I hear this often. Parents are at a loss when trying to keep their child busy at home. Many express frustration that their children are disinterested in their toys and being “just at home” makes them bored, whiny, and frankly speaking, tiresome.
One mom recently told me she and her three-year-old son purposely don’t stay at home any more than they have to most days because he just runs around, throwing things, climbing, jumping and shouting.
“Going out somewhere, even the mall, works better” she said. “How can I keep him occupied and keep my sanity too?”
Here are some suggestions to consider.
Take a discerning look at your child’s toys and play area.
I recall different situations with both of our children when they were approximately three-years-old that required us to be away from our home base for several months. Only very choice playthings made the cut to come with us. It was heaven.
It taught me how few things children need and how valued those few things become.
So weed through your child’s toys. Think hard which ones should “make the cut” at your house. Arrange them so your child will notice them and so they invite her to play. Store the others out of sight.
When thinking play things, think outside the box. High interest objects are not often toys per se.
I know a mom who bought six rolls of duct tape, all in different colors, for their four-year-old boy for a birthday present. He loves duct tape, putting it to good use in his creative play ventures. Perfect!
Toy boxes have been around for years but they are actually ineffective in encouraging focused play. They’re made to be dumped and dumped they are – leaving disarray that leads to disinterest and disregard on the part of your child.
A child needs ready access to his toys. If things are stocked on a top shelf of a closet or at the bottom of a toy box, motivation, independence and initiative is impossible.
Shelves are a perfect way to display toys. Not only do the toys look inviting, but they provide an easy and satisfying way to pick up and return them to their rightful place on the shelf.
Take things out of their boxes. Use baskets and containers to attract your child’s eye. Be open to letting them mix and match. Sometimes one needs a combination of several toys to create the vision they’re imagining. This adds to the richness, drama and creativity of their play.
Children like to be near others when they play. Don’t expect a young child to play alone down in the finished basement play room. It won’t happen.
This is so crucial and so significant, I should have put it first!
Being outside in the fresh air, running, chasing, jumping, shouting (where we’re supposed to do these things} is like an absolute miracle in producing relaxed, ready-to-focus children.
Reading, books and experiences.
Make use of connecting books, experiences, seasons, interests, activities to her play to encourage and expand her understanding and appreciation of her world. These will provide fuel for her in extending these new ideas into her dramatic play.
Keep the TV and videos off. There are some great music and storytelling CD’s for children available at the library. Check them out. See if playing them in the background lengthens your child’s independent playtime.
Be busy yourself.
Children often take their cue from you, sense your calm and model your productivity.
Developing a rhythm for your family’s day, your family’s week will be learned, felt and integrated by your child.
If this hasn’t happened yet at your house, it can. Don’t be impatient. It does take time to establish your own family’s routine – to believe in it. So many parents tell me, I can’t be busy while my child is awake.
Children will often complain about being bored. That’s okay. They can learn to accept boredom. From boredom comes the ability to figure out what to do next. Ta Da!
Allow this to happen.
If you are reading this and thinking, this won’t work at my house and would like to have some more specific suggestions to help you along, feel free to contact me at Family Resources, 608 – 784-8125.