It wasn’t until recently that I was totally convinced that my kids were fully capable of playing alone. I like to plan…a lot. I was constantly entertaining my children, planning activities for them, setting up crafts, visiting different places and wearing myself out. Some may say that this was a main factor in my being put on bedrest for the last 6 weeks of my most recent pregnancy. Perhaps.
I am lucky enough to have a wonderful mother AND mother-in-law! BOTH of them came to our aid and rescue when I had to stay off my feet as much as possible to keep “baby T” in as long as I could. When I was told I would be on bedrest, with 2 toddlers at home, I literally laughed at the doctor. How is that possible? Well, when doting grandparents come to help, you really have no choice but to rest. So rest I did, or at least I tried!
It was during this time that a big change happened in our house. Mommy wasn’t around anymore for the constant entertainment that the kids knew she was capable of (although I was definitely always around to read a good line-up of storybooks to them!) And although there were very capable, if not more capable, replacements, they were also making sure that our house and myself were taken care of! (Moms are amazing, aren’t they?) My kids, suddenly, were growing in independence- out of necessity, and it was wonderful. I was no longer there to cringe and tell them “NO!” every time they formed a mud pool in the backyard, or turned on the sprinkle without asking (however, I tried, believe me.) They were given a “healthy freedom,” something that often today’s kids are seriously lacking. Honestly, we cannot help it. We are helicopters, whirling above their every move, trying to make sure they don’t make any mistakes- whether it be getting their clothes too dirty, not sharing enough at the playground, or picking up a piece of who-knows-what on the sidewalk. Do not get me wrong, I am very into safety and protecting my precious babies. In fact, I would say I am overly cautious in most situations (and overly sanitary). I am not talking about neglecting them to fend for themselves, putting them in unsafe situations, or not ever getting on the floor and building with them. What I am talking about here is different. This is a kind of letting go. Letting go of the constant control over them and the constant need to direct and entertain them. Letting them play, and use their imagination, and have time alone to discover the wonders of the world in only a way that a child can. If we do not let our children play, imagine, create, think and pretend, without us, how do we ever expect them to survive on their own one day?
My children have grown in the past 8 months in an incredible way. They are the kinds of children that, most times, have no problem being told to go play out back for awhile (or out front, for that matter, if I can see them…). I am always in awe of what I find when I take a peek at what they are doing– what game they have come up with, what they have managed to find or how they are just content keeping themselves busy. No, it does not always work out this way. Yes, sometimes they come inside 5 minutes later saying they are “bored” (how do they know that word already?!) or that they have to go the bathroom (again.), or need something to eat. But the times that they are able to contentedly play outside, entertaining themselves, giving Mom a break are seriously beneficial for everyone in the household and so worthwhile. We have definitely not mastered having them play alone. Some days I really wish we had a TV I could plop them in front of to give myself a break when nothing else is working, but we have remained steadfast in our goal not to have one. I was blessed to be helped out immensely during my time on bed-rest in getting my kids to a point where they could play and imagine so freely. I do believe it is absolutely innate in every child- it’s just part of childhood, but I also believe that we have to give them an environment that fosters that kind of creativity and doesn’t stifle it.
There are a ton of different tools, resources, ideas and toys that can help you get to a point where your kids can play without you! Recently, my daughter was given a gift from a lovely bride for being her flower girl. What. A. Hit. If you are in need of something to kick-start your kid’s imagination or promote independent play (or just a really good gift for a child you know!)- please keep reading!
“Props in a Box.” It is literally what it sounds like. An adorable red, felt suitcase filled with all kinds of props, including a backdrop to hang, for them to role-play and pretend! It has been a huge hit with my kids! (We may have even used some of the props to put together a Halloween costume…) Give your kids what seems like a simple box filled felt objects and you immediately see the wheels start turning, the things they come up with are so great! It also comes with access to an app that takes the play up a notch where a parent can get involved with story-starters and movie-making…how cool is that!? Right now, our toddlers are content with just getting to play with the props and costumes in front of the backdrop (an adorable farm with injured animals who need help!) They are also obsessed with pretending they are travelling (I wonder why….) and love pretending the suitcase is a toy in itself! Not only was the toy definitely busted open at the Rehearsal dinner for the wedding we were at last week, and showcased for all to see- but it was also only about 5 minutes after bringing it home that K had to open it to show G, and the rest was history! I love seeing what kinds of things they come-up with when given different tools and props to work with. It really never ceases to amazing me when I am able to witness their imagination at work.
I had the privledge of meeting one of the minds behind this fantastic toy. When a toy really speaks to the innocence and wonder of childhood and imaginative play, I cannot help but spread the word! Give them a visit at Prop in a Box, and check out the unique sets they have for your kids and find out more about what drives this great company. This would definitely make an amazing gift for the holiday season! It is carried in some retailers, but you can order online as well.
I am sure there are a whole range of toys out there like “Props in a Box” that can help your children tap-in to their creative side and really start to play, pretend, and imagine on their own. As moms, we are naturally nurturing. But what could be more nurturing then teaching our children the ability to be independent at times, to create fun for themselves, and to enjoy their own company? I really do think that this turning point with the toddlers this year has made a huge impact on our household. I love knowing that I am “letting my kids be kids” and helping them enjoy their innocence and imagination through the different ways in which we encourage them to play. A lot of times, I know we are going against the grain, that society probably thinks we are “old-fashioned.” But you know what, if being “old-fashioned” means helping my kids to lead more simple lives, become more independent, and genuinely enjoy being a child- then I am totally fine with that.
(I am not being paid to promote Props in a Box. We honestly just received one as a gift, and it was too good not to share! This is why my blog was started, to share with you those things that are a total hit at home and I just can’t keep to myself!)