I {Mostly} Don’t Entertain My Kids.

19 June 2013

I talk a lot about special things that we do.  The big things, the fun things, the cool things.  But today, I wanted to let you know that in a typical day at our house, my kids play, or look at books, or just sit and stare at the wall if they want to.

Independently.

Yes, yes, I get the crayons off of the top shelf if they want to color… and that little one goes into her highchair to keep the “artwork” contained.  I pull Tate’s play house out for her and help open the box to her My Little Ponies.  I choose to keep the TV off during the day.  I ooh and ahh over their Lego creations.  {Hint: Tate’s is always a tower.}  Then, I answer emails, work a bit, do dishes, make breakfast, or overhear them getting along for a fleeting few minutes before they are annoyed with each other again.  We sit and read to them daily, but the vast majority of the time on a typical day, they entertain themselves.  {Tate is younger so obviously her attention span is a little shorter, there are more stories and song singing and snuggle breaks with me when Finn is at school and she is here by herself.}

I fondly remember as a kid playing Barbies or He-Man or Star Wars.  Playing with our Strawberry Shortcake dolls.  Playing school.  Building things with Lincoln Logs.  Playing church when I was the priest and smashed up white bread was communion. {Weird kid.}  Playing house and making my cousin be the dog every time.  Pretending my sister and I had a cooking show.  Searching for coins in the couch, buying a packet of Kool-Aid for ten cents, and having a lemonade stand.  Playing store.  Playing bank.  Playing roller rink in the back yard with those ridiculous plastic skates that you’d put on your shoes. 

Playing.

I don’t remember adults having anything to do with what we played other than making sure we didn’t hurt ourselves.  No one scheduled out every second of our day with activities and cookie baking and elaborate art projects and sensory tables with summer camp worthy zeal and told us how to have fun.  Other than my mom writing a pretend check for us to play with at our bank, we didn’t even want adults hanging out with us.  We wanted to play and build forts and make up dance moves to Janet Jackson songs.

Clearly, we were the rad-est.

At our house you won’t be constantly entertained, or watch tv, or sit on the computer or complain incessantly that there is nothing to do.  Really? Look at all these toys you can play with!  There are also chores, but that is a discussion for another day.  It’s not because I don’t love and want to spend time doing fun things with them, there is plenty of that as well.  I think that I was inadvertently telling you the fun part of our life and not realizing that you don’t see the day to day. 

I am not their daily cruise director, I am their mom.  I think a lot of my generation has that bit wrong.  When my friend started staying home and we had a play date one morning, she asked if she had to schedule an activity for them to do.  Uh, no, unless you mean sending them outside to play in the backyard?  We think we’re failing our kids when we don’t have them enrolled in twelve activities, have them creating masterpieces hourly, and have their daily schedule rivaling a CEO’s.  Screen time is replacing face time and human interaction.  And I realize that as they get older, it just gets worse.

Frankly and probably selfishly, scheduling out activities from day until night for my children is exhausting for me.  And I feel like I’m putting their imagination to sleep a bit when I do.  When do they get to just be kids?  How are they ever going to come up with crazy games if I’m constantly telling them what to play and how to play?  Or allowing them to sit in front of the TV all day?  Or taking them from one activity to the next and spending our day in the car?  I want to see them figuring out their own ideas and even being a little bored. 

Yep, I’m going to say it, boredom is ok for my kids.  It gives them a little time to rest their brains from the constant stimulation of everything around them.  And that is a good thing.

Believe me when I say I am not a Puritanical parent.  My kids have  both watched TV before they were two, they both play games on the tablet.  They fight and whine and they are normal kids.  There are days when they stay in their pjs and watch 5 episodes of Phineus an Ferb capped off by Tangled.  They eat junk sometimes and hear me swear and do things that make Dave and I nuts.  They tell me that they are bored.

And I then tell them to go play. 

20 comments:

lizzyerd said...

Love this post. My kids do have activities but 2 each only. 1 sport and 1 fun, especially since they are 12 and 14. Luci is Fencing and Quiz Bowl. Dimitri wants to join Karate and did the science club last year. Plenty of time to still be kids, do chores, play, and do homework (during the school year). And my daughter gets plenty of play because she babysits a lot. And NO Cable in this house. Waste of money to us. :)

Casey said...

LOVE THIS! We have so many similar parenting theories. If the house is going to be overrun with toys - you better play with the darn things. :)

SnoopyMeg said...

I love this post, especially since we kind of have the same spacing between our two kids. For a long time I felt like I had to entertain Flynn because he was an "only" and he still asks for me to "play" with him but I really love it when he plays by himself and uses his imagination. Also, As Macy gets older he is starting to include her and play around her, of course now she is crawling so I'm sure she'll be chasing him in no time!

Samantha @ 24 to 30 said...

You just keep knocking it out of the park! You don't know how bad I needed this today. June is our busiest month and I have been feeling mommy guilt that there just hasn't been time for crafts and the like. Evenings are spent at the ballpark and/or kids playing by themselves/watching Netflix while we get dinner ready and get everything going for the next day. It's temporary but I still have been feeling bad that I'm not able to bust out a craft or educational activity instead. So thanks for the reassurance :)

Anonymous said...

I did not have siblings close to my age and I would play alone for hours my mom said. I think I turned out ok, although I do tend to want alone time more than others.

Signed in extrovert with introvert tendencies


Tawny

Practical Suburban Mom said...

Yes!! OMG, yes! Common sense from a fellow mom! Sing it sister!

I can't believe how crazy most parents are today in worrying about entertaining their children. It drives me batty. This also leads to the discussion about playing with other kids in the neighborhood. Ours is a ghost town and the parents have to actively schedule play dates or kids are never out in front of their houses. I would happily park my butt in a lawn chair on the sidewalk to let my kids play with the neighbors if any other parents were willing to do this. :/

This is such a hot topic for me and you covered it perfectly!

wesley's mom (sue) said...

Amen! I get anxiety just thinking about some of my friends and their over-scheduled lives. My kids spend the summer (mostly) entertaining themselves. Always have. In my opinion having a break is the whole point of summer vacation.

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

Right on, mama! That makes so much sense. I can remember playing and doing stuff after school but not as crazy scheduling as kids seem to have these days. This is great.

Elizabeth said...

This sounds just like my house. :)

Just A Normal Mom said...

Makes you step back and wonder where this push to "schedule" and "entertain" our kids comes from. I, too, played for hours as a kid - I was an only, so I played with neighborhood friends or my cousins. And sometimes I was bored. But I also developed an imagination and creativity!

Jessica @ TheCrazyChaoticHouse said...

Thank goodness I am not the only one! Oh I wish we lived closer {like 2000 plus miles closer} and could "real life" friends. You always hit everything right on!!!

karynkirke@mac.com said...

So what would you do if you had a six, almost seven year old that cannot. Play.by. Herself. She whines piteously and cries and cries if left alone for too long. Too long being more than 45 minutes AT MOST. I would love to have a house where the kids entertain themselves, but I don't understand how you get them to do it for any real length of time unless you can actually do something while listening to heart rending sobs of loneliness. I feel like she has very little internal resources. I am pretty introverted, so the need for constant companionship is difficult for me to fathom. Ideas? Anyone else have a kid like this?

Michelle Albright-Peters said...

I would love some suggestions for you Kary! I hope others have ideas and will post for you! Also, I want to clarify, they aren't being left alone they're typically in the same room or can see/hear me in the kitchen or in an adjacent room. Forty-five minutes I think is a good amount of time for her to play independently, we're not talking hours and hours here. Every child is different too, Tate is much more apt to come climb up in my lap and just want a little time together than Finn was at the same age.

Kaila said...

I don't have kids like this, but we homeschooled last year (not the creepy 18 kids and counting kind). I can totally understand the problem with the constant companionship, and I'm a total extrovert. It gets old after a while, and sometimes you just.want.silence. Now that I write this I realize that every parent has probably felt the same way at some point.

Maybe you can make a list with her of fun things she can do by herself (e.g. coloring, barbies, swinging, make up a dance). She should give lots of ideas. Then when she starts in on being bored, tell her to go look at her list. If she refuses, tell her she can sit and stare at the wall for all you care. It sounds like her bawling and complaining works and you give in. If you keep doing that, she wins. It works. And she'll keep doing it.

Another thing my friend (who have 4 great kids and is a badass parent) does is if her kids complain about being bored EVER, she immediately puts them to work on chores. The nastier the better. At almost 7 (maybe need instructions) , your kid is completely capable of cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, scrubbing the shower, organizing laundry, etc. In my friend's house, you either find something to do, or she'll find something for you. I do the same thing. Don't be a pushover!

karynkirke@mac.com said...

Thanks for the thoughtful Answers!

Dawn Friedel said...

So glad I came upon this blog/post. I remind myself often that it's fine that I dont plan each of my kids days out and that they entertain themselves, often! Between pinterest and facebook I have asked myself 'uh oh am i doing enough?' im still a new mom (sort of- to toddlers lol, 1&3yrs old). but i dont want to inundate them with activities to where they dont develop their own imagination. the balance can be challenging, for me.

Michelle Albright-Peters said...

We do a lot of fun, interesting, cool things but there has to be that balance between me providing that and them learning and exploring and doing it for themselves. And deciding how much is too much for your kids. The answer here is balance, just as you said.

Anonymous said...

Found you recently and am a fb fan. This post especially, along with others, makes me feel better that I don't need to keep up with everybody else. We are doing just fine over here. The singing all day from my 2&4 year olds is usually enough to make me feel like I am doing it right but those FB feeds and PInterest walls…it is truly a balancing act. Anyway, thanks.

BoringChristine said...

Much appreciate your work!

Kathi said...

A bit tardy on my comment, I just came across this post today and have to APPLAUD you loudly and clearly (did you hear it). :-) It's funny how the perfect article always makes it's way in front of me at the exact moment I need it to!

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