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Does anyone else find it hard to play with your kids sometimes?

The struggle is real at every age, but thankfully there are tons of ideas online.

Created by “Peeka

Ways to keep kids busy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve Googled that five-word phrase. On rainy days. Frigid days. Windy days. Sick days. I’m-too-darn-tired-to-parent days.

I know you get it. We’ve all spent the last two years in a global pandemic. In March 2020, parents frantically searched the web (and local craft stores) for anything and everything to keep their kids entertained, and we truly haven’t stopped since. We hot-glued popsicle sticks, made homemade slime, built indoor obstacle courses, and bought backyard trampolines. And yet, I’m still here, looking down the barrel of summer, frantically searching for—you guessed it—ways to keep my kids busy.

In six years of being a mom—with three children of various needs and energy levels —I’ve learned that if I’m going to keep them busy, I have to be creative. I’ve also learned that coming up with new ideas for games and activities is tough work! And sometimes, it creates a mess that’s not even worth the 30-minutes of peace and quiet. I’m not an educator, I’m not Mary Poppins, and I’m not full of endlessly fun and engaging activities. I’m your basic “let’s make a caterpillar out of an egg carton,” mom. Every once in a while, I get a creative idea that the kids go wild for, but for the most part, each morning is a scrimmage to find local events and meet-ups we can enjoy.

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The summer leaves us with even more time than usual. While many families lean on day camps for childcare, it falls outside of our family budget. Our childcare will be split between our doe-eyed teenage paper girl (fingers crossed she doesn’t scare easily), my parents (who can only handle so much), and my husband and I (who are balancing our careers and our children).

Three kids, dog and mom scale a rock wall as part of outdoor play

Photo: Anneliese Lawton

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about all the “free time” that comes with summer, especially with three children ages two, four, and six. All of them require different levels of entertainment and supervision. And each of them has their own unique set of likes and interests.

I’ve come up with a little plan. I’m going to create a binder of activities with corresponding bins for each of my kids. If childcare falls through or if there’s inclement weather, we can lean on our backup “No-Sun Bin of Fun” (should I trademark?) to swoop in and save the day.

Thankfully, there are tons of ideas online. A quick search of sensory play, summer activities, and ways to keep kids busy on parenting websites like todaysparent.com and social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and even Facebook pulls up endless inspiration.

I’m also leaning heavily on Promoting and Encouraging Development Through Play, a stage-based play guide created by Peeka & Co. Written by pediatric occupational therapist Kaili Ets on behalf of the new online marketplace (where I work as the editorial lead), the guide is loaded with tons of great ideas and information for ages newborn to four. Each early stage of development is broken down into its own section, featuring typical milestones, methods to encourage play and development, and support for parents if they feel their baby or child is falling a little bit behind. I’ve already stolen some ideas for my two-year-old’s Bin of Fun; I’m calling hers The Summer of Sensory.

Peeka & Co, a modern marketplace that emphasizes family values while supporting parents and children’s development, is slated to launch in the fall.

While this summer will certainly bring new challenges, adventure, and balance for our family, it will provide my children with new opportunities for play, exploration, and growth.

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