Life with little people can often be loud and lively, but here are my tips to help keep things calm rather than chaos! Having three boys within 3 years (now 5, 3 and 2) I am now outnumbered by the little guys, so I do need to keep some order, and this is what works for me:
My Tips for a Peaceful Life with Preschoolers
Toddler-Proof the house
Having most of the precious or breakable things out of harms way allows everyone to relax more, so lessens unnecessary conflict. Especially with even younger toddlers (1+), temptation will always be there and they find it hard to control their impulses. Why leave a shiny and tempting vase or ornament at a low level? When it inevitably gets broken, you would realise that the whole thing could have been avoided by placing it up high. I still manage to decorate my house, with wall canvases, frames on higher shelves and nice soft furnishings but anything breakable, any important papers, or anything particularly expensive all needs to be kept safely out of harms way.
I find some of the things that always attracted my boys the most as soon as they started crawling or walking were the electrical items like the TV or computer. We got a much wider television stand so that all the wires are hidden behind it, and I found switching to a laptop much better as now all our Computer Cables are tidied away safely in the drawer.
Have a section of the house just for them
I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a playroom, we haven’t always had one. But I find it is great to have somewhere just for them which they can put their personality all over. It also helps to stop the whole house being taken over with toys and toddler paraphernalia! For my boys having a separate play room gives us a nice dedicated area to do activities together without the distractions of the rest of the home (like television, or spotting some dishes that might need doing!)
For us, having this space downstairs works much better. When I do need to get on with some household chores, they can play there. They wouldn’t all play on their own upstairs with their toys as they are quite young. My 2 year old especially likes to know that I am nearby! Before moving to this house, we used to have a special section of our living room to fulfil the same purpose.
Pick your battles
Save “no” for what really matters, and don’t assert your authority over every little thing. I remember clearly seeing an example this on one episode of Supernanny, before I even had kids. The mum asked her little boy to sit next to her on the sofa while she was feeding his younger baby brother. He didn’t want to, so didn’t listen. This resulted in him being warned for not listening, and then ended in hours of battling and naughty step – all because he didn’t want to sit on the sofa. There wasn’t even really a reason why he had to sit on the sofa! There is no point coming down so hard for arbitrary rules, it will create an atmosphere of tension and unhappiness in the house for parents and children. I’m not saying don’t have any authority, but if you save it for what is really important then the children are more likely to listen as they are not hearing “no no no no” all day long!
Fresh air and exercise
Young children (I’ve heard it said particularly boys, but I wouldn’t know as I have no girls to compare!) need their fresh air and exercise, as much as possible. Toddlers have a lot of energy. It needs to be burned off in a positive way. If not, you will find them going crazy in the house, becoming hyper active and sometimes even aggressive. I always notice the difference if we have a lot of bad weather or for some reason we are not able to go outside. In fact recently we had to stay in two weeks as one of the boys was recovering from an operation and couldn’t risk infection. I noticed within a couple of days that they really needed to use up their energy, so I let them clear a space in the house where they could race up and down without crashing into anything!
Keep them busy
A bored child will end up finding something to do to amuse them self, and it may not be with something you would like them to do. Drawing on the walls, sudocrem spread over the house – I’m sure many of us have been there! When I give my children constructive activities to do, the atmosphere is much more calm and peaceful and we all enjoy each other’s company more. No-one can spend all day crafting or entwined in make believe games with their little ones but a good balance between this, and having suitable toys and activities available for them to keep themselves busy should do the job.
I am meaning to start up a toy rotation, where I will pack some of the toys out of the way for a while and then reintroduce them, swapping some of the others away. This should help to keep the toys more fresh and exciting for them as they wouldn’t have seen them for a while. I also find that sometimes with even my 5 year old, when there is too much choice available he becomes overwhelmed. Having a selection of just a few suitable toys or activities at a time, can sometimes work better.
Using Screens in Moderation
I don’t believe in no TV whatsoever for preschoolers. I hate to say it, but certain parents who have bragged to me that they have no TV and their child is so exemplary – I’ve not always found this to be the case when said child has visited my home! A bit of well chosen children’s TV programming or DVDs is a life saver at times. Sometimes my boys are over tired and this leads to them getting hyperactive and wound up. You would think children would slow down when tired, but no – not mine! In those instances, it’s best to step in and switch on something to grab their attention for half an hour to give them the chance to recharge their batteries and cool off.
Give them responsibility, according to their ability
I always found this gives them a bit of control, and helps with their self esteem. There is less conflict when they feel they have a say in what they are doing, or are involved in the ways things are done. This works from getting toddlers to help prepare lunch, to letting them go and pick out their own clothes. Even for the younger boys who can’t talk, I like to give them choices by showing two options and letting them point. This is good to encourage early communication which is a foundation for speech, and a side benefit of that is that it let’s them know that their choices are important and that they have some say in their world.
Once they get a little older, they can be given some responsibility for problem solving and sorting out their own squabbles amongst themselves. I remember reading an example about a brother and sister who both wanted to sit in a certain seat in the car, and both were making a fuss. The mum told them, either you come to some agreement between you, or neither of you will get it. So they discussed with each other and ended up coming up with their mutually acceptable solution – brother would have the seat on the way there, and sister will have it on the way back. Because they were given ownership of the situation, they both accepted it and were happy with what they came up with, whereas if Mum had just given that solution straight away they still probably would have been moaning and not entirely happy with it.
Routine and let them know their expectations
My children, like most, respond better to having a rough routine in place. I am not a stickler for strict routines and schedules down to every last minute! But most children feel more secure when they know what is going to happen next. If they know that 7pm each night is bedtime, then they won’t really be as likely play up at bedtime because they know that this is bedtime and that’s just the way it is! If they are told in advance about plans or change of activities, then it will enable them to transition much better between activities. No wonder a toddler may have a tantrum if pulled away from a favourite activity with not even a moment’s warning! Even using a five or ten minute count down system could work much better. For some children having a routine in place visually in the home can help even more, or other visual support such as timers when moving on from certain activities if they need it.
It’s similar with behaviour. If they know what to expect and what is acceptable and not, then there are less boundaries to test. I don’t like to have lot and lots of rules in the house, so let the most important ones be clear and well known and leave it at that. Such as no hurting each other!
Let me know your tips too!
Most of my tips are common sense and may not sound like much but these simple things do make the difference between calm and chaos. What tips would you add? Let me know in the comments!