Why I Don’t Play With My Kids

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It sounds terrible doesn’t it.  “I don’t play with my kids”.  What a horrible, checked out, selfish mother.  She must not love her kids.  Her kids must not be bonded to her.  But I think I’m not alone and I think that there are many mothers out there forced to play Dora for the millionth time while the dirty dishes are piling up or they just want to read the last chapter of that book and they’re sooooo bored.

Yes, I don’t play with my kids.  First, I should clarify what I do do with my kids beyond caring for their needs.  I read to my kids, I take them for walks and to the park and splash pad.  I help them put together their marble run.  I teach them (of course, since I homeschool), I set up and help them with crafts, I snuggle in my bed with them in the morning and giggle, I roughhouse, I sing to them, I cuddle them, I bake with them, I tell them about when they were little, I comfort them, I push them in the swing, when they were babies I played peekaboo and patty cake and occasionally I play a board game with them.  I do many things with my kids and much of my day revolves around them, but I don’t play with them.

So what do I mean what I say “I don’t play with them”?  I don’t sit down and play Barbies. I don’t act out Frozen.  I don’t play tag at the park.  I don’t play in the sand with them.  I don’t line up cars with them.  I don’t play with the barn with them or the dollhouse.  I don’t pretend to fight monsters with them.  I don’t play restaurant.  I do activities with them but I don’t play like a child with them.  And I believe my children are better for it and I’m happier for it.  My children play independently for hours, since they were babies.  They come up with great imaginative games and I have freedom to do housework and do my own thing, yet we have a wonderful close relationship.

Why don’t I play with my kids?  There are a number of reasons.

1) Frankly, it’s boring.  I love hanging with my kids but it’s insanely boring to play Barbies or to drive cars around or pretend to have a tea party over and over and over.
2) I have things to do.  There’s always housework and laundry and cooking and preparing school materials and things I like to do such as crochet.  There’s paperwork and things to research and well, life is busy.
3) My kids don’t need me to entertain them.  They have learned to entertain themselves and can play for hours and hours without me.  This gives me time to do the things in number 2.
4) I don’t like to inject my adult perception of the world into my kids’ play.  Their minds are so pure and innocent.  I find I just can’t play on the same level as them and feel my adult experiences influence things too much when I try to play.  I’d rather leave them to their own child minded, pure, imaginative play.
5) My kids don’t want me to play with them.  If they catch me watching them play they get embarrassed.  They want to play without any judgement, good or bad, from adults.
6) Play time isn’t teaching time.  There are times for teaching, but pure play should be fully child led and full of exploration, not me trying to show them something or teach them something, taking away the chance for them to discover it themselves.
7) My children play longer, with more concentration and focus, without me.  When I’m involved I often have to interrupt the play to make dinner or deal with something or because I’m bored.  Without me they are free to play for long periods without interruptions.

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I do like to listen to my children play, their play makes me smile and often laugh, but I try not to let them catch me watching.  And I have the advantage of having my kids 18 months apart so they have a ready playmate.  Daycare also brings in new friends to play with.  I’ve worked hard on creating an environment that promotes play.  Open ended, battery free, quality toys, an organized playroom, toys that engage, limiting the toys so it’s not overwhelming, a safe outdoor place to play.  Play is very important to me.  So important that I feel my children’s play is better without me in it, only there when needed and creating the opportunity and environment for it.  I’m like the stage hand, in the background of their performance.

What makes Montessori materials so special?

I purchased The Keys of the World Montessori albums to help me better understand and implement the Montessori method with my children.  They’re wonderful albums and I’m learning so much.  I’d just like to share with you a quote from the Theory Album

The most distinct difference between Montessori and other methods is in the nature of the materials: Montessori materials are not didactic (teaching tools), but self-teaching tools.  These materials are not for the teacher to teach, but for the children to discover and learn on his own.  The children teach themselves – these materials are developmental materials.

This is really the key of Montessori – the child guides their own learning.  It’s also the hardest part; to step back and allow the child to do and learn without interfering.  It’s even more difficult in a home setting.

If you’re interesting in The Keys of the World albums you can purchase them here.

Daily Routine Cards

I’ve been thinking for a couple weeks about putting up a daily routine for Pumpkin 1.  It’s been hard getting her ready for bed at night.  We have a routine, but sometimes Daddy gives her a bath and sometimes Mommy, and since she’s at the “I only want Mommy” stage, she’ll throw a fit when Daddy goes to bath her.  After she’s in bed she also wants a billion things, “need hat!”  “need glasses!”  “need water!”  “no yike shadow” and last night, “no yike birds singing” lol.  Also in the morning it’s a bit of a rush.  Daycare kids are here before she gets up so she needs to get up and pottied and dressed quickly.  I hate rushing her, I love the mornings with her, but the other kids need me too.  So my hope was a visual routine would help her stay on track, be fun and be something she could follow as she gets more independent as well as give her a sense of security whether it’s Mommy or Daddy getting her ready for bed.

So first off I needed to find some routine cards.  I can’t find the set I actually used to post but these are the same, only in black and white.

 

Next I printed off the ones I needed and laminated them.  I was going to mount them to card stock first but I forgot, so I might redo them down the road.

Then I attached adhesive magnets to the back.  Then came the hard part, what to put on the wall for them to stick to?  I was going to use a cookie sheet from the dollar store but it wasn’t long enough and looked silly.  I thought and thought about what I might have that was magnetic, and then it came to me – can you see in the picture what I used?

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Metal rulers!  My mother always had a metal ruler.  So I asked hubby to pick some up at Staples (as he had to pick up some calender pictures I had laminated).  They’re the 12″ ones and were like $2.50 each approx. They also have 16″ ones.  I used the Command removable hanging strips to attach the rulers to the wall, and voila!  A magnetic daily routine chart.

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Pumpkin 1 was very intrigued by it.  The top two rows are the morning routine and the bottom two are the evening.  I wanted it to go from left to right then down as a form of pre-literacy training.  I posted it in the hallway between her room and the bathroom so it’s easy for her to refer to for bathroom things and bedroom things.  Now I’m just wondering if I can paint the rulers so they look a little less like, well, rulers!

Anyway, she went to bed very easily and didn’t ask for anything!  However, I’m not holding my breath.  It might just have been a fluke.  Pumpkin 2 helped me install our routine by bending a card and eating a wrapper from the Command strips.  He was very intrigued as well.

By the way, the previous owners did the terrible paint job.  Makes me cringe.

Glass cups? For a baby? You have got to be kidding me!

Maria Montessori taught about the importance of teaching children to do things for themselves.  She also stressed creating a beautiful environment full of beautiful things, often breakable.  She found that if a child was given something fragile, they were more careful with it than something that they could throw around and wouldn’t break.  Yes, glass cups and china plates will get broken by your child but your child will learn a lesson beyond the value of the dishes, he will learn that if he isn’t careful, it gets broken and is gone for good.  A child quickly learns to slow down and do things gently.

I must admit, I was against this at first.  I remember Pumpkin 1 throwing plates and cups on the floor, recently even flinging one on my lap.  I don’t really want to have to clean up glass as well as food and I worry that soon I’ll have a mobile baby that could find a sharp piece that I missed.  At the same time though, what Maria says makes sense.  We give our children all these cheap plastic dishes that look like their toys.  We don’t trust them and so they don’t learn to be careful.  In fact, I only started giving Pumpkin 1 an actual cup rather than a sippy cup this past week.  And she did spill it, in fact she dumped a cup of milk on her head trying to put it on the counter.  But she quickly learned how to use it properly.  She probably could have been using a cup for a long time if I had just let her.  I’m also introducing solids to Pumpkin 2 who is 7 months and I’ve decided to be more “Montessori” about it, so he’s getting a glass cup.

I started off with a trip to the Dollar Store.  For Pumpkin 2 I got some shot glasses which are the perfect size for little hands.  For Pumpkin 1 I got some glass cups, her own small mug, some ceramic bowls (two are Ramkin cups) and a little pitcher (a mini measuring cup).

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Shot glasses – perfect size for babies

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Glass cup and mug for Pumpkin 1

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Ramkin bowls are a great toddler size and so pretty.

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A larger ceramic bowl for cereal.

After I got home I let her experiment with the pitcher and a glass cup.  She loved pouring the water between the two.  It did make a big mess but water is easy to clean up.  I think pouring seems to be a sweet spot in learning for her.  I’m going to try to give her more opportunities to pour.

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She likes pouring herself water and milk to drink in the glass cup.  She liked the little bowls but had a melt down because I used the green one for Pumpkin 2’s food and she decided she wanted it.

For Pumpkin 2, with introducing solids I’m doing a mixture of Baby-led weaning and the Montessori approach.  I don’t have a weaning table so he sits in his high chair.  He hasn’t been too sure what to do with food yet but he’s starting to figure it out.  I’ll put a little food on a spoon and put it close to his mouth and let him take over.  It’s messy but he’s learning to feed himself.  Baby-led weaning is giving the solid food, not purees and letting them feed themselves.  He hasn’t really figured that out yet, we’ll keep trying.  Both my children’s first food was avocado.

And so, we’re on a new and exciting (yet messy) path.

Here is a video of a 9 month old eating and drinking – such independence!