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7 free or cheap ideas to exercise your brain without requiring childcare or naptime
If you are a stay-at-home mother seeking ways to keep your brain active, look no further. This guide shows you how to work intellectual stimulation into your day while caring for your child.
Best of all, these ideas are cheap or free, and do not depend on a napping child nor require extra childcare.
1. Writing poetry
Even if you have not been a creative type in the past, this is a great time to branch out and stimulate the left side of your brain by writing poetry. Keep a pretty notebook wherever you and the kids tend to be most often. At first you may just have one sentence spring to mind in your poem; jot it down and keep the poem at the back of your mind. Add to your notebook over time bit by bit as more inspiration strikes.
2. Learn something new from a book
If there’s a topic about which you’d like to know more, then this is the perfect time to do it! Find a book at your local library about an intellectual topic which intrigues you. Of course, while caring for your kids you’ll only be reading just a few minutes at a time and not very often in total in a day, but it adds up and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn this way!
For example, there are many books in the genre of popular science which can help explain concepts such quantum theory or cell biology in terms which a layperson can understand.
Or if you’re thinking of starting your own garden but it’s the middle of winter, so get a head start on your hobby by reading up on it and making plans.
Alternatively, maybe you wish you’d known more about a certain period in history, such as the Middle Ages… the possibilities to exercise your brain this way are endless.
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3. Intellectual magazines
If reading a book incrementally can seem daunting, try an intellectual magazine instead. It can be put down for several days without requiring you to remember all that you have read in the preceding pages. I like Real Simple - there's a lot more thought in it than most mainstream women's magazines.
Alternatively, although it seems like an unusual choice at first glance, Vanity Fair has in-depth hard-hitting journalism in it. While it's still a heavily fashion-centered magazine, the long-form journalism elevates it beyond the mainstream. Likewise, Town & Country has a similar slant where in addition to a focus on high-end fashion you also get the benefit of carefully researched multi-page articles about topics of the moment.
4. Invent a recipe
You are most likely cooking for your family anyway, so why not apply your talents to the endeavor of creating a new dish?
You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of inventing something entirely new. Best of all as a mom, you’ll be able to use only ingredients you and your family like. Be warned that unless you are especially skilled (or lucky!) be prepared for it to take several rounds of changes to improve your recipe to the point where you and your family are completely satisfied with it.
If the notion of a new recipe seems daunting, start instead by applying your talents to altering an existing recipe to make it healthier, quicker to make, or to fit in with a family member’s dietary requirements.
This is certain to help give your brain a workout.
5. Music appreciation
Have you ever wanted to know more about a particular genre of music, such as jazz, classical, or swing? Get some MP3’s in your genre to listen to. I loved discovering music from the Baroque period on Amazon.com. To do it for free, simply listen to those pieces on YouTube. To add a further angle of intellectual interest, get out a book from the library about the history of that type of music.
For example, with classical music, try a selection of well-known pieces from a variety of different composers, and obtain a book with information on those composers. You can have the MP3 playing in the background as you and the kids go about your day at home. This can be fun for your baby to listen to as well!
Soon you’ll find out which composers you like best, and this knowledge will help guide you toward other composers you might like to try in the future. Music appreciation can be a highly rewarding lifelong hobby. It also helps make you feel good - it's almost impossible to feel miserable when an amazing piece of music is playing.
Logic puzzles, brainteasers, crosswords and Sudoku can be ideal ways for a stay-at-home mother to get intellectual stimulation and keep a sharp brain. As with reading, you’ll find that you’ll have to do these brain-sharpening hobbies in piecemeal fashion with a few minutes snatched here and there.
Even done bit by bit, this is a great way to exercise your brain as a busy stay at home mom.
Not sure which type of puzzle to get? Why not try a bit of everything with the affordable yet entertaining Ultimate Brain Health Puzzle Book for Adults from Amazon.com. It contains Sudoku, cryptograms, crosswords, word searches and a lot more.
7. Take an intellectual approach to housekeeping
Apply your intellect and problem-solving skills to your daily life in the home. For example, instead of saying to yourself, "oh, it’s time to clean the bathroom again", you can bump up the interest factor by saying "I’m going to think up and test out some new ideas for faster bathroom cleaning". You’ll reap rewards now from putting an intellectual spin on this task, and also in years to come from saving time with your new and more streamlined cleaning routine.
There are many different intellectual activities you can introduce into your day as a stay-at-home mother. All of these need to be done in little chunks of time because of your primary role as care provider for kids. Yet you’d be surprised at how just a few minutes of brain exercise grabbed here and there during the day can go a long way to keeping your brain active, making you a happier mom.
If you've gone straight from a busy career to being a stay at home mom, these ideas are going to make a huge difference in your day. And if you're looking for more in the way of being happier as a stay at home mom, you may also like my article about sanity-saving ways to make your day better while caring for your kids.