Monday, 2 June 2014

Why I am choosing to ignore my daughter.

I now work part time. Which means five days a week I am with my young children. Which is amazing. We go out most days and have adventures in farms and parks and zoos and (urgh #stinkyballs) softplay. We have been to music classes and dance classes. Also as I do long 11 hour days with the two of them let's just say we may (ahem) watch a 'smidge' of television. Recently however I have become alarmed by my girls behaviour. She is loud and bubbly and hilarious and such good company. But? She is seriously lacking in imagination. And basically. This is my fault. She cannot play alone. At all.

She plays tea parties, if I am a recipient of a cup of tea, she will play princesses if her brother is dressed as a fairy, she will draw if I watch and 'read' if I am sat with her. She has never once asked if there were monsters lurking under her bed, or has ever played for hours with her three, yes three, Disney Princess castles. I rarely hear her talk to herself pretending to be a shop keeper and generally she can be found one foot at the most away from me at any one time.

A trip out to Thomas Land.



When she is with her Grandparents they, quite rightly so, indulge her with all their time and love and energy. At weekends her Dad, who doesn't see her much during the week, understandably likes to make every minute jam packed with play time, swimming, trips to the cinema. She knows how to work a tablet and can often be seen taking photos of us on her Dad's iPhone.

Today, I have told her that during the week? This is going to be stopping. That she is going to have to learn how to play alone. That I won't always be around to drink imaginary tea. That the television will not be permanently on in the background (she sobbed when I told her this. Sobbed!). When I was a little girl, I thought that one of the roads by my house actually led to Sesame Street. We used to play for hours outside and pretend we were in The Red Hand Gang. I want my girl to lie in bed at night and dream away of magical far away places. Not think just about Butlins or CBeebies Land.

As a teacher I have often seen pupils come into secondary school devoid of imagination. They struggle with creative writing. They find it hard to articulate their own point of view. But ask them about the inner workings of the latest tablet and they can show you in two minutes flat. With the current performance related play pressures of working in education we spoon feed the children to get the results we want them to get. But in my own home? I can play the game any way I want.

On the tablet. Again.

Let's be realistic. Peppa is not going to vanish from my television (no such luck!). I am still going to go out most days as I think trips help to educate children (and keep Mummy sane). Nothing better than learning about a pig, by seeing a pig in the flesh. But. When we are at home? I am going to at times ignore my girl. If she offers me a cup of imaginary tea I shall ask her to give it to her imaginary friend, if she comes and sits on my lap in the garden I am going to point her in the direction of the fairies I swore I saw in the play house.

So hopefully soon enough I will be recording in this blog funny made up stories my girl has told me, or maybe I can film shows she has put on with brother and a cast of thousands. And if she finds an imaginary monster under her bed? I shall send her Dad in with his imaginary sword to slay it.

What do you think? Do you encourage your child to play alone? 
Do you have any creative ideas you could offer me?

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49 comments:

  1. I have been thinking a lot about the same thing lately! It's challenging because we live in NYC, so there's no backyard and no real chance to explore and play solo. At home, my 2yo tends to get creative and play by himself if there are instruments involved. He is seriously obsessed and would have an entire orchestra set up in my living room if we had the space and the funds. ;) But he runs around the house playing conductor, and fashions batons out of everything, and he has a guitar, trumpet and drum. I think it's just keying in to whatever they're really into and then trying to run with it. Hopefully we'll both be hearing some more made-up stories from our little ones soon!

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    1. Defo. My girl loves fairies and princesses so I will be trying out lots of little games around this at first. And then moving onto other things to try and introduce less 'girly' things! Thanks for the ace comment xxx

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  2. I've been concerned about this too. My boys are 11 and 13 now and are GADGET OBSESSED. So every Saturday and Sunday, I force them to come on a walk with me. They moan about it to high heaven, but once they're out, they're brilliant fun! It's a chance for them to properly 'play'. It's my favourite time of the week.

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    1. That is such a good idea! God I teach teens and can only imagine what they are like with their gadgets. I am defo going to try and have family time out of the house ever so often xxx

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  3. This is a great post, and an important subject. Like many parents, I frequently find myself feeling guilty for all the time that I end up essentially ignoring my two year old. But I do think it has helped him a great deal, as he is much happier than many of his peers to be left to play alone for extended periods and I marvel at the stories I hear him beginning to make up. I did not do this intentionally, but I'm so glad this is how things have worked out. And as with most things in parenting, mix and moderation is probably key. A balance of exciting days and quiet days, one-on-one time and playing alone time has to be better than any one of those things done exclusively. But the guilt has to go, as I'm sure lots of parents, like me, feel under pressure to constantly be doing things with their kids when it isn't necessary!

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    1. You are so right. I defo think since having my second I take them out all the time so they are just not used to playing in the house. And I really want them to feel comfortable at home and that it is a place of fun and not just a place to sleep! I intend to try and stay in a bit more and make the most of what we have here xxx

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  4. This is such a fab post, Ems! You have a really good point and your little angel will thank you for ignoring her when she is older. In a "I hate you so much, mum!" kind of way ha ha ;) xx

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    1. Thanks babakins!!! She totes will hate me xxx

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  5. Elizabeth brings her friends home from nursery abd we frequently have a Disney princess during at the dining table for dinner (I even had to lay a place for Rapunzel at Christmas dinner). I let her watch tv and use what she he watched to indulge her imagination. I agree it is hard to get them to explore on their own though as she is often expecting either of us to participate as well as her little imaginary friends.

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    1. I LOVE that Rapunzel had Crimbo dinner! That is ace! and an idea I shall steal. TV can be good. And I defo think I am going to aim it more for times when we are watching together rather than just her sitting and watching xxx

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  6. Lovely post Emma - my little boy was (and still is) the same. He is such good fun but would rather someone else instigated the games. Whereas my daughter is the opposite and can disappear for ages setting up a school with her teddies and making shoe shops. I haven't done anything differently with them - they are just different people. But good idea to get her to play a bit more independently (there is reality TV to watch afterall) xx

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    1. Well obvs I need to be watching my reality TV! The boy and girl are so different. He does love to play alone. In fact he is even better when the girl is not around at all. My girl is my shadow. Sigh love her but it does drive me mad! xxx

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  7. Ohhh great post...I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently! I've got a 3 year old boy who is just fab at hanging out - we can quite happily fill a whole day just dicking around at home and we do go on lots of outdoors adventures- but then I worry that I don't do enough structured playing with him and that he's not going to be able to sit and concentrate when he starts school because I hardly ever do educational games or jigsaws or colouring in (he hates them all) so I try every week to sneak one of those in but he just isn't interested - he'll grab a black felt-tip, scribble over a page then hand it to me and say "there - I coloured it black"....but he's got a great imagination and I flippin love eavesdropping on him doing the voices of different characters in his games and the relationships he forms between his toys crack me up. And again...telly plays quite a big part in our hanging out - as in it's on in the backround sometimes and probably I do give in to his "pleeeassseee can I watch ceebeebies" requests too often - so then I worry about that too! I just can never decide whether I'm doing the right thing or doing it all wrong!! he he - but he's a happy chap and we do have a laugh together so it can't be so bad!! xx

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    1. As long as your boy is happy? Then that is all that matters! I think as I am a teacher I worry a bit more than I should really. If my girl was watching TV and making up stories like you boy? That would be ace. She doesn't do that at all. So I think I need to help her a little bit. Bless her xxx

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  8. F is exactly the same! Despite the fact i am so half arsed in games and frequently put him off he ALWAYS wants me to play with him. And by god is racing cars dull.
    I am hoping its an age thing and they get better as they get older, please let this be true!

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    1. Oh bab please please PLEASE let it be true!!!! xxx

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  9. Fantastic post. I have been thinking a similar with my 3yr old and for that reason we are getting her a magical playhouse this summer for the garden where I intend to banish her to play and explore!

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    1. That is exactly why we brought my girl her funhouse. We popped an old tatty plastic kitchen in too and a chair. Then the bloody weather turned! Grrrr xxx

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  10. Our three year old would be permanently glued to the tab and TV if we let him. Like you we have recently noticed this alarming behaviour and have now begun to address it i love your honesty. I look forward to some imaginative stories #iPotLinkup

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    1. Tablets are amazing creatures. But terrifying how good my girl is at working them! It boggles my mind! xxx

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  11. My Twins would be on a tablet all day if I let them. Luckily once it's out the picture they play beautifully so I don't worry about it too much. I just keep the time limited and it's a nice balance. I have noticed a lot of parents including family members who just seem to give their child a tablet all day and don't care whether they have a break or not. It's quite worrying! #iPotLinkup

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    1. It is a bit of a worry. Everything is good in moderation isn't it? A bit of tablet, tv and play. That's my new plan! xxx

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  12. I don't feel so bad about leaving my children to entertain themselves now! My younger two can quite happily play by themselves for hours on end. DD (7) has a most vivid imagination and I'm sure this is partly why. A lovely post! Popping over from 'iPoTLinky

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    1. That's brill! I hope my girl eventually gets like this. That's my aim! xxx

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  13. I love this post doll! I wrote something very similar a while back, about my lot, so i totally know where you are coming from. I think i am partly to blame for nurturing the incessant demands over the years, but am definitely trying to cultivate some time for the kids to just play on their own now. You are so right - we grew up out playing on the street from dawn til dusk, and look st how amazing we turned out! ;) Brilliant writing Em xx

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    1. Thanks lovely! I will go and scoot and read your post! Oh I loved playing outside. The girl did some nice playing today. It was really sweet. Bless her. Let's see how long it will last! xxx

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  14. I think it is really important that they are encouraged to use their imagination. I sometimes tell my kids to go to their kitchen and make me a brew or something to eat. I often ask them what they have called their dolls and teddies, and what they have been doing with them...I think this encourages them to think and just to make up things in their heads. I love some of the things they come out with as well, makes me laugh. "Mummy I tuned Rosie into a frog...quick, look...." :) Good luck with your task, I'm sure you'll be chasing fairies and magic dragons soon! xxx

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    1. Defo need to talk to my girl more. Today I set up a fairy castle and princess one and made them have a little tea party together. She had a great time! Let's hope she keeps it up. Bless her. Think the arrival of number two took my eye off the ball xxx

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  15. Boo does like having someone around to use as a prop in her play, but she also is great at playing alone, and has a vivid imagination- Baby Duvet is her blanket but she treats him like a brother and 'he' really is the equivilant of an imaginary friend! Boo loves it when we act out scenarios with her toys- like dolly going to the doctor, or ponies going on holiday... Then we hear her later continuing this game- so modelling imaginative play should defo help! Other than that I think what you have planned will work too! Fingers crossed!
    Ps- loved the bit about her sobbing about the loss of telly!

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    1. Thanks so much bab. She wept and wept! Today we have had a pretty TV free day which has been great. Had the radio on and did lots of princess play which was lovely xxx

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  16. I enjoyed that post! I can relate to that a lot as I went through it with my oldest, she had my undivided attention and as it is with firstborns, their every sneeze goes down on record so I would play with her, read with her...everything was together till I realised she doesn't know how to play alone. That was largely solved with the coming of a closely spaced sibling. Sometimes I watch her when she's alone and she's writing a story, or drawing...I seriously doubt she knows what imaginary play by yourself is.. and I'm to blame. I can only hope that this has resulted in the birth of some other faculty...

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    1. I hope my girl starts to develop it a bit more. In the past few days I have tried and she has come out with a few corkers! And drawn some ace (yet terrifying!) pictures. She's starting to play a bit nicer with her bro which is lovely to see xxx

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  17. My kids often played alone, but I think they were happy to do that. I worked three days a week and there were three of them. On my days off I had to balance their needs with each other and with the need to keep the house in reasonable order and the cupboards stocked. I talked to them when we were out and played with them at the park, but at home they had each other and themselves. And I've obviously done something right, either intentionally or otherwise, as my younger two have both been described by teachers as some of the most well-rounded and talented kids they've met - intelligent, good at sport and friendly/ popular. Result!

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    1. YES!!! That is a result isn't it!!! I would love my kids to be described as that. My girl is very chatty and bubbly. I think if we just focus this lovely bubblyness into creativity she will be a genius! (OK I am biased) xxx

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  19. As my daughter is a only child she is and always has been really good at playing on her own. Now at 8 she can often be found playing in her room/on stairs/anywhere in the house with her extensive collection of Barbie dolls and houses. She loves doing this and she has such a creative mind which now shows in her attempts to write her own songs for when she is a famous popstar!

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    1. Ohhhh I shall look forward to seeing her being a famous popstar! That would be amazing! My girl eventually wants to be a popstar/fairy/princess. Ha ha ha xxx

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  20. i cant really give any advice on that as my little girl is still in my womb, but it seems a bit harsh, i know why you are trying to do it, maybe if you invite her friends around that would have fun times without you involved

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    1. Obviously she has friends round all the time and also has a little brother to play with. I am not being harsh ignoring her just at some points during the day I will as I want her to develop creativity. It's just an area she needs a little help in I think x

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  22. I really really completely agree with you. I am always encouraging my kids to play independently and see where their imagination will take them or what they will do without me to guide them for the next activity. and I have done from the moment they were really little so they both are amazing at this. Yes of course I take them places and play with them. But I think teaching them to play and use their imagination is so important. For sure. Great post. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

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    1. My girl does seem to be getting the hang of it quite quickly actually. I just caught her telling her bro a story about princesses (obviously!) so hopefully she is getting the hang of it. It was very very sweet xxx

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  23. I am *desperate* for the day when my eldest in particular will play alone - he literally never leaves me alone all day long - I am so happy to go to work sometimes ;-) I can imagine other people with nice calm little girls (I suspect it is generally the girls although obvs not yours!) entertaining themselves for hours with a few Sylvanians but that seems so far from my reality! Maybe it is just bad parenting on my part though as you say, maybe we just need to give them the encouragement to be more imaginative... #sharewithme

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    1. No. My boy and girl have been brought up totally and utterly the same and they are very different. He will play alone and hates TV. The girl is just my shadow. She just needs a bit of help. Seems to be working so far! Keeping my fingers crossed xxx

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  24. Ahh this is such a dilemma, isn't it? I do actually think that this is often a phase. My daughter was exactly the same. She has always required a high level of external input and stimulation. She is a classic extrovert (in the true sense of the word, not the 'life and soul of the party' meaning it has taken on). But as she has grown up, she has gradually begun to spend a lot more time on her own. Reading has been largely responsible for that, but leave her with a friend, or her brother, for more than 10 minutes, and the bickering and claims of boredom will stop, and a great game will often break out.
    Conversely, my son has always been happy to play on his own, and make up games with his toys. Even as a baby, he didn't need clubs and classes to entertain him - he was fine in his own skin. So I think personality plays a part.
    That said, I do think a lot of parents with children like my daughter take the lazy option and allow TV and iPads to take over for far too long. It's bloody hard to keep a demanding child occupied, but I think parents have a responsiblilty to do that without resorting to the electrical babysitter. My kids do play on computers, but it is an occasional treat, or a car journey boredom-reliever, rather than a daily ritual. I think those children who are glued to a screen for most of their leisure time are being badly let down, and I can well imagine what it does to them once they become young adults.
    Good luck with your daughter - I'm sure she will soon be creating a new adventure all of her own :)

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    1. It is the same with my boy and girl. The girl is out there and the boy is much more happy to be by himself. Not a fan of clubs and big crowds. I think I turned to Ipads and things when I had a new baby and it was the easy option. Now it is a bit more manageable I can get them set up with a game and get them playing quite nicely together for a short amount of time. It is working well so far but you are right being with kids all day can be hard. So there may be a few lapses! Thanks for stopping by and your comment xxx

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  25. A vital post and you are right-I interviewed psychologist Karen Pine and she talks about healthy neglect. Children need to learn to play and entertain themselves and to be bored and get out of that in order to grow. A brilliant post x Post on Karen here: http://honestmum.com/tag/wonderful-women-wednesday-the-interview-with-karen-pine/

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    1. Oh brill! Thanks for this I will pop over and have a little read of it now xxx

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