw so I have learned to breathe and stay calm. Now I am not saying I still don't yell, but I do it differently than before.
8. Time out was so tough until I used the 1 2 3 method. After about two weeks all I had to do was get to 2 and they stopped. Rarely they made it to 3 and when they did it was a friendly reminder! Ha! When I was carrying or dragging them to their room or spot I would go on and on instead I would say "you hit your sister and that is not OK" and then when time out was over they had to look the person in the eye and apologize.
9. When our kids were infants, from the first bath, I always poured water all over their face. Of course they would cry, but soon would get used to it and love it. I have seen several kids ages 3-4 who cry when their head gets wet and the parents become frustrated.
10. When my older daughter was 17 months old and I was breast-feeding her infant sister I would have a basket with some books, toys and a snack. This way I could feed the baby with one arm and have the other one free to include my other one. Also, I would intentionally leave a burp cloth or bottle out of reach and ask my favorite helper to get it. She loved being the helper.
11. Scissors are the most valuable product!! I use scissors to cut their noodles, pizza, bread, chicken or whatever. It is way easier then using a knife and a fork. Then when they got older they enjoyed doing it themselves.
12. Potty training is always tricky. All 3 of them learned at different ages. I did learn though it was easier for me to skip the training potty and go straight to the real thing. It is hard sometimes for them to make that transition and can go backwards. And I would have them flush the toilets in public bathrooms and watch the tornado! The noise becomes familiar and less scary when they are the ones sitting on it!
13. We loved to make homemade play dough so I learned to cover the entire surface with aluminum foil for super easy clean up. We also used it for painting and carving pumpkins.
14. We always loved to also make homemade volcanos. We used baking powder and vinegar and to add pizazz we would add food coloring. The kids had a blast and my sink was clean from the baking soda! Or I would use my aluminum baking pan to put under the cups for outside and easy cleanup.
15. To beat winter blues I would fill the sink with water and put cups and waterproof toys. They loved this and would do that for an hour. I put down a big towel under their chair for the water that would most definitely spill!
16. I always had crayons in my purse and at the doctors office this became my main entertainment. We would draw pictures and play games on the long, white paper they use to cover the tables. I would even draw out the outline of their body and add body parts.
17. I would put approved snacks within their reach along with their zippy cups and bowls. They enjoy and feel good about getting their own snack together.
18. In the kitchen I always had a drawer just for them filled with bowls, plastic spoons and a chef apron. They would use them to cook or as instruments.
19. I also can thank enough the makers of the baby gate with extensions and built on activities. I could put them ion their and run to the next room without worrying if they crawl too far or the dog jumping on them.
20. Thank goodness also for their wagon! Even as they got a bit older they would still get tired and want us to carry them or not want to walk out to our car what seemed like the next city!
21. Whiteboards are awesome, but for especially in the car. They had a board, marker and small eraser with magnets and a cloth. They would do that for a long time.
22. I had one of those mesh organizers hanging from the passenger seat so I could always grab a wipe real quick instead of rummaging through the bag. I would also keep extra snacks and hand sanitizer in there.
23. I would always make sure I have everything on the changing table so I would not have to leave the baby alone as they can roll off.
24. My daughters were climbers and would constantly get out of their crib. One day I walked in and my 2 year old was hanging from one arm upside down! The crib net was great and kept them safe in their crib.
25. I use my phone camera for everything, but comes in handy when they have a snack or food they love when your out so you can remember.
26. I always carried an extra pair of pants and underwear along with a ziploc bag so when they were soiled they wouldn't touch anything else!
27. I used to make them dress alike but I soon learned I could just put them both in the same brighter the better color to spot them faster.When park playgrounds get busy it came in handy
28. When reading books. even when they can't yet hold the book, move your finger under the word from left to right. It will help them later on.
29. When they could start eating solids I would keep giving them different flavors and textures and let them play in it-it would end up in their mouth. Sometimes I had to keep trying to eat it so I would keep offering until they just started to eat it.
30. Timers can work wonders for toddlers learning to share. Sharing doesn't always come naturally but they learn that when it goes off they need to switch.
31. For picky eaters, my one daughter is the picky one, always try a dip of some kind. It can fun and make it taste better!
32. Also I used to present the food in a fun way, like make a face out of the fruit and pretzels for hair. I used to put a hole in the mashed potatoes and then add the "lava" which was gravy. Kids can be easily manipulated!
33. The hardest was sticking to your word! When they would misbehave in the store or out somewhere you would tell them if they don't stop acting out you will leave. The earlier you stick to your guns the better. I finally learned this when our younger daughter was 3! After a few times she knew I really meant it.
34. Teaching counting can be fun. I would use fruit or pretzel sticks to add and subtract. They could eat it when they subtracted!
35. LeapFrog videos were instrumental learning they alphabet and letter sounds. Of course I was working with them but that video sparked their interest and by the time our daughter was 2 she knew all her alphabet and letter sounds. By 3 she was telling us words that started with each letter.
36. Make it a game for clean up. Have basket or container where they can "score point" I found when you made it a game they were more willing. It saved some of my famous yelling!
37. Ten minute clean up before bed is still my thing. I just go to bed easier if we declutter and have one thing less on my mind.
38. When they started reading I would put words on index cards them tape them all around the house and see how fast they could find them. This was great for learning sight words.
39. Speaking of learning sight words, the BOB books were the best. I recommend them!
40. When they are young I would drop them off with grandma or put them in the church nursery to help the anxiety of leaving. If you do it right away they get used to it and wont always scream when you leave. That doesn't always work but it did help some!
41. When our daughter started pre school I put an alarm clock in her room to get her moving to avoid the screaming match.
42. I invested in a balloon machine and extra balloons. When it was raining or too cold we would blow some up and play volleyball.
43. Hanging Wall folders with dividers are in my kitchen right when you walk in. They each have their own where the put their papers from school. Then the ones they really like I grab a hole puncher and put it in their Special Project folder, otherwise known as a 30-ring binder!
44. Or sometimes I would take a picture of it and print it out so they can still see it. You can lame mate it or not, some even made a book. With 2 small kids in school, its impossible to keep them all!
45. Now that my girls are in Kindergarten and 1st grade I keep a boot tray in the mud room with their gym shoes. It saves a lot of looking on gym days!
46. They also have their own cubby and a basket on top. They walk in the door and automatically hand they backpack and coat, which saves time in the morning. I use the baskets for their hat and mittens, which also save time.
47. When it snows we put food coloring in a spray bottle and let them "decorate" the snow.
48. When they were learning how to walk I would bring in or use outside a bubble machine. They really wanted to catch those bubbles!
49. Our girls are lucky and can read in the car. We have a book light for when they want to continue reading in the dark.
50. Car games can be fun. My favorite is build a story. Someone starts off then we all take turns building on to it. We have some crazy stories!
51. Try and put things out the night before, like lunches and clothes. This is a huge time saver and avoids arguments in the morning about what they are wearing.
52. Our younger daughter went through some really bad stomach issues. We would be out somewhere when she would just start screaming at the top of lungs from her tummy hurting. Now obviously we give our kids water, but I learned that really increasing her water intake helped pass things softer and more often. That worked better than the meds the dr gave to her.
53. If you have an extra large cardboard box turn it upside down and let the kids color all over it. Sometimes we even cut holes in it for a little clubhouse.
54. Younger kids don't have a sense of time so we would create the old fashioned chain links out of construction paper and each day she would remove one. She was able to count down the days until the big event!
55. I put those stick on labels on everything. Their backpacks, zippy cups and anything that will travel with them.
56. When you bring sand toys to the beach or at a park it can be confusing which ones belong to who. So with a sharpie marker I put our name on them and then there is no doubt.
57. I always make sure to have hand sanitizer in the backpacks and lunch bags.
58. Choose a different word each week and Monday you give them the definition write it on their lunch napkin and each day have them come up with a different sentence using that word. On Friday they should be able to spell it correctly and build their vocabulary.
58. My girls love to play kitchen during their bath so I always have some plastic dishes and teapot in there and they have a blast.We also love the drop in color fizzes and create different colors.
59. We like to make our own sidewalk chalk and paint. Its fun and easy to make. The girls love mixing up all the different colors!
60. We like to play carnival games, so we use sand buckets and plastic balls and put numbers on them 1-5. Just like the carnival the more they get the more tickets (we made our own out of construction paper). Also we put some hula hoops on the ground and they would jump from one to the other. Easy and simple!
These are some of the tips and ideas that helped me along the way. I hope they can help you!