A couple of weeks ago I shared a post about a Free Play campaign I am supporting with Petits Filous and BritMums. I have always been an advocate of this type of play so I was happy to be able to spread the word even more about this campaign. However, even though I love it and I tend to use it a lot, there are always new tips to learn so I was very excited to take part in the “Let them Be Bored Challenge“.
Giving children the freedom and space to play free is an essential part of their development. That is why allowing them to learn about the world around them, developing essential social skills and fostering their physical and cognitive development is so important.
STARTING THE CHALLENGE
Petits Filous is a great snack to use when our kids are enjoying some Free Play
The idea of this “boredom challenge” is to simply step back and let kids work through their boredom and Play Free, making sure they don’t reach for tablets, smartphones or TV’s as a boredom filler! I did this challenge over the period of a week (but not every day).
We started on a weekend. I wasn’t feeling well, with no voice and a blocked ear, so we spent most of the weekend at home. However, this was a good opportunity to let my girls entertain themselves.
Girls playing in a Maze
I normally let them use their tablets during the weekend but this wasn’t going to be an option. I explained the situation and asked them to play on their own.
I wasn’t sure if they would last too long without reaching for a tablet or TV, but to my surprise, they entertained themselves pretty well without help. My girls have a 4 year-gap so the eldest is normally the one who leads the games. However, the youngest has a strong personality so that isn’t always the case, LOL!
DRESSING UP & MAKEUP GAME
Playing dress up and putting makeup on
They started with one of the games that they love a lot: dressing up and putting makeup on! They loved this game so much, so after an hour of playing in their room, my youngest came to show me her makeover. She was so happy and excited to show me how she looked, bless her! Then my eldest asked me what I thought. It was funny that despite them being on their own playing, they had the need to come and tell me what they were doing. This happens because apparently, kids love to be around us, so they play on their own but at the same time they need to check where we are.
PLAYING WITH DOLLS & PRETEND FOOD
Playing with dolls
Playing with pretend food
After her makeover, my youngest daughter went to play with her dolls. She loves to be the mother and spent a fair amount of time playing this game. I went to check on her after a little while but she was nowhere to be found. I finally found her in the bathroom playing with pretend food and Play Doh. She loves doing this. It was nice to see that she had found another game to play without any help. She then came to each of us offering some pretend food for us to ‘eat’ 😉
My girls then decided that they wanted to play teachers. This is something my eldest loves a lot. She needs the little one to play this game but otherwise, she will line up all her dolls and play with them on her own pretending she is their teacher. She will give them books or blank paper with pencils for the lesson. She is so funny! This time, my youngest daughter was happy to play so this entertained them for another hour.
After playing teachers, they went to their room to play with their barbies and dollhouse. This is normally a good game but I don’t know why it usually ends in tears! The problem they have is that they want to play with the same dolls despite them having lots to choose from. I’m not sure why this happens so often. I, of course, wasn’t feeling very well to handle this properly so I kind of went and tried to sort it out as quick as I could. It wasn’t easy but I managed.
PLAYING IN THE PARK
Jumping in the park
A stick or an umbrella are great sources of entertainment 😉
For the remaining days, we did different things. I was feeling better so we went to the park where simply jumping up and down, playing with sticks or even having an umbrella were things that my girls enjoyed the most. Getting out of the house, despite the weather is always great entertainment. I love this Swedish quote I heard, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”. This is spot on, don’t you think?
OUR THOUGHTS AND ANITA’S TIPS & ADVICE
We were very lucky to be able to have the support of the prestigious Anita Cleare, parenting expert and co-founder of The Positive Parenting Project. After our challenge, we were able to have a conversation with her to discuss our experience and to get some tips and advice.
Overall, the challenge went pretty well and we managed to get the kids to entertain themselves as well as sparking their imaginations without mummy or daddies help. However, there were certain queries that I had that I discussed with Anita and these were her answers.
1. Problem Solving Skills & How to help our kids to stop fighting
We always have some inevitable fights between my girls. Even though they tend to play and get along well, there is always something that starts a fight. Most of the time the cause of the fight is very silly so we manage to sort it out pretty quickly but I wanted to discuss this with Anita, so I asked her about it and she gave me the following advice:
- Ask what the problem is
- Let them think what the solution could be
- If we still have issues, we could say: “We need more ideas to solve the problem”.
- It is very important that they must agree on the answer/solution to the problem.
- Keep asking for more ideas if it doesn’t work.
- We could say: “I can see you are not ready to sort it out so let’s put the doll away for now”
- If you provide them with the skills to do it, they will be able to play beyond the problem.
- We sometimes underestimate their skills. We should let them have the opportunity to solve their own problems without our help.
- We need to provide very little assistance as we tend to step in too quickly
- It is important that they play with children their own age, with older kids as well as with adults. It is part of learning social skills.
2. Positive Parenting in the Digital Age
Having a job that involves being on my laptop 24/7 or on social media makes me worry about the example I am giving to my girls. Also, daddy is an IT consultant, so you can imagine that gadgets are pretty much part of our life and routine.
As a parent, we are supposed to give an example, so if we let our kids see us around technology more than necessary, then they would do the same because it looks like this is how things should be. I find this hard to tackle but I want to improve it so I am conscious that we should have moments with no technology at all.
Another important thing that we discussed was the type of use of the technology. Sometimes it could be a positive use. For example, we have implemented “Friday Movie Nights“, so after dinner, when they are showered and with PJs on, we prepare popcorn, hot chocolate and choose a family movie which we watch together. This, for example, is a positive use of technology and should be embraced.
When your kids use their tablets it should be for producing something positive. For example, my eldest daughter loves filming with her iPad. She could record videos and put them together and she can produce something nice about her family. Again as long as she is using it for something that will encourage an improvement of her skill, it should be fine. Or when she does her Math homework on the PC. This is part of her school homework so she needs to use it so it should be embraced too. Also, she is now learning to send emails to her school friends as part of her tech development. I guess nowadays we cannot hide the fact that the world is changing and the digital age is upon us.
Three things I got from Anita’s advice:
- We need to have time off technology
- We need to have clear rules
- Be clear what positive things are being done with technology (positive skills)
You can read more about Positive Parenting in the Digital Age HERE also written by Anita.
PERFECT SNACK FOR FREE PLAY
Petits Filous provides your child with the goodness of calcium and vitamin D, for healthy bones. Some foods, such as Petits Filous fromage frais, are fortified with it. A recent Change4Life campaign launched by Public Health England recommends Petits Filous, with less than 100 calories per serving, as a healthy snack for kids.
Petits Filous fromage frais keeps the fun going & is very convenient! We love it on the go too! Grab it and head out and you know they are getting something good to eat which will keep them going! If you would like to find out more about their latest campaign, please visit Petits Filous on Facebook.
TWITTER CHAT TIPS & ADVICE
Girls having a fantastic time playing in the park
We had a super interesting Twitter Chat where Anita and a lot of parents got involved in discussing Free Play. Anita gave so many great tips and fantastic advice that I wanted to share the ones which stuck in my head:
Advice for parents
- It is better to have no phones at meal times.
- Always try to eat at the table.
- Try to go out no matter the weather.
- Children only learn social skills and group dynamics by practising them so there is an argument for stepping back and letting them work it out together.
- With little ones, you can teach the word gentle and give lots of praise whenever they are gentle. When they are aggressive, remove them from the situation for a few minutes and give no attention. Kids tend to repeat behaviour that gets attention.
- A mess is always great! You should not be afraid of getting grubby and messy and just getting out there being less afraid of scrapes and falls and mud is fantastic.
- When you are feeling guilty, it is good practice to repeat this to yourself: “It is not my job to fill their every moment. A bit of boredom is good for them!”
Tips for great Free Play
- Throwing some pots and pans and utensils on the kitchen floor. They can create their own band doing this.
- Use empty boxes for playing, Kids love them.
- Build dens using boxes, sheets, duvets, etc.
- Have a treasure hunt where they find some berries, cones, leaves, sticks, etc.
- Keep some toys aside and bring them back after a few days so you keep getting the surprise factor.
- Have open shelves, wooden draws or toy bags which your kids can easily take out to play and put back to keep tidy. It keeps things less messy
Are you scared of hearing “I’m bored!”? Do you let your kids get bored? Do you implement Free Play at home? What do you think of the “Let Them Be Bored” challenge? Are the tips and advice useful? Do you have more we can add to this post?
Disclosure: “I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.”
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