Summer is here, and the kids have been out of school just long enough for the novelty to have worn off. My daughter isn’t in school yet, but I recently stayed home with her for three days out of the week when her day care closed and found myself looking for things to keep us busy. If you’ve run out of ideas on how to keep your little hellions from punching each other and putting bubbles in the toilet, here are a few things my 3-year-old and I did during our three days together.
Creative Discovery Museum
If you can swing it, get a membership to the Creative Discovery Museum downtown. It’s perfect for when the weather is too hot, too cold, too rainy (which, by the way, can we all agree that IT NEEDS TO STOP RAINING ALREADY?!), too pollen-y, or to prone for sudden bear attacks or the zombie apocalypse ... You get the point. The only downside is that you have to pay for parking. If you don’t mind walking, the parking lot at Ross’s Landing is a lot cheaper than the closer lots. My child’s favorite activities at the museum include making "sand angels" in the dinosaur sand, wandering around in circles, dipping her arms up to the elbows in the bubble water outside and freaking the hell out when we don’t buy anything when we’re leaving. We had a great time there, minus a little incident where I fell out of a wagon in front of a bunch of people and hurt my ankle. Some people were born with natural grace, and others fall out of wagons at children’s museums.
Another indoor sanctuary from the heat/cold/zombies/bears/zombie bears is the mall. I prefer Northgate to Hamilton Place because it’s less crowded. My daughter loves to go to the indoor playground there and run around it about four times, then veer out and get a frosted cookie. I usually let her because it’s not an everyday occurrence (and also, remember when we talked about laying off the food judgments?), and the cookies are pretty cheap. After she inhales the cookie, she likes to wander around F.Y.E, sit in the little bus-ride-thing (BUT DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MAKING IT MOVE, BECAUSE THE WORLD WILL END IF YOU DO THAT) and watch the little model train approximately 102 times.
After running some errands with my daughter, I found myself starving and also trying not to eat every calorie in Chattanooga, so I decided to take her to Whole Foods and grab a protein shake. I let her pick out her choice of a muffin or a cookie. Of course she picked the cookie, because when presented with a choice, muffins are losers and are pretty much made of poison. She wanted to find a seat there and eat the cookie, so we killed about 30 minutes just chatting while enjoying our respective breakfast items. This is something that cost less than $10 (yes, even at Whole Foods) and gave us the chance to spend some really awesome time with just the two of us. Sometimes, all it takes to create a memory is a peanut butter cookie, chairs to sit in and the morning ahead of you with no other plans.
If you get through all of those activities and your kids are still climbing the walls, here are a few more quick ideas that you could try (but really, you probably shouldn’t because these are terrible ideas, and it’s probably for the best that I’m not a stay-at-home mom):
—Encourage your child to play hide and seek. They can hide, and you find them. While they’re hiding, sit back on the couch and relax with a good book. Occasionally, yell out how GREAT they are at hiding and marvel about how you still can’t find them.
—Play the "let’s pretend we are rocks" game. Whoever talks or moves first loses and has to clean out the litter box or do something equally as disgusting and awful.
—Does your child like to pretend they’re a dog? Encourage their imagination. Get something (it doesn’t really matter what it is) and throw it. Tell them to fetch it. Repeat while you sit on the couch. My kid loves this game.
—Send them on a scavenger hunt for something that doesn’t exist ("Go find Mommy’s 1984 vinyl ‘Thriller’ album! Here’s a map that I threw together at the last second with one of your broken crayons painstakingly designed").
All joking aside, I really loved the time I got to spend with my daughter and was also humbled because it made me realize how freaking hard stay-at-home parents work. There are some who will tell you that staying at home isn’t really work. Those people can just go eat a poison muffin from Whole Foods because STOP BEING RUDE AND MEAN. So to all of you stay-at-home parents out there, my hat is off to you. Or it would be, if I wore a hat. Which I don’t. Ever. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my kid because she’s been hiding for half an hour.
Sound off, parents: How do you keep your kids busy when the summer boredom hits?
Disclaimer: Whole Foods doesn’t actually sell poison muffins. That I know of. I actually eat their muffins all the time, and they are delicious.
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.