Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Parent led vs. child led activities

As a stay at home parent, part of my job is to find ways to keep my kids busy for most of the day.  Philosophically, as well as practically, I think it's important for there to be a balance between "Parent led" and "Child led" activities.

Let me explain these terms.

For the toddler, parent led looks kind of like this:

"Here, then you take the red paper and you put it with the . . no, wait, see you have to . . . WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THOSE SCISSORS?? THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE ON PINTEREST!"


"Throw me the ball honey.  No, throw me the . . . where are you going?  No, don't throw the ball at your sister.  Okay, we'll play basketball.  Okay, I'll play basketball.  Would you rather go for a walk?  TELL ME WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO BEND OVER TO PICK UP A ROCK INSTEAD OF RIPPING MY ARM OFF."


For the infant, parent led looks kind of like this:

"Peek a boo.  Look it's a rattle!  Am I supposed to be ... singing or something?  Oh god, I have to get your sister, hold on."

Child led on the other hand looks like this:

"Mommy, I make you a pizza.  No, I want to do my puzzle.  DON'T HELP ME I WANT TO DO IT ALL BY MYSELF.    I CAN'T DO IT HELP ME!"


"Let's play Animal Ball!  No mommy, that's not how you play Animal Ball!"


"Look mommy I got ALL my books off the shelf!  And I put playdough on them!"

While for the infant it looks kind of like:

...Well, okay, it doesn't sound like much, but it looks like a lot of rolling and some grabbing.  And pulling my hair.

The reasons why it is important to balance the two are many.  Some of them have to do with child development, and making sure that kids have the opportunity to both explore and to learn things outside their comfort zone.  A lot of the reasons have to do with the fact that each type of activity makes mom crazy in a DIFFERENT way, and therefore balancing them helps you all get through the day.

What I haven't figured out yet is HOW to balance them.   If I'm doing one, I feel guilty that I'm not doing the other.  If I'm telling BG what to do, I feel bad for not letting her play.  If I am letting her do whatever she wants, I feel lazy, like I'm supposed to be doing some of the work.  I feel worried if she doesn't do enough of *something,* whether it's physical, creative, sensory, or verbal.  I feel frustrated and angry when she rejects my ideas for activities (which is pretty much every time).  I just want to get it right y'know?  Even though I don't believe there really is any such thing.

Right now, my big girl is doing a puzzle.  I don't want to do it for her.  Even though she's not doing it right.  But every once in a while she cries out for me in frustration and I hand her a piece, properly oriented and tell her to "try this one next."  Then when she puts it in the right place, I applaud.

Sometimes I wish that, when it comes to motherhood, there was someone around to hand me the pieces.  And once in a while, to applaud a little.


  1. I think I just snortlaughed ice cream out my nose. What's ironic is that I remember feeling the same push-me-pull-you as a classroom teacher... If it was a discovery learning activity, were they really "discovering" what I intended? If a teacher-led activity, how many of them was I boring to sleep? Still trying to figure this one out...

  2. Oh gosh, we deal with this a lot too. It's mostly her wanting me to do everything for her. The one thing she usually lets me lead at is reading her books. She loves to be read to. Other times, I'll have something planned that I think is fun and it's "I all done now" or "Can we go home?"

  3. I feel this way at home with my kids too. It seems like whatever I have planned out, they're looking for the opposite. I can never win!

  4. Hmmm...I honestly didn't know that there were two different styles.
    I just do whatever. He seems to be turning out just fine :)
    I don't think there is a right or wrong way. Just love em and roll with the punches.

  5. I laughed out loud with the scissors comment. What is the fascination with two year olds, sharp things and their desire to investigate everything that is dangerous.

    Huge hugs. We all need someone to applaud us for a job well done. Where are our progress reports and gold stars? I'm standing up, clapping for you. You are doing a fabulous job.