Whitney and I have three children three and under, which means we have TWO TODDLERS. I want to say now that Whitney is amazing, she takes care of all three all the time. I have learned that it is important to let her have some time off from time to time. This means I must have a prepared plan to occupy the two toddlers and a newborn. I have experience with kids, I started helping my mom in her primary church classes when I was probably only 14 and have continued to work in children’s churches, Jr. Churches and bus ministries ever since, and all these years of working with kids has taught me that if you do not have a plan then they will. Now I know that there is the easy answer: “Turn on the TV and walk away slowly!” But, let’s be honest, that’s lazy. Dads, God said in 1 Corinthians 11:3:
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Then in 1 Timothy 3:4-5:
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
These last two are a passage talking about church leaders, but why shouldn’t every one of us seek to be a leader in our circle of influence, and it is clearly a sign of what kind of leader we are by how we lead our home.
So, just watching TV is not really leading, it’s just distracting and it has its place but dad time has so much more potential than mere distraction time. Therefore, I have devised a carefully thought out strategy in a series of activities to attempt when it is my turn to watch the kids here it is:
If there is opportunity to allow your children to help in projects around the house or yard, let them. I know it is faster and sometimes easier to just do the jobs ourselves, but every time we do, our children miss out on a learning experience. It’s good for both the kids and I to work together on a project. I learn new and creative ways to show them how to be useful, and they get to learn about how fun work can be. Here you may be laughing, but I assure you that with the right perspective almost all work can be fun.
Learning game time.
As I have stated before we have competitive children, this means they love playing games, especially ones with a winner. So, I find ways to make ordinary games into learning opportunities. Twister is now a game where we work on our left and right hand as well as colors. Trouble is also a good color identification game while also working on counting. With a little creativity and a colorful game, any game can become a fun way to do “school” without a 2 and 3 yr old even realizing it.
So, there is a system in all this madness and here is where it reaches its peak. you don’t want to start off with this because you probably ate dinner before any of this began and you do not want puking toddlers to handle, but you do want to try to burn out some of that relentless energy so that they will be genuinely tired after the next couple steps. This area doesn’t have to be creative, it can be as simple as running around in circles chasing the kids, riding bikes, or tussling on the floor. The idea is simply to have fun and burn energy. The key at times is to be smart and get them to burn more than you while still being active with them.
Active but not too active.
From this point on the goal is to reel them in. Sit around and sing, sit and play with Lego’s, trucks, dolls, or be their patient while they give you “nosesses” (diagnoses)… thanks, Doc. McStuffins. Deliberately begin to bring down the energy level. Some reminding may be necessary.
Clean up time.
Have them help put all the toys and games you’ve used back. It is an important life lesson to know how to clean up our own messes, and it is never too early to begin the process of teaching that.
Every family has to discover their own bedtime routine based on scheduling and preferences, the key point here though is keeping the system on track. Don’t go back and undo the preparing for this moment that has already been done. The energy has been brought up, used, and brought back down. The toys are all put up and the house is fairly clean and ready for Mom’s arrival. Stay on track, get PJs on, sing a lullaby, pray or whatever necessary then put them to bed.
This system fits the usual scenario that I use when I am left with the kids. You may have picked up on that this time is usually after supper and before bed. So my strategy is geared that way. Whenever you may get them, guys, have a plan. You direct their energy and excitement levels and keep them occupied with constructive, productive activity, and always remember, if you do not have a plan they will.