Every time we come back from a trip back to the States it feels like a fresh start to our life here. You are typically gone long enough that you don't remember the old routines as much and you have the opportunity to implement new routines, activities and improve where you want to. This time I put together three key things that have helped tremendously in running our home better.
The first was a busy box in addition to a "I'm Bored" list. The busy box is simply a box with multiple activities inside that are easy for Peyton to do on her own without guidance. Each activity is contained in a ziploc bag with all the materials needed. She has some science experiments (does it dissolve, will it float), pattern sheets, counting activities and just things to help keep her busy when she has nothing to do and is supposed to be playing by herself so I can get things done. She has loved the science experiments and I find it is hard to keep up with new activities for her! In addition to the box, I have created a list of activities to do as a family when the kids are getting restless. I plan 15 activities at a time and as we go through one I find a new one and add it to the list. Some of them I will plan on using again and once we do it and have gotten all the pieces together, I store them in a plastic tote in the playroom with a label so we can grab it down at a later time. My goal is to have 10-15 already prepared and in totes at all times so I don't have to be so diligent on planning them. Most of my ideas have come from Pinterest like Will it Erupt?, Multicultural Dolls, Pizza Delivery, and Letter Dominoes. And others have come from websites like No Time for Flashcards and other blogs found from this Pinterest board.
Second thing I put in place was a TV Time Chart found on a blog regarding speech development called Playing With Words.
I am not against TV and it honestly makes my life easier at times and I am mindful of what they watch and have guidelines on what they can or can't watch and also either read parent reviews on movies or watch them myself before they watch a new movie. But what I was finding to be hard was limiting the TV. Not because I couldn't say no but because it was inconsistent, I couldn't remember how much they watched or John would come home and not know that TV was no more for the day and because with a strong willed child like Peyton, it often works better when you have a system and can "blame" the rules versus, "because I said so." When you can say that, "the rule is," and it is a consistent system you can avoid many power struggles with a strong willed child and you give them the control which is really what they are looking for!
So, we have the above TV graphic and clip all set up near the TV, she gets four clips each morning and each time she wants a cartoon she has to bring me a clip. If she wants a movie (a popcorn clip) she has to bring me the popcorn and two clips. This has helped tremendously in reducing arguments, staying consistent and teaching her to monitor her clips and when you use all your clips...no more. The first day she went through all her clips fast and was pretty upset later that she couldn't have any more TV. I have also found that since she LOVES watching TV that the clips work as a reward/consequence system and that I can remove clips from that day or the next (if we already ran out) as a consequence and that she is pretty quick to adjust behavior because she doesn't want less clips. All in all....a huge help in our house! Gives Peyton the control (and me as well but she doesn't realize it) and helps us stay consistent!
The last big implementation was for me and it was a weekly cleaning schedule. I made one based on our week (no cleaning for me on Thursday and very little on Friday since those are our weekends) and I wrote it out for our house needs not based on what you should do. I also made sure it was something I could do in 30 minutes a day so I could fit it in during the mornings while Peyton was at school.
So far, it has been hugely helpful and it keeps me on track and is manageable. I have it on the fridge (with extras behind it so I don't have to print it off each week) and it has been a good system for us. The biggest change was doing at a minimum one load of laundry a day versus "laundry day" which helps keep things more manageable and when I take the weekends "off" then Saturday is not too bad to catch back up.
I love being organized and finding new systems and routines to help our house run better! To me it just makes things go smoother and allow me the time and energy to focus on the fun parts of being a stay at home mom...play time, cuddles and making memories!