You know those days when you wake up and the mere idea of parenting sounds excruciating? Like, when you have the stomach flu or you were up all night with a newborn or are pregnant? There are certain days/weeks/seasons of life when you just need some time to parent from the couch.
As I approach the final weeks of my third pregnancy, I’ve been feeling this more and more frequently. I am bone tired most days, but with a 4-year-old and an almost-2-year-old, I still need to find ways to keep my kids happy and entertained … while I lay on the couch and rest. While TV is the obvious go-to for moms who don’t want to create elaborate Pinterest-y activity set-ups (raises hand), I’ve found a good arsenal of activities that are super simple, but fun for my kids — that don’t require parking them in front of the TV (though let’s be real, I totally do that sometimes, too).
These things are tried and true and you most likely already have everything you need at home — hallelujah! I love you Pinterest, but ain’t nobody got time for craft store shopping when you’re sick/pregnant/exhausted.
1. Washing station
Start by laying out a vinyl table cloth and then gather your items to be washed. Last time we did this, I put out toy cars and we made it a car wash, but you can also use little, plastic animals or really any water-proof item you’d like.
Set out a couple of bowls of soapy water, sponges, tooth brushes, bottle brushes — whatever you have that seems like it would be fun to clean with — and a whole bunch of towels for drying. Then let your kids go to town. I even let my kids throw on their swimsuits to make it seem more special (but mostly because it kept their regular clothes dry, so we wouldn’t have to do outfit changes later).
This is our current favorite activity around my house, because 1) it makes me feel like one of those over-achiever-type moms who does constructive activities with her kids on the regular and 2) it involves water and my kids LOVE anything that involves water.
2. Have them “cook” you a meal
This activity is a classic for the parenting from the couch arsenal. Basically, just hang out on the couch and keep requesting meals from your tiny chefs.
My kids will do this for ages, running back and forth from their little play kitchen to serve me “peanut butter and jelly ice cream” or “strawberry pickle pancakes.” I pretend to eat said food and then they hurry back to whip up something new. If this activity has grown stale at your house, I suggest giving them some real cooking utensils — whisks, small pans, wooden spoons, etc. — because they will feel extra fancy and get excited about it again.
3. Bowls + measuring cups + dry pasta
Fill a couple of bowls with dry pasta (penne or spiral works best for activities), lay out some spoons, measuring cups, and anything else they can scoop with, and let them play.
See how fancy I am? But seriously, they love it.
4. Bathtub swim time
Unless you magically have a bathtub in your living room or a couch in your bathroom, you can’t technically consider this activity to be parenting from the couch in the truest sense, but it’s the next best thing. Instead of sitting on the couch, you get to sit next to the bathtub, which is almost just as good. When you’re exhausted, less is more.
Let your kids put on swimsuits to make it seem extra fancy. This is my solution for all things. When you’re 4-years-old, a swimsuit adds an extra layer of fun to any activity.
5. Play dress-up
My daughter lives for dress-up, but instead of leaving the dress-up clothes easily accessible for everyday play, I leave them in a vintage suitcase and bring them out when friends come over or on days when I’m super tired.
Dress-up now feels like a treat for her, and it’s a good activity because it allows her to practice fine motor skills while buttoning herself and her brother into princess dresses. (Mom of the year right here.) I just set the dress-up suitcase out in the living room and let them have at it, intermittently pausing to admire the twirliness of their costumes. It’s a win/win for all.
6. Snuggle + story time
Reading stories to your kids is an obvious activity, but when you’re exhausted, focusing your eyes on the pages of Go Dog Go to read it for the 30th time that day, definitely doesn’t sound very appealing. Snuggle story time requires far less effort and as an added bonus, it tricks your kids into snuggling on the couch with you. We all snuggle up under blankets on the couch, and I put on an audio book for us to listen to. Done and done. No actual reading or talking.
Also, if you don’t have any books on CD, they are readily available at the library and you can find some on Youtube as well!
7. Have a dance off
Turn on some music and let your kids show off their best moves while you play judge. There’s actually no real judging when we do this. I just let my kids go back and forth trying to copy/one-up each other’s dance moves. It’s silly and fun and best of all, EASY.
8. Laundry basket toss
Step 1) Dump the clean clothes that have been sitting in your laundry basket for the past two weeks out onto your bed or couch.
Step 2) Let your kids toss soft balls, bean bags, crumpled up paper, stuffed animals (basically just anything that won’t break your TV or a window) into the basket.
Look at you being awesome and encouraging your kids to utilize their gross motor skills! Bravo, parent!
9. Build a fort
OK, so unless your kids are clever, little pint-sized engineers, this isn’t completely a “from the couch” activity, but once you help your kids build a fort, they’ll happily play in it for ages while you lay there. It’s definitely worth the effort.
10. FaceTime friends and family
Sometimes, kids just want to talk, which is typically a really great thing … unless you have a migraine or a sore throat. So, share the chatty love with family and friends.
I’ll call up a friend or family member (typically the grandmas, because they have plenty of patience and love to hear kid stories) for a little FaceTime action and let them chat it up with someone who isn’t me for just a bit. It’s a good time to catch up with family and friends and can give you a much-needed break. It takes a village, people.
11. Dollhouse + little figurines
It is amazing to me how long my kids will play with our dollhouse and figurines. I just set it up in the living room and let them use their imaginations. If I want to really engage them, I’ll give them little household items to incorporate into their play. Things like empty paper towel tubes become fun tunnels, napkins and fabric scraps become blankets, cotton balls for pillows. The options are never-ending for little imaginations.
12. Make cards
Set out the crayons, construction paper, and any other art supplies that are good for independent use (my kids LOVE washi tape) and let your kids make cards for friends and family. I like to use my aforementioned vinyl table cloth underneath their coloring, so I don’t have to clean off my table later. Doesn’t get much easier than that!
13. Play “I Spy”
Playing “I Spy” with your kids is a great quiet and calm activity, and you never even have to leave the couch. Take turns so everyone gets a chance to be both the “spier” and the “guesser.” This seems too simple to work, but it does … every time. It’s also a really great way to distract your kids from a case of the grumps or when they are being extra whiny.
Remember, even the best of us have our rough days, and that’s OK! Just pull these out when you really need them and watch your kids be happily entertained without TV, and feel like a superhero!More On