08 January 2011

Overdoing the entertainment

Are you guilty of over-entertaining your children (or yourself)? I know I was for a while. I had them busy doing things every waking minute. There was playgroup, crafts, play dates, sports, music lessons, art lessons, even extra tutoring (as if school wasn't enough!).  I had coffee mornings with friends, craft groups, CWA, Bible Study groups.

What happened was my gorgeous little people became so busy doing things that they forgot how to be happy and contented unless they were being amused by something or someone. They lost the art of being a child.  They were over-entertained and over-stimulated. They didn't have time to relax.

I was always rushing from one appointment to the next. There were a million things I wanted to do but I just never had the time to do them. I was always running.

I realised very quickly that one or two organized activities a week was more than enough for them, for me and for our budget. The kids learned to have fun by themselves in the sandpit or on the floor with the Lego. They learned to play with each and next to each other, sharing toys, games and books.

I learned to slip, slop, slap and watch them from the kitchen window when they were outside. I learned to let go of the over-supervising and let them play like, well like little children should.

I learned to say no and stick to it. I gave up the things that I didn't really enjoy or have time for. I found I made time for the things I really, really enjoy, and still do.

Our lives changed, dramatically. There was much less stress because there was much less running around. Less expense. Less having to stick to a strict timetable. We all relaxed and became a much happier family.

It's not easy to stop. We all want our children to have the best of everything and to have what their friends have. But all that organized activity is stressful, for your children and you.

Choose one or two activities that they really love, that you can afford and let them enjoy those. For the rest of the time let them be next to you, learning about life the way you want them to, or enjoying the solitude of their own company.

The whole family will benefit.


  1. Thank you for a fabulous email today, a timely reminder for parents as we organise children for the school year ahead.

    Admittedly, I have never been guilty of managing an over active schedule, simply due to budget but now that we are a two-parent working family the opportunity is there if I wanted to take that path. But like you it would become too stressful and it also means I would lose valuable time with my children.

    My girls (3 & 6) are most happy doing craft and playing in their own playroom, not somebody elses. I cringe when I think about the amount of time, money and exhaustion my friends spend racing about sometimes up to four times in a week, for me that time 'wasted' is better put to use baking and cooking meals in your own kitchen instead of having to purchase takeaway meals....or perhaps I'm just a contented homebody?

    Once again, thank you for the great read.


  2. This is so very true Cath.....I hope it reaches out to all those young mums out there. I only had one child and she used to love having friends over and play cubbies and dress ups and shops in the back yard....wonderful times with NO EXPENSE....and NO RUSHING!!!.....I think all this enrolling kids to do a thousand and one things makes them all stressful over achievers that will never be satisfied with themselves.
    Thank you!!


  3. The pressure is on us all these days to be perfect parents and for some reason society sees perfect parents as those who have their children in every activity, sport, club etc going.

    The constant cry is "I don't have time to....." but we all have the same 24 hours in a day, it's how we choose to use them that makes the difference.

    It took a major accident, where we came so close to losing a child, to make me stop. It's sad that my child had to suffer to make me a better parent (and I am by no means parent of the year material, I have a lot to learn still) but we are a much happier and more contented family because of it.

    And I'm not biased when I say my kids are fantastic (not perfect, they are teenagers after all) but they are incredible human beings.

  4. I agree 100% Cath, very true...Narelle....

  5. Cath,

    You’re comments are so true, how often do I hear mums listing off the daily activities that their children have to do, music, swimming, karate, basketball, cricket, singing, dancing etc etc, it’s almost like they are afraid of being alone with their children or even themselves. Yes, as you say perhaps one or possibly two planned activities is fine but they have to learn to use their imaginations and get used to their own company and that of their sibling/s and parents. My children are both young adults but when they were much younger they had swimming lessons and were involved in a sporting club which they both still belong to – my daughter as a coach and my son as a player and a coach. They learnt to play together, sure they got on each others’ nerves at times but they once again learnt to deal with it. As money was tight, meeting a friend ‘for coffee’ was a luxury instead I just invited them over for coffee, we chatted while the kids played – much less cheaper and definitely less stressful than dealing with the traffic and then finding a car spot. I am constantly amazed how people don’t think that kids can be ‘stressed out’ almost as if this is a complaint that only adults get – it happens believe me, I speak from experience. When I was 6yrs old I had a nervous breakdown because the school bumped me from Prep to Grade 2 (seems they felt I didn’t need to go into Grade 1) I was off school for 3 months. So spare a thought for those children that have countless activities and the pressure they are under to ‘achieve’ and ‘perform’. I’m not saying that some pressure isn’t good but not to the extent that some children are put under.



  6. Hi Cath

    You just brought tears to my eyes with this little tip, and not because I'm guilty of over organizing (rather the opposite actually).
    I never realized that kids, who had their days filled with activities, could suffer in almost the same way as kids who are ignored.

    Thank you (for the tips/hints/website and reality check) :)

  7. All I want to know Cath is how you got to be so wise? :-)
    thanks for your inspiring words and kindness to all of us
    Deb Skalecki

  8. Thanks for all the tips - I'm taking things on board for the (hopefully not-too-distant) time when I have children!

    Something from my own childhood - there are lots of ways to try out clubs and activities so your children can see what they like. Look for open days (e.g., Australia Day - many councils organise or at least list groups having open days then), and keep an eye at your local library for posters and in your local paper for events.

    Many amateur groups will allow children or teenagers to participate as long as they can demonstrate responsibility. For instance, when my elder brother decided he was interested enough in Gilbert & Sullivan to join an amateur theatre company, we all started going along to help build and paint scenery and props (and I was a teenager, and not the youngest of my siblings to be involved). People in amateur groups are usually glad to teach all sorts of skills to anyone who's interested.


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