I tried to do a variety of activities with my son: blocks, cars, coloring, reading, red light, green light, etc. Still seven hours seemed so long when each activity lasted ten minutes or so. I scoured the internet for ideas. I wondered what stay at home moms did.
The most common suggestion was to get out of the house. That wasn’t very feasible when I most needed ideas from 7-10:30 before activities were open and definitely wasn’t going to work when the wintery roads were too bad to travel. I didn’t have any mommy friends for him to have a play date with either, so that option was out. I thought I must be missing something. People do this all the time and some people have their toddler every day. I asked my husband, who watches him one day a week, and he said that he does errands so it breaks up the morning and the day goes by fast.
I had to figure out what would work for me inside the house all day. Here’s what I found helped.
Chunk out the Time and Change Your Outlook
This was by far the best thing that helped me. If I thought about how many hours I had left to fill with activities I couldn’t come up with, I’d get discouraged and less engaged in the moment.
The best day I had was when I chunked out the time and this helped me be fully present in each activity. I played blocks for twenty minutes then thought of what else I could do for twenty minutes or so. We made a ramp and ran his cars down them then jumped on the same mats we used for a ramp. Laughter ensued. Soon it was time for snack.
Do Things you Like to Do
I love to cook. My son likes to help. He pours the flour, water, and other ingredients. So I get to do an activity I like and share in it with my son. Plus he gets to learn more about cooking and being helpful. I love to do more active things like red light green light, rolling the ball, playing cars because there allow me to more of a participant and stay interested in what he’s doing. So play time will be more fun if the longer activities are things you like to do as well.
Do Chores and Other Daily Activities
I’m not a huge fan of doing the laundry, but with my son it’s fun. He helps put it in or take it out and pushes the button to start it. Sometimes he’ll want to help put away the dishes. I’ll give him the plastic containers and he’ll carry them to the cabinet. It’s great that he makes chores more engaging.
Final Thoughts: More Independent Play Time is Necessary
When I look at this routine, I see stay at home mom find sanity in chunks of independent time where their little ones play alone.
This stay at home mom has a very similar daily schedule to mine (except our son gets up at 6 am and naps for less than hers). She allows them a lot of time to play on their own. My son, an only child right now, struggles to do this for more than 15-20 min. He’s a social kid and likes to do things with others, especially mommy or daddy. Lately I don’t have to participate, but I need to be in the room. If I try to do something else like crochet, read, or write, he wants to be a part of it: I help (when I crochet). I read it (when I start to read). Kitties or giraffe (he wants to look at when I’m on the computer).
Reflecting on this made me think: maybe the problem is me. Of course I want my son to be able to entertain himself and not expect others to think of ideas of things to do or be bored and want to rely on the television for stimulation.
My son plays the most on his own when I’m making dinner or cleaning up. I don’t have to say anything. He’ll just start playing. He’ll putter around the kitchen making towers, riding his truck, playing with a metal coffee pot, or sitting and playing with the shoes singing to himself.
So upon reflection, my son can play on his own. Maybe I’m spending too much time playing with him? I liked how the article set a reasonable time for kids to get used to the idea of playing alone (maybe just starting for 5 minutes).
So I’ll have to figure out how to replicate the environment he already naturally plays on his own during the long morning stretch of time.
More independent play time will be important to experiment with especially when he has a new brother soon. I think a follow up post is in order, though I think it’ll end up looking like this schedule since we already naturally followed a similar schedule before baby #2. After reading a lot of the comments I took away this is a common problem for moms and that I’m already doing so many things right. I just needed a little something extra to solve my dilemma and that I can let go of the guilt over trying to entertain my little one all the time and struggling.
May you find encouragement in knowing you’re not alone with your own daily toddler struggles and find more joy in the process.