Not long ago I was on an important phone call. You know, one of those phone calls you absolutely have to answer. You’ve been waiting for weeks for the person to get back to you.
I was home alone during the school day with my two year-old toddler. Like any good toddler, my son saw the opportunity and got into the markers that his older sister had left out before she went to school. I noticed his sweet face when I ended the call.
You couldn’t mistake the broad marker strokes on this face at that point. When I called his name and asked what he’d been up to, he simply gave me a big grin.
But then, I had an AHA moment. Maybe he was being naughty, but he sure knows how to have fun. Toddlers are experts in fun. And he can always find the fun.
Also he knows how to take advantages of the opportunities for fun. He can maximize any break in the daily routine and find something fun to do. Then I realized, I have time to find the fun, too.
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I don’t have time for fun
“But I don’t have time” is a lie we often tell ourselves. The truth is we all get 24 hours in a day and 168 hours a week. You get to choose how you use your hours and minutes. Regardless of how busy you are, you definitely have 5-15 minutes a day for fun. You might just need to channel your inner-toddler and harness opportunities for fun.
Now, if you are adamant you don’t have time for fun, let’s get real about how you use your time. Chances are you’re finding time for fake breaks like checking your email for the twelfth time or endless scrolling through social media. So you’re an expert in sneaking breaks just like your toddler, but they probably aren’t that fun.
Fun can be simple and short
A lot of times when we think about breaks as busy parents, we fantasize about happy hours with friends or a spa day. That isn’t realistic most days, although I definitely think you can plan your weekends to include those.
We sneak in fake breaks on our phones because it is simple, but it’s not all that restful. So it’s helpful to think of what makes a simple and restful breaks for you.
Sometimes fun needs to be brief too. So all the activities in my printable list take less than 15 minutes.
Finding fun with toddlers
Your little kids are eager to have fun with you. The key is to choose activities that are also fun for you. These are some of my favorites:
Blow bubbles: We love the good old-fashioned jars of $1 bubbles from the grocery store. I’m also a fan of bubble blowers and bubble guns. It’s a joy to hear my toddler squeal with delight as endless bubbles are blown for him. I enjoy the laziness factor of a bubble blower once I’m tired of blowing. That’s more fun for me!
Read a story: Nothing beats snuggling up with a good book and a toddler. We hit the library every couple weeks to find stories we both enjoy.
Sensory bins: get a lidded container and dump some beans, rice, or old pasta in it. Add in some little toys. Your child will likely make a mess so make sure you have a little broom and dust pan. But sit down with your child and feel the sensation of the beans or rice or pasta and the satisfaction of digging and dump.
Pretend play: my child is passionate about trucks and makes enthusiastic sound effects. Sitting on the floor with him for 5-10 minutes brings a smile on a face. After that, I usually mental check out so keeping it short makes it fun for me.
Finding fun with school-aged children
Connecting with older children is a good way to find the fun during the day. Make sure to choose activities that you find fun as well. These are the activities I enjoy.
Color: I like to harness my inner-child and drawing a child-like backyard scene complete with a smiling sun. Or I’ll grab one of my coloring books for adults and color that while my daughter does her own coloring project.
Craft projects: We like open-ended art projects and tend to enjoy making things like collages. Tearing up scraps of construction or using pre-cut tissue paper squares and a glue stick to glue them on an old cardboard box is a lot of fun.
Stickers: I have tons of stickers leftover from my teaching days and from sticker charts. I break out our box of stickers and paper with my daughter and let her direct our collaborative design.
Board games: I did a round-up post of the best board games for preschoolers and my school-aged daughter still enjoys many of these.
Reading longer stories: School-aged children can likely listen to longer stories. Grabbing a cozy blanket and heading to the couch in the winter and outside to the grass in the summer is an enjoyable way to relax.
Finding fun for yourself
In the five or ten minutes you spend scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, you can find time for fun for yourself.
Have some coffee: Whether it is iced or hot, I really focus all my attention on my beverage for five minutes rather than setting it down and forgetting about it.
Light a scented candle: Even in the summer, lighting a candle and letting it burn for ten minute feels like a real treat.
Read a magazine: I keep my Real Simple magazine out and reach for it instead of my phone.
Read my book: I’ve built a habit to bring my latest novel or non-fiction books downstairs every morning from our bedroom to the family room. Instead of checking Facebook for the millionth time, I’ll read a few pages. You can check out what I’ve been reading this year here.
Listen to a podcast: There is nothing more pleasant for me than listening to a great podcast while I fold laundry or drive around doing errands. The Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin is my favorite.
Take a walk: This usually only feels like fun if I don’t have my kids. We live close to a park with a lake and it’s pleasant to see the nature. However, lately it’s been pleasant to take my toddler and let him amble along at a leisurely pace. So figure out what works for you.
FIND THE FUN FOR YOU
Motherhood can burn us out. The relentless nature of tend of to our children’s physical and emotion needs can sometimes suck the fun from our days. But take a note from my toddler – and maybe from yours. You can find fun in your days.
Grab your free Find the Fun printable here. Either use the ideas I’ve provided on the first page, or print the blank second page and write out your own ideas for fun. Stick this list in your planner and choose something fun to do everyday. Or post it on your fridge as a reminder.
The next time you find yourself reaching for your phone for a fake break, think about finding the fun!