Sunday, 14 December 2014

24 ways to STAY SANE WITH KIDS these holidays

I love my children. And I love spending time with them. But right now I’m staring down the barrel of a three-week shut-down from kindy over the Christmas period. Which means I’ll have four small children at home with me, EVERYDAY. If you think about it, this will be like a groundhog-day-type Terrible Tuesday.  Even more challenging is that our delightful Mr B will be home all through January until he starts school next year.

So I'm on a mission to collect all the savvy tips I  can to keep my kids happy, and my sanity in check these holidays . There is lots to do over Christmas and beyond, but not everyday can be huge. With four kids to cater for, some things are going to have to take priority. Like our budget and energy levels. Here's how I plan to do it - if you’re facing a similar home-bound situation with kids this holiday season, read on:

1.               Make plans.  Plans provide momentum, and a sense of control. There is no way I can just wing it with four kids. I divide the day into two halves and plan to be out for the first half. That way, when I get home, the kids will have spent some energy and should be ok with home-bound activities for the rest of the day.

2.               Try different parks. Being free, parks are great for letting the kids loose to run around and be crazy. I like to encourage them to do all their screaming and shouting in these big, open spaces, rather than saving it for our front room. You can ramp up the excitement by trying a park out of town that involves a bit of a drive. This way they get the excitement of a big drive as well as the discovery of a great new park.

3.               Take everyone for a drive. Speaking of driving, have you ever just put the kids in the car and gone for a drive around for something to do? I’ve tried this once, and it saved the afternoon. Fortunately, my kids love listening to music, which driving is great for. So we put the tunes on and went for a drive somewhere different. This is especially good for when the weather isn’t so nice and everyone is getting cabin-fever from being indoors too long.

4.               Be realistic with errand-running.  I've learnt the hard way about the perils of trying to get things done with kids in tow.  Unless you have super patient and brilliantly-behaved kids, don’t attempt to get all your errands done while out with them. Space things out. Take them to the post office and the chemist, followed by morning tea at the café, or a picnic in the park. It might take you forever to get through your to-do list, but at least it won’t traumatise you.
5.               Go on a one-day holiday. No holidays planned? Try a one-day holiday. There are so many great things to do that we ordinarily never get round to. And if I plan it right, we could stay out the whole day doing new and exciting stuff, so that by the time we get home it is dinner time and it we’ll all feel uplifted and exhausted, like we’ve just come home from holiday. Get it? Like trying out a faraway beach or a national park, followed by a restaurant lunch, followed by ice-cream and a walk or a movie. Sounds like an expensive day, I know, but if you compared the cost of this with an actual holiday, it is pretty cheap. Plus, after such a huge day, you can get away with not having big plans for the rest of the week.
6.               Playdates. Book. Them. In. Swap numbers with other mums from day care and do each other a favour by arranging play dates during those long summer days. I will definitely need these, specifically the ones where you can drop your child off and pick them up a couple of hours later.
7.               Go to the movies. If you have a child old enough, the cinema is great for a heat-escape and some cuddle-up time with your child/ren. With Miss P still too young, it will be me and Mr B heading to the movies these holidays. I’ve already got my eye on the Paddington Bear movie.
8.               Divide and conquer. Send your partner out with half the kids while you deal with the other half. If you only have one kid, enjoy the peace and quiet while the two of them head out for the day! For us, enjoying the company of just two of our kids at a time is nice for a bit of bonding and altogether much easier than trying to get out with four of them.
9.               The café is an activity. We all know I have a coffee addiction, which makes visiting the café a top choice for me. But cafes are also great for kids, especially if you can find one that tolerates small children and makes a decent babycino. To stretch it out, bring along some colouring books and let the kids be artistic while you sip on a flat white. Or play a game of eye-spy. You can easily wile away a morning doing this.
10.           Make walks fun. Let’s call a spade a spade. Walks aren't that fun. But sometimes it’s the best on offer. So jazz it up a bit and invent some sort of game like bug-hunting, leaf-collecting or number-spotting.
11.           Run the bath. When my bigger kids suddenly get all crazy in the middle of the afternoon, I put them in the bath. This does two things: it gets them all clean so they don’t need a bath before bed (thus making the bedtime routine much quicker), and quite often, they will amuse themselves in there for ages. When they get a good game going together, my big two will play brilliantly. The price I pay for this is that I have to hang out near the bathroom so I can keep checking on them and by the time they’re finished the whole bathroom ends up flooded, but it is worth it just to contain them in a small room for a bit.
12.           Go out for an ice cream. Do you know where your local ice-cream parlour is? You know, the ones that display all their ice-cream in the big tubs and serve them up in cones or cups? There’s not many about these days. See if you can find one and take your kids out, just for ice-cream. Then sit and watch them lick furiously while it melts in the heat. Let them get all sticky. Take them home for a bath if you haven’t already used that one today.
13.           Swimming. I don’t think I’ll be game enough to go with all four of mine to the pool this summer, but my oldest two are definitely good to take together now. We have plenty of local pools around so we’re spoiled for choice.
14.           Get out EARLY. Beat the traffic, skip the crowds, nab a parking spot. This goes for shopping malls, beach trips, play centres, and anywhere else you think families will flock to during the holidays. If you’re anything like me, and don’t have the patience for back-to- back traffic or circling car-parks looking for a place to park your giant people-mover, it makes total sense to get up early and get everyone out the door before 9am. Even better, you’ll probably miss the going home traffic too.
15.           Get a babysitter. You have to look after yourself as well these holidays. Call in a sitter and treat yourself to a morning out for shopping or errands without the kids in tow. Or better yet, book a lunch out with friends. If you don’t have family around and can’t afford a babysitter, consider a child-minding swap with a friend. She can look after your kids one afternoon, and you can look after hers the next time.
16.           Have some easy and fun house-bound activities ready to go. I really need to get this organised. Get some play-dough in and set the kids up at the craft table. Or buy some new tools to colour with. They always love paint, if you can handle the clean-up, although this provides a brilliant reason to apply tip #11.
17.           Be creative with whatever outdoor space you have. Got room for a splash-pool, or water/sand table?  These can fit anywhere; we’ve had them on balconies and in our courtyard. Here’s a tip: give them an icypole and they will sit in the pool for ages sucking, and any drips will go into the water and not on your carpet! Plus the kids come out wet, not sticky!
18.           Scooter parks/bike tracks. Great for Mr B, not so much for his sister, who demands that I push her around on her scooter. Mind you, she is getting a bike for Christmas, so we will have to practice sometime.
19.           Picnics. I don’t do these enough. How easy. The kids can be involved in choosing and preparing the food they want to eat, they can bring along some outdoor toys and you can set yourselves up in the local park for as long as you like. I will definitely be trying this one, especially now the babies will enjoy the exploration time.

20.           Screen time. My kids are all too happy to sit with the IPAD playing their games, so much so that it’s tempting to buy another one so they both sit down and glue themselves to the screen. I try to rotate their time though so they share it and don’t spend too long in one go on it. I find that there’s lots of great apps that are good for learning as well as fun for kids. I’m a big fan of Bugs n’ Buttons.
21.           Early dinner time. If you’ve had a long hot day with the kids, there is nothing wrong with giving them dinner at 4.30pm and getting them on track for an early bed time! Plus, if you’ve already done their bath, you are well on your way to wine o’ clock! The kids will be tired out anyway, so you’d be doing them a favour by getting them to sleep at a decent hour.
22.           Be lazy in the mornings. With no school or kindy (and no work for you), enjoy the chance to be lazy and let everyone hang out in their pyjamas for the morning. That includes you.
23.           Pick your battles. Don’t make things hard on yourself. If the 3 year old wants to wear the princess dress to the shops, let her. Toddler refuses to eat anything but a peanut butter sandwich for dinner? He’ll survive.  If your pre-schooler insists on bringing a bag of cars to the café, meh. Who’s it going to hurt, really? Besides your back of course, when you have to carry it around. My point is, let some things slide, and save your energy for when you really need it. Like when they’re flooding the bathroom or burying each other under mountains of pillows.
24.           Hit the beach. We are lucky to live near the beach. In the height of summer, I make it a point to get down there before 9am and leave again by 10.30am. It is typically already stinky hot this early in the morning and after an hour or two, we've all had our fill of the sun and sea. I find that the beach really packs out just as we're leaving, which is fine by me!
How bout you? I'm sure you have your own sanity-saving tips for getting through the day-care break with busy, small children. Care to share?


  1. Hi Laney, these are great tips! My little one is only 4 months at the moment so we spend a lot of time walking (when it's not too hot!) and in the bath (his favourite thing!) Good luck staying sane! Lily x

  2. Hi Laney! Welcome to the world of blogging! There is a great link up on Fridays at where lots of mothers link up and support each other (if you haven't already heard of it). Will follow you on Twitter and Facebook :)