Friday, 17 August 2012

What are we doing today Mummy?

There are some questions that I am dreading passing the lips of my children.

Questions like:

"How do babies get into their Mummy's tummy?"
"What does f**k mean?"
"Is the Tooth Fairy real?"
"Where have all my Haribos gone?"

There will be others that I haven't thought of that will floor me, render me speechless, grasping for an age appropriate response that doesn't then beg another question in reply, thus leading to a confusing tale of storks, gymnastics and thieving elves.

But one question that keeps being asked to the point that the Wee One, whose speech is coming along leaps and bounds, can repeat perfectly, is "What are we doing today, Mummy?"

*mutters "Well I know what Mummy would like to do today."*

"Playing." A simple one word response is deemed inadequate.
"Entertaining yourself." Progress. A two word response. Also deemed inadequate.
"Making an 'I'm Bored' jar." More words. Worthy of a little consideration this time. However this requires me helping and frankly I've got stuff I need to do.

Obviously I have stuff I would like to do (see first answer) but there is lots of stuff that NEEDS to be done, like cleaning, cooking, paying bills, repairing broken (by children) things, fixing stuff, dog walking, researching for (it may happen one day) project, tidying. My list is very long and there aren't enough hours in the day to do it all, especially when there are three children at home who have forgotten how to play.

There are snatches of time when they do play together, I hear the Big One issuing instructions, I hear the Princess challenging her role and the Wee One not doing exactly what he was told. A bit of a discussion ensues and assuming everyone has compromised and concluded that their role is satisfactory, play begins.

It is probably my fault for directing them too much, giving in when they say they have nothing to do and offering up suggestions (hardly any of which are taken mind you). I should just ignore them and let them work it out themselves, carry on flicking the duster around and wait for them to get bored of saying 'I'm bored' and go and find something to do.

I could spend hours with them, just playing, reading, helping, but I simply do not have time or patience so they have to remember how to entertain themselves. I can do it. I can entertain myself for hours (given the opportunity) so why can't they? Or I could spend a small fortune on activities for them to fill the hours of every single day but who has the budget for that?

I remember my own school holidays and they were filled with games, reading, a bit of TV, bike riding, den building, playing with friends but very few days out. I don't honestly remember my Mum playing with us. She may have, and I've forgotten, or she may not have and *gasp* we played by ourselves. We had a holiday but outside of that we were at home and largely entertained ourselves.

So in the 2 weeks remaining of the summer holiday, one will hopefully be spent away together, but one will be at home with a couple of play dates thrown in. The I'm Bored jar has dust on it (I haven't had time to do the cleaning because they want entertaining instead) so they need to entertain themselves preferably without killing each other.

So how can I educate them to play by themselves? Am I neglecting them by not providing entertainment for each waking hour of the day? All suggestions welcome.


  1. Check out a news story in today's Telegraph - that a survey of kids shows most prefer a day playing in the garden to an expensive trip out. The best way to teach them to entertain themselves is to hoof the out of the room you're in and shut the door. But none of this is any remedy for the awfulness of your first question!

  2. I think as mums there are too many things making us feel guilty for nt doing enough for our kids or for not being perfect parents. I for one constantly feel guilty for not playing with my kids enough but they aren't great at thinking of things to do either....I am always making suggestions. Now I've read your post and the one from Adventures of a Middle-aged Matron, I'm going to stop!

  3. I agree, as mums we're under too much pressure to entertain our children now. And I really don't think our own mums had the same feeling of guilt. We all agree that our games were simpler, usually involved the garden, and there definitely weren't so many days out expected etc. Here are some suggestions - and I think it's ok to give our children ideas, but then they must do it for themselves. Get big old paint brushes and tubs of water and let them 'paint' the terrace. My children have done this for hours at my mum's house (her idea). Simple containers full of water provide many hours of fun too. How about old saucepans or containers with out-of-date flour or couscous and a spoon - and more water... to make pies out of? They dry beautifully in the sun. Dens are an obvious, but if they're allowed to include garden furniture, big sheets and clothes pegs they can make really good ones. Include a picnic and you're sorted for ages. Finally, and this is something I did as a child, my siblings followed, and we galloped around the garden all summer in... you may need to assist a little... get a big cardboard box and turn it upside down. Cut a round in the middle, big enough for child to step through. Make a cardboard head and neck (we're making a horse here, by the way) and attach it to the front. Er, lots of sellotape required. Attach string shoulder straps to go from the front to the back of the horse's body on both sides. The children can do the face and add a tail. These make really good horses, trust me, and if your children don't get it then, well, you'll have to take them to the zoo then!....

  4. can't you possibly say that somehow 3 of them got into mummy's tummy so now that they are out they should use the company to entertain each others? I only have one, so I can't even use that excuse! she seems to live her life climbing to me! maybe I should scoop her around yours to play with your 3 and the two of us can chat to entertain ourselves! they can look and copy if they want.
    (whatever you do, stay away from crafty things! I bought G some colouring books and sure as hell she wants to do 'drawing' all the time!! BORING! I got you the book and the pencils...get on with it, I say!)

  5. My mum just used to turf us out into the garden - we always played on our own .... only two weeks left, then you can get back into the school routine again!


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