A few months ago, I served up a story entitled ‘The Legend of Fisher-Price‘ here on the blog.
I got to share my initial thoughts about visiting their headquarters in East Aurora, NY with a few new pals.
We got to see and do a whole lot more than I ever expected and it enhanced the entire experience beyond imagination.
We met with the executive staff and toured the halls adorned by glass showcases – containing every toy the company has ever produced, going all the way back to 1931. We spoke with the actual toy designers, got a peek at their photo studios and areas where they work on prototypes.
We even got to sit behind the ‘detective glass’ (as I call it, obviously not the Fisher-Price approved term), two rooms separated by a giant slab of one-way glass, so we could observe pre-schoolers in a program called Play Lab, an on-site play center which was established back in 1961. It’s an invaluable opportunity for FP designers and specialists to observe how kids are interacting with new toys.
As I sat there, watching a group of preschoolers play together, it made me miss home (even if it was just a fleeting moment) a little bit.
As a stay-at-home working dad with 3 kids (ages 9 months, 3 and 5), while enjoying this opportunity, I often find myself struggling to maintain a household, fulfill writing commitments AND make sure that my kids are actually doing something creative and challenging, instead of handing them a bag of fruit snacks and an iPad and sending them into their play-tent.
Evidently, being removed from my environment, getting a good night’s rest in a hotel room by myself, having a quiet, healthy breakfast without someone screaming at me while demanding more yogurt or asking me to wipe their ass, offers pretty much anyone a moment of calm and clarity.
I made a promise to myself to start structuring my days.
Instead of running back and forth to and from my computer while rotating Mason (9 months-old) between stationary contraptions, tossing a pile of crayons onto the floor with some printer paper and making sure the TMNT dvd wasn’t skipping – I promised myself that I’d come up with a list of ways to successfully remind myself to balance my workload while also making sure that I was engaging my kids in active play.
I’m sure there are many stay-at-home or work-at-home parents out there with multiple kids in the same boat, finding it sometimes difficult to occupy everyone at similar times.
So here’s my list (I tried for 10, but that was too ambitious of me) of tips and ideas. I’m certainly not re-inventing the wheel and you can take ’em or leave ’em, but at it’s worst, it’s a reminder for myself living indefinitely on the internet.
GET THEM OUTSIDE: Call it lazy or just plain exhausted, but for awhile there, I would just tell myself that it was easier to stay inside, which wasn’t fair for my kids. Having a baby strapped to my chest or back made it extremely difficult to chase after my toddlers if they escaped from the stroller or pulled away from me into a crowd.
Currently, I have a regimented process with almost everything I do, specifically loading and unloading everyone from the car. To the outside purveyor who doesn’t have any kids, it’s methodical and borderline psychotic, but it works and is comforting for me.
For activities, I tend to hit up fenced-in areas or specifically regional or state parks to give it a more ‘Harrison Ford ala Fugitive’ feel if they try and escape.
TODDLER BUCKET LIST: During my transition into ‘life at home with 3 kids under 5’ as my wife went back to work, I’ll admit, I hung my head as she pulled out of the driveway and thought about what I was going to do for the next ten hours so that these kids didn’t ravage my limbs and carcass like a pack of hungry wolves. It’s always helped me to have an ongoing list of age-appropriate activities so I wasn’t left with my head spinning. We’ll always have something to do (even if it’s canning tomatoes in the garage, they should love that one).
EMPLOY THE ELDEST: My daughter, who just turned 5, loves to (occasionally) be a ‘big helper’ and she’s getting old enough to be a leader, to an extent. Sometimes, if I’m in the room doing dishes, folding laundry or experimenting on various nipples for ‘flow’, I’ll ask her to help her siblings or ‘show them how to do something’. She seems to enjoy being the boss (she might get that from mom) and the others enjoy the sibling interaction.
TEAM EFFORT: Believe it or not, there are certain games or activities that we can all play together if I just assign each child their own job. For instance, Ava might be old enough to play a game, Charlie has an interest in flipping the cards or collecting expired game pieces and Mason, well, Mason just kinda sits there, because that’s what he’s Top Gun at right now.
HELP THEM UNDERSTAND: With three kids at different ages, there’s obviously a developmental gap between them all. With each child learning something different, there’s bound to be some frustration associated with it.
Ava’s current frustrations are why her hair is itchy and always in her face, Charlie hasn’t mastered physics or gravity yet and will certainly go ballistic when his 5-foot block tower comes crashing down on top of him. Mason is pretty simple, however, making some of the most important strides of his young life, like learning to stand and walk.
One of the latest goodies I’ve used to help him in his quest, is the Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Bounce, Stride and Ride Elephant.
I actually got to meet Beth Hageman during my visit, a Fisher-Price designer who explained a little bit about it.
Mason really gets a thrill from the bouncing seat (I guess it’s the simple things in life, right?) and is slowly beginning to understand how to scoot the elephant forward. Also, my dog (who can’t see very well anymore) consistently walks up to it and smells it’s big, floppy red ears, possibly thinking that he’s got a new visitor in the house… always disappointed.
What about you guys? Do you have any suggestions, ideas or tips on how to manage play time for multiple kids all day? I’d love to hear them…
Do any of you have kids that are crawling, scooting or attempting to walk? If so, enter below and next Friday, I’ll select one lucky person and send you an elephant (DISCLOSURE: NOT A REAL ELEPHANT).