Keeping kids entertained is a tough task at the best of times.
During lockdown though? You feel like you’ve just sweated more than Lee Evans on stage.
My two kids are angels really, but every single kid is demanding, some more than others of course. I’m pretty lucky as they are both capable of siting down and playing with toys and self-sustaining their playtime.
For about 30 mins. Once a day.
The rest of the time, I’m a human climbing frame. Or I’m gurning and creating funny faces every three seconds. Or I’m (unsuccessfully) playing jigsaws, or a board game, or cars, monster trucks, chopping up play food, simulating noises from various animals, writing words, letters and numbers, hiding various toys to form a rudimentary treasure hunt, chasing after them around the kitchen table and underneath the kitchen table, being the tickle monster and many other guises, creating caves and tunnels under duvets, bouncing them on the bed, playing with pirate ships and much more.
Taking away the option of leaving the home and letting them run riot in a soft-play centre, or taking them to the cinema, the zoo etc, means you have to be pretty resourceful when it comes to keeping your kids entertained and stimulated. Much depends on the age but when they are at school age, the onus at the moment is on home schooling, which I must imagine starts to bleed into normal home life, rather than the confines of school hours.
Whereas my two are under that age, which means I have to be the clown – and for the majority of the time, I adore it.
When you hit the sweet spot and they let out an involuntary chuckle, snort or even a snot bubble as they guffaw at your ugly mug pulling faces is probably one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Watching them beam because of something I’ve done? That’s what pulls you through the exhaustion, both mental and physical, when you’ve had three hours sleep and you’re reading a book for the twelfth time.
Boy, do kids love repetition.
If they find something they like, they will suck the life out of it by repeating it over and over, ad nauseum. I swear that I listened to my oldest sing the alphabet song on a constant loop as he ran back and forth from the front door to the back door for 45 minutes. That doesn’t sound a lot but that song didn’t have an interlude. It ended and simultaneously started. His shaggy hair (thanks to the lockdown, my two boys now have hairlines approaching the likes of an Old English Sheepdog) was ringing with sweat as his house lap continued, as well as the song.
My head was in my hands for 43 of those minutes.
But then, when you go to put rubbish out or you go to the shed to grab something and the door is left open? You see them both bound out of the house, free from the shackles of the brick walls? They can’t get enough. And I would gladly leave the door open so they could have the run of our limited garden – but the weather hasn’t been suitable for external play. My wife and I have taken them out on walks as much as possible, smothering them in winter clothes and allowing them to splash in puddles and get soaked. But anything longer than 30 mins?
So when I eventually corral them back inside, the tears flow. They don’t understand that it’s too cold, or too wet, to play outside – and you will feel awful.
Which is another reason why you try so hard to keep them entertained. You feel guilty about not getting them outside enough, but what parent is really, during this winter lockdown?
Last years lockdown was easier as the sun was shining and we could go on little adventures in the great weather.
This lockdown is all about getting through it. So if they watch an extra 30 minutes of TV, or if they have a bit more chocolate, don’t chastise yourself. You’re only trying to do what we’re all doing, which is keeping your kids happy. As long as they aren’t on their 28th bag of crisps and they’re having their dinner, then an extra treat every now and then won’t hurt.
The same goes for playtime. If it means you’re on your haunches for an hour as they pretend you’re a human tunnel and want to crawl under you with their cars – then that will have to happen too.
Got to go, my boys and I have an appointment with a playmat, some monster trucks and my back as a ramp.