Every once in a while, you just need your little ones contained for a little while. Sometimes, it’s because you need to do something with the big kids that they aren’t in the middle of. Other times, it’s just because you need some space. Whatever the case, you need an activity that will keep the little ones engaged while you take care of something else…and you’d like it if they weren’t screaming their heads off the entire time.
If you’re outside, you have more space options than you do inside. Obviously, there’s always turning them loose in a fenced-in back yard with any number of activities; but if you have a child who isn’t walking yet, you might need something a little different.
Start with an inflatable pool. No water—just the pool. Then, if you happen to have a kiddie slide, put it over the edge—it’ll help keep your toddler engaged and entertained. Add a box full of balls to the pool, or cut up fun noodles, or small toys, and there you have it: instant baby play area! This is a great way to contain a crawling or just-walking baby while you take care of outdoor chores or work with your big kids for a little while, or an excellent way to entice your toddler to go play somewhere that isn’t right on top of you for a few minutes. It won’t last forever unless you have enough balls to make a ball pit (in which case, you might well have to pry them out of there), but it should be a great way to snatch a few minutes unaccompanied.
Incidentally, if you happen to have the space, this will also work indoors; it's just that not everyone has room for an inflatable pool in the middle of the living room. Indoors, it makes a great rainy-day activity for all of the kids.
The baby verdict: Om nom balls. Om nom fun noodles. Hey, Mom, look what I can do!
The toddler verdict: Fun!
The big kid verdict: Hey, Mom, we want to play, too! What do you mean, you want us to do something else? We don’t want to do something else. We want to play with the babies.