Dear Miss Faith, I have a 2.5yo and a 4-month-old, and I’m really struggling with my toddler getting too close to the baby, doing dangerous things to him – and me trying to keep him from hurting the baby without always reprimanding him. So, today I had to run from the stove, where the meal was being cooked and needed my attention, corral my son back into the kitchen, he started throwing a tantrum, the baby was crying and scared, and things fell apart. It was a bust, and I was feeling awful after the whole ordeal. All I can say is that the adjustment to two kiddos has been far from easy for us…do you have any ideas on how to help things go more smoothly?
First off, hang in there! Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong– a toddler and an infant together can be really hard. Most toddlers need you right there for EVERY interaction with the baby, showing them how to touch so gently, helping them notice if the baby is liking or not liking what they’re doing, practicing over and over again. From time to time these can be sweet, bonding moments between you and your toddler, but you have lots of other things you need to be doing aside from helping your toddler be gentle with the baby. Like cooking dinner! How can you cook in peace, without putting the baby at risk of rough toddler hands?
My first idea is that I wonder if there’s a way to keep your littlest one out of reach of your toddler, while you’re doing things that take your hands and your attention away. That way, your toddler can come in and out of interacting with you, and you won’t have to hover over him if he leaves your side. Before your infant is mobile, something like a Pack-N-Play in the kitchen would work fine, so he can still move his body and he’s not strapped down. As he gets more mobile, you might consider something that actually sets off a part of the room. For inspiration, check out these pricey-but-fabulous ideas for space-dividers from Community Playthings: http://www.communityplaythings.com/products/roomscapes/index.html. I bet you could look on Craigslist or a parent swap site and find something similar that would work.
I’ve actually seen these used two ways: either as a safe place for babies to be so bigger kids can be more rambunctious, or as a special place for older kids, where they might play with toys the baby could choke on, for example, or build towers with blocks and the baby can’t knock it down.
Siblings get lots and lots of togetherness. Allowing them to also have a little space from each other can be a gift, for them and for you.
Warmly, ~Miss Faith