Screen-free play ideas

Screen-Free Play Ideas So Mom Can Work

You’ve gotta work. Is it possible to get your kids to play…screen-free?

Why yes it is. I got you, mama. I’ve reached out to some of my working mom/blogging friends for their best screen-free play ideas. Whether you’ve got toddlers attached to you ankles or 10-year-olds with video game controllers attached to their hands, there is an idea for your family.

And just to be clear…my kids play on screens. We have tablets. And we have Netflix et al. We even have a Nintendo Switch. But I definitely look for ideas to break up their screen time with some screen-free fun.

One quick suggestion before we dive into the screen-free play ideas you might use…spend some quality time with your kiddos before you need them to play independently. It may be reading a book or having a tea party. Or sitting with them at breakfast without a phone or laptop. It doesn’t have to be hours. Sometimes just 15-30 minutes before your start your “work hours”. Engaging with kids before you need them to play independently will help you start your work knowing you’ve given them some undivided attention. Good for your family. Great for your mom guilt. 😉

For more on teaching your kids independent play skills, you can check out my “Independence Skills for Independent Kids” course. But now, let’s jump into the fun stuff…

Screen-Free Play Ideas from My House

I’ll start with a list of favorites from my house. My boys are 7 and 9 but I’ll include some of their favorites from their younger years. 😭

  • Kinetic Sand (preferred over Play-Doh)
  • Hot Wheels Cars (be sure to check out the super cool track idea from Emily below)
  • Figure Play with Dinosaurs and Transformers
  • Large Floor Puzzles featuring Dinosaurs and Space
  • Duplos/Legos/Kid K’nex (my boys have played with this set for 6+ years)

We keep a fairly minimal household when it comes to toys so don’t think you need more to occupy your kids. One thing that helped me was to look for open ended play like the figures or the cars. That way they weren’t running to me after 10 minutes when the puzzle was finished or the game was done. Open ended play allows them to create a story with no end (well, hopefully.)

Schedule Your Screen-Free Play Times

My good friend Rose Lounsbury is a keynote speaker and minimalism and simplicity coach. She is also mom to 11 year old triplets. #handsfull She says they stick with the tried-and-true old faithfuls like sidewalk chalk, Legos, simple art supplies that make kids do most of the work (aka markers and plain paper), craft kits that kids can do on their own, books, trampoline in the backyard, bikes and scooters.

At 11, Rose’s triplets are able to do more independent play than younger kids but she’s found that the key is creating a SCHEDULE they can stick to and come to rely on. They brainstorm the schedule TOGETHER so they have ownership and honestly, her kids just follow this every day. Sometimes she will remind them if they start to slack on it but they’re so used to following a schedule that it’s second nature now. Check out an example of her schedule below. And you can connect with Rose on Instagram and Facebook.

Summer Schedule - Screen-Free Play Ideas
Photo Courtesy of Rose Lounsbury

Screen-Free Play Ideas for Toddlers

Next, we jump to Kristen Holland who blogs at Gracefully Busy. One of her favorite ideas was to set up an indoor obstacle course. She encourages her 2-year-old son through the course a few times and cheers him on. Once he’s burned out some energy on the obstacle course, he will spend time playing with it on his own. Check out her obstacle course below.

Obstacle Course - Screen-Free Play
Photo Courtesy of Gracefully Busy

Kristen has lots of other great ideas for screen-free and independent play ideas for your toddlers in her post “9 Activities to Keep Your Toddler Busy at Home.”

Screen-Free Play Ideas for All Ages

My friend Emily from Happy Organized Life is no stranger to keeping kids occupied. Along with writing a successful blog and homeschooling, Emily is mom to 7 (well, nearly 7…#7 is due this fall but close enough 🤣) I love Emily’s round-up of ideas for pool noodle fun. Especially with summer winding down and what could potentially be a long fall and winter, she features great ideas to repurpose your stockpile of pool noodles for outdoor and indoor fun. As a mom of Hot Wheels loving boys, I especially love the idea of the Hot Wheels tracks pictured below.

Photo courtesy of Ramblings from Utopia

You can check out Emily’s full round-up of pool noodle ideas on her post “Fun Pool Noodle Activities”. She also featured a slew of electronics-free play ideas in her post “How to Have Fun Indoors Without Electronics”. One of my favorites is this Mission: Impossible-style laser maze made from streamers. What a great way to use up the ends of the streamer roll from your last birthday celebration!

Photo courtesy of Brassy Apple

If you want more ideas for a Happy Organized Life from Emily, you can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

What are your favorite screen-free, electronics-free play ideas for your kids? I’m always looking for new ideas…share yours below!

Grab my free mini-course “10 Tips for Working While Kids are Home” here!

Want more support around time management, productivity, and working mom mindset? Join my free Early Morning Moms Facebook Group.

Alexa Productivity for Moms

Alexa Productivity Tips for Moms

Alexa, make my mom life easier.

Wait, is that possible? While it might not be quite that easy, today I’m sharing awesome tips for moms using your Amazon Alexa. I use my Alexa daily for offloading thoughts from my brain and managing tasks for my family. And I’d love to help other moms use their Alexa to do the same!

They regularly run $49 but you can often find deals when you buy more than one or for Prime Day (which is rumored to take place in October of 2020).

I want to share how I use the features and skills on my Amazon Alexa to help take some of the load off my mom brain. If I can add an item to my grocery list or schedule it on my calendar when it pops into my brain, I’m so much less likely to forget it. And there are some great features to help my family get out the door or go to bed at night.

My introduction to Alexa for productivity came when I interview Brittany Dixon of Process for Profit about Productivity Tips for Moms on my “Cocktails and Containers” podcast. (You can listen to Mom Productivity Tips & Cucumber Gin Cocktails here.) Her first tip was to use a digital assistant in just this way. When you free up bandwidth in your brain, you can focus better on those truly important things for your family.

Alexa Features to Clear Mom Mental Clutter

Features are built-in skills that every Alexa comes pre-programmed with. You’ll never have to search for your cell phone or pen and paper when you use your Alexa to create lists and events:

  • Creating Lists….By creating a custom list through the Alexa app, you can easily add items to a grocery or to-do list. Simply say “Alexa, add peanut butter to my grocery list” or “Alexa, add mop floors to my to-do list.”
  • Adding Events to Calendar… When you connect your digital calendar through your Alexa app, you can add events to your calendar via voice command. Just say “Alexa, add doctor’s appointment to my calendar for July 15th at 1pm”
  • Checking the Weather…My final suggestion is to check in on the weather the night before. I like to keep my mornings as simple as possible. If I know it’s going to rain or snow or just knowing the temp, I lay out what’s needed for the next day like hats, boots, etc. That way I’m not searching for things in the morning. I also like getting my weather from Alexa because I avoid getting sidetracked checking the weather on my phone. (Please tell me someone else can relate?!?)

Alexa Features to Make Mom Life Easier

Whether it’s keeping me from screaming up the stairs or helping me transition my kids with routines, here’s how Alexa puts the “assist” in digital assistant:

  • Drop Ins….We use this feature like an in-home intercom. From my Alexa device or app, I can tell my kiddos to stop fighting, get in bed, or dinner is ready. You can also drop in on other approved devices like grandparents, cousins, or friends.
  • Routines…Custom routines are regular reminders programmed to give warning that a transition is coming or that an action should take place. Routines are great for mornings when you are trying to get your family out the door. You can program phrases like “time to get your shoes” or “don’t forget your lunch.” Or use routines at bedtime to make sure the kids to all the things like brushing teeth, getting water, and picking up toys. (Read more about our specific bedtime routine below). You can customize your routine to start at a certain time, by voice command, or by pressing the Alexa button. The routine can include phrases from Alexa, music played from your connected music source, or even utilize your connected smart home devices like turning lights on and off.
  • Smart Home Devices…These connected devices can be controlled by voice through the Alexa devices in your home or via the Alexa app on your phone. Devices include lightbulbs, power strips and outlets, enabled TV, doorbells, baby monitors, door locks and even a sprinkler system. Here is the link to a 4 pack of Smart Bulbs we have in our house.

Building Your Own Alexa Skills

Amazon helps you build your own custom Alexa skills through their Amazon Blueprint website. You can develop a custom chore chart for your kids or design a workout for yourself. Make a task tracker to make sure your to-do list gets to-done. Create custom flashcards to quiz your kids. Or make a custom list of important information for houseguests, babysitters or pet sitters. In a matter of minutes you can have your own custom skill. And it’s FREE!

Our Alexa Bedtime Routine

We started using Alexa at bedtime when I realized that my high energy and my youngest son’s high energy did not create a great environment to slow down and go to sleep. He was much more successful if he had a chance to wind himself down without me creating excitement right before lights out. Here’s our routine:

  1. Brush teeth and get water.
  2. Mom comes up for good night kisses around 8pm.
  3. Boys are permitted to play quietly or look at books during what we have dubbed “half time”.
  4. Alexa gives a 5 minute warning at 8:25pm that it is time to wind things down and clean up. She also dims our Alexa-enabled bulb to 50%.
  5. At 8:30pm, Alexa announces its time for bed and turns the lamp a light blue color. The lamp acts as a nightlight which turns off at midnight as part of the routine.

We’ve used and tweaked this routine successfully for nearly 2 years. And it buys me valuable time in the evening with my husband. Most importantly, it helps my 6 year old fall asleep faster.

Ok moms, what are some of your favorite Alexa features or skills you use in your home? Is there something I’ve missed? 

Grab my free mini-course “10 Tips for Working While Kids are Home” here!

Want more support around time management, productivity, and working mom mindset? Join my free Early Morning Moms Facebook Group.

organizing your workspace

Organizing Your Workspace with The Simplifiers

Let’s talk organizing your workspace…

Would you consider your office calm or chaotic? Do you find you can be productive at your desk? Does your workspace set up work for you? Or are you often working in another space or wasting time searching for documents, files, or supplies? Read on to see how organizing your workspace can help you with productivity and time management. And a bit of sanity.

Last Summer, I appeared on the UK-based podcast The Simplifiers with host Mary Baird-Wilcock. Mary and I discussed where to start creating a system to organize your space, how to manage paper, and how to maintain your efforts.

Even if you feel completely comfortable in a chaotic workspace, a few tweaks here and there will help you with efficiency and productivity. And show your boss you care. 😉 You can watch my interview with Mary below:

Here are some of the highlights from my discussion with Mary:

Creating Organizing Systems in Your Workspace

  • Organizing your space is personal to your style and preferences. If something isn’t working for you, tweak it or try something different. There is something out there that will work for you.
  • Keep it simple at the beginning. Baby steps make creating new habits easier. And it will be easier to maintain.
  • To figure out your personal system, start by figuring out the basics you NEED to do your work. Put those items in the closest proximity to your workspace.
  • Next, figure out what items you use occasionally. Things you access on a weekly or monthly basis. Those items can be placed further away from your primary workspace. But still convenient enough to access when you need them.
  • Finally, determine what items would be rarely needed. Create a space out of the way for archival and reference items. This way you have them on hand if you need them. But they aren’t cluttering up your prime workspace.
  • Schedule a specific time to organize and reset your workspace. This will ensure you can follow all the steps of pulling items out, sorting like with like, purging what you don’t need, and assigning where items will now live.

Just because a system is working, doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better.

Organizing Paper in Your Workspace

  • Touch paper as few times as possible when it arrives on your desk. Break it into 3 categories:
    • Recycle or pitch items you know you won’t need or need to address.
    • File or assign items that have a specific place or person to process them
    • Determine a course of action for items that need attention. Consider using desktop files with action words for the labels. Words like “email”, “call”, or pay work well.
  • Determine your best method for storing paper. Are you a piler or a filer? It doesn’t matter how you keep it. Just create a specific place for items to go so you, and those in your office, will know where to find it when you need it.

Organizing is about retrieval of information at a moments notice.

Organizing Maintenance for Your Workspace

  • How do you maintain the space you’ve spent time organizing? You have to make the time to do it.
  • Schedule time for regular resets to refresh the space. It is also a great time to tweak systems to make sure they are working for you.
  • The more often you reset the space, the less time it will take.

You do not just get organized…it’s the development of organizing skills.

Organizing your workspace will help you find what you need. It will help you do more in less time. You will feel more in control and less stress. Organizing your workspace is always worth the time investment.

Grab my free mini-course “10 Tips for Working While Kids are Home” here!

Want more support around time management, productivity, and working mom mindset? Join my free Early Morning Moms Facebook Group.

Working Mom Productivity - Wake Up Early

Why You Should Wake Up Early

I love waking up at 5:30am. Yes, you read that right.

Even though I’m a mom who values every minute of sleep I can get…I love it. The benefits of waking up early by far outweigh the occasional bleary eyes.

Tell me if this sounds familiar…You’re tired of scrambling, switching tasks, and never crossing items off your to-do list. I can totally relate. A little over 2 years ago I suffered from the exact same thing. Spinning my wheels constantly but never moving forward. Until I discovered the art of the morning routine.

I never thought of myself as a morning person. And when my coach suggested I start waking up before my kids a few years back, I laughed at her. Turns out, she was right. I now relish the quiet way I am able to start my day my way.

How Waking Up Early Helps You

When my coach suggested I wake up earlier than my kids to get things done, I thought she didn’t understand my mom life. I mean, getting up earlier means I have to go to bed earlier. And evening are the only time I can see my husband. Plus, what could I possibly do in the wee hours of the morning that could benefit my day? I mean, the brain fog was bad enough when I woke at 7:30 am, the thought of 5:30 am was crazy.

But I was willing to give a little. Soon I was waking a half-hour earlier than my boys. I was having my coffee quiet and replying to emails. Or posting on social media. Next thing I know, I’m waking at 6:30 am to edit podcasts, plan live chats, or create pins for Pinterest. And here we are 2 years later waking up 2 hours earlier with a full-fledged morning routine including all kinds of work and even self-care…which was sorely lacking in my life previously.

Do you find yourself lacking self-care time? Needing time to work in a more focused manner? Just looking to get more done around your house? Maybe give waking earlier a try.

How Waking Up Early Helps Your Kids

I’m not the only benefitting from my improved focus, self-care, and productivity. Turns out when I spend a little time on myself, I’m a much better morning mom. You moms know what I mean. The frantic “where are your shoes?” “What do you mean you have homework still?” “Will you eat something, please?!?” kind of mornings. I went from multi-tasking mom to mom who has conversations with her kids at breakfast.

It turns out, my kids want to have good mornings too. They aren’t trying to be jerks and interrupt me while I’m writing emails. They want me to show an interest in their day. And I want to show an interest in their day. I feel like I can fulfill their need for engagement because I don’t feel pressured to work and mom at breakfast.

So not only does my waking early help me with productivity, it helps me spend focused time with my boys in the morning. I can have my coffee while they eat breakfast without rushing to write and email or post on social media. We all can start our day in a positive way.

I’m even contemplating moving my wake-up time to 5 am once the sun starts shining earlier here in the Midwest. I see so many personal and productivity benefits to my morning hours, I want to take every advantage of my focused mornings. How about you? What’s your wake-up routine like?

Grab my free mini-course “10 Tips for Working While Kids are Home” here!

Want more support around time management, productivity, and working mom mindset? Join my free Early Morning Moms Facebook Group.