Wondering how to get things done with a toddler, especially when he’s needy (and stuff is piling up)? Organize your days with these 5 effective tips.
Are you finding it impossible to get anything done with your toddler around?
You’re at your wit’s end, unable to accomplish much with your two-year-old awake. You end up doing most of the things you need to do after he’s already in bed, which means you’re dragging yourself the next day from having stayed up the previous night.
Whether it’s laundry, grocery shopping, or even decluttering your home, you can’t get anything done when your toddler struggles to entertain himself at all. Spending time together—from playing to crafts to reading—are still not enough.
How to get things done with a toddler
If you can relate, you’re definitely not alone.
I’ve had my share of days with kids who need me to play and keep them company. I’ve even found myself anxious for them to get older and become more independent, then felt guilty for not cherishing these moments.
Still, we’ve all wanted to have just a few hours—even minutes—to get other stuff done, too. Heck, even to have that infamous “alone time” we’re all supposed to have.
Rest assured, this stage passes on its own eventually. But if “eventually” can’t come quick enough, you’re still not without options. After three kids, I’ve learned a few tricks to get things done, even when my kids clung to my side 24/7.
From actionable tips to mindset shifts, these five insights will help you be more productive, enjoy your time with your toddler, and even find time for yourself:
1. Create a basket of “trinkets”
One of the reasons toddlers cling to our sides is because they don’t have anything else to do. Switch things up by creating a basket of “trinkets.”
Before you even need any of them, gather together a few simple items and toys to hand to your child when you need time to focus on something else. This way, she’s preoccupied with something new, allowing you to get your task done.
A few tips:
- Don’t hand her more than one item at a time. Giving her the whole basket, or even a few things together, isn’t necessary. Instead, stretch these items as long as they can go by giving her just one item at a time.
- Give simple items that don’t need your help. The point is to keep her preoccupied on her own, not require your attention. Stick to simple items like crayons, water paint, stickers, and figurines.
These items don’t have to be fancy—think dollar store items or bargain bins at Target.
2. Include your toddler in your tasks
It’s easy to think, If my toddler wasn’t in the way, I’d get these tasks done so much faster. You feel compelled to find something to occupy him, shoo him away, or rush like crazy in the minutes you have between screams and messy clean ups and lost toys.
Sometimes we feel compelled to save our heavy tasks for when our toddlers are out of the way, unaware that we can do both at the same time.
To be sure, getting housework done is much quicker alone, but including your toddler boasts a few benefits.
For one thing, you can reserve your evenings as time for yourself (instead of time to do these tasks). You’re also teaching her life skills she’ll eventually need to learn for herself. And finally, you’re able to spend time together, perhaps even having fun along the way.
So, what are a few things your toddler can help with? She can…
- Spray surfaces while you wipe (or wipe while you spray)
- Sweep the floor, especially with a Swiffer-type of broom or mop
- Put toys and items where they belong
- Hold the vacuum cord while you vacuum
- Push the laundry buttons (then later sort the clean clothes)
- Watch you cook, or even pour and add ingredients
- Pick music for your “dance cleaning party”
By including your toddler in your tasks, you’re teaching her important life skills, clearing up your evenings, and even having fun together. She won’t feel like she has to nag or whine to grab your attention when you can set her up with play dough near the kitchen while you cook at the same time.
Want even more ideas? Join my newsletter and get my list of Toddler Tasks and Chores to encourage self-sufficiency and independence! Download it below—at no cost to you:
3. Incorporate “quiet time” into your day
We all treasure our coveted nap time, if only so we can get a few moments of peace to ourselves. But what do you do when your child no longer naps, or naps have become a struggle?
Incorporate a regular “quiet time” in your day, regardless of whether your child actually falls asleep or needs a nap. When my twins outgrew their naps and no longer needed to sleep in the middle of the day, I still enforced quiet time, just so we could all get a break.
You see, toddlers who no longer need that nap are in that “in between” stage. They may not need a nap, but they’re still pretty needy without it. Focusing on something for at least an hour with your toddler playing quietly nearby isn’t exactly going to happen.
So you enforce quiet time into your routine. Your toddler stays in her room and can choose to rest in her bed, read books, play with her toys—anything so long as the activity is quiet.
This not only gives you uninterrupted time, this also provides your toddler a chance to rest and recover from the day’s activities.
Now, if your child used to take long naps, it may be a bit unfair to ask that she stay in her room just as long. Instead, make quiet time half the time she used to nap, but make it at least one hour so you still have that time for yourself.
For instance, if she normally napped for two hours, make quiet time one hour. Otherwise, she might find that being in her room for two hours without having slept can be quite the challenge.
4. Encourage your toddler to spend time with others
Perhaps one of the reasons your toddler is glued to your side is simply because she isn’t used to spending time with others.
Easy for you to say, you might think, especially when your toddler cries the minute she’s with grandma, or refuses to let dad give her a bath. But as exhausted from the meltdowns as you may be, don’t relent to her wishes every time. This only confirms her theories that she shouldn’t be with anyone else but you.
Instead, calmly and confidently explain that Daddy is giving her a bath while you do the dishes, or that grandma will take her to the park this afternoon. She may feel uncomfortable at first, but over time, she’ll learn to love these moments with other people.
5. Be where you need to be
We often find ourselves multitasking constantly, don’t you think?
When we’re with our kids, we’re thinking of all the things we still need to do. When we’re at work or doing these tasks, we feel guilty we’re not spending more time with our kids. Then each time we butt heads with them, we’re secretly wishing for them to grow up already and out of this stage.
What if, instead of battling these multiple thoughts and feelings, we’re 100% focused on what is in front of us?
Dedicate that hour to be with your toddler, without any tasks, chores, or even other worries or thoughts clouding your mind. Let go of unrealistic standards you may be holding yourself to, and instead simply be where you need to be in that moment.
That way, your toddler has had your complete attention, and therefore feels better equipped to play on her own. This then allows you more uninterrupted time to tend to that sink, because she’s now playing quietly nearby.
Learning how to get things done with a toddler is definitely a skill to master, but not impossible.
Start by providing your toddler with simple trinkets you’ve collected in a basket, ready to hand to her when you most need time for yourself. Then, combine play and work by including her in your tasks, from holding the vacuum cord to wiping the dining table.
Even if she no longer naps, include “quiet time” into your day, even just an hour of rest that allows both of you to recharge and catch up. Find opportunities for her to spend more time with others, from your partner to her grandparents.
And finally, remember to be where you need to be—parenthood is filled with seasons that all come and go. Sometimes we need to be with our kids more so than other tasks and obligations calling for us.
Yes, even if that means playing on the floor with your toddler while the dishes are piled in the sink.
Get more tips:
- The Reason You’re Probably Not Giving Your Child Enough Autonomy
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
- 9 Warning Signs You’re Raising a Spoiled Child
- Toddler Not Listening? 7 Things You Need to Do
- Why Your Toddler Is Going Through the 1 Year Old Sleep Regression
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tips on how to get things done with a toddler?