As a parent, sometimes I find that there is too much emphasis on kid-focused entertainment. I think it overwhelms the kids and the parents in equal measure. Sometimes when you leave your kids to do something simple it makes them more imaginative and it is when they come up with their best ideas.
One of the most memorable afternoons I’ve had with my kids was spent in our garden, which to be honest, is too much of a barren wasteland to be considered more than a yard. Gardening is still a pastime I need to pass some time figuring out. Anyway, it was a cold day, but as long as kids are well wrapped-up they don’t care whether it’s the sun or rain that is beating down. (Actually, they’d rather be coat-less and jumper-less in either case.)
I recently bought two second-hand scooters and a bike online, all for £30. They are still in good condition, if a bit faded, but I’ve never seen my kids react with such excitement to a gift before. We went outside and they happily scooted in circles for two hours, collected sticks and stuck them in a hole in the ground and played hide and seek in the only hiding place.
I sat and watched them, with minimal input, drinking lapsang-souchong and mentally transporting myself to my student days, spending an entire afternoon sipping tea on a veranda, without having to move, once. It was really peaceful, with no tantrums from them, or from me, for that matter.
It showed me how we over-complicate our lives and how much our parenting culture expects us to provide parent-led entertainment for our kids. Sometimes they don’t even want it. Sometimes all they want is to stick a stick in a hole in the ground while you watch them, with a smile on your face because you’re enjoying a cup of tea at a more than tepid temperature, in one place.
Here are a few other simple ideas of things to do with kids where you are involved, without being “the entertainment:”
- Colouring in together. You can do your own drawing/colouring in a sketchpad while they happily do whatever they want to their own page. Kids get fed up with adults nagging them to colour in a specific way, sometimes they just want to do things their own way.
- Watching them playing with a toy, handing them things they ask for and answering their questions without having to write the storyline for them. An added bonus is that you can also enjoy coffee at the same time.
- Playing your choice of music for them, telling them who the artists are and letting them listen to their favourite song from the album as many times as they like. Goodbye, “wind the bobbin up.”
- Getting your kids to gather up any library books they have, putting them in a bag with you and then returning them and picking out new ones for themselves. It makes feel competent, act responsibly with their books, and they think it’s a fun game too.
- Create mini traditions. For example, Friday night is pizza night where they can add their own toppings. Or on Saturday mornings you go for a walk, followed by hot chocolate. Give them fluffy bed socks to wear when they get home. My granny used to do this and it was so simple but we loved it.
- Give them a pound and let them choose a book or small toy from a charity shop while you have a look too.
Sometimes kids just want to be kids, and that means not having an adult telling them how to be a kid.