Moms of very active children usually look very, very tired.
If you have a very active toddler or preschooler, you know what I mean. It can feel like 24/7 duty just to make sure your child doesn’t kill or maim himself getting into EVERYTHING. Here are some real examples of the kinds of things very active young children will do when unattended for just a few minutes:
- climbing over a ‘child-proof’ ladder to an above-ground pool and nearly taking a dive into it
- opening the refrigerator and placing everything in it onto the kitchen floor, then starting to empty each container onto said floor
- climbing onto a chair and unlocking the front door (two different locks), then running outside to make his way to the park
- climbing onto the kitchen counter and nearly pulling a carafe of hot coffee onto himself because he wanted to ‘get Mommy a cup of coffee’
- jumping on the bed while Dad was watching the World Series and falling onto the edge of the headboard, necessitating a trip to the emergency room to get stitches in her cheek
What you could do with half the energy these kiddos have…
Speaking of which, it’s hard to get anything done around the house when you have to monitor your child’s activities constantly. They seem to have a knack for knowing when your attention is elsewhere, and that’s the time they decide to do something novel, like climb the bookshelves in the family room to experience the view from the ceiling.
It’s a fact of life that some children (and the people they grow up to be) have more energy than most. They might not sit through an entire story at bedtime (it’s too boring). They need to move, move, move and may chafe at organized athletic activities, because it takes too long before they get to DO something. They may break things in the home by accident because they use too much force to pick up or place things, or because they’re in such a hurry to get onto the next thing that they’re careless about what they’re doing right now.
These kids are dynamos, racing through life with their whole being. They want to DO things, not just watch or wait. And their stamina is amazing – they can keep going and going long after you wish you could take a nap.
Not only that, but as you can see from the examples, they don’t think things through to the end. They’re impulsive – an idea occurs to them and they immediately move to DO it. And they can have laser focus on that idea. A toddler might keep moving back again and again to try to remove that outlet cover that has their attention (how do I pull that off? they’re thinking), even after you’ve removed them 5 times. You have to find something else that’s more interesting to distract them!
So what can you do with your active child?
The good news is that you can do a lot.
Very active children need help self-regulating – controlling their bodies and their attention. If they’re forced to be in situations where they’re expected to sit quietly or attend in a group for too long, it’s asking too much of them. They need to move, to run, to use their large muscles in meaningful and productive ways.
Therefore, the first thing I recommend might be the most challenging.
Accept that your young child is very active and must be monitored all the time.
You won’t get breaks, or very long breaks, because your young kiddo can’t give them to you. He or she is on a mission to explore and experience, and your needs won’t register for him. Developmentally, this is right where these kids should be. Empathy and thinking about other people doesn’t begin to happen until after age 4. Even after they’ve developed empathy for others, they can be so impulsive that the thought of other people won’t occur to them until after they’ve done the thing they wanted to do in that moment.
So, even if you’ve both agreed that they’ll stay right beside the cart in the store, chances are they’ll see something at the other side of the store (while your head is turned for just a second) and be off to check it out before they can remember. And they’ll be very sorry when you find them, after you’ve frantically searched the store, and reminded them of the rule the two of you just agreed on. They’ll really be sorry, but their impulse will be to do the thing, and that happens very quickly, before any thinking has time to happen.
Give these kiddos lots of opportunities to run and explore.
- Take them to the park, children’s museums, your backyard where you can set up activities for them to do. Children’s museums are great, because their exhibits are very interactive, meant for children to get into and DO. However, they can be costly, so you might want to look into yearly passes if your child really enjoys them. At the park bring sand toys and band-aids. These busy kiddos often fall! Bring pinwheels they can run with and bubbles, lots of bubbles. And make sure you have extra wands for park friends to use 🙂
- In your backyard set up a kiddie pool with water toys. The toys don’t have to be expensive – pouring water back and forth in different sized cups and scoops is a fascinating activity, and can keep them busy for a long time. Some kiddos need a ‘task’ to do, so set up a bucket filled with water and inexpensive paintbrushes, the kind you paint rooms with. Let your little one ‘paint’ the fence or side of the house with water. Or, put a couple of big sponges in the bucket of water and let your little one ‘wash’ their riding toys or favorite plastic toys. Everyone and everything gets wet, but it’s only water, and if it’s warm, everything and everyone dries.
- These kiddos often need ‘heavy work.’ Let them carry grocery bags (not just the light ones!) in from the car. Make a game of having them carry stacks of books to the other side of the room while you dust the book shelves, then let them carry them back and help you replace them on the shelves.
Avoid situations where they are likely to do unsafe things.
- This means you have to think ahead. Are they likely to dart across a parking lot? Then the rule is that on the walk from the store to the car they have to hold your hand. If they won’t hold your hand, they must be carried. Preschoolers won’t like this, but if it’s your rule (and if you want to ensure their safety, it must be). “You can choose to hold Mommy’s hand, or you can have Mommy carry you.” If they’re too big to be carried, or you’re unable to carry them for some reason (perhaps you are juggling groceries and an infant at the same time), then you’ll have to make arrangements to do your shopping without them. This can be difficult, but your priority is keeping your child safe. You can figure it out!
- If you’re afraid to take a shower because you can’t leave your little one for that long (this was when the little guy mentioned above decided to get Mom a cup of coffee), then you’ll have to figure out when you can get a shower. When the kids are having breakfast with Dad? At your bedtime when Dad’s there and the kids are in bed? Your shower may be short and not at all luxurious for a while, but peace of mind is a wonderful thing.
There will be times when you’ll feel like you can’t get anything done around the house, because your child takes so much of your focus.
It’s true, you won’t get a lot of stuff done. This is the time to minimize and prioritize. What has to get done? Meals must be prepared, but they can be very simple – no fancy recipes for you! Clothes have to be clean, but ironing may have to go by the wayside until kids are older. (If you hang clothes as they come out of the dryer, they’ll be less wrinkled, and may need no ironing at all.)
Give yourself grace.
Your most important job is to keep your kiddo safe and well. Make every task you have to do as simple as possible.
Take time for self-care.
It’s important for everyone to give themselves self-care, but absolutely vital for moms of busy kids. Because your child will get into more mischief than other kiddos, and won’t sit quietly or walk calmly during outings, you’re going to get a lot of unkind looks from other adults. “Why can’t that woman control her kid?” Yes, some people will be thinking this.
This is not fair.
Mothers of ‘good’ kids aren’t controlling them. These kids just happen to be quieter and calmer in their movements. And they may be able to retain prior instructions from Mom (“Walk right next to the cart”) better than yours can. They get credit for being who they are. Your kiddo isn’t as likely to get credit for being who they are, which is: bright, curious, inventive, energetic and very often fun. Darn it.
- Carve out time in your week for activities that are just for you. You won’t get a lot of rewards for Mother of the Year at the shopping mall, but you can reward yourself for keeping your little one safe, healthy and happy.
- Is quiet time in the morning what you crave? Get up 30 minutes early so you can have a cup of coffee, read a chapter in a book, or listen to some music. Are you itching to work on a scrapbook or quilt? Arrange with your husband to spend an hour doing that while he keeps the kids occupied. Your little one doesn’t like it and is crying at the door? You may have to lock the door and put on your headphones – DO IT. You deserve time for recharging and you need it.
- Some mothers find they feel better if they hire a ‘babysitter’ for a couple of hours once or twice a week so they can have focused self-care time. You may feel like this is ‘too expensive,’ but when something is really important (and this is), it’s possible to rework the budget and find the money. Look at where you’re spending – what’s not that important to you and your family? What aren’t you using (memberships, subscriptions) that you can stop paying for? Your mental health is a priority!
These are just a few suggestions for managing very busy young children.
I hope they’ve helped you understand your child a little better, and that you got some ideas for how you can love and manage your own little one. These kids can be so very fun! Give them what they need, give yourself what you need and life becomes much simpler!
What ideas do you think might work for your family and your child?