Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sometimes The Day is LONG!

So, I'm a SAHM. I feel very lucky that I am able to choose that option. I get to see the kids as much as I want and am able to give them all of my love and attention. I know they are safe, I know they aren't eating McDonald's, I know they're doing something creative each day, I know all of the ins and outs of their day so when they make some vague reference to something they saw 3 weeks ago, I am the one who knows exactly what they are talking about. All of this together time is great.  And it's completely EXHAUSTING

There are days when I just want to cry because I am so worn out. Lack of sleep, constant whining, non-stop arguing or just that I want five minutes to myself to go to the bathroom without company, all can contribute to my wanting to tear my hair out. And then my children will do something ridiculously sweet and I will melt and forget all of the above and just remember that I love them. And then the cycle will start all over again.  Such is the nature of being a stay at home mom.

One of the hardest part to being a SAHM for me was being cooped up in the house for days on end. WIth twins it can be especially hard because as soon as your kids get the slightest bit bored or jealous, the fighting starts. It can be incredibly hard to plan a full day in the house with two little ones and you may find that the best way to deal with it is to think like a daycare or preschool director: work out a schedule for the day so that it doesn't feel so endless. Start with a little free play, move on to circle time with some songs or stories, try to get outside to burn off a little energy and create a change of scenery. Depending on your child's age, you may need to change activities every 15 or 20 minutes until you hit on something that will keep them busy for long stretches (thank you, Legos)! Throw in a few snacks and a few meals and before you know it, you've got a full day of fun! 

A few months ago my children decided they didn't need to nap anymore. It was a very sad day for me. I delayed it for as long as I could but finally I realized their naps were actually making their night time sleep worse (and thus, my night time sleep was worse). SO, now I have two three-year olds who don't nap and who wake at 6:30 in the morning.  It can be a VERRRRRY long day when it's not broken up by school or play dates or their nanny taking them somewhere. I figured that some of you may have similar issues, or your children may not yet be in school, or you may not have regular help you can count on, so I thought I would post a list of some creative things to entertain your little ones that you may not already be doing. 
  • Gardening - If you don't have outdoor space, maybe you have room for some pots and planters inside or on a deck. Buy some soil, seeds or small trays of colorful flowers and a planter box for each of them.  Take them with you to pick the plants out. Target always has great kid's gardening stuff by Spring time, or we got this adorable set as a gift for the kids' birthday. Our children particularly love flowers and anything scented, like rosemary. Don't forget a watering can - that's the best part (and it's even fun in the bath)!
  • Get Artistic - Painting might be our daughter's favorite thing to do. If you have a space to close off where you can cover everything with old sheets or towels, this is best so that you don't worry about the kids messing up your house! Aaron Bros. has inexpensive canvases in bulk, and non-toxic paints and paintbrushes - put old clothes on and let them go! When our kids were too young to really be able to use a paintbrush we had a blast finger painting or using rollers and stamps. Clean up is not easy, but on a warm day you could put them in one of those steel buckets and hose them off outside - (more fun). If it's warm outside, get some water and big paintbrushes and "paint" with the water on the concrete or on rolls of brown craft paper - this is really great for mom because it's not messy, and great for the kids who see first hand the effects of evaporation and that they can paint over and over again as the water dries. Alternately, getting washable ink stamp pads and different shaped stamps at a place like Lakeshore Learning is a paint-free way to create some "art". The other less messy way to create art at our house was to do something we called "sticky art".  Again, Lakeshore (or a craft store) has packages of small, stiff cardboard sheets that are super sticky on one side.  I bought a bunch of crafty things like feathers, pom poms, buttons, sparkly gems etc (you can also do it for free by collecting leaves, flat stones, cut outs from magazines etc.) and set them each out in bowls for the kids to create their art with. If you're interested in being crafty with the kids but aren't necessarily full of ideas, you have to check out this fantastic blog a friend of mine writes called "My Submarine To The Future". For example, check out this post about making paper houses!
  • Treasure hunts - Whether your kids like to play pirates or not, a treasure hunt is always a fun thing to do in the house or yard.  Draw a map of your house, make about a dozen copies (so you have them for next time) and hide small things (little items from the 99¢ store or the dollar bin at Target make great "treasures"). Mark your map where treasures might be hidden. To make it more interesting I hide very easy riddles that will help guide them to the next location (ie: "look in the place where Mommy and Daddy sleep to find the next clue"). Obviously, this takes a little preparation so it would have to be done while the children are out of the house or asleep. 
  • Nature Walks - This is a variation on our Treasure Hunts.  Take the kids for a stroll around the neighborhood (assuming where you live is easy to wander about with two little ones) and have a list of things to look for that you know you'll run into.  For us it's things like: Magnolia leaves (we have Magnolia trees out front), dandelions, purple flowers (our neighbor's bushes are covered with them....shhhh, don't tell them we sometimes pick them), etc. etc. Then you can bring them home and press flowers in a book or do "sticky art" or some other type of creative masterpiece. Another alternative way to do a "hunt" is while on your favorite daily outings — a walk around the neighborhood, a stroll along the beach — gather things (if permitted by the park) to help both of you remember why you like a particular place. You might bring along a camera and start snapping away; your child may choose to pick up a really beautiful leaf or a special seashell. Once you're home, help your child decorate a shoebox with construction paper, crayons, glitter, or anything else that makes it unique. Keep both of your collections inside. You might have several different boxes for each outing. On rainy days, snuggle up on the couch with your child and sift through the box. Chances are you'll be able to relive your favorite outings as you dig through the treasures.
  • Cook - Baking cookies is always something my kids like to do. But, even better (especially if you're my son who's favorite phrase of the moment is "that's disGUSting!") is to make "Icky Stew". You waste a lot of baking soda and vinegar, but it might be worth it to get an hour of peace. Break out the big bowls and wooden spoons with baking soda, vinegar, a pitcher of water, cocoa powder, and anything else that they can put in the "icky stew" and that keeps them entertained for a long time. The vinegar and baking soda make bubbles and the rest is just for color and for the fun of adding "ingredients." Be sure to wear old clothes and cover the floor where you'll be working - it can make a bit of a mess.
  • Take a bubble bath - Yes, I would probably like to just get in a bath and relax, but this one is just for the kids. Sometimes when our kids are especially crazy a bath not only fills the time, but it also calms them down. We use bubble blowers, bathtub crayons, any fun bathtub toys. I especially love all the Alex bath toys and the Corolle bath baby dolls are nice because they dry out quickly and you don't have to worry about mold growing inside if you've forgotten to squeeze all the water out! A good bath can last an hour some days and, bonus, baths are done! Once out of the tub, keep the bubble magic going (you can make your own bubble solution by mixing one part dishwashing detergent with ten parts water, and a little glycerin or corn syrup to make the bubbles hold) and see what you can find in the house to make bubbles with. Your children can use almost any open-ended object to make bubbles, including the rings from a six-pack of soda or a clothes hanger (with sharp ends bent back for safety). Try making bigger and bigger bubbles, but be careful they don't drink the solution! 
  • Explore the universe - We recently took the kids to The Griffith Observatory after getting this great globe as a gift for the kids. These two things sparked not only interest in animals around the world, but also a lot of talk about planets, rockets, space and so forth. One night I decided to try this game I had heard about called Earth and Moon. Arm yourselves with a flashlight and a laser pointer (warn your child never to aim the laser pointer directly in anyone's eye; it can damage the retina), and lie face up on the bed in a dark room. Make the Earth, or the flashlight beam, move in large circles around the ceiling. Your child's job is to keep the moon (the laser pointer) orbiting the Earth. Start by moving the Earth slowly, speeding it up as the game continues, to challenge your child to continue his moon's orbit. My kids will play with a flashlight for ages so this game is a hit over here. You may have to get two laser pointers to avoid impatience in waiting turns. To make this even more fun, I used a large box I had gotten after getting a shipment from and turned it into a rocket ship. It totally doesn't matter if you're artistic - just get a box that's big enough and cut out a door and a window or two. Let the kids join in with decorating it with washable markers or whatever else you have around. If you want to buy a cardboard rocket because it is more esthetically pleasing, this is a great one and the kids can decorate it as well. Get into your rocket and tell a story about where you're going!
It's a lot of work entertaining your children in the house, so I always like to have lists and lists of ideas that I can pull out when they are making me nuts. Personally, I like to get out of the house as much as possible. For me, it is more stimulating and I love that the kids get to experience so much the city has to offer. But there are days when it's just not possible. I hope this little list helps a bit the next time you're stuck indoors and are feeling like you will jump out a window if you have to play Princess Tea Party again!

If you've got some great indoor activities your family loves, please share them with us!
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