We’ve all been there … your toddler needs entertaining but you’re completely out of energy. Whether it’s due to sleepless nights with a new baby, a family crisis or an illness, it’s nothing to feel guilty about – as parents of small children, we all get tired and we all have off days! So how can you maximize their enjoyment while also getting a little bit of (relative) peace for a short spell? Here are 9 play ideas for tired mums that’ll keep them amused while you put your feet up …
We’re going on a toy hunt …
Hide a selection of small toys, such as model cars, LEGO DUPLO bricks or figures around the living room, sit down on the sofa and let them search away until they
discover them all.
You could provide a visual list if needed, so they can see what’s still missing. Say ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ if they’re stuck.
The only hitch for truly exhausted parents is if you forget where you’ve hidden things; if that’s a risk, just don’t go hiding their favorite cuddly toy … or they’ll
be in tears at bedtime.
For younger toddlers, gather together a selection of child-safe household objects – cloths, tubs, kitchen utensils, old pans, tissue paper, playing cards – with a mix of interesting textures and sounds when bashed.
Put them all in a large chest or box and let your toddler delve around, exploring and experimenting with their senses as they go.
Most will love just having a good rummage and play, but if they look a bit unsure, show them how to make different sounds with the items in the box.
Canoeing expedition (across the living room … )
Find a roomy shallow box or retrieve that barely-used snow sledge from the garage, and re-purpose it as a pretend canoe ready for an expedition.
Provide some small rucksacks or bags for your little ones for whatever they’d like to ‘pack’, plus children’s binoculars or a magnifying glass, so they can ‘spot’ the
shore or sharks – and let their adventurous imaginations run wild in the safety of the lounge!
Epic art time
Take a long roll of paper (either wallpaper lining paper or those rolls you can put on an art easel), and tape it down with non-marking tape at the edges of your kitchen table.
Give the kids a variety of crayons / pencils / child-safe glue sticks and collage bits and pieces, and let them get engrossed in creating their mega-masterpiece.
Bubble-wrap ‘silent disco'
Remember the joy of squishing bubble wrap under your feet from your own childhood? This generation might be used to higher-tech activities – but regardless,
this remains a winner.
You can buy huge rolls of bubble wrap online – enough to cover the average living room or hall floor several times over.
Lay a long strip down and encourage the kids to dance and jump around, popping as they go. It’s not completely silent, but allows you to rest your weary feet after a
long day out.
Pretend washing up
Pop a step stool up at the sink, fill the washing-up bowl with lovely, foamy soapy water and provide a sponge/ brush and pile of unbreakable pots for your little one to wash, pour and empty with while you supervise.
Yes, their clothes and the floor will probably end up soaking wet – but they’ll have a great time in the process.
Match those socks
If you’ve got a big pile of clean laundry that needs sorting out, task your toddler with organizing the socks into matching pairs. When they find a match, they can say
‘match!’ As a bonus, it’ll be one less chore for you to do later …
Cardboard-box den decorating
Another play idea employing a good old (large) cardboard box. This time, have the kids decorate it so it becomes a temporary playhouse or den.
Once they’ve finished brightening it up, encourage them to fetch cushions and a blanket, some teddies and a tea set and in they can go for a teddy bears’ picnic.
The parent’s the patient
A game of doctors and nurses always goes down a treat with this age group.
Get that toy doctor set out and make yourself the poorly parent patient who can only mutter the odd word about a series of injuries, plus add instructions such
as ‘bring me a pillow/ blanket/ magazine, please, doctor!’.
Cuddly toys and dolls can make additional patients, although these will be even less talkative than the exhausted-parent version!