How many calories does parenting preschoolers burn? The calculations must have been done considering all the weight-loss apps available. I’m guessing 24 hours with a couple of little tykes burns more than a three-mile run.

My guestimation derives from a recent babysitting stint during which I had the pleasure and challenge of caring for two little boys. Having already raised three, I figured I was up to the challenge. What I didn’t factor in was the 11-year break I’ve enjoyed since my youngest began kindergarten.

Within moments I was reacquainted with the fact that preschoolers have more energy than a nuclear plant. They curiously travel halls and rooms of a home like balls bouncing around a pinball machine. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 have two speeds: wide open and asleep.

If the wide open energy young children emit could be harnessed, the world would never experience another energy crisis. But we will never know if it can be harnessed. New energy research focuses primarily on clean energy. Clean is to a preschooler as water is to oil.

In addition to supervising, redirecting, playing, and feeding, caretakers of preschoolers must constantly clean. Hands and faces must be wiped down several times a day. Surfaces upon which little ones have access must be cleaned regularly. Toys, clothes, furniture—it all becomes grimy within hours of exposure to small children.

My memory had completely blocked out that preschoolers can attract and redistribute gallons of dirt and germs in only a few hours. This ability is like a gift or a superpower. And they use their lightning speed for optimal efficiency.

It may very well be that preschoolers were designed to keep dirt and germs churned up in order to prevent stagnation. Things certainly got stirred up in our house during those 24 hours. I’m still working to eliminate tiny smudges and fingerprints.

Quite a bit of the dirt clung to the little ones until bath time. The warm, bubbly water earned its pay that evening. But as the dirty water ran down the drain and clean short people emerged from the tub, I also remembered the sweetness of it all.

While exhausting, keeping up with preschoolers is not just a chaotic tornado of activity. Preschoolers are much cuddlier than teens and young adults. They like to be wrapped in fluffy blankets and curled up in the lap of an adult for story time. A silly book read with funny voices is not only entertaining to the little ones, it also helps to transition them from wide open to asleep.

My 21-year-old will no longer curl up in a blankie and snuggle with me during quiet time. His two younger brothers are also anti-snuggle. Although, when I’m on the couch holding a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies, my boys will sit close enough to reach dessert.

The little ones are extremely easy to impress and please. A simple bowl of popcorn brings about smiles and hugs from a preschooler. The older guys will notice the popcorn, but they lack the enthusiastic response. Rather, they have a tendency to dryly order bowls of their own since I’m in the kitchen making it anyway.

Once tucked in for the night, it doesn’t take long for preschoolers to drift to sleep. Once it is verified that they are sleeping, it doesn’t take long for caretakers to slip into dreamland. We slept quite well that night, despite the ongoing sounds of older teens and young adults making snacks and playing video games well past 9:00, the last numbers I recall seeing on my bedside clock.

We had a great time hosting the boys’ visit despite the fact that I don’t recall eating much and I’m pretty sure I only used the bathroom once. I was able to get a nice, long, hot shower—as soon as they went back home.

As I was recuperating from our adventure, I could still smell their freshly bathed hair and feel their plump fingers holding my hands. Their laughter still seemed to echo throughout the house. It took several days before the smile they left behind on my face finally faded.

If you have preschool neighbors, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, I highly recommend you invite them to hang out with you for awhile. The gesture will surely give their parents a much needed break. In addition, it will restore all the warm fuzzies you tend to miss out on once your own kids grow up.

Just be sure to stock up on milk and little kid foods, like peanut butter. I also recommend having a basket filled with age-appropriate toys, which the big guys will also play with when you’re not watching. Oh, and get plenty of vitamin C and rest before and after the visit.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is