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Mama Drama: Supporting Toddlers During Sibling Sports

~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!!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.