Recently I came up with the top 5 things that can help you stay focused during your time home with your little ones. I find myself using these basics as a guide for day-to-day plans. I am in no way perfect when it comes to managing my toddlers. But between the never-ending piles of laundry, the sink that fills with dishes (instantly), and the day to day tasks. I know having the simplicity of these basics upfront has worked for us, even a tiny bit, and it is all worth it.
This year was my 4-year old’s first school experience in pre-k and my 3-year old’s last year in daycare. They both will join each other in September if all goes well. This leaves a little sadness that he is missing that connection and experience. So, I can relate to anyone struggling with a similar situation. Yet, keeping everyone healthy and safe is the number one priority.
We have improvised the best we can to help keep up with our daily tasks, implement learning, independence, and connection with their friends and school, all while my husband still works full-time. I jotted down a quick little breakdown of our go-to’s to help get through the days just a little bit easier.
We stick to a routine, majority of the time, but of course there is room for change. Something I’ve encourage during this time more than ever is self-efficiency and responsibility. We use our daily clothing drawers, each labeled and filled with outfits for the day to grab fast and easy. This was a great alternative to their current dresser since it was too tall and hard to open. Plus, this allows them to learn the day of the week. And spin it into something a little more fun. My 4-year old loves getting himself ready for the day, he takes great pride in being able to do this all alone.
Our calm down and learning spot (I will get into more detail later) has a laminated print out of the days of the week. Each night before bed, we circle the following day together. In the morning they know to check their circled day and find the matching draw. They can grab a bundle of clothes and be on with their day.
It works so well and buys me those few extra minutes every morning to start my coffee or finish up a chore. When I am folding clothes, I put together a little outfit each time, roll it up, and into their drawers.
A small bin with toothpaste, a cup, and toothbrush all low enough to grab and get started. I do a quick little touch up once they have finished. It is a big help having them able to pull up a stool and get their things ready plus any bit of independence is a win in my book! We also found these electric brushes, the battery lasts forever and charges right with a USB port.
Sticking to a theme of independence for snack times still, I fill a basket with various snack options. I keep it low enough for them to reach, but of course they need to ask first. To ensure we do not have half-eaten snacks all over the house. But at least they can snag it on their own and I can do dishes, laundry, or work without having to jump up for snack times too.
Create a learning area/calm down spot.
We created an area away from the living room and kitchen to focus on learning. I wanted to ensure a quiet space rather than worry about other distractions. This was a perfect solution! We did the ABC puzzle together then turned it into a poster. We enjoy learning sessions in short bursts, focusing on a letter and math worksheet, then taking a break for something more hands-on.
We love to use puzzles, coloring, and interactive games for learning too. We recently completed a kit watching caterpillars turn into butterflies! This was a great experiment to teach some patience. While also tracking the changes and observing the steps involved.
When we focus on the repetitive stuff like ABC’s and numbers I like to jazz it up a little. We improvise when needed and our new favorite is the foam letters! They love matching each number with the amount of matchbox cars. You’d be surprised how interested a 4-year old can be with Geography when it involves a fun interactive puzzle!
While we regularly work on the basics, like numbers, letter recognition and sounds. Another big part of our learning is mindful moments. Our learning area doubles as a calming spot for “time-outs” during tantrums and other inappropriate behavior. This spot gives them the opportunity to recollect and put in place their skills to calm down. These books are a staple in our calming bins. The illustrations have bright colors, lots of great detail. While carrying simple concepts they can easily relate to.
I recommend these books hands down, time over, and over! We have become favorites of “hot cocoa breathing” and “candle breathing.” You can see our littlest guy Phoenix showing off his skills, and how he calms down with candle breaths, as he “blows” out his colorful candles.
Exercise/Gross Motor (get the crazies out!)
A big gift from the boy’s grandparents has been a life savior and not just for them but all four kids, ages 3, 4, 9, and 10. Our jumpy house and slide! Amazing for getting all their energy out. They have shown great creativity with this as well, pretending it is their “work” or “hotel.” It’s pretty awesome to see how imaginative they can be.
If weather permits outdoor play is the first thing we do after getting dressed. Sometimes they even have their breakfast out there! That fresh air starts their day off right. Plus helps rid off some of that toddler boy energy. And we are very lucky to have such an amazing backyard that is set up for them to run free.
Another favorite of theirs is to cruise around the yard in their little cars, total life savior. They’ll drive around for hours, while it’s teaching some good life skills too. I swear my 4-year old can back up and park better than I can, HAHA.
Without fail couch forts and mountains are a go-to and an excellent way to get the energy out. The floor is “hot lava”, and the couches are the safe zone! You would be surprised how much fun the couch is for kids. The mess is super easy to clean up too, and we encourage helping because of course they are, “big and strong.”
We also found a kids yoga program on YouTube. It is a great interactive exercise for all the kids. Each has chosen their own favorite video! Lately we’ve been into Farm Animals or Halloween. This is also a really great way to start calming down before dinner or bedtime.
When I am at a loss, we use our “mission” box. I wrote down some tasks on popsicle sticks and they are allowed to pick one stick. They must complete their “mission” to win the treat! They are easy little adventures like, create a birthday party for one of your stuffed animals or use your laser guns to freeze the monster!
Since the boys are into the idea of growing big and strong these days, it is my go-to for almost everything. When we need to shut down screen time, a simple “boys, let’s give our brain a break to grow it bigger again!” Or “it’s time to grow our brains, pick a book or coloring page.” This was never intended to work so well, but hey I will take it!
Arts and crafts
Anything messy, sensory and sticky is a huge favorite in the house. We have a designated cabinet filled with all things messy from playdough, moon sand, and slime. But, I will justify, it is under an extreme set of rules and regulations, HAHA. Plus, we all need a little fun in our lives these days and play dough popsicles are shockingly delicious. 😉
It is always a big win when you can mix one project into many learning experiences. For Mother’s Day we collected rocks from our neighborhood to create a rock picture! We went on a nature hunt, and learned about the different sizes, shapes and colors of rocks. Then created a special picture for their grandmothers, it was a big win for everyone.
When all else fails and we have too many grumps in this house, a bubble bath and lots of extras is the way to go! I mean, who doesn’t love a hot bubble bath, right? Even when everything goes well, what a way to end a long fun filled day!
We have some extra favorites, like our foam letters, matchbox cars (of course, (boys and their cars), and a fish pole! The biggest excitement lately comes from our changing water color tablets. We’ve been learning which colors mix together make another pretty color. Plus what colors turn the water into what my boys infamously love to name “poop brown” what can I say…boys. And of course lots of bubbles and fun foam soap!
Movie “theater” set up
Sometimes we need to recharge and need a break from learning and jumping around. So, we get creative and set up the living room into a “movie theater.” The kids can grab their favorite treat or snack, a comfy blanket, and find a spot to relax.
I am always changing things up and creating new ways to learn. Because once they become too comfortable, they can get bored and antsy. Everyone needs exciting new challenges once in a while! During this extra sensitive time we try to keep routine and expectations consistent. This helps give a sense of normalcy and ease their little minds. We are managing well, taking it day by day, and hope these tips can help you out!
We send healthy vibes and wishes to you and your family! Thanks for reading, even if you can just relate to the hectic “on” of being a mom.