“Sis isn’t sharing!”
The list of complaints and obstacles to getting things done while the kids are awake is just about never ending. Kids almost always seem to need something, from entertainment to help with conflict resolution, the interruptions can keep you from folding that pile of laundry or tackling the mountain of dirty dishes in the sink. As a former nanny of triplets and a stay at home mom of a needy 6 month old, I have come up with a few strategies that might help you have a more productive day.
1. Work in short bursts and take lots of breaks to check in on the kiddos
Instead of feeling like you need to unload the dishwasher, reload it, and hand wash every dish before you take a break, consider breaking down your workload. Taking a quick break between washing and putting away clean dishes to play a quick game of airplane around the living room with your munchkins will help you and them feel connected. I’m not suggesting Monopoly here, but a short reminder that you’re there and want to have a little fun with them can go a long way. They may wish you weren’t running off to go finish the dishes, but at least they know you’re around and that you care.
Plopping kiddos in front of the TV isn’t ideal all the time but they have to have clothes to wear don’t they?
2. Make it a game!
Turn up some music and see who can pick up the most toys. Or who can gather them the fastest. Kids love to compete, so get creative and make up games that challenge them to be the most efficient or work on their hand eye coordination by tossing things from a short distance into a bucket. Create a playful culture of picking up as you go.
3. Build a barrier, put on a show, and dig in
A simple rearrangement of furniture solved the problem of munchkins “helping” me with laundry I had already folded. By doing this I could still be in the room for close supervision but my work was not undone. This was an absolutely necessary trick I used while folding mount laundry for a family of six while three toddlers danced around to little baby bum songs on YouTube. Plopping kiddos in front of the TV isn’t ideal all the time but they have to have clothes to wear don’t they? If you are feeling guilty, there are some great educational shows on YouTube (FREE!).
4. Prepare to hear and ignore some whining
This one can be hard. I have nannied several babies and not one of them was as needy as my 6 month old. I’m not saying to completely ignore your children, but if all of their immediate needs have recently been met, letting your baby whine (not all out cry) is okay for a while. Sometimes part of parenting means you have to empty the diaper pail and replace the changing pad liner while junior pouts a little in his playpen.
5. Set realistic goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you have an extreme case of “I haven’t done laundry in 8 days” don’t expect to finish it all in one day. Shoot for a load or two of necessities and plan on keeping up with that daily (fast forward to #10). It’s easier to achieve small goals daily than it is to achieve a huge goal once a week.
6. Rotate toys to keep things fresh
Try keeping toys in different storage bins and put them away. Out of sight, out of mind. Once they’ve been there a week or two, bring them back out and put away some of the toys that have been out. This will help keep your littles from getting bored. Of course if something is working well for you and your kiddo- keep it out. But this illusion of novelty can help your children entertain themselves, and it makes for less toys to clean up!
This technique is becoming a culture, and with good reason! Babies love to feel close to their parents, it keeps them calmer and sometimes even puts them straight to sleep. Obviously don’t go around climbing a ladder to dust the high points of your home while doing this, but many tasks easily while wearing a sweet squishy baby. As an added bonus (those are popping up all over the place), you get more snuggles! A carrier or wrap doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can find great carriers on local buy/sell/swap groups on Facebook or look into the more affordable brands if that’s a sticking point.
Kids ALWAYS want a snack, and if they’re eating there’s a chance they aren’t bothering you for a snack or anything else at that precise moment.
8. Have a few great toys in your arsenal
Working in the kitchen? Plop baby in their highchair and stick a suction cup toy on the tray. Jumpers, sit-me-up chairs, and exersaucers are another great option. They can be a little pricy if you buy them new, but they are a great safe place to set down the baby and let them entertain themselves with the neat toys attached. That said- I am not suggesting to use these in place of keeping eyes on your child. Supervision is part of this game plan- but entertained supervision that doesn’t require your hands is the key in this case. Use your baby registry or watch for consignment events to find these helpers for less!
9. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
This one is a no brainer. Kids ALWAYS want a snack, and if they’re eating there’s a chance they aren’t bothering you for a snack or anything else at that precise moment. Utilize meal and snack times to take care of some quick chores.
10. Clean as you go
What takes more time? Scraping cemented-on cereal out of a bowl that has been sitting on the counter all morning, or immediately rinsing the bowl as soon as your guppy has eaten their fill, and popping it in the dishwasher? I promise you, it’s the latter. It’s not an easy habit to cultivate, but once you’ve mastered it you will be grateful for the precious extra moments saved. Try doing one load of laundry a day instead of waiting for it to pile up and then busting your butt all day to catch up.
It’s good for kids to learn how to entertain themselves.
11. Let go of the idea that you are responsible for your child’s entertainment
Sure, spending quality time with your children is important, but you are not responsible for entertaining them 100% of the time. It’s good for kids to learn how to entertain themselves. Don’t feel guilty about letting them figure out how to do that while you work on getting things done. Whether it is cleaning, cooking, self-care, or that side hustle, these things don’t have to take a back seat. My Dad always used to say, “It’s good to be bored sometimes.” Boredom is the birthplace of many creative ideas! And who knows, you may just find them pretending to cook right behind you.
Maybe not all of these points are perfect for you or your family. Perhaps though, by implementing a few of them, you might have enough time during nap to sit and relax in peace for a few minutes instead of racing around trying to do everything while the children sleep.