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Activities for toddlers, am stuck in a rut - sahm seeking professional advice please

(28 Posts)
Wishiwasanheiress Wed 08-May-13 16:31:57

Hi, I'm posting here as I'm interested in advice from professionals not just parents. I don't want to be hounded as an idiot or asking silly questions which is why I've avoided some other boards. I hope you might have ideas or access to tools I just don't know.

I have two dds, dd1 is 2 and a half. Dd2 is 4mths. Because of dd2s recent birth the tv has been on much more than normal. It's been a useful baby sitter. It really has helped me, but now I'm getting the hang of two its starting to get on my nerves. Thing is I don't know what else to do. I try to include other things books/ reading, dancing/music, playdoh/ bricks, colouring/sticking somewhere into the day around free playing in the lounge where all her toys are. I'm usually nipping around tidying etc at those points. Now the weather is improving we go in the garden too.

I struggle with two main areas, firstly how to literally not be repeating the exact same things like 'ground hog day' all the time. Can you recommend any good web sites or tools for switching things up a bit? Some simple stuff?

The second area is very much related to the first I suppose. How do you mentally stay (oh god this feels shoddy for putting in writing) interested? We have a couple of groups we attend to break the week up with good friends. Its not that. I'm just finding it hard to focus when we are at home.

For example if dd1 is happily playing and I've not particularly got anything to do, I watch her. I try to interact but plainly get the rules wrong. I drop out sit on the sofa then get bored, my mind wanders. For some reason I feel I can't pick a book up and read that. I might pick my phone up, check stuff on that instead. Why that seems ok but a book not I have no idea. I feel bad that watching her doesn't seem enough? But I can get so bored. How can I improve this? How do professionals cope? A I missing something?

I feel it should be easy with just one so then feel doubly bad if i can't stop my brain disappearing. This is why felt I can't put this in parenting, ill get told its normal (which I guess it is) or flamed (maybe deserving) or told to enjoy it (which doesn't help). I can end up dreading the clock ticking slowly. I love being a sahm, I think I'm just stuck in a big rut and could do with some ideas of what to do.

Thank you very much for your help.

looselegs Thu 09-May-13 21:21:40

Theres a fab website called The Imagination Tree-you can also access them through Facebook-and i love their ideas.A lot of them use stuff that you have in the house.I use it a lot with my mindees.

Nannyowl Thu 09-May-13 18:46:02

Hi lots of brilliant ideas on here.
My tip is not to have all the toys out available all the time. Children then get bored or maybe don't appreciate the play value. Maybe have some big plastic boxes. Keep one or two in the garage, one or two inside and rotate weekly.
With messy play be prepared, set a time of day and only do for an hour or so, maybe less with younger babies/toddlers.
Don't answer the door or phone. If painting make up a wash your hands bowl with warm water, and towel/kitchen roll at hand. Not another room, so no messy hand prints on the walls smile Buy a big plastic table cloth and cover the floor and or table. These can be rinsed off in the washing machine to clean. And yes get out every day, if only to walk around the block.

unebagpipe Thu 09-May-13 11:37:06

I am a SAHM too- with my DS who is older (3.3). I LOVE being at home with him- but like others have said, I do let him play a lot by himself, which he seems to relish. If he is playing happily, I leave him to it (very similar to the old adage of waking a sleeping baby!)

We do quite a lot of activities outside of the house:
- a music class
- swimming lesson
- trampolining class

The trampolining is a YMCA activity (so is cheap). We also dip in and out of activities organised by the surestart centre (again, pretty cost effective).

After he's gone to bed, I usually try and plan an arts an crafts activity. I get a lot of inspiration off Pinterest. i.e. we have had a birthday recently, so have a lot of paper plates to use up... paper plate birds nests, pirates, fish etc!!

We are growing veggies together in the back garden, and catch slugs in beer traps (so each morning we check on how many slugs we've caught (Morbid!!))

Just thought of another one.

We supplemented our toy doctor kit with cheap plasters and bandages. Dc then had a lot of fun playing doctors (old white shirt makes good doctor's uniform if you haven't got one in the dressing up) to their baby dolls and soft toys.

We had a clipboard, ticked their name off the list, put toys on the coffee table to pretend it was the waiting room, pretended one of the dollies was very naughty and kept running away, that kind of thing. I joined in a bit playing the part of the harassed mum (not too difficult) then they got quite immersed in it by themselves for a bit. Actually, they were 3 and 18 months when we first did this during a long spell at home with chicken pox, but it they will still play it now aged 6 and nearly 5.

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 09-May-13 09:56:12

It's good for children to learn to play by their selves

I'm in a temp job at the moment and mum has asked me not to play with her all time as she can entertain herself and wants to make sure she carries on Doing so

Hence dc playing otherside of the room with toys and me on sofa on Mn

Structured play like sand - water - paint - bubbles - shaving foam - corn flour is good

Going out every day is a must as a nanny or I/they get cabin fever

Toddler groups are cheap and look for your local sure start centre as they do free activities

Now hopefully nicer weather is coming then going to the park or ducks is good - even better if with friends so YOU get adult conversation as well

These ideas are great - I will be nicking some for my 2 yr old.

I was in your position a few years ago with my first 2 dc who are 18 months apart.

Getting out every day was key: library, church playgroups (council had a long list), sure start, 1 o'clock club, friends houses, park, shops and cafe.

In the garden, painting the house with water kept them amused for a while. And filling a big bucket with water so they could refill their little watering cans themselves and water the garden.

Indoors, a deep plastic tray filled with sand and small containers like yoghurt pots and the persil laundry liquid dispenser with a few old formula milk scoops and plastic spoons kept them busy for ages making tiny sandcastles.

Stickers like these are brilliant to use on plain paper, to decorate shapes cut out of card, paper cups, give the dollies chicken pox (!) amongst other things.

Agree radio helps, do read if you get the chance. Maybe audio books would help (both for you and the dc).

Sounds like your doing a grand job, it is a tough stage.

doughnut44 Thu 09-May-13 08:46:03

toucanlearn.co.uk

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 09-May-13 08:34:44

Just googled radio for kids uk and got this: http://www.funkidslive.com/

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 09-May-13 08:25:13

Gosh. This is brilliant. Thanks to everyone so far for posting, mums and professionals. I was scared to post elsewhere incase i got told to go back to work and as I say as I'm enjoying being home and bringing up a child (and a half!). I've not had much experience with kids, I was the youngest in a massive family. So it's lovely to experience my dds. Kids are much more fascinating than I ever gave them credit for when I was choosing a career at school.

I'd be very interested in any psychologist/ behavioural author recommendations. I chose one by oliver James soon after dd1 was born which scarred me and I've avoided books since. Dont think he was very good really, I'd be interested in better ones.

I love the suggestions of tray based things to do. I'd never have thought of some if the stuff, eg lentils! Wrong context I suppose, how very silly. Tis is teaching me to rethink things a bit. Thank you.

We have a few groups to break the week up. Dd1 does attend nursery,( I was nervous to put that again incase I got told what was I moaning about?!) she goes as I did go back to work after mat leave but got made redundant as I'd cut my hours, we had saved the vouchers so couldn't lose the cash. She loves it, and its what partly makes me think I don't do enough indoors, hence posting.

Glad you think it's ok to read a book/do something else if she's happy /safe playing. I felt I was wrong to do so, selfish or bad. Like a 'proper' person would be happy. Perhaps I was being a bit 'stepford mummy' there. Ill unclench a bit ha ha! Just want her to remember a great child hood I suppose.

The radio is a great idea, dunno why I didn't think if that. Will check out stations. Outraged, it hadn't occurred to me to make more out of a trip to the park. Rosie and angel, some great tips there too.

Dd isn't going to know what has hit her..... Mum might look a bit more fun now smile

racmun Thu 09-May-13 07:22:02

Reading this with interest. My ds is 2.9 and I am always running out of ideas.

I like having background noise and would often put the telly on for that reason (always have) and before I knew it he would be badgering me for cbeebies. Anyway a friend suggested that I try the radio- have done for the last couple of days it's brilliant. Had a talking station on so I don't get sick if the music but you can sort of play and listen at the same time it may help your sanity.

I find that with lots of the craft activities my ds plays for about 5 minutes gets paint etc literally EVERYWHERE and then it takes about 20 minutes to clear it up. Very frustrating.

Bellaby Thu 09-May-13 06:51:41

This is a great thread with lots of useful ideas. Can't wait to try some out with my DD smile

outraged - are there a couple of developmental/psychology books that you would recommend (or anyone else for that matter)?

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Wed 08-May-13 21:40:11

Genius idea asking the professionals! I'm also an amateur SAHM, ds is 2.5. He gets his messy play in at the local children's centre Messy Play Morning I'm afraid grin He also enjoys the local leisure centre's soft play morning thing, where I don't get a chance to be bored as I follow him around trying to stop him mugging the other kids for their trikes...

We play some board games together (this is one) so he learns about taking turns and stuff.

He has quite bad speech delay so I'm not allowed to let the poor bugger play by himself, he has to have me following him around going, 'Yes, a CAR, DS! a RED CAR. Are you going to play with the RED CAR?' but hopefully you can have more exciting conversations than that.

agnesf Wed 08-May-13 21:26:09

I'm not a professional but have had 2 of that age and totally agree that it can be boring - especially doing pretend play with a 2.5 year old.

The main things I did were try to get out of house as much as poss and get friends with little ones to come to my place. I did different things every day of the week so that we had something to look forward to each day.

We lived near quite a few really good play groups and a local council run soft play session that was cheap. We also went to museums which were quite quiet during the week and had kid friendly areas. Finally our local park had a playclub which was open every day and kept the kids coralled in a small area so they could play and I could lug the baby round.

It never really did any of the "messy play" ideas above except at play groups or in the garden as could not face having to clear it all up. The sandpit was quite good outside as was washing toy cars. We did painting but with those paint markers so paint doesn't go everywhere.

Having friends round gave me someone to talk to and relieved the boredom plus the chance for an invite to their place. Books from library were also a big help. We used to go once a week to get a new selection.

OutragedFromLeeds Wed 08-May-13 21:05:07

I know you don't want to hear it, but as others have said, playing by themselves is completely normal and necessary for their development. If she's happy playing by herself feel free to do something else smile.

I think watching kids play is much more interesting/rewarding if you know what to look for, so maybe get a child development or child psychology book and read up. It's then quite interesting/exciting when you see them do something for the first time, little things that you might miss if you didn't know to watch out for it.

With regards to ideas for play;

role play - try new things doctors/shops/parents/post office/cafe/dentist anything you haven't done before. Also try expanding games you have played before. For example, if she brings you a tea cup instead of drinking, spill it and see if she clears it up or tells you off grin. This can be an extension of/or extended by a real visit or a book.

Take anything you play with a lot into a different context, duplo is great in the bath or tub of water, diggers are great with mud/stones/sand, plastic food/tea set also good in the bath/with water or give her dried pasta to play with.

Fill tubs with jelly, cooked pasta, shaving foam, sand, stones etc (not all at once!) and then add animals/dinosaurs/cars. Hours of fun.

Bubbles of different colours, sizes etc are great.

Painting the wall/floor with water keeps mine busy for ages.

Slatdough is a good alternative to playdough, once she's made something you can cook it, paint it and keep it (or send to Granny if you don't want it cluttering up the house!).

Sticky-back plastic is great as an alternative to glueing. You can take some to the park and stick leaves/twigs etc on to make a nature collage, or tissue paper to make a stained glass window, or things of all one colour (how many green things can we find?) or rubbish to make a recycled picture.

Library for different books is essential I find.

Things like pairing socks is a job done and helps pre-reading skills grin. Sorting pegs/cotton reels/buttons by colour is good. Threading beads onto string to make a necklace or 'sewing' also fun.

Fridge magnets are also very popular here. Things like tap-tap art and fuzzy felt are good as well (it says 5+ or something on the box, but it's fine as long as you supervise closely and make sure she doesn't eat any pieces), you could try very basic board games. Maybe see if you have a local toy library?

The Imagination Tree is a lovely website with great ideas for art/craft stuff on. It's a tad sickly-sweet, but fantastic ideas.

InvaderZim Wed 08-May-13 20:49:10

My brain...

InvaderZim Wed 08-May-13 20:48:58

When my 2.5 DD isn't demanding my attention, I pull out my knitting! Hands occupies but my Bain is there if needed. smile

Wishi, I'm so glad you posted your honest response! I am going slightly nuts too with a very active, physical DS (2.7) and DD(16m). Every morning we get out at 9.45 latest as DS's behaviour gets unbearably silly. We go to one of three local playgrounds so he can run it off, or take a short train/car ride to another, or feed the ducks somewhere, go to a pet shop/garden centre place, the very occasional soft play as I find it too stressful to watch then both going in opposite directions and DS has tendency to hit...I usually try and meet a SAHM friend wherever I'm headed as otherwise I get lonely and find it all isolating.
Luckily mine both nap till 3pm and after that I might see friends at their house or mine and then it's tea, bath, bed. I often do tea for other friends' kids once a week.
I love the creative ideas on here and will try those buy find it hard to manage as DD gets (in the nicest possible way) in the way a bit of DS1 when he's doing sandpit etc.
Have you thought of putting DD in nursery for a couple of hours one or two mornings? There's one near me which caters to 2.5 upwards only and they do great stuff (no food provided).

Angelodelighto Wed 08-May-13 20:17:17

How about having a 'themed day' once a week? (or all week)

You could visit the library, choose books to borrow & come home and make your own books? Maybe get some Ink stamps so your DD can play librarians? Then read a book together for some quiet time.

You could use any theme/topic like your weekly shop/hairdressers/Dr's to provoke play around that theme on your return home, you may need to think ahead a bit to collect together resources but it can make home-based play a little more tolerable over long durations.

You don't need to buy specific toys but it's good to collect 'junk' for creative play.

In theory if you've put in lots of enthusiasm & involvement at the beginning of the day (go out 1st thing though)your DD should be happy to expand her own play after Lunch - enabling you to take an hour out to chill grin while she learns to occupy herself which as a PP said is a HUGE bonus later on.

RosieGirl Wed 08-May-13 19:57:11

I am a childminder and love the website Happy Hooligans - sorry didn't do a link but you can google it. I also use pinterest an ap on my idpad (sure it must be available on other stuff) get great ideas from there.

Its all normal what you are feeling, you are doing a great job, but I also sometimes long for adult conversation.

squinker45 Wed 08-May-13 19:32:12

If she isn't demanding your input then I would say it's fine to read a book. It won't be long before another stage of play comes along where she won't let you have a second to even think about such things.

fivesacrowd Wed 08-May-13 18:53:47

Remember its ok just to let them play, it's how children develop imagination and the worst thing you can do is try to get involved If you've not been invited to, you'll get it wrong and get told off by a 2yo.
Don't be so hard on yourself, I'm constantly getting told that people couldn't do my job (cm). It won't be long until you'll have a much more structured day with nursery and then school runs. I was sahm for 13 years so know where you're coming from but the early years are all a bit of a blur.
I wouldn't timetable your day, I tend to go with the flow. lots if nice ideas on here about sensory play. You could give over a bit of garden to growing veg. Kids love sunflowers, beans, courgettes etc that grow really fast. Plant in little pots indoors first- I've a 2 yo mindee that talks to his plants (v cute). They've all decorated their own pots with stickers. Stickers also fab for craft ideas for 2 yo, mine tend to get glue everywhere if we do sticky pictures but using foam stickers from baker ross, yellow moon or even b&m has been much more successful. Some can remove the backing, some need a bit of help.

5318008 Wed 08-May-13 17:53:12

ok

a child that can play by herself or himself is a great boon, so massive thumbs up for that

yes to oats or rice, water or sand as a sensory addition to play; get your self one or two cat litter trays - they are PERFECT for small child play, small sides, not too big area-wise, cheap of course! You can add in small animals, or cars, or Little People.

yes to ice cubes, or fill a rubber/vinyl glove with water, freeze, release, observe

a big paintbrush, bucket of bubbly water, paint walls/fence in the garden, hours of lovely fun

I would recc getting ahold of a good quality triangular prism, a mag glass too.

Now, what about YOU WishI? Do you have childfree time? How do you feel about joining a gym, or book group, or going to evening classes to use that noodle?

Runoutofideas Wed 08-May-13 17:48:21

I would suggest you try to get out and about a bit more - toddler groups/parks etc. There is only so much time you can spend interacting with one 2 yr old before going slightly insane.

As a childminder I find it easier to occupy more than one child at home as they then interact with each other, as well as you, and I find it becomes more interesting.

Something which could work for you is to have different boxes of toys or activities which you rotate. Then dd doesn't have the option of all her toys at once, and may play with more of a variety.

Have you tried doing activities which take a bit longer with her, like baking, or getting her to help with household jobs such as sorting washing/washing up etc?

It is also absolutely fine to just let her pootle about doing her own thing, as long as she's happy to do so. Maybe you should, in your head, split your day into smaller sections and plan accordingly eg 9-9.30am in the garden, 9.30-10am clearing up breakfast etc dd doing her own thing, 10am time together in the garden 10.30am set up water table/sand pit/any new activitiy 11.00 prepare lunch together etc etc then you may find the time flies by....

Wishiwasanheiress Wed 08-May-13 17:23:33

Glad I'm not alone! I love sahm. I didnt want the whole " well go back to work then!" discussion as thats not it at all. Just need some ideas.

These ones are just up my street Red, thank you.

Princessdivaaa Wed 08-May-13 17:08:33

I get stuck with activities with my 2.4 year old..

He is very happy With free play, very socialable at playgrous, Likes to help me with housework.. (Vacuuming takes an age with him pushing the vacuum!) but I would like to do more activities with him like puzzles, jigsaws, colouring etc but he has the attention span of 3 secs.. So not sure how I can encourage this a bit more to help him develop in other areas.

So interesting to see what advise you get,

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