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Daycare Center and Family Home Forum>Need Some Encouragement
mamamanda 03:34 PM 01-07-2018
Hi guys. I think I'm just needing some encouragement. My group is all younger. So after dropping my son off at school it is either 4 or 5 children all under 4 years old depending on the day. I'm working really hard to create a good system and I've been reading a lot and tweaking things to find the best routine for my group. I find that my desire for our group environment and our reality are so very different. I'm by no means expecting perfection. This is a house full of toddlers. We're obviously going to have meltdowns and high emotions at times. But I'd love for all of us to feel a sense of calm and orderly play/activity throughout the day. Does that make sense?

The two biggest challenges seem to be that the baby wants to be held or at least have someone in her face talking to her constantly. She is happy and very pleasant when she's being interacted with. She laughs and coos often. And obviously I want to interact with her, but the second I turn my attention to another little one she screams.

Secondly, one of my 2 year olds is pretty grouchy. He doesn't like for the other kids to touch him at all. If we're all reading together and someone bumps him he screams. He only wants to play with the toy someone else has. Second they put it down he no longer wants it. Also, he is very busy and into things he shouldn't be. He climbs any and all furniture, throws toys, pushes kids...it's just delightful as you can image.

Bottom line is I feel like I am always in clean up mode, bouncing from one mess to the other. It's like I can't be the leader b/c I'm too busy running behind him to lead the others. I plan table activities, preschool plans (more hands on like baking cookies, stringing beads, puzzles, etc), and a craft each day, but most of the time we don't get to much of it b/c I'm just chasing him around the room to keep him out of mischief. (I really do try to babyproof, but our main area is my living room so some furniture can't be moved.)

Is it realistic to think that we will get in a good routine that will allow us to transition smoothly between planned activities, free play, meal times, etc without them yelling at each other or using harsh words constantly? Can my consistent modeling of gentleness make a big difference or am I pretty much just stuck in this toddler meltdown phase?

Also, any tips for helping the 4mo learn to play happily with us without us necessarily engaging her? Thanks so much!
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Josiegirl 03:17 AM 01-08-2018
Mixed ages is one of my biggest challenges because it feels just like what you described. Lower your expectations on how much you need to do during the day and let the kids lead the way a little bit with activities. I try to offer a couple fun large motor activities, a sensory activity, some kind of fine motor activity each day, along with stories. But it's all negotiable by everyone's moods. The only structure I offer are meals, nap, and outdoor play(course we've been lacking with outdoor play lately and that can make for a very long day).
Last week I bought a 4-way tunnel and set it up with our pop-up tent, the dcks loved it. Today I'm using water beads and making fork bears(Thanks Flying...... ). At least, that's the plan.
I find it truly stressful to try and plan a day. But I always have ideas in my head about what I can pull out of my hat at the last minute. But I give options 'do you guys want to do puzzles or draw pictures?'
And if you've got someone in the crashing, throwing phase, can you downsize your toys? Another idea from here that I've used, when 1 dck is too rambunctious, is set out a blanket to mark their area of play and place a few things on it. He can't come off that blanket and no one can go on.

As for the 4 mo, can you sit him in a bouncer or other type of seat to be right with you all while you're playing on the floor? I know many don't, but I've used baby swings, etc. temporarily, for those babies who need lots of interaction.
HTH and good luck!!
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HappyEverAfter 07:19 PM 01-08-2018
Itís tough. Iíve got 4 in my care, all 18mths and younger. There are many days where I feel like Iím just barely keeping my head above water. There have been days where I was actually in tears of exhaustion after the door closed behind 5e last one to leave. There are also days where everything flows smoothly and the kids all behave and I feel like I could conquer the world. Here are a few things I have done or do that help me stay sane.

I bought a play yard fence and divided my playroom in to two sides. One side is for fully mobile kids, the other is for non mobile. The toys on each side are all age appropriate for the kids on that side. I bounce from one side to the other but no matter which side Iím on, I can see, talk and interact with both sides. I love that I donít have to worry about the bigger kids sitting on an infant or a thrown toy hitting an infant. On the non mobile side I have an exersaucer, swing and bouncer seat that all face the mobile side so the little ones can watch the big ones play, which they like. Iím about to purchase another play yard fence to use in my living room when weíre in there.

I prep the night before for meals and bottles. Premeasure formula, fill sippy cups, put bibs on high chair trays, etc.

When I only had one mobile child, I would do special activities with her while the little infants napped. These would be hit or miss depending on how the day went of course but I always had something prepped and waiting just in case I had 20 or 30 minutes alone with her. Likewise, when she slept, I did activities with the babies that were geared towards them.

If I find myself feeling overwhelmed, Iíll put the older one in her high chair/booster with tray and give her crayons and paper. She can color while I wrangle the others in a bit and calm them down or get them down for naps. Usually by the time sheís bored of coloring, Iíve gotten the others to a manageable level. Sometimes just getting one of them in a set place and busy with an independent activity can allow you to breath amidst the chaos.

Most of our day is unstructured free play. I do play with them. I read to them and we sing and we dance. In spring and summer we free play outside (non mobile go into bouncer seats and I blow bubbles for them or sing songs to them). We have meal and nap times but outside of that, I donít plan activities for the group. Itís just too much for me given the age range of my current group. I do still try to always have on hand something fun for the older one or two to do if I can manage to get them alone while the two non mobile babies sleep.

On the especially difficult days at try to remember that they will get older quickly and I will be able to have the more structured days that I wish for. I am also no longer accepting infants so that I wonít have to deal with non mobile children mixed with mobile ones. Hang in there and just find small ways to make your day smoother.
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mamamanda 06:19 AM 01-09-2018
Thank you both. I have a jumparoo in the barn that I used with my own kids. I will bring that in & see if the baby likes it. She actually had a great day yesterday! You offered some good ideas & got me thinking. After reading your reply I realize there are several things I could prep the night before that would help me so much. Thank you both for sharing!
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Tags:encouragement, mixed ages
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