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How can I support my toddler during sibling sports?

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~With summer sports seasons moving into full swing, this post is a good reminder for families with tag along toddlers.

Dear Mama Drama:

My husband and I have two older elementary and middle school age children who are very active in sports throughout the year. I also have a toddler who gets to tag along to all of their activities. Sometimes my little one does well and other times he really struggles and has big meltdowns. He gets tired and cranky, wants to be picked up or taken home, whines and throws fits, and the games and practices often interrupt his dinner and bedtime. I try to be flexible, but am often exhausted trying to entertain him and still support the older two. I need help juggling all of this, but don’t know where to turn. Any ideas?

~ Stumped Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Stumped:

Many families with children whose ages vary widely struggle to balance the needs of all the kids when it comes to extra-curricular activities. Each one uses a combination of solutions that fit for them. Here are some ideas:

While I’m sure you want to be at all of your older children’s activities, there may be times when you need to stay home with you little one to give him some down time. You and your husband may trade off staying home and going to games/practices or enlist  family or friends to transport your older kids or stay home with the younger one.

Ask family members to attend games and share in engaging and supporting your younger son.

Coordinate with other team parents who have younger children and take turns taking the young ones to a nearby park or out in the hallway to run or play games.

Enlist non-participating older siblings. Often there are siblings of team members at games and practices who are somewhat bored themselves. Younger siblings often love attention from these upper elementary and teenage children who will play with and entertain them just for the fun of it.

Bring activities for your younger son. You can bring some of his favorite toys and books along or have a special set that are only available during these activities. Be sure to rotate what you bring so he doesn’t get bored.

Pack snacks and drinks for your little one. Hungry kids are cranky kids, so be sure to have a variety of healthy snack options and plenty to drink.

Observe your younger son to catch the early signs that a melt down is coming. Rather than waiting for him to completely fall apart, look for the subtle signs of fatigue and irritability. (One clue can be when you are beginning to feel irritated by his behavior, he probably needs a change.) Then take action to feed him, give him a break, engage him in a new activity, or take him home.

I’m sure all you Mamas out there have lots of other great ideas that have worked for your families. Please share!!

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson June 1, 2012

    Great advice! It’s sometimes painful to watch bored little ones at all our sporting events without an outlet.

    • comment avatar Lisa Vratny-Smith June 1, 2012

      I agree, Amber. I usually try to help out by playing with them a bit or if one of my sons isn’t in the games, I send them over.

  • comment avatar Suzanne Bastien June 1, 2012

    I’m fighting the same fight. Every football or track for my teenage son, or baseball games with my younger two, the 4 year old isn’t playing right now and she’s so bored of the whole thing. I’m also the team photographer and just fight with the little one everytime I go out to take photos.

    I love the idea of rotating out toys for her to play with, perhaps I’ll let her pack her own “game” backpack for these times, give her control of her own playing destiny and hopefully will help her with the whines…

    • comment avatar Lisa Vratny-Smith June 1, 2012

      It is so hard to be the little one not engaged and her mom who is handling other duties. I hope the game backpack helps. Get some of those other siblings (hers or others) to help you out, too. You can entice them with a treat from the concession stand if needed. 🙂
      Good luck!