When they learn that our other kids are ages 5, 3.5, and 2, they say something like, "oh man, you all are busy!"
And we are. There's always a kid who needs something. But I feel like that's how it's always been. Even when we had one, I remember thinking, this kid is demanding- so many needs!
Many assume that the hardest thing about having several small children close in age is the diapers/potty-training/hygiene issues. Others think it might be sleep issues (naps, sleep training, nighttime waking, etc.). While those things ARE challenging, Jake and I both agree that the hardest thing is giving each of our kids the kind of one-on-one, developmentally-directed attention that we desire to spend with them.
Related to this, one question we are constantly revisiting with our daily schedule ideas is- how do we provide each child with developmentally-appropriate activities simultaneously? We know this is going to be an even bigger challenge when Malloy Baby #4 arrives in a few months.
Through experimentation with different schedules and ideas, we have found some general guidelines that have been really helpful.
1. Create a general daily schedule. The beauty of creating your own schedule and being in charge of the day is that you also have the freedom to throw it out the window if it's not working. But, having a general schedule (in our minds and on paper) has been helpful in being intentional about our day, and playing in particular.
2. Set aside time for "one-on-one" time that fits with both the child's rhythm and the general family rhythm. Some helpful questions in determining this:
- When does each child tend to get more "needy"? (asking lots of favors, needing attention, etc.)
- When does each child tend to have a really easy time playing by themselves, or with the other siblings?
- When does each child get sleepy? When do the kids nap or have quiet times? When are some of the kids in out-of-the-home activities (preschool, sports, music, etc.)?
- When do I as a parent have energy to engage each child in a meaningful way? When do I feel least distracted by jobs needing to be done around the house?
- What times of the day do we have other things we need to do (errands, grocery shopping, volunteering, etc.)?
There are many many ways you can do this. Some ideas Jake and I have used:
Put up a bulletin board in a high traffic area, with play ideas for each kid written on different colors of paper. Use another color for activities that all kids could engage in. When you need an idea, check the bulletin board for easy access. No internet or potential computer distraction required. :)
Create a filing system, similar to the binder, but with files instead. This one allows you to print an idea off a blog, gather your materials or do any prep-work (cutting, laminating, etc.), and then put it in a gallon bag and drop it in the appropriate file.
Jake and I have found that these conversations have been SO HELPFUL in thinking about things that we otherwise would not have. God has given each parent wisdom and insight, and it takes both perspectives to raise a kid!
Finally, here's an example of how all of this fits together for our family, at this time (oh how things always change, right?!).
7:30-7:55 Exercise/Physical Skills
7:55- 8:30 Reading/Writing (He comes up with activities for each kid at their dev. level)
8:20- 8:35 Dad reading/storytelling with and to kids
8:35- 9:00 Math (activities at each level)
9:00- 9:30 1-1 + 1-1 (Jake one-on-one with a child, and plans an activity the other two kids can do together)
9:30-10:00 1-1 + 1-1 (everyone switch)
10:00-10:30 1-1 + 1-1 (everyone switch)
10:30-11:00 free play
11:00-12:00 lunch and clean-up
12:00-1:00 free play
1:00- 2:00 quiet time and educational video
2:00- 3:00 free play
3:00- 4:00 project (jake plans a different one for each day)
4:00- 4:30 free play
4:30- 5:00 clean up
5:00- 5:30 dinner prep + kids watch Netflix movie
5:30- 6:30 dinner and clean-up
6:30- 7:00 bed preparations and bed