I am the mother of two kids under the age of four. After having my first, we got into a groove and life was easy. However, when I had my second son, I quickly learned that having one child means having one child, and having two kids means you essentially have 825 kids.
The transition from one to two kids can be hard, and the balance between your adult life and parent life can seem to disappear. For many, it becomes a time when you just focus on surviving. If you're hoping to start thriving during this magical time, these tips from real parents can help you balance having a baby and a toddler!
15 Practical Ways to Balance Life With Two Young Kids
We all struggle at some point in our parenthood journey, which is why I reached out to real-life moms and dads for advice on what to do to keep your sanity — and even find a schedule when you have a baby and a toddler. Here is their advice (and my own)!
1. Get Your Toddler Involved in Daily Tasks
This is a big one! My son loves to help. By getting him involved in daily tasks, he feels important. However, this isn't limited to just chores around the house; he also helps with tasks that involve baby brother! When brother is hungry, he helps make his food by filling his bottle up with water. When brother needs toys, he brings him what he thinks he will like. When brother needs a pacifier, he is always the first one to find it.
These little actions have a big impact on his feeling of self-worth. It also helps to limit his jealousy because Mommy couldn't complete the task without him. Finding little ways to get your toddler to help with their sibling can be a game changer in terms of positive interactions.
2. Align Afternoon Naps
Most toddlers only take one nap a day and these typically land in the afternoon. If you can manage to align your toddler and newborn naps, you suddenly give yourself a window to regain your sanity. This is fantastic for your mental health. It can also be a great work window for parents like myself who both take care of the kids and have a job.
3. Have “Toddler Time” During Morning Naps
Since your baby likely takes an extra nap in the morning hours, this is the perfect window for you to have one-on-one time with your toddler. This is important because babies, and especially newborns, take all of your attention while they are awake. This can lead to your toddler becoming the green-eyed monster.
In our house, we call this window of one-on-one bonding "Beau time." That way he knows that this is his special window to get focused play with Mommy. During this period, we typically engage in hands-on or sensory activities that help him learn and self-regulate his emotions.
4. Invest in a Sling or Baby Carrier
Chasing after a toddler with a baby in your arms is a pain in the, well, you know. Skip the stress and wear your baby throughout the day! This not only helps you and your newborn bond and promotes breastfeeding, but it also gives you two free hands to handle your wild older child.
5. Minimize Clutter in Your Home
Less is always more when you have a baby and a toddler. We used to have a huge toy bin in the main room and I quickly realized that this was a recipe for disaster. My son would make a game of dumping every single item out of the bin, not to play with, just to dump out.
After some thorough research, I learned that if a toddler has too many options it can inhibit play. This led me to reorganize our toys and now everything is grouped by category. If he wants to play with blocks, we grab the block bin, but if cars are our jam, there is a bin for that too.
As soon as I cut out the clutter and prioritized individual activity options, he began to engage more. This also limits the level of chaos in your home and the amount to clean up.
If you implement this system or a Montessori-style space, you may want to set up a house rule that your child only gets to play with one section of toys at a time. They can switch whenever they please, but they must put away the other toys first.
6. Consider Mother’s Day Out or Early Preschool
Finding balance in life as a parent is impossible without a little help. They say it "takes a village" for a reason. If you have involved grandparents or other family members in the picture, it can be really helpful. But, if you are like me and family help is hard to find, early preschool or Mother's Day Out (MDO) programs are a fantastic solution!
These are typically half-day sessions that occur one to five days a week, depending on the age of your child and your budget. These small windows of time away from your child are not only beneficial for their development, helping to build their social-emotional and cognitive skills, but they also give you a well-deserved break.
7. Buy a Good Double Stroller
If you ever intend to leave the house again, a double stroller is your ticket to success! This baby gear makes it simple (or as simple as it can be) to go to the doctor, run into a store, or even just go for a walk with two littles in tow.
I recommend the tandem seating over the side-by-side because a lot of doorways can be a struggle to get through when you have a wide ride. You can also look at wagons that have car seat attachments and buckled seating for both kids. It's a good idea to shop for products that will grow with your newborn and toddler so that you only have to buy one of these pricy items instead of two.
Just because you have two babies doesn't mean that you should toss your single stroller! I actually use the single more than the double for quick errands because I can easily wear my baby. You also want to have a single stroller for when the toddler is at home with their other parent or at school and you need to run out with your littlest one.
8. Prioritize Weekly Meal Planning
Quick meals are crucial when you have little kids who decide they are hungry in the blink of an eye. However, the key to meal prep with a baby and toddler is to find foods that they can both eat. Otherwise, the green-eyed monster will come out again and the food might become a mess on your floor instead of landing in their mouths.
Crockpot meals are a wonderful choice because the food is typically tender and you have lots of leftovers for later in the week! You can also make meals in advance and then freeze them for a quick dish later.
Baby-led weaning is a fantastic way to introduce your baby to new foods, without having to make 15 meals for your family. Choose recipes that they can easily mash with their gums and have limited ingredients. Once you determine that allergies are not an issue, work your way up to more complex dishes!
My favorite meals and foods for a baby & toddler include:
- Greek Yogurt
- Crustless Mini Quiches
- Pasta (with or without meat)
- Chicken Parm
9. Get Outside in the Morning
Sunshine does a lot of good for the soul. Once your baby turns six months old, they can play in direct sunlight and wear sunscreen. The morning hours allow for cooler temperatures and less direct sun, making it the perfect time to get out.
Try to go outside and get active for 30 minutes to an hour. This can help you recharge and allow your baby and toddler to release some of their unlimited energy.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Separate the Kids
Sometimes we all need a break. When pushing and shoving begins, this is normally a sign that your two kids need a breather. Put your baby in a playpen with some toys and have your toddler play in their room. Quiet time can be good for the soul as well and it certainly helps everyone's sanity!
11. Do Simultaneous Diaper Checks
If you smell something suspicious, make a point to check both bottoms at the same time. Many times, you'll find that both your baby and toddler have a dirty bottom, but the toddler won't alert you to their need for a chance until you have changed the baby and left the room to go back to what you are doing. Save yourself the steps and do double-checks when you think one kid might need a change.
12. Use Mats to Keep Play Separate, But Close
Mats are an effective tool for keeping your kids concentrated on an activity and keeping their hands within their designated space. You can buy each of your two kids a mat and lay them out for playtime each day. Your newborn can do tummy time and your toddler can play with whatever toys they see fit in that moment!
13. Do Your Best Prepare for the Day Ahead
I don't think I would survive juggling two kids without planning! We have swim classes four days a week, school three days a week, doctor's appointments, errands, and everything else that life brings. This means taking the time the night before to lay out clothes, snacks, backpacks and bags, drink cups, sunscreen, and all the other supplies we need for each activity.
Spending 30 minutes prepping makes it more likely that you won't forget anything, which is another key to keeping your sanity intact.
This can also be a great activity for your toddler! Let them pick out their clothes and their sibling's clothes. Ask them what they need for school and have them retrieve it. This teaches responsibility, gets them excited for the day ahead, and wears them out without them realizing it.
14. Ask the Other Parent to Participate
Whether you are both working parents or they work and you stay at home, it can be helpful to have everyone involved. Don't be afraid to communicate your needs and let your partner know when you would benefit from a break. One way to ensure that this happens is to designate a time that your spouse or significant other is responsible for tagging in.
It is hard to not want your partner to tag in the moment they get home, but they need time to detox from their day, too. Give them a second to breathe and relax. I personally like to hand my two kids over to my husband after dinner and bath time. This puts the task of wearing the kids out before bedtime on him and allows both of us some separate time to breathe.
15. Prioritize Your Self-Care
YOU matter in this equation! If your mental health is suffering, then your kid's care will suffer as well. Ask for help, take breaks when you can, and know that something has to give, so try to let go of having the perfect house and know that a little screen time is worth you getting a break. Afternoon naps are a wonderful time to take 20 - 30 minutes just for you.
Give Yourself Some Grace
I had to save the best for last — juggling two kids is hard. One thing most veteran parents advise is that you give yourself some grace. Are they fed? Are they loved? Are they warm and dry? Then you did your job today! When you have a baby and a toddler, the best practice is to take things day by day, and sometimes even hour by hour.
Believe that you are doing your best — because you are — and that's all you can do! Know that you will find your rhythm and things will get easier.