Woohoo! I’m thrilled to be writing this post today, because it means the Real Talk Real Moms series that paused in 2017 has resumed! This series was one of my favorite to take part in, because I learned so much from the other moms sharing their candid stories. If you are new around here, or have forgotten about this series, I’ll fill you in! A group of mamas from around the country started this series to share about real motherhood and raising littles. Over the course of a few years, we wrote somewhat-monthly posts ranging in topics from sleeping, traveling with children, feeding, and so many more relevant topics. I’ll link to ALL my past Real Talk Real Moms posts at the bottom of today’s post.
So yes, today we’re resurrecting this series, and have lots of fun topics planned for the upcoming months. What I love most about this series is reading how other people do things. There’s no right or wrong way to parent, and it’s eye-opening and refreshing to read the honesty and real talk coming from these rockstar mamas. Today’s Real Talk Real Moms topic all about Play Ideas and Screen Time. Woah, such a hot topic. Not sure how I’ll keep this post concise but I’ll try! I usually try to break this posts up into sections to make them more reader-friendly, since I usually ramble on and on. So here are some sections…
“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things” – Plato
I try to encourage as much imaginative play, and play amongst beautiful, real things as possible. By beautiful and real, I mean real china tea sets and real ingredients making real food, and so on and so forth. I love equipping them with a few tools and then letting their imaginations run wild. A few years ago I wrote about Learning How to Let Children Play, and it just did me some good re-reading that post now! In that post, I shared some goals, like only allowing the girls to watch tv every few days, not providing constant entertainment for my children but *gasp* allowing them to be “bored” and use their imaginations, and sitting down with them for afternoon reading/quiet time. I’ve definitely fallen short on some of those “play” goals, but alas, this parenting thing is one huge trial and error.
Now that Zoe and Naomi are 5 1/2 and 4, they play together very well (most of the time). That was one of my goals from 2 years ago, and it seems to have naturally happened. They play so many fun games together, Naomi is usually the child and Zoe the parent (and me the grandparent), and it makes me to happy to see their imaginations at work.
Here are some of their favorite games and activities:
Boxcar Children. They fell in love with the Boxcar Children after watching this adorable movie. We got them the story on Audible, and they listen all the time on Alexa. They usually hang blankets from the top bunk to make the bottom bunk dark, and then they bring all their belongings into the “boxcar” bunk and play for hours. Sometimes they play outside and turn our open trailer into a boxcar. They get so creative and love collecting all the things the siblings found at the dump, like the cracked tea cup.
Candy Store. A few years ago I bought a sweet little set of sweet treats, like popsicles, ice cream, cupcakes, etc. They’ve played with it off and on over the years, but recently fell in love with it again. They put “price tags” on all the felt pieces with masking tape, and I helped them price everything. Then they set up a candy store where one person is the customer and the other is the clerk. They take turns playing both parts, and exchange play money. I love how this game is educational, and they learn about giving change (when I help).
Reading. We try to encourage lots of reading by reading aloud to the girls and having them sit for their own quiet time and “read” books themselves. Sometimes they’ll “read” books to each other based on memory and it’s adorable. We don’t always get to reading every day, and this is something I’d like to do with them, both reading more aloud, and reading my own book while they quietly look at books together. One of my goals for this year.
Restaurant. This might be my favorite game they play, because of their attention to detail in setting the table. The girls will set up a little side table in their room with a tablecloth, place settings, flowers, water, etc., and they will act as server & chef and customer. Like the candy store, they take turns in these roles, and usually play this game for a while. They take eachother’s meal orders and act just like little adults. Sometimes they even bring their baby to the restaurant.
Alexa. We use our Alexa for lots of playtime, including listening to stories and tons of music. Sometimes they listen to a book in their room for an hour. Every single day we dance in the kitchen to music on Alexa. This little device has become a huge part of our daily routine as a family!
Ballet dancing. From a very young age, Zoe expressed an interest in ballet dancing. They are both really into it now, and spend hours every week getting donned in their ballet gear and dancing. They dance in the kitchen (to music played on Alexa), and will dance alongside the dancers and watch the entire Nutcracker. They love ballet.
Family Play. In the evenings, we either watch something together as a family for an hour or so, or we play a game, or read books together (Joe reads, I sleep, kids listen). Some actual games the girls currently love playing are Guess Who, Go Fish, Sound Bingo, and Charades.
Real Life. Amazingly, my kids haven’t been turned off to the idea of helping with regular household chores and tasks, so this is another area we’re trying to nourish and cultivate. It’s easier most days to NOT allow them to help with things like scrubbing the kitchen floor and meal prep, but they’re usually DYING to help. It’s easier to say no because the floor always gets soaking wet from dripping cloths and dumped buckets. It’s easier to say no because flour is sprinkled all over the girls and the floor. It’s easier to say no because they want to ask why and investigate everything before we actually do anything. But I have to remind myself that this is fun for them. I truly want to encourage them in these areas, and especially teach them how to do things like scrub the floor well and make delicious food. So, we bake together and get on our hands and knees together and scrub together and we organize the craft closet together and we “fold” laundry together. It might take all day, but they’re loving their helpfulness, and I’m loving the togetherness.
Ahhh, the wonderful screen. In an ideal world, our kids would watch one weekly movie on Friday Movie Night, and never watch tv during the day. hahaha. In the real world, our reality is a bit different, at least currently. A few years ago, when Naomi was a baby, I realized the tv was basically raising Zoe. I got all my work (blog and housework) done while she was glued in front of the tv. She didn’t even want to eat. That swiftly changed. We implemented a ZERO tv during the week policy, and just one family movie night. I hired a babysitter and began to have work days and “mom” days. On babysitter days, I had a no tv policy. I hired a babysitter so they would be entertained by something other than the tv. And on my “mom” days, I tried to stick to that rule as well, unless I HAD to shoot a project and couldn’t have them be a part or need to make a phone call.
Things have morphed over the last 4 years though. I still have the same babysitter and “mom” day policy of no tv during the, for the most part. But we do watch a movie or show several times a week in the evenings, and some weeks it’s every night. It’s basically what we do after dinner, and we’re always together as a family. We have lots of life happening right now and it’s our simple way to wind down and be together. I don’t LOVE the amount of television we’re watching but to be honest, right now, this is what’s working for us. We pick the shows (or give them a few to choose from), which I think is huge. SO many of the “kid” movies and shows out there are full of garbage so we at least heavily edit the selection of show and movies they can choose from.
The girls’ tablets are exclusively for long road trips, and they only watch movies on them together. No alone tablet time at home. So at least there’s that, right?
We do have some awesome SIMPLE educational apps (reading and math, primarily) they LOVE on our Fire TV and they are allowed to use these with permission. They usually only go on these apps while I’m making dinner. We don’t have a specific # of screen time minutes they’re allowed each day, but a goal for the near future is to cut back.
Sadly, I don’t have much else to write on this topic since I feel like I need to change our current situation while at the same time knowing it’s what works right now. I’m eager to read the other mamas’ thoughts on this topic. How do YOU navigate screen time with your littles? What do you do in the evening, between dinner and bedtime (that doesn’t make a mess)?
Adult vs. Family Time
On Finding Confidence
Vacationing with Kids
Working and Childcare
Traveling with Kids
Photos by Jen Eun for A Daily Something.
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