Is it just me or did things go from 0 to 60 in 1 second flat with the self-quarantine and social distancing? Like, last Wednesday I went grocery shopping and everything was normal. Friday a friend text me that the grocery store had been ransacked and I nervously drove over to see what I could get. ENTIRE AISLES had been emptied. Like, completely emptied. The next thing I knew all the schools closed, businesses closed, and we’re all keeping our babies home from daycare.
Long story short, many of us are now stuck at home. Even if you were a stay-at-home-mom before this, you likely still had places you went out to you can’t any more like libraries, music classes, YMCAs, swimming lessons, etc.
Because of this, I wanted to share some of the tips I use for spending time home with Miles. Certainly, I’m not a total professional at this. Prior to this outbreak, Miles did go to daycare 2x a week. But, I do spend a lot of time at home with him and I do have a background in childhood education. So, I’m putting those two together to give you some tips that work really well for me and can hopefully help you out.
Oh, also the title here says “toddler” but I think it applies to younger and older as well.
1. Wake up before your child
I know the idea of giving up precious sleep is daunting. But trust me, you’re about to spend the next 12 hours entertaining a little one (with hopefully a nap in there for a break). You need some time for yourself before the day gets started. I can’t stress to you HOW MUCH BETTER my mornings are when I get up before Miles.
It doesn’t need to be a drastic amount, 15 minutes is fine. Personally, I like an hour but do what works for you. The important thing is to be intentional with this time. What fills your cup? Exercise? Coffee and social media scrolling? Getting work done so you feel productive? Getting dressed and brushing your hair? It doesn’t matter what it is, it just needs to be something that you enjoy and you need to know WHAT it is. This way when you wake up you know exactly what you want to achieve as opposed to waking up and just wandering around the house wondering when your kid will wake up.
TIP: I know planning this is hard because our children are children and not robots and this means they don’t wake up at exactly the same time every day. My best suggestion is to go for their early wake-up and then subtract 15-20 minutes. For example, Miles typically wakes around 6:00, sometimes it’s 6:30, sometimes it is 5:30. So, a 5:00am wakeup would work for me to ensure I got at least a little time. Like I sad before, I wake earlier because I like extra time, but it’s up to you.
Another tip is to know this doesn’t have to be EVERY DAY. I usually wake before Miles 4-5 times a week, and the other days I wake when he does.
2. Get outside by any means necessary
There’s something magical about the outdoors. I think it’s because there are fewer rules. There’s less “you can’t have that, don’t mess that up, don’t break that.” It’s freeing to kids. I feel like kids can REALLY be kids outside. Miles can be a cranky beast inside and if I put on his shoes and jacket and we go outside he’s like a new kid.
I can be hard with the weather, but bundle up, put on rain gear. Whatever you gotta do. Make some time to get outside at whatever means possible that you can.
3. Use toy rotation
I feel like a broken record when it comes to toy rotation but you guys, IT WORKS. If you haven’t heard me blab about it on Instagram stories let me give you the short overview.
What is toy rotation? This is the idea of only letting your kid have access to a portion of their toys at once and the rest are in storage. When your kid has too many toys available they can get bored of them (toy fatigue can make their favorite toy look like junk) and it can also be overwhelming. By rotating toys, you keep the selection new, fresh, and concise. There aren’t too many choices. And, every time you rotate the toys it’s like they have all new things to explore.
I am working on a post on how I do toy rotation. But, the general concept is to keep about 75% of your toys in storage. When your child starts to seem bored with their toy selection, swap everything out for new toys. I can’t stress how well this works for us.
4. Prep your space
This goes along with toy rotation a little bit, but I find that Miles plays much better in a space that I’ve “set up.” What I mean by that is a few things:
- There aren’t TOO many toys out that he gets distracted
- Any toy that is available has all the pieces it needs to make it work
- Setting up special activities – I don’t do this every single day but an example might be getting out a sensory table during his nap, setting up his pop-up tunnel, prepping and an art activity
Every night before bed I make sure that Miles’ area is picked up because it makes him much more likely to play there in the morning. During nap I always take 10-15 minutes to pick up and prep an afternoon activity to do together.
This small amount of prep time leads to much more fun and intentional play.
5. Play with them
I know a lot of parents don’t like playing with their kids. Listen, don’t feel bad. We’re in our 30’s, reading the same book 100 times and pushing a plastic toy around isn’t supposed to be fun for us. But, I can also guarantee your child will play better, be more engaged, and be better behaved if you get down on the floor and play with them.
Depending on their age, they might not even need you playing directly with them but instead will just need parallel play. Parallel play is pretty common for the toddler years. It’s when you see two kids playing next to each other but not actually with each other. You can mimic that same thing by “playing” to encourage them to continue playing with whatever toy they have.
Listen, like I said, I get it. Kid toys aren’t the most fun. But look at this way: Would you rather play with a boring toy or listen to them whine and fuss? Also, I’ve found some ways to modify Miles’ toys to make it more entertaining for me. The other day I spent 20 minutes trying to get pompoms into a cup I placed about 4 feet away while Miles happily played with his truck. You’ll actually find the more you get down and play with them, the more you really enjoy it. My best moments with Miles have been because I was down and playing with him. Sure, there are boring moments in there, too, but overall you will find it more and more fun.
6. Don’t be so hard on yourself
I don’t care about many pretty color-coded schedules you see post people on Instagram or perfectly executed art activities your friend shares….staying home all day with a kid isn’t easy. Nothing with toddlers will ever go according to plan. They may love an activity one day and hate it the next. They may throw a huge fit begging you to play Sesame Street until you finally give in and turn on the damn TV.
Don’t feel bad giving in sometimes. It’s OK if they don’t follow every rule or behave perfectly. Let them get their way sometimes. Trust me, it won’t break them.
Spending entire days cooped up in your house won’t be perfect. It doesn’t matter if your kid has screentime or only eats french fries all day or refuses to put on their hat to go outside. Believe me when I tell you, you’re doing a perfectly good job.