By Kelly McCausey
I did child care in my home for eight years. I learned something that became a priceless bit of knowledge to me. It pays to have some toys and games that are not available to the kids everyday. Of course I had a huge stock of toys and games that were accessible in the play room all the time. But I also had a huge box of lego blocks that only came out of my closet on rainy days.
Some other items that I kept in the closet for rare appearances:
A set of hand puppets.
A box of Barbie dolls and clothing.
Beads and string.
Hot wheels cars and track.
Toy Tea Set.
These kinds of toys when they are available all the time usually end up thrown all over the place in the toy room. But when they are only brought out occasionally, they are better taken care of and more likely to be used the way that they were intended to be used.
Notice what is not on my list:
These are great time fillers - but they are also potentially desructive if your attention isn't on the kids at all times, especially young ones. A ten year old can handle a set of paints, a five year old can't. It is far better to set them loose with a big set of dominoes than with play dough that you will be picking out of the carpet all evening.
So, reserve a shelf in a closet in your home and stock it with favored toys and games that your kids will be able to play with largely unattended. Explain to the kids that these items are "reward" activities.
When you need a couple hours of time to work, don't just pull out a reward activity and set them loose. Tell the kids, Mom needs some work time this afternoon and she is willing to bring out a reward activity - IF - you will spend the first half hour or so cleaning up the bedroom/playroom. (Reward Activities never come out at my house until the house is neat and orderly - so we can be sure that items won't be lost in the shuffle)
This way you buy yourself the first segment of time and you add value to the reward activity at the same time because they have had to work for it. Then once they have done this, take a minute to get them started with the reward activity. Hopefully, this will get you a couple hours total of work time - and a neat playroom. :) Make sure that when your work time is over, the reward activity is wrapped up and returned to it's place.
Remember, it will lose effectiveness if you use a reward activity too often. If you find that you have several days a week where you need time to work outside of bedtime and naptime, you should consider hiring a neighborhood teen to come in and occupy the kids while you work.
You chose to stay home with your kids - so make sure you aren't spending as much time away from them at home as you would have at an office!
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