So my DS (4 1/2) has really never liked toys and has never played independently with them. He enjoys playing with them if there is a friend or adult there to interact with also, but doesn't seem to enjoy them on his own. Which is fine, except that all he seems to want to do if I'm not actively engaging him is watch cartoons lately. We used to have a really strict cartoon policy around here - there was none until he was two and then about 30 minutes or less. Recently though, I have relaxed things a bit. For one, my DH has been out of town and also grandma got Teletoon, which means that my DS has been watching scads of cartoons over there and has different expectations. I have no issue telling my kid "no", but then he just seems to putter around and ask me a million annoying questions until I force him to go "play" in his room . So, my questions are two-fold:
One - how do I encourage him to develop his own interests and pursue them indepently? (In a more positive manner than physically removing him and threatening no cartoons at all.)
Two - what do I do about the whole cartoon thing? Do I just abolish them from the house? (Please don't tell me this is what needs to happen. I am so not a morning person and I need that 45 minutes of peace to wake up.)
One thing that DS used to spend a lot of time doing by himself was little art projects - cutting, gluing, etc. He really wasn't interested in anything tidy though - just crazy messy projects that sprawled across his room So I had to put the art supplies in a less accessible place and now he needs to ask for them. I would put up with the mess for the sake of the distraction but there is also a wild 1 1/2 year old running around and I don't want her to poke her eye out with the scissors or choke on a bead. DS seems to be asking for the art supplies less and less these days anyhow - I feel like his brain is being eaten up by cartoons!
Our house has a no cartoons on "school days/nights" rule. Well, basically, no TV barring exceptional circumstances on those days, like illness. It's worked well for us, especially with my 4 year old because it's absolute. It's either a TV day, or it's not a TV day. There's no point asking/begging/whining if it isn't the right day. When the coffee maker shuts off (I give him about 1 show's worth of warning) Saturday morning, that's it until after dinner. So for us, the absolutes worked really well.
Is it possible that his toys aren't fitting what he needs right now? There's big muscle toys like bikes and balls and trampolines, and there's small muscle toys like crayons and puzzles and legos. If he has mostly one and not the other, try switching to the other kind of activity.
Is he getting much time outside right now? Would a morning jaunt to the park (I used to reward myself with a fancy coffee and drink it while they ran around) maybe help burn off some of the extra he's carrying around? your description just makes it sound like he's at loose ends and not sure what to do with himself.
We also have a no tv/video game policy from Sunday bedtime to Friday afternoon. It started when #1 son started school (before that it was no more than 1 hour tape/dvd on a given day). It is a drag on some days, but has really been helpful to have clear rules...kids will get used to expectations and it saves a lot of grief in the long rule. I know its not an easy answer, but it worked for us.
Smudge is allowed 1 hour of media time total per day. Occasional exceptions for movie night (movies are generally longer than an hour). I know no television is recommended until age 2, and then no more than 2 hours a day after that (but 2 hours seems like a lot). This doesn't mean there haven't been days where everybody had the stomach flu and more television than usual was watched.
Thanks for the feedback folks. I think that you're all right about the absolutes. I think that if I say 45 minutes in the morning but NONE after that (unless we're having some sort of movie afternoon/night) it might just work. The problem, I believe, is that occasionally I will let DS watch a small amount of TV in the afternoon just so I can get something done. So he figures that if he just kind of hangs around and annoys me, he may get some extra TV. (Well, a big part of the problem is the TV at grandma's house too but watcha' gonna do about grandmas, huh?)
It's really not an issue of lack of physical activity, because he gets out to go to the park or do some sort of physical class pretty much every day. And the kid has pretty much every kind of toy - puzzles, building sets, cars, trains, animals, art supplies, etc. He will occasionally go on a Duplo or building block binge, but it just doesn't happen that often. It's really not large amounts of time that I'm asking him to fill - maybe an hour at the most. But then I also think that the fact that we go out and do a lot of stuff makes things worse, as my friends who stay home more seem to have kids who entertain themselves better. I guess that could also just be different personalities though...
My kid is a total extrovert. He can play by himself, but it makes him happiest to be with a group of kiddos running around getting into bizarre and stupid kinds of trouble. Is there an afternoon program you can get him into? Getting him out with other people his own age seems like the easiest solution.
Sigh! You're probably right mcglory. The Curmudge and I are total introverts, so we don't understand how our son can be such a bloody extrovert. Mr. Questions will be in school full-time as of fall and there is some programming I can get him into for the summer. It's more of a right-now kind of a thing because I'm here with him alone and his constant demands for entertainment are making me crazy. Also, since I have always enjoyed spending time alone, it seems wrong to me that one not have that ability. But maybe this is just part of accepting your kid when their make-up is different than your own.
p.s. > check it: new handles are in effect!
New handles are awesome. And I hear you. Spouse and I (he was actually on OS at one point and his name was Technophile) are both also very introverted. Our son on the other hand... he's like the mayor of his school. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. I've realized that he thrives on being with other kids (lots of other kids). Last summer there was a month before my new job started and I had planned on spending it with him, exploring the new city together. Nope. We went to visit his new school (they have summer camps) and he decided he would much, much rather be at camp than wandering around with just me. It was kind of a bummer for me.
Yeah, Mr. Questions is still cool with doing things with me, but I think that's just because his two best friends are the sons of my friends. He never really wants to go out with The Curmudge because he knows that he won't be hanging with other kids. It's just a matter of time before he ditches the both of us (I'm guessing around the time he works out his speech issues - he does still like me to talk for him).
My kid is almost 4. He's actually pretty good at entertaining himself, which is nice since there's a new baby in the house. We have a half-hour screen time rule (although since the baby has come along, if he picks a show on netflix that happens to be longer than that, I don't really stop it). But, he really likes to be involved in the planning of activities. You know, how those travel with kids suggestions will say "pack some wrapped presents"; he hates those! He would rather help pack his activity box and help pick when he wants. He's also a planner, so we tend to talk about what we are going to do when and he sticks with it. Annoyingly so (it can be a problem if there has to be a change).
So, I guess my thought might be to involve him in the discussion. "After lunch, I'm going to need 30 minutes to clean/send emails, etc, what do you want to do then?" Or even the more general conversation, "We need to find a way for you to play on your own sometimes, let's make a list of activities that you can pick from." At various points, we've had a "What do I do now?" jar.
Hmm...the "What do I do now?" jar sounds good, but with us a "Craft projects I could do" might work better. In my experience, Mr. Questions will actually work on crafts by himself, but he just can't play by himself. Case in point: he and I spent a half an hour putting the full Thomas track together and he was totally engaged and enjoying it. Then, I walked away to do some housework (and post on Offsprung!), Cozy Trouble wandered by and knocked the train bridge down and Mr. Questions promptly suggested that we put the whole thing away.
It sounds like he might still be at the age where if you frame the situation as one where he would be helping you by keeping himself occupied, he might try harder to do so. We were very lucky that in our old house (when my kids were the same age as yours) that we had a one story house with a very long expanse of hardwood floors. I'd put the Little Miss in an old fashioned walker, and Little B would push her all over the hardwood floors. She loved it, he loved it, and I could actually get the dishes done. We also had a little computer set-up for him with a bunch of preschool type learning games. The Little Miss actually loved watching Little B play those games.
He went through a phase of wanting to be helpful with "the baby" and sometimes he actually was. The thing is, Cozy Trouble at 1 1/2 is nothing like a baby (though she does sometimes refer to herself as a baby). She doesn't want anyone to anything for her ever. She and her brother did go through a recent phase of playing well together and I'm sure that will come back. But for now she's a little too agro. teethy for Mr. Question's tastes. He's not a fan of being hit and bit and pinched and I can't really blame him.