Don’t just do something
I love shopping at CVS. Boy, do they have me hooked. My heart leaps when I get emailed a 30% coupon (that I immediately send to my e-linked CVS rewards card), and it positively explodes when I get my yearly bulletin of savings ($278 last year – I’m in the top 2% of California CVS rewards shoppers! Honestly, to my mind, this rivals my master’s degree in terms of lifetime accomplishments.).
My daughter is indeed my child in this respect. An outing to CVS can take the better part of an hour – not only is this blissful bastion of wares blasting with ice-cold A/C (something my southern California apartment is sadly lacking), but also the friendly, tidy aisles beckon with myriad bottles, boxes, and gew-gaws to grab, investigate, put in the basket, then return to the shelf (at mommy’s kind yet firm request). Her favorite CVS activity is trying on all the sunglasses. Today we bought a brand new box of 96 crayons (buy one get one 50% off!) that she gripped tightly as we continued our expedition.
After a quick stop at the neighboring supermarket, my daughter was starting to complain and stick her head into daddy’s armpit (her “tell” that nap time is nigh).
And that was our morning! So why am I telling you this? Well, I know I recently offered this fantastic list of places to take children in Los Angeles – Museums! Bookstores! Nature adventures! Perhaps, however, that page should come with a warning label like the following:
If your child would not find this activity any more interesting or enriching than a leisurely walk or an afternoon spent looking for bugs under rocks, ABORT MISSION!
(Janet Lansbury, RIE practitioner and writer, summarizes this caveat nicely.)
The same rubric could be applied to any activity you think might enrich or benefit your child. My close friend hadn’t had much exposure to infants or children before she had twins, and asked her RIE educator Hari Grebler what she thought about getting her baby girls some colorful mobiles for their cribs, or noisy toys to dangle in front of their eyes. To which Hari allegedly replied,
They haven’t even seen the sky yet. They’ve never seen a tree. Why not start there?
In other words, the world around you might just be enough for your little ones. For now anyway. A walk around the block is like a visit to the Grand Canyon. Examining lint balls on the floor or one’s own fingers can occupy many an afternoon.
And yes, museums, playgrounds, nature parks, and all those other wonderful places are fantastic resources, and they will still be there once your littles outgrow the world right in front of them. So, as the twist on the old saying goes, don’t just do something. Maybe sit there and let your kid pour water back and forth from one bowl to another (my kid thinks this is the best game ever). Maybe go for a walk around the block (we like to go pick bitter oranges from a neighbor’s tree and take them home to make orangeade).
Don’t have a plan. Put away your phone. Heck, don’t even take off your pajamas. And if you run out of stuff to do, before you drive over 10 miles to an educational attraction, may I recommend an expedition to your local drugstore? It’s probably air-conditioned. And they have crayons. (Maybe change out of your pajamas first, just sayin’.)
- “Who’s a pretty bird?” How Cookie the penguin helps me be a better parent
- The digital village: Saving our children (and ourselves) from the perils of screen time
- The best toys aren’t toys
Rebekka Helford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. With over a decade of experience working with parents and young children, Rebekka specializes in short-term intensive parenting consultation, using a variety of tools including home, office, and school visits to help families navigate developmental hiccups and get back on track.
Click here to schedule an appointment or contact Rebekka with a question – who knows, she might even answer it in her next post!