Numero dos: Find a box of toys you were thinking of donating to Goodwill because they'd been in the back of the closet for so long that you'd forgotten they existed. Put said box of toys on the rug in the living room. Introduce your child to this amazing and cool toy. This should buy you perhaps fifteen minutes to fold some laundry and vacuum a room or two.
Numero tres: If you happen to have any type of refrigerated cookie dough in the house, break it out. Supply your child with cookie sheets, and ask them to make "tiny" balls of dough for each cookie. While they are scooping, shaping, and placing cookie dough onto the sheets, you may possibly have time to unload the dishwasher, wipe the counters, or even clean out the fridge.
Numero cuatro: Play dough. In the kitchen. With real cooking tools. Maybe a garlic press? Maybe a lemon juicer? Maybe a melon baller? Maybe a potato ricer? There's something about real kitchen tools that makes them so exciting for preschoolers. I've also found that throwing in some real birthday candles (no matches, though!!) can help extend the independent-play-life of the activity.
Numero cinco: The natives are getting restless. You must pull out the big guns. Search in your closet for an old shoebox. Scrounge up some pipe cleaners and tape. Bring out the paints yet again. Yes, you know what I'm going to suggest...Let your child try to make their very first diorama. May I suggest a pond or a farm? This might perhaps provide you with enough time to dust and declutter one room. (I recommend telling your preschooler to save anything they can't get to stand up for the end, when you will come in and be the tape-master extraordinaire.)
And there you have it. Five tips for getting your house clean without having to resort to putting the preschooler in front of the TV. (And here I must admit that having a friend take your child to the museum for a few hours on a Saturday also works wonders!)
How have you kept your children occupied in creative independent play when you're super busy? Ideas are greatly appreciated!