“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
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
Completely agree with you, I march us all down to whatever park or theme park desperate for us all to have a good time and the reality is its a blooming nightmare with Mia getting fed up and tired meaning we have to drag her round the rides and things which stresses us out. I realised a while ago that I’m doing these things for myself and the fact I want everyone to have a good time doesn’t always work! From now on I’m going to leave Mia to the things I know she enjoys doing, playing in the garden! 🙂
You can’t beat playing in the garden and it’s so much cheaper too! We’ve decided theme parks are for a once a year treat now, and obviously it’s always really stressy when we do it for that ‘treat’ time anyway and we wonder why on earth we bothered! Thx for reading x
I do think parents try to cram in too much activity when kids would be content to play in the backyard! #fortheloveofBLOG
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
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
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
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
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
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
Bloody loved this….one minute I was laughing, the next I was in deep philosophical thought.This is fantastic and so incredibly true. I find myself bringing the kids to do all these exotic activities because in my head it sounds good and it will make Barbara off my Facebook jealous (“we went to feed wild deer at a wildlife park today” looks much better than “the kids were throwing balls of socks at each other today.”) You’re totally right, sometimes it’s more for our benefit than the kids, we feel like we’re being better parents by bringing them all these cool places when actually they’re just as happy kicking a ball around at home. I needed to read this! #BloggerClubUK
Thx for your lovely comment. The Facebook posts of all the ‘incredible’ days out people do with their kids is neverending isn’t it, and that can drive you to thinking your the worst parent in the world for not letting them climb Kilimanjaro! But my kids definitely just like hanging at home. Just need to keep those screens away from them! xx
Oh gosh I’m glad I wasn’t the only one in agony trying to get my littles to music class and gymnastics when they really couldn’t have cared less! You’re absolutely right about the value for mums though — just being out of the house is such a lure. This summer I have 3 five and under so the bigger ones are in daycamps, but it’s all fairly relaxed stuff so that I can try to keep some semblance of sanity while we’re still going through night feedings and teething. Next year though, I’m thinking I’ll go the sprinklers and jaffa cakes route for sure!
Great post! Visiting from #fortheloveofBLOG but following you now!
I had to get out of the house when they were little, I would go crazy being stuck in and just needed to see some other deranged mothers. I feel for you having 3 5 and under, that’s tough. At one point and had 3 4 and under and you need to entertain the older 2 while still feeling sleep deprived being up during the night with the baby. Good luck with it. Get the sprinkler on and the jaffa cakes out! Thx for reading x
The boys are all into sports but other than that we just let them be.
We will do swimming trips and the odd day out here and there but mainly they are out playing with friends or pulling the heads off each other.
Sounds like you’ve got it sussed, I’m all up for sports if the kids are keen and swimming trips. lots of pulling the heads off each other here too! Love a bit of sibling fighting, in fact it drives me craaaaazy but all part of being a kid with siblings isn’t it?! Thx for reading x
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
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
I realised when my second was about six months old that I was driving myself pretty much to the edge of insanity trying to do ‘things’ with them. After one particularly disastrous trip to the shopping centre I realised I was creating problems for myself. So we pretty much stayed home for the next three years, and it was SO MUCH EASIER!
I see it today – new parents with screaming babies and wayward toddlers, dragging them around playgrounds and nature walks, with an ‘I’m having so much fun’ fixed grin that’s fooling nobody. They’ll figure it out… if they don’t go mad first… #coolmumclub 😉 x
I look back and can’t believe the crazy things I tried to pack in when they were tiny. We even did Legoland with a three year old and a baby – what a complete and utter waste of time and money – the three year old couldn’t have cared less where we were! I think that was the turning point and we stayed at home a lot after that. Thx for reading x
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!
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
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
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
We are quite an “at home” family and it seems to work well for us. We do try to get out now and again (we are off to Haven next week) to keep everyone sane but even then we tend to go somewhere small so that it’s not too chaotic. Perhaps when the kids are older we will be able to do bigger outings but for now, the local park is enough! #FabFridayPost
Sounds like you have a perfect balance and I love that you are an ‘at home’ family. We are really too, my kids would always prefer to stay at home as I think when they’re not at school they just want to hang here. I have to remind myself when I’m trying to drag them out, that there will come a time when they really don’t want to be at home so I should embrace it now. Thx for reading x
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
Love this post!! I think it is for “us” and how it makes us feel as a parent, my kids are happy in the back garden digging worms yet ill always try and plan days out for them etc when really there is no need it just makes my purse a hell of a lot lighter!
I think you’re right, I feel I have to be giving them the time of their lives on some crazy day out, when they actually just want to chill at home. As you say, also good for the purse! Thx for reading x
We have a lot of days out, but I’m also a fan of those days out being simple stuff just like playing outdoors in the woods/parks and with toys (we don’t have a garden). you don’t have to be doing something full on, all the time! #bloggerclubUK
Absolutely agree, I am calming down on days out these holidays and more time doing simple things like walks and bike rides. Let’s see how it goes! Thx for reading x
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!)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
I hated clubs…. still do. Tumble Tots and soft play,,, urrrghhh. Mine are thankfully older and over that stage now. Sarah #FabFridayPost
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
It’s Never ending isn’t it! Such a great post thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofblog x
I’m definitely going to try to keep it more simple and old skool these summer hols. Thx for reading x
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Love this and totally agree! I recently read an article that said kids need to have time to themselves to be bored because that sparks their imagination and their creativity. One of my friends has a daughter who does 10 yes 10 clubs!! Seriously, I don’t know where they get the time, but I do agree that I think it is more down to us parents that worry kids will get bored. No they won’t! As you say, we survived the 80s!! #BigPinkLink
10 clubs! That is phenomenal, where is the down time in that schedule? I’m going to see where today goes with them entertaining themselves. Got their friends coming round which always helps. Thx for reading x
Brilliant blog post! Ido think sometimes it is more for us and to get out of the house where I also work so as not to get cabin fever! So important for the kids to just make up their own play and get out into the garden. We just had a shed of outdoor toys in the garden as our entertainment, but climbing trees was my favourite activity!
I had cabin fever on day 1 but the sun is shining today and filling the house and garden with playdates which always helps. Let’s see what entertainment they all come up with. Nothing better than climbing trees! Thx for reading x
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
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.
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
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
My son is disabled and we can’t go to most places other people can go to. There are no clubs, no activities, just simple times with friends. I think you are right but I still wish we had the opportunity to go wherever we like and the choice to join in with things.
It must be very hard for you not having the choice to join in with things and go wherever you want with your son, and we take it for granted that we can choose whether to just be at home or go out and do things. xx
I really agree with this!
This past week, the TV has been off and the kids have been out in the garden playing most of the day (weather permitting!). They have been much happier than going to ‘planned’ activities!
I’ve been so lazy and skint I never used to take my kids anywhere, my little girl would be happy taking her dolls for a walk around the block but then I had a boy and he’s wild! I’ve found a soft play nearby that has ‘toddler time’ and is free entry before 12 in term time! I started taking him every week but now it’s the summer he misses it! We tried it once but it was too busy for me.
I never understood the lure until I had a busy bouncing boy!
Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time
We live quite near the beach and some lovely country parks, so (apart from parking) we have a lot of free days out. I only sign my kids up to things they really want to do. And if it was too much I wouls stop it.
I see what you are saying and largely I agree with letting kids be kids. However, our four girls all go dancing after school and on Saturdays – because they want to and they enjoy it. They sing and do drama too because they want to and they enjoy it. They do it with like minded friends and those friends will become lifelong based on shared interests. This past wee I’ve run myself ragged with the youngest two who are also in the local pantomime so on top of school, they’ve continued their dance classes and been to the panto rehearsals (the shows runs this week). We allow them to do it all so long as we know they are enjoying it – despite the fact it costs us a small fortune! When they are at home they are themselves and chill out.
Sounds like you have a healthy balance especially as your girls obviously really enjoy their dancing and drama and this has increased their social circle. All these things cost a fortune don’t they? But they clearly get down time at home too so as you say, as long as they’re enjoying it, it is fabulous that they have such a passion for dance. My kids have never been mad for any extra curriculum activities so I don’t force them like I know many parents do, just to keep up with their peers. Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s good to hear other people’s perspectives.