5 Tips for Maintaining Sanity This Summer with Babies and Toddlers at Home

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baby crawling siblings mom

Well, mamas, it’s that time of year again: Mother’s Day Out, preschool, or whatever sort of school-year childcare you utilize, is over and that’s 12 long weeks at home. Whether you work at home part-time, full-time, or not at all, here are a few tips to help you survive. In my opinion, it all starts with a tiny bit of structure and a mindset shift.

While these tips may work for older children, I’m talking mainly about toddlers and babies — the five and under crowd. It’s a different animal than school-aged kids because there isn’t that collective sigh of relief that school and all its obligations are over. There may be a bit of dread or just plain overwhelm about what to do with your little ones. The beauty of this age is that it doesn’t take much to entertain.

Structure Your Week, but Don’t Worry About Being Too Rigid

I’d hazard a guess that I’m not the only parent who likes a little bit of routine and structure to my time. While I’m not overly rigid, it helps me feel somewhat in control and less reactive. 

Kids do better when they have some sort of rhythm or routine, too. Predictability can make those many transitions throughout the day go a little smoother. But, at the same time, embrace that summer mindset: It’s about freedom. It’s about staying up a little bit past bedtime or having a popsicle after dinner every night while looking for fireflies. It’s about making a mess, and cleaning it up, and then making another one.

girl splashing water beach

I’m a productivity nerd, and while I can’t necessarily apply that directly to every aspect of motherhood, one skill that has served me well has been to time block my days. Time blocking is when you group like tasks together and do them together.

What does this look like in practice in motherhood? Mondays are my household management days (laundry, scheduling appointments, paying bills, etc.). I try to reserve the same day each week for my hobbies (sewing and writing), so that I have something to look forward to, and I can relax knowing that there is time for it.

In terms of structuring my week for kid’s activities, I have a few loose category ideas, so we don’t just squander the days away at home. Having ideas on tap helps in those moments when I have no creativity or brain power to come up with one on the spot. This year, I have actually written out ideas because I know that 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday isn’t going to be my peak parenting hour. Brainstorm when you’re feeling fresh and creative, and then refer back to the list — often.

Make a List of Activities — Aim for One a Week

There are so many ideas of activities on the Internet that you can do at home. It’s overwhelming. In all honesty, if we’re playing outside a lot and doing fun things and hanging out with friends, the need for daily fresh, new activities is pretty low.

For more ideas, check out: 

However. There will be days you’ll be at home and it might be fun to have something fun and special for your kids. Do your Pinterest browsing, make a list of the ones that seem fun and doable to you, and then refer back to this list. Personally, I’m planning to have one new activity each week. I know my children aren’t the only ones who love to do things over and over and over and over . . . Don’t make yourself crazy trying to entertain them.

Make a List of Outings — Aim for Two a Week

One of the most brilliant tips I’ve heard about summers at home with kids is this: Look at your summer in terms of weeks more so than days. It makes that pressure to plan things a little bit less intense. Did my kids play with a friend this week? Check. Did we visit a water park or splash pad? Check. Did we go to the library? Check. And honestly, this is all done better with friends. Do summer with friends. It’ll feel less isolating and way more fun for your kids.

There are so many places to get ideas for outings in the community: City event calendars, library/story time calendars, splash pads/water parks, museums/zoos/aquariums, toddler nature time, parks in your city, parks in cities nearby, maybe a road trip.

Make a List of Playdates — Aim for One to Two a Week

We have friends spread throughout the metroplex, so sometimes having playdates during the school year can feel a little daunting and crammed into a busy schedule. But summer is the perfect time to have a longer morning of play or to meet up somewhere, even if it’s just a park near your house or theirs. Nerd alert: I wrote an actual list of friends I want to be sure to meet up with regularly over the summer. 

women picnic field

Most important: Ask yourself how you can feel taken care of and refueled each week/day.

I’ve realized the key to having any sort of sanity and energy to not only take care of my kids, but enjoy them, is to make sure I feel rested and filled up by taking care of myself. This doesn’t have to be a spa day or weekend away. This can be as simple as having your breakfast outside in the morning, browsing your section of the library, or getting an iced chai tea latte one afternoon. If you’ve got a hobby or task you’ve been wanting to tackle, choose at least one day each week — the same day — so you know you have it scheduled.

Summer (and thus less childcare) doesn’t have to be a beatdown. Rather than looking at summer as one giant chunk of time, break it down into weeks and make a list now of things you’d like to do. After a year-long quarantine, we’ve got a whole lot of time and activity to make up for.

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