In every parent’s journey there comes a time when you reach the limit. Maybe you have a baby that won’t sleep and a toddler who won’t stop moving; maybe you have a preschooler in his “WHY?” x 1000 phase and you’re newly pregnant and don’t even know your name; or maybe you went out with some friends the night before and because it was the first moment you’ve had away from those children where you didn’t have to wipe a butt or tie a shoe, you did way too many lemon drops shooters and stayed out singing 80’s hair band karaoke wayyyyy tooo late.
Your reasons are your reasons. We don’t judge here. The result is the same. You are too tired to move, too tired to play, probably too tired to be legally responsible for these children. Yet, there these children are and you must tend to them. But how? Here’s a collection of truly excellent parenting hacks I’ve collected from some semi-reliable sources that will keep your kids happy, entertained or at least alive when you’re barely breathing.
1. Scavenger Hunt. This one is great to keep preschoolers and older toddlers occupied and moving. It even feels a little educational but YOU DON’T HAVE TO MOVE! Parenting win! Very simply, you send your child on a scavenger hunt for random stuff around the house while you lay on the couch NOT MOVING. For a toddler, it might be super simple and in one room: “Can you find a car and bring it to Mommy? Yay! You found a car!” You can get more complex for preschoolers: “Find me something white and heavy.”
Heck, you might even entertain an elementary kid or two if you get really creative: “Find me two objects that are very different sizes but equal weights.”
You get the idea. If you have lots of stairs in your house and the kids are old enough to roam to different floors, all that running up and down counts as exercise too. If you have more than one kid, make it a contest and increase the time before they’ll get bored exponentially.
2. Doorway nap. Sometimes you have to sleep and it will not be denied. Thanks to the always-resourceful Stephanie Daniel for this suggestion. When you have a young toddler who really needs more supervision than you can provide but you only have a small portion of your house baby proofed, put the kids in The Safe Room.
In our house, we usually had our act together enough to have baby-proofed the baby’s bedroom pretty thoroughly. Put a movie on a laptop or small portable DVD player. Lay down across the doorway to the room and go to sleep. Children are safe in the room and cannot leave without waking you up. I’ve done this with crawling babies and they are just thrilled to have you down on the floor with them. I’ll shut my eyes for a quick 10 minute power nap and wake up ready to to conquer the world or, at least able to function upright until my husband gets home from work.
3. Nap Date. This one requires a friend who either shares or sympathizes with your level of sleep deprivation. I also believe it’s one of the best gifts you can give a mom who just had her second baby. Again, super simple: you invite a friend who you know and love over a for a play date. She knows and loves you, so she plays with all the kids (YOURS and hers) for an hour while you go upstairs and take a nap. You come downstairs an hour later, refreshed and happy, with tears in your eyes because you love her so.
You return the favor when her baby is learning to crawl and sleep crawls into the side of his crib all night long.
4. Buy a Season of Paw Patrol on Amazon. Seriously, a season costs like $20 which has been a huge expenditure for my family in the past, but HOLY CRAP IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY. Every child I know from about 1 to 5 will chill the heck out and sit down to watch some Paw Patrol if given the chance. If you are like me and have some fairly strict rules about screen time and media exposure for young children, you also need to be like me and be kind to yourself every now and then.
Unfettered screen time is definitely the last resort in this house but, yeah, I’ll go there. Season 4 of Paw Patrol lives on my phone as well and I’m willing to bust it out on the road if needed.
5. Retire to the bedroom. I have conducted whole days of my life from my bed and I’m here to tell you that it’s all about supplies. Come prepared and be ready to commit. First, you need snacks. Lots of snacks.
You need some toys/books/tablets for entertainment. You need a phone and phone charger. You need a thick or even waterproof blanket so those snacks don’t ruin your duvet cover. Most of all, you need a totally relaxed attitude and a slightly needy child. A breastfeeding newborn who is BEYOND happy to spend hours laying in bed nursing, a toddler who has recently been moved into her own bed and maybe needs some time to connect physically with mom or a preschooler who is exhausted from his first few weeks of school will all do nicely. You can cuddle, you can play, you can tickle, you can sing, you can tell stories, you can watch kids do gymnastics all from the comfort of your bed. Embrace the lazy. Everyone needs a rest; go ahead and take yours.