How to have hobbies and toddlers
May 28, 2014 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I used to read. And knit. And screenprint, paint, draw, sew, and garden. Now I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old, and a full-time job. I am looking for suggestions of hobbies I can do at home when I am with they boys that are easily put down and picked back up, and can also be completed with somewhat divided attention.

I would like to create tangible objects, but would also be interested in other suggestions. I’m mostly interested in things that I can do independently of the kids, but wouldn’t turn down some family suggestions as well. Cost is definitely a factor as well, though I do have a lot of supplies around.

Things I’ve thought of:

Knitting dish towels: A pretty good fit, but both my boys are drummers, so my needles will be quite attractive to them. I will definitely try this in the next few days.

Crochet: A little more compact and easier to put down and pick up than knitting, but I’ve tried to learn and I haven’t been able to get it right. Is it worth it for me to devote some time to learning to crochet?
posted by deadcrow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried circular needles? The needle part is really tiny, and so they might look less like drumsticks or swords to little boys... well, maybe.

Photography? If you tie this in with nature, you could get your sons out and about, and help you look for bugs, birds, etc.

Cross-point embroidery, or some other embroidery project? Especially the beginner ones with the pattern printed on, and minimal color changing.

Needle-felting - though the needle might be tempting, and the stab-stab-stab nature of it.
posted by umwhat at 9:18 AM on May 28, 2014

One of the reasons I prefer crochet is because I don't have to get to the end of the row to pause. A single crochet hook is probably less attractive to your boys than knitting needles, too.

Small rug weaving? They make tabletop looms.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:19 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

hooking! as in, rug hooking!

also, totally get your kiddos involved in painting/drawing and gardening (outdoors or in pots) when they are interested, those are shareable-with-mom hobbies i loved doing when i was little.
posted by ghostbikes at 9:20 AM on May 28, 2014

In the few brief years she took off work to have kids, my mom gardened. I have vague recollections of being in the garden out with her as a toddler with my plastic garden tools while she did the actual planting.

Sounds like you're looking for inside stuff, but that was one hobby she could enjoy that also kept me reasonably occupied.
posted by phunniemee at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bet they would love to design their own screenprinted designs. Is the cost prohibitive for one-off designs? I don't know anything about screenprinting.

Also, I have a fulltime job, a 1 year old and a 3 year old, and I just knit in the evenings. It removes the temptation, and sometimes I let the older one have some scrap yarn and big needles to play with (we talk about running with the poky needles and keeping them away from your face). He'll "knit," making a big knotty mess, and that seems to satisfy his curiosity. The younger one responds pretty well to "that's not a toy," with some repeated training.
posted by Liesl at 9:33 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Life-saving for us when my boys were that age was a raised bed for them full of dirt and a few hardy cherry tomato plants and marigolds, with most of it left empty so they could dig to their hearts' content, and some "outside trucks" they could drive around in the dirt. HOURS of fun. HOURS. Gave us plenty of time to garden and hang out together outside. Now they're 5 and 3 and it's still their favorite summer activity. Target always has kid-sized garden tools at this time of year.

Note that they're easier to hose off on the driveway than wash off in the bathtub, especially once the 1-year-old discovers how much he likes dirt showers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

For this very reason I have started coloring. Very complicated pictures, or mandalas, or my own designs. With sharpies. Sharpies make coloring magical. There's something tangible (although useless, admittedly) at the end. The kids can join in with their own markers. You can find free pictures on the web, or look for dover publishing books - they are cheap, and you can photocopy the pages to use over and over again.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't answer your question specifically (I took up blogging when my son was that age) but I want to assure you that by the time the kids are 3 and 5, you'll start to be able to pick up those hobbies again. I basically didn't sew at all for four years, and then -- magically! -- around age 3 1/2 or 4 I was able to get back in my craft room for a half-hour or hour at a time, and do stuff.

It gets better.
posted by anastasiav at 10:09 AM on May 28, 2014

Cheesemaking, ice cream making, breakmaking. I'm getting into these. I find that the only hobbies I can do with my three-year-old around are ones that take place in the kitchen, because she seems to accept that I can't pay attention to her right at this moment because I'm cooking.

Knitting with circular needles is best, I think, if you're going to try to knit. It's much harder for a child to pull that circular needle right out of your project than it is to grab straight needles, thereby unraveling your hard work.
posted by kitcat at 10:14 AM on May 28, 2014

Origami! (As my handle might suggest.) You only need paper and a book, and you can make things ranging from waterbombs to airplanes to animals to mathematical/modular designs.
posted by glass origami robot at 10:16 AM on May 28, 2014

Cooking. And keep a short-story collection in the bathroom.
posted by headnsouth at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2014

I can so relate to this! One of the things I did was to start gardening (flowers not vegetables). It was outside, the kids could join and help or just meander around in the dirt watching. For my kids, watching was pretty entertaining so it was and wasn't a family thing - I didn't have to keep very close tabs on them in the yard and they seemed to enjoy it.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2014

If your toddlers aren't the type to climb all over you all of a sudden, then doing EPP quilting might be an option. (If they climb all over you I'd worry about them or you getting jabbed with sewing needles) Making individual hexagons (or diamonds or whichever shape) take very little time, and the seams are all tiny and don't take very long either. You can make little samplers or a whole quilt, so projects can be as big as you'd like. And it's easy to carry the supplies along with you!

I would suggest buying pieces instead of trying to cut out your own.
posted by that girl at 12:49 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My kid takes yarn and "helps" by pulling it all over the place. I wake up to unravelled balls to make spider webs. Crochet hooks are just as attractive for drumming. My kid likes looking through Crafts for Kids but she has no interest in doing the activities yet. Just destroying mine.

Anything you do is going to be interesting to them because you're their mum. Drawing/sketching would be great - get a beginner's book and learn how to doodle/draft and give them their own crayons and paper. Knitting and crochet are great and portable if you don't mind them occasionally unravelling things. You can show the three year old how to finger knit and they can help wind yarn. Embroidery is quite small to pick up and put down - just be careful to put needles and scissors out of reach when you pause.

Basically any hobby they can be safe around the materials (I would not do screenprinting because the inks would stain for example) is fine.

If you can't bear them breaking or damaging a project, you need to do something in tiny bits of spare time out of their reach which limits you to small modular projects - origami, cardmaking, small knitting projects.

If you had an iPad, you could do digital scrapbooking/layout/drawing stuff on it and then print the end products so your kids couldn't damage anything and you would get a finished product. Last Christmas, I made photo-sized accordian books for the kids of all favourite quotes etc, and this year I'm going to do it all digitally and print then assemble so I don't have to deal with gluing tiny damn scrapbook things on at 3am.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:15 PM on May 28, 2014

+1 on gardening, short reads by the toilet/bathtub, cooking...

The sad truth is my kid is six and I have yet to get back to a lot of old hobbies. It's cool, I'll be retired someday...

Machine-dyeing fabrics is not terribly exciting but it is a thing one can do without exciting toddler attention.

I do (well, did, when I had more time) a lot of hand-sewing/mending, and I got my daughter some thick blunt needles, embroidery floss, and plastic canvas at around age 3. This evolved as skills scaled up and now she has a little sewing box and makes dolly pillows and clothes while I mend. Anything where your kids can work alongside you on a kid version of what you are doing tends to work out nicely. Paint and decoupage old wooden boxes together? You can make something nice; the kids can do a "for Grandma!" mess on a dollar store box.
posted by kmennie at 4:16 AM on May 29, 2014

Gardening is something I've been really successfully able to continue doing with my son (who is now ten, but was still a toddler when we bought a house with a nice big yard and I really got back into gardening as a serious thing). Generally speaking children love to dig in dirt, and it's good for them-- and you-- to have a compelling reason to get outside daily. Get your kids their own harmless little plastic or wooden toy gardening tools. Give them their own special area to dig in, and their own cheap, especially-tough plants to take care of. Be selective about the soil amendments and pest controls you use-- make sure it's all kid-safe stuff so you won't have to worry about where the kids are putting their hands. Plant edible stuff that's hard to kill, like mint and tomatoes. Lower your own standards regarding weeds, etc. since you obviously won't have the time now for sustained work to make everything magazine-worthy.

I'd pick gardening and then one indoor crafty-type hobby that you can do year-round and really FOCUS doing just a couple of things, rather than trying to sustain interest and energy for a bunch of different things. It's easier to deal with constant interruptions to your projects if you are only working on one or two big projects at a time.
posted by BlueJae at 8:11 AM on May 29, 2014

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