Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Kid, Old Toys

As a mother of two kids with a four and a half year age difference, I find myself spending a lot of time and energy on the use (and abuse) of the toys in our house. With Ayaan, this was never a challenge since the toys that came into the house were always specifically for him and he made the transition from rattles to blocks to playdoh in an age appropriate manner. But with Tarana, that option simply does not exist because Ayaan's toys are already in existence, most of them with dire warnings like 'Not suitable for children under 36 months' and 'Contains small parts that may be a choking hazard'.

And, of course, she finds her big brother's toys far more interesting than her own. Paradise for her is finding herself in front of one of his open toy drawers. So the rattles usually lie ignored while she prefers to play with his wooden blocks and toy cars. Supervising her playing, therefore, can be quite a high stress enterprise.

To start with, there is the constant tussle. She is most interested with what Ayaan happens to be playing with at the moment. And she has to only show the slightest interest in a toy for that to become the very toy that Ayaan wants to play with at that very moment. It usually doesn't end well since there is an inevitable struggle that ends with Tarana either getting hurt as Ayaan snatches something from her or pushes her or in Tarana having an indignant tantrum when she is denied the object of her choice. 

Then there is the whole choking hazard thing. One has to watch her like a hawk because dangers lie everywhere. One day, the wheels on one of the dinky cars broke off as she was playing with it and had to be taken away from her before she put it in her mouth. Another time, I noticed some greenish liquid dribbling from her mouth and got the fright of my life - thankfully it was just a piece of green chalk that she had popped into her mouth and was most upset to have fished out. (For once Dr. Google was reassuring.) This eagle eye business is doable when Ayaan is entertaining himself but when he wants to me read to him or play something with him, I need to call my maid in to watch Tarana. I wonder, how do mothers without any help manage?

The other problem is that Ayaan is into colouring and crafts in a big way these days. So when he is not building crash scenarios with his ever-growing collection of airplanes, he wants to make something that involves working with one of more of the following: paints, playdoh, glue, scissors and crayons. Tarana is attracted to all of these like a moth to a flame and there are essentially two scenarios that ensue:
1. She gets her into his 'art', ruins it and Ayaan has a meltdown
2. She is intercepted in time and has an immense meltdown

To avoid a potential meltdown on the part of one or both kids, they need to be separated when Ayaan is doing crafts. Between me and the maid, one of us does crafts with Ayaan in his room (with the door closed, because no other place on earth holds the kind of fascination for Tarana that her brother's room does) while the other plays with Tarana in the living room. Again, moms with two kids and no help, what do you do?

There is the matter of the toys themselves. Some of Ayaan's stuff has not been designed to survive the ministrations of the pre-toddler brigade. With him, we only had board books but she has managed to get her poky little hands on a couple of his books and tear the pages before she could be stopped. Ayaan is no saint either and I wonder how long her walker-cum-wagon will survive, given his tendency to convert it into a racing car.

All in all, I am quite looking forward to the days when they can be counted upon to play together without doing any damage to the toys or each other. Because that will be the day I crack open a bottle of tequila, make myself a margarita and snuggle up with a book while they get on with the business of keeping each other entertained.


  1. Your tequilla will have to wait for some time, whenever two siblings of near age grow together these confrontations are bound to occur. And they do not end soon

  2. i have no advice to give. but when the bottle of tequila is opened, do give me a shout. i make for good tequila drinking company. :)

    and sanah loves being a gentle, sharing big sister with the eagle eye( she gets to do that only occasionally so she is really good at it) She can keep tarana engaged while the mothers quaff the tipple.

  3. I have 4 kids and no help here in Americaland. When my youngest was born, the 2nd was 4 and the 3rd was 2 yrs old. (It was a blur of days and nights. I dont know how I survived)

    Anyways, when the baby started becoming mobile, I packed up the choking hazard wala toys and put them away. I had to do it for my sanity. I couldnt NOT do it. So the barbie shoes and the legos went away. Packed in rubbermaid containers hidden.

    I did leave some out with the strictest warning that it was not to be brought out in living room area and only played in their rooms. If it was out in the living room, toy would be removed.
    Believe me the kids learnt fast when toy was taken away once or 4 times.

    Regarding crafts, I set them up high on the dining table and the baby would be busy with something.The kids could handle the craft on their own. I remember once we doing something with q-tips,paint and string and I set the baby in his high chair and gave him some paint as well.He was a mess but he loved it.

    You have to teach your older one how to spend alone quiet time.I am of the believe that once I set up a craft or an activity, I dont have to do it with you(hence the 4 kids they all can entertain themselves)

    Okay will end my novel here.

    PS: The fighting will NEVER end you know this right? It gets easier. My 4 are at a fun age somewhat now. The youngest is 4 and the oldest 11 and they all play board games. Granted at times, it ends in tears and accusactions...Games like Candyland and Snakes and Ladders and Uno... big hits!

  4. Anonymous1:14 pm

    "counted upon to play together without doing any damage to the toys or each other" - U know u need sleep and tequila right now.. right??? ;) .. all the best but.. keep faith... miracles do happen!

  5. You make me go into flash-back mode :)

    Just like God says above, I think I put away the stuff with serious potential danger to the lil one. Art-crafts done on a higher surface with me still hovering around. I did have a part-time help but she was never used to mind the kids but of course the time she freed up helped majorly.

    What also helped is pending a bit of one-on-one time with the older kid - then she/he will find it easier to spend time alone afterwards doing their own thing.

    And now they share a lot of stuff, and in any case often don’t need anything/anyone else to keep entertained (despite the occasional squabble of course) so yes there is lots of light at the end of the tunnel!

  6. U know, for arts and crafts, why don't u try eco friendly and non toxic stuff.. Like chappati atta instead of play dough. Prop them up on the table with the lil 1 strapped in a high chair.
    It also helps to hand the younger 1 a plate of churmura. It takes them a long time to finish and the older kid can do crafts. The other room with door closed funda is the best.
    PS: I have a single kid.. I speak from experience of having mixed age group kids in my craft classes.

  7. I have been tackling this issue in different ways these past 2 years. Antu in the high chair with some things to keep her busy in her food tray while Ashu and I did painting,crafts, board games,etc... This was when Antu was 6 to 18 months. During this time, only safe toys were in the living room. All the small parts toys were in Ashus room. And I let the girls play in ashus room without me there all the time because Ashu watches her sister like a hawk. so phew.

    18 mo onwards - little missy has been having her own mind! so arts and crafts with Ashu ONLY when Antu is napping and she does nap for a good 2 to 3 hours. so again, phew. or if Ashu wants to do art/craft on her own, I let her do it on the dining table. Antu was happy enough to watch or do stuff on her own. (this closed room funda does nt work with antu since a closed door is like a moth to the flame for her!)

    2 years onwards things have been easier. so theres a light at the end of the tunnel for you! :) That does nt mean there are nt other issues though! ;)

  8. Tequila, I need too. But, you'll get there soon...we have these magic days when they play together without a peep...I make sure they are praised and high-fived for those they know what we expect and appreciate. But yeah, until the younger one is 3 or so, it's tough. Around here, the younger one is bossy in his own way to counter his sister's controlling ways, so I have to do regular interventions to ensure neither sits on the other (literally and figuratively!) too much :P

  9. Asked my mom right now...she says it NEVER bro (32) and me (28) still fight :( sorry Ro for sharing the bad news hehehe

  10. Nice post. I could have taken this entire one and posted it on my own blog, cause this is exactly my story. Since I dont currently have any help with the kids, I get Karan to sit behind our sofa chairs (away from Kavya's view) when he does his arts and crafts or even homework (cause pencils, sharpeners, rubbers and notebooks also fascinate Kavya immensely and her brother's firm instructions "No Kavya, these are only for Achachen" ofcourse mean simply nothing to her). That way I sometimes can pop behind the chairs and help him with his crafts while still having an eye on Kavya usually from under the chairs.

    Please do invite me when you open that bottle of tequila, cos chances are that we will probably be in the same boat then as well!

  11. am reading this and making notes for future reference! :p


  12. GOD, I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL!! I can't wait for that day either, I'll take a nap thanks very much!

  13. [Pesto/ R's Mom] Don't kill my optimism ok? I need to have the peace and tequila to look forward to :p

    [Sur] It's about time we made good on our tequila plans. As soon as T is weaned :)

    [Sraikh] Like Chox said, you are God. I feel like a wimp every time I read your blog... shall try the table idea though cleaning up the mess will not be fun - Ayaan is not very neat with his crafts...

    [Endowedwithmetis] Thanks for those encouraging words :)

    [Choxbox] I do a lot of one-on-one time but since T does not nap much, it means I have to let the maids watch her while I do that...

    [MM] The atta dough is a great idea. She won't sit long in her high chair though at her current stage. Only wants to move...

    [Boo] I have that toy division too - only safe toys in the living room. But she is wayyyy more interested in hanging out in Ayaan's room

    [Starry] Looking forward to the magic days :)

    [Lawyeramma] We don't have such a space in our house... you are on for the tequila, let's get these girls weaned first :)

    [Abha] All the best! :)

  14. [Mona] Nap looking good to me too, right now

  15. Preeti9:50 pm

    Hi! I use the table for outlawed (for the younger one) activities as well. It works well for us as L gets to do her stuff in peace and U wanders around finding ways to amuse himself. I don't know whether it's cos L's a girl, or just her interest areas, but usually most of her stuff is okay to be handled by U. Books and art/craft stuff being exceptions. No wheels coming apart and very small parts etc. Whatever there is of that nature, she's allowed to bring out only when he sleeps. This is working so far... fingers crossed:)
    In fact, for U, the kitchen is much more of a danger zone. He just loves it there and is now reaching the stove knobs, and getting into drawers etc, and we have to be super careful when he's around. He even managed to drag the mixer base unit onto his head once, fortunately without any dire consequences.

  16. I guess I have just given up and let my 2 year old daughter join in the fun! It helps that my 6 year old son is patience personified (and the fact that he seems to like his sister, lets her be part of most of the stuff going on). Which paradoxically makes me mad that she she gets her way - most times.Have a sinking feeling this is just the start ;) Cheers!

  17. Thanks for your post. Yes, it is so tricky trying to find that fine line to make everyone safe & happy & it is ever changing! Have a lovely weekend. Katie.

  18. I missed the previous post somehow...I loved the pic of Tarana looking suspiciously at her Rakhi. Ayaan's card was as always so cute. He is going to be such a charmer...
    I agree with you on the Rakhi sentiments.
    Craft etc - with 22m age gap - the only way we handle it is to do it when KG is napping and after dad returns from work. Now though she tries to stay away from her brother's puzzle pieces but of course there is no guarantee...she breaks his toys sometimes and if it is his favorite toy - hell does break loose here!

  19. No second baby for me - reminding myself again! One apple-of-my-eye is quite enough..I think he can make do with friends/spouse when he grows up...:)

  20. Hi,

    Came across your blog and liked it very much.


  21. Excuse me, Ro, while I giggle.

    *giggles helplessly*

  22. Anonymous2:11 am

    Came thru boo's.

    How every word of yours ring true?

    Want to give a big hug to u, for understanding the "mothers without any help" category.

    WONDERFUL .. FABULOUS .. AWESOME piece of writing !!

  23. i lived in terror when the Bean was born because the brat insisted on GIVING her bits of lego to suck on. and shoving food in her mouth when i was looking. all because he loved her. even until recently, most fights were because they damn well LOVED each other so much. too much love will kill you, as the song goes.

    i didnt have the sense to move small piece toys away as others suggested, but then i didnt have too many because the brat was below 2 also.

    umm.. i just realised this was a pointless comment. i have no words of wisdom.

    oh wait, i do. i always give the bean something else to do when the brat colours or "studies" because she disturbs him with her commentary. it works for a while.

  24. Well, it was a little easier for me because M used to be away at the daycare for most of the time and when I was home with her she was like an only child with her sister away at school. Their age difference has really been great in this respect as well :) But I so get you!! It must get so tiring!

  25. dude, you have a loong ways to go. it's still difficult to leave chubbocks and puddi alone with each other for too long, inevitably squeals and wails follow. As for Bojjandi, he needs two people to watch him all the time. I think you should get started on the tequila anyway, at least you'll be less stressed out while watching the mayhem!