2 1/2 years old

Simplifying Life with a Baby and a Toddler - Ethan's Busy Boxes


Time for a very honest post, life with 2 children is hard work.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have my 2 little darlings, but wow...this isn't easy!  I've recently become very overwhelmed by it all.  There are days when Ivy is constantly crying and Ethan is having tantrum after tantrum and I just don't know how to cope.  Speaking to friends who also have two young children, I've found that this is quite common, this feeling of not knowing who to help first.  The feeling that you just can't be two places at once and to help one child means to neglect the other, it just all gets to be a bit much.  

Ivy is needy, she's a tiny baby, so that's just a fact, she needs me and I need to be there for her.  I wouldn't say that we perfectly practice attachment parenting, but with Ethan we did our best to always respond to his needs as quickly as possible, which is much more difficult this time around.  Then there's Ethan, he is a lovely and sweet little boy, but like any other 2 1/2 year old he has his tantrums.  He doesn't have any patience, he doesn't understand having to wait and he just wants me to play with him.  I am so lucky that they absolutely adore each other and love being in each other's company.  Ethan doesn't blame Ivy for having less time with me, he wants her there playing with us as well.  But for me it just gets a bit much when he's climbing all over her (and me) when I'm trying to feed her and change her.

It's time to put a plan into action, after a particularly difficult morning I strapped them both into the double buggy and went for a long walk to clear my head (something I would highly recommend on days like that).  I decided two things:

  • I need to find ways to keep Ethan busy during the times that I simply can't play with him (when feeding and changing Ivy)
  • I need to find ways to manage Ethan's behaviour (even though I know that these tantrums are normal, I don't want them to get out of hand)
To keep Ethan busy I created these Busy Boxes, 1 for each floor of the house.  I took Ethan shopping to buy the baskets and a few new toys to go in them, and then we assembled them together and I explained what they are for.  They are his special collection of toys that he can play with whenever I'm busy with Ivy and can't play with him.  In each box there is:
  • books (simple ones that he's very familiar with and can look at on his own)
  • colouring book and crayons
  • sticker book
  • 2 Hot Wheels cars
  • a WOW toy, including people and animals that go inside
  • a small set of building blocks or Lego Duplo blocks
For the behaviour side of things, I looked at a few books about toddler behaviour and tantrums to reassure myself that this is all very normal for a child his age and to give me some techniques to deal with it.  There is simply too much to list here, but I like The Good Behaviour Book and The Fussy Baby Book by William and Martha Sears (attachment parenting gurus).  

I also decided that we might be ready to try out a version of the 'naughty step', somewhere for Ethan to go if he's misbehaved, to sit for a couple of minutes and calm down before coming back to play.  This method is usually not effective until children are at least 3, but I thought we might give it a try.  I don't like the use of the word naughty, and for us it would be useful to have several different spots so that wherever we are in the house (or outside the house) there is a spot close at hand.  So we now have 'Thinking Mats', there's one rolled up in each of Ethan's busy boxes and one in the changing bag.  I talked to Ethan about this special thinking mat, where he could sit and think about things whenever he likes, that it would be a good place to calm down and that I might sometimes ask him to sit there if I think that he needs to calm down.  It will definitely be a long process to get this working, but I think it's worth a try.  For now I'm just asking to sit on the mat for a couple of seconds, I walk away then come straight back and get him to say sorry and give me a cuddle.  The idea is to have them sit there for the same number of minutes as their age, but Ethan can't sit still anywhere for 2 minutes.

So far I can't say for sure if these methods are working, but I certainly feel better and more in control now that I've tried to do something.  Ethan does love his busy boxes and happily plays with them on his own, but doesn't always go to them when I ask him to.  We've only just tried the thinking mat a couple of times, but hopefully it will start to work and we can have a slightly calmer house...at least some of the time!

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  1. It really sounds like you have come up with some great ideas to handle these challenging times. It is not easy raising children, especially when there is more than one and so close in age. However, speaking from experience and I'm sure you know this already, it's all worth it and you will have 2 amazing children because of your persistence and love.


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