According to the study I wrote about in my September 26th post: How Much TV Do American Babies Really Watch, one of the main reasons that kids under age two watch TV is for “babysitting” purposes. People often ask me how I manage to get any cooking, laundry or other household chores done with three kids and no TV or video games.
The answer? I simply neglect my children. That is my secret! I more or less leave them to their own devices. I don’t believe that my job includes being their entertainment committee.
They have toys, games, and books, but mostly they just run around in or out of the house and play imaginary games. I am fortunate that I have two children relatively close in age to entertain each other. This does make occupying them easier. The downside is that, with more than one child, there can occasionally (OK, on some days – often) be discord. Then I am unfortunately interrupted in my work to become a referee (not my job either).
But I also have a 20 month-old and she is more demanding of my time and attention. Sometimes she runs around with the older two, but when they are at school, or engaged in a non baby-friendly game for example, she follows me around wanting attention.
Obviously I can’t let her wander too far off. Her silence is always a bad sign. Some of my best “Mom of the Year” moments have been when I have diverted my attention from her for just a minute or two (more on those particular True Confessions on a day when I feel more like making True Confessions).
Age 1 – 2 years is the most challenging one for entertainment I think. You can’t tell them to just “go play” or send them off to clean their rooms. They are developed enough to want to do something other than sit on a blanket and stare at their hands for example, but they are not yet very interested in toys, at least not for long. The attention span is so short. Plus, they can MOVE and that can mean definite trouble!
Here are some things I do to divert the baby’s attention from me in order to do all the necessary tasks (obviously I am right there next to her for these activities to avoid any other “Mom of the Year” moments):
1) Stand her at the little kitchen island sink with a trickle of water and a few plastic cups (not good if I need her clothes to stay dry however).
2) Give her a tray with measuring cups, plastic bowls, measuring spoons and some dried beans. Of course, watch very closely that none go in the mouth. If your child still puts lots of things in his mouth, maybe try this with larger containers and scoops and use those big Legos that are too big to be swallowed.
3) Let her play in the pots and pans cupboard.
4) Bring out our giant box of dull plastic cookie cutters (which have always been used for play more than for cookies).
5) Give her a box filled with an odd collection of objects that are too large to choke on. She likes to take them out and put them in again. If the box has a top, I make sure that it is easy enough for her to take off and put back on by herself. I have learned the hard way that I will be called upon every fifteen seconds or so to “help” if the lid is not easy enough, and frustration for both of us will quickly ensue.
6) A box of canning rings is entertaining. They can make noise, become bracelets, or simply be placed in and out of the box again and again.
Sometimes these tactics only buy me a few moments of peace, but a minute or two combined with fast working, usually lets me muddle by. If I have a really time-consuming project, then I try to plan it around her nap, or after bed.
What do/did you do to keep your 1 to 2 year-old occupied* when necessary?
*occupied – with your observation, but not your direct participation!