How to entertain a toddler indoors

We previously lived in a 600-square-foot apartment with no dedicated yard. We’re moving to a 1490-square-foot town home with an enclosed patio, but still no dedicated yard (it’s shared space and open).

I have a very active (but normally so) 3-year-old boy. For a while now his favorite activity has been running away from mommy the moment he hits fresh air. We’re working on it, but it’s exhausting and painful to chase after him with my bad back and hips. Here are some things I do with him when I choose to keep him indoors:

Give him tasks

This past year he has loved being challenged with “Can you do it? I need your help!”A few of the most common tasks are these:

I’ll give him a wet washcloth and let him follow me around the house helping me wipe down dirty walls and windows. Side note: A wet microfiber cloth is all you need for this. We don’t use any soaps or detergents. I really works.

I’ll grab a laundry basket and place it in the middle of the living room, which is where we store the majority of his toys and books for lack of space elsewhere. I’ll challenge him to help me fill the basket with -everything- on the floor. It all goes in there. When the basket is full I put it on my hip and walk around the house depositing things where they belong. This has been working for us since he was 1.5.

He enjoys washing dishes at the sink. This makes a little water mess but it entertains him while I work on something else in the kitchen. I’ll fill the sink part-full with soapy water (I love Dr Bronner’s or Honest Co White Grapefruit dish soap). I’ll put some safe dishes in there for him and let him at it.

He always loves to help me carry things. I’ll usually word my request like so, “Mama needs your help. Can you do it? What a strong boy. Thank you!”


It has taken years for him to sit still during our reading time but we’ve finally arrived, to an extent. I’ll let him pick out the books. There’s a lot of interaction and encouraging him to “read” to me after I’ve read to him. I ask him many “where” and “what” questions about the pictures. Our reading sessions still only last 10-15 minutes at a time at this age.


We love our blocks. We have duplos, alphabet blocks, Melissa & Doug Architectural Unit Blocks, and a bucket of generic, multi-colored blocks. I have these separated into different buckets and I only allow one set out at a time. If I don’t do this I’ve noticed that he dumps them all out and becomes too overwhelmed to play.

When he was very young he enjoyed stacking them up as high as possible and then knocking them down. We could get about 15-30 minutes of playtime with that activity. Now that he’s 3 he enjoys creating slightly more complex structures — homes, castles, towers, cars, etc. I still sit down with him for 10-15 minutes to get him started, so to speak. He’ll continue playing for a while after I’ve gotten up to do something else.


This is a little unconventional but I still count it as an activity. We have very low flow showerheads and we’ve lowered our water temperature for safety. He’ll be in there for 30 minutes at a time with his bath toys. He’s old enough now that I can be nearby cleaning the bathroom or folding laundry. We are currently only doing this a couple times a week but it used to be more often during those extra messy potty training days.


This is my least favorite activity because it requires the most supervision and makes the most mess. Crayons always get broken and writing utensils are used on the walls rather than paper. I will never bring glitter into my home. He’s been entertained for HOURS with this pair of toddler safety scissors and a small stack of construction paper. I let him cut and tear to his heart’s content. We had construction paper shrapnel ALL. OVER. THE. HOUSE. but the vacuum made quick cleanup of that. Stickers are also fun, but very short lived and harder to vacuum. Stickers on windows are a pain, too.

I occasionally reference Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander for additional crafts and other activities. It’s stock full of age-appropriate ideas for children from birth to age 5. Every activity uses materials you can typically find around the home.

Homemade play dough is great because it’s cheap and I don’t feel guilty throwing it out in a day or two when it becomes yucky from use. I bought some cheap play dough tools and I designate a table he must use. He’ll play for more than and hour.

“Fixing” something

The current rage is disassembling something with a screwdriver. He’ll go after anything with screws. My grandma used to buy a box full of small kitchen appliances at the flea market and give them to my brother to disassemble. Zach is just starting to do the same thing around here. This activity requires a lot of supervision because he tends to turn the screwdriver into a weapon, or try to stick it into a socket. It gets put away after that.

Hide and Seek

This never gets old. He’s still young enough to get distressed if I hide from him too well, so after a few minutes of looking I’ll turn it into a Marco Polo game where I make a silly noise or knock on the wall to give him a clue.

A friend

This is my best solution for indoor (and outdoor) play. I’ve been hired by another mommy to watch her son in my home two days a week. I make some pocket money and the kids have a blast. They initially needed about a week to “adjust” to each other’s company, but now they’re good friends. I’m able to get a little housework done while they play. A win-win all around.


I use this sparingly when I must do something (like cook) and want him safely entertained while my attention is elsewhere. He watches on our laptop and the laptop gets put away in the office when I decide the shows are over.

So there you go!


How to motivate yourself in the morning

I’m not a morning person and sleep deprivation was my biggest concern about becoming a mother. I lost sleep worrying about it. haha I love my naps. I am slower than molasses when rolling out of bed in the morning.

Here are some tricks that have helped motivate me to start my day as a SAHM:

Coffee first

My husband gets up before I do and starts the coffee. I eventually wander in and pour myself a cup. I go to the couch and quietly sit there drinking my mug of coffee creamer. I’ll use this time to pray, go over my to-do list, or often zone out. Nothing else happens during this time — I’m just trying to wake up.

If you’re not a coffee drinker there are a lot of yummy green teas that you can add a variety of different sugars or sugar substitutes to. I personally love Jasmine green teas.


I use the restroom, help my toddler potty, and get him a quick breakfast (fruit, oatmeal, toast & jam, cereal, bagel, or yogurt). I’m usually never hungry but sometimes I’ll have toast or a banana and take my morning supplements.

Get dressed

I choose pants appropriate for housework matched with a pretty blouse. I love pants that have some stretch for all the bending and lifting that will happen throughout the day.

Socks and Shoes

This is essential and I thank the fly lady for introducing me to this concept. Socks and shoes propel you into the working mindset. It can’t be slippers. Shoes get you ready to work indoors or out. I have found that I am reluctant to work in the kitchen if my floors are sticky or have mystery wet spots (which is a constant state of being with a toddler), but I don’t mind at all when I have my shoes on. I am a huge fan of slip-on shoes and they’re cheap at wal-mart. They last a couple years for me even when worn for yard work.20170310_103213

In the same vein I have found that wearing an apron gets me ready for work, too. I don’t have to worry about getting my clothes wet or dirty – the apron is my “armor.” My aprons all have pockets for carrying around those odds and ends when my hands are full.


Teeth, face, hair

I don’t have a beauty routine to speak of; I never wear make-up. This step takes me just a couple minutes. Putting my hair back in a braid or ponytail makes me feel ready for working, too. I feel presentable. I love washing my face with facial cleansing cloths like this one:


And I’m ready to start the day! I typically tackle the biggest/ugliest job first and that’s usually the kitchen or laundry for us. 🙂



How we used Craigslist when unemployed

I do like buying stuff but I get a certain thrill when purging things from our home. It’s therapeutic. Last week I started throwing out junk and posting other things with earning potential on craigslist and ebay:

Old queen bed — $40

New twin bed — $80

12 lbs toddler books –$30

10 lbs Little Golden books — $11

Hey… we got someone to pay us to haul away our two beds. The polite young men who picked up the queen wouldn’t even let me unscrew the bolts on the frame for them.

Every little bit helps to offset the cost of moving later this month.

I sold a lot back when my husband and I were unemployed for a year. I funded my entire cloth diaper system with my craigslist income. A year or so prior to baby, a friend had given us a professional keyboard. We sold that for $400. My folding exercise bike went for $80. The juicer I never used for $40. A couple cast iron skillets I refurbished for $20-30. This gave us the funding for a simple diapering system, breastfeeding supplies, crib, and a mini apartment washer (story on that later).

1. Start a pile

I can always find something to sell, donate, or throw away. I encourage you to start a little pile. Leave the pile sitting there for a few days if you’re unsure — it’ll be easier to make a decision after a few days of thinking on it.

2. Be honest

Be honest in your ad description. It’s really embarrassing to have to explain to potential buyers why the item doesn’t hold up to your online description. Take pictures from different angles, list the weight, measurements, age of item, or give a size comparison for reference. Having said all that, it’s also necessary to be succinct in your description — most people aren’t going to read paragraph after paragraph.

3. Price where you want

Don’t think you have to set low prices. Ask for what you want. You can always go back and adjust the price if it’s not selling quickly enough for you. And in my experience most potential buyers want to negotiate on the price, so I make up for that setting the price slightly higher than what I want for it.

4. List home conditions

Mention the living-environment conditions of your home. For example: pet-free, smoke-free, clean home.



Month Zero {0}

We’re in escrow. Our first home in our 9.5 years of marriage. About time you say? haha We married with…

$8000 student loan

$6000 used car loan

$2000 credit card

 …all paid off our first year on a small double income. Sweet relief.

We saved saved saved for 6 years. And then baby boy happened.

I couldn’t handle — didn’t want — to start working full time again. So I quit and stayed home with the ball of squish and nannied when I could. My husband was laid off the same time my job ended. We spent the next year job-less and watching our $55,000 in savings bleed money on pricey coastal California rent and even pricier grad school tuition (for him).

Fast forward two years and we have about $30,000 in savings again. We’re buying a $125,000 town home and putting 20% down. Sellers are contributing nearly $4000 towards closing costs. The interest rate is a high 5.25% because we chose to use the GSFA Platinum program which gave us 5% towards the down payment.

Our goal?


No way are we going to be in debt for the next 30 years. Why not just 2-6? Anyone else out there doing this?

Our current monthly payment estimate (we’re still in escrow, right?) for principal + interest + taxes + hazard insurance is $699/mo for 30 years.

We are incredibly blessed to live across the street from my husband’s work, so that means NO commuter costs. We do have the added $265/mo HOA expense, but that covers necessary things like water, sewer, trash, and security that we’d be paying for either way.

It’s March 8th 2017 and we’ll close in 2-3 weeks, hopefully sooner. Follow me as we start this journey towards mortgage- (and rent-) free living.