Thursday, June 7, 2012

Idle Hands

Well, let me be honest. My whole house feels like the Devil's playground lately. My kids (well, mostly Miss Reese, but both are guilty) are in full on tantrum mode these days. We have around six a day. After the sixth, I usually stop counting tantrums and start counting the number of days I have before I can start drinking again. So last weekend it was my goal to make the kids busy boxes and I ordered plastic eggs online and fully intended to go to Michael's and get the rest of the things I needed to bring these boxes to fruition.

But that would have meant going out alone. With two tantruming toddlers. In the rain. And you know what? I decided to forego the outing for my own personal sanity. Taking them out in the rain is enough to make me rethink my plans to begin with. But the fall out from me not letting them hit every goddamned button on play with the dishwasher was enough to keep me inside and come up with alternate rainy day activities. 

I did manage to make them egg cartons with fluff balls inside of them. The eggs I ordered on Amazon (love you, Prime!) and they are actually from Oriental Trading Company. They were $9 for 144 eggs. I figure we'll use them for Easter and you know these kids will break some eggs. So 144 seemed like a logical number to order :) The fluff balls were leftover from when I made the kids their birthday hats and were originally purchased at Michael's. The egg cartons had eggs in them. Pretty easy. 

The eggs kept them pretty busy for a while. And to quantify a while, in toddler time that means it held their attention for around 20 minutes before they started throwing things and destroying anything in sight.

Later that afternoon, when it was still raining and I was slowly losing my mind, I broke out another trick I learned via Pinterest. Beans and a muffin tin. Baby bean counters. The muffin tins I had in the pantry and the beans were leftover from some sort of chili that I made in the fall.

Ryan is way more into the sorting and moving and noises that objects make. The eggs frustrated Reese because she couldn't get them open. And she just looked really confused for a while when I handed her the tin of beans. She watched Ryan for a bit and then attempted to entertain herself. And then she started whimpering to come out of her booster. This was sometime before she started throwing beans. But not with enough notice to keep me from picking up a tray of beans off the floor.

And that's how Ryan's party ended too. Although I think he made it rain beans by throwing the whole tray in the air. It was like a game of 52 pick up. But the number was more like 617. Which is why these activities give me ageda and make me want to scream. You know as a stay at home mother, especially of multiple children - both mixed and same age, all you do is freaking clean all damn day. So entertaining them with activities that make my life harder isn't really up my alley. And so my other option is to stunt their development and pray kindergarten picks up my slack. 

Truth be told when I saw the beans on Pinterest it was from another SAHM's blog. And the pictures depicted her toddler playing quietly with his beans whilst sitting nicely in a high chair. She talked of 30 minutes of free time to get something done. She did not mention picking up all nine thousand beans with both of her kids throwing the beans at her while she crawled, six months pregnant on all fours after he was done playing. But she is one of those church-going moms who does bible studies. And she probably doesn't swear or ever get angry. And therefore God likes her more and gave her a child that quietly entertains himself for thirty minutes at a time. 

Given the cards I was dealt I think both activities went exactly how I thought they'd go. We'll try a few more and see what happens, and I'm going to try to not twitch when my house looks like the ass end of a rhino. Not all of these activities are conducive to a house being actively on the market. But I may start out with baby steps and perhaps I'll tarp the space under their chairs or something else that appeals to my obsessive compulsive disorders.

My friend Gina was gracious enough to impart her toddler wisdom onto me and allow me to share it with you lovelies. Hopefully some of these activities are helpful for your sanity too. Let me know if you try any out and how they go.

First, get a plastic under-the-bed type storage box. There's a lot to do with it, and it varies on the mess-scale. G mostly did hands-on tactile stuff in that box -- take their favorite small toys and "hide" them in rice (uncooked, fun for digging with fingers or shovels or spoons), under shaving cream (brushes were fun for that one), in cooked spaghetti (she claims this is really not very messy and easy to clean up), in sand (she just bought a bag of it from Home Depot), etc.

Second, the busy-box ideas were great, and very popular with her kids. The divine Miss G made them pipe cleaner sorters (tutorial here) with fuzzy, colorful pipe cleaners and old Puff containers.

Another hit were fluff balls that you can stuff into containers. Her kids worked on pushing the poms through the holes but also just loved to dump out all 200 fluff balls and throw them around. I may save this one for when I can drink a bloody mary while they play. I kid, I kid. Kind of...

Sometimes she just throws a bunch of stuff into a plastic bin and lets them play with it. For example: random things from the kitchen drawers that were safe, a few little toys (plastic dinosaurs, little cars and trains, plastic Sesame characters, etc. and just covered them all with Easter basket grass.  Her kids played for at least 30-45 minutes with that. She did the same thing subbing Easter basket grass with the feathers that come 200 in a bag at Michaels. (I told you she was awesome.)

Play-doh, Do-A-Dots, coloring with crayons/markers, and watercolor painting are also in the rotation. Her kids (who turn two this month! sniff, sniff) are old enough now that they like to use the animal molds and things with play-doh, but when they were younger, they just stabbed at it with spoons and forks, mashed it around on a tray, and practiced pulling it apart into little pieces and placing them in the parts of an egg carton.

She offered up song ideas and time killers like the alphabet, counting and singing/movement activities. I'm sure you all do this already, but sometimes when you are facing a nap dead in the face and scrambling it's good to remember that a song will bridge you another ten or so minutes!

Gina tries to introduce new songs that have movement or "exercises". Some tried and true songs are the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Ring Around the Rosie, I'm a Little Teapot and Pat-a-Cake. In terms of exercises she has them sit and do things to copy her -- i.e. rock side to side, stomp their feet, touch their nose, stretch, touch the sky, etc.

Last but not least, refrigerator alphabet magnets and puzzles. My kids have these cool alphabet letters from Melissa and Doug. I get nervous (what else is new) about the small pieces. But I'm sure I'm just being a loo.
Hope these ideas help someone else whose suffering from a month of rain. I figure the sun has to come out eventually. And sorry if I just channeled Annie in your heads. I'll be stuck singing that song for the rest of the day now...

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