Mommy, Come Home: The Entertainer

You can catch up on the Mommy, Come Home series here.


“I couldn’t possibly be a stay-at-home mom, because what would I do with my kids all day?  How would I keep them entertained?  How would I get anything else done?  I can only play so many games of Candy Land, and I would end up spending more money on outings and toys and stuff.”

I’ve heard these very legitimate concerns from some of my own friends.  In college, we are trained to manage assignments, paperwork, colleagues, and deadlines, but some of us truly don’t know what to do with and around small children.

Blessedly, my first two babies were “easy” babies.  I’m also the oldest (almost) of 34 cousins on one side of my family and had a lot of exposure to babies before I had my own.  Writing about what to do with babies deserves its own series, but here a a few things I’ve learned about being The Entertainer to toddlers and preschoolers.

1 ~ I don’t have to.

Yes, I spend time reading to and playing with my children, from infancy on up.  However, I do not spend hours stepping up ladders and slipping down chutes.    How would anything ever get done around here?! Encourage your children to figure out how to entertain themselves and each other.

2 ~ Let them play.

They really, truly will learn how to use their imaginations if you will let them.  Give them some space.  Will they whine?  Maybe.  Will they complain?  It’s possible.  Will they figure it out?  Heavens yes, and then you’ll be subject to living room musicals and puppet shows and gymnastics events (and lots of free time while they are rehearsing). 

3 ~ They don’t cost much. It doesn’t cost much to keep kids entertained.  They are natural minimalists.  If you choose to fill their toy room full of brightly colored contraptions (many of which they won’t ever use), spend your days at pricey museums or indoor playgrounds, give in just this once (again) to a video game request; that’s fine.  But that’s you costing your family money. Not your child.  Children have no control over your finances.  Little kids?  They are happy with dirt, a few pots and pans, and some homemade playdough. (Um, not all at once.)  😉

4 ~ They love to help. Some of my favorite mommy moments occur when the kids and I are working on a project together.  Picking produce in the tomato jungle.  Making our favorite cookies.  Straightening their rooms so “Daddy will be so proud!”  I involve them in my daily tasks. We get to spend time together learning and making wonderful memories, and my to-do list still gets done.

Do you feel like The Entertainer?  What do your kids do all day?

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  1. Such a great post!!! It’s true that kids are natural minimalists… I have seen that with all four of mine. And they will come up with marvelous games and adventures. My kids favorite thing to do is act out stories that we read… we read truly great chapter books… and it often takes all afternoon and a host of imaginative props. And yes, we have held many a circus in our living room, which does include moving furniture… but it all goes back.

  2. I don’t think I can adequately express to you how very much I appreciate this Mommy Come Home series. As I prepare to stay home with my 3-yo little man, I have been realizing that I really should have held onto those daily sheets that his old day care teacher gave me explaining every day’s activities.

    I’m so excited to finally be home with my little buddy and with our future kids. I’ve bookmarked this whole series of yours for my future reference. Thank you so much!

  3. I am a brand new reader…I was pointed here the other day by someone else’s blog…can’t even remember who! lol…Anyway, I am so glad that I WAS pointed this way, because this post was so, so encouraging to me. We are sort of informally fostering my cousin’s three-year-old child (long story), and I have felt such guilt that I have been spending my days managing my home instead of reading books and playing games. That’s not to say I don’t do those things, but they’re mostly reserved for the evenings, so that I can spend the majority of my day making a clean home for my husband to come home to. ANYway, don’t worry–you haven’t given me license to completely ignore the poor kiddo, but I feel a little weight off my shoulders knowing she is okay playing by herself in her room for a while with her very limited amount of toys. Thank you!

  4. I usually do an activity with my 18 mo old daughter everyday, well we do many, but one new to her and I. I recently started a blog and am posting a new fun activity that we do everyday if any one needs some ideas. I would love to hear about your ideas as well for play time! It took some time, but I finally realized not everyday has to have an expensive outing, even a walk is enough to entertain her, especially when we see puppy dogs and birds to point out and neighbors to catch up with. I have really enjoyed this series, thank you for your post.

  5. Thank you so much for your Mommy Come Home series, I love it! I’m not a parent yet, but it helps to hear about all this before hand so hopefully I can be better prepared when the time comes.

  6. I definitely don’t feel like an “entertainer”. I guarantee you daycares don’t “entertain” kids all day. My kids get so much TV time, so much coloring time, so much play time otherwise whether it be blocks or cars, or what have you. They love to “help” and they have “snack” time and we go places. But I am not “entertaining” non-stop by any means.

  7. When children are required to amuse themselves, they are learning to enjoy their own company:-)

  8. Love this post, and as a new SAHM tomorrow will be officially 1 week, I am learning that this is so true. We do a lot (mine are only 21 months) reading, playing inside, with books, toy trucks, they love things like laundry baskets, and boxes. I also encourage them to help clean up with towels (mostly just play but they love it) we also spend lots of time outside, just digging in the dirt, running around, etc. Though our local library does a 1 hour story time, and thats a fun free outing! Thanks for your tips, I am off to check out your homemade playdough.

  9. This is a great post!

    I think it’s worth noting that it is much easier to avoid being the entertainer when you have more than one child. I have a 4yo only child who is very interactive and social – she is just now learning to play by herself. I was going insane with hours and hours of pretend play . . . and then we moved into a neighborhood with oodles of young kids. Now, my daughter almost always has a friend over. They play, I get stuff done.

    I have to admit that I am embracing the role as mom quite a bit more now that I am not the “entertainer” all day – I actually like the balance of cooking, clearning, doing paperwork AND spending time with my daughter. Things feel more healthy and balanced now that there is a clear line between adult and kid; I think that boundary was more blurred when I spent all day entertaining my daughter.

    And yes, sometimes work sounded better than another day of inventing Barbie conversations. Horray for neighborhood friends!

  10. I have a 2yo and a 4yo. I noticed with relief the first time my oldest started playing by herself at about the same time that she learned to sit up. I still remember that day. I did the dishes by myself. She was a sling baby. She never was comforted by a swing and never fell asleep in the car (for real) so I was very happy for a little break. Now she’s very independent. I mostly do housework or entertain myself until someone needs me. If they seem to want my attention, I give it to them, unless I’m in the middle of something I can’t stop easily, like dinner prep. We don’t have a television or other kids nearby but, they are always busy. I don’t know if they’re not old enough to be bored, maybe we haven’t hit that stage yet. For now though, they’ll play with anything. We DO have a lot of toys but, I’ll find my 4yo playing “dolls” with weird things like water bottles and my 2yo LOVES to help with chores. BTW: THANKS so much for this series! Love it.

  11. Better late than never, I am just catching up with my reader! My kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves. But they of course have their moments where Mama has to save the day!! 🙂

  12. What a wonderful post! Children do not need their days micro-managed by us… and sometimes I think that’s what we end up doing by “entertaining” incessantly. They grow and thrive and learn beautifully when given the space to discover new things. And that’s a beautiful thing! I love that I can get my own things done… but also that I’m always there to lay down the dish towel and join in the fun. That’s a gift I’m given by being a SAHM.

  13. So true!! My best memories from when I was little are when we would play outside and “make stuff up”. I think my mom loved that the 4 of us would play for hours without getting bored and give her a break.
    Even now, my 8 month old plays in her pack’n’play everyday so I can get stuff done around the house. Sometimes I’ll catch her staring at her hands for several minutes- she’s learning and doesn’t needs lots of toys to keep her entertained!

  14. Amy, thank you so much for this. I am preparing to stay at home with my 10-month-old daughter. I have worried a lot over this, despite being what I have always wanted to do, that I will be bored or not know what to do with her. Thank you for the affirmation that it’s OK to let her play by herself! Sometimes I feel guilty if I am not constantly talking to her, playing with her, etc.

    I think sometimes that kids now are cheated out of the great adventures of Imagination we enjoyed as children! Most of my time was spent making mud pies, playing school, dolls, Barbies, scripting plays, etc. And reading. Lots of reading!

  15. I’m just learning this with my 19 mo old. If I leave him for few minutes, even if he’s whining, so I can catch up on email, put the dishes away, etc, he does go off and play on his own. Kids need to learn to be independent (and loved).

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