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This is actually the opposite of a previously asked question

I'm doing fairly well with the 4 1/2 year old and the 20 month old sharing. But there are times that the older child wants to do things that are appropriate for the older child but not for the younger. (Crafts, models, more delicate toys). The kids bed times are very close together. We find ourselves limited to weekend nap time for the little one.

What ideas do people have for distracting the little one so that we can:

  1. Have more than a few minutes of time
  2. Not undo all the teaching on sharing we're doing for the kids.
  3. Not have to always tell the elder, "We can't do that now, the little one is around."

Any advice as always is warmly welcomed.

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Alone time is tough, perhaps sharing specific time for each one with another parent so both get a chance to do a task/craft with each child. My wife and I take time with the older one, I will watch the younger and she and he will do something they like to do together. I sometimes will take the older out for baseball or do some work outside and my wife will watch the little one. It's worked well so far.

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My little one is only 1 year old and so doesn't do structured activities well, but when this situation arises I try to find a similar substitute for him so that his older sister can do her thing. For example, if she is painting he might be colouring with crayons.

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Crafts can often be done on two levels: one kid working on a different project than the other kid. That way, both children can have a reasonably challenging project. This can also help when the older kid wants to play with an 'older' toy: have one kid work on a project which challenges him, which the other would find boring; that way they will both be focusses on their own activity.

In my experience, children understand the concept of different activities remarkably well. Also, it is a very good preparation for adult life, where different projects are the rule rather than the exception.

Another trick which helps us, is having an L-shaped room: one kid can't see the other, while you can see (and supervise) both of them. Having music on may help reduce distractions caused by the sounds from the other child.

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On your specific questions, what I've found works for my 3 1/2 and 1 yr old.

  1. Take the "older" activity to an unreachable place (the kitchen table the smallest one can't reach) so that the activity is "safe" and you don't frustrate the older one by having to do everything over again
  2. Have the older one teach things to the smallest one, or give her/him things she/he can play with. Scraps of papers to play with, spare pieces of models (not too small of course!), give her/him unfinished or badly made stuff to play with.
  3. How about tell the younger "You can't do that, that's for the older only"? That actually works (ok, you may have to repeat it about 100 times) and also shows the older that his/her sibling is not always the center of attention and the one around which behaviour will revolve.
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