Ahhh, toddlers. That beautiful stage full of curiosity, enthusiasm, joy… And tantrums. And opinions. And energy. Allllll the energy.
If you’ve got a toddler, you know that it can be hard to keep them entertained. They want to do everything, but there’s still a lot of limitations to what they can do. Restaurants, road trips, flights, dinner parties at non-baby-proofed houses- it’s enough to strike fear into any parent’s heart.
But it doesn’t have to be that way (well, not ALL the time at least). We’re bringing you a collection of easy toddler busy bags and busy bags for babies for our Littlest Salties.
Let me start by saying- I am not a Stay at Home Mom. I mean, I AM. That’s what anyone would call me. But the title is so, so inaccurate. I am a take-kids-to-swim-lessons mom. I am a host-a-playdate-mom. I am a go-to-the-beach mom, a running-errands mom, a might-as-well-be-a-chauffeur-mom. I don’t go to work everyday, but I’m also not likely to be found at home, either.
But sometimes? We HAVE to stay home. Because we’re potty training, or waiting on an appliance repair person, or someone is contagious (even though they feel fine). Maybe it’s too hot, or maybe there’s snow. But for whatever reason, sometimes you just have to stay home all day. And if you’re into that sort of thing? That’s likely not a problem. But if you’re not? You’re trying to fill the longest.day.ever. with activities for stir-crazy kids.
After a recent Hand-Foot-Mouth scare over at our place, we found ourselves quarantined. No one felt particularly sick, but we’d been advised to stay away from our friends for a day or two. Lila took it hard (I might as well have handed home a death sentence), but I took it upon myself to sieze the day and make it an amazing one.
If you’ve been watching our stories on Instagram, you’ll notice we’ve been making a real push to get process art into the hands of more children. Art activities for kids seem so daunting at first- people are afraid of the mess, or don’t know where to start- but they don’t have to be complicated. With a little inspiration, and a tiny bit of prep, you’ll be able to get some easy toddler art projects under way in no time.
Process art activities range from the very simple (think an easel with little pots of paint) to the more complex (like our recycled materials painting wall, see below). The beauty is that you and your kids get to decide how elaborate your process based art projects are going to be. The idea is to keep art invitations for toddlers fun, simple, and creative, and to let the kids take it from there.
So if you are looking for some exciting process based art activities for kids, we’ve got a few ideas that you can do this week, with materials you’ve already got on hand. Collect some supplies, bust out the paint, and you’ll be watching your kids create and explore art in a whole new way in no time!
Ohhh, Chuck E. Cheese. If you were a child in the 80s or 90s, you can likely remember the joy, the excitement, and the thrill of this place. They had pizza. They had tokens and games and tickets. And the prizes, good grief, THE PRIZES. It was like heaven for kids. And now that I am on the other side of it, I know the dark, seedy side of the Chuck. Namely, that parents hate it as much as their kids love it.
Not everything is awful about Chuck E. Cheese, of course. Their pizza has improved greatly, and the ball pits only exist in the nightmares of germaphobes everywhere. But as they have improved, we’ve noticed that their prices have crept slowly up. Which, if you’re trying to limit the amount of time you have to spend there, might be a good thing. But if you’re desperate to show your kids a good time, the cost of the place can be a problem.
Lucky for you, we’ve scoured the internet and our local CECs to find the best collection of Chuck E. Cheese hacks, money saving tips, and upgrades to help make your trip to Chuck E. Cheese a little more bearable- or at the very least, a little less expensive.
Being home with my kids is a blessing. I know it. Most days, I’m grateful. Most days are fantastic. And then there are those OTHER days. The days where you’re bored, and the kids are bored, and everyone is just a little bit off. The fact that the day is SUPPOSED to be a blessing somehow makes the whole thing worse, and you find yourself with a case of the Mondays on a Wednesday morning. The toddler schedule isn’t working, you’re not the fun and funny mom you usually are, and you’re questioning your ability to actually parent these tiny little monsters. You start to spiral, and then decide that, come Hell or high water, this day will be salvaged. You will BEAT these stay at home mom problems. You pour yourself a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and begin your journey through the various levels of parenting desperation.
I usually have no idea what’s trendy or what “the kids” are talking about, but every once in awhile I’m totally on point with trends. I even feel like I’ve helped start one or two . When I got married, I wanted red velvet cake because it had been my favorite and my wedding colors involved red. But the bakery we used didn’t even carry red velvet at the time. Six months later, and BOOM- red velvet is all the rage, every bakery around carries it and every bride has it.
Then four years ago, my friends and I started a co-op play school for our young toddlers. It quickly became known that if it was my turn to teach, there would be a sensory activity. Usually it involved some sort of flubber-yes flubber- back before I knew the word “slime” was cool. I never intended to become the Mom who makes all the slime, but somehow I found myself passing around my recipe all the time.
When Jaymi asked me if I’d share my no-fail fluffy slime recipe with The Salty Mamas, I happily obliged. This recipe produces amazing, fluffy slime that your little one will want to play with for hours- and you might even have some fun too! I get my daughter in on the mixing, and she loves picking the colors and scents.
Summer may not officially be over until September 21, but let’s face it: It’s over for us. The kids are in school, the lifeguards are working their last weekend at the beach, and there’s football on the TV today. For all intents and purposes, it’s fall. But before we put on our cozy scarf and grab a pumpkin spice latte, we have a tradition of sitting down as a family and doing a Summer Send-Off.
And now, you can join us! Snag this printable and take a few minutes to capture the best, worst, and most memorable events from your summer!
What’s your favorite vacation memory?
Jaymi: We spent an amazing three days at a cabin on some remote coastal property in NorCal. The road trip there was intense, but man was it worth it. No TV, minimal internet, no work, not even toys… Just our little family and our friends, spending the days hiking, rope-swinging, roasting S’mores, and playing at the beach. Pure, unplugged magic.
Christine: On a whim, we decided to go down to San Diego for a night to go to the zoo. They were going to have bands and lights and a special bubble show off this giant bridge and it all sounded like fun. But all my kids wanted in the whole world was to see the hippos. So we walked around, we did the bus tour, but still no hippos. They were on the very very very far side of the zoo through very steep and windy paths. And we were pushing a thousand pounds of stroller. I really wanted to shut it down. We could see them next time. But the kids were insistent. We had to see the hippos. So right before the zoo was closed, we made our way to the right path. And it was DARK. This isn’t like some amusement park where they light everything up – no, this is like the wild. And it was a little spooky. And there were animal noises everywhere. You could barely see. And then we came upon the hippos. And there was no one there. Just us and one beautiful hippo swimming back and forth and back and forth. And my kids were the happiest I’ve seen them in a long time. I was so glad we went looking for the hippo.
What’s something from summer you’d like to forget?
The unnecessary stress I put myself through. I get too worked up over things that are supposed to be all fun and get caught up in the details. I need to try to relax a little!
The Great Potty Training Debacle of Summer 2017 – wherein my 2 year old, who we thought was ready to potty train due to one successful declaration of “I need to pee!” She was NOT apparently because upon us making the effort to train her she decided to go on a two week stint where she would poop consistently – and EXCLUSIVELY – in a pool. Not cool. What will you miss most about the summer?
I am going to miss all the opportunities for free or cheap kids’ activities. Cheap movies, wading pools, late evenings at the park, days at the beach. Anything that got me out of the house and having fun with my kids! And I think I’m going to miss having Lila home with us everyday (I mean, you never know. I could be like, “Thank God It’s Monday” on the regular. Only time will tell!). Having her home gave us so much flexibility, and so many opportunities for fun, that I know that I’m going to miss her. But summer will be here again before we know it!
I’ll miss our pool being warm enough to swim in everyday. Poop incidents aside, the pool is our favorite thing. And this year I had the added bonus of the big kids both being completely confident swimmers so I could sit on the side and watch them have a great time – and get hella tired. Early morning swims as the sun rose, hot midday swims while the baby napped, sunset swims where I had to beg them to get out to eat dinner and late night y’all should be in bed already swims. Soon the pool will be too cold for us to swim whenever and I’ll sure miss it. What was your best moment of the summer?
An evening at the wading pool. Hands down. So simple, but I was already nostalgic for it while it was still happening.
Is it so absolutely terrible if my best moment totally did NOT involve my kids?? During our staycation, we had the genius idea of getting a babysitter at the hotel. Vacations are wonderful, but all that togetherness and kids and hotel rooms and everything that makes it into a trip can be forgotten for one brief shining night when you get a babysitter! My husband and I went to Disneyland and went on rides and ate food without managing the needs of the tiny people and had conversations without interruptions and it was the kind of night that makes you realize why date nights really are that important. Which is why over after dinner drinks and some chocolate bread pudding that was bomb.com we decided we needed to make date nights a “thing.” So we did. And I definitely credit it to that one perfect summer night.
Now it’s your turn- download the printable and spend some time with your family talking about your summer highs and lows, and then share a little with us in the comments below!
Ahh. It’s the weekend. Everybody’s home, there are activities galore, and it’s time for a well-deserved respite from the day-to-day. The kids feel the difference in the air, and they start putting in requests. After all, there are no limits today- you want a popsicle? Sure. 76 hours of Peppa Pig? No problem. You want to ride your bike allll the way to park? Do. Your. Thing.
But… first you’re gonna have to let mom and dad do a little logisticking. Cause we got stuff to do, too.
I’m not sure this is a popular thing to say, but around here our weekends are not necessarily for togetherness. I mean, it creeps in plenty. There are meals together, and trips to the park. But for us, that’s not the point of the weekend. The weekend is for getting stuff done, and everyone getting a chance to do what they want to do. We divide, and we conquer.
At our house, weekends mean that it’s time for the grown-ups to have their dreams come true, too. You want to binge watch Netflix? Let’s make it happen. Mama wants to sit at Starbucks for an hour ALL BY HERSELF? Go for it! The cars need washed/you have to go clothes shopping/you have to do any task that sucks when the kids are along for the ride? Oh, it’s going down.
Which is why, right this minute, I am writing this from the lobby of a McDonald’s fine dining establishment, enjoying a Diet Coke and French fries, both the size of my head, and both deliciously, gloriously, mine-all-mine. There are no children poking me, I’ve got my creative pursuits spread out across a booth that belongs just to me, and I am getting the full use of their free wifi on all three of my devices, which no one is begging to use to watch toy videos. It’s not always McDonalds, and it’s not always just quiet time. Mostly, it’s just my chance to get out of the house, do some grown-up stuff, and pursue my own interests for a minute. And if you think about it, an hour and a half a week is definitely not too much to ask. So why shouldn’t we be focused on making it happen? And this quality time with little old me is just one piece of the pie.
Maybe later today I’ll take the kids to the gym for an hour or two so he can watch his movie, and tomorrow he’ll take the kids while I duck out for a quick haircut. I’ll take my turn with the kids and so will he, and together we’ll engage in a delicate dance where the kids get fun time with each parent, without them even knowing that the other one is getting a much deserved break. So we spend a little time apart, and when we get back together, we are refreshed and rejuvenated. We are ready to change the diapers, and read the same book 74 times, and push the kids on the swings for a hundred years, and make three complete dinners because little miss decided that tonight she is EXTRA hungry.
But none of that is gonna happen yet. Right now I’m gonna put on my headphones, drink a few Diet Cokes, and bust out the blogs I’ve been trying to get finished since last Wednesday. I’ll read a few chapters of the RBG book I’ve been wanting to get through, spend a few minutes catching up on texts and Facebook messages, and then I’ll close up shop and head home to my family, where, if I’m being honest, I’m gonna be much less grouchy and a lot more relaxed than I was a few hours ago. I’ll probably get a warm welcome, like I’m a soldier returning from battle, instead of someone who spent just shy of 90 minutes in a fast food joint. There will hopefully be a few hugs and kisses, and then we’ll leash up the dog and head out en masse to go conquer the park. And this time, we’ll be ready to take that one on, together.