Juggling a baby and toddler? No, not literally, although it sometimes feels that challenging. When child number two appears on the scene, you realize caring for a baby with a toddler along for the ride requires a new approach, creativity and some parent-tested tricks up your sleeve. Read on for our best tips on what to buy, how to organize your day and what to keep on time to help you not just survive but thrive with a baby and toddler.
1. Find Activities Toddlers Can Do On Their Own
Sometimes you'll need your toddler to occupy themselves. Find something they love, such as giving your toddler a new matchbox car or small doll to keep them happy when they're demanding your attention but you just don't have it to give. For longer stretches, a climber from Coco Village keeps kids entertained without screens and should also tire them out.
2. Find Places Designed for Toddlers
Many public libraries have children's rooms where toddlers can roam when you need to calm, feed or spend one-on-one time with your baby. Some shopping malls have free play areas for toddlers, and many towns have indoor play spaces designed for toddlers or with toddler-specific play hours. If your prefer being outdoors, find toddler-friendly playgrounds at local parks.
3. Schedule One-On-One Time For Your Toddler
Finding even 15 minutes a day to focus on your toddler can go a long way toward preventing jealousy and meltdowns. Have your partner or a grandparent watch the baby so you can have a lunch date on the weekend with your toddler, or spend the first part of your baby's nap focusing only on your toddler before you turn toward other chores. Set aside some time after your baby's bedtime to spend with your toddler, even if that time is just focusing on your toddler's bedtime routine.
4. Look for At-Home Alternatives
If your toddler loves jumping around, set up an obstacle course in your home. If they're more into crafts, hit the dollar store for googly eyes, pipe cleaners, stamps and stickers. Your toddler will probably have a lot more fun doing a toned-down activity with Mom at home then they will with a stressed-out Mom at a big event.
5. Find Yourself!
As stressful as it can be to manage a baby and toddler at the same time, finding ways to add something you enjoy into each day is important. Maybe it’s enjoying a pre-made Mocktail from Mocktail Club and dreaming about tropical beaches while your toddler eats mac and cheese. Maybe it's making time to talk to your BFF. Consider a hobby you can do after the kids go to sleep, like crafting or knitting.
6. Care for Yourself First
Make sure you put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Monitoring your own health and sleep habits help you take on the challenge of keeping two small humans happy and healthy. Wearing an Oura ring is a simple way to see how much you are sleeping, track your activity level and more. If you can, find some time to take "off" a few hours. Seeing a movie that isn't rated G or grabbing dinner with friends can help you recharge to be your best for your kids.
7. The Right Stroller
Double strollers can be a lifesaver. Even if your toddler likes to walk, having a ride for them can make it a lot faster to get around with two small children. A stroller that has seats that adjust separately is a great option for kids of different ages. That way, the baby can recline to nap while the toddler sits up and has a snack. The Britax B-Lively Double Stroller is one affordable option that fits the bill. This stroller also has a car seat adapter so your infant can stay in their infant seat while your toddler enjoys all of the benefits of a full stroller. If your toddler isn't up for strolling, choose a stroller, like the Mockingbird, that up can upgrade with a riding board. Whichever wheels you choose, bring along activities for your toddler to keep them occupied.
8. Get Organized
While out and about, a diaper bag with separate compartments and lots of pockets keeps your baby’s things separate from your toddler’s—and your own! The Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack has distinct compartments, plenty of pockets and a removable pouch perfect for a parent's essentials. Labeling everything is also a huge time-saver, so you always know what belongs to each child and, if items get left somewhere, you can get them returned. Mabel's Labels offers pre-made packs for a variety of uses and adorable designs. Check out our top picks in diaper bags.
9. Simplify Your Routine
Speed up getting ready in the morning with the Revlon One Step Hair Dryer Brush that dries and styles at the same time. Or invest in a Thermomix all-in-one kitchen appliance that can cook entrées, sides and dessert simultaneously and offers 24 different functions. With two little ones at home, it may be time to ditch the gym membership and work out at home. One affordable space-saving option is YBell weights that function as dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells and more. Another is FitFighter. These steelhose weights take up almost no space at all and can be used for a variety of workouts. If it's in the budget, hiring someone to help with cleaning or designating one or two nights a week for takeout adds back a few hours to your week. You can even simplify getting dressed: Kizik shoes are cute slip-on sneakers, meaning you can easily take them off and put them on while holding a baby or running out the door after a toddler.
10. The Perfect Carrier
Having an extra pair of hands would solve a lot of problems, and the next best thing is a baby carrier. There is no one perfect carrier so it’s important to find the best one for your needs. Although you may assume it makes the most sense to put a baby in a carrier, that’s not always the case! Sometimes toddlers want to be carried and that frees up your hands to push a baby in a stroller or feed the baby The Kelty Journey PerfectFit is great for parents who want to switch between carrying babies and toddlers in a carrier. Most carriers work for one age group or the other, but the Kelty PerfectFit can hold babies from 16 pounds through toddlers who weigh up to 40 pounds. Check out the latest in baby carriers & wraps.
11. Bring a Friend
A friend or family member flying solo can help with the baby or your toddler when things get hectic. If that’s not feasible, a friend who has a child around the same age as your older child can make things more manageable. Your child will probably like having a buddy along for the trip and your friend probably won’t mind watching your toddler for a few minutes if you have to duck away to change a diaper or nurse your baby.
12. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
There may be some activities you just can’t manage with a baby and a toddler. They may be too stressful or dangerous, like bringing two young kids around water. Or after a sleepless night with a baby, you might be too tired to play your toddler’s favorite game. It’s okay to suggest a board game instead of a game of tag. It's okay to pull out a toy your toddler will be excited about when you need a break. Check out these 10 activities your baby and toddler can play without you while you just watch.
—Jamie Davis Smith
featured image: iStock