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Children cannot play without adult interaction

(30 Posts)
peppajay Thu 03-Jan-13 08:34:01

I think I have made a terrible parenting mistake from when my children were babies. I have a 6 and a 4 yr old and they have hundreds of toys but they do not have any idea how to play without adult interacttion. When they were babies I always took them out and spent lots of time playing with them and I never used the TV till they were about 3. Now I can get nothing done because they will not watch TV, and will not play unless me or my DH are playing with them. This holidays has really highlighted it as they got loads of new toys but cannot entertain themselves. They would play for hours if I played with them but when it is the holidays housework etc needs to be done. They love being out and we spend lots of time at the park or the beach and I have never stayed in for a whole day until these holidays where the weather has been so damned awful. They are extremely active and have gone out on their bikes with my dh this morning. Any ideas how I can get them playing more without adult interaction? I have a friend who never takes her daughter out much and very rarely plays with her but she plays beautifully. Sometimes I wish I hadnt done so much with them then they wouldnt expect it now and would play on their own!!

HecatePropolos Thu 03-Jan-13 08:37:43

They're 6 and 4. They are quite old enough to be told. Go and play in your room for a bit, I am doing X. I will come and play with you in a little while. And they're old enough to be told off for pestering you when you have said this!

Cos there's a middle ground. you don't have to be singing and dancing for them all the live long day, but you don't have to release them into the wild either wink

They will not do this, they will not do that, I have to do this....nah. Let them be bored. There will be a period of moaning and whinging, but they'll figure it out in the end.

JingleBellaTheGymnast Thu 03-Jan-13 08:39:18

When's a realistic age to expect solo playing? DD is 2.7 and it's my new year's resolution!

JingleBellaTheGymnast Thu 03-Jan-13 08:40:12

OP, if it's any consolation, my DD has always gone out loads (teeny house) but has always watched loads of TV blush.

squidgeberry Thu 03-Jan-13 08:41:24

Get them to help with the housework? I tend to potter about doing housework while my dd "helps" or she will just do her own thing. I set up activities for her sometimes, but only play with her occasionally. She's only 2.5 though.

JeanBodel Thu 03-Jan-13 08:45:56

Ah, the benefits of benign neglect. My two (aged 4 & 5) got themselves up this morning and played together quite happily for an hour and a half before they felt the need to wake me.

They also got themselves breakfast, although admittedly this was chocolate cake.

Would you be able to build up your children's playing skills gradually? I would suggest sitting in the same room as them with a book and cup of tea. Make it clear to them that you are reading your book, not playing with them. We use phrases like 'quiet time' or (after 7pm) 'grown-up time'.

It will be tough at first but if you stick it out it really will be worth it.

NotInMyDay Thu 03-Jan-13 08:47:20

My 5 and 2 year old will now go upstairs to play for 15 mins from time to time. It's bliss. They will usually potter about fine while I Hoover, cook etc but I've always insisted that they do.

With your 2 it seems unfair on then to all off a sudden expect them amuse themselves. You could back away from the intensity slowly.
Get then started playing them sit up on the couch and read or have a cuppa.
Next time go to the next room etc

HecatePropolos Thu 03-Jan-13 08:50:21

Please be careful with 'grown up time'

My children see no difference between grown up and adult and much shame has been heaped upon me when they announce in public about mummy's adult tv time, and the like...

CaseyShraeger Thu 03-Jan-13 08:55:11

What about inviting a school friend over? The friend will probably be used to independent play and be able to take the lead a bit, and after a few times of that your own DC may have moreidea of what to do.

peppajay Thu 03-Jan-13 08:59:59

When they were little the books constantly say 'make sure you play with your child and parent interaction is very important' but I think I took it to the extreme so I completely take the blame!!! Sometimes I wish I had lolling kids that were quite happy to get up at their leisure and play till lunchtime so I could get things done!!! On the plus side they know so much about the world about them due to the fact we are always out and their inquisivity. My 4 yr old was explaining to my frirends 7 yr old DD all about nuns and what a convent is as she had no idea as she never goes anywhere. I would just like a happy medium!!!!

YesAnastasia Thu 03-Jan-13 10:41:51

They sound like lovely children Peppajay and don't feel guilty for doing your best.

I'm doing much of the same thing at the moment. Trying not to have them watch too much television, have them play nicely & quietly (not together, rough & fighty) but it's tough. I just keep ignoring their pleas for television and eventually they get into something.

The problem with DS1 is that his favourite way of playing is roleplay (he's got a fab imagination) and I'm RUBBISH at it unlike DH who is amazing at it (like father like son?). I've been trying to get him to like other things like puzzles & games but it's roleplay or TV...

Maybe try puzzles?? Games like pop up pirate etc?

PlainoldWitchesTit Thu 03-Jan-13 10:46:50

Boredom is the mother of invention! Let them mope about for a bit. They'll find something to do. But then you have to try not to interfere with their play, They shouldn't be looking to you to be their entertainer.

Patsy99 Thu 03-Jan-13 10:57:57

If it's any consolation my DS 5 is just the same and I'm similarly fed up of it. I have recently started saying I'm busy doing x, y, z and actually he will now do things like invent battles with his Star wars toys, or actually pick up a book and read it aloud to himself (I'm delighted!). Allowing him to be bored for 10 mins or so seems to prompt him to find something to do.

3ForMe Thu 03-Jan-13 11:08:19

You have given your children the most important thing - your time.

That will never backfire on you.

As for playing alone..... Will they play together? Maybe start with short intervals where they have to entertain themselves. Say 20-30 mins. Get them used to it.

Maybe get some play doh, figures, cars, trains, colouring book etc and say something like, "I'd like you to make me a .....", or,"could you colour this in while I wash the dishes and then we'll show daddy later how you did it all by yourself" etc

But IMO not a mistake by any stretch of the imagination.

Hedwig06 Thu 03-Jan-13 13:09:34

I have the exact same problem, my DS10 and DS5 will not play on their own or together.
If they try to play together it turns into a rough play/fight where one of them gets hurt, I shall be watching this thread with interest!

CPtart Thu 03-Jan-13 13:27:20

Same problem here too, my DS are 10 and 7. 5

The 7year old is not too bad but the eldest is awful, always has been and again, probably my own fault from never leaving him to entertain himself from a young age. He ends up flitting from one activity to another - we even call him mr 2 minutes- and left to his own devices just ends up pestering and then wrestling with his brother.
I have given up hope that he will ever do anything bar sit and watch tv for any length of time by himself. Having said that he is very bright and doing great at school.

Fuzzymum1 Thu 03-Jan-13 21:51:48

I have the same problem with my almost 6yo DS. He will play by himself but nags to be played with all the time. I have started setting limits, ie I will play with you for half an hour then I need to go and do xyz for a while and then I will come and play again. That being said I do spend a fair amount of each day as a school child, answering the register, choosing what I want for dinner, doing phonics etc smile

I did play with him a lot when he was little as did his two older brothers (9yo and 13yo when he was born) but I have always tried to let him play independently at times - he still wants to be played with all day long. SO it doesn't always follow.

He doesn't like watching TV as he likes to be busy playing and learning about things - it's great that he is so interested but some days, especially when the weather is so awful, it would be nice to put a DVD on and get some peace for a little while. I love spending time with him but he's quite intense and TBH I'm looking forward to the routine and stimulation of school again on tuesday. That way the time I do get to spend with him can be focused on doing stuff with him rather than juggling chores and answering the register or having song practice!

BertieBotts Thu 03-Jan-13 21:59:01

You can encourage them by starting something off and then making some excuse that you need to go off and do, tell them you'll be back, they should carry on.

Or ask them to help with the housework if they're bored grin it's win-win - either you'll get some help or they will mysteriously think of things to do!

BertieBotts Thu 03-Jan-13 22:00:29

Also could you sit down and help them make a "bored list" where they list lots of different things they could do if they're bored. Then when they are bored you can tell them to go and look at their lists.

NeverQuiteSure Thu 03-Jan-13 22:21:19

I'd second what Bertie said about setting something up then withdrawing. Mine are a bit younger than yours (2.5 and 4) and role play seems to work really well for them - eg. pulling out their play kitchen to make a cafe or piling tins etc on a table and suggesting it's a shop (shoe shops are another favourite!) Den building also keeps mine entertained for ages although they need some help with the initial structure. They'll then spend ages filling it with pillows/sofa cushions/toys/etc.

Don't blame yourself for playing with them. All children have different temperaments, I think mine playing nicely is mostly down to luck as we're another family with activities and trips out and crafts etc every day. That said, I do have certain slots of 'neglect' within our day. They are expected to entertain themselves whilst I shower and dress in the morning and for an hour or so every after afternoon whilst I cook/clean/do paperwork and so forth. They are very laid bank children though so I'm not sure how much credit (or discredit!) I can take for this.

AngelDog Thu 03-Jan-13 23:44:48

I think temperament is a big factor. I tend towards benign neglect with DS1, just 3 y.o. but he is naturally good at playing by himself. In fact, if he doesn't get plenty of time to play by himself each day he starts having tantrums.

3smellysocks Thu 03-Jan-13 23:47:54

can you start them off and then withdraw slowly - initially playing from a distance.

3smellysocks Thu 03-Jan-13 23:49:15

what about the artie craftie route. could you set up some creative activities.

3smellysocks Thu 03-Jan-13 23:54:05

Set a tea party up for them or get start them building a tent?

Do they play better when friends visit?

My eldest was never into role play but since my very imaginative younger boy hit 4 it's really taken off.

What about inviting other kids around so play can evolve.

BertieBotts Fri 04-Jan-13 00:26:33

I'm glad to see this post though smile DS is not great at playing by himself and is always whining at me to play with him, even though I do make sure to spend time with him. I have been beating myself up a bit thinking that if he had a sibling to play with he'd be happier - you've reassured me that perhaps it's just his age/temperament and not a "poor only child" thing!

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