Just as we returned from a Sunday afternoon drive through our mountainous backroads, our family was able to enjoy the sunset as we pulled into our driveway. The scene was peaceful, serene and well, perfect. My husband grabbed the sleeping baby, attempting to transport him to his crib without waking him. I unbuckled our toddler, trying to keep him quiet as while ushering him into the house. Immediately, any sense of peace or serenity was lost. Our toddler ran rambunctiously throughout our entryway. His echoing shrieks of excitement startled the baby whose cry was like that of an unhappy alley cat.

The stress began to overtake me. Unsure of where my toddler ran off to, I headed into our bathroom and that is where I lost it. Somehow, he had found a way to open a bottle of my bright red nail polish. Within a matter of minutes he had poured it all over my bathroom sink, wall, air vent, everywhere. My reaction was not pleasant. Fortunately, my husband’s reaction was. Once I calmed down, he looked at me square in the eye and compassionately said, “one day you are going to look back and miss these days.”

Looking around at the mess at the time I wasn’t sure I believed him but looking back now, eight years later, I do. These two boys are grown. Their sweet toddler moments will never return. I will never have them back.

Now that I have a new toddler on the rise, I am taking my husband’s advice to enjoy him while he is young. I don’t want to be the grumpy mom that gets frustrated at every spill, mess or inconvenience.

Ways to enjoy my toddler while homeschooling older ones

Encourage the mimicking of positive habits. Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve had to shut down many conversations in the car because, “he’s mimicking me!” It’s flat out annoying. But, when it comes to positive habits, we have a blast. When an older sibling is brushing their teeth and the toddler wants to join in, we have fun with it. If he goes and grabs a hairbrush from the bathroom and wants to brush his hair, we go with it. Instead of getting annoyed we laugh, smile and enjoy his curious ways.

Expect more from your toddler. When the older children are working on their expected chores, give your toddler a job to do. They want to be just like their older siblings. Have them pick up their blocks and make sure they put each and every one in the basket. Rather than babying them, teach them how to be a part of the larger family that they were born into.

Require independent play time. When my older children are aggressively getting their schoolwork done it is easy for me to tune out the toddler and let him roam free. We have a secluded schoolroom where he can’t get into too much trouble but the fact that he is on the loose to do whatever he pleases is dangerous. It can breed too much independence, too early. I finally set up a playpen with several toys that he goes into for 30-40 minutes of our schooltime. He is right next to us, in the same room, just not the center of attention. This is great for teaching him to play on his own and will help him later in life to be content with what is placed in front of him.

Get on the floor. Set aside some time in your day to interact and play with your toddler. Since my toddler almost always has another kid in the home to interact with I have to remind myself to do it myself. Get on the floor with them play. This might sound obvious but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it’s the simple things that count in life.

Here are some toys you and your toddler will love!