Entertaining three toddlers can be a challenge. My three year old son talks to me and tells me what he does and does not wish to do. He often does not wish to do that which he is told and does wish to do what I am not interested in him doing. His ability to communicate with me does not always make things easier. My two year old is in that stage of life where he really doesn't know what it is he wants to do but he usually knows its not what I suggest. Then again, he can throw mighty tantrums when he does repeatedly ask to do a specific thing and I dash his hopes with some other, more practical idea. Even a mother cannot possibly understand everything of what goes on in a toddler's head. And, a one year old is fairly content to go along with whatever the rest of us are doing so long as I do not take whatever item of choice is in her chubby little grip at the moment. "I'm sorry 'Princess,' I didn't know it was a treasure."
Some fun things for kids to do that (hopefully) take up at least five minutes of their attention:
- A few inches of soapy water in the kitchen sink can really be a lot of fun. Place a towel or two on the floor for an easier clean-up and to prevent chairs from sliding. Offer a few unbreakable dishes and utensils. Have kids wear aprons if you have them. Encouraging them to "wash" the dishes never hurts!
- Crayons and paper is a classic. I offer my one year old a puzzle and some books in her high chair and let my three year old be creative while I supervise nearby because my two year old likes to eat crayons.
- Picture the above scene only using play dough instead of crayons and paper. Except that I have to be right in the middle of this one because they have constant requests for me to build them animals and balls and such. Then they try to copy my work for themselves.
- We play kick ball in the house. Yes, with a squishy ball and, thus far, no injuries or damages have occurred. When they are older I'll take this game outside but its difficult to manage my three young children who want to explore three different areas of the yard, especially since we don't have a fenced yard and we're near a road.
- I allow them to play in my cupboards while I clean the dishes in the sink or wipe counters. Then we pick up the floor and I have them sit on the couch while I sweep. Okay, they don't always stay on the couch. I keep a dustpan within reach and sweep one small area at a time to prevent my dirt from being re-distributed. When I vacuum, my three year old pulls out his "popper" push toy and pretends to vacuum with me.
- We keep most of the kids toys put away to prevent the stress that comes with finding each and every toy dumped each and every day. We "shop" from our toy stash and pull out one box at a time. They often choose the car box and play cars so I can do a small task or fold laundry nearby.
- I often break up the activities with us sitting on the couch to read a library book. Sometimes they like to continue "reading" to themselves while I get up to do something else.
Children really close together can seem daunting because of the constant demands that at least one child has at all times. Making dinner is difficult because you are either listening to wails because its not ready on their schedule or you are tripping over them as they decide to play underfoot while you are sweating at the stove. Seat them at the table with a few toys while you finish up. Both my boys love to help set the table. They do a great job too!
When all else fails, and I desperately need a shower or a moment to rest, I do put on a movie. My kids all talk just fine and play creatively so I don't think it has effected their development. I mean, there is a difference between watching a movie when mom needs a break and leaving cartoons on all day long. At least that is my take on the whole TV vs. no TV debate. Also, what works for a mom of one and what works for a mom of five are not likely to be the same. Find what works best for you and your family. Remember that a happy and well-rested mom can best make her family happy. Take care of yourself!