At 12pm today both sides of my brain made noises…
The teacher side went… WOOHOOOOOOOOOO a mental break for 2 weeks at last!
The Mammy side went… Oh Jesus how are we going to manage a fortnight off???!
So as I tipped around cleaning my classroom ready to say Slán until Term 3, my brain was in overdrive rationalising how we would make the most of this break, and not have it feel like some sort of punishment…
I have put a list of ideas together of things that I find useful for keeping small people busy, with minimal stress or effort on the side of the grown up.
Disclaimer; I am far from an Insta perfect has-her-sh**-together Mammy but I do think we have to be proactive when it comes to making these days of restrictions bearable at home with small kids.
None of these things are earth-shattering or mind-blowing, but sometimes all you need is a reminder of whats doable, and to have a selection of ideas in one place to pick and choose from so I hope there’s something here for everyone.
Food Glorious Food
Cornflake nests– simples! Melted choccie, cornflakes, into buncases, scatter a few mini-eggs on top… chill & eat! Guaranteed a few minutes busy time & something tasty at the end.
Pancake Party; throw together flour, milk & eggs, slap a few pancakes on the pan, put a selection of toppings out on plates & let the smallies make their own creations. Who doesn’t love pancakes?
Picnic: inside or out! Gather a few sambos, crackers, fruit, snacks & treats, pick a spot to eat lunch picnic-style. Even better if you can go somewhere local for a change of scenery, but the smallies also go mad for a picnic in the house! The landing, their bedroom, the sitting room, think outside the picnic basket!
Playdough; add in rollers, cutters, googley eyes, pipe cleaners, stampers; use household items to make imprints & shapes in the dough for some variety: potato masher, fork, egg turner, whisk, it will (should!) keep them busy for ages.
Cutting: if you have a child-friendly scissors in the house, let them do some cutting practice on sheets of paper or foam; they might find it tricky if it’s something new but they will love it. If you have foam shapes these make for endless concentration & enjoyment. The mess will be kinda hectic but let it happen & deal with that at the end! Sellotaping sheets to the edge of the table & letting them kneel while cutting for another take on it.
Chalk: using chalk outside is somethinh we used to do as kids & mine love it now too. Ideally you need the big chunky chalf to avoid small fingers getting grated off the hard ground, but if you just have small chalk they can use it for vertical drawing on walls; let’s remember it is only chalk & it will be gone with the first shower of rain! Drawing race tracks, start/finish lines, giant dinosaurs, flowers; it’s all something to keep them occupied.
Crafty Business; drawing, colouring, cutting, sticking: whether it’s free play or to make something lovely to send in the post, offer a range of bits & pieces & let the kids do their own thing. Googley eyes bring life to even the most dull of materials so encourage them to use them & see what they come up with. Give them a choice between crayons, pencils & markers, even just offering different media encourages them to be creative & stay busy!
Sending Love; write letters, make pictures, send coloured sheets to loved ones that you can’t visit. This is sure to make someone’s day, and will make your day go quicker too. It has the added bonus of an adventure to the postbox after…!
The Great Outdoors
OUT OUT OUT! Everybody out! That’s 90% of my survival plan for next 2 weeks so I hope the weather gods stay on our side!
There are ideas for more structured outdoor activities below, but really the outdoors should be for freedom, independence and exploration so of they are happy to potter & play, don’t intervene!
Nature Hunt; you can go all out with printed resources/photos/clues for this, or just simply ramble around the garden telling them what to look for! An ideal chance to sit with a cuppa & oversee from a distance!
Water play; I’m pretty sure my 3 year old could be babysat by a puddle at this point, he is just obsessed with water. If you have a redundant sand box or a tuff tray or just a good old fashioned watering can or bucket lying around, fill that baby up, and better yet add some washing up liquid for maximum entertainment. We have an entire family of dinosaurs that live outside in some receptacle or another, and are sometimes joined by various Paw Patrol figurines to shake things up. Older kids could even make their own boats & experiment with them.
Playground: if you are lucky enough to have a playground nearby then make use of it! Go early for quietness & let them be free. Sometimes that’s better than anything.
Tent! If you have a tent in the house then why not pitch in the back garden & create a whole new play space. If you’re a super fun parent you could even camp out!
This is what we all NEED and deserve over anything. Time without alarms, computers, Seesaw, schoolbags and lunchboxes. This is what we need, but also what young children find the most difficult!
Movie time; my two are only beginning to be interested in movies, and it’s lovely to be able to sit & watch something together for a while. Popcorn bribes & plenty blankets are a must!
Quiet time in bedrooms; this is something I am trying to implement with my two. Over lockdown they just fought more and more as the weeks went on so separation became a coping strategy. The Toniebox comes in very handy here. Big Bro has my old stereo & a few audiobooks on CD that he will listen to when the mood strikes. It rarely lasts long but it is a good breather for everyone. I am never allowed to disappear so I usually end up sorting laundry or cleaning a bathroom while they chill but at least it’s been a quiet few minutes!
Screens; screentime is inevitable unless you are some kind of super-parent…! I try to keep it as constructive as possible with CBeebies apps, RTEjr app etc. Youtube Kids is a much safer option for youtube fans, and the Lego Duplo games are a big hit here too. Older kids would enjoy games from Topmarks website and other educational but fun sites.
Middle of the Day Baths; this is something I haven’t done unless Small Bro’s eczema has been flaring up but I’m going to keep it in my back pocket for this break; they both love a bath & will splash away for as long as they are let. And I get to sit down & scroll guilt-free! What’s not to love!
Lots of parents love the chance to kiss goodbye to bedtimes while the kids are on holidays but that is a recipe for misery & disaster in this house. We will be sticking to the routine, it’s what they’re used to, it’s what we are used to & it’s what we all need. Come 7pm we are all done with each other!
The clock change might be a challenge for the smallies but what has worked for us in the past has been to adjust bedtime by 20-30 mins for a couple of nights in a row & there hasn’t been any jetlag so far, touch wood! Oh and I will be taping black bags to their windows this evening!!
I hope you found some bit of inspiration from this, and if you didn’t then soz babes, I promised nothing!!!
We may well be giving out and withered 10am Monday, but all we can do is try. Try to keep them occupied (and fed!) and try to enjoy/tolerate two weeks at home. Again. At least this time there’s no homeschooling!