Nobody in my house is ever allowed to be ‘bored’. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the children say that they are bored, although they have said at times that they have nothing to do. It seems to be my catch-cry at the moment: “If you have nothing better to do, I can find something for you!” Most of the time they know this means work so they find something to do pretty quickly.
Sometimes, though, it is hard to think of something that mum will consider ‘purposeful’ play. I rate purposeful as play where they are fully ENGAGED and self-motivated in what they are doing. I love watching children have fun together. I have fond memories of rolling about on the floor with my brother and friends, laughing until our sides hurt, about nothing in particular … but when these games appear to have no end in sight, or when it looks like the silliness is going to end up with someone being hurt or insulted or something being broken, then it is time to change the focus and bring some purpose back to the activity.
I find that the best way to keep little children busy in engaged play or purposeful activity is to be doing something purposeful myself – but it has to be something that does not absorb ALL my attention (like talking on the phone or writing blog posts!) because for sure the moment my attention is fully focused on something other than my children, that is when they suddenly have nothing better to do than to start using irritating voices, climbing on the furniture, teasing each other and chasing through the house! Pretty frustrating when you run a home business, so planning a balance in how I use my time is important. Early morning, after children’s bedtimes and snatched moments when the children ARE engrossed happily in a game are when I do things like that. In between, I must be prepared to be interrupted, and I understand that to get my children back to a place where they can play normally and happily together I have to start working and them doing something meaningful until they are engaged once more.
So here is my list – I keep it on the fridge so that when the time calls for it, I can just go and have a look at what might be a good idea for that moment.
JOBS FOR CHILDREN WHO NEED TO BE BUSY:
- Sorting spare jars and lids (we don’t have a sock problem in our house – but we do have a problem with jars multiplying in our cupboard and no lids to match them!)
- Hanging up / bringing in / folding washing
- Scrubbing and wiping the kitchen counter (soapy bubbles!)
- Scrubbing and wiping the outdoor tables (more soapy bubbles!)
- Washing the kitchen cupboard doors – (chase away those mysterious drips)
- Sharpening pencils
- Sorting pens that work and pens that don’t work
- Tidying the shoe rack
- Watering pot plants
- Sweeping the leaves off the trampoline
- Write a letter/draw a picture for grandparents
- Write this month’s birthday cards
- Polish shoes / leather bags / belts
- Wash windows with squirt bottles (this tends to be not very productive – but extremely enjoyable in hot weather!)
- Wash bicycles (as above – lots of spinning wheels and making soap suds fly!)
- Polish the dirty marks off crayons (a cloth with a bit of tea tree oil shines them up beautifully!)
CREATIVE ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN WHO NEED TO BE BUSY:
- Collage: make birthday cards for the year/month
- Playdough (I keep this in the fridge and bring it out for play emergencies! If we bring it out regularly it loses its appeal)
- Cooking or baking: biscuits, salads or chopping veggies for dinner, making juice or making ice blocks
- Board games (may require your assistance and enthusiasm!)
- Hand-wash doll clothes in a bucket
- Set up a toy picnic
- Make books or illustrate a story
- Make a cubby house outside with chairs and blankets
- Sewing: a bag or a book cover or a pencil roll are easy to do with limited sewing skills
- Threading beads and buttons (great for occupying little ones while I am sewing! Buy enormous beads and keep them in an enormous jar for re-threading next time)
- Roll felt balls (actually in my house this is a paid job!)
- Weed the garden (this is a paid job in our house too!)
- Dig a hole (for my son this is a purpose in itself!)
- Make a fairy garden outside with things you find in the backyard and in nature.
- Ride bikes
- Decorate bike helmets
- Make some paper bunting for the wall / verandah
- Tell a story with the toys as props
And of course, for more creative busy activities for children, you know to visit Mamamoontime too!