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How to Keep Kids Busy

Do your kids constantly complain about being bored? Do they always need you to play with them?

With everything kids have access to nowadays, how could they possibly be bored? How could a child with every hot new toy under the sun have trouble playing?

Parents seem to be dealing with this more and more frequently. And report it starting earlier and earlier in childhood.

Just a few days ago a mom was posting that her 18 month old was bored and she didn’t know what to do to keep him busy.

Earlier today I came across another mom of a 6 month old asking for ideas to keep him entertained–expressing that she had “done” everything she could think to do for him.

And that right there, friends, is the problem.

So let’s talk about this whole idea of keeping kids busy. In theory this is well intentioned, but in practice it is deeply flawed.

Children don’t need to be, nor should they be, hovered over or have every minute of the day perfectly choreographed.

Giving the Gift of Boredom

Unfortunately, hyper focus on our children has left our kids incapable of dealing with any lull in stimulation and hindered their ability to play independently.

We forget that it is not our job as parents to “keep our kids busy” or “keep them entertained.” In fact, doing so directly impacts their ability to do these things for themselves.

Our job is to provide a safe space with access to open-ended toys, art supplies and books and leave them alone. They will entertain themselves.

The problem is that many children haven’t been given the gift of boredom.

Boredom is what gives children the time to figure out what makes them happy, and allows them to develop skills like creativity, imagination, self-reflection, patience, and independence.

Shifting Our Mindset: Do Less to Do More

So for all the parents wondering how to keep their children busy during this time, I encourage a shift of mindset.

Do less to do more.

Children of all ages are capable of much more than we believe them to be.

Don’t think about how to “keep them busy” instead find ways to encourage them to be independent by providing open ended toys that allow for more active play.

Tips to Encourage Kids to Independent Play

Minimize the amount of stuff you have out for your kids. If you are overwhelmed by the amount of toys out, imagine how they feel. 

As a general rule, stay away from standard plastic and toys that light up, make noise, or talk. These types of toys can actually hinder play for children because they take away the need for imagination and creativity.

Remember that the more a toy does, the less your kid has to do.

Play is the work of the child so keep in mind the 90/10 rule when evaluating toys. That means a toy should do no more than 10 percent of the work.

You want your child doing the thinking, visualizing, and creating.

If you want some specific toy recommendations you can check out this post.

Educational Toys Don’t Encourage Learning

Many of the most common toys today actually take these opportunities away from kids. And while they are often labeled as educational, they don’t actually teach your child anything but how to be entertained by something else–leaving them wanting more and more.

How many times has your child loved a bright shiny new toy, only to be over it after a few days or weeks. This is because the toy has done all it can for them, and they are looking for their next fix of stimulation.

If they aren’t given enough time to rely on themselves for stimulation, you end up with kids who constantly need someone (you) or something (a new toy, activity, device) to keep them busy. It’s a pretty vicious cycle with pretty deep consequences.

The Solution to “Keep Kids Busy”

So the solution is pretty simple. Stop spending all your time trying to keep them busy and they will stop needing you to keep them busy. Trust in their ability to deal with their own discomfort (and don’t let their discomfort be yours).

One of the best things you can do for your child is to let them figure things out for themselves.

If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips or reorganize your play space check out my e-book:Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.

If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:7 Essential Playroom Spaces and Why You Need Them

How to Continue Your Child’s Education During School Closures

5 Tips for When School is Closed

Understanding Schema Play

The Power of Play

The Ever Growing Importance of Outdoor Play.

Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

100 Simple Things to do Outside with Your Kids