If you don’t already know this, you will, oh so soon enough.
Entertaining young kids, day-to-day may well be the hardest and most draining part of raising them. When you’re burning your knees on the carpet trying to make her smile and work out what the hell it is she wants from you, the truth is she probably wants is wishing you will make like a Wiggles cover band or dance in circles on one foot until you collapse in an embarrassing heap.
But like most of us you probably suck at acting and music. Regardless, there’s only so long you can carry on with these performances if you aren’t a professional.
And there’s a long time between birth and the soccer ground or letting them ride of down the street on skateboards with their mates.
To make this even clearer it may be worth asking yourself simply, how much does a well-worn and half beaten-up human have in common with a sparkling new one-year-old or a three-year-old or even a five-year-old for that matter.
But with a little tweak of your outlook and some minor forethought and organisation you can bring back your inner-child, get back in the moment with your kid or find ways to entertain them while you have a break and do something you like.
If this hasn’t been motivation enough then conjure up a picture in your head of your kid’s biggest tantrum or whiniest day and see this as insurance against such anti-social outcomes.
Here is the tweak to your outlook:
Kids have an in-built thirst for knowledge – everything single thing you do and they do forms part of their education and development. For example, it is easy to forget that what they see when you’re both out and about, is drastically different from what you see. Sad old you has seen too much. You are desensitised to life’s mystical and divine beauty.
Imagine what they experience at the lofty height of 80cm when an express train boils past while they stand two metres away on an empty platform? What are they thinking when a shark stalks past, teeth bared in an aquarium tank? Same goes for the T-Rex skeleton staring down at them in a museum or the feisty seagull that had the hide to come and steal one of their French fries. At the same time they can be learning new words every day while watching superhero cartoon characters save the day if you just put the subtitles on.
Your creativity and ability to communicate on their level will probably determine how many of these learning experiences – from doing the shopping to flying a kite – will also double as entertainment. In other words, you need to plug in.
Try to always be engaged – not checking your emails and text messages on your dumbphone. If they know you are interested, they will know that you love them. This has to be huge for their self-esteem. You can see them light up. And sooner or later, I found, I began to marvel at the world in a childlike way again. That is one of the priceless gifts my kid gave me.
But in saying all that, when you have long periods together, you need a hard and fast plan of attack. And getting an entertainment schedule in place for your youngster can take a bit of organisation and planning. I hate organisation. I was born to have a personal assistant. But it never happened. If you don’t have one either, here’s a few tips to get you sorted:
- Grab a blank whiteboard day/week planner and stick it on the wall or fridge. Knowing what you have set up for any particular day (even if it is only one or two things) can clear your head and let you focus on doing those things well and on time. I have included an example chart and blank charts at the back of the book. Check them out.
- Read your local paper, parenting publications and websites regularly to find events in your area on specific days or weekly or monthly. Most parenting and council websites keep calendars of child-friendly activities that are invaluable. And kids have never had it better, there is always something on – from fireworks to fairs and even foodie festivals.
- Get your head around local infrastructure. Find out where your local pools, playgrounds (indoor and out), movie cinemas, quirky museums, sweet makers, libraries, parks and public transport hubs are. If you’re going to take long public transport or road trips to get where you need to go, consider taking toys to entertain them and you. And make sure you pack well with plenty of food and water
Another thing to consider when planning your entertainment schedule is yourself. Yes, you. Don’t be ashamed to choose places and experiences that you will like too. You can’t spend every day at fun parks, you can’t go to playgrounds from dawn till dusk and there won’t always be friends to take her to see. Why not:
- Take your child to catch up with one of your friends for breakfast or lunch at a cafe. Just take a bottle and try them out on a few solids or a full-scale meal depending on their age. If they are old enough give them colouring pencils or maybe even your phone with games and apps. Don’t rule out a milkshake or a babycino
- Take a long drive to give you some headspace. Kids usually crash on long drives so why not look up a good playground you’ve never visited before and your child will have somewhere new to explore when they wake up
- Stay in touch with mothers’ groups or fathers’ groups if you can find one in your area. They often have weekend events organised. Go along and if you feel like you fit in and your kid’s happy then you may be onto a winner
- Catch up with someone else or other people with kids of a similar age. You get conversation and they get a fresh face to play with
- Take your kid to a place that is safe for them and you don’t have to watch them every second you are there. That could be an indoor playground or even to family member’s house