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Does your child entertain themselves?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
My nearly 5 year old doesn't seem like he is particularly good at entertaining himself. I have been getting frustrated by it lately since it is hard for me to get a break since he also doesn't nap. He doesn't seem to use his imagination to play with toys around. He gets bored with new toys after a week or so. He also gets bored with movies after seeing them a few times and sometimes with TV shows as well. I find myself letting him watch tv too much since he'll be entertained for half and hour since I slept like crap due on his younger brother teething.

What are some solutions you use with kids like this?
post #2 of 20
What about books on cd,or the computer, that he can listen to for a bit to get some down time?
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
I have not tried books on tape except occasionally in the car. My gut thought is that it won't work for him: not entertaining enough/not physical enough.
post #4 of 20

Ds does not self entertain.  However, audio books and his favorite music on his own personal ipod (hand me down) have worked out nicely! He really never plays with a toy alone.  We joke that we only own toys for when his friends come over.  And it is really true, the only time he plays with any toys is if there is another kid who wants to play with the toy.  He's not even that interested in adults playing with toys with him. He does like adults to play games (board, card, etc) or rough house or build (real) things etc, but not build legos, or play playmobils or anything.  My dream is that one day he will know how to read and will choose to read instead of being next to me constantly.

post #5 of 20

First of all I recommend turning the TV off and unplugging it, or at least limiting it to an hour or less a day. Letting him continue to watch it so much is going to be easier in the short term and harder in the long term because it won't solve your problem.


After that, do you have a fenced in backyard? Is the weather nice enough (not too hot or rainy) that you can send him out there for a while? Do you own a bug catcher? Does he have a tricycle?


Five years old is when I started "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" with my now almost-six-year-old son. Before that he was turning the pages of our books and looking at the pictures, and I read to him a few times a week if not every night. Now he says he doesn't know how to read, but now that he has completed those 100 lessons and gone through a year of kindergarten he does know how to read, either with help or an easy book by himself.


My son has an advantage over your son in that he has 3 siblings to play with. He and his big (7-year-old sister) play together for hours, and I have a feeling that when his 3-year-old brother is older they will wrestle. (Not saying that is a good thing but it could be an improvement over crying and tattling!)


Finally does he have any chores? My son cleans the toilet at least once a month (I spray the cleaner and watch him and finish the job when he's done, and make sure he washes his hands), makes his bed daily, helps with cooking (mainly in order to learn at this point more than actually help), takes a bath or shower about every other day, does catechism flash cards, learns about a country and a creature or plant, gets some exercise, and more in order to earn dessert.


I hope this helps! I guess my biggest piece of advice would be don't try too hard, including don't buy too many complicated toys, because simple ones leave room for more imaginative play.

post #6 of 20

It can be harder for kids who don't have a sibling to play with. Plenty of kids do like playing alone, though, so it can be done.


I second the recommendation to limit the TV to an hour when you really need it. You might start paring down the toys, pulling some out and only having a few out at a time. Having too much can be overwhelming and make it so nothing gets played with, but everything is out.


I would start some very simple chores, so his play time is his time. Honestly though, many kids like the simple chores that need to get done. THings he can do:  use babywipes to wipe down surfaces, wash dining room chairs, wipe the mirrors/windows with a towel once you spray them, use a wet rag on base boards, sweep a porch, put silverware away.  I'd also start a reading time or a teach to read time, as someone up thread mentioned. Giving structure to part of his day will make his play time more special.


Another thing my kids really liked at 5 were flannel board stories of classic tales: three bears, little pigs, and little red hen. That's a small investment that has gotten a lot of use here. My kids also like books on CD, too.

post #7 of 20

My 8 y.o.s entertain themselves for hours at a time now, but it is a learned skill. You might have a bit of pain during the learning process - it depends on your tolerance for hearing "I'm bored...".


How we got here:

No TV - it just isn't on, and so they don't even think of asking to watch. We watch a movie together on Friday nights, that is about it.

Lots of self-entertaining toys around - Lego, craft stuff, etc.

Lots of books around

They are allowed to do stuff - e.g. climb a tree, dig in the dirt, etc. - without me fussing about it.

When I hear "I'm bored", I make suggestions but I don't jump in to entertain them.


I think that helping kids learn to entertain themselves and to overcome boredom is an important life skill, and well worth the effort. 

post #8 of 20

My now 17yo son was great at self-entertaining when he was younger.  He would play Legos, draw or color, play outside - all kinds of things.  My 9yo daughter is the complete opposite.  She always wants me to play with her.  Since there is a 7 1/2 year age difference, there's not a lot of them playing together, although he will play board games or play outside with her sometimes.  Even when she's doing solo play things, she wants me to be there with her, watching her and paying total attention and talking to me about what she's doing the entire time.  


Now, I love spending time with my daughter.  We play games a lot, go for walks or to the park and read together.  When she's doing her solo playing, I will watch and listen to her while I do some knitting or something.  But, I do have to do other stuff like cooking meals, cleaning up, etc.  


Lately the times when I need to do things like cook or clean or something, those are the times I'll have her do some of her "extra" school work.  In addition to whatever assigned homework papers they have, they also want them to do 15-20 minutes of reading a day and 10 minutes of math practice like flashcards or math exercises on Khan Academy website.  So I'll have her work on those things then.  She's also just discovered painting.  We all recently got easels and new paints and brushes.  So, that's when I'll set up her easel and let her do some painting which usually keeps her busy long enough to do what I need to do.


I'm hoping she'll grow out of it, but I'm sure when she does I'll miss how much she used to want me around all the time.

post #9 of 20

My son self-entertains but it was a struggle to get there. I have no problem saying "you need to go play now" if I'm in the middle of something. If he chooses to sit on his bum and not do anything, that's his choice. I will offer a few suggestions, or we make a compromise like "I will read you two books and then I'm going to fold laundry. You may help me or you can go play elsewhere but I have work to do". Just like I don't expect him to be free to do things with me all the time, I am not always free to play with him.

post #10 of 20

Some kids aren't interested in playing because they're just interested in people and need constant interaction. DS2 falls into that category! It helps that his older brother and he are good playmates... but DS1 also likes to be by himself sometimes which causes fights. I agree that outside time is really all you can do. I know how frustrating it is to say "go play!" and your child looks at you like you're crazy. 

post #11 of 20
My son is very much like this. I highly celebrated him learning to read - that has been his standby activity ever since. Still, I heard "I'm bored" a lot. Sometimes I make suggestions of what he can do, but I try not to feel like its my job to entertain him. Recently, I had him make a list of things he could do when bored, and we taped up on the wall. He -usually- checks that first now, before coming to me. In any case, good luck!
post #12 of 20
My sister was a lot less likely to play by herself growing up, I remember being baffled by it because I loved playing by myself. Both of my kids play well by themselves but it wasn't a "learned" thing in my opinion. I think every kid is different.

I personally wouldn't push reading or strict screen time limits - that doesn't sit well with me. We are unschoolers (but I dislike that word!) so I think maybe coming from a slightly different philosophy. My daughter is almost seven and she plays Minecraft and Scribbblenauts on the computer and watches Magic School Bus freely. Sometimes she spends a lot of time on them, but mostly she doesn't. She plays outside and on her own and does Tons and tons of crafts. we have it set up so she can acess all our craft stuff. We listen to audiobooks and color or she has one on while she plays. I think sometimes they just get kind of lonely, you know? I know I'd much rather fold laundry with a book or the TV on than in a quiet room.

It sounds to me like you are needing a break, and in case you need someone to say it: it is definitely okay for your son to spend more time on the TV than usual while your younger son is going through teething or other rough patches. It is a period of time that will pass. <3

Eta: could you set a timer like, "time to spend by yourself" or make it a game - see how long he can play on his own? And I will say I put most of our toys away in storage in huge bins a almost six months ago (my daughter was cool with the idea, knowing that nothing was being given away, and that if she missed anything she could ask for it, which she hasn't.) and I do think it made it easier for them to play by themselves. Both because there is less to be overwhelmed with and because it is not nearly as messy.
post #13 of 20
I think you can encourage alone time play by having toys around for it, having an outside play area, etc. but some kids are going to always prefer playing with others vs. playing alone, I think its probably the extrovert vs. introvert and how much of each they are. I would see if you can find just one thing he would like to play with by himself and do whatever you have to do to get it. Other than that, I think having him do some simple chores is excellent, he will probably enjoy it to. Also, having him help you do your chores or do things parallel next to you (ie when I cook/bake/do dishes, I will set up DD1 on a chair with her own bowl to mix things in or her side of the sink to rinse things in and I will include her in my stuff as much as I can as well) even if it isn't really helping you that much, it's good practice for him to get in the habit of helping out and sometimes they really can do a good job. My almost 4 year old is excellent at sweeping, taking things to the trash, using the swiffer, putting away toys & dirty clothes, even putting away some clean clothes and so on. Also, I'd try to get some friends over to play with him as I think you'll be more likely to get a break that way or take him to the park when other kids are likely to be there.
post #14 of 20

My eldest didn't really start entertaining herself until she learned to read. My middle child loved to play by himself even as a young toddler. I strongly suspect temperament plays a huge role. That said, I do think having a strong rhythm of your day that includes lots of time outside, multiple times of day where the kids will know that they will get your attention, and certain times where you regularly work in a way where you concentrate on something other than your kids, helps. I don't assign chores, but I do meet complaints of boredom with a suggestion of a simple chore he or she can do to help the family. If declined, I state that I've given an idea and if he or she doesn't like it, he or she will have to find something to do but I have finished giving suggestions. Boredom never killed anyone.

post #15 of 20
Originally Posted by revolting View Post

That said, I do think having a strong rhythm of your day that includes lots of time outside, multiple times of day where the kids will know that they will get your attention, and certain times where you regularly work in a way where you concentrate on something other than your kids, helps.


I like this.  I've been struggling with my own little cling-on lately, whose idea of playing by herself involves calling me in for something everything 30 seconds....I've been feeling like we need a stronger, simpler structure, and I think we're missing some of the important items on your list. 

post #16 of 20

I think there are some great suggestions here. I think also it's important to note that experiencing boredom a little bit isn't such a bad thing. It's a great way to learn how to entertain yourself, or find what interests you rather than relying on the world to constantly provide you with mental stimulation. People who have to learn to seek their own mental stimulation, in my opinion, can be great problem solvers.


I remember lots of times as a child when I was bored. Now I really only get bored when I'm lonely for company, or I've got something on my mind that I'm itching to do but can't due to circumstances or time.

post #17 of 20
So, does whining, nagging, throwing repeated fits, etc. turn into boredom when kids are 5? Because it's all well and good to say "go play by yourself," but it's not much better if you have to endure all sorts of acting out as a result.
post #18 of 20

First - eliminate TV as much as possible. We did this primarily when our daughter was 3 and unable to not only self-entertain, but she lost it every time we turned the TV off. So we turned it off for good. Both our kids are now able to entertain themselves (and eachother) for hours on end. I also think sometimes too many toys can lead to kids feeling bored, because there is just too much choice. Fewer choices = more creativity. 

post #19 of 20

There are some great comments here and I will add this.  I feel like now that we're doing a 20 minute Special Time on a daily basis and we essentially start the day with it my 5 yr old has been much more willing to play on her own or mirror my work (cooking dinner, cleaning up, folding) .  Special Time is a tool recommended by Patty Wipfler of Hand-in-Hand Parenting, http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/overview/ along with Dr. Laura Markham of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (I also feel it falls in line with Lawerence Cohen's Playful Parenting, even though he does not call it as such- can you tell I read a bit?? yikes).  


Basically, in Special Time, my daughter gets my full attention for some set level of time and we do pretty much exactly whatever she wants to do.  So, I don't check my phone, answer phone calls, have conversations with other people, make myself a cup of tea, etc.  We play whatever she wants (she's never wanted to do anything really dangerous, so there are limits around that but I would not be able to share what that might look like) for a set period of time.  The set period of time helps us both; I know- this will end (sorry but lots of times that feels true) and she knows this is not an infinite experience.  At the moment we consistently do 20 minutes a day.  We have worked up over time from 10 then 15 to 20 and before, when it was more inconsistent I would do as much as 30.  But this seems to be working well for us and I'm hopeful its one way of helping meet her need for my full and total attention.  


That isn't to say she doesn't want to play with me throughout the day!  But I will give her options: I would read to you, do some art, or play this outside game?  Something I would genuinely enjoy doing.  Sometimes she chooses to do something I will do, sometimes not.  And she doesn't always seem happy about that, either.  (understatement!)  But I think, as other posters have said, boredom is good and I think disappointment is good, especially in a safe environment with a parent who can sit with you through the feelings that come up because of this disappointment.  They learn to work through it then and hopefully build tools for how to do it themselves.


I hope this helps!

Take care.

post #20 of 20
I love the suggestions posted here! I agree that all kids' personalities are different, and some are definitely more social/needy than others! One rule we have in our house is that we are not allowed to say, "I'm bored." It's like a dirty word...not acceptable behavior.
I really agree that too many toys are overwhelming & decrease creativity.
5 is old enough to be responsible for some simple chores and to help in the kitchen with things like setting the table, peeling carrots, etc. Matching socks is a good activity too.
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