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To think my 6 year old DDs should be able to entertain themselves for a couple of hours without any input from me?

31 replies

sandyballs · 16/04/2007 11:21

[angry}. This was yesterday morning, and it's still bugging me. DH was working and I told the girls that I needed a couple of hours to change the beds, do a bit of paperwork and have a nice long shower. Too much to ask? I didn't think so bearing in mind they have a room full of toys, a garden full of toys, plus each other to play with. I made it clear to them that when I'd done all this stuff we could go out in the sunshine somewhere and have some fun.

Well they didn't leave me alone for more than 10 minutes at a time - they squabbled, sulked, argued, moaned, whined. I ended up shouting and everyone was miserable.

I'm sure my parents didn't "do" things all the time with me and my brother, we just got on and played and parents were in the background for the odd chat. DH thinks I've made our DD's like this by doing too much with them in the past and now they don't know how to amuse themselves .

Views much appreciated please, particularly from those with vile 6 year old girls .

OP posts:

hoolagirl · 16/04/2007 11:25

I think a couple of hours is far too long imo.
I would love to be left alone for a full 10 minutes!
When kids are around, i think you either need to do your stuff with them under your feet or leave it till they're not there.


JodieG1 · 16/04/2007 11:28

Yes too much to ask imo. 2 hours is ages for children as young as 6.


Soapbox · 16/04/2007 11:31

2 hours much too long imo. Also the more you shout at them for bothering you the more insecure they get and the more needy of you they become.

I'd have got them helping along with the bedmaking, done the paperwork in the garden while they played on the swings or whatever and had a short shower!


Lazycow · 16/04/2007 11:31

I'm sorry I can't help as I don't have 6 year old girls but you have my sympathy.

This is what my 2.5 year old is like. I put it down to his age and that he has no siblings but your post has made me think he might not !!

The only thing I can say is maybe the request for time to yourself was what made things worse. Sometimes drawing a child's attention to something they can't have (i.e your attention) makes them want it more.

Is there anyway they could have 'helped' with the housework a bit - ie they help get the sheets for you and 'dust' while you changed the beds?

Also maybe if they had done some drawing while you were doing the paperwork - that way they were near you while you were working. Easy to say I know and as I say I have no real experience yet.

Sometimes our best laid plans don't work out. At 6 I would expect children to be able to entertain themselves a quite a bit but they may not be able to do it exactly when you want them to.


keziah · 16/04/2007 11:31

definately, definately, not unreasonable especially as they have each other to play with. There's a whole school of thought that advocates what i think is called "benign neglect". Letting them get on with it. Give them the gift of boredom, or something like that!! Good Luck


Lazycow · 16/04/2007 11:34

Oh I tink benign neglect is fine but I would say this refers to taking the opportunity to do what you want to when they are busy and doing their own thing.

Asking them to keep themselves busy when you want them but they are not happy about it to is not quite the same thing I feel.


sykes · 16/04/2007 11:36

I don't think it's too long. I have a 7-year old and a 5-year old and they play for two/three hours together USUALLY very happily if I need to work. And they did it last year as well. Maybe I'm the reverse of sandyballs and have never played wtih them as much as I should have done. Guilt alert. I do spend the rest of the day doing stuff with them though. I'm useless at indoors stuff - but walking, riding, swimming etc I love doing.


puddle · 16/04/2007 11:40

My two (ds 7 and dd 4) will entertain themselves for a while but I find it's easier to set the timer and do things in 30-45 minute bursts rather than a solid block. Mine would definitely start winding each other up if they were left to themselves for two hours.


Anchovy · 16/04/2007 11:43

I do sympathise with you, and I do think it is worth persevering to get them playing by themselves, but I don't think it just happens. Here are my views, for what it they are worth.

My Ds is 5.6 and he will entertain himself for longish periods of time, although it is a bit hit and miss whether the same happens with his younger sister or not. So maybe having 2 of them makes it harder, not easier.

DD still has a lunchtime nap for 1.5 hours, and DS is told that while she is doing that he has to have some quiet time - play with his lego or playmobil, for example, but not running round the garden and not having lots of grown-up input - her nap time is his quiet time. So maybe you need to teach them how to do this rather than just expecting it to happen.

Also, although DS genuinely likes playing by himself without outside stimulation, we do tend to set it up for him a bit or suggest what he could be playing with - so rather than saying "go and entertain yourelf for 2 hours" you need to say "how about playing with your playmobil while I do this, then maybe we can have some juice/coffee, then you can do some colouring in/play in the garden while I have a shower".


UnquietDad · 16/04/2007 11:44

Mine (7 and 4) have been known to entertain themselves/each othe for whole mornings at a stretch - playing schools, usually! Unfortunately DD is such a bossy "teacher" that her recalcitrant "pupil" DS ends up having a tantrum, eventually.

There have been days when, with just DD at home (on school training days for example), I have actually been able to work just by letting her spread out her blanket on the floor of the living-room, and all I've had to do is look in on her every so often and feed her... She thought it was great! Admittedly CBeebies/CBBC was also involved in this process!


keziah · 16/04/2007 11:47

My three year old happily plays with her dolls house during her sisters naptime while i do washing up, cooking etc. Her older brothers and sister (9,7,6) play all sorts of made up stuff and ocassionally come and get me to admire something they've built or done. I think its really important to let them do that. I love them and am genuinely interested in them, I just don't think they need me as an extra playmate all the time.


lisad123 · 16/04/2007 11:48

I think too long. Maybe try setting up activities next time. My DD will amuse herself for all of 20 mintues if set up with something, but if you tell her to go play she will come back in 5.


Clary · 16/04/2007 11:49


2 hours is quite a while. TBH I change the beds with the kids under my feet, or they even help (take pillows out of cases etc. And I don't mind them pottering about while I am in the bath.

But paperweork, yes I agree you need to be alone. My DD would play upstiars with polly pocket (on her own) for half an hour or more. And maybe with one of my other 2 there might be peace, tho with all 3 there's usually a row.

I think half an hour in the garden is about the most mine would let me alone for. Can get quite a lot done in 30 mins tho, esp if I occasionally poke my head round the door/glance thru the window to check on them.

Having said that, sometimes they play for ages without needing me - I do believe they need to be able to do this - but it's never when you planned it, is it?


Issymum · 16/04/2007 12:06

Interesting Sandyballs as I've been thinking about this recently. DD1 is 6 and DD2 is 4.5yo and they spend a lot of time at the weekends playing together with little to no parental involvement or supervision. We eat meals together, generally have four or five hours of a family activity together and there is the whole bedtime routine, but outside that they pretty much entertain themselves. In fact, DD1 has been known very politely to ask me to go away so that they can get on with their game. It helps that we have a very large and messy house and garden so that they can get on with their own games out of sight but knowing that we are pottering around in the background. I have felt fleetingly guilty about the fact that they prefer each other's company to ours, but I get over it!

However, it is fatal to tell them that they have to go away and play together because I need to do something else. That invariably results in a total breakdown. It's much more successful if I just start doing that something else. They will often come along and ask to help, but after a short while realise that they could find something much more interesting to do themsevles and wander off. For us, the key contributors to successful playing are:

  1. Turn off the TV. DD2 is captivated by it and DD1 is bored by it, so it stops them playing together.

2. Ignore any mess they are or might be making. Unless they are doing something genuinely destructive, it's simpler to clear it all up at the end of the day.

3. Respond to any child trailing in with a "She hit me", "She won't play with me" complaint as neutrally as possible. I normally reply "Really? Oh dear! Can I kiss it better? Perhaps you could ask her not to do it again." but make no attempt to go and intervene. Normally that's enough to satisfy the tale-bearer who potters back to her sister.

4. Don't interfere. Don't even look round the door. It breaks the magic.

5. Be really boring. Not antagonistic, not annoyed, just desperately dull in an adult way.

It's interesting that some of their most successful playing together occurs at the weekends between 7.00 when they go downstairs to make their own breakfast and 9.00 when we get out of bed. They know that we're around if they need us, but they also know that we are not going to interfere or intervene, so they just get on with it. (Before any Mnetters have a health and safety headfit, it's only a cereal and milk breakfast and we clear the kitchen of sharp knives, the kettle and the toaster the night before. Also DD1 is a health and safety paragon.)

As I said, sometimes I feel bad about the amount of time they play alone together, until I consider how imaginative, involved and quite frankly stark-staring bonkers most of their games are. However hard we tried, we could simply never be that much fun.

kslatts · 16/04/2007 12:12

My dd's are 7 and 5 and they will sometimes happily play together for an hour or two, but other times they will argue or want me to play with them.


Judy1234 · 16/04/2007 12:19

Interesting. My sister is always calling me asking if my twins when they were the age of her twins needed as much constant attention and I just can't remember but she thinks mine play happily alone and hers don't. Perhaps to some extent they do. It's hard to judge.

She would do what you did - tell them she wanted some spare time to say call me and in a way that's part of the mistake. I would just do what I was trying to do and may be except to be interrupted but if you tell them I don't want to be disturbed and they're normal children then that makes them think - great - here's a way to get attention and annoy my mother by disturbing her; whereas if they think you would love them to be coming in to see you they might stay away.

I'm working today and I've someone looking after them (they have 10 days more of Easter holiday) and I was just watching how much attention they need/get as they're perhaps not needing a full time nanny in school holidays when I'm here and working so much at 8 but I think they still do.


Judy1234 · 16/04/2007 12:20

Ah, just saw issym's post which I could have written. Yes, I always try not to intervene too.


puddle · 16/04/2007 12:25

I think the timing is important actually - my two are brilliant when they first wake up and will play together really nicely with no input at all from us. If we are at home together though it all deteriorates by about 10.30 and we have to get involved/ go out.


Soapbox · 16/04/2007 12:28

Mine are actually very different - my DD 9yo is unable to occupy herself for very long at all - unless she is playing on SIMS which we limit. She follows you round like a shadow - although she is charming company - and her chatter does relieve the boredom of getting some of the chores done!

My DS could spend all day playing by himself as long as you bung him some food and drink now and again. He plays with his lego and will watch a dvd or play football in the garden for hours at a time!


Issymum · 16/04/2007 12:28

Good point Puddle. We normally try to heave ourselves out of bed by 9am so that we can have a shower and a second breakfast with the DDs and be out of the house by 10.30/11.00am otherwise it does tend to go pear-shaped.


handlemecarefully · 16/04/2007 12:35

Very interesting thread.

I would like to think it is possible to encourage your children to play without disturbing you for up to 2 hours - tend to think children should be given parameters and that we all tend to martyr ourselves to our children these days in a way that our mothers never did ....

However it is not something I have achieved yet. But mine are still a little young (ds turned 3 yesterday and dd is 4.9)...

Where I have achieved a modicum of success (not 2 hours straight but perhaps an hour) I've set up a play scenario for them eg - "why don't you play animal doctor?" (and then got them various cuddly toys and their doctors set out and left them to it)...or perhaps got the playdough out...Tends to work better when it is something they haven't played with in a while


Judy1234 · 16/04/2007 12:54

I've been puzzling over it with my sister a bit so it's interesting to me. Perhaps I just "neglect" mine and don't expect to be on 24/7 call to them. if they say they're bored I'll say great here are XYZ jobs you can do - they soon disappear or I say it's good to be bored, children aren't bored enough these days. Sometimes it's how you deal with them too - if they know I'm busy they want more attention. If I smile and come out and give brief help they then go off and play alone.

It's also hugely an age issue - at 8 they play alone much much more than younger children do.

My sister seems to have developed with them a pattern that she is their constant entertainment servant when they are around but it may just be that children differ. One of my twins even since they were crawling has always wanted more adult interaction and chatting than the other who will kick a ball happily for ages on his own.


puddle · 16/04/2007 13:00

Yes HMC the other trick is to unearth something old from the pile of toys. We tidied the kids' bedroom at the end of last week and they found lots of bits and pices they hadn't played with for a while which kept them occupied all weekend


sandyballs · 16/04/2007 13:06

Thanks for all your replies, it's an interesting subject really. Perhaps I did make a mistake by telling them exactly what was going on, rather than just getting on with it. I'll try that next time. When I said two hours, I didn't literally mean I didn't want to see or hear them for two hours . I obviously expected a little interruption/chat but not as much as there was. Maybe they've had enough of each other's company, being off school for two weeks.

Issymum - you're very lucky that your DD's go downstairs on their own at the weekends. We're trying to get ours to do this, as they're more than capable of sorting out cereal/milk etc. But they still insist on bounding into us and getting us all up.

OP posts:

sandyballs · 16/04/2007 13:09

I don't think it helps that one of my DD's has become a very bossy little madam. When they were in the garden and I was changing the beds, all I could hear was her voice. "We are going to play this game and I am going to be in charge, and you will do this this and this, or I will not be playing with you". Bound to cause conflict with that attitude . There was a slight pause, then I heard a thud and a scream, and discovered her sister had shoved her into the rose bushes .

OP posts:
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