It sometimes seems that our grandparents and great grandparents had it much easier. Of course on an average they had enough children to start their own cricket team but think of all their other advantages – big houses, lots of open spaces, willing extra hands to help and numerous children of the same age busy keeping each other occupied! Now contrast
this with your own situation – one or two bored children screaming for attention in a confined space and little or no help! Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
It’s harder to keep one child occupied than two or more. There are exceptions of course, but in general today’s parents are hard pressed to find amusements that keep their children usefully busy and quiet for very long. No situation however is without options and we’ve put together a few pointers on the best ways of having peace in the house!
- The trick lies in dividing the day into different ‘periods’. One of these periods should be dedicated to things your child may not necessarily want to do but which are essential, such as small chores. These can range from cleaning up the toys, helping you fold the clothes or laying the table and watering the plants. The discipline of doing chores helps a child learn responsibility and the ability to start a task and see it through to the finish. They also learn confidence as they feel they are contributing something of value to the family. For older children make a distinction between everyday chores that are part of the child’s normal routine and special chores that can be linked to extra pocket money. This is essential because of two reasons. One, it teaches the child that there are some important jobs that family members do in the house as part of the family and for which they should not expect monetary benefits. Secondly, the fact that they get some money for some chores teaches a child the value of money and the satisfaction of earning it.
- Apart from chores there are some other things a child can do such as spend a half hour daily on going over the lessons learnt in school that day. This may seem like a little harsh but the child learns an early routine of studying that will stand her in good stead later on. In case your child is not yet going to school you can still keep him occupied with story books, alphabet books and the like.
- Then there are the fun periods, which should be in the majority. A part of this fun time can and should be spent in outdoor play. If your child has no friends in the neighborhood, explore the option of taking her to a nearby park or a swimming pool. Not only does vigorous exercise and play absorb the excess energy of the child, it also teaches social and motor skills. For older children let the child go in for sports such as badminton, tennis, cricket, skating and cycling. If there is no sports club nearby then find a vacant lot and get busy together. The exercise will be good for you as well!
- Schedule at least an hour (in smaller time periods if necessary) for exploratory activity together that will satisfy her need for closeness with you and stimulate her intellectually. This could be in the form of small fun activities like creating a scrapbook or starting an ant farm or growing wheat in a jar or painting with an old toothbrush. Your choices are only limited by your ingenuity and your child’s interests. Show your child the rudiments of cooking. She can help you roll out a chappati or make an Eskimo banana. The kitchen is a very useful laboratory for the child’s creative mind. Exploratory cooking helps children develop an awareness of not only the different methods of cooking but also provide an insight to textures, nutrition, measurement, etc. And of course the thrill they will get from eating their own creations will be phenomenal. You can also spend part of your time together reading books. (For ideas on what books to look for that would be suitable for her age check out the article on choosing the right books.) And don’t forget that older children too need to feel close to you. Take time out everyday totalk to your children – casual talk on everything from daily family news to current events to the latest fashion trends! You will learn a great deal about your own children that may surprise you. Spend time playing games such as scrabble and monopoly together. Buy toys that are slightly older for her age and which stretch her capabilities a little.
- Encourage the child to listen to music, to dance, to sing and to dabble with paints Exploring hobbies and interests will not only help them spend their time constructively but these activities will also make for a well-rounded personality. Some like gardening or cooking can even be a basis for a later vocation.
- As far as possible restrict time spent watching TV or playing on the computer. For most of us, it’s very tempting to let your child enjoy these pastimes because they require little or no effort on our part. But both help discourage the natural initiative and creativity of a child by turning her into a passive spectator dependent upon externalities to keep boredom at bay. Of course luckily you can’t (and shouldn’t) completely stop either of these activities, so that’s a set time of peace anyway!
- If you have the time and energy set up a neighbourhood crèche system. Every week one day in turn one of you can have all the neighbourhood kids over – while the others enjoy a break. It’ll be chaos on that one day but on the bright side – the kids will keep each other entertained and busy!
- For slightly older children introduce the idea of treasure hunts and secret clubs. Spending a little time and effort in putting together a treasure hunt worth of clues and puzzles may keep your children pleasurably occupied and teach them observational and logical skills in addition. Secret clubs also give children a feeling of importance and keep them busy. Give them deductive exercises to try out such as memorizing details of a place or scene.
- Allow the child time on her own. Show her a tree and tell her to create an imaginary life story for it – she may surprise you with her insights. Encouragefantasy play.
- Schedule some ‘thinking time’ for older children. This is time spent sitting or standing alone thinking – about a story, about the scene in front of her eyes or about anything at all. At first the child may rebel and the session may be unproductive but over time both of you will find that this allows the child to dip into deep reserves of creativity and to become a deep thinker. Just make sure that the sessions are short – 15-20 minutes only, at least at first.
Basically all children, regardless of age, require a routine that prevents them from getting bored and using up energy in destructive ways. Dividing each day into different time periods has the advantage that not only does it make it easier to occupy the child constructively; it also enables the child to value the more enjoyable portions more! Like a balanced diet, children also require a balanced day for their optimum mental and emotional development. Best of all, structuring such as this will allow you to work around your own busy schedule while laying the foundation for disciplined work as the child grows older and older.