It’s an easy crutch, especially for the stay-at-home mom who needs to get a few things done (like last week’s dinner dishes and 17 loads of laundry) with little ones running underfoot. Or, the work-at-home mom, who is writing this blog post at 6:43am while her kids watch Octonauts. In my house, the TV-watching has become so constant that I recently posted a video blog, asking for your tips on kids summer activities and how to avoid kid TV time, while still accomplishing my to-do list. Here are all of your amazing ideas!
1. Get out the puzzles and sound books.
2. Let the kids get creative on the AquaDoodle. It’s only water, so if they make a mess, just dry it up.
3. Put music on your iPad. Let the kids dance to their favorite nursery rhymes, or find a YouTube video that has a bunch of kiddie songs on it. Better yet, turn on your favorite music and let them bust a move!
4. While fixing meals, have the kids sit at a table in the kitchen and get out crayons and coloring books. You’re there for conversation with the kids, but you still stay on-task with getting dinner done.
5. Let the kids draw, do clay modeling and play with their race cars.
6.Play make-believe games to keep your preschooler entertained while helping you with household chores. “I could never say, ‘Henry, please come help me unload the dishwasher,'” reader Julia shared on the She Just Glows Facebook page. “But if I say, ‘Oh man, I wish I had a strong crane or forklift to lift these dishes out of the dishwasher and put them in the cabinet,’ he’s all in!”
7.Help the kids fine-tune their motor skills with pony beads, pipe cleaners, pom poms and tongs. “I just had number 3, and that’s what saves me 15 minutes at a time,” one reader shared. “It really is 15 minutes at a time.”
8. Declare it bath time, and let the kids make an exploding vinegar volcano in the bath. All it takes is food coloring, vinegar, baking soda and bubble bath. (It’s also one of my 33 favorite free kid boredom busters!)
9. Let the kids help you prepare dinner. Peeling garlic skin and washing vegetables are great tasks for little hands.
10. Get a fossil digging kit. Most kits use kinetic sand, which stays lumped together so it isn’t as messy and you can pick it up easily.
11. Although it’s technically screen time, bust out the LeapPad. Kids enjoy the autonomy of having their own activity, and the games can be educational.
12. Look for educational iPad apps.
13. Think about what kids did for thousands of years before TV was invented and pull from that list. Play outside, play inside, do chores, read a book.
14. Let the kids play with Play-Doh. The bakery sets can be especially occupying, one reader shared.
15. Let your kids help you vacuum the house. If they don’t do it right, it’s easy to come behind them and do it afterwards. Plus, they feel like they’re helping and they love the loud sound.
16. Buy an extra, lightweight mop, and let the kids play with mops around the house. They can even pretend to clean the floors. If they’re young, wet the mop yourself and then give it to them. It’s just water, after all.
17. Teach the kids to fold their own clothes.
18. Let your little ones help you unload the dishwasher, handing you each item they take out. It may take forever, but the kids are occupied, and you’re saving your back from bending down, over and over! “My happiest, breakthrough moments come when I figure out how to incorporate my toddler into my chores,” one reader shared. “The task may take a little longer, but there is no crying, screaming, or hard feelings on either side. For example, when I’m vacuuming I ask [my son] to help me move things out of the way (like the ottoman), he makes such a big deal about how heavy and taxing it is. And then, when it moves, he yells, ‘Yay!'”
19. While you fold laundry, have the kids in the room, occupied with their own activity (like Play-Doh or coloring books). This way, you all stay on task.
20. Go to the Dollar Store and get stickers with notepads and pens, put a few in a resealable bag and call it their “office work.”
21. Do your own home science experiment with a casserole dish, vinegar, baking soda and an eye dropper.
22. Find watercolor sets at Target, and let the kids paint at the table while you’re in the kitchen.
23. Keep talking continually, and involve the kids in your task. Ask them to hand you things you need, and ask them how they would cook this if they were allowed, or how they would fold the laundry.
24. Encourage the kids to read books.
25. Make elaborate race car tracks using benches, couches and painter’s tape on the floor. Take books and use them as tunnels and bridges.
26. Get out a bunch of toys the kids haven’t seen in a while.
27. Give the kids old rags and sponges to “help” you clean. A slightly damp sponge will keep the little ones entertained for at least 15 minutes.
28. Make a homemade bouncy house by taking your sofa cushions off the couch and laying them out on the floor. Then, let the kids jump on the sofa base and cushions. (This is safest if you have carpeting, of course.)
29. Let the kids play Legos.
30. Find unique, interactive toys to keep them busy. “My boys are obsessed with the color-changing Hot Wheels, so we set those up and they are occupied for hours!” one reader shared.
31. Use wooden blocks, shoe boxes and little plastic balls to play made-up games.
32. Use blankets to make the living room into a fort.
33. Involve the kids in interactive board games. “Let them play Operation, and the little fishing game where fish open their mouths as they spin,” one reader suggested.
34. Play hide-and-seek.
35. As hard as it may be, keep your to-do list smaller. “Being at peace with the process helps me,” reader Wendy shared. “The more I try to do, the more impatient I am with the boys.”
36. Use boxes for play. One reader’s old diaper boxes kept her sons entertained, inside, for a whole hour!
37. Let the kids paint large boxes in the backyard.
38. Let toddlers help you fold washcloths and find matching sock pairs.
39. Give preschoolers their own shelf in a lower cabinet in the kitchen, so they can help unload the dishwasher and get out their own dishes for meals.
40. Let little ones help you put switch the laundry, and push the buttons on the washer and dryer.
41. When you’re sweeping, let toddlers hold the dustpan for you.
42. Make an indoor sandbox. Get a large deep pan, or any shallow container with a lid, and fill it with sand. When you’re done, snap the lid on it and store it for next time. “My son loves this,” one reader said. “I bought a miniature set of toy trucks at Target, and he digs and plays in there for awhile. I also hide seashells and Legos in the sand, too.”
43. Take turns with a friend. One reader sends her kids to her best friend’s house for 2 hours every other week (and has her friend’s kids on the off weeks), so she can get cleaning done. It’s free, and everyone is happy.
44. Find a mother’s helper. Ask around the neighborhood to find a kid who can come over after school and keep your kids entertained while you get stuff done.
45. Most importantly, Mama, don’t forget to give yourself a break. In our culture, the stress of child-rearing is so much more individualized than it was in previous generations. “Traditionally, families had far more community-centered lives, with Grannies, Aunties, sisters and neighbors, all working together to get all the work of homemaking done,” one reader shared. “I have to remind myself that, when I start getting uber-frustrated with my inability to cook dinner and do a load of laundry in a given day, I don’t have the same support our ancestors did. And, the number of responsibilities has increased. Now, we have to keep track of numerous bills and bank accounts, ensure we’re not victims of identity theft, volunteer at our kids’ schools a minimum number of hours each month, and many moms still have to work at least a little.”
Do you have any more tips to add to the list? Share them in the comments section below.
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