After running a home daycare for five years, I learned a thing or two about getting kids to play by themselves. It isn’t that I don’t love playing with my kids, but let’s face it, I can only take so much before I want to run screaming out the front door and never return.
I was an only child. I like my space. I like my “me-time”. Having kids makes “me-time” even more sacred. They want to be everywhere that I am….every minute of everyday. Maybe some parents love this and even welcome it. Not me, I can only handle small humans for an hour or two tops before I need a mini break.
So, I have a few tricks. Tricks that give me a break without me having to scream “go away you’re driving me nuts” or having to lock myself in the bathroom. Tricks so clever, the kids have no idea I’m slipping away unnoticed and I even make out looking like I’m being a good parent (muh ha ha ha).
Ok, so here it goes:
Trick #1 – Stay, Play and Walk Away
This is a really easy and effective concept. First, you help your child setup a fun game, like a tent with play food for camping or setup their favourite toys in the middle of the floor. It doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is something that will require imagination. Children have great imaginations, but they also need to be taught how to play and how to get some make believe games going. One of my favourite Stay, Play and Walk Away activities is to roll out some craft paper and help the kids design a play mat with markers and crayons! Hours of free and creative fun!
Once the game is setup, you stay and play for a few minutes. You show them how to play the game. Yes, this will probably require ridiculous voices and you pretending that you’re five, but the good part is coming! After a few minutes, you simply say “OK, I need to go take care of something, you keep playing and having fun”…. then run like hell and enjoy the next 20 minutes of piece and quiet!
Trick #2 – Make Screen Time Special
When the television is on all the time or kids have access to tablets and video games, they become numb to it. The TV being on is no longer enough to keep their interest, it is simply background noise and they get bored of it.
We limit our kids screen time, not because we are granola parents, but because when we do let them watch it, they sit and actually watch it. We save the TV for the times when we need to get something done and want like, an hour and a half to ourselves uninterrupted. Now, this means they can only have access to it every now and then. It has to be special to make this work. The added benefit is that less screen time is good for their brain and they are more likely to get chores and school work done instead of zoning out in front of the TV!
When I need a break from them, I need only say “who wants movie and popcorn time?“. They cheer and hug me like I’m the greatest mom ever, when really I am simply planning my alone time! (Like tonight, the kids are watching “Inside Out” while I write this post)!
Trick #3 – Old school “Go play outside”
When my kids fight, I often pull the old school “go play outside” trick. It is always met with whines and feet dragging, but it always ends in huge smiles and rosy cheeks. My kids LOVE it outside, they just simply forget until they are actually out there! Kicking your kids outside is good for them, so stop feeling guilty. Plus, the house will be completely quiet…well, at least for a little while!!
I’d love to hear your tricks for getting your kids to go away! Mommy alone time makes us better Mommy’s and it helps our kids to be independent and creative little humans, so never feel bad for wanting to take some time for you!