It has been hotter than Hades here in Colorado for the last week. So hot that it's pretty much impossible to send my little ones outside to play. We have been going to our community pool twice a week and that is a nice relief. And we've been walking in the evenings before bedtime because it's finally cool enough by then to venture outside. I am pretty strict about TV and tablet time. I am convinced that their generation is going to face some pretty serious consequences for the amount of time they all spend staring at screens and I am bound and determined to limit those consequences for my own children. With everyone social distancing, we are also doing far fewer play dates than we used to.
So what I am left with is many, many hours each week with very little structured activity. This makes for some grumpy kids. And while I am happy to facilitate some activities for my kids, I also believe that boredom is a personal problem. It is not one that is to be solved by Mama pulling out messy activities that occupy them for 15 minutes and then take me 45 minutes to clean up.
So what is a Mama (or Daddy or Grandma or Grandpa) to do? For us, having our day as structured as possible has helped tremendously. I have found that if I keep them busy with chores and workbooks/worksheets between breakfast and lunch, they are much more likely to fill up the afternoon with activities of their own. Here is what a typical day looks like:
- After breakfast, they clear the table, go upstairs and get dressed, make their beds and brush teeth and hair.
- Then they all come back downstairs and pick up anything that is lying around the house that is their's and needs to go back upstairs.
- We all go upstairs and while I am getting myself ready for the day, my oldest reads for 30 minutes to the younger kids.
- My oldest then has writing, math and reading comprehension worksheets to do. I do preschool worksheets and puzzles with the younger two during this time. When their little attention spans can't handle anymore, we work together on housework: switching over laundry and putting it away, wiping down doorknobs and switch plates and picking up toys upstairs. Straightening their rooms etc. etc.
All of that takes up pretty much all of the morning. They are then ready for lunch. After lunch they are usually so tired of being bossed around that they will go and play together quite nicely for a lot of the afternoon. When that wears off, I then strategically use tablets or TV time to carry us through to dinner. Having them self entertain doesn't work for every day so here are some ideas for the afternoon:
- We have a couple of family members who give our kids magazine subscriptions for Christmas each year. So when we get a new one we sit down together and read the stories and do the seek and find pages. They love it. Highlights for the younger kids and Ask for my oldest are our favorites.
- There are lots of free printable coloring pages available online. One of our partners, AssetMark, has created an activity book complete with coloring pages, spot the difference, word search and sudoku puzzles. CLICK HERE to print it for FREE!
- Play-doh. The key here is not to get it out that often. If you spread it out they are excited about it again and it will keep them busy for a solid hour if not more. Then, as with everything else, they need to help clean it up.
- Kinetic Sand. If you haven't heard of this stuff yet, CLICK HERE and order some immediately. It's super fun. Same tip as with the play-doh, don't get it out every day.
- Painting rocks and magnets. This is a big activity and we only do it VERY occasionally because it is super messy. CLICK HERE for a low cost kit. You can of course just use rocks you find and any old acrylic paint you might have from other projects.
- Wikki Stix. Another amazing product that is low cost, low mess and highly entertaining. CLICK HERE to order. My kids love these and make all sorts of super creative stuff with them. They make flags and whirly gigs and wrap them around little dolls to make dresses. See picture above as evidence of their creative superiority.
- Backyard camping. This is more of an evening activity. Set up a tent with sleeping bags in the backyard. Roast marshmallows in the fire pit. Even if you don't actually sleep outside, It will provide some entertainment and quality time together.
I certainly don't have all the answers and we most definitely have some days filled with too much screen time, lots of whining "I'm SO BORED!!!!", useless lecturing and empty threats "You need to find something to do! You have a million toys. If none of them are fun maybe it's time to get rid of them." But I'm trying my very best, and I hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful as we all try to keep the miniature versions of ourselves happy and healthy.
Good luck and Godspeed.
P.S. If you know someone who would benefit from these tips, click the little plus sign at the top of the post to share it!