Sometimes as a mom, you need to do things like cook or clean. What can you do with your little one aside from planting them in front of a TV show or handing over an iPad? The best choice depends on your child, but let me give you some ideas.
Now, before we go any further, I need you all to know that a super clean house is not something I aspire to. I mean, I don’t want things to be gross, but I’m not even trying to pass a white glove test. Some day when the kids are grown, I’ll get it there, maybe.
If they weren’t parked in front of a screen, I had to keep my kids fairly close by to make sure they weren’t causing pure and utter chaos when they were small. The day they poured out all our salt and sugar to make a “beach” comes quickly to mind here.
For my kids, letting them create a controlled mess was the best way to occupy them. So, while I cleaned the kitchen, they were also in the kitchen either painting pictures or playing with play dough. One of mine loved her baby dolls and would happily give her dolly a bath in a big mixing bowl while I cleaned or cooked in the same room. I’d just use the spilled water to mop the floor when we were both done.
In this vein, I also let them play in the bathtub, drawing with crayons on the surround while I cleaned the rest of the room. And in our school room, I kept a plastic tub that was our sensory bin. What was in it depended on the season, as I put together different themes. One month included dried feed corn, and farm-themed toys, plus some measuring cups and scoops. Another month it was dried black beans and space-themed toys.
The sensory bin always had to sit on a big bath towel to catch spills, and I had to be close by to make sure they didn’t start throwing them. But they would happily play with this tub for quite a while while I cleaned up.
The big drawback to this is that you have yet another mess to clean up when they are done. However, I preferred the messes I could predict and choose to the surprise ones they made when I wasn’t looking.
Invitation To Play
Another great way to occupy your child is to craft an invitation to play. This can be a wide range of things, but the idea is that your child comes into the room to find something already ready and waiting to play with. Some moms enjoy setting one of these up after the kids are in bed, so that they find the play invitation in the morning, and are occupied first thing.
The most common way for me to set up one of these was just using our train set and setting up a track. When my kids were very small, they always needed help to set the track up. But even as they got a bit older, they loved for me to spend some time setting up a complex track for them. Set up the track, put the trains on it, and let them go!
Another invitation to play that works well is to build a castle or road with your child’s blocks. Be sure to bring in some small dolls or cars to go with your build, and watch your child invent their own game.
I also found that almost any set of toys was new and interesting if I set it up on our coffee table instead of in their usual play space. The coffee table was just the right height for small children to use it for play. Because I took the time to find the parts that went together, the kids were more interested in playing with them than they would have been in digging them out of the toy chest.
Let them Help
Some children are eager to help you as a way to spend time with you. So, consider if you can occupy your child to do your chores with you. The important thing to remember is that they are children, so they are just playing at cooking and cleaning. They can learn valuable life skills but are not yet able to do things like an adults.
When you are cooking, consider if your child can help in an appropriate way. Doing this will probably lead to your meals taking more time to prepare, but it is great for the kids. Consider carefully what you are cooking and what small jobs your child can do safely.
When cleaning, kids seem to almost always enjoy cleaning windows. Something about squirting on the cleaner and wiping it away is magical and easy. When folding laundry, your child can help fold the wash clothes or things that are appropriate to their size and skills.
Entertaining kids while you run your home can be very challenging, so be patient with yourself and them. Worry less, and find more joy.