If you are facing quarantine or a “shelter in place” order in your community, chances are you are struggling on some level. Suddenly families have been thrown into a way of life so far from our reality, that we are grasping at any shred of positivity we can muster up. Fear is high, morale is low, anxiety is high, and feelings of losing control are deeply felt. I’m a baby and toddler sleep coach, but I’m also a mom and I know how hard this is.
As parents, we have all been tasked with taking on the impossible – working from home, full-time parenting, homeschooling, and all without the support of a childcare provider or friends and family. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. As the mom to my own “threeanger”, I know how you feel. I too am feeling the overwhelm, the mental strain. You are not alone, mama.
After about a week in my pajamas, I decided that it was time to bring some order back into our lives. Not only did I feel terrible, but my toddler was acting out. I have put together some tips and ideas that have given order instead of chaos in our home.
Introduce a Daily Routine and Schedule
As humans, we thrive off order and routine and so do our kids – I see this all the time as a baby and toddler sleep coach. Children especially feel more secure if they know what to expect from adults. I suggest you break down your daily goals and activities into a “schedule” and post this on the refrigerator for your family to see.
Here is an example of my daily schedule:
7:30 AM: Wake up and get dressed
7:45 AM: Breakfast and clean up
8:15 AM: Screen time
9:45 AM: Structured learning (ABCs, colors, numbers)
10:30 AM: Snack
10:45 AM: Outside play time
12:00 PM: Lunch
12:30 PM: Free play
1:00 – 3:00 PM: Nap
3:30 PM: Screen time and snack
4:30 PM: Outside play/free play
6:00 PM: Dinner
6:30 PM: Family play time (child lead)
7:00 PM: Bedtime routine
7:30 PM: Bedtime, lights out
A daily schedule broken down to this degree is not for everyone and trust me, we are not perfect. I do not pretend to be perfect and I am giving myself a lot of grace. You will also notice screen time in our schedule, a few times a day. Our reality is survival at this point. Does my kiddo enjoy it? Yes. Does it give me a break? Yes. It works for us and I encourage you to give exceptions right now to give yourself a much needed break or time to answer emails and calls.
Maintain Wake-Up and Bedtime
It is so easy to muddle through the day and throw away any sort of schedule. No one is going anywhere so why does it matter? First, this will eventually end. Life will return to normal; our jobs will require us to work at an office, our kids will go to school. I suggest not letting go of your schedule for the sake of your sanity in a few months. You will have an epic battle on your hands, if you have to regain control over a lost schedule.
Children thrive off routines because it lets them know what to expect from parents and where the boundaries start and end. Toddlers are habitual boundary pushers by nature but as their parent, they need you to be confident in your decisions and hold strong. In addition, young babies and toddlers cannot tell time. As a baby and a toddler sleep coach, trust me when I say, a 20-30 minutes bedtime routine will do wonders for your child, as they recognize this routine as leading up to sleep.
When starting your day, I give myself a “sleep in buffer” of 30 minutes before waking up my kiddo, if necessary. This is not enough time to get our day off track and we can still maintain order and consistency. For toddlers and older children, you can utilize the Hatch Baby. It is my favorite baby device and allows you to control all modes and settings with your phone. At 7:30 am, my toddler’s Hatch turns off the white noise and turns on the light. She is awake without me entering the room, it’s magical! This is also a handy device if you are training your toddler or preschooler to stay in bed until morning.
Activities for Toddlers and Preschool Age Children
I would consider myself mildly crafty, although I do not find myself having a lot of extra time in my life prior to quarantine. I have tried to maintain a part of my toddler’s school that she loves, which is making a daily “art project.” I initially bought washable finger paints, paper plates, stickers, extra construction paper, stamps, pipe cleaners, and kinetic sand. We have created countless projects and, in the process, encouraged a very happy, engaged kiddo sitting still for 30 minutes or more.
Other activities you can try: play dough, fort building with all of your Amazon boxes, bubble baths, bath paints, sensory bottles, kicking a ball, dress up, puzzles, stringing beads on pipe cleaners, baking, teaching household chores, listening to music, outside play, and reading.
Activities for Elementary Age Children
Older children have unique needs and it is important to encourage developmentally appropriate activities, provide age appropriate stimulation, and devote quality time with them away from any stressors or other children.
Activities to try: playing house, encouraging imaginary play, have a dance party, dig for worms, plant flowers in pots or vegetables in the garden, play board games, outdoor chalk art, outside scavenger hunt, fort building, create a postcard for a family member afar, create and bury a time capsule. Here are tons of other great ideas.
The pressure to perform and be everything to our family and work is enormous right now. I want you to repeat after me: “I will take things one step at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time.” One of my favorite tips for parents is to practice self-care – you cannot pour from an empty cup. Remember, you are more than a mom, more than a snack maker, more than an employee. You are thriving no matter what.
Here are some easy at-home self-care tips: start your day with affirmations, eat a healthy meal, limit news intake, Facetime a friend, get plenty of sleep, go to the bathroom alone (your kids will survive for 5 minutes), sit in the sunshine, paint your nails, watch your favorite TV show, nap when your kid(s) nap, breathe deeply.
Is your infant or toddler struggling to sleep?
Now is not the time to be mom of the year AND have your child not sleeping well at night or taking restful naps in the day. I have heard countless stories of desperation from parents during this past month and my heart breaks for any parent struggling with sleep deprivation while trying to keep it together. Parents have the unique advantage right now of time. By sleep training now, many parents don’t have to worry about going to work tired or timing the sleep training process around travel or family staying at home. There is no better time than now to get everyone sleeping.
I promise you do not have to live like this, there is hope! Give up your mombie status and drink coffee because you like it, not because you have to.
If you need help getting through this time, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local baby and toddler sleep coach. Click here to get started.