How to do nothing with your kids.

How to do nothing with your kids.

Seven weeks ago, my car was stolen. I was devastated. Living in a village with my three year old daughter and seven month old son and totally crap public transport links meant that the car was our only ticket out of here and enabled me to transport my two to various play dates, soft play, farms, cafes, swimming, gymnastics, kids parties, toddler groups, shopping trips, etc. Being busy was my way of coping and I felt I was doing well as a Mum if their days were crammed with activities.

I felt that I was preventing them from boredom by filling their days up like this, as if they were empty vessels I could fill with ‘experiences.’ I felt that I was stimulating them, encouraging them to explore the world, but you know what? Actually I was just exhausting them. Actually I was just not giving them the space or time to really explore or experience anything.

When we lost the car our world got much smaller. Apart from the odd kind friend or family member taking us out here and there, we were limited to our house, the park (thank god we have a park nearby!) and a few little footpaths we can walk through surrounding the village. I started doing the food shopping online, gave up carting my daughter around to her various gymnastics, soft play and trampolining clubs, and generally embraced spending much more time at home doing ‘activities’ such as;  Sitting on the bed with the kids.   Playing in the garden.Hanging around in the park.  Aimless craft activities like dipping stuff in glitter and a sellotaping stuff together from the recycling bin and not in any way that produces something you could put on Pinterest.  Sitting on the floor in the kids’ room building stuff and pretending things.

Mainly pretending to be faires and building fairy cafes/castles actually.


The thing is that kids are never really doing nothing. They will always find something to do unless they are asleep so I suppose I am not talking about doing ‘nothing’ so much as I am talking about a different way of approaching a day spent with children.

For maybe the first time since having two kids rather than one, our days became unscheduled. Normally my daughter is at preschool for fifteen hours a week but just as the car was stolen, preschool began a three week holiday. No preschool, no car, no clubs, no toddler groups, no structure.

So are my children happy spending more time at home and taking part in less ‘activities’?

Well, Arthur is very happy spending a good amount of time picking up an apple and dropping it back into a fruit bowl over and over again. 

 Audrey is quite happy making magic potions and mermaid caves in the garden and I am realising that it is really ok for them to do stuff like that somedays and not even bother going out that much.

 Boredom is basically a space. By denying my children this space I may have been denying them a space in which to grow.
 Why was I so scared of my children being bored? What would happen to them? What would happen to me? Am I neglecting them if they don’t get to feed five farmyard animals a week, try out every swing and slide in the district and visit six sites of historical interest?

Look, all of these things are great and I will continue to do them with my kids (within reason) but I’d like to put forward the argument that children who are given the chance to be bored (play in a child led and unstructured way) are actually happier and maybe even more intelligent.

There are some woody bits near our house we like to walk through but just take it really slowly and look at everything. To be honest, I am trying to kill time and make the few activities I can provide last much longer but actually I have accidentally given the kids what they really needed which is just to have the time to explore and enjoy things.

For instance, if Audrey wants to stop for ten minutes to hit a tree with a stick (which in turn makes the baby shriek in delight) why don’t I just let her? The tree doesn’t mind and I don’t have any more interesting activities up my sleeve so why not?

One day we stopped and played in an underpass for a good half an hour. They loved listening to the echoes made by their voices, splashing in puddles and looking at the graffiti (thankfully, not too many penises) on the walls.
  The thing is, hanging around in a dark underpass and listening to your own screeches and whoops bouncing off the walls is probably way more fun to my children than being taken to a farm to feed some chickens, but as it is not really a typical ‘afternoon out with the kids’ they do not usually get a chance to enjoy this kind stuff.  Hopefully one day soon I will get another car but in the meantime, I’m so glad I’ve got better at doing nothing. Doing nothing has made my children and therefore me, much more happy and relaxed. Car or no car, from now on we will definitely be doing nothing on a much more regular basis.

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25 thoughts on “How to do nothing with your kids.

  1. Hi, I had four children in my twenties who are now adults and had my last child who is now seven in my early forties. Apart from seeing more dads/grandads at school drop off and pick up, this having to do everything everyday is the biggest change/difference. When I had my last daughter, I went to a post natal group and used to go home crying because I felt like such a failure because I wasn’t taking my baby to any of the countless activities and groups just for babies. Although I was doing with her what I had done with all of my other children as babies, I felt I was doing something wrong. Then I realised I wasn’t, as I could see the other babies were being far too stimulated and it just carries on as they get older. Your blog is just describing a typical day for a mum in the eighties/nineties and before. Facebook also compounds our guilt of not having ‘the best day out ever’ every time we leave the house even if it’s just to put the bins out for the dustmen. Imagination is the best tool every child needs and if we do everything for them then they can’t use it. ‘Only boring people get bored’ is what I would reply to any of my children who said that they were ‘so you’d better find something to do’. I’m sorry to hear your car got stolen there are some horrid people out there although thankfully, what you’ve learnt from the experience is priceless, which is it really is OK to do nothing xx

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    1. Yes, I agree with you. This change is very interesting isn’t it? I think that the desire to do activities with your kids is great and very well intended, the only trouble is that you can definitely go into overdrive when what they really need is free time.

      Facebook is an interesting one. I would say that Facebook has helped me to feel connected with other parents at times where is hard been hard for me to get out but at the same time it can induce guilt when it looks like everyone is coping so much better than you!

      Hopefully I will get another car again soon but I will definitely stop cramming their day with ‘activities’!!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. There is always such guilt heaped upon stay at home mums if their children are not experiencing the numerous activities and stimulation of nursery. Children who can occupy themselves at times and explore their imaginations. Truely wonderful! xx

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  3. Oh man that sucks your car got stolen. I would have cried! I hope they find the thieves grr. I am so with you on this post, me and my boy have regular ‘nothing’ days. They are the best and you become so relaxed. It’s good for mum and child 🙂
    Xx

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    1. I did do a little crying after the initial shock!! I was just so relieved that the pushchair, car seats and my daughters scooter were not in the car that night!!

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  4. I absolutely love nothing days! My kids love ambling about the house and the garden playing their imaginary games!

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      1. Ah yes, I’ve yet to work out the more technical side of this blogging thing! Tried to use Pinterest and I just don’t get it!!

        I should probably try and work it out one day!

        X

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  5. Gosh this is me…trying to do lots of wonderful things out and about to stop them getting bored. Which is crucial for developing imagination and play! However when we stay in they fight, argue and complain! It’s easier to take them out! We stayed in a lot over the Winter and I must say I was a bit stir crazy after a few months. For me a combination of a few days at home vs a few days our and about works perfectly and we all love the balance. Great post 🙂 Jess x

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  6. Love this! I do think we pressure ourselves unnecessarily to be always doing structured activities. It sounds like you are all having a great time just seeing where the wind take you!

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  7. It’s our generation…I am pretty sure our parents probably let us make it up as we went along and if you were “boooooored”, then you weren’t interesting …. so do something about it! Imagination is all you need.

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  8. Sorry the events that lead tot his moment was so unfortunate but great results! I believe more parents should do this with children. Sometimes those are the best learning/teaching moments on both parts!

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  9. I think your blogs are brilliant I love this Iam curently doing nothing with my two as I have no car husband has it for work we have been to the library in our little town and my two youngest are curently playing in the back garden while hanging out the washing I love the days of not having to be confined to running around from one thing to another first of all it stresses me out and second of all I find my kids play much better when they aren’t confined to doing what I think they should be doing in case they get bored also we have a alotment which we spend so much time on and my kids love it so much and it teaching them how to grow things and look after things we love being at home please keep these awesome blogs coming I for one love reading them x

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    1. Hey, thank you so much! For quite a while I have felt that a lot of these ‘kids activities’ are a bit of a con! There is so much you can take them to but ultimately who is it good for if you overdo it?

      I mean, some days I was just constantly getting them in and out of the car and that in itself is so stressful!

      I love allotments. My mum has one that she works on everyday, sometimes we go to help out. Can’t wait till we can start eating off it too! Trying to convince her to blog about it!!

      X

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  10. Lovely post. I’ve started to realise the joys of doing less myself (also due to car issues). It’s important to teach them to slow down, explore and play. I think its a lesson we could learn as adults as well.

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