With summer quickly approaching, my news feeds are being blown up with articles that list brilliant, sometimes very complex, ideas to entertain my children. I do have to hand it to not only those people who think these things up but also to those people who actually DO these activities. Major props for your patience and art skills. However, no matter how many of these articles I read, no matter how many interesting comments and followup are posted to them, three words always scream out at me:

“…entertain your children…”

Hold onto your hats, folks, because I’m about to pull out my “when I was a kid…” stories. To give you an idea of my demographic, I am a woman who is in her late 30s. I am not 75, nor did I grow up in the middle ages. I actually did have electronic devices and color TV complete with a VCR.  Also, my mother was a stay-at-home mom.  So, now that we have some context, here we go…

Why, oh why, are moms suddenly required to entertain their children?

When I was a kid, when summer came and school was out, my mom did not make practice laser grids with yarn for us to train for future bank robberies. She did not fill plastic bags with chalk-paint that we could throw all over the place and make pretty patterns. We didn’t get to make giant balls with dry ice and bubble solution. We certainly did not microwave bars of soap until they made clouds. And if my mother had ever created an entire obstacle course in our backyard out of pool noodles, chairs, and other assorted household items…well, let’s just say we’d be wondering what happened to our REAL mom.

No, when summer came, we played. By ourselves. Using our own imaginations.

A basic day would go as such:

– Wake up and eat breakfast
– Go outside and play. We roamed the woods, we played in the yard. Our little plastic toys had adventures in the jungle of the grass. We rode our bikes up and down the road and around the yard. We built forts in fallen trees.
– Return around noon for some lunch (Note:  lunch was not served in bento boxes or cut into assorted shapes)
– Go back outside and play. Repeat as above.
– Return home for dinner (A sit-down meal with the whole family)
– Go back outside and play until it got dark

If it was rainy, we played inside. Our Barbies got makeovers, our dolls were our own children, our stuffed toys had adventures under the bed. We drew pictures on construction paper all by ourselves — we didn’t have my mother hovering over us with a blueprint of what “art” we were creating that day. We didn’t have a dollhouse, so we drew one on paper and pretended to play on that. We read books. We used our imagination.

We never dared to utter the words “I’m bored.” That would immediately get us assigned a mundane chore like cleaning out a cupboard, a chore meant to show us what “boring” really feels like.

For the record, I can completely understand having a few fun activities in my back pocket to surprise my child with on occasion. I’m not saying “Stay away from your kid!” But if my child requires me to have something exciting/different lined up to entertain her from dawn till dusk…where is her own imagination? How are kids ever going to grow up to be able to entertain themselves or be satisfied with what they have on hand and not require someone else with a basket of craft supplies to help them have fun?

Moms and various studies claim these activities help children grow their imaginations. Maybe so. But since when do kids need their imaginations directed by activities made with painter’s tape or pipe cleaners?

If you really really want to spend most of your waking time trying to entertain your kids, do it with an activity that they could do themselves if you weren’t around. Play dress up with old clothes and a high heels. Play school with stuffed animals or dolls. Create little villages in a sandbox using sticks, leaves, and other bits of nature.  Buy a $10 plastic swimming pool and let them go nuts splashing in the water or playing with it.  Let them make “mud soup” in an old pot.  These types of things are activities that spur your child’s imagination, allow you to participate, but it leaves you as just that: a participant. Not the resident arts & crafts director.

Here are a few activites that I have encouraged my child to enjoy:

– Cut little shapes out of Kleenex. She had a blast creating little creatures out of tissue pieces that she taped together.

– Pick flowers or weeds outside and sort into same-type categories in a special “flower collection” box (an empty cracker box that was not covered in tissue paper and fairy sparkles).

– Fill the kitchen sink with water and let her splash around in it with some of her toys.

NOTE what I did not do for each of those activities:

– I did not buy special Kleenex in various colors. I did not create stencils or other aids to help her decide what to cut out.   She decided what to make (fish, a person riding a horse) and taped them in a row on the edge of the counter top.

2. I did not organize a treasure hunt to find various flowers/weeds in a variety of colors or shapes. I did not try to come up with some cutesy way to store all those dandelions so that they make a pretty design.  The dandelions shriveled up and died in their cracker box.  She discarded them and had fun finding more.  It’s life – flowers die.

3. I did not create a sandy beach on the counter top next to the sink-ocean. I did not color the water blue.  Both of those things are messy and unnecessary.  She pretended there was sand, and she pretended the water was blue.

And so, despite all the things I didn’t do, she had so much fun and played at all three of those activities for a minimum of an hour, sometimes longer.  And she exercised her imagination.

The plus side to giving yourself a break from this particular “perfect mom” trend?  You don’t stress out about coming up with an activity schedule to fill each day. You don’t spend every night poring over Pinterest or Googling “how to entertain my kid” to make sure you have new and better ideas all the time.

I make every attempt to not direct my child’s imagination. I step back and allow her to imagine and play with whatever happens to be on hand. And you know what? Our household is not stressed out or unhappy. My husband and I are not exhausted trying to entertain our child, and my child is not exhausted from having to take part in all the really cool activities that I am forcing her to participate in. Parenting is all about choices. I guess if you want to set a precedent with your children that they can’t have fun without mom’s stash of super-cool activities, then that is your choice. I’m not going to disagree. This article is simply meant to show those moms who are stressing out for not doing all those things that it really is okay.

Moral of the story? Just let your kids be kids. You are not less of a mom for letting your children come up with their own method of play without your constant planning and interaction.  Don’t worry about it so much. Parenting is not supposed to be this hard.

Bad Mom Entertain Children

There is beauty and magic in a free imagination.

Dr. Mollie Cule! 20+ Awesome Science Activities You Can Do At Home!

Share This