Bad Days: How do we keep our kids engaged when we are struggling with a lack of energy?

Balancing work at that same time as I raised an energetic preschooler while living my everyday chronic illness’ ups and downs was definitely not an easy task.  The everyday routine pushed me to move daily without slowing down. By the time I got home from work, my energy level was depleted. I have to say that I have been very lucky and fortunate to live with my parents whom have helped me throughout the years with Matthew.  They helped me in everything you can imagine from food prep to teaching Matthew to ride a bicycle. But with all the help I have gotten from my family, my mother guilt was real and deep. I felt like an incompetent mother depriving him from “normal” childhood expierences and by not being around him on his adventures.  My guilt grew daily as my son got older. There were more activities I was missing. My playground visits were always limited, I never ran around playing chase with him, couldn’t attend the weekend soccer practices in the Fall because Raynaud’s would kick in. For the same reason, ice skating was out of the picture or any fall/winter outdoor activities.  In NYC, 9 out of the 12 months are either Fall or Winter so for the most part I always spend a lot of time at home.  

It has always been my priority to give Matthew as much quality time as I can but some days it can be really hard.  Looking back, I realized that there shouldn’t have been so much mom guilt. Now that Matthew is 12 years old, we look back together and I love when he remembers a time that was so much fun ( and I know that it was one of my sick days when  I truly believed it was better to go to the playground if I could’ve).

For all the moms out there with little or older ones, I hope these suggestions are helpful.  

Below are my TOP 3 go-to-activities I use till this day on my bad days.  Without realizing it, these activities gave my son a leap in his academic journey.  We have spent a significant amount of time on each one. I am sure you guys probably do them all too, but you might not think they are memorable moments because for many these are just a very common activity.

Read below to see how I upgraded these typical activities for a more fun and exciting time! For me whom my energy level fluctuates, my bed with Matthew by my side (oh…and tons of pillows on the bed) have been the perfect place to create memorable moments.

Books, Books and More Books      

We have read tons of books together and we continue to read together.  When he turned 4, he was identifying sight words as I read to him and by kindergarten he was already reading.  Since then, we alternated our read alouds.  

After reading, the best part has been

1) Discussing the book.

2) Come up with new endings to the story.

3) Add new characters

4) Draw pictures of what he thought the characters and scenes looked like (this is more for chapter books).

5) Act out scenes from the books

Matthew acting out a book scene from Paddington

These make fun conversations!

Although, audio books have been around for a long time, I just recently started using them.  These are my saviors because I can save my voice (and energy) and listen with him. These would have been a great help on my sick days when he was younger.  

We are now hooked on the Libby app (@overdrive_libs).

It’s a free app and all you need is a library card.  They have a large selection of children’s audiobooks.  Sometimes, the waitlist to borrow a book can be long but their library selection is pretty big.  You can always find something.   

There are other audio book services like Audible (@audible) and Scribd (@scribd) that require a subscription. I haven’t tried them yet but will check them out.   

Movies

One of our favorite pastimes is watching movies.   I do not believe in non-stop television for kids but understand sometimes it can happen. So I always try to make it meaningful when we watch movies.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a good or bad one or if movie time is on my bed or at the movie theater. We just have a great time talking about the movie.  For the most part, we watch them at home cuddled up. Of course, over the years the movie choices have changed to accommodate his comprehension and age. 

Here are some ideas when selecting a movie/show: 

1) One of our favorite things that we do is watch movies that have been adapted from books.  We always read the book and then watch the movie. We compare and contrast the movie to the book.

2) Watch National Geographic episodes.  Matthew loved to write fun facts every time after the show.

3) Our family is fluent in Spanish.  I always tried to watch shows/movies in Spanish to improve his understanding.  Sometimes, we even borrowed DVDs other in languages and it was so fun to try to guess what it was saying.     

4) Educational videos are fun when they are preschoolers. We had all the Preschool Prep, Rock N’ Learn and BrainCandy DVDs.  They were so much fun because they were short with catchy songs. 

In recent years, I have been using Netflix (@netflix) and Prime Video (@primevideokids) as wells as purchased DVDs.  

Something I am looking forward to this Fall is to Disney+ (@disneyplus), a disney streaming service.  Debuting in November 2019, Marvel and Star Wars originals as well as the pixar and classic movies will be available for subscribers..   

Music 

We always have music on in our apartment.   Music has always made us happy regardless of how I feel.  Matthew grew up hearing children music everyday, all day. Now, that he has learned to play the violin, he has noticed that he has a great ear for music.  I find that music can change your mood. Try turning on the radio and put some music on those “not so good” days. It takes you out of the lonely and sad place you are in while cheering your little one up!

I always underestimated these activities – reading, movie and music time. In the past, I scrolled down through social media and always saw pictures of families out and about and it made me uncomfortable to know I couldn’t do.  Now, I understand that what my son always needs is quality time and I will do the family outings when I am ready and my body allows. I take one day at a time!    

What are something you do with your kids? I’d love to hear!

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