Need help & advice with 17-month old boy - Mothering Forums
Life with a Toddler > Need help & advice with 17-month old boy
Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 06:39 PM 01-19-2011

I'd like to get some recommendations on resources for parenting young toddlers.  I have a very bright 17-month old boy and I have been quite challenged in many areas with him - discipline, activities to keep him stimulated, his needs, teaching him, etc. 


I also just had a newborn and I'm having a real hard time caring for both of them at the same time all by myself during the day while husband is gone.  The newborn is high need (needs holding and nursing all the time), which makes it very hard for me to do anything at all with my 17-month old.  He seems bored for most part of the day.  I'd really like to do more with him, for learning, development, stimulation and just bonding purpose, but I don't know how and what to do.  I feel bad that he is stuck with me with nothing to do and very little attention from me now that the demanding newborn is here.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.


I'm interested in any resources, books, support network, and mentors who can help me with parenting young kids (babies, toddlers) that are close in age.  I wonder who I can talk to about all this and get feedback & mentorship from.  I don't want to just give them food and shelter, I want to help them learn, develop, mature, be healthy, and I want to be the loving mama instead of the angry mom who is upset with them because I don't know how to handle them.  I'd appreciate any helpful words, encouragements, or pointers.

YayJennie's Avatar YayJennie 07:01 PM 01-19-2011

First: you're not alone in how you're feeling.  It is SO hard to adjust from one child to two, especially when they're close in age.  And it's an adjustment for everyone, and takes some time.


I don't have any book or website resources for you, but I can share my personal experience.  I have a 22 month old boy and an 8 week old girl.  We're just getting into a good rhythm now, but it's taken a lot of trial and error to figure things out.


I look for quality time with my toddler, instead of quantity.  Before my daughter was born, I was able to spend all day everyday with my son having all of my attention.  Now that so much of my attention goes to my daughter, I make sure that we get some one-on-one time each week, and when my daughter is sleeping or my husband can care for her, I give my son my full, undivided attention.  So I may not be spending as much time with my son, but the time we do spend together is really fun time that I can tell he enjoys.


I've also found I can do some activities that my son really enjoys while also taking care of my daughter.  If she's nursing, I can position myself on the couch with her in my lap and my son on my side and read books with him.  He will sit with me and read books for hours, so this is a great way to take care of both of them, and, obviously, it's really educational!  Also, puzzles, stacking with blocks and drawing are all good activities,  Because it just requires me to sit next to him and maybe use one hand to draw or help with puzzles, I can hold/rock/nurse my daughter while also interacting with my son.


Do you wear your newborn at all?  I don't know what I would do without my moby wrap!  Anytime my daughter is fussy, I put her in the moby and she generally calms down.  This allows me to not only get basic tasks done with my son (get him in and out of the high chair, change his diaper/clothes, etc.) but also go outside and play with him.  The moby is warm enough where I feel comfortable taking my newborn out in very cold upstate NY weather( with a coat over both of us and her fully bundled) because she is completely covered by the wrap.  Then my son can walk around outside and I still have two hands to play with him.


Those are just some suggestions off the top of my head.  I hope that helps, but remember, it's an adjustment period, and you'll get better with things as more time goes by :)  And if you have any other questions or want some more advice, feel free to message me.  I don't know how good of a mentor I can be, but I'm here if you need me!

pbjmama's Avatar pbjmama 07:22 PM 01-19-2011

It is so hard to have 2 babies. Mine are 22 months apart. So hard. Do you have any moms groups near you, LLL, anything like that? It does get better, I promise. Get through these first weeks and it will get better. 

KJunebug's Avatar KJunebug 07:24 PM 01-19-2011

I had #2 in May, and I don't know what I would have done if I couldn't have gone outside.  I was walking, or at the park almost constantly and almost right away....  my new one was only a few days old when this began.  With baby #1, it took me forever to take her outside....


Any chance you live someplace warm and can get out?

mominmotion's Avatar mominmotion 07:59 PM 01-19-2011

I feel for you - I, too, had a very busy two-year old boy when I had my daughter.  (They are now seven and five, so we DID survive that time - but it was tough!)


My daughter was colicky and had to be held constantly.  She was so sweet when she felt good and she absolutely adored her big brother.  He loved entertaining her and really enjoyed being a big brother and helping me out with what he could (handing me diapers or 'helping' feed her).  Yet, when she was cranky and crying and I had to do nothing but walk her around trying to soothe her, he was left to entertain himself.  I don't know how many times I yelled at him because of something he was doing while I was trying to console her, and then I felt like a horrible mother for not being able to help her with her colic and for yelling at her sweet, just-wanting-some-attention brother.


One thing that did help is making sure that when she was calm or sleeping, I spent time with him, coloring or reading or even just sitting with him while he watched his cartoons.  I found that even if I could just spend ten minutes of pure one-on-one time with him, he didn't seem quite so demanding when she needed me.


I was lucky that my husband helped with her, too - he would walk her around or try to soothe her while I did things around the house.  He also spent a lot of time with our son, too, so that also helped.


I'm not sure if you are able to do any kind of daycare or preschool even part-time, but we found a local Montessori pre-school for our son (and then our daughter, too) that helped them tremendously.  They not only learned the day-to-day life skills and other pre-school things most kids learn, but got to socialize with other kids their ages and really learn to be their own little people.  If you can't do a daycare/pre-school thing right now, maybe even buying a book on Montessori learning and doing just a few activities would help him not be so bored.  The Montessori idea is to let kids discover their world by actually doing real-life sensorial things themselves.  This gives them a sense of responsibility and 'control' of their own little world and makes them very happy little children.  I am adding a link to a site that has videos showing some simple Montessori materials for toddlers that you can do at home with your son... 


I hope some of this helps you, but just know that soon they both will grow out of these stages and your life won't seem quite so chaotic.

Courtney-Ostaff's Avatar Courtney-Ostaff 02:55 PM 01-21-2011


I never buy their stuff, but the ideas are great. ;)

Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 04:28 PM 01-21-2011

Thanks for the replies. Please keep the comments coming - this is helpful!


YayJennie - Thanks for your tips.  A few questions:

- On "quality time", what actual activities do you do with your toddler that he "really enjoys"?  Everything we have and do at home at this point just seem old (both to me and to him)... How do you make this time really "fun"?  (It's hard for me to make it fun for myself, let alone him, when I'm all out of ideas on ways to entertain him and my mind is just trying to keep up with who needs a diaper next and so forth...)

- What kinds of activities do you do with him while holding baby?

- Do you have some intersting things that you have him do all by himself while you're busy with the little one?


Getting out to the park and outdoors is great, but I'm challenged in that too.  No yard is an inconvenience.  Live in upstairs apartment, haven't figured out how to take both of them down the stairs at the same time safely by myself, especially not with a sore bottom still from birth.... I do have an ergo carrier for the baby but it's still hard.  Even when I do make it outdoors to the park though, what can my toddler do when i can't really chase him around & follow him up and down the playgroung structure to help him climb and keep him safe?what kind of physical activities & exercise can I have him do that would interest him and I can still do while holding a baby or nursing, etc?


mominmotion & courtney - thanks for the montosori links.  I love that system and am just trying to do something like that with him at home.  If you have any more resources on doing it at home by myself please send them my way, i'd appreciate it.  meanwhile i'm checking out your links...


Another thing I could do but have been reluctunt is to have friends come over with their toddlers to play with my older son.  My older son was sick when #2 was born and we were instructed by the doctor to totally separate the 2 babies (yeah, while living under the same roof) because if the newborn caught my todder's sickness he'd have to be hospitalized and it'd be pretty serious problem. Now that we got over #1's sickness without #2 catching it, I'm still cautious about limiting exposure so we don't bring sickness home at all.  The only way we were able to separate the babies was for my husband to take off from work and care for #1 while I move out of our room and live in our living room with #2 for couple weeks.  Now if #1 gets sick again, I won't be able to separate them when there's only me to care for both of them. And our #1 goes out and catches anything that's out there and bring it home so we all get it, so I haven't allowed #1 any exposure outside & with other kids while #2 is still so new and small.  I know I can't do this forever and I won't try to, but I want to try to avoid it until at least the cold & flu season is over and when #2 is a little older.  What's your thought on keeping them healthy while providing toddler some outside contact so he's not so bored?  What can I do?  That is my hesitant sending him to montosori school right now too....  Our whole family have been sick 1-2 times a month in the last few months. We just can't handle anymore of that right now especially with a newborn.

Courtney-Ostaff's Avatar Courtney-Ostaff 05:44 PM 01-21-2011

Do you have someone who could take #1 out for an hour or two? Perhaps the friends who would otherwise come over and play? (assuming they're healthy).  I would want to stay home too.





Montessori from the start

The Toddlers Busy Book

Art for twos and toddlers 

Young at Art

The Encyclopedia of Infant and Toddler Activities: Written by Teachers for Teachers

The Complete Resource Book for Preschoolers: An Early Childhood Curriculum With Over 2000 Activities and Ideas
Toddler Play (Gymboree)

Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 10:44 PM 01-21-2011

Wow, great list of books. Thank you!  Now when do I find time to read all this?!!!  :-O  They all sounded so interesting I would really like to absorb the stuff in all these books....


I feel like I'm really behind.  He is already almost 18 month old and I still don't know ANYTHING at all about toddlers and what to do with them, what to teach them, what activities to create for them, etc.  I feel bad that I have "wasted" his last 6 months as a toddler when I could have helped him learn more and made things more interesting for him with different experiences....  :-(


Do you think doing Montessori at home is any better or worse than actually sending him to a school?  What is the difference and are you losing out something by being home (or going to school)?  I just found out about the huge & long waiting list/waiting period for the schools near us, so getting him in there before he is 2 1/2 or almost 3 is not really possible now - disappointed, again feeling like I'm behind and I haven't done well to be more knowledgable about these things for him.  :-(  And by the way, affordability seems to be another issue for sending him to an actual school...

Courtney-Ostaff's Avatar Courtney-Ostaff 07:17 AM 01-22-2011

Pffft!  Remember, the work of children (and toddlers) is play!  As long as he's playing, he's fine.


I don't really "do" Montessori at home, but I like a lot of their ideas. For example, my daughter has only a few toys out at a time, and we try very hard to stay decluttered. I bought some tracing letters and did them a couple of times with her, but I think flashcards are stupid.  She actually learned the entire uppercase alphabet from those 2 or 3 times we played with them.  We're daycare dropouts (that's a whole other story), and she's very shy, but we do a lot of playdates/activities/classes.  I think, based on reading a lot of other books, that she (and most kids) are best suited by staying home with their primary caretaker as long as possible, and then being gradually eased into school.  

mckittre's Avatar mckittre 12:42 PM 01-22-2011

I have a 23 month old and a 3 week old newborn, so my son's a little older than yours, but a similar situation.  I have a couple thoughts.  One is to wear the little one.  Even if you can't figure out nursing in a carrier (I have trouble with that), wearing the little one is an absolute lifesaver for me - I couldn't do anything or go anywhere otherwise.  I can actually wear the newborn and toddler simultaneously, but that takes more practice.  For getting them down the stairs, can you wear the little one and hold the toddler's hand, or have him crawl backwards?  Another thought I have is to try to embrace a little benign neglect.  I'm of the opinion that if a kid is happy, they're doing OK.  Seriously, they can learn from anything - from playing by themselves, from everyday activities, etc....  He's not going to be harmed for life because you haven't read books full of toddler activities for him to do.  Those things are great, but they're also a product of a modern culture with a lot more time and money on it's hands then most cultures throughout history.  I don't know what to think about getting out to see people - it's very important for us - even just a trip to the store, or a playdate with other toddlers.  But we have good immune systems in my family, so I don't worry much about getting the little one sick.

YayJennie's Avatar YayJennie 02:19 PM 01-22-2011

Ergos are awesome, and I used mine constantly from 4 months on with my son, and still wear him on my back sometimes.  But for a newborn I would highly recommend a wrap.  I prefer the moby wrap.  It evenly distributes the weight of the baby and I find I can carry her longer in a moby wrap, and it's also easier for her to sleep in, since I can cover her head one she falls asleep with the extra fabric.  I would really invest in one, as I don't know how I would get by without being able to pop my daughter in the wrap so I could take care of my son.  This is the ONLY way I feel safe bringing both kids out to the car in the snow or up or down stairs.  With her in the moby and holding my toddlers hand, I feel confident on the stairs.  So that would be my recommendation.  And I also can chase my toddler pretty well if my daughter is secured in the wrap, so I would try that and see if it helps you get outside more.  I wish I lived someplace warmer.  Upstate NY makes it REALLY difficult to get both kids outside in January (it's 15 degrees here with gusting winds...brrr).


Toddlers are little sponges and they learn from EVERYTHING.  Just watching you do everyday activities has him learning, so don't feel like you're "behind".  But here are some activities I do with my son:

color/draw (we have a chalkboard, whiteboard, and paper with crayons and markers.  This is a great way to introduce colors and shapes and even animals if your artistically inclined.  And it's fun for mom and toddler)*

do puzzles (get an age appropriate puzzle with animals or shapes and introduce the names of each.  This is how Wyatt learned his animal sounds, because I'd make the sound as he did the animal puzzle.)

read books (position the toddler next to you on the bed or couch and hold/nurse the newborn with one hand while turning the pages with the other)

yoga/stretching (this is great for one on one time!  Wyatt has a blast stretching with me.)

chasing around the house (Again, I mainly do this when my husband is home so I don't have to worry about the baby.  And I just chase him and let him climb under the blankets and tickle him and blow raspberries on his belly and he giggles and it gets me some exercise :)


Activities he'll do on his own (I have a VERY independent toddler who likes to play by himself):

Play with his trains/trucks/cars (we have a train table with tracks set up and he'll play at that by himself for 30 minutes easy)

Pour with beans (give him different containers and some dry beans to pour. It makes a bit of a mess, but if you use large beans like kidney or lima beans it's pretty easy to clean up)

Play in the sink (we're getting him a water table for his birthday because he is SO into water play.  He will sit at the sink and pour water all day)

Play with a box (seriously, an empty box will keep my kid occupied!  Especially a big box that he can sit in and I can pull him around the room in.)


There's also a few things I keep on "reserve" for when I really need a break so they're extra special and I know he'll keep busy with them for a few minutes.  They include:

His own wallet- we have an old wallet filled with old credit/gift cards and a few coins and if I give him that he will play with it for awhile.  I don't keep it with the normal toys, so it's a special toy he gets to play with when I need him to occupy himself and nothing else is working

Watching Charlie and Lola DVDs- we're a no TV house, but I started taking out DVDs from the library to play on the computer for Wyatt when I need to spend some one on one time with the baby.  And the DVDs definitely do the trick!


I also always have him help me with chores, so he has his own little broom and "sweeps" when I sweep, as well as a mini vacuum to vacuum with when I do, and he also "helps" with laundry (he can match socks now, and he also helps move the clothes from washer to dryer) and he feeds the dog every morning.  He'll also get things for me for the baby while I'm nursing, like burp clothes, blankets, or pacifiers that I keep within his reach.  Which I think helps him feel involved.  Wyatt also takes a bath every day, because he LOVES bath time and I can just sit while he plays and either take care of Emma or just sit, which I need to do some days.  He spends 30+ minutes in the bath everyday before bed.


We're also very involved outside of the house.  So we go to a playgroup once or twice a week (at friend's houses or hosted here), the museum, or an indoor play place (we're lucky and have some great play places here like, and we try to take a walk every morning with the dog (when it's not terribly cold like today).  I walk the dog, with Wyatt in the stroller and Emma in the moby, and that works out pretty well.