My three year old is really into playing “salon” and “boutique” right now.
This typically entails me pretending to be a customer, several times, while she does my hair or tries to sell me toys from her table-top store. This gets repeated over and over until she decides to move on to the next thing, which may or may not be a revised version of the same thing.

I don’t know about you, but this is not my idea of fun.

Unless I plan activities or outings (which I almost always do!) on the days we have nothing going on, it feels like time slows to a crawl. I very quickly get burned out and irritable because I’m spending all day doing things I don’t enjoy. And for whatever reason, I don’t *EVER* squeeze in any time for myself to do the things I want to do.

Life of a mama, amirite?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with our time spent at home. While playing store and salon might be fun for some of us (or maybe just one of us?), there are much more stimulating and memorable things that we can do.

When play-doh, coloring, and books don’t seem to cut it, here are my go-to’s:

1. Hide & Seek
This is HUGE in our house right now, but instead of traditional hide and seek, we like to throw in some unique variations. Monster hide and seek, team hide and seek, dark hide and seek, speed hide and seek. The best part? If I find a really, really good hiding spot and I remember to bring my phone, I can usually crank out a couple of e-mails and some social media posts without my kids ever knowing!

2. Dance Party
For her birthday last year, my three year old got this awesome strobe light that flashes to the beat of whatever music is playing. When we have lots of energy, we’ll go in her room, close the curtains, and turn this baby on with some poppin music (probably Jojo Siwa). It can be quite tiring, but the sweaty workout sesh is totally worth it when the girls ask for quiet time afterwards. YASSS.

3. Baking
This one sounds like a nightmare… because, it is.  I love to bake, but not with a 3.5 & 2 year old. Besides, they don’t care anyway – they just want to sink their teeth (or their fingers) into all the sugary things. Since I’ve been gluten free for the last month, I found these INCREDIBLE ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies that my entire family loves. But you guys. these are seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had, you’d never know they were gluten free, non-GMO, dairy-free, vegan, and nut-free! And the girls love that all we have to do is pull them out of the package, bake them, and eat them!

4. Making Weird Art
With my kids being so little, our art comes in many forms.
We bought a pre-loaded art supply box last fall that was probably the best purchase we made all year. Even if we run out of paper (which we do… A LOT), we don’t need it with this kit. We’ve made jewelry, pipe cleaner animals, stick figure families, and more without even touching paper or crayons. Whenever I open the closet to pull this out, I have to swat away grabby hands before I even make it to the table. Plus, time flies when we get super creative!

5. Experiments & Projects
Okay, so this type of activity definitely doesn’t happen on the fly. I usually have to plan them out and buy certain ingredients or supplies beforehand, but many only require items you already have in your house! Most recently, we made fluffy slime, which was made up of 5 simple ingredients: shaving cream, white glue, baking soda, food coloring, and contact solution. It was stupid easy, and the most surprising part is how long it’s lasted! I thought it was a one-and -done project that would be thrown out that same day, but it’s 3 days old and still fluffy! The girls ask to play with it several times a day, and I have no idea why we didn’t make this stuff sooner.

6. Fort Building
It still amazes me how kids can be surrounded by toys and technology, and something as simple as a box can seem like the most fascinating thing in the world.
Well, I like to use this to my advantage, and you should too.
We frequently have large boxes lying around the house from all of my candlemaking supplies, so good fort-building materials are never in short supply here. We’ll usually stick some string lights inside, fluffy pillows, and of course, snacks. Sometimes we’ll add some sheets and blankets for a luxurious covered porch. Exciting stuff, you guys… let me tell you.

7. Improv Storytelling
This one is a little more challenging, but it gets WAY easier with practice. Just start your story with the traditional, “once upon a time…” and grab ideas from toys, animals, pictures, colors – literally ANYTHING around the room – as you go.
My husband and I started doing this with Olivia when she was about 2 years old, and she absolutely loves it. I was so thrilled when she started doing it herself, I didn’t really care when her stories went a little sideways or got weird. We love to use our imagination, and it’s such a great exercise for the brain no matter how it ends!

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