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We're back after a two week hiatus! Our summer travel plans, coupled with my munchkin being out of day camp and home with me on my days off, has put neatntiny on the back burner.
This extended time with my little monkey inspired the topic for this week's post: activities to keep your kids busy at home that won't eff up your house!
Now that we're halfway through summer break, if you're anything like me, you're running low on ways to entertain your kids around the house. Then, once you find something that keeps them busy for a few minutes, it takes twice as long to clean up!
Below are some tried and tested activities that have kept my kiddo occupied and didn't leave our home in shambles. In fact, some of these may even result in a tidier home!
1. 'Play' Clean Up
The best toy you can buy your kids is a cleaning set. There's nothing more adorable than kids mimicking grown up behavior, and it's never too early to encourage good habits.
As per the infinite monkey theorem (a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare): if your kid pretends to sweep the floor for ten minutes, he's bound to end up with something in that dustpan.
Melissa & Doug 6-Piece Toy Cleaning Set ($26.99, Amazon.com).
Owen's toy vacuum was his favorite thing between the ages of two and three. It had real suction and could pick up small crumbs and dust bunnies.
Toy Dyson Vacuum ($26.99, Amazon.com).
He enjoyed playing with it so much, that we eventually just let him 'play' with our cordless hand vac.
This may not seem like the most prudent plaything, but rest assured, he's supervised when he uses it.
Black+Decker Dust Buster Cordless Vacuum ($54.99).
Sure, it's a little noisy. But, each time he plays, the floors are cleaner. Now that he's good at it, we fetch him to do a quick spot clean of the floor in that ten minutes before guests arrive.
2. The 'What Doesn't Belong?' Game
Give each of your kids a basket. Tell them to walk around the room looking for things that don't belong, placing them in the basket (stray toys, socks, snack wrappers etc.).
If your kid's too young to tell the difference, you can list the things you see that don't belong and have them search for and collect these. Kind of like 'eye spy,' but with a purpose.
Seeing as they're not exactly collecting Easter eggs, you may want to incentivize them with a reward once five or ten..or twenty stray items (no judgement!) are collected.
3. The 'Where Does It Belong?' Game
Assign each of your kids a basket from the latest round of 'what doesn't belong?'. Have them return each item from the basket to it's rightful place. Depending on your kid's level of understanding, you may want to supervise this one, lest you end up playing 'where is that horrible smell coming from???'
4. The Sock Matching Game
This is exactly what it sounds like. Get your kids to pair socks by telling them it's a game. Kinda like 'Concentration' but ends with sorted laundry. It's a great way to teach toddlers colors, patterns and matching. If your kids are older, you can make it a timed challenge or race.
5. Exercise Buddy
One of my favourite ways to multi-task while playing with our four-year-old is exercising. I use the '8 Fit' and 'Sweat' apps on my phone and have him follow along with me. He's getting pretty good at planks and sit-ups. For cardio, I put him on my back and prance around awkwardly to music. He aptly calls this 'crazy dancing.'
Even before the age of two, Owen could put my downward dog to shame.
6. Toy Purge
Okay, I know this one sounds more like a punishment than a lighthearted kids' activity. You’re going to have to work to get your kids to buy into this one.
We try to purge before birthdays and Christmas. We tell Owen that we only have so much room for toys in our home and that he has to make space for the new ones he'll be getting. If you need more incentive, bribe them with a small reward (i.e. excursion or tasty treat) in exchange for filling a box with toys to donate or re-sell online.
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This also works well when your kids really want something and it's nowhere near their birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah. We recently got my son to agree to purge three donation boxes full of toys in exchange for one Buzz Lightyear.
Regular toy purging is a must for keeping your home clutter-free when you have kids.
The fruit of one of Owen’s purge sessions.
7. Wash Stuff
Kids are obsessed with water and getting things wet. When Owen was between two and three, one of his favorite things to do was 'help' with the dishes. We would fill the sink with Tupperware and cutlery (things he couldn't break) and allowed him to 'wash' them.
Of course, you've gotta keep an eye out to make sure water doesn't end up all over the place, or this one may leave you with more mess than you started out with.
Now that he's four, washing his playhouse and bike with the hose outdoors is his new thing.
8. Take It Outside
Living in Toronto, we take advantage of our extremely-short-but-sweet summers, and try to get outside as much as possible. When the weather's good, any messy activity can be taken outside.
What's that, kiddo? You want to finger paint/make slime/blow bubbles?
Take that sh*t outside!
Speaking of getting outside...
Recruiting your munchkins to help pull weeds and rake leaves, can be a lot of fun for them and allows you to cross yard work off your to-do list.
Owen loves tending to his tomato garden.
10. A Little Screen Time Never Hurt Anyone
Let's face it: planting your kids in front of a screen is always going to be the easiest, least messy and longest lasting way to keep them occupied. But, not all screen time is created equal. Educational activities that keep your kids engaged are obviously preferable to a Netflix marathon.
You can use your kid's preoccupation with screens to your advantage with educational games made to work with your tablet.
Osmo Genius Kit for iPad ($77.12, Amazon.com).
We have the Osmo (you may recall this from my post on clutter-free gift ideas for kids), an educational system that uses your iPad along with a few external pieces detected by the system. It comes with games that can be adapted for kids ages five to twelve, and incorporates puzzles, spelling, math and art. Think of it as a sneaky way to get your kids to practice their spelling and arithmetic.
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