How to keep kids entertained at the table

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say I love my children more when they’re quiet, but I’m certainly a happier Mum when my kids behave well. A friend recently confided that she was dreading her cousin’s wedding and when I offered to pass her a bag of tricks to help entertain the kids she jumped at the chance. ‘But where did you get these ideas from?’ she asked and I had to admit that every idea was stolen from other parents – either in real life or via their blogs. Lots of the suggestions that I came across were a bit ambitious for me – I’m always short on time and rarely have a laminator to hand, so I thought I would share some of my  more realistic suggestions for ways to keep kids happy even when they can’t run around.

There are too many ideas for just one post, so first up – quiet at the table. Whether it’s a meal at a restaurant, someone else’s house or a wedding breakfast, kids are generally not good at waiting at a table for food to be served or for other people to finish eating. I’m all for teaching my kids patience, but sometimes just a little bit of preparation can make it so much easier.nive found that taking out at least two of the following distracts and calms:

Busy bags for the table

Cards – At 6, Quibble is old enough for Top Trumps or snap cards, but even Squeak enjoys looking through a set of cards sorting, organising and making up her own games with them (the only consistent rule seems to be that she has to win).
Colouring – Quibble has just discovered colouring-by-numbers books, while Squeak is often happier with just plain sheets of paper. Often, for a specific occasion, I try to print off some pictures from the internet to colour – the novelty of images they haven’t seen before keeps their interest.
Stickers – I’ve never met a child who didn’t like stickers. They don’t last long – my two seem to want to get all the stickers stuck on a sheet of paper or into a notebook as quickly as possible – but it is an instant distraction when they need settling down.
Wallets – I bought a couple of cheap wallets at a charity shop (and have since acquired more from gift shops and freebies from magazines) and filled them with unwanted business cards, a couple of small photographs, fake money and credit cards. I thought the novelty would wear off pretty quickly, but these have lasted over a year now.
Beads – I have a small tin with beads, blutac, a shoelace and some little wooden sticks. This is more popular with Squeak than Quibble, but both have enjoyed threading the beads.
Activity books – Puzzles, dot-to-dot, spot the difference, mazes, wordsearch more colouring and stickers. Ideally, smaller than A4 (so they fit on a table) these can be picked up at pound shops, supermarkets or charity shops in advance and hidden until needed.
Lego – A small bag or tin of Lego with or without instructions (such as these)  Squeak mainly builds towers and Quibble usually makes spaceships but both do it sat quietly at the table.

Next time I’ve got ideas to stop boredom meltdowns for those times you’re just hanging around waiting.

 

When Pinterest Meets Guilt

Pinterest is my mother-so-secret obsession. I’ve had to delete the app from my phone to stop myself from scrolling through the endless images created by people with far more skills than I when I actually have a million other things to be doing. I know I’ll never be able to entirely recreate the images on these board, but I still like to think that pinning them makes me a step closer.

I’m aware that other mothers feel guilt, but I like to keep mine secret. I love my kids and I do the best for them and logically that should be enough. I should not feel guilty and so when I do, because of course I do, I don’t tell anyone. When my friends admit that guilt has stopped them from leaving before bedtime or going on a spa weekend or taking on an extra day at work, I feel slightly smug that I don’t have such problems.

These two things may seem unrelated, but when I came across a this image of a dolls house, I was surprised by the ferocity with which they collided.

Young House Love's homemade dollshouse

I should probably explain that on the rare occasion I take Squeak to playgroup, she makes a beeline for the large plastic dolls house. She doesn’t seem to mind that there are only two dolls, a bed a cot and two chairs, but she minds a lot when another two-year old toddles over to share it. I decide that a dolls house would be a perfect birthday present and find only two problems with this. Firstly, they seem to cost a ridiculous amount of money. And then require you to spend more money on dolls and furniture. Secondly, they are all hideous. Huge, plastic and in three luminous shades of pink. And I look at the tasteful picture and utter the stupidest words possible: How hard could it be?

After a quick discussion with Stanchion (in which it was made clear that any attempt to build my own dolls house would not be salvaged by him), I decided not to build my own, but to buy, paint and decorate a second-hand house. And this is what I found:

eBay house image

It arrived covered in the dirt and grime of years in the attic and I seriously worried about what I had let myself in for. But by this point I was in too deep. Areed with a mixed bag of wooden furniture and an unwise amount of determination I poured a bowl of soapy water and got to work.

It turns out that washing something and painting it white makes a huge difference. Adding in the printed wallpaper to the back wall and the painted furniture makes it bright and colourful. I’m feeling pretty proud of my homemade dolls house. (I mean, don’t look too closely at the edges and corners and really don’t mention how the floor fell off and Stanchion had to screw it back on again meaning that he can forever remind me how I managed to bite off more than I could chew.)

But it’s really not about me, is it? That’s where the guilt comes in. Or rather, not guilt, so much as a worry that my best might not be good enough. And then Squeak ripped the paper off with the biggest grin ever, and I decided that this time, my best was good enough.

Ripping off the paperPlaying with dolls house