Lately, TV time in our home has become more than just a “treat” – it has become the norm – an expected part of our daily routine. On days when I find myself sitting down to play and constantly getting interrupted with work, on days when there is too much to be done, and on days when the thought of entertaining my little explorers feels like another chore. It is in these times of guilt, not necessity, that I reach for the remote. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for that one show every once in a while. And there is certainly something to be said about curling up together on our makeshift bed in the living room with some popcorn and fruit kabobs to enjoy a Family Movie Night. Unfortunately, in the midst of my whirlwind days, it is easy for that one show to turn into an hour or more in front of the television, and it is getting out of control.
Layla comes over and pleads, “but Mommy, there is nothing to do.” The long time play mate inside of me wants desperately to sit down and play dollhouse, read just one more book, blow one more bubble, dance one more dance but the clock is ticking and I know I need to get things done. I am half-tempted to push the power button on the TV and move along. Most recently I find myself fed up with giving in, and my response to “there is nothing to do” has been “well, then I guess you will be bored.”
That’s when the magic happens.
I am awed and inspired by the creativity that comes from a few simple, classic, and beautiful things.
I cannot always entertain my children, and I have to be okay with that. They are not deprived, under-loved, or neglected. But, as Mom-of-the-Year as I want to be, I simply cannot be there to puppeteer a smile or an idea all day long. I am in the same trap I see so many of my friends in with their children – being overbooked with activities and classes. I feel pressured to be there to entertain them and keep them happy.
But sometimes being there to guide their “boredom” is even more important than being their playmate. When Layla is left to her own devices – after the foot-stomping has ceased – and I find her immersed in independent play, she thrives in her own imagination. A bucket of the simplest, handmade items becomes a wonderful new imaginary place that she’s created, built, implemented, and manifested. Now, she certainly has her fair share of toys with her Mama being a toymaker and all (she is one of the best little product-testers I know!) But all of the things I create don’t have buttons or noise, so she is allowed to listen to the soundtrack she hears in her head or sing out loud in song. When I leave her, untethered to technology, she finds unique and wonderful ways to think, create, and explore.
She pulls pieces from around the house and brings them together in surprising ways – like the pipe-cleaner – button bracelet that became a “key ring for Lillian” because she wants to make things in her studio “just like Mama.”
Like the gnome box tipped on its side being used as an elevator to move the little people from the bottom floor (under the kitchen table) to the top floor.
Like the cubed blocks stacked, just so, as a representation of the skyscraper she saw on our journey through the city.
Like a pretend play land of characters coming together to celebrate the wedding of the giraffe and the elephant. (She was preparing to be a Flower Girl in an upcoming wedding, and this little set up allowed her to play her worries away in a tactile way.)
Sure, I cannot always entertain her. But I need to remind myself that, after the fussing of “nothing to do” subsides, there is a calm after the storm and something magical happens. I realized I shouldn’t feel guilty, but proud of myself for giving her the tools she needs to work independently and problem solve creatively. I am excited to give her the space to explore the depths of her own imagination without interruption or noise. Our worlds are noisy enough as it is, and in the quiet of her mind, I continue to find inspiration.
So go ahead, please. Let your little ones be bored. See what happens. I think you will be amazed and awed.
This post was contributed by Jessica Perkins of Mama May I. Mama May i’s handmade learning toys blend the best of developmental psychology and design to offer a unique learning through play experience.
Founder and principle designer, Jessica Perkins, has been creating for as long as she can remember, originally helping her mama with her handmade toy store over 20 years ago. With the birth of her children, and all the new little people in her life, Jessica found herself searching for toys that met her educational and design standards.
Inspired by these little explorers, and her understanding of Montessori and Waldorf methodologies, Jessica Perkins began making all of her creations with the belief that children make sense of their world through sensing their world. After years of making, creating, and gifting her creations to friends and family, Jessica decided to start selling her goodies. Since the launch of Mama May i in 2009, Jessica’s passion for artistic expression through toys has blossomed into a business supported by mama’s and papa’s all over the world.
With this learning through play philosophy in mind, Mama May i encourages kids, both big and small, to dive in, make a splash, a scribble, or an inquisitive fiddle on the memories we share together.