Here are my favorite things we're doing with our kids at their current age level:
Jason and Alex share a love for games. We only allow our kids to play video games once they're 7 years old; we want to make sure a love for reading is established first. Alex is allowed to play video games on Saturdays and Mondays (Jason's day off). So far, this has worked very well for our family.
Sunday afternoons Jason plays board games with the kids. We've already seen the benefits in Alex's reasoning skills and math skills. If you don't like the idea of competing against your kids, check out cooperative games like Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple.
Lauren is 5 years old. Her main parenting challenge at the moment is dealing appropriately with emotions. She has not responded to discipline in the same ways as Alex so we've had to change up our routine. We've begun a habit of praying with her when she faces temptation, and she feels free to come tell us because she knows we're on her team. Praise the LORD! We're still working on developing her communication so that she can control her anger without lashing out verbally. And yes, all of this is a very convicting and sanctifying process in our hearts as well. Check out this video for more teaching on parenting. We love Paul Tripp!
I'll echo the board game comment here as well. Lauren is motivated to learn to read so that she can play more games! Her addition skills have improved dramatically along the way as well. Games also allow kids (and adults) to practice patience, grace, and love as they win or lose. King of Tokyo is a great game for this age.
One more quick note about Lauren. Her interests and giftedness appear to be more artistic, and so to love her is to provide opportunities for her to enjoy those interests and gifts. She is happiest in a world of music, dance, cooking, painting, drawing, coloring, and just creating.
Olivia is two years old. At this stage, our main goal is to keep her busy, fed, and rested. :) So my main idea for two year olds is to invite them to participate in life with you. We let Liv sit on the counter or stand on a stool while I cook. She throws clothes in the washer that I hand to her. She sorts clean cloth diapers into piles and puts them away in the drawer. I ask her to entertain the baby for a minute while I finish a task. She can find and bring to me most things in the house.
Of course toddlers also throw tantrums and have bad attitudes. Our main way of dealing with fussing and whining is to send her to her bed until she can control her emotions and speak normally. Of course sometimes further discipline is needed, but most times teaching her to handle her frustration and disappointments is the main goal. Also if the underlying issue is exhaustion, sending your toddler to bed could lead to an early nap, as Liv has done many times.
You may think that two is too young for games, but I spent a long time this morning playing Memory with Liv. We play it with the cards face up, and she makes matches. The experience is teaching her to find things, discriminate visually, use her dexterity (picking cards off table requires fine motor skills), increase patience, and build confidence. If you are looking for another game for this age range, I'd recommend Chicken Cha Cha Cha.
Emily is 9 months old. My favorite parenting tips for her age is to begin room time with siblings. Room time is when the kids go and play in their room together in the afternoon after lunch. It's a part of our daily routine. For a baby like Em, just place an exersaucer or pack n' play into the room where the older kids are playing. Please note: I don't recommend leaving a baby in a room with zero supervision. The room in which the kids play has french doors, and I can hear perfectly if not see everything. I think she lasted 5 minutes the first day. Now she spends 15-20 minutes with them. It's a great break for me, and a wonderful way to build her ability to play and be happy with her siblings.
The other tips are for moms. As babies get older, a common issue for nursing moms is that the baby might stop nursing and prefer baby food. The tip is to establish a routine of nursing first. When the baby is hungry, nurse. Then, only if the baby still seems hungry, offer baby food. Along with feeding the baby, this is a great age to start using baby signs. We stick with the basics, more and all done. Here's a great resource if you want to expand your baby sign vocabulary. Babies can definitely sign earlier, but I always forget to use it until around this age.
I hope you found this helpful, and of course, feel free to let me know what some of your favorite parenting ideas are!