As a mother of two small, fun-loving little girls (Rembot’s 2, Baby Shark celebrates her first birthday next week), I am sometimes overwhelmed. Maybe you can relate.
I am forever striving to be a better parent, wife, homemaker (this sentence is quickly turning into one sloppy Hallmark card cliche), organizer, blahblahblah.
This job is, by far, the hardest job I’ve ever had – even harder than when I was 17 being a dental assistant for my family dentist and getting my fingers chomped on by a bratty little seven year old and OH my word I’m going to stab you in the forehead with the drool-sucky thing.
Anyway. I am always on the hunt for implements that will streamline my day or teach my girls something new or keep the house clean or shave a little refined sugar out of our diets. It’s crazy. There’s so many facets to think about, and so many ways to fall short. (Rembot’s been chanting “chicken nuggets!” whenever we pass a Wendy’s – I need to work on meal planning a little bit better. <—Lookit. An honest confession.)
I believe that during our hectic day of play and errand running and the three of us (the girls and I) being on top of each other, we could all use a little break from one another. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been surfing the internet for ideas on how to get the girls to play independently. I found blog posts (here, here, and here), talked to friends (shout out to Allison!), brainstormed, and came up with a new addition to our day. The basic idea is to give your child a small box of toys, and he or she is to quietly play by himself (or herself) for a set period of time.
I gathered together small toys/activities that I think the girls would like. I’ve been deliberate about making sure they are not toys they play with on a regular basis. I did this SO cheaply, and if you’d like to replicate it, I really encourage you to not invest a bunch of money right away. I had a merchandise credit of $4.89 to AC Moore (some of you may remember that AC Moore is on my Sworn Enemies List). I rummaged through their dollar bin section and walked out with 1) 12 pack of Crayola colored pencils, 2) Disney princess notepad, 3) sticky notes, and 4) a metal tin to open and close. After the merchandise credit, I paid a quarter. Not bad. And take that, AC Moore!
The main stumbling block in putting these bins together is my girls’ ages. Most of these activity bins/bags, etc I’m finding online are really geared towards preschoolers and up. I’ve had to really get creative, but I think with a little trial and error, this could actually be life-changing for me. *****o/***** <–That’s me throwing confetti in the air.
I was going to go the stackable Rubbermaid route – but instead I found really cute vintagey metal lunchboxes. They’re usually around $15, but I hit a clearance sale, with 50% off clearance, and then 25% off the top of that. I bought these puppies for $1.50 each. :O I know!!!
Aren’t they so cute? The colors match the girls’ room, too. I’m going to line them up on a shelf. :)
I made Rembot’s quiet time bins first. I had a lot of fun doing this, and tried to put myself in her shoes. As a kid, I would have loved a little metal lunch box filled to the brim with tiny little things. I made sure to put items that Rembot doesn’t generally play with – I want these bins to be “special.” Here’s what I’ve hoarded. (And PS., watching Hoarders makes me want to scrub my entire body with a wire brush and Lysol.)
In the bins…
I think little ordinary items look so inviting inside the lunch box. :)
A list of some of Rembot’s items: board books, clothespins clipped onto a piece of cardboard, sparkly poms, notepads, pretty cards with envelopes, stickers, colored pencils, pens, toothbrush holders, small jars, two-piece puzzles, miniature figurine sets – this is Fisher Price Hideaway Hollow, small Disney princess dolls, index cards. I rotate the boxes daily to keep things fa-reshhhh.
For Baby Shark, I didn’t make several bins. Honestly, I have a hard time finding toys that she really gets into. She really likes “nontoys” or “untoys” as I’ve seen it dubbed on the interwebs, so I just keep a large basket of toys I think she may like, plus a few kitchen items – a wooden spoon, a metal whisk, an empty 2-liter bottle, and measuring spoons.
The results have been wonderful!! Every day Rembot asks for “quiet time.” She sits in her room and I hand her a lunch box. I set the chicken timer (see picture above) and let her know that quiet time is over when the chicken timer rings. I put Baby Shark in her playpen in the living room with a few of her “quiet time” toys.
And just like that, I have thirty minutes – to fold and put away laundry, clean the kitchen, pay bills, pass out on the couch. We all benefit from it – the girls get to quietly play and rest a little, and I suddenly have a little pocket of time that I didn’t have before.
To be honest, Rembot has adapted to it a lot easier than Baby Shark. She’ll play in her room for thirty to forty minutes, and Baby Shark will start protesting at about twenty minutes. I’ll switch out her toys, but if she seems disinterested, I’ll take her out of her playpen and let Rembot continue until the timer rings. After the timer rings, she puts everything back in the lunch box.
A few tips from a rookie:
- Be aware of choking hazards. I have a couple small figurine sets, but Rembot never puts toys in her mouth. I am completely comfortable letting her play with them, even if she is a couple of months under the 3+ age suggestion.
- Think small. 200 stickers is overwhelming. A few special stickers, sparkly poms, and a couple of clothespins are magical.
- Everyday objects hold a lot of potential. A mini makeup bag, an empty dental floss case, a ball of yarn…
- If your little one protests, start out slowly. Five minutes one day, seven minutes the next, etc.
- Be happy. :D If Rembot wants to end early, I cheerfully explain that it’s still quiet time until the chicken timer rings.
Do you implement any system like this in your house? I’d love suggestions for what to add to the bins. I’ve got a few lunchboxes to fill. Leave a comment and school me! :)