As many of us know, when you have a second child, managing your first-born becomes a whole different ball game! Rare are the days of sleep while the baby sleeps, as their older sibling needs and deserves your time and attention. Honey has always been good at occupying herself, but while I was pregnant, we encouraged her to engage with more independent activities so she’d be prepared when I was flying solo and needed to turn my attention to feeding and nappy changing instead of concentrating on her full time.
In the early days after Ace was born, I was a huge fan of pre-prepared craft activities, even better if the activities had a purpose such as a card for someone’s birthday or a thank you picture (love a bit of multi-tasking)! I made up or bought little packs for Honey to create cards and pictures with and set up an easy access craft cupboard so she could go and get them by herself if a feed was taking a particularly long time.
Colouring in and activity books were and continue to be so useful, especially ones that are small enough to pop in the changing bag with a small pack of crayons, that way, they’re ready to whip out if you need to make a pit stop to feed baby while you’re out in town. We also keep our library card in the changing bag, the library is a great place to take a toddler while your baby is napping in the sling or buggy, as it’s such a quiet, calm environment!
Stickers are the one. Oh my goodness, the many, many, many hours that Honey has spent ‘stickering’ cannot be counted. It started when I was pregnant with Ace and had really bad morning (all day) sickness for months. We bought Honey a wedding sticker book to help prepare her for an upcoming family wedding and also to buy me some lying on the sofa time! Since then, she’s had just about the whole range of Usborne sticker dolly books, which have kept her occupied for a cumulative total of 9732 hours. They have also been great for her fine motor skills and have broadened her general knowledge thanks to the wide range of subjects they cover.
Whether we like it or not, our children are growing up in a digital age (that’s a whole other blog post) and personally, I choose to see it as a blessing that there are channels and apps that have been purpose built to reinforce our children’s play. If I need to get on with something, Honey loves using the CBeebies Storytime app to help her read stories to her class full of toys and imaginary pupils, the Bee-Bot app to make treasure maps for her pirate Lottie doll and loves playing the Go Jetters game on the CBeebies website.
Once Ace began to have longer naps, Honey and I found bigger chunks of time to spend together. Although we love to play, sometimes there are also things that need doing during those precious hours when your youngest is asleep. This is where you can multi task, by getting your toddler to help you with chores, you’re getting to spend time learning and chatting together while getting some jobs out of the way. Honey is a dab hand at emptying the dishwasher, washing up and transferring the washing from the washing machine to the tumble drier and once that’s all done, there’s usually plenty of time left for a spot of Play Doh or Bug Bingo!
We have always kept downstairs books and toys in an easy to access storage unit and Honey often spends the few minutes it takes to put Ace down for his nap upstairs, tidying up then settling herself down with her chosen toys or activity. During the post Christmas sort out, I also realised that there were so many toys up in the kids bedroom that rarely saw the light of day because we’d forget they were there, so Honey and I created a toy menu. If she wants to play with something from upstairs, she can choose from the list and comes up to get it when I go up with Ace.
Now that Honey has started school, she loves any opportunity to show off her writing skills so we capitalize on this by using some nap times to plan adventures together. Honey uses her sounds to write lists of things she would like to do, this can range from wanting to light a candle or making a list of baking ingredients, to planning a camping trip and everything in between.
Sometimes, Honey has homework or reading to do, which she loves and she often creates her own extension activities, which usually unfold on the floor while the baby sleeps! This can be giant story maps (a great use for the totally excessive Amazon packaging paper) based on a book she’s been reading or using magnetic letters to spell tricky words on the fridge. She also adores cutting up old magazines and catalogues to make scrapbooks and collages.
As well as spending time with Honey and getting plenty of chores out of the way, I sometimes use the time to work with Honey to set something up ready for after Ace’s naptime. It can be something simple like dragging out the road mat or building a cool train track but occasionally, we do something crazy like put a box in the garden and throw in the finger paints (the smiles and giggles totally cancel out the extreme mess on this one).
Speaking of the garden, don’t forget about it, even in winter as it can be a really valuable space. While we don’t tiptoe around while Ace is asleep, he undoubtedly sleeps for longer when he has a bit of peace and quiet! This is where the garden comes in, we can draw on the outdoor blackboard, have a tea party in the playhouse or use the time to practice the skill of moment which might be scooting, hula hooping or bike riding depending on your child’s stage.
Fiddly toys that aren’t baby friendly can come out during naptime without fear of anybody choking. Hama beads are a favourite here, it can take a whole nap to place the tiny beads on those boards and boy do we have some funny and random conversations while we ‘work’.
I could go on all day, the possibilities really are endless but instead, I’ve put together a Pinterest board linking to some of activities mention (and a few more) incase you fancy trying anything out. I’d also love to hear what you guys get up to while the baby sleeps, so please do comment on the post or get in touch via social media!
A Guest Blog from Steph Gore
Steph lives in Cheltenham with her wonderful, paramedic husband and two gorgeous children. She is a primary school teacher and also loves to blog about the places and products that her family enjoy. She adores organising and fully believes that you should never put off anything until tomorrow that could be done today!
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