This morning as my husband got up at the crack of dawn to go and play golf and I was once again left with the slightly daunting prospect of another day trying to creatively entertain a toddler I thought of something I read recently in the Huffington Post – A truly brilliant article by Dr Vanessa Lapointe which I urge all parents living in this fast paced screen filled world we live in to read .
Dr Lapointe talks about the need for children to be bored, for their minds to ‘awaken’ and for them to make their own magic and their own fun, for them to get creative. She talks of the fast paced world we live in now and how parents often feel like they need to respond to their children’s supposed boredom with outings a plenty, activities and as a last resort (or sometimes first resort) – screen time. She also mentions her husbands life as a child growing up the countryside, this resonated with me as my sister and I grew up in the countryside, nothing but land and adventures to be made, we would take ourselves off on long walks, make up games, pretend we were different characters and immerse ourselves in ourselves in our own imaginations – yes I know it all sounds a bit famous five but my father was brought up in the African Bush and his adventure stories were magical to us – we imagined the Jungle book in real life. My mother though brought up in London was Irish and loved all things creative, she also instilled in us an ‘everyone should chip-in’ work ethic – my sister and I helped with house work and learnt from a young age to respect the things we were given and to help out where we could. These are all things that have stayed with me throughout my life and are things I want my own children to learn.
However, when I was reading this and thinking, yes, yes, yes I totally agree with all of it, It also made my stress levels go up a little. My son is still only a toddler so not quite at the age that I think Lapointe is referring to, but also I feel that living in London, or any city makes it all harder. Space is limited, particularly outside space so though I try to encourage Rex on some days to make his own fun, to enjoy the toys he has and to go out in the garden on those sunny days.
I don’t think more than one or two days of this is really feasible without both of us going stir crazy. We are lucky to have a house and garden but in any city a huge proportion of people are in flats. So on those days when you can’t do another day inside London certainly offers up a lot of options. There are dozens of amazing parks, city farms, soft play spots, sports clubs, childrens members clubs, in fact there is pretty much everything you could possibly think of to entertain your child on a daily basis. Though a lot of things are not cheap, once every so often is fun and also opens childrens eyes to all sorts of fun new experiences. There are also plenty of free options – get some friends together and hit up one of the parks or grab a bottle (milk or wine!) and head to one of your houses – a problem shared is a problem halved as they say.
There is also the app Hoop which you can download and find a million things to do in your area too.
As for screen time – it seems to be a much debated issue amongst parents, journalists, bloggers, behavioural experts… everyone really. But honestly it’s really no-ones business but you’re own, you do what you can do and to be honest sometimes everyone needs 10 minutes of peace and quiet and if an episode of ‘Hey Duggee’ is what gives you that, then hell, put it on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that’s really all it is, an opinion. Myself, I try to say no to iPads and iPhones, though some emergencies require them (ie. on a delayed 40 hour flight to Australia!), and I say at 5pm while I make supper ‘yes’ to sticking on some wild cartoon which can only have been created by an LSD induced mind for half an hour. We all make decisions on how to raise our children, how to entertain them, how to ensure they grow into kind, interesting, rounded adults – no single person’s way is right and no single person’s way is wrong – we should all remember that before we judge others.
I have put a few options below for those West and South West London Mums looking for options to keep them and their little people sane.
Flip Out – Fab trampolining centre in wandworth
The V&A – mainly in the summer for the outdoor splash pool that children can play in