With a preschooler and a toddler, I've learned a few useful tricks about parenting younger children. Here are my top tips.
1. Bring lots of snacks.
At least twice as many as you think you'll actually need. It doesn't matter if you're going out for five minutes or five hours, snacks are essential. And if you have more than one child, make sure to bring enough of everything for everyone. Because you just KNOW that when you whip out the Baby Mum-Mums, your older child will instantly want one just because the baby has one. And vice versa.
2. Keep an extra set of clothes, diapers, and wipes in the car, and replace them as you use them.
Because it's a given that your baby will spit up copiously mere moments after you've dressed her up in an adorable outfit for your cousin's wedding, or she'll have one of those right-up-the-back poos in her car seat . . . when you realize that you used the last diaper in the diaper bag yesterday. You can never have too many baby wipes. Never.
3. Teach your kids to go to sleep anywhere.
We did a better job of this with our first than with our second—probably because it's easier to go out when you have only one child. Our first was quite comfortable sleeping in a stroller, a playpen, or, later, in the guest bedroom at someone else's house. A transitional object, such as a teddy bear or a blanket, can be helpful. We also have toys that generate white noise to help drown out unfamiliar noises or party chatter. Getting your kids used to sleeping elsewhere gives you the freedom to stay out past 8 p.m. So, in my view, it's well worth the time and effort.
4. Stand united . . . but divide and conquer.
Particularly when you have more than one child, appropriate division of parental duties is a must. For example, working together to get everyone dressed, fed, and out the door in the morning makes it actually achievable. In our case, this means one parent gets to force a squirming toddler into clothes while the other handles a preschooler's tantrum over not wanting to wear shoes today. Are we having fun yet?
5. Separate the annoying from the truly bad.
Whenever I'm tempted to yell at my kids—which, I admit, is pretty often—I try to take a moment to ask myself, "Is this really a problem, or does it just bug me?" For example, when the toddler slathers ketchup in her hair minutes after I've bathed her, or the preschooler spills her milk for the third time at dinner. It's easy to get frustrated by messes when you've been cleaning up after your kids all day, but it's all about picking your battles. If the toddler takes out the entire contents of the pantry and dumps everything on the floor, is this really a problem? Or is the real issue that she's currently chewing on the power cord for my laptop?
Any good tips or strategies that work for you? I'd love to add to this list . . . but right now, I have an entire box of Cheerios to sweep up.
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