Lisa Jarmin on the activities best outsourced to nursery staff, unless you love mess, stress and tantrums…
So, last time we spoke, I attempted to prise everybody off the sofa and force you all to do easy but fun activities at home with your kids. How did that go, then? Are you still raring to go or are you covered in PVA glue and Rice Krispies and ready to punch me in the face? Assuming that you’re still standing, I thought a list of activities never to do with your child might be helpful too. I don’t care what Pinterest says, no good can ever come from these:
1. Cloud Dough
NEVER make cloud dough. For the uninitiated, this is flour mixed with baby oil and food colouring. It makes a sandy substance that you can mould into shapes, build with, fill things with and squish, and it gets absolutely everywhere. You will be finding it sprinkled on every surface and rammed into every crevice within a 500 metre radius for the next 6 months, plus your toddler will eat it and cover you in baby oil scented vomit. Ask me how I know.
Try this instead: Playdough has a limited range of movement unless drop-kicked across the room in a fit of rage (not unheard of, but at least no sprinkly bits).
OK, I can’t ask you never to get the paints out with your kid; it’s great for development and is brilliant for sensory play. Children can learn about colour mixing and play with different effects. However, kids’ paintbrushes appear to be made out of the bristly bits usually found on a warthog’s bum. Can you paint a recognisable picture with a paintbrush like that? No. And neither can they. Awful paintbrushes, dirty water and bad quality paper are frustrating for children because their picture never looks as they’ve imagined it.
Try this instead: Try potato or sponge printing, finger painting, hand and foot prints, swirling colours together messily, or make sure you’ve got nice quality materials to make painting easier and less frustrating.
3. Making a pom pom
I thought this would be a pleasant, relaxing activity to do with my 4 year old. I was incorrect. An hour later, I gave up trying to teach him how to repeatedly move a ball of wool through a hole and out the other side because he was immobilized in a cocoon of yarn like one of Spiderman’s victims and I was having an existential crisis and eyeing up the wine,
Try this instead: Threading beads and buttons onto pipe cleaners is a simpler activity that uses similar skills and won’t make you want to bounce your head off the nearest wall.
4. That thing where you put crayons on a canvas and melt them with a hairdryer to make a rainbow
What’s actually going to happen here is someone burning their fingers, everything going brown, and you spending the next hour chiselling wax off your table. And do you really want to put the end result on your wall?
Try this instead: Break up old crayons with your child’s help and put different colour combinations into each hole in a metal fairy cake tray. Put the tray in the oven until the crayons have melted, then remove to cool. Voila: rainbow coloured crayons and a fun science activity all in one.
5. A nice nature ramble
Approximately one walk in every 20 will result in the sort of pleasant, frog spotting, bug hunting, picture perfect afternoon that you’ve been dreaming of. The other 19 will involve whinging on a biblical scale, running off, squashed beetles, a tantrum because the grass isn’t green enough and some sort of naked protest.
Try this instead: You’ve got to get outside, so just do whatever works for you and your child. Go to the shops, sit in the park yet again, aimlessly wander with no expectations. When my son was two, we spent a lot of time watching lorries speed past on the nearest stretch of dual carriageway and shouting things at them. (“I USED TO BE THIN” and “THIS IS BULLSHIT” worked particularly well).
6. Anything that involves making food look like a cute woodland creature
My son and I attempted to make spider meatballs for Halloween once. They looked exactly like we’d stuck googly eyes on a turd. Save your energy – your child couldn’t care less and just wants to make a mess in the kitchen.
Try this instead: Teach your children to make sandwiches and fetch you biscuits. These are important life skills. And when they’re old enough to be around breakables, you can work on the skill of topping up a G&T. OK, draw a bunny face on your glass if you must. Maybe don’t put it on Pinterest though.