I am often asked how on earth I keep my kids busy all day, but seriously I don’t!!! I don’t keep a list of rainy day activities… I don’t keep a list of any activities!!! I don’t have a boredom jar full of ideas, in fact I don’t seem to have many sufferers from boredom. Turns out we have spots around our home where our kids can do what they need to do. I never carefully planned it this way and I didn’t read a book about keeping kids entertained. Rather, it evolved as our kids grew and so their horizons needed to expand too. It turns out that we have areas of opportunity for them to explore and play and just be, without worrying about if it will count towards their college credits or not.
So much of our kids lives are scheduled and programmed. They seem to be glued to a hidden agenda… Not their hidden agenda and not our hidden agenda but rather the “Not So Hidden Agenda” of our “Gotta Get Ahead” culture. Everything has to be educational, aggressively so!!! I must say I am daunted and I understand why many children are unable to play. Just look at their play materials, everything has to be either electronic or organic… No plonking on kitchen pots to make music anymore – either it has to be some sort of electronic keyboard gadget device thing or a wooden drum from a sustainable forest attached to an organic felt mouth organ… Everything is so extreme!!!!
Here are se7en simple spots from around our home:
- Fort Materials: A pile of blankets and cushions, because they must. I don’t need to build a fort out of blankets, I have no desire to either!!!. Sometimes a fort is part of an elaborate game and sometimes it is what it is… a blanket pegged to the table. Either way I don’t step in and offer to elaborate or provide props… I like them to do it themselves and to be as elaborate or as plain as they like.
- Snack Attacks: We have a fruit bowl on our kitchen counter. Sometimes an apple up a tree is a snack and sometimes everybody has to be involved and a major fruit chopping takes place. They don’t need to have lethal weapons to chop up fruit, the knife required to chop a banana is safe enough even for a three year old who has been taught how to handle it.
- Books, and lots of them: We have a heap of books and an ever growing library of brilliant school books. Apart from that I keep a load of library books to be browsed and read and read and read. The library books are chosen just because – not especially educational just fun and whatever they want to read.
- Paper and markers and crayons and scissors and tape: I used to be a bit precious – when I had one child!!! And the markers were kept up on a shelf and brought down for arty moments… but with eight I would be unpacking all day!!! It is all there and available for them to draw and create with all day… not to mention a stack of scrap paper.
- Arts and Crafts: These sort of materials are different to their regular crayons and markers and things. In this category are paints and glues and anything they want from the recycling bag. And it is all recycling. I stopped buying craft materials when I started blogging in an effort to use up all the bits and pieces we had lying around the house. We are still going strong. The only things I have to buy are tape (masking tape, sticky tape whatever!!!), string and just recently I bought a roll of florists wire (it is very bendy and useful for all manner of things!!!).
- Natural Materials: We have a collection of natural goodies, gleaned from outings and we keep them in our nature garden. Bark for carving, shells for threading. We don’t have a massive garden with rolling lawns, we do have a small garden with lots of nooks and crannies. This really is enough to keep their curiosity alive!!!
- Cleaning: Kids love cleaning. And they love cleaning with real tools. The first thing my kids do with a toy broom is use it for sword fights, they have never done that with a real broom. I keep a mop in our yard and a couple of rags under the sink. My younger kids especially love a wet cloth to wipe walls and they spend hours cleaning the sink.
As I wrote this post I realized that the reason all this freedom works is that there is a designated area for each of their activities. I don’t have crayons trailing throughout the house, neither do I have small children mopping the couch. Everything in its place and there isn’t a multitude of overwhelming choice in each of these areas – educational toys and materials are one thing and just plain simple fun is quite another.
I guess what I am trying to instill in my kids is a sense of exploration and curiosity and to be busy in a useful way. Rather than the expectation that I, or life in general, will provide them with things to do.
This Post was hammered out as part of The Thirty Minute Mom’s Challenge at Steady Mom. The photographs were taken from my flickr pool, so didn’t need load up time.
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.