My stepson has 2 siblings at his Mums and this week we are looking after all 3 after school for a couple of hours.
So between the hours of 3-6pm we have A 10yo, 7yo, 5yo & a 7month old! Let me tell you things get crazy around here! The noise level goes up, the energy levels rocket as we attempt to get homework, food, play and reading mastered in under 3 hours.
We are currently on day 3 and loving the challenge of positively influencing 4 tiny brains, all unique and wanting of quality attention. This isn’t the first time we’ve looked after these chuppas, in fact over the years we’ve had them for summer holidays, half terms and even once a week after school for a while. But this is the first full week with a new 7mo addition and it certainly ramps up the gusto needed.
I thought I’d recount our routine below for a little insight into how we survive!
1. Straight in from school it’s shoes off and book bags into the living room for homework. I purposefully position all 3 schoolers in a triangle shape around me. They all have different homework and different abilities, so to get through, there’s a lot of hopping from one to the other. If I centre myself in the middle I can pivot between them without running back and forth and stepping on a rogue toy or smacking a body part (mine) off the corner of some inanimate object .. Usually the table.
The 7mo gets prime floor space and a plethora of toys to keep him occupied whilst we spend 30 minutes getting to work!
2. Start with the eldest .. The 10yo has homework down to a T. So whilst the two younger ones gather their book bag, and pull faces at the 7mo, I spend a couple of minutes setting up the 10yo, checking he understands his homework and helping him plan what order he wants to do what.
3. Next the 7yo, this boy has the energy of a nuclear reaction! Homework is a struggle if it’s a sit down task so he needs more one on one to excite his brain into learning. Today he found a pen lid on the way home from school … I asked him what he could turn it into and before I knew it, he was carried away in imagination of what he could use it for! Once home he collected paper and colouring pens and began to design his creation and annotate the parts with materials he would need (sneaky writing practice).
3. Now onto the 5yo! On the sofa we snuggle down to read her story book and practice spelling words, for every word she gets right it gets balanced on my head and with gentle encouragement to ‘break down’ the harder ones all words will end up on my head (zero fail opportunity!). If there are a couple of doozys we’ll shuffle them up and make a game of turning random ones over to read and put away once completed 👌🏼
4. By this point the 7yo design is finished and annotated and I’m rifling through the recycle bin to find materials as he demolishes my craft drawer for tape, scissors and glue! In my eyes he’s learning to plan, sequence, to envisage, to be creative and to execute. So if he uses a roll of tape, scuffs a felt tip nib or glues half the creation to the carpet I’m generally laid back and rewarding for his efforts and input.
5. Little 5yo by this point has jumped in with paper and pens and proceeds to start doodling and writing too, I’m happy to leave her to it!
6. Back to the 10yo who by now has a few questions, needs guidance or wants to go through something. As the younger 2 are up to their elbows in creation this gives us a good space in time to delve in to homework and explore new learning, to chat and discuss what he thinks about science, or math or whatever he’s working on. I’m very much a ‘what do you think..’ responder when he asks questions and often let him lead himself to the answer, ‘how do you spell influence?’ Well ‘how do you think it is spelled?’ I reply .. Sure enough he gets it spot on and I get to praise his effort of working through and hopefully he feels proud of his work!
7. Help! In this mayhem of homework my ace is my tag team partner, out in the kitchen he’s rustling up food or tending to the 7mo as he tries to chew cables when he thinks we’re not looking 😳. If one child finishes before I’m done with another, he’ll step in and start a discussion about their day, or encourage them to find a 5minute self led activity whilst they’re waiting. In the past I’ve not always had my wing man for support and in those moments I rely on enthusing the 10yo into a craft project too, so that I can steal 10 minutes to prep food. (The key is getting as many jobs done BEFORE they arrive .. Genius 😂).
8. If it’s a particular hands on snack I’ll bring it all in to the living room and have the kids prepare it themselves. We do homemade pizzas, fruit salads, baked loafs, rainbow smoothies, you name it, if it can be broken down into steps the kids are doing it! Does snack look award winning NO! Do the kids snaffle up every morsel YES! Because they got involved, they made it and more importantly they chose to do it! Plus I geek out at watching them hone their chopping/mixing skills.
9. Play. Outside is usually a winner in the good weather, we walk home from school so after a sit down and think activity getting up and moving is much needed! I try not to structure this as kids need freedom to be creative .. Rather I’m a facilitator. I’ve filled up watering cans umpteen times, watched tea towels be demolished by mud, played shopper as I purchase my own salad garden back and lost countless amounts of washing up utensils to the cause of imagination. I’m perfectly at ease with stumping the cost of a spoon, towel or other make-shift item, for the moment of immersed play that takes them miles away from a garden and into a world of infinite possibilities. This free time for them allows me time to feed/change the 7mo and read a book with him too, after all one day this will be his routine too!
10. Gradually the kids will drift back in, we’ll be down to the last 15/20 minutes before its home time. Group play usually starts as we play something together, the spot the missing object under a tea towel game (don’t use a food based object as inevitably one of the kids will eat it to make it dissapear whilst we have our eyes closed!) or Jenga.. Which we’ve never used as instructed, preferring always to make our own castles, bridges and so on! Sometimes we play word association which always ends in someone linking a word to poo!
Mum arrives and as quickly as it was manic it suddenly becomes quiet. My 7mo looks at me like he’s witnessed a riot and rather sleepy for it so we change for bed and I take him up for a feed before sleep.
And that my lovelies is what we’re doing this week! If anyone has any handy tips to make parenting multiples easier please share! I respect you for your energy in raising multiples whilst slightly marvelling at the madness you’ve bought on yourselves too 🤗