Okay, so we all have those days when we're not at our best. Either you're tired, sick, or just plain cranky. When you have an office job, you can usually just hunker down behind your desk and wait for the day to be over. But when you're a stay at home mom, not only is that impossible, but your day isn't over until bedtime. I can't hide for 12 hours from my "co-worker". As if it's not bad enough to be feeling crummy, I usually end up feeling guilty for not interacting with the Eskimo as much as I should. But really, there are days when I just can't. So, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get him playing by himself, happily.
Busy boxes/bags: Activities that entertain with minimal interaction with Mom. Stuff like this and this work pretty well. While things like the pom-pom bucket are definitely better when I'm sitting there, talking to him about the colors, etc, he's also completely capable of doing that all on his own. Of course, he's also capable of stuffing pom-poms up his nose, so I keep an eye on him. :)
Backup toys: These are toys that I have hidden from everyday use. Usually because they're not the type of thing I like him playing with all the time. They're toys that tend to do the playing for him and don't allow him to use his imagination. Also, they usually run on batteries and are loud and annoying. But hey, if it means I get to hide for an extra 15 minutes, so be it.
Make a fort: I did this this morning, and it entertained him for an hour. I'm not kidding. The Eskimo has access to our tupperware cabinet, and he loves to sit in there. This morning I pulled out the drawer above the cabinet and hung a towel from it. Instant fort; instant happy boy. I even let him eat his breakfast in there this morning.
Let your kids take care of you: No, it's not going to be the chicken noodle soup and foot rub you were hoping for, but the Eskimo LOVES to tuck me in. When I lay down on the floor, he runs to grab me a pillow and a blanket. He will then tuck me in, and often will come lay down next to me. It may not be the 2 hour nap you're craving, but it sure beats nothing!
Call in backup: If you have backup, use it. Whether it's your significant other, family or friends. Not always an option for all of us, but hey, if you can do it, go for it!
I think what we all need to remember is that children really can entertain themselves very well. Many parents feel the need to interact every step of the way. Let your kids show you how good they are at entertaining themselves! Supervise from a distance. Tell them what a great job they're doing playing by themselves. "I really like the way you're playing" can go a long way. And honestly, I think this is pretty good advice to use everyday, not just when you're feeling off. Kids need to be able to entertain themselves, so give them a chance to practice this skill. And it IS a skill. Allowing them to practice playing alone when you're feeling fine will make it that much easier to supervise from the couch when you're feeling off.