One of the most frequent remarks I hear from parents is that their children don’t seem to be able to know how to entertain themselves and play at home. They wander, they whine, they beg, they plead, usually for some type of screen time to soothe their restless souls.
Yet with the recently renewed strong statement from the Academy of Pediatrics advising less than two hours of entertainment screen time – including any and all types of screens – it is more important than ever to find an alternative.
First, I suggest taking a good look at what there is for your child to play with. Are materials accessible for them to independently choose? It can be most helpful to isolate an object. For instance, when your child gets up from his nap, let him discover a suggestion, an invitation to play – by merely placing a toy/materials in a place where she does not expect to find them.
Have your child discover a few trucks and cars parked under the coffee table, a cardboard box for a garage nearby.
Then, watch what happens – and how it develops.
There are endless examples like this just waiting amongst your child’s toys – or even in your kitchen.
At Play Shoppe on this past Friday, a doctor’s office appeared. There was the examining table, a doctor’s kit with the assorted gadgets, some cotton balls, some band- aides, a pad and pen and some chairs set up with dolls and teddy bears waiting their turn. I find adding one “real” item (something that isn’t usually considered a toy – in this case, the cotton balls and the band- aides or the cardboard box garage above) ups the attraction.
The rest was up to the children. It didn’t take too long for some of them to notice this set up – you could sense the immediate interest when they came upon it. Was there a doctor in the house? For sure.
Recently we’ve had a Farmer’s Market and a business office- set-up - mere suggestions – just the basics to tempt the children’s creativity and urge to play (work) at interpreting and assimilating the world around them.
Try this at home. Once the children are in bed, take five minutes to create just a hint of a scene – to pull them into dramatic play when they awake. Let them come upon it by themselves and then watch where it goes.
It’s easier than battling the request for screen time and far more meaningful. This will not only help with immediate demands of the moment, but will instill a way to play in your child that can grow into a strong sense of personal initiative and satisfaction.
Just a hint … try it and see.
Consider the upcoming workshop at The Parenting Place, Holiday Clues – Thursday, December 5th – 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM in La Crosse. We’ll talk about how to make this holiday season more meaningful and less stressful, avoiding meltdowns, creating your own traditions, and choosing the kinds of gifts for your children that will offer genuine satisfaction and engagement. Registration is required; limited childcare is available. Call 784-8125 to register or for more information.