Do you do a lot of kids’ activities? The internet has made things so accessible for moms who want inspiration and ideas for how to do kids’ activities. And also: the internet has made everything about kids’ activities so INTIMIDATING. There are countless websites talking about kids’ activities and crafts with beautiful pictures and kids who actually GET THROUGH a craft without destroying your house (or you). So if that is NOT your reality, you wonder sometimes what is wrong with you when the reality of doing kids’ activities is not what you see online.
The reality of doing any activity with your kids is that it does not go as planned. Almost ever. You should assume, if things DO go as planned, that this is an exception. Perhaps a miracle. (If you want some good tips and realistic expectations, see my post on cooking with kids!)
I have learned that if I do any kind of kids activity, a few things set me up for success. Here are those things:
Have low expectations. Realize that your kids may not appreciate your efforts. Know they may hate the craft/activity. Assume they will complain. Understand that something will break and/or get ruined. If you have lower expectations and assume for the mess and the ungratefulness and the failure that MIGHT happen, I tend to be less emotional when it DOES.
Set realistic planning times. The proportion of planning to activity time should be somewhat proportionate. By this I mean that you should understand that if you spend five minutes or fifty minutes to set up kids’ activities, the activity will still take your child ten minutes. Don’t overplan or over prepare.
Turn off your Type A. I tend to be more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pajama-pants with all things, but for whatever reason when it comes to how to do kids’ activities, my natural inclination is to get controlling. We only draw on THIS paper. We definitely do NOT use the oil pastels on the wall. I’m not sure why I get this way, but I have found that if I give myself a reminder that my kids may have a totally different idea of what is fun about the activity than what I planned. I still don’t let my kids draw on the walls, but I DO try to step back and give them the freedom to explore, even if they do all five steps backwards or only get through two steps. Keep things under (a semblance of) control, but don’t stifle their creativity with your plans.
Don’t take it personally. When your kids don’t appreciate your planning and just want to watch TV or want to draw on the newspaper instead of making paper mache art, realize it isn’t about you. The rational part of you already knows this, of course, but we tend to so easily get offended without realizing it. We should definitely encourage our kids to be grateful for things (whether kids’ activities or anything else), but there is a difference between taking that teaching opportunity when you’re feeling unappreciated vs when you’re feeling like kids do their own things sometimes because they are KIDS.
Don’t compare to someone else. Everyone has a different family dynamic and kids with different personalities. When I hear about things that worked for other families that bombed with mine, I remind myself that we are totally different families on all counts. Maybe you could compare this kids’ activity you did with the LAST kids’ activity you did to pat yourself on the back for any improvements. Or…think about what maybe worked better last time. Or just don’t compare. Period.
With these ideas in mind, here is a video I created after setting my kids free with a whole hallway full of rolled-out paper (from Ikea for less than $5!) and a box of markers. This about sums it up.
What tips do YOU have on how to do kids’ activities? I’d love tips or funny stories in the comments!