Kids are busy little people. They like to do things, and not just the same old, hum-drum, thinga-ma-bob they were doing five minutes ago. Proactive in this quest, your little person will get up and find something novel to get busy with. Activities abound in your pantry (is that the pasta again?!), in the bathroom (what did you put in the toilet?!) and practically every area of the house you have just gotten together (but I just folded that!).

Many stay-at-home moms feel like they are constantly putting out fires—figuratively, of course. Following Little Guy of Little Gal around and alternately picking up messes while scolding his/her behavior will make any adult feel like they’re losing their marbles. That’s why if you’re the adult caregiver, you may want to work smarter, and not harder with the simple old age truth: if your child is busy, s/he won’t get into mischief.

Introducing…the Fifteen-Minute Mom. Stop thinking in terms of housework, and start thinking like a preschool teacher. Begin by building a daily schedule with to-the-minute activities, none lasting more than fifteen minutes, with the exception of outdoor play and naptime. Becoming a fifteen-minute mom is easier than you think, and well worth the effort. And though seem like more work at first, in the long run, it frees you from the stress and frustration of that putting-out-fires cycle. It also gives you the freedom to work in some of your own personal needs and responsibilities, so neither you, nor the house, nor your child need be neglected. Here’s a snapshot of what a day in the life of Fifteen-Minute Mom might look like:

  • 9:00 Breakfast and TV
  • 9:15 Child plays with a limited-access toy on living room rug. Mom cleans up breakfast things.
  • 9:30 Child and Mom clean up blocks together.
  • 9:45 Child sits in high chair for play-dough activity with Mom.
  • 10:00 Child and Mom put away play dough together, then get dressed to go out.
  • 10:15 Go out for a walk, or play at a park

One of the secrets to success is keeping many of your toys out of your child’s reach, and bringing them out for brief periods of play during fifteen-minute periods throughout the day. This system works like magic to help prevent your child losing interest in his toys!

Remember that Fifteen-minute Moms work smarter, not harder. You’ll be needing lots of little activities to keep your day chock-full. Here’s a list of ideas to help jump-start your journey toward fifteen-minute Momdom!

  • Dress up box: Fill an old box or laundry hamper with dress up clothes for pretend play. Throw in your child’s old costumes, and add any of Mom’s and Dad’s old clothing and accessories you can spare: shoes, wallets, jewelry, and glasses are all great fodder for imagination!
  • Table Toys: Designate certain play items as “table toys” to create a more structured routine for these items. Things like puzzles, sorting buttons, play-dough, and stringing beads all lend themselves nicely to a table setting. Working at a table or high chair allows the adult to teach the child vocabulary and concepts while engaging in structured play.
  • Sensory Bin: I’ve mentioned this often in my blog; its one of the most popular activities ever! Fill a container with raw rice, pasta, or beans for sensory sandbox-style play that you can take anywhere!
  • Water play: Set the stopper in the sink and allow your child to stand on a stool and play with water. Soap suds and bath toys can double the fun!
  • Crafts: Stickers, paint, crayons, glue, newsprint, and construction paper: each medium can be used during a separate fifteen-minute period. Some other favorites are rubber stamps with washable ink and do-a-dot painters. Your child can always be involved in clean-up!

Good luck and have fun! And don’t forget to brag to your friends about being a Fifteen-Minute Mom!