My oldest child (nearly 3) sometimes takes an afternoon nap, sometimes doesn't (when he doesn't nap, he'll happily do about 30 mins quiet time in his room before asking to be out). My youngest (nearly 1 and a half) takes an afternoon nap every day (about 3 hours).
Any suggestions of things to do or how to structure the afternoon with my oldest child? (Bearing in mind we can't go out & about because my youngest child is in his crib napping)?
To clarify: I'm not trying to get my older one to nap if he doesn't want to, I'm just trying to make the afternoons fun for us (bearing in mind he is kinda cranky with short attention span when he doesn't nap). I'm open to ideas and I'd especially like to hear from hubbers who have been in a similar situation with one napping child and one who doesn't.
When children are three that's the year they seem to particularly enjoy just being with, and talking to, their mother (or father or grandparent) - just by themselves. I don't really think you need to structure your afternoon. I think that just spending time with just him, talking to him, reading a story, letting him help you do something (and talking about it), etc. are pretty much a great way to give him the undivided attention three-year-olds seem to so thrive on. (Oh - and be ready to answer all the "why" questions, because that's something else three-year-olds specialize in. I think one reason they do keep asking why every time they get an answer is their way of just keeping a conversation between them and their parent going.
Three-year-olds like to learn how things are done. (How a table is set. How laundry is folded. What time to watch for the mailman or a school bus, etc.) It's as if it's the year when they specialize in learning "the finer points" of day-to-day living, before they turn four and start focusing more on expanding their world beyond their own home and family.
It's also a great year to sit down with him and color, talk about the colors, sort out colored blocks or crayons, let him help you put toys in one category or another, draw letters or numbers, etc. If he already has all those kinds of things mastered, go on to the next thing - maybe looking at picture of road signs or looking at appliance signs and talking about what each one says and means and why. Talking about things like time on the clock, or what dates/days look like on a calendar is the kind of stuff a three-year-old likes to know. Looking at, caring for plants, and talking about it are things children that age like. Playing word games, Thinking up silly things to do and say are fun for a three-old. Looking at a lot of pictures of something similar and picking out favorites is something children that age like to get "all wrapped up in" when someone else is also offering opinions and talking about what's interesting or nice about one picture of another. Play games like "see where you can find angles on the furniture" (where things like the seat of a chair and the legs of the chair form angles) can take up a lot of time and help a child that age learn about angles, squares, circles, etc.
If he's in a cranky mood maybe making a "special thing" out of having a quiet snack and glass of milk at the table together (or on a blanket on the floor together). Setting the table "special" and just for the two of you can make him feel special (and it's still a quiet, non-demanding, thing that might help take some of the edge of being cranky).
There is five years between my eldest son and younger one, and then there's exactly three years between my younger son and his "little" sister (all three are grown now). I really think one of the most important things any mother of more than one child can do is capitalize on the time other children are asleep, in preschool, school, etc., and find ways to give the one who isn't asleep, in preschool, etc. that individual, quiet, super-high-quality, time that helps him know he's special enough to get that undivided attention as part of each (or most) days.
Basically, I think, just enjoy him and let him know how much you do enjoy your time with him. That's kind of the only thing most little kids want and need (for the most part), and that year when they're three is a year when they seem to particularly thrive on, and need, that.
Lisa HW, thank you so much for this superb answer! I am glad to have your ideas of afternoon activities to try with my child, and (maybe more importantly), finally understanding what is going on in their little heads when they seem clingy. Gearing the activities toward spending time together totally makes sense! Thanks to you, I feel confident that my son and I will now be able to have fun in the afternoons even if he has cranky phases. (In fact, as I write this I almost hope he doesn't nap so that we can try out some of your ideas today... !)
I went through this with my children as well, and because I was a mother who loved her time in the afternoon to get the bulk of her housework done, having a child awake threw a big wrench in those plans and I often didn't seize the opportunity just to be with my child. I completely agree with Lisa on just learning how to 'be' with your child one on one.
I understand its a bit more difficult with a 3 year old because they do have a short attention span and cranky tendencies in the afternoon, so maybe a movie is a good idea and cuddle up on the couch together.
I have a 3 year old and a 7 and 9 year old and it has taken me all this time, but I have finally learned how to 'be' with my children and to appreciate any time I get with them. As I'm sure you've noticed, one on one time is different and as they get older, u will notice it more and more. So take advantage of it now while you have the time
I have a three year lod and 14 months, I use the time that the 14 month sleeps to give quality time to the 3 year old who I feel got pushed to the side somewhat after the younger one was born. (Noones fault I know) So its my way of giving something back to balance the scales.
We bake, play & if she is tired but not sleepy we often what a horse/pony film on the telly (her favorite type of film) & then when she starts to fidget and move off it goes and on to pastures new.
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