Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Are You Not Entertained?!

Just prior to sitting to write my post, the following event happened exactly as described:

I was standing in the kitchen pondering what to make for lunch when my sweet eight-year-old son came into the room. He asks me, in his rapid fire excited way, “Mom, can you play one more game of chess with me?”

I reply, “No buddy, I’m making lunch. Do hotdogs sound good?”

He doesn’t answer my question but replies with, “Oh yeah and mom? Since we picked up that cream of tartar last night now we can make the cake we were going to make for dad. I’ll get out the bowls.”

I explain, “No we won’t be making a cake right now since I’m making lunch. Thankyouverymuch.”

He retorts while skipping around the kitchen island, “Okay, then can you make chili since we’re having hotdogs? I like chili dogs better.”

“No, I can’t just whip up a batch of chili on a whim. Chili takes time,” I explain with clenched teeth.

“Mom, can I have a piggyback ride? Just bend over and I’ll hop on,” he throws at me from left field.

“Bear! I am making lunch! I can’t make a cake, chili, or give you a piggyback ride right now. And go ask your brother to play chess!” I offer in exasperation.


Now, I will admit my situation is partially self-inflicted. My husband and I decided to homeschool our kids four years ago which means I am with them all day long, every day. This, in turn, requires someone to figure out what my kids are to do after school is done. The little kids are usually done at lunchtime or not too long after, and, oftentimes, they’re BORRRRED.

So, because of this afternoon’s entertainment issue, I’ve lazily allowed them WAAAAY more time in front of screens and devices than I care to admit. It’s convenient for me, they’re generally happy and quiet, and I can accomplish MY goals for the afternoon, like writing a blog post.

However, after weeks of glazed expressions it was evident to me that I was doing a disservice to my kids. They were content to play video games all afternoon, watch movies or stare at their devices… aaaaaand that was about it. They were not driven to try other things. They weren’t self motivated to practice their instruments, improve their artistic abilities, or increase their knowledge of a subject. So, we knew it was time to make some changes.

After much discussion, my husband and I came up with a plan we felt comfortable with for our family, and with some pain and hesitation (on my part), we implemented it. Pain. Gnashing of teeth. Biting, crying, and moaning ensued. And then I pulled up my mommy pants and realized it was for everyone’s benefit and I trudged onward.

However, since implementing our “plan” I’ve had to be much more involved with their afternoon activities. Shocker, I know! Like I mentioned above, my kids weren’t necessarily self motivated and this didn’t magically change when we took away the screens. It got worse.

I became the Entertainment Committee.

“Mom, wanna play cards?”

“Mom, wanna make cookies?”

“Mom, can we go ice skating?”

“Mom, let’s go for a drive.”

Mom, mom, mom, mom, mooooooooooooom!

Get the point?

So, we’ve been spending our afternoons trying to find a balance between self-entertaining and mom-led entertaining. Self-motivated activity and mom-participating events. It’s a struggle to be honest. And, by 2 p.m. they’re literally writhing on the floor going through screen withdrawal. It’s ugly.

I know this is the best thing for them, and me, but navigating the upcoming weeks of adjustment are going to be rough.

What about you?

Do you have any suggestions for getting over the hump? Any tips your family has implemented with your kids to get them moving on the path of self-directed entertainment and contentment?


– With love from the trenches

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4 Responses to Are You Not Entertained?!

  1. Jody December 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    I wonder if there are any geocaching sites near your house that they could discover alone? The girls are getting geocaching kits for Christmas, and I’m hoping it becomes something they enjoy- a little bit of map reading, a little bit of searching… the world’s largest treasure hunt!

    Also- nearly free to begin (bonus!) We’re starting with this site: Apparently there are 691 geocaches near Des Moines and I know there are dozens in Ankeny.

    Just a thought- because I completely understand!!

  2. Jodi December 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I have no suggestions but I totally understand though my boys are few years younger. Since we have moved we haven’t found an afternoon groove. Before we moved the boys would play legos and listen to Jonathan Park – maybe your boys would enjoy them. My oldest will sit and listen to them for over an hour. They are very well done radio dramas that are based on creationist vs. evolution (bonus totally educational and I love listening to them) So maybe something like that or listening to books on cd? Afternoons are rough here too and since it is winter we have done way more screen time plus throw in moving and me trying to get stuff done. Have you looked in any HUGS activities – they might have some afternoon activities.

  3. Jantina Wennerstrom December 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Warning: This promises to be a rambling brainstorm comment and some of these ideas might be horrible and some might be great. Through trial and error, some of these have worked for us. Pending age, we sometimes ask/tell the kids to race around the house 5 times or walk to the stop sign and back. Typically they don’t want to go outside because they aren’t motivated to entertain themselves, as you say, but once they get moving their wheels start turning and they remember baseball or tag. This sometimes, sometimes, works as a secondary motivator for our kiddos because they would rather occupy themselves inside than be kicked outside by mom or dad. Box up some toys and implement a version of the toy cycle. Take out new toys and put others out of sight. Less is more and changing it out always makes it new(er) again! Often I find myself saying no to having them help me with cooking to find out that really, all they want to do is stir the bowl and not read the recipe and make the whole thing like my brain is thinking. I’ve been known to encourage them to find something to do on their own or they can help me with chores. My kids are good helpers, but after wiping a table or being told to organize their clothing by color – they find they can indeed find something to do 🙂 Put crafts on the table, play playdoh, legos, have a dance party. Maybe just have a list of ideas hidden in a cupboard that you can just rattle off to get them started… things that you know they like to do but maybe aren’t thinking about in that moment. Sometimes we tell our kids to go downstairs to play in the basement and we have a loosely define expectation that they will stay down there and play for an hour. If they come up, we send them back down. Designate a room as off limits. Sometimes our toy(ish) room is off limits so they have to use their resources in their rooms or somewhere else. Something about saying no, makes the kids want it so much more. The next day, the toy room seems brand new! Get out a puzzle. Make up a game of find the sock (take turns hiding and finding).

    I am looking forward to reading other ideas! Winter in Iowa can be so looooonng. 🙂

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer December 17, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    Ha! My upcoming post has a similar theme…to play or not to play with the kids. It must be a common mommy problem.

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