>>How do you always keep an eye on the younger ones and still do things (cook, prepare for shabbos, etc…)? Can you see their play area from the kitchen or do you have them play by you?<<
>>How does one take care of the littles and still get everything done when there are no older children around to entertain/watch them?<<
When we were looking at homes to buy several years ago, I consciously looked for a certain kind of layout that would work well with my parenting style. I have an open floor plan on the main floor, which consists of the living room, dining room, and kitchen. I can pretty much keep an eye on what’s going on from wherever I’m at. That helps alot.
Of course at this stage, having older kids is also helpful! But since I had six kids in nine years, I didn’t have older kids to help out with this for a long time! And it’s not like my older kids have become primary caregivers for their siblings, so I still use the same three basic strategies:
1) Have the kids work with you – this means taking extra time to involve them, but kids enjoy the time and feeling of accomplishment. My littles run to the rag drawer to get their own rags when they see me start to clean walls or cabinet fronts. Let them help to the degree that they are interested and willing, as much as you are emotionally comfortable with it.
2) Do the bulk of your work when they’re asleep. I can get a lot more done in an hour or two when the house is quiet than I can with them awake and messing up things five minutes after I clean them up! For major work, this is my preference. I can easily feel like I’m not getting anything done if I spend most of my time cleaning up after them when they’re awake, and feel my time is better spent interacting with them (which happens to limit messes in their scope!).
3) Do some things when they’re happily occupied and in view, so you can make sure they stay happily occupied.
Often some work can be shifted from the room it usually takes place in to the room where your kids are. Eg – laundry can be sorted and folded in the living room, vegetables can be peeled at the dining room table – if you’re willing to be flexible, there are ways to bring the kids into your work area or move yourself into their play area.