Written by Alice Zsembery | Author “Real Kids, Real Play“
When I was a parent to my hypothetical kids, I had so many great ideas of being that Instagram mum in the playground all day. Imagine me, with the kids, casually sipping my takeaway latte, rocking my beautifully sleeping baby in the pram whilst pushing my giggling toddler on the swing.
Of course, my toddler was happy to sit there on the swing forever whilst I finished my conversation on current events with my best friend who had timed her child-bearing impeccably to match my maternity leave arrangements…
Yeah, I was one of those people.
The reality was that, when I found myself with 2 real kids and my friend came over to visit, she had to clear a little spot on the couch to sit on, whilst my baby lay screaming on my nipple and my toddler son ran in screaming ‘Mummy, poo, poo’ whilst holding out his grubby fingers (True story).
I was tired. I had a demanding job that required my full-time attention, in part-time hours. A beyond full-time job as a mother and the responsibilities of feeding, clothing and generally keeping the household functional in whatever hours of the week were left.
And on my days with the kids at home I just constantly felt inadequate. Inadequate that every moment was a compromise between quality time and getting a meal cooked and the house clean enough. As a former Miss-100%’er, I was now just trying to maintain everything at 60% at best.
I would love to say that I had them in the park, all day, every day.
BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT? Some days it’s raining or too hot or you don’t have an outdoor space or you have a younger child asleep or you can’t handle the thought of putting on clothes or, hell, some days you just simply need to get stuff done around the home!
And as guilty as you may feel, sometimes the kids just need to be indoors to allow you to do it!
There are so many things that can tie us to the house… It can be all too easy to feel guilty about this and feel like it’s not ideal for your child but you know what? Indoor play can be beneficial too.
I know how easy it is to turn on the screen time for ‘just a little bit’ or to resort to toy-buying in an attempt to entertain them whilst you get one much needed work done. But what about considering some good old fashioned creative play?
I can hear the groans. That was me too. I get it.
I always associated indoor play with crafts, clutter, preparation time and mess. That was, before I embarked on a journey to seek out activities that could be undertaken around the home using everyday items AND requiring little to no setup and expenditure.
I promise you. It can be done.
- Got a box? Cut a slit in the top and BAM. There it is… a post box.
- Got a few teddies? Grab a blanket and put the teddies on the blanket at snack time and have a teddy bears picnic.
- Got a few cardboard tubes and a cereal box? There’s a multi-storey carpark with ramp right there.
See, the thing is, you can feel guilty about being stuck indoors. Or you can grab whatever (ah-hem) rubbish you have around the house and create a play wonderland. Without the clutter.
And the thing is, the less you micro-manage, the more you teach them to use their imaginations.
This type of play is how your child will learn to not only love a little time alone but they will know how to fill it with creative and independent play no matter how limited their resources are. This is an amazing skill for anyone to have in life!
So how about we just ditch the mother’s guilt right here. Unless you have a full-time housecleaner, nanny and cook then you simply cannot be outside all of the time. Period.
And while we are at it, let’s ditch this ongoing pressure to buy every toy imaginable and ‘keep up with the Jones’ ’ and just get back to some good, old-fashioned play.
For ideas on fun and energetic activities that can be undertaken at home using household items, feel free to download my free resources here and here. And if you like what you see, check out my new book, “Real Kids, Real Play – 150+ activities to do around the home using household items”.
Written by Alice Zsembery | Author “Real Kids, Real Play”
Want to know something interesting?
The average age of the mission control team that sent the first man to the moon was 28. Facebook and Microsoft were 20 when they launched. Apple, 21, Google, 25, Twitter, 30, Amazon, 30 and Tesla, 34.
These legendary young minds that threw out the rulebook and created their own products (some in markets that they dreamed up themselves) were entrepreneurs in out-of-the-box thinking. Their imaginations, literally, made history.
When we were children we were chucked a cardboard box and some textas and sticky tape for good measure and told to create our own play. In fact, I distinctly remember going to a Peter Coombe concert as a 4-year-old with a decorated ice-cream container as a hat… And, you know what, I even became a finalist in the hat competition in that thing!
Making your own play…that’s the stuff legends are made of.
Somewhere along the way it feels that play became so prescriptive and my worry is that children are losing the essence of imagination.
Or maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s more that our kids seem to want more, and have more. And as parents, we feel this constant urge to keep up. To deliver. We feel guilty all the time. Like ALL THE TIME. For working too much, for not working enough, for only having one child, for having so many children that we can’t remember our name, let alone theirs. And in some way, by buying and buying and buying it makes us feel better.
Even buying because we didn’t have ‘that toy’ in our childhood and remember how much we would’ve loved it and want to give it to our kids.
And once kids are finished playing with “that” toy, they’re ready for another. For parents, it can be difficult to keep up. The clutter accumulates. The wallet gets thinner and thinner. The guilt sets in. Children start losing the magic and the potential of their own imagination.
So, there came a point where I was surrounded by our own very expensive plastic clutter that I decided to seek out activities that I could do using household items. You know the stuff we used to do, the stuff our parents did and the stuff our grandparents definitely did (minus the dangerous elements). I wanted to give my kids an opportunity to let their own imagination shine through.
Now, I admit it. I’m an engineer. I am a maths person and one of the least creative people I know. Like, I almost failed the compulsory visual arts subjects at high school. Really…
But it was in this challenge that I set for myself that my kids and I, we tried over 200 activities. We played. We made. We dirtied.
And then somewhere along the way a strange thing happened. My then 3-year-old (who shares my lack of creativity), turned to me and said ‘Mum, I wish I had great ideas like you’.
There was one half of me that was so excited that he was really enjoying the activities that I was testing, and the other half that he was so sad that he didn’t think he had that creativity within him. I turned to him and said ‘Tom, every single thing can be used in many ways. Just use your imagination and you can do anything!’.
And would you know it, pretty much every day from thereon in, Tom came to me starting with ‘Mummy, I KNOW. We could do …’ or ‘I have a great idea! Let’s do…’.
Now on many occasions, it made absolutely no sense. Like this kid was c-razy. But it didn’t matter. He was enthusiastic, engaged and creative. And 100% absolutely using his imagination.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not anti-toys. We’ve definitely went through our “toy overload” stage and we have slowly reduced this back to a manageable level.
My point is, by being creative with the items around the home, that in turn has rubbed off onto my son whose imagination has increased 10-fold. And yes, the kids got toys for Christmas, but they were fewer and more carefully selected. And do you know what, despite the new shiny things, on Boxing Day Tom was asking to do the Volcano experiment AGAIN.
So next time your kids scrape together an ice cream container hat or make a kingdom out of cardboard rolls, remember you’re setting the stage for their own creativity as they grow up. You’re investing in the imaginations of the next generation. The next Gates, Zuckerberg or, heck, even man/woman on the moon…
For ideas on fun and energetic activities that can be undertaken at home using household items, feel free to download my free resources here and here. And if you like what you see, check out my new book, “Real Kids, Real Play -150+ activities to do around the home using household items”.