Entertaining Kids

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Entertaining Kids

Entertaining Kids
by Jill Cooper

When my daughter took my grandson to register him for pre-school, the lady at one pre-school very excitedly told her about all of the programs that they would be doing with the kids. They planned to take the kids to musical concerts, botanical gardens and many, many other field trips and activities.

My daughter thanked her and left to find someplace else. At 3 years of age my grandson, like most 3 year olds, could hardly sit through 2 verses of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” let alone be interested in sitting through an entire musical concert. Botanical gardens are beautiful, but every 3 year old knows that the most beautiful flowers in the world are the dandelions in his own back yard, so who needs to go to a botanical garden, especially when they have very few dandelions there?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with going to a concert or a botanical garden. Most of my grandkids have been to all of these things at one time or another and I realize that it is a way to “broaden their horizons” but, as often happens, we often think that if a little of something is good, a lot is even better. Then we spend much of our time and money going to extremes overwhelming the kids with more than they can handle. A field trip every once in a while is fine but 2-3 a week?

Sometimes, we forget that children need to crawl and walk before they can run. Each stage in a learning process is important for them to develop properly but sometimes, no matter what we’re trying to teach them, we try to make them go from sitting up to running overnight.

Why didn’t my daughter want him at that pre-school? She could tell right away that this school was in the business of simply entertaining the kids. More emphasis was put on the entertainment than what the children would be learning in the class and this thinking fails to see the value of just doing plain “kids things”.

The same grandson started first grade this year. Do you know what his one delight is? No, it’s not what field trips they are going on but the fact he gets two recesses. He thinks he has died and gone to heaven. It really doesn’t take much to make a child happy or to entertain him.


Here are a few myths I would like to dispel:

Myth #1 – We have to entertain our children all the time.

The above pre-school story is a good example of how our society views our kids. Everything seems to be geared towards entertaining our children with attention-grabbing activities. Gone are the days when kids spent most of their time coloring, playing with clay, singing songs and listening to stories.

We spend so much money that doesn’t need to be spent. A 3 year old would enjoy singing some songs or having his teacher tell a story using a hand puppet as much as he would enjoy going to a musical concert. In his mind, rolling play dough into a gigantic snake is much, much more fun than walking around at an art museum.

This kind of thinking is everywhere. We don’t just have simple birthday parties for our kids where they play a few games and have cake and ice cream. We have to take them to expensive sports centers or amusement parks or bring in ponies and three ring circuses. We make sure our kids have every new electronic toy and game known to man to help keep them entertained. We are so worried that they will be bored.

Another part of this myth is that we must put them in every activity we can in order to help them further their educations. We exhaust ourselves and our children running from one activity to another every day. We are cramming as much down their throats as we can so they can become some kind of mini “super adults”.

We have got to let our kids be kids and do fun “kid things”. It’s good for kids to just run outside and play tag with their friends. We often underestimate the value of the things they learn simply by playing with their dolls or cars or coloring in coloring books. We seem to think that we are doing them a favor by skipping the kid stuff and pushing them on to the hard core stuff, thinking that will make them more successful in the future.

Some parents insist that they do these things to broaden their children’s horizons and prepare them for college. After all, everyone knows that children who are involved in more activities are more successful right?

For every 10 people who are successes because they did all of this extra stuff, there are 100 who are even more successful who did no extracurricular things. We are placing too much value on the wrong things. Instead of pawning our children off on strangers to instruct them, we need to spend time with them teaching them what is really important: to be people who have integrity and are loving and responsible. We need to teach them good values.

If they don’t have these things, all the education and success in the world is worth nothing. What good is all the money in the world if you have no one to share it with because you never learned to be loving and you alienate everyone?

What good is the best education in the world if you aren’t responsible? How does that education benefit you if you never show up for work on time or if you don’t show up at all? What good is that education if you don’t even bother to even try to find a job to support yourself or your family? I know a lot of deadbeat dads and moms who have great educations, but never learned the discipline to use them.

What good is the best education in the world if you have no integrity or character? No one wants to hire someone who can’t be trusted.


Myth #2 We must always find “exciting” things to do with our kids to bond.

I am amazed how many people “schedule” bonding time with their children. Bonding can’t be forced through “special” activities. True bonding comes naturally when our children realize that we love them unconditionally, more than anything else– when we put their needs above our own needs and wants.

Unfortunately, “They” have come up with a certain list of things that we “must” do or we won’t bond with our kids. Many of us have tried to follow the list without asking, “Who Are ‘They’ and why should I do what ‘They’ say?”

Here are a few of the things “they” say you must do: When they are babies, you must breastfeed them. When they are toddlers, you must spend hours on the floor rolling a ball to them. When they are pre-schoolers you must do crafts of every kind. When they are in elementary school, you need to bake with them every Saturday…

Of course, it’s great to do these things with your kids if you love doing them, but when you find yourself doing these things because you have to and not because you want to, you may need to rethink them.

To be honest, I didn’t have the time or the patience to sit for hours reading to my toddlers or rolling a ball. That didn’t mean I never played with them. I did these things at times, but I didn’t brow beat myself if I didn’t spend so many hours a day doing it.

I did, however, sit my toddlers in the laundry basket and carry them, clothes and all, outside to hang the clothes on the line. They would jibber jabber to me while I hung out my clothes and I would talk to them and we would sing or just look at the birds or listen to the doggie barking.

When they were older, I tried the crafts thing. The first time I did it, I looked at the finger paints all over the table, on the chairs, on the floor, all over them and me, on the walls on the way to the bathroom and in the bathroom. (Without letting me know, they jumped up and ran to go potty by themselves. “Aren’t you proud of us, Mom?”)

As I surveyed the wondrous mess, I decided anyone who did this on a regular basis was either a better mom than me or insane. I vowed from then on to let the professionals (kindergarten teachers, bless your hearts) teach my kids to finger paint and make paper mache bowls and other crafts of that sort.

Instead, I would take them out to the yard to plant flowers or make mud pies with me. That way I could just hose them down when we were finished.

One day I realized my daughter was old enough to learn how to bake. How exciting! I should have heeded the warning signs that first time… (I love you daughter of mine : ). What a mess– flour, sugar and egg everywhere! I knew it would be bad, but not this bad. This is another thing I thought was best left to the professionals in the home economics classes in school. 😉 OK, not really.

I did eventually try again to teach her to cook. It has been a slow process – I went to her home again just last week, she is in her late 30’s, and we just had another lesson HA! HA! She still hasn’t gotten the flour, sugar and eggs under control but I am hopeful because each year it seems to be more contained. : ) : ) (Note fromTawra: I’m NOT laughing, Mother… the smoke is my signal that dinner is ready. :-))

Anyway, here’s my point: Bonding is fine, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, scheduled or what “they” say you need to do. Each child, each parent and each situation is different.


Myth #3 – Each of my children needs to have a TV, computer, and phone in his or her room or else they will die or, worse still, be rejected by their peers.

I constantly hear parents complain about the horrible effects of the media on their children. These parents go on and on about the awful things their children find on TV or the Internet without actually taking action to stop it at home. Stop being a wimp of a parent, step up to the plate and be responsible for your child. Stop blaming everyone and everything else for the things that affect your child’s life. You are the one in control (or you should be).

Don’t let kids have TVs and computers in their rooms. Put these things in the family room or living room where you can control what they are watching. It is so foolish to carry on about the media controlling our kids’ lives and then agree to put a TV in a child’s room.

Why do we put TVs in their rooms? Usually it is for purely selfish reasons. It entertains them and gets them out of our hair. Sometimes we don’t want to say no to our kids and have them mad at us. When a child pleads for a TV we don’t want to seem mean, so we give in and let him have one. For many of us, having our kids like us makes us feel good, which can be more important to us than our children’s well being. This may sound harsh but, unless you recognize the problem and stop making excuses, nothing will get fixed.

We wouldn’t dream of giving our kids illicit drugs if they asked us but there are many things that can be equally emotionally and spiritually harmful to our kids that we give them just because we are afraid to say no. Allowing the kids to watch the news, adult-targeted shows and even many cartoons where the characters are mean, hateful and smart mouthed are some of those things.

Click Here to Read “Entertaining Kids, Part 2″

Photo by: alliance_images


  1. Zina says

    I really appreciate your insight here. Overscheduling never helps any kind of bonding between parents and child. We have really used moderation in acivities and have been so encouraged because we have time in the evenings just to visit with our kids(ages 14,12 and 9). The best conversations always come in these relaxed times with each other.

  2. Debbie says

    Thanks for this post. I am glad there are other like minded people out there. I have moments when I see other moms carting their kids to all these events and activities and always keeping them entertained. I wonder where they get the energy and the time to do it all. It seems so exhausting.

    Then I look at my kids and think that mine don’t seem to be as high energy, whiney and misbehaved. Maybe it has to do with temperment but maybe it’s because I have spent the time shaping them instead of carting them around everywhere. Something to think about though, right?

  3. says

    you don’t have to spend a lot to bond with your children.
    we were out in the canoe and stopped on a rock island. My younger son wanted to fish with his dad so they left us there. My son and I walked and explored the island and came to a rock hole full of water and tadpoles. We sat with our feet in the water with the tadpoles coming up to them and sort of nibbling. We stayed for quite a while talking about everything under the sun. Just his last visit my son said how much he liked that hour of our alone time.
    who would have thunk it that sitting among tadpoles would be such a good thing.
    My younger son still talks about the time he went fishing with his dad all by himself.
    Forget the money do something that is actually free and fun and then you can all enjoy the entire time.

  4. Kim says

    That was well said! So many people buy into the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. I think some people even try to boost their self worth with a full schedule. They rationalize that a full schedule of activities for their family members signifies a life of importance- “We’re just so busy with so many things to do because we’re so important”.

    One troubling place I find this is among fellow homeschoolers. So many homeschoolers in our group keep their children’s lives busy and scheduled to the max. It’s as if they’re trying to prove something to their friends and family who don’t support homeschooling.

    I’ve always felt that if I’m a stay-at-HOME, HOMEschooling mom, then I should probably spend a fair amount of time at HOME teaching, interacting, and relationship building with my children (on more than a surface level). Of course we don’t live in a bubble my children have many friends of various ages and know how to interact with all ages of society very well, so I don’t allow others to give me attitude about that “socialization” nonsense.

    I know our children are very “well rounded”. Some of the comments I receive frustrate me and show such ignorance, but I refuse to be pressured. It’s not as though public/private school is the “real world” training they purport it to be anyway- a person doesn’t grow up to be surrounded for 7 or 8 hours a day by 25 to 30 people who are within his exact age range.

    My husband works with many different aged people; I interact with people of various ages; we go to church with people of different ages; my teenage son apprentices at a workplace that employs various ages; the list goes on. Sorry- I chased a bit of a rabbit trail there.

    My point is that where time with our children is concerned- quantity IS important, not just quality. I’m so sick of seeing people who are more than thrilled to dump their kids off at one activity or another. Their lives are a series of drop off/pick up.

    This happens in the homeschool community too. Our group is large and we offer many activities. Our children are allowed to participate in one special activity each and we have also chosen co-op classes that meet only twice a month instead of the weekly co-op classes that were the other option. Parents remain and participate in those classes and all ages learn together.

    It makes me sick to see how many of my fellow homeschooling moms are quite content to drop their children off for someone else to teach/babysit on a regular basis. They may as well just hand them over to the government schools and daycares to raise for the majority of the day b/c it’s no different. Yet they pat themselves on the back for what they’re doing.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with some activities, I just think it’s sad that so few parents think that their children are worth the time to be involved in their lives. I think that many people don’t truly get the fact that effective parenting- parenting as God describes it- requires death to self. That means that you have to do the right thing, not the easy thing. It means you teach what’s important, take a stand, become actively involved in your children’s lives, quit whining and feeling sorry for yourself b/c you have no “me” time, quit overfilling your children’s schedules, and make the sacrifices necessary, even if it’s tough.

    Time flies by too fast anyway and before you know it, they’re grown. So it’s good to hear a word to the wise that we shouldn’t buy into the “fill their schedule” mentality. We also shouldn’t give into our flesh and just look for quick and easy ways to entertain them (television, video games, etc.).

    We have but one opportunity to raise them- we don’t get a “do-over”. I’d rather make the moments count as much as possible, afterall, I stand accountable before my God. Oh and a final word– good for Tawra that she recognized the agenda of that preschool and left. In fact, I want people to know that even if you don’t choose to homeschool, you are more than able to work on school readiness skills at home where you can spend time enjoying your child.

    There’s no need to shell out money (or in some people’s cases- use government taxpayer money) just to send your child to preschool. I was a professional educator for many years prior to having children and the most confident, well adjusted students that teachers saw entering Kindergarten were those who had been given a firm foundation at home rather than being parceled out to a preschool where they got lost in the shuffle, learned bad habits or behavior, and/or didn’t get their individual learning needs addressed.

    So don’t give into the pressure or feel like you’re a failure (or that your child will be a failure). It is ok to go against what “everyone else is doing” and do what you feel led to do for your family. Afterall, that’s where you’ll find true peace and blessing.


    • says

      Well said yourself Kim. Good comment. It is long but I hope all of you take time to read her comment. She makes some very good points. I have wondered about this same thing myself when it comes to homeschooling but didn’t feel right in addressing it because I did not home school myself. I’m not against home schooling I just think we always tend to focus on all of the pros and none of the cons of certain issues, causes or what ever they are called and don’t look at all areas honestly to see if something could change to make it even better or different.

      You really hit it right on because I do see it happen a lot that people seem to try so hard to prove to others how great what they are doing is that they don’t always see the reality which is all things have good and bad and even good things can be done or used in a bad way or not productive way.

      I probably shouldn’t write this next paragraph because it may open up a can of worms and if it does we will have to stop the posts. I hope it doesn’t because all I really am saying is I agree with Kim.

      I have to agree with you on the statement you always hear “quality is better then quantity”. I remember years ago when I first heard that and it made my hair curl (not really but I can dream). I thought who in the world made that statement up. It came into being about the time so many moms were leaving home and going to work so I always thought it came about to make moms who felt guilty about leaving their kids all day feel better. I have never in all my years known a child who if given a choice of 30 mins. intense one on one with mom or dad or 24 hours a day with mom or dad would choose the 30 mins.

      We are so easily lead in a certain a direction or believe things just because someone famous says something and it makes us feel good or puts a stamp of approval on something we are doing which we aren’t sure is totally right. I always go back to the fact at one time all the famous and “smartest” people said the world was flat and everyone but a few explorers believed it.

  5. Mary Anne Hall says

    I totally agree with all this. Too bad there are no more small farms or even big ones so kids have something to do!!! When I grew up my cousins and I helped my Grandfather on the farm and when I was married to a farmer we had young teenagers to help out now the farms are few and far between that is a shame. My kids were always out in the fields with us or in barn and they could do little things that really did help out.

  6. April says

    There’s a lot of good wisdom in this article. Thanks so much for sharing it! I too have been in bondage to the lies that ” I need to do more, more, more” with my homeschooled children. It only leads to exhaustion, frustration and chaos. I believe the Lord has been showing us to really simplify our activities and it is encouraging to read this article as a confirmation of that. Jesus went about His father’s buisness, doing what He was told to do of the Father. If we do that, and are led by the spirit, and not the flesh – which is worry, pride, competitiveness and fear, there WILL be peace in our homes. That’s what I want anyways- and I appreciate your prayers for me and our family! Be blessed!!

    • says

      I know what you mean April. I remember as a young mom we got “caught up” (I think I like your word bondage better) in church activities. It was as if the more you did at church the better Christian you were. God thumped me on the head (gently of course) and said it isn’t how many church activities you are in which are important but your relationship with me and time with me. What I found out was if I got that part straight the other things fell into place and balanced out very nicely.

      I always worry about people who have excess in any area of their lives whether it is school activities, church activities, work, shopping anything because it’s like you said there is nothing but frustration and chaos not peace. If a person is feeling chaos and frustration they need to stop and take a long hard look at things and see where can I change.

  7. Bea says

    Over the weekend I was reading an article about what people with lots of money do in their lives, and it happened to mention what some rich people, that live in Washington DC do, to entertain their kids for parties. They rent Cotton Candy machines, theater sized Popcorn Makers, Moon Walks, Clowns and Magicians, Petting Zoos, Carousels, etc and spend thousands of dollars. It seemed insane to me that simple things weren’t done to entertain 2 to 6 year olds. These things were done for childen much too young to even know the difference. What a waste.

  8. Tiffany says

    I love your thoughts on kids and activities. As a city dwelling mom of a nine month old, my husband and I have been giving a lot of thought to this issue. It seems like everyone around us has their kids in constant activities and attending lots of birthday parties and such. We don’t want to be that way and it’s difficult trying to not fall into that way of life. It’s nice to hear someone else who agrees with us!

  9. Cathy says

    Thank you for this letter.I agree with you. My husband and I raised 6 children,. We lived in the country for 16 yrs, and then moved to his fathers house. While we were in the country, the kids were self entertained. TV was for rainy days and weekends.They did sports, and school activites, and we did family trips and activites. They are all married, but one. My 14th grandchild will be here in a couple of weeks. We had 1 TV, a record player, (still have it with the records),went on 20 mile or more bike rides, camping, canoeing, did gardening,learned to fix cars, (even the girls, everything was with FAMILY. Now my kids are raising their kids the same way. Keeping up with the JONES, is for the birds!!
    I had a daycare for 15 yrs, and some of the kids would bring game boys, and other electronic things to play. I NEVER let them do it. Playing outside, riding bikes, playing ball, going to the park, was what we did. They didn’t like it at first, but they finally started to have fun. Some of them never even had a bike to ride.
    Its time to go back between “Little house, and the Waltons” Give the kids all the LOVE and TIME you can, you might be suprised that this is what they crave.Give them the right MORALS. Giving them everthing they want, is so wrong. Do you get everything you want, DON”T THINK SO!!! Saying no to your child id what GOD would do. You are the parents, be ADULT enough to be one!!!!
    I got married a couple of months after my 18th b-day. That was 40 yrs ago. I wanted to be a mom,(even though I helped raise my 6 brothers and sisters). My husband was laid off and on the first 15 yrs, (when we had the kids), and we were able to make ends meet,doing odd jobs, raising our food, and with the HELP and BLESSINGS of RELYING on the LORD. We were never without anything. We didn’t have NEW things, but we had the LORD, and each other. Thats what really counts.Things come and go, but GOD and family are what we all really need, and YES, you can make do. The simple things, why can’t they be that way now?


  10. David says

    Hey there,

    I just wanted to thank you for what I like to call my daily dose of reality. I’ve always admired your candor and insight, not only with the daily frugality of living, but also coping with family issues that are a part of our daily lives. I myself wasn’t feeling exactly on top of the world while I was reading your article, when I came upon your words of wisdom…

    “Smile, smile and smile because it will probably get worse– Most of them marry and multiply and then the fun begins!!!! 😉 Just joking!!!!”

    It wasn’t so much of the last part of your statement, but the very first part. I don’t know why it struck me, but I just started smiling because things can ALWAYS be worse. Sometimes I don’t realize just how good I actually have it. I am a stay-at-home dad, who is lucky to have a wonderful wife with a job which enables me to be with my children. I have beautiful, smart healthy children, who have a roof over their heads. We have food, clothes, all of the basic amenities. My family lives a very simple life….bottom line…we’re happy. What’s not to smile about that? Thanks for the daily dose of reality.

    • says

      David, I love hearing from our guys and dads out there. I know we are a gal oriented web site but we do have a lot of guys too. I so appreciate the fact you are willing to “sift” through things and find there are some things you can use too. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to do that.

      You are right most of us do have an awful lot to be grateful for and tend to forget it. Just yesterday I was starting to moan about my house to Tawra and had to stop myself. I looked at her and said “At least I have a house so I have no right to complain.” Once I was bemoaning the fact I didn’t have carpet in my bedroom and instantly remembered seeing people in Japan who didn’t even have a floor but slept on a dirt floor. After that I always have to catch myself when I start to complain.

      You’re right. What’s not to smile about?
      PS Good name. It’s my son’s name too.

  11. says

    All of this is just another example of “keeping up with the Jones’s” as parents are often felt to think they are depriving their kids if they don’t go along with what their friends/neighbors are doing. Parents need to stand up and say what they really feel and not be bullied into spending too much money “entertaining” their kids in such a fashion.
    Children are not “miniature adults” and developmentally are not ready for much of what parents expect them to be.
    Chill out people! Let your kids be kids!

  12. Tawna says

    The local craze is that “good parents” buy a family gymn membership to keep their kids in shape. Needless to say this is not cheap. We joined a community center one year. It was a big mistake. We found despite good intentions we barely used it. We very rarely all have free time at the same time. But I have found a fitness purchase that is used often, with good results. Last year I bought an over the door pull up bar for less than $20. The kids use it all the time to work off energy. An added bonus is that the kids are more fit than many in their school. My kids are 11 and up. I would have satety concerns with little kids.

  13. Lori A. Pollinger says

    Hi Jill and Tawra,

    I just wanted to let you know I agree 100% with you. I raised my four daughters on my own and couldn’t agree with you more. My daughters and I had one night a week that it was just us. We did games, movies, whatever we wanted to do. I now have a 5-year old grandson and as soon as he is a little older I will do the same with him. I do believe in unconditional love which I didn’t get when I was growing up. Kids today are too spoiled with no respect for adults and it’s because parents don’t take the time to spend quality time with them. Parents need to give more time to their children and not pass the buck to activities that are meaningless. It’s okay for some activities but not 24/7. I read your newsletter faithfully and cannot believe how valueable it has been for me. My children are grown now but a lot of what you print I have done with very limited income. You guys are great. I look forward to more information and tips from you. I have several of your books and find them very useful.

    Much thanks for all you do


  14. says

    25 years ago when we moved to this town, we joined the rod and gun club mainly so we could use the shooting range with the boys.
    Well the club not only has the shooting range it has a log cabin with a huge fire place we can use whenever we want a private lake for swimming boating and canoeing it is catch and release only but it cost us $40. to join for a year. There is enough land for short hikes and they end at a working beaver dam. There are rabbits, coyotes, and lots of chipmunks and squirrels for little ones and older folks to watch.
    Now that our boys are gone we still have memberships and even though it is years later the cost is only $60 for year round activities.
    In the winter there is cross country skiing room ski doo trails and just family fun of snow ball fights.
    The money goes to up keep of the property and a free kids fish derby with prizes. So the cost not only keeps us fit and active it goes to benefit the community. It is also walkable for the teens and only 10 by car from the centre of town.
    what better way to appreciate nature as a family than video games where you are by yourself.

  15. Alicia Webster says

    Wonderful article and right on the mark…I have a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and a two-year-old and we don’t have the money to be sending them to all these activities to entertain them. To be honest, even if we did have more $$$, I think that I’d rather spend the time with them myself rather than let them spend all their time going here and there and doing this and that. I have a family member that feels the opposite way. Her five-year-old has three activities (ballet, softball, and swimming) in addition to school, and her seven-year-old and her ten-year-old have MORE than that in addition to their schooling. Their kids are happy and seem well-adjusted, so I am not passing judgment on the way that they do things–each family should decide what is best for them. But my family member very rarely sees her kids–only early mornings and dinnertime during the week, and almost no time at all on the weekends. I would miss my kids if I rarely got to see them, so this wouldn’t work for me. My mother-in-law says that keeping the kids really busy and constantly on-the-go is a good thing because it keeps them out of trouble. But does it? Or do they find themselves in trouble anyway, but you are just not around to see it?

    • says

      I like your last point Alicia – Or do they find themselves in trouble anyway, but you are just not around to see it? I had never thought about that but it could be so true.

  16. Marcie says

    Thanks for this. It was very encouraging. I live this lifestyle amid almost everyone else who doesn’t. Sometimes I get discouraged being the “only one”. It is wonderful to read something that agrees with my point of view and articulates it so well! May the Lord continue to bless your ministry. You blessed me today. 😀


    Marcie Wilson

  17. Irene says

    I come from a family of 7 and we all were involved in a sport as a “hobby”. No such thing as batting coaches, sports cardio training or sports camps back then. Both parents worked (my mom worked part-time starting when the youngest was in grade school). Back then, my brothers rode 5-10 miles on their bikes to baseball practice and I rode my bike to softball practice. Games were on weekends when the whole family would go to watch.

    Times have changed…. sports practices for kids 8-9 years old 2-3 times a week plus 1-2 games a week. Our son played from 5 years old to 12 and then found another sport he loved. Both kids benefitted from being involved in team and individual sports, but I’m not sure how parents manage when both are working full-time.

    Seems like activities in general have ramped up in time commitment for kids over the years. In our area, could be because there are so many wanting to play, bigger leagues, etc.

  18. mary says

    When our daughter was a year old, my husband was working on a project in the garage that took up a lot of his free time. She would toddle over to the garage door from the kitchen and roll a ball across the garage floor. He always thought of that as a signal that she needed some “daddy time”. Ten or fifteen minutes of play would satisfy her, and he could get back on the job. He still remembers this fondly though more than forty years have passed.

    We could have given her more material things, but we turned down some of her requests since we didn’t want her to think that she should have everything she asked for. On the other hand we would drop everything if she needed a hug or to tell us about her day. It must have worked since she is bringing up her kids the same way. She also takes time to talk to us on the phone every week (she lives out of state).

  19. says

    Great article! I agree with what you say. I have one son who was greatly wanted, as I had two miscarriages before I became pregnant with this my only child. Of course we spoiled him. He was loved! He did get many advatages that a family with many children couldn’t. He got toys that inspired his imagination. He made up Captain America, complete with a wide variety of cast members. All of the children he played with and his babysitters were told all about Captain America. When we traveled on vacations he was exposed to a great number of different things. He loved to read and learn. He didn’t ever have a lot of extra activities outside the home. He is now 27 years old. I hope I will someday have grandkids to spoil. He is still interested in a wide variety of subjects and feels he had a great childhood. It is not necessary ro give your child everything. Encourage them to use their imaginations. They have more fun with a cardboard box than a sophisticated toy.

  20. Jennifer says

    The only thing I would add is that these days we have to teach our children to cook at home since, Home economics, like so many other programs, has been eliminated from most schools. Sad but true. My daughter likes nothing better than being in the kitchen with me.

  21. Jaime says

    I loved the comment that was made about getting back to somewhere between “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons”. I think this is so right. Does your 6 year old really need a $150 handheld game? No. That money could be better spent buying bikes for the family. This would also allow for the parents to spend time with the kids while they are doing the activity. Also, parents should become leaders of the local scouting troop or 4-H group, rather than just dropping off the kids. How about starting a family game night. No not electronic games, remember board games. Our family Monopoly games of 25 and 30 years ago are still legend in my family. And I think that saying “we live in the city so our options are limited” is just a cop out. If you live in a city you have public transportation that can probably take you to many different types of places within 1 or 1 and a half hours from your home. Do some research and I’m sure you could you find areas such as farms, camping grounds, hiking trails, bike paths. I’ve also heard of web sites where you can volunteer to help farmers during the harvest. In stead of paying alot of money for a family vacation try taking the family to a farm to volunteer for a week. The kids will not only learn farming skills but also the value of hard work. Camping is also a low cost vacation that the family can spend together. At home try starting a window box garden and grow vegetables. The kids won’t remember how much Mom or Dad spent on the activity but they will remember the time their parents spent with them doing the activity.

  22. Sheri says

    Very good article and very good comments! When we were growing up, our family had one activity, Girl Scouts. Since there were four girls, it made sense. I remember some of the girls would come late to our Girl Scout meetings because they were in Bobby Socks. It seems to me, if you can’t do both fully, don’t do both. We were quite content to do only one thing.

    Daddy was in the Navy while we were growing up. I don’t remember him having any hobbies, I would say that his family was his hobby! As I remember, when his boat was in, he was ours and he always came straight home from work. He involved us with his projects around the house, took us off roading when he went. That’s where I learned to drive, was off road! I may have been 13. We did a lot of inexpensive things like go to the beach at night and cook over a fire. We played soccer at the park while Mommy worked on her Water Safety Instructor card. Things were not done for us, but with us.

    Thank you for reminding me of how much fun we had with the simple life!

    To go along with this theme, although it doesn’t quite fit here, I always enjoyed seeing what handy-me-downs we/I would get! I still do! In fact, the reason we were in Girl Scouts, is because of a Handy-Me-Down Brownie uniform! I went all the way through High school in Girl Scouts. I missed one year, because we couldn’t find a troop.

    Two things about houses: The best thing about my house is the huge backyard! Also, I think it helps to be content with your house when you remember that most of the world has a 10′ X 10′ space to call home, if they have that. That is one bedroom. Hebrews 13:5

    My family’s one outside activity is Awana. We have been doing it since my 29 year-olds were 6 years old. That’s it! We do the regional games and Bible Quizzes. That is also our church involvement. I have a saying about ministry, if everyone chose one ministry and did that, our church would be taken care of. I know, the statistics seem to show that it’s only 10-20% of the church that actually does the ministry, but if everyone was faithful to one, we would be far ahead of where we are.

    Thank you for your encouraging words!

  23. says

    Jill: Thanks for the good laugh! I needed it today and really appreciate you and what you said about filling childrens days with too many activiies. There was a study about this very subject, which I read years ago, that found that children whose schedules were booked full never learned how to budget their own time. I always figured that as the Mom, my job was to raise my kiddos to be strong adults. That being said, I should be allowing them to learn how to budget their own time.

  24. Sandi P. says

    Homeschooling isn’t always a choice. I homeschooled out of necessity on the two times I did it. On different occasions two of my children were expelled from school for two or three years. (One was deserved, one wasn’t.) During that time I homeschooled my children, and felt most of the time I wasn’t adequate for the job. I didn’t realize at the time what a priviledge it was to be spending that kind of time with my kids (since they were being punished by the system), and I didn’t have a proper support network to make the most of it. Still and all, it was a good time, and I feel that my children benefitted from it.

  25. Anne says

    I’ve never heard it said better! We didn’t have all this technological stuff when I grew up. We had good clean, simple fun and our teachers were dedicated to providing kids with the important things we needed for the future. AND so were our parents. We learned so many life lessons just being kids and playing with our neighborhood kids. And our parents didn’t go broke trying to keep us in every activity available.

  26. Karen Toovey says

    Thank you for your article!

    I’ve been feeling guilty because my son’s community karate dojo closed and I can’t afford to put him in a dedicated karate dojo. He enjoyed it when he did it and it really did help his coordination, but he’s not passionate about it.

    It will also be a relief not to go out those two nights a week. We’re going to go out for a family walk instead. I work full-time and both kids go to public school so our family time is precious little as it is.

    This article helped remind me that it’s me the kids want – not all the extras.
    We just finished a MAJOR declutter of our place, a project we all worked on together. It’s the little things they want that make them happy. Sleeping in the living room on friday nights. DVD and popcorn treats, a game of yhatzee with mom, even uniterrupted time to just play with their legos.

    Guess I’m a good mom after all :)

  27. ab birky says

    What a refreshing perspective! I’m a grandma now, but I used to do day care in my home when my kids were little. One little girl I cared for used to say, “I’m bored!” We would encourage her to get involved in something to take care of her boredom. But I told my own kids that often creativity arises out of being bored! Many kids aren’t given enough responsibility these days. Doing things for others is one of the best things we can teach them!

  28. Mary Jane says

    Thanks so much for this article and the following comments. I am an empty-nester now, but when my kids were little, I homeschooled all 4 of them to graduation, and had a similar philosophy about childhood activities. Even if I thought it was a good idea to do way more, we wouldn’t have had the time, energy or money. We were regularly pelted with dire warnings about how our kids would lose out because we didn’t have them overscheduled. These comments came from homeschooling and non-homeschooling parents alike. I felt vaguely guilty until one other mother told me that when her kids were a little older, they could engage in ONE extra-curricular activity for the year. I did the same for my kids, and once they were signed up for that activity, they had to finish out the year. This was to teach them to give everything a fair chance, and to finish what they started. I wish I had known then that all of you folks were out there! I have a theory about all the hyper activity. I think because so many families have two full time working parents, the extra spending and busyness is a subconscious over compensation for not being around as much. This is not a criticism of two working parents, just an observation I have taken in. The busiest homes are the same families that seldom sit down to a meal together. Years ago, when families were large and usually only the Dad worked, many of those families bonded and stayed close not because their kids’ social calendars were packed. They stayed close because they worked together much of the day. What little time there was for rest and relaxation was shared together at the same time. So much for quality versus quantity when it comes to family time.

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