The memory of those days with four kids under 7 is a hazy one, but reading my advice from then feels surprisingly relevant still today, and I can see a lot of the fruit from some of those routines and diversions.
Hope you'll be blessed by this if you feel unable to release those grasping hands from your "skirts" when all you want to do is clean a toilet or fill the dishwasher.
Trust me: this season will pass!
WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: 5 SURE-FIRE WAYS TO KEEP THE KIDS BUSY (WITHOUT RESORTING TO THE TELLY)*
*This should now read: without resorting to electronics
As a home-schooling mum with young children, I’m often asked how I can get any jobs done with kids always around. I won’t lie and say it’s easy (I’m definitely no super-mum), but with my five sure-fire tips, you, too, can keep your house reasonably tidy, get dinner on the table, and even find time to read, sew, iron, or bake some homemade bread!
1. If they can’t beat you, let them join you.
Pre-schoolers are incurable mimics. They are also desperate to be “big”, so when they see you hoovering, they want to help. Instead of evicting them, try involving them. You will probably have to accept that a chore will take twice a long with your little helpers, but there are other benefits, including:
- enjoying each other’s company;
- making them feel useful;
- teaching them a skill that one day they can do on their own.
|Cooking continues to be a favorite pastime|
2. Share the load.
On the subject of responsibility, don’t be afraid to assign a simple task to them. Children are a lot more skilful than we often give them credit for. Sorting socks, folding towels, emptying dishwashers, and tidying away toys are all within the abilities of quite young children. Just don’t expect perfection. My boy was a little over a year old when he started helping with the laundry by throwing dirty clothes down the stairs, but lately he has taken to throwing the clean laundry down as well!
|No longer "share the load" but DO the load!|
3. Discover audio books.
Audio books are tapes or CDs where actors read stories aloud, usually with sound effects and music as well. Children as young as eighteen months find them entrancing. Ladybird Books offer a whole range of fairy tales with accompanying tapes, such as “Pinocchio”, “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, and “The Gingerbread Man”. Local libraries also stock longer stories like “The Velveteen Rabbit”, and Amazon sell read-along soundtracks to favourite Disney classics like “Monsters Inc.” or “Snow White”. Two words of caution about audio books: first, you may want to preview material, as it may be unsuitable for toddlers; and second, you may prefer CDs to cassette tapes so you don’t have to keep coming back to turn the tape over.
|We've moved from audio books to voracious reading|
4. Turn on the sink.
Sometimes, you need five or ten minutes for a concentrated effort, but there’s a danger of wallpaper desecration if you dare turn your back. That’s where the sink can become your ally. Using a sturdy stepping stool, park your child in front of the basin with a toothbrush in one hand and a small beaker in the other, turn on the cold tap to its lowest trickle, and then dash to your desperate duty. It may be the case that you spend thirty seconds wiping up the puddles when you return, but on balance, you will have come out ahead.
|There's still something special about water on the skin|
5. Send them to the garden.
I’ve saved my favourite tip for last. I’m a firm believer in giving children as much fresh air and active play as possible, and when they can do that while I get some work done, all the better. Of course, you won’t want to leave your young children unattended, but should your kitchen sink look out over the garden (as mine does), then you will find that you can do quite a lot of chores while keeping one eye on the kids. If it’s your lounge or bedroom window, think about doing the ironing or folding clothes.
|My teen has never outgrown a snooze outdoors|
Finally, let me offer a bonus tip for those times when you need utmost concentration, such as balancing your chequebook or paying bills. Find a reliable teenager – as young as 13 would be fine – and pay them a few pounds to play with your children for an hour or so. These are sometimes called “mother’s help” -- because they aren’t actually having to shoulder responsibilities like a babysitter -- but I think they a better name for them would be “mother’s godsend”.
FIVE TERRIFIC TOYS FOR KEEPING THEM OCCUPIED
1. Indoor trampoline. It may prove so popular, you’ll need two!
2. Lego. Choose a size that’s appropriate for the age of your children.
3. Toy kitchen.Mine doubles as a shop, with a much-beloved cash till.
4. Trains.Or any set of things they can unpack, arrange, and re-pack – hopefully, over and over again!
5. Puzzles. More for nursery-aged children. For toddlers, substitute shape boxes.