If you are having a second baby soon and your first child has not started day care then it’s time to think about it! Day care offers many great benefits for your first born child. The alternative is to get some extra help, namely a nanny but this is normally a more costly option. Most parents find the choice a difficult one and fear the day care. Nine times out of ten it is the perception that your child will be endlessly sick and catch every bug out there, however day care can offer great educational opportunities for your child.

School & Play Time
Credit: The class with their thumbs taped to their hands on Flickr via Photopin.com CC 2.0

This is a 3-part series on: Your Support Structure, Delegation and School & Play Time.

My first born started day care when he was 4 months old because I still worked outside the home. However even after I phased into part time work, had a second baby and became more of a full time mom I still choose to send him to day care.  He is nearly 3 years old now and loves it at day care where he gets to socialize with his peers and other caring and responsible adults (his teachers)and  learns something new every day (educare foundation phase learning). He gets great physical exercise through dance, play and outdoor activities, is greatly stimulated, learns rules, boundaries, how to share, cooperate with others, discipline and routine. Yes, a lot of this can be done at home but it’s not the same as mixing with 10 to 20 other children who he can play with and learn from.

As my son goes to day care this also allows me time in the mornings to get some chores done, do the grocery shopping, rest, focus on just one child at a time, or meet a friend for coffee. This makes a huge difference to my energy levels and ability to be more attentive when he comes home. Don’t forget that as a parent you need to rest too! A happy parent means happy children.

I fully understand if you are a stay at home parent and don’t feel the need to send your baby to day care. Although, when your child is one years old, it’s great to introduce them to a day mom to get them ready for the bigger day care classes. Day cares and day moms usually offer a half day or full day, so you could go for the half day option. This will give you some free time to do what you need  and your little one gets those great educational and social benefits, whilst you still get to have time with him/her yourself.

Sending your child to day care or to a day mom also opens up the opportunity for you to meet other moms. Your child will most likely gravitate towards certain children to play with in his/her class  and this is a way to find out who their parents are and if they would like to get together for play dates and coffee. In this way you can build up your support network as I discussed in part 1 of adjusting to life with your second child.

This is exactly how I befriended a mom who is now a very good friend of mine. I was ever so happy when the mom of my son’s little playmate at school invited us for a play date at her house.  In time we became very good friends and now arrange weekly play dates for our toddlers to have fun and for us adults to socialize. Husbands also join in on play dates or outings on the weekends so they too can have some adult like-minded socializing time.

Daycare signCredit: DodgertonSkillhause on Morguefile.com CC 2.0

This moves me onto the second aspect of this article - play time. When you have your second child play dates help to entertain your toddler after school hours and to avoid the TV babysitter. They also help get you through the afternoon solo shift until hubby comes home! At first they can be daunting, needing to look after two children on your own, potentially in someone else’s home and with company. Rest assured you will get the hang of it soon enough. However, make life less stressful for yourself and go to homes where you feel comfortable and you are around people that are supportive. As I have mentioned in previous articles, a baby wrap carrier will also assist you in being able to manage more on your own. It keeps baby happy and comforted and your hands free to assist your toddler when need be. There are a variety of baby carriers and you can see which one suits your needs.

When you are at home with your toddler and baby it can be challenging to meet their different needs at the same time. What works very well is getting down on the floor with both children. Get a game, puzzle or some coloring in books for your toddler and prop your baby up (sitting or lying down according to their age and preference) to watch you and your toddler play. You can do pretty much everything down on the floor; make it comfy for all of you. Your toddler will love the attention and your baby will be right by you for their needs to be met too.

Play Activities On The Floor:

  • Build a puzzle
  • Color in or draw
  • Play with blocks
  • Read books (can also do this in bed)
  • Play with play dough
  • If the weather is good take everyone outside on a blanket under  shade
Playing with blocks
Credit: The "ladies" on Flickr via Photopin.com CC 2.0

Other Activities:

  • Blow up balloons and play tennis with them
  • Put some music on to sing and dance
  • If you need to rest put some cartoons or a movie on for your toddler
  • If you are feeling energetic do some baking together
  • Take out some kitchen utensils and a little water for some messy water fun (have some towels around to limit and soak up the mess)

Your baby can take part more and more as they grow and will develop more quickly having an older sibling to learn from. With all of these activities your baby can be lying or sitting on the floor with you; cuddled in your wrap carrier or sitting in a baby chair or walking ring (which ever best suits your baby).