May 22, 2009
Judging by the amount of groups, events and activities organized for them, children these days seem to require an awful lot of entertaining! Take the small town where we live for instance – if we wanted, my daughter could go along to an organized event every day of the week: toddler groups, soft play, baby gym sessions, storytimes and rhymetimes – to name just a few!
As it is, we go to two toddler groups and one music class a week plus the occasional trip to the soft play centre. Now, please don’t mistake me, I think toddler groups, soft play centers and the like have a lot to offer – they’re a great place for toddlers to fine tune skills such as balance and co-ordination, use up some excess energy and interact with other children. They’re also great for mums as they offer opportunities to socialize and usually provide one of the (all too) rare occasions in the week when you get a cuppa made for you!
However, I don’t think that they should be the be all and end all: it’s important for children to have a bit of variety, a bit of randomness and a chance to entertain themselves. I guess I worry that, if kids are continually entertained – either by tv, organised play or all-singing all-dancing electronic toys, then how will they learn to use their imaginations and be creative? If they’re continually cosseted in risk-free ‘safe’ environments, how will they learn to assess risk? If we constantly organize and ‘manage’ their play, how will they learn self-reliance and spontaneity? If they’re always indoors, how will they learn to appreciate the natural world?
Personally, I choose to leave my daughter to her own devices from time to time in order that she at least gets chance to make her own entertainment. It doesn’t always work – if she’s tired and grumpy, she’ll refuse to play on her own and will soon be tugging at my legs. But more often than not, she’s quite content to play alone and I’m pleased to say that she’s quite an imaginative little thing. She’s particularly fond of playing with her ragdolls and will sing to them, pretend to feed and dress them, make them dance with each other or give them a ride on her rocking horse. I can’t resist sneakily peeking in on her sometimes as it’s just so heartwarming to see!
As well as time to herself, I like us to have ‘dawdle days’ once or twice a week – days where we have nothing planned and can just go with the flow – no groups to attend, people to see or classes to go to. We can simply spend hours making daisy chains, painting pictures, baking biscuits, exploring the river banks or generally just mooching about.
This morning was a good example of one of our dawdle days. It was wonderfully laid back and completely unplanned. I needed a few bits and pieces from the market so on the way back we stopped at the park for an hour. Baby Small had brought one of her dolls with her and after she’d played on the swings and slide, she insisted that dolly did too.
When we got home I fancied a spot of baking so checked to see what we could make with the limited ingredients I had to hand (remember this was unplanned baking!) and opted for snickerdoodles. Can you guess which ones mummy made and which baby made? 🙂
Sometimes the best days really are those that are completely unplanned! Oh and if you’ve never tried snickerdoodles, do give them a try! You’re in for a treat….