I have a daily frustration when it comes to my children. They just don’t play. Imagine Andy from Toy Story, immersed in his fantasies with all his favourite toys. Alone in his room, happy with his own company. This has never happened to my children.
So what do they do with their time? They sit in the lounge and do nothing, or jump around on the sofas, or play fight with each other. They pick up my things and ‘do things’ with them, usually scattering something, or messing it up (such as tangling a skein of yarn)
They will sit and draw/write/colour, but I always find the pens with their lids off afterwards, often on the carpet, often with ink seeping into the carpet. The paper they draw on is always found on the floor anywhere in the house for me to slip on, and then pick up and do something with. I mean even this hold frtrations for me. Charlie draws the same thing over and over, with little detail and little care taken over it. Rosa fills up whole pieces of A4 with letters forming nonsense words with the odd real word thrown in. She doesn’t draw a picture of Mummy, or a princess, or a dog, or anything worthy of putting up on the fridge.
They take sets of things (such as games) and remove them from the set, and throw them about. A domino game will be found all over the house for several days after they have ‘played’ with it. The balls from hungry hippos (when I never actually saw them playing hungry hippos) are all underneath my sofa or in the bottom of toy boxes, or inside other toys. The pieces of Mr Potato head, are anywhere but near Mr Potato heads body, and I have never seen them sit down and play with him. Apply this to every single toy that has pieces.
A lovely wooden sandwich making set which I am desperately trying to keep together in its box is found daily all over the place, yet I have never seen anyone compile an imaginary sandwich.
An ice-cream shop which was played with so nicely on the day it was opened (with me supervising and guiding), is pulled apart within seconds of them going anywhere near it, but no ice-cream shop role play has been observed.
If I send them into the play room, it takes about 10 seconds before someone is crying and coming back to me with that ugly crying face telling me who hurt who doing what.
Their beautiful bedrooms, tailored to their likes and desires are not entered into unless they are sleeping in them. I try and get them to go and play in them, but they refuse. If I force them, all I can hear is arguing, or they sit on the stairs whinging to come back down.
They don’t own tablets, they don’t play on games consoles. I limit the TV they are allowed to watch, and I control what they can watch when I do allow it. It’s not nice enough to go outside at the moment.
I am in despair.
They own toys I owned as a child. My sister and I would get home from school, and disappear upstairs into our bedrooms and play-room and we would have imaginative games of all kinds. We would create whole towns from Lego, using a road mat as a base. We would add in Sylvanian family houses, a river, a barge, a windwill. They would interact with each other. Playmobil was a big favourite,all the pieces were always there, we respected our toys, we put them all back in the box when we were finished. We would put on puppet shows, we would dress up, make a radio show, build a den, pretend we were teachers and play schools. We read books, played Crystal Maze, used Play Doh, Prima dough, made candles and jewellery. We behaved like CHILDREN.
I said to my Mum the other day…’I just don’t know what I have done wrong’. Why don’t they play? I didn’t even know you could do this wrong as a parent. I thought that children innately wanted to play? Can you imagine yourself as a child, knowing there was a room full of toys in the very next room, choosing instead to sit in a living room and do NOTHING. Would you whinge and cry at your mother for food (constantly), pick up her things and ruin them?
They have a massive box of Lego, but lack the imagination to be able to play with it as I did. They require me to sit down and do it with them. In fact this applies to an awful lot of things I suggest they do X, Y, Z and they will only do those things if I am going to do them too.
Charlie has a long list of things he wants for Christmas, all of them toys. I am genuinely perplexed how a child who doesn’t play, has a list of toys he wants. I have asked him why he wants toys? I have told him Father Christmas will prioritise his list for children who he knows actually do play with their toys.
Now here is something interesting. One day a week, Charlie goes off to Beavers for the evening. And there have been other occasions where he has been on a play date with friends at their houses and it has left the girls on their own in our house. It’s a completely different situation. They do play. Without him there ‘ruining’ things, they begin to interact and set something up.
During the school day when it is just me and Cleo, she will potter off into the play room and will play with her things quite happily, not requiring much input from me at all. She comes back to me every so often with a book she would like me to read etc.. She loves to do a jigsaw, she loves to play with dolls, dressing them and feeding them.
As soon as the big kids are home from school she enters into the strange behaviour of not doing anything. She joins them in the hanging around the living room whinging sessions.
I’m not really sure where I am going with this. But it makes me very unhappy. I feel like they are wasting their childhood right now. My Mum never played with us, we didn’t need her to. I believe I give the same level of interaction as she did. I also think Charlie is the root of the problem, but not sure how I can change things.
Talking to friends, it seems I am not the only one suffering this problem. It seems to be a modern child thing. I wish I was bringing them up in the 90’s.
I do welcome any advice.