Nothing says summer like a house full of kids.
While for some families long summer days can be spent at parks, splash pads and beaches, others are not so lucky. When my husband and I had three children in less than three years, I realized that it wasn’t feasible for me to venture out with the kids on my own. Taking two toddlers and a newborn to a park or other public place was not only a major undertaking, it was also more stress than it was worth. I accepted my fate as a housebound mother, and I not only survived, I thrived. With the mercury rising, I thought I would share my tips for sweating it out at home with the littles.
Your Backyard is Your Haven
When you have a pack full of young kids, your best bet for safe and relaxing fun is in your own backyard. I scoured secondhand sites and yard sales to fill my yard with playhouses, jungle gyms, cars, water tables and sandboxes. We had all the benefits of the park with the wonderful addition of a fence to keep the chaos contained. When your partner complains that your yard is starting to look like you are running a daycare, you are on the right track.
Sensory Play All the Way
When it comes to playing with my kids, hands down one of my favourite things is sensory play. While I will often avoid this stress-reducing activity because of the inevitable mess, you can easily curb this by varying the sensory items in the water table to keep the kids engaged.
Some of these items can include:
Bubbles: Add a little dish soap to your water table for a fun twist.
Playdough: Store-bought, or involve the kids in making your own. Here is a fun and great smelling recipe to try.
Cloud Dough: This easy dough is fun and smells great. Mix half of a cup of baby oil with four cups of flour.
Kinetic Sand: Store-bought or make your own with this fun recipe.
Whipped Cream: Wash and dry your table thoroughly and then let the kids bury raspberries and blueberries with the cream and dig to find them. I am hungry just thinking about this awesomeness.
Bath Time is All the Time
One of the most important tools in my summertime arsenal is the kiddie pool. It’s not only a great way for the kids to cool down, it can also keep them clean if you add a little bubble bath (or dish soap) to the pool. Even if my kids aren’t outside or particularly dirty, I would often find myself drawing a bath to break up a particularly long day or to get more time together as a family in the evening.
Make Things Grow
One of my favourite ways to spend time outdoors is gardening. It’s a great way to be productive while the kids are enjoying the outdoors and you can even get the kids involved. Whether you are planting a few annuals or growing a vegetable garden, it can be as easy or complex as you want. One of the best investments we made in our yard was our raspberry bush. Given to us by a neighbour, our bush flourished and spread, giving us plenty of berries to enjoy year after year. The kids were easily able to fill containers of berries right from our yard daily and we even had enough to make jam.
Make a Date
Two words: play date. Even the best parent can only take so much kid time. Every once in a while we all need some adult interaction. I like to collect mommy friends from Facebook groups, Ontario Early Years Centres, parks, pools, and church—you can really pick them up anywhere. Finding a mom who ‘gets it’ is invaluable. I love being able to gain advice, compare parenting issues and just enjoy talking to someone over the age of three.
Keep it Clean
I once got great advice from an experienced mother: Never clean when your kids are in bed. I took her advice and then went a step further. When I clean, I will often get my kids involved. With a spray bottle (filled with some warm water and vinegar) and a cloth, they are happy to help. Not only does it get them in the habit of helping with chores, it allows me to clean in peace without the guilt of neglecting the kids.
Get a Helper
When my kids were younger, I needed a hand but couldn’t afford to hire anyone. My solution was to invite my nephew, then later my niece, to spend time with me as a mother’s helper. This was a win-win situation: I was helping my sister out by providing a safe place for her kids to spend the summer, and in return I had someone to help hold hands and buckle up car seats.
Turn Up the Heat
Feeling ambitious? What about hungry? The combination has resulted in many batches of muffins, cookies, and pizza. You name it, we’ve made it. My favourite way to bake with fussy toddlers is the give them a wooden spoon with a banana and some berries and let them stir. Whatever is left over can be added to pancake or muffin mix for a fun morning or afternoon.
As frustrating as it can be to raise little people, it is also an amazing journey. Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride because it goes by much too quickly. You want your children’s memories to be filled with you having fun and enjoying being with them. So try to worry a little less about the laundry and a little more about the laughter.
So parents, is there anything you would add to this list? What helped you through the long summer days during those early parenting years? Let us know below and be sure to share your advice on our forums.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.