I have a 10-month-old and finding ways to keep her entertained (and let’s be real, ways to keep myself entertained as well) can be challenging. There are definitely times where I wonder if I’m doing enough. I question if she’s stimulated and learning. Am I giving her enough attention? Am I doing the best for her? Is she bored?
She’s my first child, and I have nothing to compare our situation to. I have to constantly remind myself that this is not the norm, and I am, in fact, doing enough (even when it really feels like I’m not). I sometimes forget that there are a lot of resources that we can’t currently tap into to keep our days interesting and different.
In normal circumstances, we could (and would!) attend local storytimes, we could sign up for a music group, she could be in swim class, or we could go to to the park and she could swing in a swing (I’m seriously considering getting a swing set and putting it in my living room, so yeah, that’s where we are at right now). Whenever I doubt myself, I remember that we can only do so much right now with what we have. And whatever you’re doing, you’re doing a good job.
Every age and developmental stage with a child has its unique challenges. Right now, I’d place us in the challenging spot where my child is too active and curious to stay in one spot with one toy, but she’s too young to sit and watch a show, do crafts, or take up any hobbies.
We have plenty of toys and activities; each one occupies my daughter for maybe three minutes. She’s always crawling and pulling herself up on things and most of the time, that’s all she wants to do. Sure, she giggles through a fun game of peek-a-boo and is starting to sit and enjoy a story. But each of those activities literally lasts no more than three minutes. Breaking up your day into three-minute increments of entertainment is exhausting. We’ve gotten pretty creative, and while I can’t wait until play dates can be a part of our routine, for now, we’re staying home and staying relatively busy.
Today, I’m sharing the little activities that can help to keep your baby entertained and your days moving along. Note: all of these require supervision.
1. Do chores they enjoy watching
This sounds silly, but I’ve discovered that some chores are very amusing to my baby. There are, of course, chores I cannot do around her (like scrubbing with cleaning solutions, for example), but there are chores that she takes great joy in observing. She is seemingly very amused by my Dyson vacuum. Everything your baby observes is a learning experience, including watching you do mundane tasks.
I used to save chores like vacuuming for when she was sleeping, but now I take advantage of her interest and do it while she’s up. She’s entertained, and I get some cleaning done. A success all around. To keep her safe and out of the way, I put her in her Skip Hop activity center. I love this item, and when she was younger, she’d hang out and play with the toys for a while. Now, like most of her toys, unless I’m also entertaining her, she’s over it within a few minutes. But not while she can stand there and watch me vacuum!
2. Fill a basket with toys for them to rummage through
I love a nice and tidy house as much as the next person, but with a curious baby crawling around, there are usually toys strewn about. The point of this activity is not to be tidy, it’s to make a mess. I fill a huge basket with all her toys and she spends a few minutes pulling each one out and throwing it around. It would be great if she focused on one toy—and sometimes she does—but usually, it’s the act of pulling the toys out of the bin that is most fun for her.
3. Talk to them while food prepping
I very much look forward to when my daughter and I can bake and cook together, but until then, I will do the work and talk to her about it. Research has shown that talking to and engaging with infants and children can positively impact their language skills. It’s such a simple thing to do—talk to them.
I plop my daughter down in her Skip Hop activity center or her high chair with a few puffs, and she watches me prep food and I tell her everything I’m doing. This is a red strawberry that I’m chopping up! These are delicious vegetables that I’m washing! It’s like her own personal Food Network, and honestly, she’s a pretty captive audience. Plus, our dinner will then be a breeze since it’s all prepped and ready to go.
4. Go on long walks (with toys and a teether)
Getting outside is so important, and even though we don’t have a destination like we used to (we used to walk to baby and me groups, coffee shops, or the grocery store), we still spend a lot of time strolling through our neighborhood. The fresh air is great for both of us, and my daughter has new things to look at. I’ll admit that I often listen to a podcast during our walks (these walks are the closest thing I have to me time while she’s awake) but while listening, I also talk to her and make funny faces at her during our stroll. She’s very content. We always bring a teether and strap a few toys to her stroller for extra entertainment.
5. Make mealtime a sensory experience
I used to be overwhelmed by how much of our day was taken up by eating. With 5-6 nursing sessions and three meals a day, sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is feeding my daughter or cleaning up her post-meal messes. And then I re-framed it as one of our activities and something we don’t have to rush through. It can be stressful to have your kid covered in applesauce when you’re rushing out the door to music class. Right now, we have nowhere to go, so go crazy with that applesauce!
I look forward to mealtimes because it’s time where I can sit down and I’m not chasing my crawling baby around the house. I think of it as both food and flavor discovery and as a sensory experience. We practice baby-led weaning, so my daughter is totally in charge of getting the food in her mouth. This is time-consuming, to say the least. We typically go through six or more spoons in a meal (they all end up on the floor), and her face and hair usually have food in them by the end. But it’s a learning experience for her, and an entertaining one that can take 30+ minutes.
6. Create toys from empties (& other kitchen items)
Before you recycle your empty coffee can or toss that empty puff container, think of it through your child’s eyes. Anything that they can roll, hit, or throw is basically a toy. I give the items a good wipe down and let her go to town. I’ll also give her random items from the kitchen to play with. A box of individually wrapped products (like a box of RX Bars or my travel packets of collagen) is exploratory for little ones. Just make sure the products are well-wrapped and let them play around. Babies also love wooden spoons, pots, and pans.
7. Call family and friends
One surprising silver lining of staying home is how connected I feel to others. We live far from friends and family, so I already didn’t see them often. Now that everyone is home and feeling a bit isolated, there’s always someone up for a video chat. We chat with my parents via Portal by Facebook at least once a day, and then if we have downtime and we’re getting a little bored (we=me), I’ll call a friend to FaceTime. My daughter loves seeing new faces and my friends love seeing her. Sometimes we’ll call up a mom friend so she can see another baby (it’s been a while!). She’s definitely crawling all over the place during our calls, but it is something to do, and again, it’s more conversations that involve the baby.
At first, it seemed impossible—and some days it still does—but there are ways to keep a baby entertained while staying home. I think we’re doing a pretty decent job over here, but I do look forward to a day where we can attend a storytime or a swim class just as much as the next tired mom!