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How often should we play with 5 year old? (DH and I disagree on this...)

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

DH and I both work from home. Our son is turning five in a week, and we are at our wits' end with his near constant pleadings for us to read to him or play with him. 

 

When he was 3, I understood this. At that age, they are pretty much incapable of independent play. But at 4 and 5, I have this expectation (correct me if I'm wrong), that he should begin to learn how to entertain himself.

 

I'm a very part time WAHM, but when I need to work, I REALLY need to work independently. I feel guilty as hell about it, but when it's just my DS and me, he seems to understand and doesn't really interrupt me all that often. I'd say 2 days out of the week, it is like this. The rest of the week, we do something fun for hours each day, whether it's hanging out at the park with friends, or taking a lesson, or going some place special, like the zoo or a museum.

 

DH works out of the home all day, but when he gets home at night and on the weekends, he needs to be in the office on the computer. When DS asks him to play, DH will put off what he's doing to accommodate DS's request. To read, play ball, whatever. He says he feels bad for DS and always tries to accommodate him because DS "needs a playmate." I happen to disagree. We are his parents, not his playmates, and we don't always have to be his source of entertainment. In fact, I strongly feel that we could be doing him a great disservice, by always coming up with something to do with him, when really, he should be learning to use his imagination and creativity to find something to do on his own, you know? Plus, whenever DH does this, he winds up having to stay up in the wee hours of the night, finishing paperwork, and ultimately, he sacrifices sleep and that has a trickle down effect on all of us.

 

Am I wrong? Who's right here? We don't watch TV, so there's not that source of "entertainment" (and we do not regret this decision). But we do have a lot of books, and also allow DS to listen to audiobooks, and he absolutely adores those.

 

I guess I just needed to rant a little bit and feel better about my stance about not ALWAYS needing to be DS's playmate. DH thinks I'm mean mommy with my beliefs. But if I'm wrong, please tell me how to better handle this. We are expecting baby #2 in August, and it will be even more important for DS#1 to learn how to self-entertain. Naturally, I will involve him in the daily care of the baby (as I do now for chores around the house), but I know there will be times when he will just need to play independently.

 

Please help! Any advice or similar experiences are welcome.

 

Ripping my hair out of frustration and guilt... TIA...

post #2 of 28

I think you should play with him.  I don't think he should always "self-entertain" or even be expected to do it *most* of the time. Sure, some of the time, but really he always has to go play by himself?  He misses his dad all day at work (and presumably dad misses him) and they play together and that's bad?  I think that's AWESOME!!!!  I think those moments, those memories, those together skills, and that relationship will make a wonderful lasting impression on both of them.

 

If you don't enjoy playing or are not willing to than I think you need to look into some standing playdates or activites so he can get his social needs met.

post #3 of 28

I think the issue is more personality-driven than age-driven. Some 3 y/o's can play independently without a problem and some 7-8y/o's still want to play with their parents. A friend of mine has 2 boys, ages 5 and 8, and they have totally different personalities. The younger one was always able to play on his own and the older one really didn't until this year and he still comes to his parents a lot. 

 

I think "expecting" a five year old to self-entertain may be asking a lot. You may have to teach him that. You could try something like this: explain you'll play with him for 15 minutes and then he has to play on his own. Set the timer for 15 minutes, show him the timer and when it goes off set him up with a few things.

 

Good luck!

post #4 of 28

Could you hire a sitter for the times when you need to work?  I agree that a 5-year-old needs interaction.  

post #5 of 28

At five, they look for attention non stop.  They talk non stop.  They talk, and they talk and they talk.  

 

They do need playmates at this age.  Years ago, kids had siblings, or went outside to play with other kids for hours, then they came in, tired, dirty and happy.. they ate dinner, and either went back outside again, or ate dinner and then watched tv for a while, and maybe they played with playdough or legos for a bit before bed.  Think about your own childhood, you probably didn't play alone very often.  A few times a week, maybe, but I bet you had friends or siblings the rest of the time.  

 

Kids just aren't wired to play alone for any length of time.  The occasional few do.  But, mostly, they need friends.  

 

I don't think it's natural for parents to be a child's only playmates either though.  I think kids need friends.

post #6 of 28

I have to say I think it is a lot to expect a 5 year old to self entertain two days a week while you work.  I do see the value in kids learning to entertain themselves for some periods of time, but at that age I think the most I'd expect would be hour of work for mom, hour of play for kiddo, and so on and so forth.  What about setting up for a SAHM with a kid the same age to take him for the mornings while you work or something?  Or daycare? Or a babysitter?  I think it is too much to expect.  Some time, yes.  Hours on end, no. 

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

I don't know if I'm being sensitive, but I thought I mentioned in my OP that we DO have standing playdates, for most days of the week. It's just on these 2 days a week when I actually need to work, that he needs to (yes, I expect him to) play on his own. Find something to do. He has a room full of toys. A huge backyard with limitless mud pie making possibilities, and yet, he still expects one of US to do it with him. I'm not a harsh mom. I play with him when I can. But it's almost as if he is UNABLE to play on his own and I feel like we're setting him up for failure if we don't teach him how to do that. 

 

No, I can't hire a sitter, because we're extremely strapped for cash. DH is the main breadwinner, and what I do barely gives us money for weekly gas and a few groceries.

 

And I have tried the tactic of saying, "we can play/read/whatever for 15 min but after that mom needs to work." 

 

*sigh*  Maybe I am just tired. Maybe it is the third trimester hormones. Maybe I am just getting too old for this (approaching 40). Maybe I'm just tired of being freaking poor. I *wish* we had money to just hire a sitter. I *wish* I had more supportive/available family members to lean on. I feel like I have no one and I feel like I have to do this all on my own sometimes. And it is overwhelming.

 

Anyway, thanks everyone for the quick responses. I will just have to learn to deal.

post #8 of 28

I caught that you have standing playdates. I think that is great, really.  I think some kids need more though and playdates while you were working might help a lot.  Maybe you could trade and one of the days you're working he could go to a friend's and a day you weren't, the friend could come over? 

post #9 of 28

A lot depends on personality. My kids could play independently at that age for a while, but not for hours at a time (and I have pretty low-maintenance kids). Kids who are more extroverted than mine (I've got one true introvert, one extrovert who's close to the introvert-extrovert border) simply can't do this.

 

When my sister's kids were little and she had no cash, she started a babysitting co-op with some of her friends. Essentially it was a systematic way to trade playdates, but you knew you could count on them. I don't know the details, but I know there were 'rules', and 'coupons' of some sort that they traded. That might be a way to barter some childcare, especially since it sounds like you do have some time during the week that you could take care of someone else's children once in a while.

 

One thing that my kids have responded really well to is to 'schedule' play time. Very often a 30-45 minute time where I devote all of my attention to them recharges them enough so that they can then entertain themselves for a while longer when I need to work. If they know when it's coming, then they're less likely to pester me and/or dh.

 

Is any of your work portable? When my kids were 3-4, they wanted company outside, but they didn't necessarily need my participation. So, we'd bring our laptops and sit outside while they played.

post #10 of 28

I also have a five year old and it is difficult to balance the things I need to do, having some time without someone constantly yapping away, and keeping my daughter happy.  My mom always says, "none of my kids were this needy" but when I was five, I had family all around including cousins, a housekeeper who talked with me all day, bazillions of neighborhood kids, and siblings.  My kid doesn't have that.  My mom also had friends who stopped by in the morning or afternoon for coffee and they usually had kids around my age.  There was literally ALWAYS someone to play with.

 

I think it sounds like you're doing a good job of getting social time for your child, but I don't think most five year olds are really able to play independently for long periods.  My daughter does better with direction - water color paints are good for about an hour, play doh is good for a while, she likes cutting up bits of stuff and gluing to other stuff (ANYTHING will do.  She's happy gluing bits of cut up magazines to bits of news paper and then water color painting the whole thing and sprinkling it with glitter, she really does not care).  If I get her started - suggesting something and helping her set it up and gather her stuff - she can usually go on her own for a while.  She will also play with some of her toys (small animals are popular with her right now) but again, I sometimes have to go clear a space, pick something, and get her started.  It seems like saying, "just go play!" doesn't work but saying, "let me help you get your animals out and you can build a block castle for them in the living room" goes over better.  In between I try to remind myself to read a book (she's doing a summer reading program so she gets a sticker for every 15 minutes I read to her so she's CERTAINLY keeping track now!) or play a game for her or find a craft project we can work on together. 

 

You're certainly right that by five they should play independently some of the time and when you have to get work doe, that's the way it has to be - I think some of them just need a little boost getting started. 

 

post #11 of 28

I know this sounds counterproductive.  But, what about having one of his friends over for one of those days, then he goes to that friend's house on the other day.  I PROMISE two kids are easier to deal with than one.  You can get a lot more done when he has a friend over.  Lots of interruptions, but nothing that takes hours and hours of your time.

post #12 of 28

I agree that all children are different and at 5 if your child isn't overly independent it could be asking a lot of him.  Is it possible that he can be with you while you are working, maybe playing quietly on the floor?  I've found that with my DS 2 (5) he just wants to be where we are, our old home office (now DD room) had a little corner with an art desk so that when i needed (or DH needed to work/play games) we could all be together.  Most times we would have music playing in the background which they love so they could dance or sing a long.  We would just got about our business and they would color or play with clay or whatever.  They knew (and still do) they could interrupt us if it was an emergency or something important but for the most part we could get things done with little interruption.

 

Another suggestion would be to look to your friends with kids, or other WAHM/SAHM in your area.  Most of us would love to trade days off with watching kids if it means we might get a day or even a few hours to ourselves to get things done.  Sure you might have a day or two where you have kids other than your own to watch but you'll be trading off for those hours you need of peace & quiet.

post #13 of 28

ITA that it is more about personality and temperament.  My ds has a very high need for interaction.  Now that he is older, he does things independently, frequently at the computer which is the most interactive non-human with which he can play.  At 5, he could not have played independently for an hour.  He'd just get clingier if I needed to do a lot of things and he didn't get enough interaction.  He's better about it now, but as an extroverted only child, he needs mom and dad to play.  Parenting him has been like a ping pong game.  One of us always had him and he kept returning to whichever of us didn't have him.

post #14 of 28

Do you have to do all your work in those 2 days or could you spread it out over several days?  I don't know what you need to get done, so it may be day specific, but if you could do less over 3 or 4 days, rather than all of it in 2 days that might make it easier to make time for you and time for your ds.

 

I can't remember the book right now, it might be Happiest Toddler on the Block, that talks about "feeding the meter."  Spending some one on one truly focused, devoted time with the kid and that helps "feed their meter" and can help give you space to do other work.  

 

Perhaps having a set routine on the days you work that includes "meter feeding."  Breakfast, 15-30 minutes of book reading, mama works for X amount of time, play outside together for 30 mins, mama works for X amount of time, lunch, 30 minutes of reading, set up a craft activity, mama works for X amount of time, etc.

 

I second (third, fourth) the idea of having switching playdates.  That is pretty much the way I got through school until ds started at his preschool.  I watched a kid a few days a week and then that mama watched my kid, no money exchanged.  And it really can be A LOT easier with 2 kids around.  They entertain each other.  Sometimes now I ask one of ds's bff to come over just so I can get stuff done, because then he plays happily with a friend and doesn't need me to play with him.

 

I know for my ds that one day of doing fun crazy things (zoo, lunch, playdate YEA!) followed by a day of "okay now entertain yourself" doesn't work for him.  I feel like, "hey we spent all day yesterday doing stuff for *you* now I need to get work done!" but ds needs that interaction everyday, so a lot of times now we do less on any given day so we can do something most days.

post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by nextcommercial View Post

I know this sounds counterproductive.  But, what about having one of his friends over for one of those days, then he goes to that friend's house on the other day.  I PROMISE two kids are easier to deal with than one.  You can get a lot more done when he has a friend over.  Lots of interruptions, but nothing that takes hours and hours of your time.


I was thinking this same thing after I posted last time.  Two kids are easier than one for sure!
 

 

post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks everyone for the sympathy and well thought out suggestions. Today is a new day and I'm feeling less morose and desperate. I do like the idea of "scheduled time with mommy" so he knows when it's coming and then "recharging" his ability to play independently. I do think that he is one of those extroverts and does require something social every day. It is hard for me to understand, though, because I'm an introvert, but I'm trying. My work does really just involve a laptop (I write) so conceivably, I could take it with me wherever. I have tried that in the past, but found it difficult to coherently finish a train of thought when I'm constantly looking up to make sure he's still in the vicinity or not about to fall off something (he likes to climb). Haven't tried it in a while though, so I should give it another go. 

 

Thank you again everyone for being so kind and understanding and helpful. I'm afraid my tone in my last post was snarky and witchy and I hope I didn't offend anyone. I just feel so lucky that everyone has been so sweet. Wouldn't it be great if all the MDC moms/families could all live in a co-housing neighborhood together??  

joy.gif

post #17 of 28

one very important time when i can meet dd's needs in a short amount of time - is waking up. she is nearly 9. has always from 3 days old been a v. vocal extrovert, super independent, played alone by herself - and yet needs mommy too. 

 

5 is a hard age for kids. they go thru the realisation that the world does NOT really revolve around them as they thought it did. its not a v. 'safe' time for them. its a time of huge spurts - emotional, pschological. so its the time of great neediness.  

 

while my dd has played independently since a toddler there were mommy times she needed. even today. at 5 was her peak. she needed the most. however i have noticed ever since she was 2 years old if i snuggled her awake - esp on those days that i had to wake her earlier she did much better. it wasnt a 15 min thing but a full half hour of just snuggling awake. no talking but sharing the silence together. sometimes we'd talk but mostly dd would poke me or do silly things and we'd most giggle and laugh. inspite of both of us being extroverts, we are silent people in the morning and take a while to wake up. 

post #18 of 28

I didn't read all of the pp so sorry if I am repeating someone here.  I would try using a timer. He has to play for 15 minutes and then you will read a book with him. Figure out what amount of time works for both of you. I think that kids DO need to learn what the expectations are and in your case, it sounds like you need time to work. I don't think that is unreasonable as long as it is with respect to his developmental stage.

 

A couple other ideas

-Mommy time cards that he can cash in for 5-10 minutes of Mommy time.

-Give him some special activities to do and then play with him for 20 minutes when he is done. I have a set of drawers set up for my 4yo "homeschool" and he has to complete the activity in each drawer. These are activities that we only use for homeschool time.

 

Good luck. That sounds tough, but I think that it will get easier if he understands what the expectation is of him when you are working?

post #19 of 28

How about starting him on a project and letting him "work" next to you? I wouldn't do the timer bit because that encourages him to LOOK at the clock and wait. Try engaging him in an age appropriate activity next to you so he doesn't feel so alone. Can he build something? Put something together? Take something apart? Organize something? Select things to donate to goodwill? Give him a quick demo then let him go with the understanding that you are both working.

 

There are a lot of really interesting Montessori activities, not to mention cleaning. I find that all too often toys are "entertaining" and don't really satisfy a kid's sense of purpose. Show him how to clean windows, water plants, sweep, etc. Things won't actually get "clean" but your kid will feel like they've accomplished something. But beware of rewards because that steals away much of the self satisfaction of simply completing a task.

 

 

post #20 of 28

if you have a sensitive child with anxiety then the timer is not a good idea. instead a warning that mommy cant play for a long time would be enough. 

 

a 5 year old is plenty old to actually be able to help in household chores. actually help and not just play. things like emptying the dishwasher or dish drainer, setting the table, doing laundry... 

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