Fun ways to keep your preschooler busy while at home

 

Last week we started a crash course in homeschooling and I’m desperately trying to find ways to keep my three year old busy while I do schoolwork with my two older kids.  There are definitely moments where the best option for my sanity is for her to watch Paw Patrol or Sofia the First, but here are a few things that have worked for us!

 

Here are five fun activities to keep preschoolers busy while at home.

 

  1. Playdoh

 

 

Oh my goodness, you guys, my youngest daughter could play with playdoh for hours! It has been a game changer for keeping her occupied and somewhat contained.  We set up plastic placemats underneath the playdoh in an attempt to keep it from being tracked through the house. Right now she’s loving the toys that make playdoh spaghetti. She also is enjoying using plastic spoons and cookie cutters.

 

2.  Popcorn, Cheerios and/or Gold Fish cracker counting

 

 

 

 

This one doubles as a snack! Yeah! I poured out all the snacks out on a plastic place mat (I use these for everything!) and then gave her several snack cups.  She was counting and sorting her snacks into different cups. In our house we absolutely love the rainbow goldfish because she can seperate them by color too.  It’s definitely more fun when you use a few different snacks. To buy a few extra minutes, she loved it when I poured out a package of fruit snacks too!  

 

3.  Pouring

 

Alright, this one will get all over.  If the weather is nice, I highly recommend setting it up outside.  Or if your kitchen is in need of being mopped (let’s face it, with 3 kids at home my floors always need to be cleaned!) then go ahead and set up in the kitchen.  This one is my three year olds favorite tea set and she absolutely loves using real water. She then loves to pour “tea” into the tea cups. And back and forth until the water is basically covering the floor.  If you don’t have a plastic tea set, feel free to use any little pitcher or plastic cups you might have. I have a robust collection of kids to go cups from Islands and CPK that I like to use on these kinds of occasions.  As mentioned, the floor will be wet so have a towel handy. I like to think of this one as a win-win because my munchkin was busy and my floors got a little bit cleaner. Bonus if you bribe your big kids to clean it up for you (See those fruit snacks really do come in handy!)

 

4.  Sorting

 

Empty egg cartons are awesome for this.  If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use small plastic cups, dixie cups or small cereal bowls.  Set them up in a row. Then pour out a bunch of little objects to sort and separate. Some of her favorite things to sort are buttons, noodles, dry beans, small toys like Shopkins (my big girls have a ton of them), hair ties (again, with three girls in the house, we have a bunch), legos or any other small objects you might have around the house.  It’s a great activity for fine motor skills too. I usually set her up next to me and if needed, give her suggestions like put all at the noodles in one cup or find all the blue objects.

 

 5.  Build a Fort

 

At one point or another all of my kids have loved building forts.  Taking every blanket and pillow that we own, they love creating their own little haven.  Sometimes this does require help from me or one her sisters, but once it is built she thoroughly enjoys bringing in her stuffed animals and baby doll into the fortress.  Then I bring out one of my little ones favorite items. This will be the highlight of the fort experience and usually buys enough time to finish 2nd grade math. The flashlight.  Sometimes the magic happens and she pulls out some books to “read” in the fort with the flashlight. Our longest run yet was thirty minutes. 30 freaking minutes. I can get soooo much done in 30 minutes! Especially right now, when everyone is home 24/7 and I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone sending me a note under the door. Ok, so this one tends to be more work on the back end where clean up is involved.  But I’ll take those precious minutes of being able to get a little bit of reading out loud done with my 7 year old. 

 

I hope these tips are helpful and bring some joy to your day as we all navigate this new normal.  Full disclosure here, this is a unique and disruptive time for all of us. There are certainly moments where my fear and anxiety creep in and I’m waffling between holding back tears and crossing things off my to do list just so I feel like I have some sense of control.  I know our precious kiddos feel it too and there might be times where the best thing to do is throw out expectations all together, snuggle under a blanket and watch Frozen for the 100th time. For me, now is not the time to focus on having an ulta clean and organized house.  Instead, it is to focus on my family and love them up the best way I can. That might look different in your home, and Friend, that is a beautiful thing. As I type this, the laundry is literally overflowing and there are so many dishes in the sink, but I know I need to breathe through it and find peace in the small moments of gratefulness that flash throughout the day.

 

Mama, you are doing an amazing job.  You are strong and capable and God hand-picked you for your child.  We are all in this together. 

 

Be well, my Friend. 

 

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I remember being pregnant with my first daughter and being completely overwhelmed with the amount of baby stuff that is out there.  So I registered for everything. I had no idea. Wipe warmer? Yes! Now three kids later, I have found my favorite products and would love to share my insights with you. 

 

Here is my list of top baby products that I can’t live without.

 

So what do you really need?

 

Swaddles

 

Swaddles are AMAZING! I absolutely love that you can wrap your sweet little munchkin up without having to remember all the folds and crisscrossing of trying to turn a regular blanket into a swaddle.  I could never get it down.   I remember watching the nurse wrap up Hailey and thinking she must be a pro at origami.  I tried swaddling a few times after leaving the hospital, but my sleep deprived brain just couldn’t do it.  Then someone gave us the Swaddles and our lives changed.  Our fussy little peanut loved it! It was like magic!  The velcro made it to so easy to wrap her up.  She loved being swaddled tightly and this was the solution. 

 

Sleep sacks

 

For an older baby, sleep sacks are awesome.  It keeps them warm (they are wearing a blanket!) without having to use a blanket.  It is a really wonderful and safe option to keep your little one cozy at night.  All my kiddos loved their sleep sacks.  Paisley is a little over two years now and still sleeps in hers.

 

Nipple cream

 

For nursing mamas, this is a MUST!  I have literally tried them all.  I had a really hard time breastfeeding my oldest daughter and even had some pain with the other two.  Sensitive boobs, I guess! Anyways, I literally tried everything…and then I found this one by Medela.  It was the only one that really helped and provided protection.  The consistency was smooth and went on easily.  I found other creams were either too thick or really runny which made it difficult to put on.  This one was definitely my favorite.

Nipple Pads

 

I found these disposable nipple pads to work the best.  At first I tried the reusable ones mostly to be environmentally friendly and so I wouldn’t have to keep buying more.  But they just didn’t work.  For starters, I would leak right through them.  Nothing is more embarrassing than being at preschool drop off only to see a giant wet spot appearing–Ugh!  The other problem was they would sometimes stick if I forgot to put on nipple cream on and peeling them off an already sensitive nipple was soooo painful.  Lastly they would move and that would also lead to leaks.  Here’s what I love about the disposable ones.  They have a plastic backing, so it is much harder to leak through them.  And they have a little sticker on the back that you can adhere to your nursing bra so they don’t move.  Genius!  And because they aren’t cloth, they won’t stick to your nipple.  They were much gentler and overall a lot more comfortable.  They are one of my favorite gifts to give new mamas!

 

Pacifier

 

This one is a lifesaver.  From calming down your little one to helping them sleep, pacifiers are wonderful.  And when they get old enough, you can always take it away.  The “Paci Fairy” came to our house and took our pacifiers to give to other babies and left a doll in return.  If your little pumpkin will take a pacifier (my middle daughter absolutely refused and instead chose her thumb!) then I highly recommend this one by Nuc.  One thing I loved about it is that it has a hook on the back which allows you to attach a pacifier clip.  Which leads me to my next favorite thing…


 

Pacifier Clips

 

This one is such a time saver.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been driving only to have a screaming baby who can’t find her pacifier.  Or handed the baby to someone else and the baby has spit out her pacifier and then no one can find it.  That leads to screaming and more screaming.  But a pacifier clip is a game changer.  It is attached to them.  No more searching the floor or car seat.  And when they get older, they can pop it back into their own mouths.  I also love that by wearing it, it’s far less likely to hit the ground or something yucky.

 

Baby gowns

 

Talk about making life easier, baby gowns do just that.  Especially with a sweet little newborn who is in no mood to wait to get dressed.  There are always SO MANY SNAPS! And when your peanut is not having it then it seems like those snaps multiply.  The answer for us was a baby gown.  Once you get it over their tiny heads you are home free.  Diaper changes are so much easier and faster, which is good news for everyone.


 

Sound Machine

I can’t say enough about having a good sound machine.  Once you have a baby you start to notice all the noises that go on when your little peanut is trying to sleep.  It’s incredible.  When Hailey was born we lived in an apartment and I’m pretty sure the gardener knew when I was putting her down for a nap, because he would always crank up his leaf blower.  It never failed.  Yes, it’s good for your little one to get used to hearing noise, but nothing’s worse than the ring of a doorbell to startle them from sleep and ruin the afternoon for everyone.  I love this sound machine because of all the various sound options it has and it can be turned up pretty loudly.  This is especially helpful when my other girls are home!  The other good thing about a sound machine is it’s a great cue for your little one that it is time to rest.  They start to associate the sound of the machine with going to bed.  With all three of my girls, the sound machine really helped them understand the transition from awake-time to sleep time. 

 

Pampers Diapers

 

I love, love, love diapers with a line! Why? Because the line starts out yellow and then changes to blue when your little munchkin needs to be changed.  This is super helpful when you have a newborn and your tired brain just can’t handle making one more decision: to change or not to change.  The line makes it very obvious!  A few times I’ve accidentally bought the kind without the lines and then kicked myself because it’s so much trickier to tell if they need to be changed, especially when they are newborns.  The line makes it so much easier!

 

Baby Wash

I have tried so many over the years and I noticed that many of them had overpowering fragrances or added colors.  I couldn’t help but wonder what all those additives meant for my babies skin.  When I joined Arbonne in 2018, I learned how important it was the read labels on our personal care items.  After much research, I learned that Arbonne has a not allowed list of 2,000 ingredients that they don’t put in their products in contrast the FDA only bans 12 ingredients.  I was blown away and wanted to learn more.  I found this baby wash made by Arbonne that I really love because there are no dyes or added fragrances, plus I knew whatever I chose from there line was going to be safe.  This one if my favorite diaper rash cream too.  Which fun fact, it can also be used to treat bug bites!

 

Baby Carrier

 

Wear that baby and you get your hands back! I love to wear my babies.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  Your little one wants to be near you and you want your hands free.  I would go on walks, trips to the grocery store, mall, the park, etc.  The only thing you should never do is cook while wearing your baby, this is incredibly dangerous. 


 

Convertible Stroller

 

This stroller is definitely at the top of my best baby product list!  It is definitely worth its weight in gold.  Over the years I have told so many friends (and strangers at the park!) about the benefits of this stroller.  I wish we would have invested more in a better stroller with Hailey.  We started with a Graco and I just wasn’t happy with it.  The basket below was way too small and the wheels were plastic.  This led to uneven rides and it was almost impossible to get over curbs.  With every bump, I would worry that Hailey would wake up.  I would get so frustrated when eventually an uneven sidewalk would scare her and she would inevitably wake up.  Then we upgraded when Laila came along.  The Baby Jogger City Select was and still is a work horse.  The basket below is a great size and allows me to even shop with it.  The wheels are much bigger and made out of rubber.  I can go over curbs more easily and the ride is a lot smoother, which is a necessity when you have a sleeping baby. 

 

I also LOVE all the options this stroller has to offer.  It has a bassinet for baby and then converts for older kiddos.  It also has a separate attachment (sold separately) that allows you to attach your baby carseat.  I found this to be very helpful! I didn’t have to take a sleeping baby out of her carseat to put her in the stroller.  With one click, she was in and we were on our way.  If you have multiple kids, you can buy and attach a second seat.  I never bought it, but I have friends who have also purchased the skateboard attachment and have loved that too.  Another great feature is that the stroller is narrow enough to go through most doorways and is very easy to maneuver.  This stroller is definitely one of my favorite baby items.  It is definitely worth the hefty price tag.


 

What are you favorite products?  Would love to hear which products have made your mom-life easier!

 

This post contains affiliates. The opinions are 100% my own.

Thank you for your support!

Here we are again….it’s Soccer Season!  This year both big girls are playing which means lots of practices and lots games.  Once I got their schedules, I tackled the calendar with color coded highlighters to try and keep it all straight! Thankfully my father-in-law is coaching my oldest daughters team which means two less practices I have to be at a week.  Woohoo! Three cheers for Gramps!

 

Growing up, I never played soccer.  Justin, on the other hand, started playing from the time he could walk.  He even played all the way through college. Soccer was definitely his first love and it’s fun to see his “soccer-ness” come out on the field.  This year he’s assistant coaching both girls’ teams. He gets such a kick out of the fact that I still struggle with remembering which way the ball is supposed to go.  I’m more of a “I’ll make the cute hair ribbons” kinda mom.

 

Last year when Laila was five, she was on her first team called the Pink Unicorns.  All the girls were so adorable (and had the cutest hair bows!). It was so fun to watch them play and see their little friendships grow throughout the season.  From stealing the ball to scoring goals, it was pretty incredible to watch our Pink Unicorns do so well. Laila really took me by surprise with how much she loved the game.  She would come home and beg her older sister to play with her. She would dribble all over the house and practice shooting goals–at our front door!

 

One Saturday I was helping her put on her pink uniform and like usual,  I asked her if she was excited to play. She said “Yes!” and then she said she would be playing in “Beast Mode.”  I could feel my lips wanting to curl into a smile. But I held back because I could tell she was serious. I began mentally ticking off how many times I had mentioned the words, and couldn’t even think of one.  My only mention of the beast had been in reference to the Disney movie. But this tiny five year old had heard it somewhere and committed the words to memory. And sure enough, on the field her “beast mode” would appear with evidence of scoring, stealing and sprinting the whole game.  It was obvious that she had embraced the sentiment with her little heart.

 

So we adopted the phrase.  “Beast Mode” became our mantra for trying your hardest.  It became our code words for doing your best. A quick little pick-me-up during a tough game and a reminder of “I know you can do it!”   

 

And then there’s life.  Outside the white lines of a soccer field.  Where problems can feel bigger than any solution.  Where trying hard is sometimes met with disappointment and getting back up it the last thing anyone wants to do.  I can think of quite a few times in life where I’ve felt pushed down and really struggled with pulling myself back up.  Where not loving myself became a familiar pattern which only led to more destruction. But somewhere on my broken path, God (and a great therapist!) met me there.  With one baby step at a time, my heart and life started to transform. Now I barely recognize the girl I only remember in the rear-view mirror of my memory. She is like a dear friend that I once loved like a sister and then lost touch with, only to reunite years later and see that by the grace of God she is ok.  That she was stronger than her circumstances. That like Dorothy, she had the answers and the strength all along.

 

That is what Beast Mode means.  That inside of us we are all stronger and more capable than we think.  We can rise above, try our best and keep getting back up because we are worth fighting for.  I know I need that reminder on an almost daily basis. Life is unpredictable. Which is what makes living very beautiful, but it can also be incredibly difficult.

 

Having three girls and knowing someday I will have to let them go is terrifying.  That they will need to find their own ways and live their own lives in this big world.  I hope they always know in their hearts that they are strong and capable. They are loved.  They are worth fighting for. And if they forget, I’m happy to remind them of Laila’s wise words.

 

Where do you find strength? How do you teach your kids about doing their best?

 

 

 

It’s incredible to me how a baby has no fear. They will climb on top of a table and happily attempt to jump off with full trust that someone will catch them. How they will run towards the street just because it’s fun to go fast. With total enthusiasm, they will find the tallest slide at the park and shoot right down it. The joy is palpable and results in many more trips up and down. Any trace of fear was crushed with the discovery is such fun.

And then we grow up and the fear grows. And it can stop us in our tracks. Keep us in a prison of our own making. Fear can ruin us. I love the quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt that says, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He spoke this to the American people during his campaign in the 1932 Presidential election. I think it could not be more true today. Fear can drive us or it can stagnate us. Push us forward or hold us back. I have seen many friends be driven to success and I have seen others be absolutely paralyzed.

Starting this blog has forced me to face my fear. The fear of no one reading or maybe worse, hating my writing. The fear of not having the time to do my best while juggling three kids and my sweet husband. The fear of comments or lack thereof, the fear of trying but still failing. The fear of jumping off the proverbial bed and not having any arms to catch me.

But then I think of what I tell my kids. If you tried your best, than you have already found success. Ok, I didn’t mean for that to rhyme or sound cliched…but it is true. Sometimes things in life don’t turn out the way we plan. Actually most of life is out of our control. But what we can control is our effort and attitude. So on this Monday, that is my little love note to myself and to you. Your effort matters, your attitude matters and most importantly of all…YOU matter. What you give the world no one else can. Wishing you a beautiful Monday!

What is your greatest fear? How do you conquer it? What do you tell your kids about facing their fears? I would love to hear from you!

Both of my older girls are playing softball this year. Last year we got really lucky and they were on the same team (definitely one of the benefits of having kids so close together!). This year, however, they are in different divisions and now on different teams. That means so many practices and SO MANY GAMES. And trying to juggle practices and games plus a wild toddler who is not interested in sitting let alone watching is a little bit like trying to paddle a boat with a popsicle stick…it just doesn’t work. Thankfully my in laws have been major players in the balancing act of sports. I am so grateful for the days they are able to help.

This year my father-in-law agreed to help me coach and Justin helps at the games on the weekend. What an adventure that has been! I never played sports. The closest I ever got was playing after-school basketball in elementary school where everyone wanted me on their team because I was the tallest kid in the class. My bulb quickly burned out when other kids (with actual skills!) caught up in height. Ha!

So now here I am coaching…guys, I’m COACHING!…at least it’s t-ball for 4-6 year olds. For about half the team, it’s their first time playing. So I’m learning right there with them. There’s a lot more to it than I imagined. Emails, meetings, and of course ordering sparkly purple headbands (our team is the Sparkling Diamonds!). I will say at 3 months in and with only 1 game left, I’ve certainly learned a lot. But the greatest thing I have learned is that it matters to my kid that I am there. The “a-ha moment” came one day after practice. I asked Laila (my middle daughter) if she had fun at practice that day and she said, “Yes. Softball is my favorite sport because you’re my coach, Mommy.” And then I melted. My insides felt like glitter and sparkles and rainbows. It was the best compliment I could have gotten and nothing is more sincere or real than what a five year old has to say. Honesty is her policy…no matter what might come out.

So it was worth it. It mattered to her that I was there. And trying. (Yeah, she knows I can’t throw a ball and luckily my husband pitches during the games otherwise I would probably hit every one of our girls!) Having three kids, I always feel guilty that I don’t seem to have enough time or patience to give each one. Often times I feel so caught up in all the daily chores that it’s easy to forget to take time for that extra hug or reading Pinkalicious for the 100th time. But it matters to them. So that is what I’m working on. Trying to say yes to the things that really matter most to them…like coaching and hugs and playing tag in the backyard and not worrying so much about the crumbs on the floor.

What kinds of things do you do to make your kiddos feel special? Activities? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Thanks for sharing!

 

 

P5

It’s still hard for me to believe we have TWO kids in elementary school. I feel like it was just yesterday that my older girls were still in diapers (they are 23 months apart). And at the time, those baby days definitely felt like they were never going to end! Now my oldest is almost 8 and in 2nd grade and my middle daughter just turned 6 and is in kindergarten. Wow time flies! Or should I say the days go slow (sometimes REALLY slowly!) and the years go fast!

When our oldest was in preschool Justin and I would ask her how her day was and she would always have lots to say. We would get a full update on bike riding, painting and what she ate for snack. Then along came our second daughter and when the same question rolled around after a day at preschool, she would tell us…well, pretty much nothing. I tried to pry out answers, but for the most part she would reply “good, fine” and that would be that. Off she would run away, happily on to the next adventure of the day.

So that’s when we started asking, “What was your rose and what was your thorn today?”

The rose was the high point, the best part of the day. The thorn was the tough, difficult, maybe disappointing part of the day. And that’s when my middle daughter started talking. Suddenly I began to learn about which art projects she enjoyed doing, a favorite book that was read and that she had a passion for riding bikes. As time went on she also shared her thorns. The following school year, she told me her thorn was that another child that was hitting her. Because of her speaking up we were able to handle a difficult situation and ultimately keep her safe.

I am a big believer in talking about roses and thorns. Often times the girls will say they have several roses and its so wonderful to learn about their world through their eyes. Usually the best time for us to chat is in the car right after school, when everything is still fresh in their minds. Or I try to talk to them at the dinner table…when the baby is busy eating and we actually get a moment to talk without a wild toddler running through the house.

The roses are so fun to hear. From making a new friend or getting to play a favorite game at P.E. And to hear their joy. Simply the best. Then there’s the flipside with the thorns. I’ve learned about girl drama (why does it start so young?!) and as a result been able to have great brainstorming sessions with them about how to resolve conflict. Growing up can be so hard and even harder when we don’t know what’s going on. I know we have many years ahead of us. I just hope and pray that our girls will keep talking to us and sharing their little hearts.

What are your tricks for getting kids to talk? To share about their days and their lives? I’d love to hear from you!