Mothering, Cleaning, Teaching, Cooking, Resting, Playing, Blogging. How to ALMOST Do it All Without Losing Your Head!

title“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I know I have not been doing a whole lot of blogging lately, but I assure you, I have been listening. So many of you are asking me how I do it all everyday. You call me a superwoman. I am extremely flattered, but you must know that I am a mere mortal.

I am not a “scheduler” by any stretch of the imagination. I am a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. I’ve learned over the years that what you schedule doesn’t always stick, life gets in the way. And sometimes you just don’t feel like doing what’s on your “to do” list. So I find it’s better to be prepared, to work with what you have, to be open to the present moment’s mood, and to move with the natural rhythm of your children and your heart.

That being said, one cannot successfully run a household, a dayhome, or a business without proper research, preparedness, or some sort of structure.

In planning my curriculum for my day care centre and for my own children’s play, I follow a simple guideline…and add a little SPICE to their day. Everyday I plan the activities around 5 basic and important needs of the smalls in my care…


I’ve prepared a photograph for each of these needs with a brief explanation of each one for you. When you’re thinking about planning your curriculum or your time with your children, maybe take a minute to see how much SPICE you are adding to their day…SOCIAL1PHYSICAL2INTELLECTUAL1CREATIVE1EMOTIONAL1The following is an “iPhone photo snapshot” of a typical day here at Small Potatoes. The photos are not great, but just an illustration of how we spend our days…

I wake up at 6:55am and press the snooze button ONCE. I have this down to an exact science. I know how long I can laze about in my bed before my feet have to hit the ground and get in the shower. I wake up my smalls and they get dressed and brush their teeth on their own while I head downstairs to sweep the floor and get the lunch-making supplies out and ready…packlunchesWhile I’m packing lunches, my kids serve themselves at the “cereal bar”. It is also set up so they can get water without coming into my tiny little kitchen workspace. This cuts down on crowding, crashing, and fussing…waterstationMy kids are out the door to the bus stop by 8:00 and then my day begins again…smallsarriveThe smalls play freely with the upstairs toys while I have my morning coffee. There are busy bag activities, books, colouring materials, blocks, sensory play stations, cars, and other quiet activities for them to choose from…quietsensoryThe smalls are also able to go out on the patio to play in the sandbox, as there is a railing all the way around and no stairs leading down to the yard. It is totally self-contained…sandplayThis “easing into their day” with free choice and open invitations to play help the smalls transition from a possible hurried morning at home and into the car, to a play and learning environment without force or any “you MUSTS” from adults. The smalls who need breakfast, eat with me while the others play.

messyplayThis includes art, play dough, water play, sensory play, and baking…bakingIf you are not quite convinced that messy/sensory play is really all that necessary, pop over to Picklebums and read the post I wrote on easing reluctant adults into the world of messy play. All of these sensory, art, play dough, and baking activities fall into each of the 5 SPICE categories, so I’d say they’re pretty important.

10:30 SNACK TIME: Snack time isn’t always at 10:30, but it’s usually in the ball park. Depending on how hungry everyone is, or how involved they are in an activity, we change snack time accordingly.

goOutside“Go outside” can mean a trip to the park, a walk to the grocery store, a play on the patio sandbox, or a full-blown backyard play date. This is where the physical needs are met. If we can’t go outside and play because of the weather, we dance it out in the living room, or we practice yoga…yoga

lunchtimeMy favourite time of day, really. We chat, we listen to music, and we eat good food. Our meals are posted at the front door for parents to see…mealplansBy writing it down, I can see what I need to buy. I can see if I’ve covered all the nutritional needs, and I can give the smalls something to look forward to. I have one little girl who asks her mother every morning, “what does my signs say today?” Do I ALWAYS have the menu planned and written on the board every morning? No, I do not. But the days that I do always run more smoothly simply because I know what to plan for.NaptimeThis is my quiet time. My planning time. My yoga time. My blogging time. My cleaning time. My pet feeding time. My fold laundry time. My sit on the couch and read time. Notice how many times I used the word “my?” If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I am no good to anyone if I am no good to myself. Just like the smalls need SPICE, so do I.  Please, please, please take time for yourself. Parents work hard. Teachers work hard. So work hard on working on some “me time”, ok?

Smalls are usually waking between 3 and 3:30. This is potty time, diaper changing time, and reading stories time. afterschoolsnackMy kids are home off the bus now and they join the smalls for afternoon snack. I usually prepare snack right at the end of nap time so it’s ready and waiting.playoutsideFrom 4-5pm We play outside if weather permits. The parents come straight to the backyard to pick up their smalls and mine will usually continue to play while I prepare their dinner. If the weather is too cold, we play in the playroom and all activities, with the exception of messy activities, are open for free play.

And there you have it. A whole day at Small Potatoes. It’s not a schedule really. It’s more like a little pathway through our day. We play, we create, we rest, we eat, we grow. Now it’s time for a glass of wine, right?

Thanks for stopping by,

Arlee, Small Potatoes


65 thoughts on “Mothering, Cleaning, Teaching, Cooking, Resting, Playing, Blogging. How to ALMOST Do it All Without Losing Your Head!

  1. How lucky are the families that get to use your services!? I’ve loved your blog for so long and am always super impressed by you. I know that your day is probably not always filled with sunshine, joy, and love, but it sure feels that way. Your blog is my favorite place to visit when I need a little light in my day. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world.

  2. Beautiful, Arlee. Your day sounds a lot like mine. Isn’t the structure wonderful? I always say we’re very loosey-goosey with with what we do in a day, but the bones – those structured happenings at certain times – are always the same. I love that it breaks the day into bite-sized chunks, and that that it allows the children to get to know what to expect: we’ve just had snack, therefore we’re heading outside now. Your home is so cozy and wonderful. I would absolutely love to spend a day with you and your smalls!

  3. I loved reading your blog! What a fun, exciting & relaxing place to go each day! I wish we lived closer so my grandchildren could partake! I take care of my two youngest grandsons each day and I was surprised to discover that our schedule is very similar – leaving room for curve balls etc; Our snack time, nap time, outdoor time etc fall about the same time every day. We also aren’t rigid, but quite flexible in our schedule – but I do believe one has to be organized to do their best job, and you obviously are! Thanks for some great pics and a glimpse at your day. God Bless you for being such a lovely influence on small minds. It is so needed in today’s world.

  4. Thank you! So funny I posted a comment asking just this! I looooove you! Thank you! But you inspired me to spend too much money at the dollar store today…lol. Very excited to get my 5 spices – spicy!
    Do you mind me asking how old your children are? And then the age group you care for? I am having troubles coordinating my age groups and this summer I’m slightly worried. I have two 3 year olds, 4/5/6 year olds and two aged 8. The older group are boys and the 3-4’s are girls. Any suggestions?
    Again thank you. For those looking you are helping to create a community of wonderful child care providers.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! I started reading your blog for the sensory play bins and other tips n’ tricks, and stayed for all the warmth and caring that illuminates every post. The loving way you write about your caregiving is inspiring and refreshing.

  6. I found you under the Recommended Blogs for me – and I am completely overwhelmed with your amazingness! I don’t run a childcare center, but I do run a busy household with a typical child and a special needs child and your tips are wonderful! I have known for a while that I need to come up with a gameplan because I sit here at 4:20am ‘working’ instead of sleeping because the day is spent navigating our crazy life. While my day could NEVER go that smoothly dependent on medical issues, I LOVE the SPICE concept of getting a child what they need through the day. I originally clicked on your blog because the thumbnail looked like you had great sensory activities for my special needs baby, but I am more glad I did for posts like this one! I look forward to weeding my way through your blog and finding many nuggets of wonderfulness I am sure to find from other comments above! Thanks in advance for making my life a bit easier!

  7. The nuggets in your care and their parents are extremely lucky to have you in their lives. I hope that my baby Addyson is as loved by her teachers as your nuggets are by you. I love how you lay it out there in such a gentle way- for us type “A’s” to let go and enjoy…it will all be ok. Although I am new to the blogging world, I love reading your blog-it’s light hearted and inspiring, so thank you!

  8. Love your blog:) I was just wondering what kind of activities do you have for ones that are no longer in the napping stage or during the summer holidays when the bigger kids are at home?

  9. Pingback: Mothering, Cleaning, Teaching, Cooking, Resting, Playing, Blogging. How to ALMOST Do it All Without Losing Your Head! | Less World More Christ

  10. That sounds so fun! I wanna come over and play with you guys!
    I really wish I could be as creative as you. It really sounds like the children that are at your home get such a variety! 🙂 I love your blog and I try to take a Jenna spin on your ideas!

  11. Wow! Thank you for sharing that with us!! So inspiring, as usual… I have three little boys and I’m pregnant, and routine is soooo important!! Loved when you talked about your “ME” time, don’t have enough of that in my routine….:)

  12. I am utterly impressed. Obviously you have found your vocation! Your day exhausting and at the same time full of joy and magic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences..

  13. This is awesome! Thanks for posting this “schedule” – it is exactly what I didn’t know that I was looking for. From September to June I am a teacher, and the summer months I am a stay-at-home-maman to a 2.5 year old. I didn’t want to hyper-schedule him, but I also didn’t want to waste away the time we have together by being lazy.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  14. Pingback: A scheduled summer? « Funkylindsay

  15. Wow. I love your schedule. I am a stay at home mom of 3 with a 4th due in November and decided to become an in home daycare provider as there is NO way I could afford the cost of daycare but still wanted to provide some income to the family. I have no schedule what so ever and most days I think I will go into preterm labor! A couple of my problems are the random times kids are being picked up/dropped off and “older” children! I have kids that do not take naps and trying to get them to quietly sit down and watch a movie so I can get stuff done and they don’t wake the little ones who are napping is impossible. I have tried different things and nothing seems to work. By the end of the day my stress level is maxed out. Did I also mention that my family is currently living with the in-laws in their very tiny house while our new house is being built. That allows no extra room for anything!

  16. I have just written down a quote from you to print out and post where I can see it daily! “It’s better to be prepared….” from the second paragraph of this post. Your words really spoke to me! I homeschool my two older children and have a third who is about to start a little bit as well. I always feel like I can’t get enough done and try to schedule things out to make it go more smoothly. Inevitably, though, life gets in the way and the schedule doesn’t work. Then I feel l have failed. It’s a vicious cycle. I am going to try to apply your words to our daily life to help all of us have more enjoyable days. I really just wanted to say thank you!

  17. The parents as well as those little ones are just so blessed to have you. I am just in awe of how you manage all things. While I do not have child care business I do have 9 children of my own and let me tell I just started following you and I have already gotten some great pointers you are an amazing and blessed woman. Thank you so much for all your post I love them my children range from 19- 11 months old. I love the fact that you had mentioned you are a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal and I just loved that because that is exactly how I have to live my life day to day. It also does encourage me that you mentioned the me time. I have hard time with that. I pray about this all the time because I feel as if I sit for one minute I could be doing something else that needs doing. Once again thank you so much for a great blog to follow. So love it. GOD BLESS

    • Thank you so very much for your words. And yes, take time for YOU, mama!!! Most importantly! You have a very big and important job…you can’t do it well if you don’t take care of yourself. ❤

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  19. I work in a child care centre in the 0-2 room. Most people’s reactions to that is “oh how cute!” but those that have knowledge of early childhood say “oh that must be hard!”. In a room of 16 it can be very stressful, frustrating and hard but of course I love all the children if they were my own.
    This post really inspires me to appreciate my day and reminds me of how lucky I am. The mothers of the children are away from them all day and I get to spend time with them, watching them grow and develop and I know they are jealous of that.
    This post also inspires me to open my own child care service/family day care. In Australia we have different regulations and rules so it would be very different to your set up; but I would love to create a space like this.
    Love your blog, keep on doing what you’re doing because it truly brings a smile to my face 🙂

  20. Came back here to read this again… There are a lot of ideas that I can use to plan my day at home with my kids. Is it possible for me to reblog this article? Or how to share this? I’m still new in the blogging world…. Thanks.

  21. I love, love, love how you manage it all! I will try to be as organized as you are. (I’m on my way, but long to go). I am trying to also teach art classes for young ones, and I’m trying to decide where to start and what to do… (almost nothing, huh?). Well, in my mind all makes sense, if I can only put it all out….. Thanks for this great post!

    • Thank you! In the teal bin is an old wooden planter box that has been painted and repurposed as a sensory play table. It is filled with soy beans, enamel cups, metal scoops, and enamel bowls.

  22. I am impressed. You are so organized. I especially love this statement – If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I am no good to anyone if I am no good to myself. Just like the smalls need SPICE, so do I. When you become a mom, you ouften forget about yourself. Thanks for highlighting this.

  23. I Just stumble across small potatoes today and I am amazed of how much you offer!! I am a Montessori teacher and I am amazed by what you promote…I am looking into starting my own Childcare service at my home (New Zealand) and I have one question for you how many children do you have with you? Is small potatoes also your own house? If it is how do you structure your place so your own furniture and carpet don’t get damaged or stained?

  24. Hi Arlee. Stumbled to your page while searching in Pinterest about kids activities. I am a homeschooler and I find your ideas to be really helpful. Keep up the good work 😉

  25. Love this post! Beautiful photos, great ideas. I am inspired by your set-up and routine! I have been a nanny for several years, and now nanny part-time while bringing my 18 month with. Early childhood has always been a passion of mine, and I love learning how to better engage the children I’m with. I have been thinking recently of how I want to move forward professionally, while raising my own child(ren). When I came across this post, I thought, this is what I want to do! Thank you for the inspiration!

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  27. Awesome post, I’m a mother of five and a former in home childcare provider. I truly understand what you’re talking about in this post about running a household and a business. I truly miss working with the children, but I decided to take a break to allow my children time to focus on clubs and activities they wanted to be in, and since the break, I’ve decided I want to study to be a Doula. Well, anyways, I just wanted to say, I loved your post and much success to you. Even though I’m not doing childcare anymore, I still like to acknowledge the tremendous work early childhood providers do and you just gain a new follower.

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  30. I like how to you have a big cardboard corral for you messy play, but my question is where to do store it? I would love to implement this for my three home schooled littles but I’m not sure where I would stash something like that at my house.

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