what do your kids DO all day!?

I always want to know from other parents, 'cause half the time I'm out of ideas. The reality is, we live in a small condo in a very cold city that is not easily accessible by strollers/families/handicapped folks. So if it's cold (colder than -5 or -10, say), we stay inside, like, ALL DAY. Which means November-March we are inside almost every day, all day, unless I'm driving somewhere (no more than 1-2 times per week) or I'm feeling crazy brave, or I have extra help.

Other than two glorious days a week where my 2.5 year old is at daycare, I have a 1.5 year old and a 2.5 year old to entertain all day, most days, inside. Except Spring/Summer/Autumn where we try to be outside every day, but it's Montreal and winters are loooong. Oh, and when the baby comes in September, I'm guessing that means even Autumn will become an indoor affair. So, what do we do all day!?

Right now the kids are rocking a 3 hour nap, both from 10am-1pm. It's crazy amazing and I'm so lucky. I know it could change in a few months (or tomorrow), like their schedules tend to do every so often, but for now it's bliss. So mornings tend to be breakfast as soon as they wake (they are hungry beasts!) then independent play or reading together. The main toys for that right now are the play kitchen and accompanying goods (tea set, play food, etc), Lily's Island of Misfit Toys dollhouse that I recently bought (for a $1 players!), and Oli's toy barn and animals. That's another hour down, usually.

After they wake up from their nap it's lunch (right away again) then time for mom to think up something for them to do until dinner at 5pm. So 4 hours. How to fill it? TV is reserved for my dinner prep or if someone (including me) is losing it. Colouring has become a huge interest for both kids. When it gets boring, I switch materials. We start with pencil crayons, move to crayons, and a couple times a week I let Lily paint. In total though, this is only 45 minutes max.

More independent play and reading usually follows. I think it's great when kids have the chance to just be bored. They think up the funniest ways to occupy themselves - like hiding under blankets or pretending to call their friends on the TV remotes :)

They also love puzzles right now and we have a ton of wooden ones. Some thrifted, some gifted. Lily is so fast at doing them these days but gets so furious when Oli takes her pieces out of their spots. But the boy loves those pieces...

Lily is also huge into diapering right now. Maybe 'cause she sees me do it so often? And we cloth diaper so she is often helping with folding/stuffing them. I recently had a brilliant idea and bought some discounted $5 newborn cloth diaper covers which she uses on her dolls. But if I forget to close the closet door she gets into her favourite diapers - the disposables - and goes to town with her dolls and animals. I think she idolizes Michelle Duggar.

Then usually an hour a day or so is accounted for by them just "helping" me do my thing. Empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, make beds, tidy toys, cook/bake, whatever. It's win-win if they're interested that day, because I actually get stuff done. And like I said, once it's 4;00 or 4:30 I have no problem with giving them 20 minutes of TV so I can make dinner without ankle biters! Our favourite shows right now on You Tube via Apple TV are Small Potatoes and Num Tums.

How do you keep your kids occupied during the day? Particularly when it's a day inside?


  1. Anonymous9.4.13

    Emily! Your days sound great!! I'm not going to assumming your children are always well behaved and quiet players, but in our house, I would say at least an hour (not all at once) is spend running, dancing, playing tag, hide and seek, racing, obstacle courses, soccer, hockey (for both my 1 year old and 4 year old!) Music is often playing. We love writing and colouring. Our kitchen and huge doll house are a big hit, and so are baby dolls, and the 2 strollers! We have the ikea tent and tunnel that comes out once every 2 weeks or so. We also LOVE store (with a shopping cart and food/toys put out along the couch with the cash register!) One thing that we love is our small water table (sensory table) inside with rocks, or pasta, strips of paper or popcorn. We try to do a circle time with songs, numbers, letters, instruments, books, learning activities once a day (although everyday is NOT realistic, but I TRY!!) Playdoh is a huge hit. Maja hasn't napped since before 2 years and Callie naps around 2 hours (most days)so we have about 10 hours to fill with things to do! We do try to get out to the library once a week and our play group every other. We try to go outside but if too cold we're inside too!!! Not sure if this gave you any new ideas, but by the sounds of it your kids would LOVE a sensory table - it makes for great independent (but me very close) play!!

    1. Wow, packed day Kristal! You can tell you majored in early childhood education :-)

      I love your ideas, the only problem is our condo is extremely small so we're very limited in how many toys we can keep here. Lily has a stroller and Oli has a push cart, so as much as I'd love to add a shopping cart, play table, etc, we may not be able to make it work.

    2. Anonymous10.4.13

      I totally get that, we have no room either, 2 bedrooms as well, and the basement isn't finished yet! You're appartment actually appears to have more sq footage! Things are not left out, they are stuffed (from floor to ceiling) in closets. The water table, when not the summer, is behind our vacuum in our coat closet!!
      You can totally do the store with your push cart and stroller, and just use real food!!! make paper money or use real :)

  2. our day looks like yours! I am in the mid-west where the weather is awful 50% of the time lol.

    we love pinterest for kids ideas.lol.

    science experiments are fun too!

    ... mine love glow sticks in the bath, reading, watercolors, jars of water and then add food dye to see what happens, pair characters up to books and read to them, cooking and baking ... playdoh ( i have a love hate with play doh lol. ( love the play hate the clean up ) we play "vacation" and "shopping " and we love boxes. boxes are the best to play in and color. lol

    1. Im the same way with play-doh!! :)

  3. oh my this makes me feel better. Since I am a new mom (can I call myself that still) and I have ZERO experience with babies prior, I am constantly stressed that I am not "entertaining" Pen enough. Our house is SMALL and Penelope gets into everything.

    Mornings for us too are mostly independent play. I find she's most agreeable. She either goes in her play room or sits in her chair and plays after she eats. That's when I eat, shower, get whatever I can done while she's happy.

    When I'm lucky she naps twice, for 1 1/2 hours both times (so like you, I get 3 hours to myself, which I use for ME and sometimes cleaning).

    My issue is that she's at the age where she is getting into EVERYTHING, so I have to constantly watch her and usually that means I need to be playing wiht her, or stopping what I'm doing every 3 seconds. In my dream world, she's have independent play most of the day with thirty minutes (one in the morning and once in the afternoon) of mama and Pen play. In reality I am either chasing her around the house or putting her in her high chair so I can get things done (which makes me feel horrible b/c she's stuck in a chair, but she usually isn't complaining).

    Pen is also the kind of girl that will be a GREAT big sister. She loves children and I know that having more is going to be HARD, but also in some ways a bit easier b/c they can play together and entertain each other

    1. I'm so glad, Bri! I always hope my posts impart grace to others and do not give the impression that I'm super mom/wife, 'cause definitely not!!

      I used to think my kids needed a lot more direct play with me- you know, really stimulating stuff- then I gradually realized they use more and learn more creativity when I don't spoon feed 'play' to them :)

    2. Anonymous10.4.13

      Em, do you not find Lily is asking to play with you!? Maja does ALL the time and I feel bad having to say no, but I work from home on the youth stuff so I actually need to get work done, there's no other choice! Although, I have found recently, if I give in once in the morning for 1/2 hour and again in the afternoon the asking decreases! :)Kristal

  4. Oh long winters!! Ya. Thanks for the grace in your post Em!
    E only really plays well by himself after he is well fed, and well napped. And then for not very long. If it's just me home, he usually is at my feet or trying to get me to play with him. Still figuring out how to get him to play more on his own. If he's teething, or if it's near a meal time, he is clingy and needy. or if he just wakes up from a nap. So really, there isn't much time for independent play.

    This kid naps a ton lately, sometimes 2 hours in the am, and 2 in the afternoon. so it's HARD to get out and do something. What I like to do is have other moms just come visit and do life/hang out. Or I try and go over to them for a play date.
    I try and make dinner when he does his second nap, or when G comes home.
    We try to go to the local resource center sometimes too, if we can swing the hours. And we walk to the library often, where he pulls books off shelves and I put them back. Ha.

    Since he's only 13months, he also is into everything, but thankful that he's into books now. I'm learning not to sweat thinking that if I don't do something with him, he'll be behind in his academics, but to roll with the day and what needs to get done, (like groceries!) and I do enjoy playing with him, by building things, or throwing a ball. He loves dancing and is into walking a lot more, and climbing stairs, he could probably climb stairs all day and be happy! :) Oh, and we love the park - but thankfully we have one super close by. And walks. Even in the cold, and even if just to the mailbox. Keeps us both sane. :)

    Though soon those one a day naps will be here, but then nicer weather will be here too? So your schedule is helpful! Thanks!

  5. The activity that has saved me on many inside days (and maybe this is just a 'mom of boys' thing) is making a pillow pile. We gather all the blankets and pillows in our house and just horse around, jump off low furniture into the pile and a good hour later they are still loving it.