How To Entertain Your Kids for 3 Hours Without Ever Leaving the Couch

About three years ago, I was on one of my many weight loss journeys where I came across an advertisement for an early morning boot camp class. Ah,  yes. This sounded like the perfect solution to my need for immediate weight loss gratification. After all, I’ve seen soldiers straight out of boot camp from all my years growing up in a military town. THAT was what I thought I needed. Someone to yell at me and make me do stuff I would never do on my own.

Week one was great. Couldn’t move, every inch of my body felt like it had been run over by a Mack truck. I knew it was going to work. Then week two rolled around. That Monday we had a drill where all the ladies paired up and would take turns wrapping a rope around each other and pull in the opposite direction of the person running. Noooot a great idea to say the least. The very next day my lower back was in excruciating pain. Having never experienced this before, I thought I would go see my chiropractor. I visited him three days straight and still no improvement. Finally, I wised up and went to an an actual orthopedic doctor who proceeded to tell me I have messed up my SI joints. He put me on prednisone and a muscle relaxer and I went home and laid out the rest of the day. The next day I felt somewhat human again and very grateful for the advancements in medical science. However, I will now be surprised every 6-8 months with an immediate, stabbing pain in my lower back which will send me down to the ground, screaming for my husband to come pick me up and carry me to the couch. Repeat the prednisone and heating pad and it now takes me a day and a half to recover.

Such an experience happened this past weekend. I bent over to grab a pair of pants and instantly the pain arrived. This particular experience happened to be more embarrassing than most because I had not been successful in actually getting the pants on….. At this point, I feel like one of those 90 year-old ladies on the medical alert commercials that are  yelling, “Help me. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” My kids were at the bathroom door saying “Mommy. Can I come in? Why not?” My response, “Well, mommy doesn’t have pants on right now….” Then I heard little giggles coming from the other side of the door because, apparently, this is very funny to a 4 and 6 year old. Wonderful. Great start to the weekend.

So, my knight-in-shining-armor finally comes to rescue me from the bathroom floor and helps me hobble to the couch. Hours pass by and the kids are playing very well together, but I’m starting to get the mom guilt because I can’t participate in any of their fun after a long week of work. Laying there and feeling helpless, the wheels start turning and I come up with a game that somehow took 3 hours to complete and they didn’t argue or fight once. It saved me, and if you ever get caught in a similar situation, it may save you too.

My kids are only 15 months apart in age, and because of that, fiercely competitive with each other. My idea was to come up with a three part competition. The overall winner was to receive $1 (this still seems like a lot of money to a 4 1/2 and 6 year-old). Here’s the game:

1. The first challenge was to have each child spend 30 minutes creating the most elaborate, unusual lego structure they could think of. It could not be something they’ve ever built before, and on top of that, they had to come up with a story to present along with their structure.

Naturally, my kiddos came back 15 minutes later and had already “finished” but I told them they have 15 minutes more to think about their story or make any adjustments because they still had time and I showed them the stopwatch counting down. They thought the countdown was exciting and proceeded to play with the legos and create even more elaborate structures. Then we did the countdown and the alarm sounded for them to begin presentations.

My son is a lego lover, so I knew that my daughter would be at a disadvantage but that didn’t seem to bother her one bit.  Here are the structures they came up with.

My Daughter’s:

IM structure

And my son’s:

RM structure

They proceeded to tell these elaborate stories which took up a good 10-15 minutes each, giving me an extra 30 minutes to lay there and bask in the warm heating pad relief while engaging with these little monkeys. Both kids came up with great stories that would vary and they’d have to start all over again, but my daughter’s structure kept falling apart (which she would try to incorporate into her story). In the end I had to give this one to my son. She took it well and was positive she was going to win the next round.

2. For the second challenge, I had the kids bring me 5 pieces of paper. I cut them in half and created two separate “books” for them. I gave them the subject of the story they were going to create and then they had to go back and draw a picture on every single page with a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end. They had 30 minutes to do this and then come back and read me the story and show me the drawings. My son is participating in a Destination Imagination group this year so I can’t say this idea was original but I stole it and used it for all it was worth. They spent all of their 30 minutes drawing and talking with each other and the house was incredibly peaceful. When the time was up, they happily came back and shared their stories. Because of the age difference, you can’t really expect them to be equally skilled in story telling but I kept that in mind and in the end I said they both won that round. My son’s was very colorful and his animals were drawn very well. My daughter told a great story with all three parts included and had a nice ending.

3. For the third challenge, I told them to go to their rooms and try to create the biggest hideout and whoever wins will get to have a “sleepover” in their room. Not only was $1 up for grabs, but now there is the added incentive of a sleepover. I have to say this was the biggest hit out of all three. Until, that is, my 4 year-old realized she didn’t know how to make a hideout. This did not go over well until I convinced my son to help her come up with an idea that she could work on herself. He happily did so because either way  he knew he was going to stay up late, giggling with his sister as mom and dad will continually remind them to “go to sleep!”

I can honestly say neither one of them really did well in this challenge but it was all in good fun. It turned out that the score was even (surprise!) and they both won a dollar and mommy won some much needed time babying heir aching back. By the end of the evening I was finally mobile enough that I could create a nice “hideout” in my daughter’s room where they both snuggled, giggled and… eventually… fell asleep.

Mission accomplished!

***Disclaimer: Now I know this won’t work for everyone. It was perfect for my situation because there was only two kids and they are really close in age. My hope is that this will give you a generic idea to build upon and match to your own kiddos liking.***

Good luck!!


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