Before I start, it’s important to say that I passionately believe there’s no one right way to parent or set up your home, in fact there are a million right ways!
That being said, we all look for possible answers when we are facing challenges, and I’ve been asked quite a bit recently about activities for children, home set up, and independence – especially when it comes to balancing the needs of more than one child. So here are my thoughts…hopefully some handy tips if this is something that’s on your mind at the moment.
The first thing I recommend is making sure the toys & activities you have match up to the development of your child. It sounds obvious but it’s an easy one to miss. If they’re surrounded by stuff they’ve outgrown, the chances are they’ll get bored pretty quickly. That inevitably leads to things getting chucked about, and children getting destructive or demanding because they’re frustrated.
If their toys are all too advanced for them, they’re going to need a lot of adult input to play with them. That’s fine for some toys, but if that’s all there is, it won’t leave much room for independent play. The key is to have a couple of things that are a bit easy for when they’re tired, a couple of things that are just right, and a couple of things that are a bit trickier for when they feel like a challenge.
The second thing is to think through how many toys you have. This is a big one, especially as children get older and over the years you’ve collected more & more. Research tells us the more we have to choose from, the harder it is to make choices. If children are surrounded by lots of toys & toy boxes, play quickly gets overwhelming. It’s a great idea to have a regular & thorough clear out, do a car boot, eBay, give to a charity shop – whatever works for your family. One worry parents often have is this will be unpopular with the children. It’s rare. They generally love the minimalist approach!
Another tip is to think through how toys are arranged. Toy boxes are generally a bit of a nightmare. No one can find what they need, and tidy up time is seriously overwhelming once 3 toy boxes have been emptied onto the floor. Less is more with toys. Try having a shelf with just a few items out at a time. Make sure everything has a home so everyone knows where things belong. If you have room, stash other toys in a cupboard and rotate them regularly to keep interest alive.
It’s helpful to have a space for each child to play. Even if you don’t have much room, try having a small rug that each child can get out independently. This way they can keep their activity on there own space & everyone knows to respect it. It’s important for older children to know they can put something special they’ve made up out of reach of younger curious hands!
How does all of this help balance the needs of a whole family? Well, as a starting point it’s manageable so it immediately helps independence. Children struggle to be independent when there’s too much stuff, too much choice & the toys don’t match up to their development.
Once these things are in place, they start to be more independent, they focus for longer periods of time on what they’re doing and they generally get less frustrated. When these things happen, everything starts to slot into place. Relationships between siblings start to ease, parents find themselves with a little more time, and children are more satisfied and less frustrated. Nothing can create a perfectly harmonious family life, a little chaos along the way is part of the journey after all. But, these steps might just help us on our way.