Pinterest is running amok with ideas for activities to do with and for kids: projects for every season, instructions on how to play outside, toys to make from cardboard boxes, rainy day fun with masking tape, sick day activities, how to build magical forts of twinkling lights and reclaimed barn wood, crafts to make with/for kids for every holiday – from Easter to Bacon Day, 100 Things To Do Instead of Watching TV, instructions for making school lunches that look like van Gogh’s flowers, paint made from basically anything plus food coloring, and on and on and on.
I think we’ve made this childhood thing a bit too complicated, and a heck of a lot of work. Let’s all step back, put down the glue guns, quit making play sand out of organic free range corn starch.
Because kids are really excellent at childhood, if we just let them at it. Really – they don’t need us to be cruise directors.
My 3-year-old makes up worlds of her own without my help sewing props or creating sets or giving her animal masks I commissioned on Etsy. She makes intricate houses and cities out of blocks without me showing her a single blog post.
She is thrilled to do simple things like help me cook, clean, and fold laundry. Seriously – the kid loves to match socks. There’s really no need for me to craft elaborate matching games featuring foxes wearing washi tape mustaches. I know that some people enjoy all the crafting, but a toddler will be happy whether they’re matching a fox or a sock.
To be honest, my 3-year-old is usually plenty busy without me entertaining her. Seriously – Evy has so much to DO! I don’t mean structured activities or anything I’ve orchestrated – I mean just plain playtime. There are dolls to care for, play food to prepare, towers to build and destroy, pictures to draw, songs to sing, books to read, running and jumping to do – we’re not parenting geniuses, but the kid has no problem entertaining herself, and I have no plans to mess with that by rolling out an activity schedule.
And all the posts about “Things to Do With Kids Outside” and “100 Ideas for Outside Play”? Oy. I loved playing outside as a kid. Most of us have memories of endless afternoons spent in backyards, making up games, building forts, playing kickball – parents (maybe) watching from afar, but certainly not involved. I’m guessing our kids know how to play outside without referring to a Pinterest list. Really, they know what to do. No need to create hula hoop obstacle courses or make sidewalk chalk out of ice cubes.
We’ve gone and made it all too stressful and complicated. Childhood doesn’t need to be stage-managed. There are days when I read blogs and get pangs of mom guilt because I haven’t crafted 14 different sensory play experiences for my child. But she’s fine. The world is a sensory experience, especially for a little one. A kid’s imagination is more magical and more real than anything any blogger has come up with, believe me. There’s a lot our kids need us for, but when it comes to play let’s just take our seasonal handprint crafts and get out of the way.
Apparently I’m not alone in these thoughts – this post is great: I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical.
Great thoughts on this from Janet Lansbury, whose perspective on parenting has been very helpful to me: Stop Entertaining Your Toddler (In 3 Steps).