Toddler care - the low maintenance method

Mole and Hedgehog are not going to sleep tonight. They are up and down the stairs like a pair of yoyos. This happens about 3 nights out of 7, and it is exhausting. It is true that they slept in the car at the worst possible time of day, aka 5pm, but then, it is not always that black and white or that simple, the laws of sleep remain a mystery.

After the bedtime ritual of bath, change, stories, cuddles and lights out, I take a bath myself, firmly locking the bathroom door and sinking into the bubbles in relief and bliss at having survived another day.

At first I hear silence from their room and I hope against hope that they have actually gone down, but alas it does not last. 20 minutes later I hear a tiny voice.

Mole: “Mummy, can you let me in?... Mummy, I know you’re in there… Can I come in?... I want to come in…. Mummy?... Mummy, can you let me in?...”

Me: (opening the door to Mole and Hedgehog camped on the landing, grinning up at me) “I’m coming out now, back to bed”.

They follow me into our bedroom. I wrap my towel around my head and flop face down onto the bed. There is a scrambling of limbs onto the duvet and little hands prodding my back.

Mole: (whispers) “I think she’s died”.

Hedgehog: (shouts) “MUMMY WAKE UP”.

Mole: (still whispering) “Shhhh, it’s okay, Mummy’s sleeping”.

Mole assumes the grinding position next to me which is her default getting to sleep method, while Hedgehog uses the pillows as a trampoline next to my head.

I give up my 5 minutes of snoozing to shuffle them back to their own quarters. 2 seconds later the door opens and Hedgehog attempts to toddle out, before being met by a stern mummy in the doorway.


I shut the door on them to sounds of cries and wails, before going downstairs to investigate what Mr M&H is doing, (watching Game of Thrones). I have some wine and regroup for round 2.

This general theme of exhaustion prompted me to draw up a useful list of things to do with your toddler that don’t involve moving. I hope some of you find it helpful.

  1. Read books with them on the sofa. This will involve about 10 minutes of prep time in setting up drinks and snacks on the coffee table that they will ask for every few minutes, plus a pile of books (around 10 for a good hours session), buts it’s worth it. Mole and Hedgehog are suckers for a good story book session.

  2. Puzzles and board games on the floor. Again, this involves some set up in terms of the games, but is pretty simple to do and once down, a good puzzle, board or card game could cover a full half hour before one of them gets bored. That’s half an hour of not having to use your legs.

  3. If it’s sunny and you have a driveway, sit on your front step and watch them play on their bikes. Shout encouraging words and make it clear that if they want anything, they have to come to you. This activity is best enjoyed with some toast and tea (or wine if an emergency).

  4. If it’s sunny and you have a garden, set it up in such a way that the toys are at one end (trampoline, sandpit etc), and the adult seating area is at the other. Then sit back and watch them from the other side of the lawn.

  5. Encourage ‘shows’. Mole did a great clown show the other day by standing on a chair, while Hedgehog and I applauded from the sofa. You could expand on this by providing a dressing up and props box, which should keep their imaginations and the possibilities ticking over for at least a half hour, before they start demanding ‘audience participation’.

  6. Take naps together. This can be a bit hit and miss, and sometimes a mid-afternoon nap together is a trade-off for an active evening, but you can always let Mr M&H take the evening shift. If they actually fall asleep with you in a big king size bed, the silence in the middle of the day is bliss.

  7. Set up an activity that is quick and non-messy, like putting a particular box of toys on the ground for them to rummage and go wild over, and escape to the next room for a 10 minute lie down. This is about how long it will take them to come looking for you.

  8. Have movie time in the late afternoon, when everyone is a bit tired. Put the slow cooker on for some easy dinner (slow cookers are a game changer), do some popcorn and select your favourite Disney or Pixar film on netflix. This is a perfect rainy afternoon activity. If they want to go out first, I find it’s very effective to let them run naked round the soggy garden lawn for 5 minutes, before towelling them off and warming up in front of a movie. They get all sleepy and cuddly after the shock of the rain.

Here endeth my wisdom, but I welcome any more suggestions of low maintenance activities to do with a couple of over-active little people.

Now it is my own bedtime, and judging from the report from Mr M&H an hour ago (he looked in on them to find a sweaty pair of bodies on the bottom bunk snuggled together, with limbs sticking out of the duvet at random angles), it’s safe to assume that they are in fact, asleep.