This post was written by Jill Ridout, a mom I reached out to on Instagram because she posts the most amazing pics of her kids doing activities at home. I’ve been looking for more ideas, as I continue to cut back on screen time. Turns out, Jill homeschools, which is obviously way out of my league, but with spring break coming up, I thought she would be an excellent person to share a few of her best tricks for keeping kids happy, occupied and off their iPads.
I’ve never loved the title ‘stay-at-home mom.’ It sounds like a sentence, more than a privilege. And believe me, I do consider it a huge privilege to ‘stay at home’. I consider it an even greater privilege to gather up my kids and get the heck out of my house! When my fourth child was born, people would stop and commend me for getting out and about, four kids in tow. I always felt the need to explain how much easier it was (and how much cleaner my house remained) when we ventured out, whether it be to a museum, the zoo, a park, or even just the grocery store or the gyno. Sometimes, though, you’ve got no choice but to stay in. Maybe there’s snow piled up to the windowsills, or your Spring Break gets rained out, or worse, someone gets sick. On these days, when we just cannot leave, we become the ‘stuck-at-home mom’.
There’s a strange kind of claustrophobia that diffuses through my home, like a noxious essential oil, when we are stuck. Especially with four children. It’s every man for himself! Do or die! Eat or be eaten! It’s up to me to control the chaos and that can only be done if I’m armed with a game plan. Because the whining, fighting, tantrums and all-around misbehavior is really all about kids who are just… BORED.
I know, in these moments, it would be very easy to hand them a screen and gain some peace and quiet, but in the long run, I find that screens just make my kids grumpy and disconnected. After screen time is over, I’m stuck with junkies having withdrawal symptoms and nobody wants that.
So, what’s a stuck-at-home mom to do?
10 tips, tricks, and emergency kits for surviving the dreaded house-bound days of motherhood:
1. Give your kid(s) a cardboard box.
Preferably a big one. I recently purchased a chair online and it came in a big, chair-sized cardboard box and I didn’t see my kids for a week. It would even be worth it to purchase a box that you can tuck away under a bed, between the wall and the refrigerator, or under your mattress, just to have on hand. Things that make a cardboard box more fun— tape, markers, scissors (if your kid is old enough to handle carefully), even those little knives that come with pumpkin carving kits are pretty useful for making windows and doors in the box. Don’t forget to recycle!
2. Play ‘Project Runway’.
Warning! This can get messy, but it’s so fun and can really pass the time. If you have multiple kids, they can work individually or in teams. If you have one child, they can dress you up, or you can compete to dress up a stuffed animal! For even more fun, invite your kid’s stuck-at-home friends over to play as well. You can use whatever you have on hand— aluminum foil, toilet paper, old party streamers, paper bags, whatever. Make up a challenge like “create an animal costume” or “an outfit you’d wear to a royal ball”. We play this at slumber parties and it is always the biggest hit, makes the biggest mess, and creates the HAPPIEST KIDS. And again, don’t forget to recycle.
3. Teach them a handcraft, or learn one together!
Some easy crafts to get started are: embroidery, weaving, and finger knitting, or using a knitting fork. It took a good deal of patience to teach my kids handcrafts, but it paid off big time! They’re always so proud of their accomplishments and they can sit for long periods of time focused on a project. Your local craft store will have all the supplies you need and you can find tutorials for just about anything on Pinterest and YouTube. Handcrafts are truly a gift that keeps on giving! Your child will learn skills to make handmade gifts for loved ones, improve their fine motor skills, and instill a deeper appreciation for creativity and beauty. I love when one of my kids sees something in a store and recognizes the artisan work behind it, and they know how much time went into it because they have experienced it for themselves.
4. Play a made-up game I like to call ‘Princess Mommy’.
Mmmhmm, yep, it’s as fantastic as it sounds. Mommy is the princess and sits on a royal throne, she needs food and drink and foot rubs and her hair brushed and then maybe she needs to lie down and get some beauty sleep. This game doesn’t last long, but it’s a good distraction tactic. It gives me a little much-needed pampering, and I like to tell myself that I’m teaching my kids how to care for others. Right? Right. You can always flip the game and pamper your kid, just don’t forget to tell them they need beauty sleep too. If you don’t like the idea of pretending your children are your royal servants, just pretend they’re your mom. It’s really the same game.
5. Start a new book, and if possible, read it aloud.
There is something so intimate and collective about enjoying the same book together. I highly recommend anything by Roald Dahl. I promise you will hear “One more chapter!” on repeat. They are enjoyable for kids of all ages and you will love them too.
Same as reading aloud, but you can scroll instagram. Again, Roald Dahl, there is even an audiobook set where he reads it himself, and he is the most fantastic story-teller! We once took a road-trip that totaled 27 hours and listened to audiobooks the entire time. ‘Wonder’ is another favorite book on audio my kids have especially loved. Make sure you have tissues on hand for yourself.
7. The Blind-folded Foodie.
This is a game that is really funny and can last a while. The contestant is blind-folded, while the other players/chefs come up with a small concoction using whatever is available and serve it to the contestant. One point is awarded for every ingredient they guess correctly. The number of ingredients used coincides with the round, so round 1 is one ingredient, round 2 is two ingredients, and so on. Predetermine the number of rounds and then trade places so the contestant becomes the ’chef’ and the ‘chef’ becomes the blindfolded foodie. When we play, the concoction is limited to a spoonful, so they can only use a small amount of ingredients, like a squirt of ketchup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
8. Whip together a craft table.
The idea is to find a selection of craft supplies that are out of the ordinary for your kids. Go beyond paper and crayons and grab some supplies that are more exciting like sticker books, Playdoh, googly eyes, gemstone stickers, patterned paper, popsicle sticks, glitter glue (NOT GLITTER AND GLUE!), pipe cleaners and pony beads. You’d be surprised how much time crafts can take up, if you give your kids a wide array of unique materials. Just don’t forget the tape and glue!
9. Cosmic Kids on YouTube
Ok, this does involve a screen, BUT it’s exercise so I’m giving it a pass. Tell me, please tell me, that you’ve heard of Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube. Just, check it out. Move the furniture, lay down beach towels if you don’t have yoga mats, have your kids put on ‘yoga clothes’ (jammies work), and enjoy! It’s calming, it’s soothing, it’s a great way to sneak out of the room and have some wine, er, I mean unwind. Unless you call your bestie and she’s having wine, you definitely shouldn’t let her drink alone. After all, you’re stuck inside, remember? Don’t day drink while you’re home with your kids? Yeah, me either, but I don’t judge.
10. Put out an unexpected stash of fun emergency food.
You’ve got your bottled water and canned goods in case of a natural disaster. You should have a survival kit for being stuck inside all day with your kids too. The “fun food emergency kit” should be a random mix of food you know your kids will love, that they don’t get to eat all the time. Like caramel popcorn, pocky sticks, jerky, trail mix (with lots of M&M’s, of course), dried oranges from Trader Joe’s (we looooove those), pizza bagels, and Uncrustables (stop judging me!). To spice it up even more, use some old party plates and decor. Is it raining yet???
Being stuck-at-home with your kids can seem like a drag, but really, if you give into it, participate and come prepared with activities, it can be really fun. It’s really all what you make of it. As our kids grow up and their lives are filled with school and sports and activities, we will probably long for days when we just had a little down time at home, all together. Try to look at the days when we’re confined and cooped up as opportunities to connect and care for the most important part of ourselves, our children.
Oh man, I think I just sounded like a Whitney Houston song.
You can follow @jill_ridout for more ideas on Instagram!