This post is by regular contributor Pauline Soo of Lessons Learnt Journal.
“You have four kids?!”
A question that is usually quickly followed by the question, “How do you do it????”
I often reply, in all honesty, that while I think there are differences from having one child to having four children, I still think kids are kids. Parents all do the same thing; we have the same challenges and tasks, regardless of the number of kids in our care. Still, if I had to answer that question of how I juggle the needs of my many small children, I would have to say, planning and having a consistent daily routine helps no end.
My eldest children, twins (N&M) were born 6 weeks premature. I used to sit next to their crib in the NICU during the first few weeks of their life. After my hormones settled a bit and my eyes were somewhat less puffy, I used to fritter away time (between feeds) reading books. I was particularly obsessed with books about daily routines for kids.
I was convinced that if we had a daily routine, we would be set. My babies would be well fed, they would sleep (fingers crossed… through the night), and as a consequence, I would be able to get some decent sleep too. Ha! The first two months of being a mother forced me to accept my obstetrician’s advice about parenting. He said to me, being a parent is about going with the flow. “You can’t ski up hill,” were his words.
Humbly, I scrapped my timetable (divided into half hourly time slots?!). We still had a general routine to the day; feed, play, sleep, repeat. But there weren’t strict set times. I followed N&M’s cues, within reason. For example, when feeds were 3 hourly, but they were hungry at 2.5 hours, I would try to stretch them out till 3 hours, but if they were really distressed, I just fed them.
Now I have four kids – all toddlers or preschoolers. We still have a generally consistent daily routine to our day.
Our routine helps to take out some of the stresses of the day – we generally know what we’re going to do; things happen in a more organised manner; the kids know generally what to expect which helps them feel safe and secure; I don’t have decide on a daily / hourly basis what we should be doing at a given point in time.
Although we have a consistent daily routine, we still change things around sometimes. Like on weekends when we tend to be busy so bed times get stretched, naps may be very short (and happen in the car en-route), afternoon fruit snacks may not happen at all because meals on weekends tend to be bigger and happen over a longer period of time.
Every family is different and likely will have a routine that works just for them. Here is what our routine looks like at the moment, this is how I manage the multiple needs of my four children, who are at different stages of childhood, (K is almost 2yo, E is 3yo, N & M are 5yo and not yet at school).
- Free play indoors while breakfast is being cleaned up.
- Outdoor play or activity. Most days, we head out of the home for regular play dates or group activities.
- Lunch. We may have lunch away from home, or at home.
- Indoor free play while lunch is cleaned up.
- Fruit snack. Truth be told, in front of the TV.
- Afternoon naps or quiet time. Only E and K have afternoon naps. During this time, I do some quick literacy or math work (max 15 minutes) with N and M. I then bring out our play kit for quiet time for the day. Our play kit for quiet time includes some books (rotated on a weekly basis), a fine motor activity, and a problem solving / creative activity. N & M can choose which quiet time activities they would like to do from the play kit.
- Indoor free play.
- Books. This is an ever important part of encouraging our children to read. Due to the different stages of our four children, my husband and I either split up and read two books (one to the older kids N&M, the other to the younger kids E&K), or we choose two books (one for the older kids and one for the younger kids) and read to all four at the same time.
I’m bracing myself for next year, when N&M start school, and I return to work part time. In my mind, things will be busier, much busier.
What’s your best tip for managing the needs of multiple children?
Read More About Routines;
- Getting Out the Door On Time Without Saying ‘Hurry Up!’
- Routines Are a Good Thing, Until They’re Not!
- A Bedtime Routine with Seven Cherubs