What to do with a young child while siblings are at school

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Get tips for entertaining your younger child while older kids are at school all day. This can be a sweet time of special memories!

Sad McKenna on Kaitlyn's first day of preschool

As we left the preschool, tears were just streaming down her face.

What was she going to do all day without her best friend? How would she be able to survive without a sibling to play with all day long?

McKenna, then two, was so sad.

Kaitlyn, her older sister, was starting school without her.

Parenthood seems to be a never-ending wave of transitions. We start with our first baby, where life changes dramatically, and transition through sleep needs changing and frequency of meals changing.

At some point, we add a sibling and that changes life up a bit. We worry about how to balance life with more than one child, and it can be hard! Yet somehow, we manage.

Then the day comes that we start to transition in reverse if we send our children to school. You start to have children leave during the day to go to school, and before you know it, you are home with just that youngest child left at home. 

Different children respond to this transition in a variety of ways.

McKenna cried.

Brinley, however, danced for joy.

What McKenna saw as a day of loneliness, Brinley saw as a day of Mom time. There would be no one to interrupt her or to take my attention elsewhere. 

Mom and daughter cooking together

What To Do With Your Little While Big Kids are At School

No matter how your child takes it, there is a big transition for mom. The youngest child is accustomed to having a friend to play with for most of the day, and without a sibling to be the friend, mom becomes the friend.

This can be true even after the child has been through it. If it is the second year with the big kids all gone, your little one just spent the summer with siblings around the whole time, so it is a change all over again.

So how do you work this all out?

1-Have a steady schedule

Make the day very predictable for your little one at home. This leaves less time for her to whine or get bored.

She will also feel secure knowing her routine each day and she isn’t left wondering what she will do with herself. Some things we have each day are:

2-Have fun things to mix the days up

Structure is fantastic, but it is fun and interesting to have a day every so often where you mix things up.

Have some fun things you go do together to keep life interesting. Some ideas are:

  • Go Shopping–you know how moms with babies consider the grocery store an exciting “out”? So do toddlers.
  • Go to the Park
  • Have a Friend Over
  • Go Out for Lunch
  • Go to a Fun Place (indoor trampoline place, bounce house, etc.)
  • Cook Something Together (you can do it with JUST ONE KID!)
  • YouPick Farms

3-Sign your child up for something

It is hard to watch the siblings all go and do fun things. The youngest can really feel left out and left behind.

This is a great chance to sign your child up for a dance class, tumbling class, music class, etc.

Just something to look forward to and something to help your child feel like she has a life, also. My girls all had dance class during the school day before they were in school.

My kids also had official preschool the year before they started kindergarten, so they had preschool for 2 hours a day, three days a week. This helped mix things up some.

4-Do not stop life

Do not spend the days stuck at home, waiting for the older kids to come home before anything fun can happen.

Will the older kids feel jealous about the fun things the younger child got to do? Possibly.

My children did not feel jealous of the things Brinley did, but I do know moms who won’t take younger kids places because the older ones will get upset. 

Here is the thing. That is life.

The younger sibling should not have to stop living life while the older child is out living life. School is a fun thing to go to. Always fun? No. Hard sometimes? Yes. But fun.

With school comes recess, friends, dress-up days, assemblies, and opportunities to participate in fun things that younger children are not allowed to do. 

There are definitely activities we save for the whole family, but we still do some fun things with just the two of us or with other little friends of hers.

5-Organize a playgroup

A playgroup can be a really fun thing for your little one at home. You can set up your playgroup to be a co-op preschool or simply a group of kids playing together.

You can read all about how we did playgroups here.

6-Volunteer at the school

If you go to the school and volunteer, with your youngest child, it will be a big excitement for her!

I know not all teachers will be okay with this, and not all children are going to be cooperative here, and our current times might not lend itself to this, but if you can, give it a try.

You might be able to find things you can help with with a child in tow. That way, the younger child gets to see the siblings every so often and feel a part of their school life.

Brinley would come help in class with me (I brought a pile of books for her to look at). She also helped me take photos of events at the school and helped me just make copies for teachers.

Keep the time short enough the little one won’t get into trouble. I found longer than an hour and Brinley got into things she shouldn’t. 

There were also times I volunteered and Brinley would go to grandma’s house. That, of course, was always exciting for her.

7-Attend events at the school

At our school, parents and younger siblings are allowed to come eat lunch with the kids at school. This is another fun way to visit older siblings. We can also go to assemblies, small talent shows. etc. Brinley always loved to see her siblings at school. 

Conclusion

Remember back when you had just one child? Remember how sweet your time was together?

You may have worried over the change that would come to that bond and that sweet time when baby number two was on the way. When you are down to just the youngest at home, this is when you revisit that one-on-one time–this time with a different child.

It might seem scary for you and your might worry that your child won’t know what to do with himself. It is an adjustment for everyone, but it can also be a joy and will build sweet memories.

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Younger siblings during school

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