This is a no-brainer to many people, but if your house is messy before your kids go to sleep, it doesn’t have to be.
You are watching your kids, they seem to be playing with toys fine and your home is baby proofed. This gives you a few ~1-5 minute bursts where you can:
…before checking to make sure the kids don’t have something unacceptable in their mouth.
Kids are uncontrollable, so here is what not to waste time on while they are roaming:
Our home has an open floor plan which make it so I can see the kids while cooking and doing many cleaning chores. Adjust to your household and lifestyle.
Go outside, do gardening related things while the kids have outdoor play time. This could be weeding, planting/maintenance/harvesting, raking, or full blown landscaping. I’ve gotten away with using the weed wacker around our fence while the kids played on the patio.
Start dinner. If this is a 2 minute per day meal or leftovers, there isn’t much to do. However, my wife really likes her $1.50/day Veggie pot pie and those kinds of recipes + cleanup take between 20-60 minutes of work. During this time, it’s cooking and cleaning. My 3 year old often wants to help, which is sometimes helpful as he is capable of stirring. My 1 year old will grab my legs and make the sound “HNGGGGNGGGNGGG” which means something like ‘Food/Fun/Attention’. Deal with your 1 year old however you find fit, my solution is usually a healthy snack or a healthy dose of math/phonics Youtube.
Dinner time, not a ton of opportunities to be productive, so might as well enjoy the ride. Everyone eats at the dinner table, talk about how the day was.
Full blown TV/youtube time. If my 3 year old did chores(sorting the clean silverware in the dishwasher), they can watch their mathematical/logical cartoon Peg + Cat. This puts them into a trance where I can read a non-fiction book… Most of the time. Sometimes I build bridges and towers for the kids.
Cue the bed time routine. Bill Nye The Science Guy goes on. I don’t care if the kids watch it, there is a 22 minute countdown until bed time.
I tell our 3 year old, time to clean up, if he cleans his toys, he gets a book before bed. I put our 1 year old to bed and depending on my luck, the toys are halfway cleaned up by the time I come back.
I clean any extra things in the kitchen while he finishes the living room.
This happens most nights. I wont claim that I get lots of gardening done or read 20+ pages of a book, but I will say we always have cooked food/leftovers, a clean kitchen, and clean living room by the time the kids are in bed.
Think about what you can do with the kids close by, doing even 20-30 minutes of double productivity can make a huge difference.