Being Productive with Toddlers

From my last post on Being Productive, I simply laid out what my life looks like right now.  For some younger mothers who have many little ones, their situation seems more difficult to schedule.  No, not really.  I always had a system.  I had 5 little ones under 5 years old.  I remember when I was holding Junior in my arms when he was a tiny little baby and all the other toddlers were bouncing around on the sofa when it dawned on me that I was basically running a day care center.

It was a very difficult season of life for me.  I remember it like yesterday.  The baby is crying while the 2-year-old is dumping a plant over and the other children are fighting over a toy.  Everyone is crying and messes are all around you.  You feel like your world is spinning out of control.  If you have to go to an appointment, you are late because you try to have each child buckled in the van when one of them poops their pants and you have to clean it up.  The kids are crying in the van now, or one of them finds a way out and is beeping the horn, while you are frantically changing a diaper on the seat beside you.

You are late, worn out, and feel there is no end to the work.  There are dishes piling up, and kids demanding.  I know.  I have been there and done that.  When I followed a simple schedule, I felt like I could keep the home clean and keep the kids occupied.

Survival Mode:
When I had so many little ones, I just had to figure out a system just to survive it all.  I was not enjoying my mothering because I felt like I was running back and forth, putting various fires out all day.  Until I made sense of my day and put order in our time with a schedule, I was a mess.  After I got a system in place, my house was always clean, I was a happy mama, the kids were content, and life was a fun journey.  You do not have to live in a mess with chaos.  I think I enjoyed this time most of all because we were being productive and that was our special family time as well.  I will provide a few training tips as well as a simple schedule for the toddler years.  I hope this is a blessing to you as it was to me when I was a young mother…

Child Training 101       (Taken from Living Virtuously book)
Here are a few steps on training your little child how to listen and be a good helper. You reap great fruit and a wonderful relationship if you invest some time into training your children when they are young.

  1. Lead them. Do not ask them what they want to eat or what they would like to wear today. Lovingly tell them, “We are having eggs for breakfast” or “This is what you are wearing today.” When small children are given options they feel less secure. You are forcing them to make decisions far before their minds are capable. That is why a small child will choose one thing, and then quickly change their mind. They are not secure with making so many choices. It is far better for them if you lead them. God did not give you thinking and reasoning adult minds when he gave you your newborn baby. If that were the case, they would not need parents to lead them.
  2. A time for everything. Children thrive on a schedule. It gives them security if they know what is expected of them and what they will be doing next. I always told my small children, “It is time to eat now,” “It is time to get dressed,” “It is time for your nap,” “It is time to clean up,” or “It is time for a snack.” If you ask them if they would like to go to the potty, you will almost always have “no” for an answer and a mess on your hands. Some people wait until their children are “ready” to be potty-trained instead of gradually getting them used to going on the potty.
  3. Listen the first time. Always mean what you say and say what you mean. If you say you will take their toy away if they do not stop hitting another child with it, take it away if they do not stop. Do not give them 25 opportunities to disobey before you get serious about stopping them. Someone could get hurt, and what’s worse, your child is learning that your words means nothing. If they are not taught to listen to your command, it could be very dangerous. One mom, who did not teach her child to listen to her first command, ended up having to bury that child. She had a philosophy of counting to three before she would give a time-out. The child knew that he had three chances to disobey before Mom got angry. When he was crossing the street by their schoolyard, the mother saw a big truck coming, and told her little boy to stop. He was not used to obeying the first time, so he started crossing the street and she said stop the second time. Because he did not ever listen at the second command he kept walking across the street. He was hit and killed instantly by the truck. It pays to train your kids to listen the first time.
  4. Be consistent. No matter what rule or instruction you have established in your home, stick with the program. In the real world the law is not bent when you steal something; you still have to go to jail. If the children know that rules are made to be broken, they will have a life full of disappointment. They will feel that the law is not just and that criminals should be allowed to do as they feel is right. Stand by your word. When you say “no cookies,” do not give in to their whining. If you give them a cookie after they lay on the floor kicking and screaming, you have just taught them that kicking and screaming gets them a cookie. That will be a hard habit to break later in their life. They will learn that they can manipulate any situation to get their way.
  5. Build relationships. Take time to enjoy their creations and talents. Read them stories and be their buddy. Experience life with them. Do not shove them off when you have too much to do; instead, let them help you. It makes more mess having a two-year-old help wash the dishes, but you are teaching them to be your cleaning buddy in the process. When you involve them in your life, they will involve you in theirs as they grow.
  6. Nurture and admonition. When your child does something they are not supposed to do, you need to give them a consequence and then teach them how to do better in the future. If you just punish bad behavior, they do not know how to make better choices next time. They need instruction. Teach them daily how to love their neighbor as themselves, and how to be kind and merciful by your example. Teach them how to appreciate their life by showing them how others live across the world. Give them a healthy perspective from which they can grow. They need lots of love and affection. Take time to sew seeds of truth and joy into their hearts.
  7. Health and wellness. Feed your children nutritious foods that help their bodies grow properly. Do not give them an abundance of sugar and other junk foods that can cause unwanted behavioral issues. Help them have moderation when they eat. Do not encourage overeating. Give them plenty of water to drink; it is important for your child to stay hydrated. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and activity. Keeping their body fit and active will help them grow strong. Make sure they bathe frequently. Do not bring your kids into public looking like poor children from a refugee camp. When you go places, comb their hair, wash their face, and put clean clothing on them. It is a bad witness to others when your kids look dirty. Teach them to brush their teeth daily and clean under their nails properly.
  8. Ministry mindset. Do not just bring your child to church to show them how to be a spectator. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Instead, show them how to minister to others and how to reach out to the lost. Equip them with the knowledge and let them watch you minister to your fellow man. More is caught than taught.

Click on the Schedule below to download the file.  Edit it to your own unique situation, print it out, and stick to your refrigerator.

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12 thoughts on “Being Productive with Toddlers”

  1. When doing all this, How did you fill your cup ? What was your self-care? I only have 1 who is just over 1 and I am going nuts with the sudden clingyness making cooking a screaming activity or getting in the car to pay bills or pickup groceries an exhausting event. Then when hubby gets home I have to make sure he gets his needs met with conversation and dinner and such…but am finding zero time to fill my cup. To just sit still and think to myself. What worked for you? I live in another country away from any of my friends or family, so I get little reprieve from anyone else. I am a one woman show who is slowly burning out and can’t find joy in anything anymore. Would love to hear from a mom who survived 5 kiddos and how she kept her emotional energy up.

    1. I simply had the children doing everything I was doing, that way they were having activities and I was still getting things accomplished. I had it so organized, every thing we did so I felt so free and felt I had a ton of free time. When there is no order and children are not being set to jobs, and helping you along the way, it is utter mayhem. I agree. I never thought much about self care, but nap time was a wonderful relaxing time for me to take a bath, read a book, talk to an old friend on the phone, or get things caught up that I wanted to do around the house. I found it the most fun time of my life, actually. Think of that child as you side kick and see how that works for you. It is fun to have a little side kick to work with.

  2. Thank you Erin,
    This was such a huge pick-me-up for me today, it helped reinforce things and makes me feel more confident in raising my kiddo. I appreciate your well versed words and mentorship!

  3. Toddler can definitely make things hard. We always halfway manage through the day, but he’ll be growing up before I know it. I try to focus on the fact that I’ll miss this, and that the laundry can wait one more day! ?

    1. Its so true. They grow up way too fast and before you know it, they don’t need you as much anymore. It is such a sweet time dear sister! Do you laundry with your toddler. I would have him help fold, help put dirty clothes in the basket, like a game. From the washer to the dryer, he can help put the damp clothes into the dryer. Do everything with your little HELPER buddy and then you can have fun with him as he grows into a man one day. You will have fun, get closer, and he will learn how to be productive.

  4. THANK YOU Erin! I commented on the earlier post about productivity & wondered what to do with the littles! This is a big help for me to know what to implement in my home. I can’t stand it when people say things like “don’t worry about the house, just love on the kids… they’re only little once…” NO ONE can relax when the house Is a disaster. Anyway, Thanks again Erin. I will add your book to my Christmas list 🙂

  5. Thank you for this article! It contains a lot of useful advice for raising young children. The schedule however seems a bit unrealistic in terms of preparing supper though. This is the time where I struggle the most, and am often too impatient to have my kids ‘help’ me. How do you tidy up and prepare a meal (with little ones watching/doing), all within 30mins? Are you starting to prepare it earlier when they have their snack, or just have very basic meals?

    1. I say AMEN to all the comments so far!!! I too was wonering about the dinner (supper) time frame, If you could give clarity that would be great.

    2. Erin@Keeper of the Homestead

      Yes, I would have them help prepare as listed above on the clean up section before the supper. Picking up a few toys takes a few minutes so the rest of the time is setting the table, preparing supper. The kids always helped me in what ever I was doing. We just enjoyed doing everything together. I hope this helps. Within 30 minutes, well, there are many meals that can be in the crock pot all day, or in the oven while the kids are napping. I often had the meal cooking, or at least the meat, all day, and all we would get together in 20 minutes was side dishes, like the vegetable or a salad. Sometimes I would have the potatoes peeled while the kids were napping as well, read to set to boil 30 minutes before the mealtime. I just made it work. This schedule is not really meant to adhere to each thing like a law, I was also flexible and somedays certain things took longer and some days things took barely any time at all. Some days we went on all day outings and because I had a routine, the kids were very content and well adjusted to a change when we needed to and it was thought of as very special and fun. I could bring my kids anywhere and they were so sweet, pleasant, and fun to take with me. People always admired my happy, smiling, inquisitive little children that loved meeting new people. The routine just made for a happy life for all of us.

  6. This is good stuff. I’m part way there with the routine. I’m tired of when I ask other ladies for advice about small kids and they say things like “bless your heart, that was hard” but have nothing practical to offer. Thank you!

  7. Thank you! You have described exactly how I’ve been feeling the last couple of days. I have 3 children so far, ages 4, 2 and 6 months, and, while I know that the day goes better when I have a schedule (routine), I was in need of that reminder today. Also, thank you for the reminder that it is important to teach the children to help and to allow them to help with keeping the chores done. I do have a tendency to want to do it myself, since it’s faster, easier, and gets done to my liking; I will make it my goal to start incorporating teaching them into my daily work.
    Thank you! I’ve read a lot, and often find here the word of encouragement and practical help that I’m needing.

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