Why Can’t We Let Our Kids Just Be?

“But what’s wrong with just being at home and letting them play?” Granny S.H.I.T. April 2009

Since my three children were tiny, my mum’s words have been ringing in my ears.

She would say this usually as I’d just forced the baby out of a lovely lunchtime slumber, was tearing around trying to get ‘the bag’ ready and she was witnessing her daughter spinning out of control amid a sea of  nappies, nappy bags, bottles, back up bottles, wipes, back up wipes and four sets of spare clothes.

‘WHERE’S HER FAVOURITE MAKKA PAKKA?’ I’d scream, sweat pouring from my brow.

Usually baby and toddler would be screaming by now too, and I’d be on the verge of a breakdown. And for what? To get my two and a half year old to Monkey Music, why of course, where she’d never sit still in the circle, I’d feel mortified that all she wanted to do was trash everyone else’s ‘bags’ and the baby would cry. We didn’t last very long.

I’m not dissing such activities at all, don’t get me wrong. They saved me at this early sleep deprived stage, when I just needed to get out of the house before I smashed the Ninky Nonk into tiny pieces. Though I get my dear mother’s point. Why put yourself through this added harassment, when you could stay at home and let little people play with their toys and just be?

But I needed it back then. I needed to see other mums, whether I actually had a proper conversation with them or not. I don’t personally think the music side of it did much for my child, but a brief exchange on whether anyone else fancied Cbeebies‘ Andy AND Sid (I know, I’m greedy) would do me just fine, and keep my sanity intact.

Now the little S.H.I.T.s are older, activities have gone up a gear. Your bog standard soft play doesn’t cut it anymore. There’s Go Ape, climbing walls, dry ski slopes…who’s to say we won’t be seduced by sky diving and helicopter rides once the local zoo has served its purpose? And all at vast expense.

But who is it for? Them or us?

I find myself spending a week’s earnings on a trip to Chessington World of Adventures, determined they’ll have the day of their lives. It’s all there in my head: rosy cheeks, candy floss, guffawing at each other’s jokes, a general fuzzy love fest. And mummy glowing with pride and joy at her clever idea to remortgage the house to give the children yet another amazing day out.

The reality: hideous scenes trying to get everyone out of the house, hatred steaming from all of our ears, bickering the entire journey, queues to get in, tears when not everyone is tall enough for Dragon’s Fury, while mummy mutters obscenities under her breath about how ungrateful everybody is, and why does she even bother. 

Our parents had far fewer of these options, so we just didn’t do it. And we turned out just fine – riding around on our choppers, playing with bubble wrap, trying to make Morph and Chas out of crusty, old bits of plasticine and generally mucking about. We made up our own fun and used our imaginations. 

And I’ve realised that my kids don’t actually ask for it. They certainly don’t need it, but we’ve become embroiled in this frenzy of structured activities because, as parents, we think we should be doing it all.

The same goes for extra curricular clubs.

In the 80’s we had Brownies or Cubs, with maybe the odd recorder group thrown in, but much of our time was spent mucking about after school.

Now there are thousands of clubs on offer from every sport under the sun, to computer animation, and how to be a Disney film director by the age of eight.

Some kids do at least two clubs after school then have their weekends packed with tennis, gymnastics and music lessons. I’m not saying that’s wrong – some children want this and sport is important, especially for this generation who lead a far more sedentary lifestyle than we did due to their screen culture.  These clubs are also necessary for many working parents, as a solution for after school childcare issues.

But is there a point when you need to curb the amount of clubs they are doing, because they’re losing that joy of just being a child when ‘mucking about’ is part of the simplicity of life? Sadly many of our kids don’t know how to do it, saying they’re bored every two minutes if they’re not in a structured environment being told what to do.

Many of us parents are guilty, too, of creating this club addiction. Even if we said we’d never succumb to it, we find ourselves slipping into the well of club fever because it seems that every other kid in the world is learning to play French boules.

So now that the summer holidays are upon us, is it time to leave the kids with some bubble wrap and a cardboard box, put the sprinkler on in the garden when the sun’s out, throw a few jaffa cakes at the situation, and just let them be?

Let’s see how long we last….I’m giving it a couple of days until the credit card comes out and the S.H.I.T. family are all off to Oxygen Trampoline Park. But I’ll give it a go.

As featured in Huffington Post UK 

 

 

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49 Comments

  1. Katherine Coyle
    July 11, 2017 / 3:29 pm

    Wise words! My tv watching was also off the clock as a kid and I haven’t turned out too bad have I? Apart from addiction to Love Island…..xxx

  2. July 12, 2017 / 12:36 pm

    I do think parents try to cram in too much activity when kids would be content to play in the backyard! #fortheloveofBLOG

  3. talkingmums1
    July 12, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    It’s hard trying to find the balance isn’t it? My little girl does 2 clubs per week (both after school) the weekend is kept free for family time. Some weekends are jam packed with stuff, others are completely free to play in the garden or the park up the road x
    #BloggerClubUK

  4. July 12, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    I agree. I used to get worked up about getting my kids into clubs and sports activities only for them to tell me they don’t want to do it. I was wasting a lot of money I didn’t need to spend on things they weren’t into. Then I stopped. I still struggle with it from time to time, especially in the summer when they don’t really have anything but I figure it out and yeah, I just let them be. #bloggerclubuk

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 12, 2017 / 4:44 pm

      I’m totally with you – my kids are not overly keen to do anything club-wise which I’ve embraced though I do get the odd niggle that the entire kid population are fine tuning their sporting and other skills and my kids will be the ones who can’t do anything but then, they’re happy and that’s all that matters. Thx for reading – hope the summer goes well! x

  5. mommyhomemanager
    July 12, 2017 / 4:55 pm

    I love this idea. We used to just run around outside, find games to play with our friends, and have fun as kids. Why shouldn’t our kids be exposed to the same things?
    Thanks for sharing. <3

  6. July 12, 2017 / 5:39 pm

    I think about this quite a bit. We live overseas in Tanzania, there are no kids clubs at all, nothing. We have one small park, hotel pools and that’s it. My boys haven’t worried about it at all, Skyler my eldest (5) is never bored. I actually think it has helped him work out how to play and find fun. And we power cut all the time so I can’t even shove them in front of the tv haha! Me on the other hand, I would love some clubs just so I could go and meet other mums. It’s a long day in the summer holidays when you have nowhere to go! #BloggerClubUK

  7. July 12, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    OMG You are just me aren’t you?! (But you’re more hip) I think these things constantly. I think Ive made a rod for my own back because of the whole homeschooling thing, I purposely made sure they went to as many activities they could force into a week.i feel as though I’m in a trap now though. I want to give the lot up but I’m too worried that it will “affect their future” I know this is utter Bull Sh*t but still I do it. You made me laugh so much. When i was a girl I used to spend saturday mornings wondering around the lanes of Cornwall, looking for the swap shop van… Look at me. Im alright.
    Love your work my lovey! liz x
    #TweenstennsBeyond

  8. July 13, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    This is exactly what I’ve been wondering lately. My eldest only goes to after school football on a Thursday and swimming on a Friday. Other than that we don’t do any other clubs because we want to keep the weekends as family time and not for us to traipse around at the crack of dawn ferrying them to and from clubs. I find times where I feel guilty that they aren’t doing more but they do need to learn how to entertain themselves without the need for activities to be handed to them on a plate! Great post x

  9. July 13, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    I love this – why have we gone so bat shit crazy with keeping the kids occupied. This week we have been taking things super slow at home after morning nursery and actually it has been blissful. Will I manage to keep it up over the summer hols…..? see you on the other side to compare notes! Thanks for linking this up to #coolmumclub lovely xoxo

  10. July 13, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    Amen. We recently ditched one of our five year olds two after school clubs in an attempt to regain some sanity. In the same breath, since the emergence of the sunshine I haven’t really done many toddler groups either….I’m not going to lie, it’s been bloody lovely.
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub!

  11. July 13, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    Yes!!!! This is something I was planning on featuring within my Stress-Free Mamahood series – why do we feel the need to have our kids constantly engaged in some kind of hugely special activity?! I feel like a lot of it is some kind of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ thing – it’s us!! And actually, free play is so important for kids development. Love love love this!! #BloggerClubUK

  12. July 14, 2017 / 11:18 am

    Yep – you’ve nailed all of my thoughts for the last however long. Also, a Monkey Music goer and a Makka Pakka user! Attendee of umpteen clubs. And spender of large sums on attractions. They will always have the best of times with the simplest of pleasures. We never had a pot to ‘*** when we grew up – but had the best of times and the most wonderful memories. I know not the answer but I think perhaps it’s a case of trying to do the best we could – rightly or wrongly. We’ve scaled it right back now. It’s getting that balance and we are all still learning. Fabulous Susie #tweensteensbeyond

  13. July 14, 2017 / 1:44 pm

    I think it’s good to let kids get bored. That way they can find their own ways of entertaining themselves. Quite often I’ll walk into the room to find one sat at the table drawing and the other on the floor playing with dolls, or playing snap together! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

  14. July 14, 2017 / 3:37 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. Oldest is in three afterschool clubs. THREE! We spend our whole week dashing from club to club and trying to do homework that we don’t actually have much time for just being a family. Bring back the 80s, bright orange food and my scratchy Brownie uniform. Miss those simple days! #FridayFrolics

  15. July 14, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    True this. Some children seem over-scheduled that it exhausts me just hearing about what they do, let alone doing it! We all need some down time. (But when they’re younger, part of it was just getting out of the house and taking to fellow grown-ups!)

  16. July 14, 2017 / 8:42 pm

    This is so true. Sometime we forget our kids are just as happy running around the park or splashing with a bucket of water in the garden. I will be keeping things simple this summer holidays. Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:48 pm

      I’m definitely keeping things simple this summer and giving them lots of time to just muck around like we used to. Thx for reading and hosting x

  17. July 15, 2017 / 7:42 am

    Oh Susie I hear you! I have done the full spectrum of activities but when I look around at some of my fellow mums I am actually quite tame in comparison. I have never rushed them off to do lots of afterschool clubs, they do what they enjoy and what they ask me to do and ironically my daughter’s favourite is Guides, it is simple stuff and it is a different bunch of people and she comes back buzzing every week. Otherwise during the holidays we will do a few trips out but for me the rest of the time is simple, hanging out at home, meeting up with friends, long walks, cycle rides and most importantly relaxing and taking stock. There is so much on offer for our youngsters but it is the simple things in life that give us the most pleasure for sure. Happy Summer. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:48 pm

      I’m very similar to you Jo, I never force my kids to do anything in the way of clubs and they do one of their choice after school but some of their friends literally cannot spend a minute at home – 2 clubs after school some days. They must be so exhausted. I just want my kids to have proper down time like I used to at home and make their own fun. Drives me mad when they say they’re bored! Thx for reading lovely x

  18. July 15, 2017 / 12:56 pm

    What a shift in a generation. I agree. My summers were spent making our own fun. Summer holidays were spent outside with friends making fun and just being. I’m not sure whether I’m lazy or trying to parent how I was parented but my kids do not get dragged around from a activity to activity! Great food for thought post and I’m all about the sprinkler in the garden! #CoolMumClub

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      The sprinkler’s been out a lot in our garden after school recently and this afternoon they just played and played for hours, making their own fun, no screens, no entertainment needed – proper old skool stuff like we used to. We’re going to do things very simply these summer holidays. Thx for reading and commenting x

  19. diynige
    July 15, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    Totally with you on this, we try way to hard almost feeling guilty if we are doing enough strange great read Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:43 pm

      Guilt is a permanent part of parenting isn’t it..am I doing too little? Am I doing too much with them? It’s neverending! Thx for hosting and reading x

  20. July 16, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    I’m all for just letting them be. My son doesn’t want to do any of the after school clubs and I’ve never foreced him and believe he should be allowed to be a kid whiteout all these demands on his time for as long as possible. It seems we’re in the minority though and trying to arrange for one of his friends to come round after school is like a military operation and has to be booked up weeks in advance to fit in around all the various clubs and activities. Gone are the days of calling on your friends after school, they’re never in!
    #FabFridayPost

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:43 pm

      My kids don’t actually do many clubs either compared to their friends as I’ve always felt there’s plenty of time for that kind of thing if they want, but you’re so right, play dates are impossible as their friends are totally booked up, and some doing 2 clubs after school! Thx for reading x

  21. July 16, 2017 / 2:28 pm

    Ahh, I had a disaster at Monkey Music with my youngest too – she wouldn’t stay in the room! And yes I dragged her around so many activities with her elder sisters. Looking back, I really don’t know why i did it! You hit the nail on the head with this post, thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      Have to say I hated Monkey Music as all the other kids used to sit in the circle and do as they were meant to, while mine would just go awol. Don’t really blame them tbh but it was stressful at the time! Thx for reading as hosting x

  22. July 17, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I hated clubs…. still do. Tumble Tots and soft play,,, urrrghhh. Mine are thankfully older and over that stage now. Sarah #FabFridayPost

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:40 pm

      I didn’t succumb to Tumble Tots, but hit a load of others such as gymnastics for the 2 year old, not sure how much they really got out of that! Mine are older too so I’m keeping it simple these summer holidays. Thx for commenting x

  23. July 17, 2017 / 6:32 pm

    It’s Never ending isn’t it! Such a great post thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofblog x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:39 pm

      I’m definitely going to try to keep it more simple and old skool these summer hols. Thx for reading x

  24. July 17, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    Love this thought-provoking post (as I love all of yours)-your blog is one of my favourites. I agree that kids must be kids, they must have time to play and also wind down x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 17, 2017 / 10:36 pm

      That’s made my day Vicki, thrilled to bits your like my blog as you know I love yours and you’ve inspired me greatly. Thank you so much and thx for reading and commenting as always. Looking forward to putting my just letting them be theory into practise once the holidays begin! We’re going old skool. Big hugs xx

  25. July 18, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    I home educate and find the more children are left to their own devices a bit the more creative they get and the more free they are to discover and follow their own passions. My brother works in a private school and I see so many of us pupils super-stressed with a long list of achievements expected of them when just being should be enough

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:38 pm

      I bet your children are very good at entertaining themselves being home educated. I think so many children don’t know how to use their imaginations anymore and just ‘play’ because all entertainment is spoon fed to them. Thx for reading x

  26. July 18, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    Love it! When mine were little, I used to NEED to get out of the house too. We did soft play, library, shopping, out to eat, etc. I tried to keep it as cheap as possible. But I really needed to get out or I’d go insane. But all they really ever wanted to do was stay home and have some down time. I finally started staying home some days, and it is heaven! Kids really do need that downtime to learn independence and self regulation. Great post! #bigpinklink

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:36 pm

      I was absolutely the same when they were tiny – I used to go stir crazy being stuck indoors but now they’re fairly self sufficient, they don’t need me and love just pottering. Definitely going to chill more these summer hols. Thx for reading x

  27. July 18, 2017 / 11:36 pm

    Completely agree. There feels like so much pressure to be constantly doing impressive activities these days, and it is so much stress! It can be so much nicer to stay home with their toys and not spend the day somewhere ‘having fun’ (ie screaming at them to behave). Thanks so much for joining us for #FridayFrolics

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:35 pm

      Those day trips are always so stressy aren’t they? And everyone is crying at some point, including me! Thx for reading and hosting x

  28. July 19, 2017 / 4:04 am

    Love this post! I definitely feel the pressure to be entertaining the children all the time with amazing plans to stimulate their brains. In fact my eldest is often happiest just exploring our garden and it means I get to sit down. X #dreamteam

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      July 19, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      My three have just had 3 hours out in the garden having old skool fun – so good to see and they didn’t any other entertainment at all! Thx for reading x

  29. July 20, 2017 / 9:31 pm

    I am giving this a standing ovation. I’m the world’s worst at cramming in a full itinerary at all times. Every morning now even my 2 year old wakes up and says “Where are you taking us today Mummy?”. Although I’m just about to have an op which will mean I can’t drive for 6 weeks so I have a feeling there will be a lot of bubble wrap and cardboard box action going on at the Rhyming/Whining Household Holiday Camp this summer! Thanks for linking up x #DreamTeam

  30. July 21, 2017 / 7:11 am

    I feel you on this. I brought my son to Legoland and he was either running around frantically in unsafe places or strapped in the stroller crying because he hates being strapped in the stroller. We spent a good £150 between the adults, and I asked myself, was it actually worth it? No, no it wasn’t. I think in this case we should listen to our parents haha thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  31. July 23, 2017 / 12:49 pm

    You’ve got this totally spot on. I feel the need to ‘do stuff’ with the kids. Even if we’re just staying in it’s baking and crafts and board games and painting. I don’t ever remember my mum pulling those kind of tricks my sister and I just got to be creative and think up our own games! #postsfromtheheart

  32. July 23, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    This is such a great post, you’re spot on and it’s so relevant with the holidays here. It can be all too easy to try and manage their every moment, but actually, they need to be bored to develop their imaginations. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I boot them out into the garden so I can work! 😀 Thanks for linking up with the #bigpinklink this week.

  33. July 23, 2017 / 6:32 pm

    I am totally with you. I went (and go) to groups for the adult company for me at least as much as I do for the children. I can totally see why amidst the chaos of trying to leave the house that someone would think I was totally mad for doing so though xx

  34. July 23, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    I am so with you on this. Nothing better than letting kids play and use there imagination, they don’t need to be taken out constantly #globalblogging

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