10 ways to entertain boys
Families with more than one child of the same gender have it easy – and I know because I have two girls. It’s easy when girls/boys are small to share clothes, toys, books, interests even identify the same school. But those with all girls – or those with all boys – are bound to have to entertain the other gender. Here’s the tips I find work when younger boys come round…For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see https://homemadekids.wordpress.com, or www.nicolabaird.com
1 Provide a challenge
Years ago children spent far more time outside, and I think kids like the experience of being out, so get outside. Our very small garden pond is a great habitat for newts – I’ve yet to meet a boy visitor who hasn’t liked fishing them out, showing them off in a container or identifying which type of newt they are.
2 Organise a building competition – indoors or out
Am I being a tad predictable here if I suggest making a sportscar or palace out of Lego, or a pile of slightly random objects (mostly containing toilet roll inners and sellotape)?
3 Go hunt a stick
What can’t you do with a stick? Sticks win and can put zest into anyone flagging. Find them, hide them, use them as turbo-charged space ships, conduct an orchestra, point at the sky and fly those planes. Don’t be surprised if sticks transform themselves into lightsabres or power pistols.
4 Tell a story as you walk
Great approach with younger, tired children. Start telling the Gruffalo story and see if walking like the mouse, or Gruffalo, gets you nearer your target. We’re going on a Bear Hunt is a goodie too. Slightly older children can try suggesting more imaginative ways to walk, eg, like Superman/hedgehog/one legged bandit/wallaby.
5 Keep on offering food
Not treats, proper energy-giving food. When it’s cold hot chocolate in a flask is a treat. Try accompanying with hot cross buns and a piece of fruit. Get in the habit of bringing a bottle of tap water wherever you go to keep your walkabout costs down. Or just go to that cafe – at least you’ll warm up and have an easy toilet break.
6 Keep dogs out of the way – or go for a walk together
I know boys get on fine with dogs, but many urban children are often very unused to pets; ditto pets to kids. If your rooms are small it’s actually quite hard for the child and dog not to eyeball each other without animosity, especially if food is involved.
7 Dream up a treasure hunt
If interest is waning you can dream up a list of 10 things to find pretty much wherever you are. Actually this is fun to do even if people’s spirits aren’t flagging. With a 12 yo girl and 11 yo boy on a walk by the Thames/enclave of shops I suggested finding a clay pipe (took a while); plus a can of drink, bowl with a fish design, rocking horse and hair band. I thought it would take ages – but they’d done it in less than 2 minutes so make the challenges tough. No prizes necessary – it’s all about the hunt.
8 Let them fight
Kids fight, it helps them negotiate their way out of the situation. Ideally only step in if the conflict is getting dangerous.
I remember begging to sit in the middle seat in the back of my dad’s car so I could enjoy the squabbles with my brother and sister. If it’d been me parenting me, I might still let those backseat squabbles happen, but if the shrieks got annoying time honoured distractions should get children looking out of the window (not at a screen). Singing along is good; pub cricket (pitching left side of the road against right in the mathematical challenge of working it which side of the road has pubs with the most legs in them. So The White Hart gets 4 points; The Poacher 2. The King’s Head (or a non-leg sign like The Bell) earns 1 point. Or hand over a map and let the kids navigate.
Use this before or after those fight break out. If you’ve got two adults divide the warring parties and go do something different, separately. If you’ve got more than one room, use them. Fights tend to be provoked by feelings of injustice – not to mention being hungry, tired or bored. Can you run/schlep to the shops to buy a healthy snack with the kids? I’ve got one friend who lived miles from a shop, but she set up a little play shop down the lane where she lived. Go there and get trading (I’ll have one elephant with a blue ear, some tea bags and a cheese roll please).