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Do your kids have a favorite activity they default to in their free time? Do you wish they would spend at least some of their time on other enriching activities? Music practice? Other games or toys? Homework? Playing outside?
Do you also want to teach your children to be a bit more self-directed? And maybe give yourself some space to tackle a project with minimal (or at least less than constant) interruptions?
As an INTJ homeschool mom who highly values focused work time, I sure do.
Maybe you can relate to what I used to face every day after lunch (just replace “Legos” with your child’s current obsession):
“Mama, can we play with Legos?”
“Is your room clean?”
“Mama, can we play with Legos now?”
“Hmm…have you even finished your school work?”
“Can we NOW??”
“Just a minute, I’m [cleaning something, on the phone, solving a problem in our budget, in the middle of cooking or writing, etc] … Uh…sure?”
Then shouts of jubilation trail behind the eager engineers as they scurry off to their Lego corner.
And about thirty minutes later I realize there were at least two other things I would have liked for them to do first.
Now, my kids are not ruined because I didn’t have a nice, neat list for them ready at hand (and neither are yours, to be honest), but my own sanity and ideals sure do take a beating when I allow this scenario to become our default routine.
While I might buy myself some uninterrupted time by just giving in to the kids’ repeated pleas, regret inevitably sinks in later when I realize the house is a mess, school supplies are still out, or they haven’t been outside at all on a beautiful day.
I began to realize a little forethought could make a big difference.
My kids love their Legos, and I do, too! But I know they need more than just Legos in their lives. So at the beginning of the summer I created an Afternoon Checklist for each of my boys.
I thought through the daily responsibilities I wanted them to fulfill and put those at the top. These must all be completed.
Then, I added two more sections, one focusing on creative or mind-building activities that could be done inside, and one listing some productive or nature-study related activities to be done outside (weather permitting). They are required to choose one from each section.
We value things like handicrafts, nature study, life skills, art, and science in the education we’re trying to give our children, but I’m a bit of a low-energy mom and I have found it difficult to always be the one to make these things happen. Now, I know we’re getting to them consistently without a lot of effort from me.
It’s a win for everyone.
The particular activities listed usually don’t require my help to initiate, but sometimes they do. Whether or not an activity is approved may depend upon my project workload that afternoon, but I try to say “yes” most of the time.
This does two things for us: it gives my boys boundaries within which they (usually) have freedom to choose whatever they like, and it still gives me some veto or redirection power with a list of options right there in front of me (no more decision fatigue!).
I also put one activity on their lists that DOES require me. I can’t just check-out all afternoon, only interacting with my kids on a utilitarian basis (a mode which I find all-too-easy to fall into). So I built a little bit of accountability for ME into these cards as well. Both my boys appreciate this, but I know my particularly sociable one (likely an ESFJ) absolutely needs it.
While both of my boys enjoy the predictability of their afternoon checklists (hey, it’s nice to know what’s required of you!), my six-year-old particularly loves his, calling it his “Ticket to ride the fun train!”
And no, I did not feed him that line! That’s all him!
It may not be Legos in your home. Maybe it’s soccer. Or screen time. Or playing dress-up. Or even something so wonderful as reading! Whatever it is, it’s good in it’s proper place, but a “good” part can crowd out the “better” whole of a well-rounded childhood.
Of course, my oldest has a birthday this week and his one request (with the day off from school and his Papa home from work) is to spend the entire day playing Legos.
We’ll indulge him on his special day. Because a well-rounded childhood can include that sort of thing, too. 😉