10 Ways To Entertain Children

This week I’m giving myself a break from writing. Over the next two months, I will be integrating worthy posts from my other blog, LauraEarnest.com, in preparation for shutting it down. The next five days will be the first wave of posts to come over.

Photo by Mark Strozier

A neighbor of mine was horrified that my then-preschool daughter did not have her own television, video player, computer, or video game system. No Nintendo? I could see her calculating if I could be reported for child abuse for denying my daughter what she considers necessities. My neighbor wanted to know, what do you DO?

She would be horrified if she knew the rest of the truth: we have limited cable, a plan that only allows us to get the local channels, PBS and the Food channel (don’t ask on the last one, we haven’t figured it out, either). When the TV is on, generally only after my daughter is in bed, it is on PBS. We have one television for the family, and one video system. There are no video games in the house We recently purchased a Wii, but the games focus on fitness and multiple player, like tennis and golf.

I never really considered it before, but we do focus on simple activities for our family. The secret is that we interact as a family. These ideas won’t work if you just put your child into the middle of them without participating yourself.

10 Simple Ways To Entertain Children

1. Board and Card Games

I spent a large part of my childhood playing card games with my friends. The various rummy games, Uno, board classics like Monopoly and Sorry entertained us for hours. We still have a cabinet full of games. My husband and I used to love playing cribbage, and we still have vicious Scrabble games. Right now, my daughter is mostly into Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, but she’s learning Old Maid. Right now, my daughter is playing Carcassonne and The Settlers of Catan.

2. Water Play

On hot summer days, nothing beats pools, sprinklers and water fights. We have a lot of fun in the small inflatable pool, then use the water to quench the new landscaping. Tell me, when was the last time you squirted someone by blowing water through a swimming noodle?

3. Drawing

We love to draw in this house. Old printouts, some crayons, markers, pens, whatever, and we create pictures. My spouse is much better at this than me, but we all have fun. I have recently taken up watercolors, and my daughter is working with her oil paints.

4. Story Spinning

A nightly tradition in our house is “pretend stories”. We turn out the lights and make up fantastic tales about anything that comes into our heads. Another variant on this is “and then what happened?” where you draw a story out of your child.

5. Outside Activities

We like to be outside. We bike, do sidewalk chalk, hopscotch, or play catch. Since we live south of the snow line, it is rare for it to be too cold to go out and play.

6. Cooking

I try to get my daughter involved in cooking food. Mostly it’s practical stuff, but she has made easy desserts by herself (with supervision). We like looking through recipe books at the pictures and planning what will come next. Although this is not strictly “entertainment” in that it is also practical and teaching her skills for the future, she thinks it is great fun.

7. Free Community Events

Our community hosts a thriving arts community, and lots of free events. Keeping our eyes open for some of these events can be fun. Walking through an art festival and listening the free music is a fun time. We try to aim for the free events because we don’t feel pressured to stay if I people get cranky.

8. Natural Resources

Our area has a lot of natural resources to explore: city parks, state parks, oceans, bays, forests, rivers and swamps. There are hiking and biking trails everywhere. We like to explore new paths and see what is out there.

9. Libraries

Our local library is wonderful. If they don’t have it, they will try and get it. We go about once a week, and in addition to videos (mostly educational) and books, we pick a subject for the week and get a few books on it. Our library also has ebooks and books on tape, which really expand the offerings for the non-juvenile set.

10. Nature Watching At Home

Some of our more fun times have been exploring the nature in our backyard. We have plants that we have potted and will harvest herbs and vegetables from. We chase fireflies in the yard. We watch the squirrel emptying out the bird feeder, and will get glimpses of beautiful birds as well. Even the insects can be fascinating, if you look together.

Keeping children entertained is easy if you are willing to do some of the work. Sure, it’s easy to put your kids in front of the TV (and I do it too…but rarely!) In the immortal words of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes: As Calvin sits in front of the television, Hobbes rants at him “When you’re old you’ll wish you had more than memories of this tripe to look back on!” Calvin says “Undoubtedly.” And then Hobbes joins him in front of the set.

Photo by Mark Strozier