New to Being Stay at Home Mom- Ideas Please!

Updated on August 22, 2012
M.D. asks from Ambler, PA
13 answers

I was recently laid off from my job after being there for 4 years. I actually started the job while 6 months pregnant with my first child (she's now almost 4). Since then, I have also had a second child who is 17 months. My previous job had a flexible, work from home schedule but I was still required to have my girls in daycare for atleast 6 hours a day. Beginning in September, they will be home with me. I am looking for ideas on activities to keep us all engaged, having fun, and that don't always cost a ton of money. My older daughter is very creative and loves to do projects and do imaginary play but doing those things all day every day seems her activities don't involve or engage my younger daughter. I'm hoping to find things that we can all do together. Even my local library has a story time but they are age specific and very clearly state that siblings outside of that age are not welcome (which I think is I need to hire a sitter for one so I can take the other? way!). Any ideas welcome:-) Thanks in advance~!

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answers from San Francisco on

Everything I know about amusing toddlers/preschoolers, I learned from my older daughter's nanny (who had raised 7 children of her own). Here are a few of her tricks:

Pull out the stroller and go for a walk! Is there a park nearby? If so, walk to it, and you are sure to meet other moms there, and the kids can play together.

Aside from that, try to schedule an outing (even if it's to Target or the grocery store) at some point during the day. Just a change of scenery can be great to break up the monotony.

Have your kids "help" you with the housework. Give them a dust cloth, and they'll follow you around the house "dusting" the furniture. Give them the carpet sweeper and they can use that while you vacuum. They can dig in the dirt outside while you do your yardwork (or tell your older one you'll give her a penny for every weed she pulls!). Kids love to emulate what they see you doing, so why not get a little free labor out of them? ;)

Anyway, just living daily life will take up a lot of your time (you'll be surprised!), and then maybe just plan one crafty activity per day or so. It could even just be pulling out playdoh to play with, or using the chalkboard with some chalk, or going outside and using watercolors. It doesn't have to be anything too fancy to amuse preschoolers (and let's face it, toddlers just want to eat the paintbrush, so they're easy to amuse...)

When all else fails, put on music (John Phillips Souza marching music works well), give them flashlights, turn the lights off in the room, and have a dance party!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Our local library does not allow siblings of different ages, and mine are 1, 3, 4 and 6 (so it's impossible to get a time for all, let alone two.) The other nearby library does but the times are strange.

Anyway...we end up living at the park district! We do tons of classes, you name it. These can be affordable depending on how much you do (and if you indeed have a good park district with offerings). At 1 or 2 classes a day between the kids I would not call it affordable anymore, lol. But, I can't imagine not having this option.

Memberships to museums and stuff was too hard. I can't keep track of all of them in a public place, so we're very limited.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

At our library the 3 and 4 year old story time is only for the kids, not the parents. My older son would go to story time while I sat in the childrens section with my younger son and looked at books. My older son was in nursery school when I took his brother to story time.
Buying memberships and using them regularly is a good way to get out and save money. I usually bought a childrens museum membership and a zoo membership and spent lots of time at both of those places. We had a YMCA membership so we had the pool, playstructure, gym and bouncer. I took the kids to the airport once in a while just to watch the planes, and the neibouring aviation museum. We joined a free playgroup. We spent lots of time at the library. In the summer we went to the city wading pools and parks. In the winter we went toboganning.


answers from Boston on

Structure is helpful - and that should include some free play and some quiet time so you keep your sanity.

You've already discovered the library - they probably have lots of books on activities and crafts that use things you can find at little or no cost. And it's not too early to teach your kids that they can take out a book, read it, and return it. It also teaches them to take care of books that aren't their own.

There are a lot of things you can pull out of the recycling bin, for example. Kids also like to collect rocks, which can be washed and painted and then used as paperweights or porch/garden decorations & borders. Nice gifts for Grandma too, if they'll give them away!

Inexpensive wood frames from the craft store (or made from popsicle sticks) can be painted or decorated with macaroni shapes and then spray painted by you. Local newspapers will often give away the end rolls of their newsprint (rolls that don't have enough on them for another printing) or sell them for $2 - that's a ton of paper for crafts and artwork. My stepdaughter makes giant flowers and dinosaurs or seasonal decorations that go up over the windows. The local quick printer might give you the leftovers from jobs that didn't print the color right - use the back side for art. Ask the local teachers where they get their supplies - you'd be surprised what they get from local companies.

Libraries often have free or discount passes for the children's museum and the aquarium - short visits to museums are fun for kids and, if you use a pass, you don't feel badly if they get tired after 2 hours. They also often have play areas or puppet areas that are available when there is no organized activity.

Cooking together can be fun. Kids can sort socks and stack washcloths too, making laundry a family affair.

Check out yard sales for low-cost toys and crayons. And have a yard sale to get rid of stuff your kids don't need anymore.

Don't just rely on sets of toys - use kitchen things in the bathtub, use old blankets to make forts in the living room, etc. Make flower pots out of yogurt containers. Make bird feeders out of pine cones - make sure they aren't covered with sap. Use dryer lint in a mesh bag to provide nesting materials for birds. Collect sticks to make words that you put on the wall (kids' names, the word "family", etc.). Make front door decorations out of seasonal items. Make musical instruments out of margarine containers and dried beans. Make flower vases out of paper towel rolls covered with stickers or sticky paper (a factory near us that makes contact-type paper gives away its irregulars). Put crepe paper flowers on pipe cleaners and put in the vase. Go to the local senior center and donate them for their lunch tables. Make puppets out of single socks. You can buy pom poms and goggly eyes and felt at the craft store or fabric store, and a lot of books in the library give you instructions.

Have set times/days if it helps you - Mondays might be an at home day since places can be crowded on the Monday holidays when school is out, Tuesday could be art day and water play day, etc. You'll have to vary it based on weather, but you get the idea. Have a special activity, and then have some consistent activities every day (snack, lunch, nap/alone time, bath, story).

Go to the firehouse. Unless there's a fire, it's a quiet place. In our town, the firefighters let the kids sit in the truck and they also do a little fire safety with them. Not every day, but maybe every 6 weeks or so. Your kids can make something to take to the firefighters too - cookies, decorations, etc.

Find out if your town has nature areas for hikes, or if local agencies do - Audubon is one group that maintains them. There are tons of free resources if you investigate.



answers from New York on

I'm not a SAHM, so I'm only chiming in on your library reference.

We are die-hard Story Hour folks. Ours does a Bedtime Story Hour for working families and it is amazing! They had to implement a "no siblings outside of the age range" request as well because many parents were using Story Hour as "Babysitting Hour" and assuming that the school aged child would be "fine" hanging out with the toddlers and preschoolers while mom perused the books. Not so much. They weren't interested in the books, tended to shout-out answers, talk over the little ones and snag the art supplies. Babies were fine, it was really more for the older siblings and those children who were too young (like your 17 month old) but who were pushed into the group and were disruptive because the activities were not age appropriate.

I know that we do not have to stay with our preschooler during story hour. He's 4 and goes with the other children and the librarian to the "children's section" to sit on the magic carpet. I bring the baby (to give the hubs a little down time) and the two of us will go into the next section and play or look at picture books.


answers from St. Louis on

Hi M.....
You got pretty good suggestions H....but also try to have an hour daily for yourself......"me time", whatever you want to call it.....just try it, and you will blossom at the rest of the activities and ideas given to you. Have a good routine, cook in advance, and most of all enjoy your kids and have fun with them!



answers from Los Angeles on

Go to and see if there is a chapter in your area. It's a great way to meet other moms (many are stay at home moms) and find kids around the same ages as yours. Most have age-based playgroups, all member park days, moms nights out, occasional field trips, holiday parties, etc. It's a great organization.

Is your older daughter going to preschool? That is a great way to fill a couple of mornings a week.

Is there a local children's museum or zoo with an inexpensive annual membership?

Classes through the community center generally don't cost too much either.


answers from San Francisco on

Hi Mama
The usual ,arts and crafts,swimming,story time etc etc.
The most important thing I can advise is to get out of the house everyday ,in all weathers. It will save your sanity and the kids will get fresh air.
Local nature walks,forests,parks ,beaches are all free and will give your kids great memories.

Good luck on your new adventure
B. k



answers from San Antonio on

We got out of the house pretty much every morning...library story time, story and craft time and Barnes and Noble, MOPS, uh, tons of free things to do in every city...

Then we came home for lunch...then quiet time for everyone...then crafts or tv or free play until dinner...

Good luck!!



answers from York on

I was a nanny for alot of years and I had 4 things to do everyday - fine motor skills, gross motor skills, movie and reading. Fine motor being coloring, stickers, itsy bitsy spider, etc. Gross motors were being outside or some kind of physical activity inside, even if it's putting a CD on and having her dance. It's hard to go outside everyday. I would put in a movie after lunch to wind them down for naptime. And always a story before the nap. Of course reading or music is good anytime.As long as you have some sort of plan it keeps you from going crazy wondering what to do all day. Oh, and also give them time to entertain themselves too.



answers from Houston on

hhhmmm....about the library thing...when my son was 3, I took him to his age's story time and there were tons of younger siblings running around or in their slings and carriages. Maybe they mean "crying/screaming siblings not welcome"?

I actually did the library circuit...there are 8 libraries within driving distance of my house that offered different story times and activities on different days and times, all for free. I also took my son to story/activity time at Barnes & Noble, Borders and even Pottery Barn Kids at the mall - the mall even has different activities throughout the year, there are also tons of family free days/nights at our different museums. Our local YMCA offers tons of activities for the community, even for non-members. And our local colleges offer family friendly activities for preschoolers. Check local churches too for any community wide activites. And I am fortunate to have alot of parks nearby, so we went to a different park/play area for a constant change in scenery.

I also kept a schedule at home, to avoid having the TV on all the time. As a matter of fact, my son didn't watch any tv at 4 yrs old during the week - only on weekends, and he didn't start playing video games until he was almost 5 and 2 years later, he only owns 5 games for the Wii. There were things we did during certain times of the day if we were home. We always played outside or took a walk before breakfast - sometimes I'd even pull the tee ball set out. Housework was always done right after breakfast. At 17 mos I kept my son in the same room I was doing housework and let him play with different household items...if I was dusting, I gave him an empty Swiffer wand, if I was vaccuming, I'd pull out his pretend vaccum, if I did laundry, I sat him in the middle of towels and gave him some cars to over and under the towels. At 4 yrs, my son was already helping me with the housework. And we read before every meal and snacktime.

You'll learn to be really really resourceful when you are a sahm. Enjoy your time together. I loved it when my son was a preschooler - so much fun and learning to be had!



answers from Erie on

I try to keep three lists for when I get stuck:

Coloring books, building with blocks (or Legos or Lincoln Logs or Trio), dress-up day, cooking (rice krispie treats, popsicles, etc.)...

Local parks, bike rides, nature walks, bubbles, fruit pickingchalk on the driveway...

Free: Stroll through the mall, fast food play area, library
Splurge days: zoo, mini golf, skating, paint your own pottery...

My original plan was to put all these ideas onto slips to put into jars, so the kids could pick one when we needed to switch it up. Since I never got there, I just keep it handy for me. We also try to do a few coordinated/scheduled activities like story time (check the book stores in the area), open gym at the gymnastics place, swim lessons or other things along that line. When mine were that age, we were in a play group that met once a week.

This is way more stuff than you do on a regular basis, since kids need time to entertain themselves and play in unstructured ways. These are the things to bust out when there's snow on the ground and you're at your wits end ;)



answers from Los Angeles on

-Nature walks
-Check out your local toy stores. Some of them have "play areas and/or
play times".
-In inclement weather, we will go "walk" the mall for an activity or to get
out of the house. Little one in stroller. Most malls have indoor play
yards. Great for expending energy on rainy days.
-crafts at home
-picnics at home in the backyard on nice days or inside living room floor
on rainy days
-have a tea party w/your oldest
-create a fair for your older child
-play store
-watch a kids movie
-blocks w/your eldest
-it may be a litte more time before you are able to include the 17 month old but not too much longer
-buy those puzzles w/big huge pieces to put together w/your 4 yr old
-It will get easier when your llittle one is 2
-bean bag toss

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