Stir craziness is not a new phenomenon. Kids get it, teenagers get it, moms get it, and retired people get it. Even self-proclaimed homebodies need a change of scenery every once in a while. When babies are very small there isn’t much need for change of scenery. In fact, too many changes of scenery in a short time will lead to overstimulation.
As babies become toddlers and preschoolers, children will begin flitting from one activity to another, showing their desire for new stimuli. While I don’t think activity hopping is a great thing all the time, I do think children benefit from changes in their environment.
My preschooler won’t nap well if she hasn’t had exercise and changes of scenery. My toddler starts getting antsy and wild if he has been in the family room all morning. Since children live in the present, they feel a renewed sense of interest and curiosity when their scenery changes. They find new things to focus on. Then, when it’s time to take a nap, they feel as though they’ve actually done something more than just run circles around the living room rug.
Here are some things to think about.
1. You don’t have to leave the house if you don’t want to.
I know many mothers get cabin fever and pack the children up to run errands. I think this can be a good thing, particularly when no one takes a morning nap. When I only had two children and neither took a morning nap, this worked well. We could get away for a bit, take care of some business, and no one was tired enough to get cranky.
Add a baby to the mix and I just don’t pile them all up to go anywhere. Unless it’s church. And my husband comes along. Could I handle 3 kids in public? Yes. Would it be fun? It’s touch and go. The 8 month old would hang in the stroller, my 3 year old would probably stand by me if I said so, but my 2 year old’s self-control would really be put to the test. And if I actually needed to do something that required a buggy or one of my arms, well, it wouldn’t happen.
That’s why I use the next methods to give the kids a change of scenery without having to cart them all around town.
2. A new activity is a change of scenery.
Have you worked an office job? Did you notice that taking a break to surf the web or phone a friend still feels like a break, even if you never left your desk? That’s because you changed the activity. Your focus was interrupted and you started thinking about something new. This happens with children. Often we’ll jump into a craft immediately after breakfast. That means the children are at the table for 30 minutes or so eating and then – without getting up except for a diaper change or trip to the potty – they’ll stay another half hour or more doing a craft.
This is without strapping them into their booster seats or threatening. It’s because they simply like what they’re doing. If your toddler is free playing and starts acting antsy, try switching to a structure activity. Structured doesn’t mean you have some kind of teacher lesson plan projecting an alphabet activity on the wall. It just means doing something with an agreed upon end result. Coloring a page. Painting a canvas. Cutting construction paper. You get the idea. Give them another activity to focus on and this will help capture their interest again.
3. Room hopping.
We try to room hop throughout the day. It’s easiest to keep everyone downstairs since the living room and the kitchen are there, so that’s where we start. Some time in the kitchen, then the living room, then mid-morning they go upstairs to their rooms for independent play time. Even taking a bath feels like something fun simply because it’s in a room of the house they don’t have constant access to (fun fact: the toilets are often in a completely separate room here in Australia).
You can play hide in go seek in the entire house, do a scavenger hunt in the backyard, or hop scotch on the carpet drawn in tape. The possibilities are endless and you don’t even have to be imaginative this day in age what with Pinterest at your fingertips.
4. Outside play.
I love sending the kids outside to play. Our backyard (an exaggeration, but I’m feeling generous) is fenced so I put them outside to play alone. I can see them through the sliding doors so they are supervised, but the world is their oyster. The other day I read a quote that basically said you must get bored before you start using your imagination, and that’s why outside is key. Sure there are big cars, rocks, and the sandbox, but I see them truly have fun together. As they’ve gotten older I see them invent games and engage with their environment and one another.
Letting your children play outside is a great way for them to get exercise, use different senses, and feel as though they’ve actually done something.
5. A change is as good as a vacation.
I’ve written a post on this concept, that when most days look the same, a change is as good as a vacation. Our routine is very consistent. Not because I think “oh my goodness, I must make our routine very consistent,” but because I very easily and naturally fall into a routine. After a routine is established I simply go on autopilot and don’t revisit the routine unless and until I find it’s not working for us anymore. Some days, when I’m feeling stir crazy and my husband has the car (we only run one SUV), I’ll go wild and crazy and change up the routine.
It will sound lame and boring to those of you who are more spontaneous and easy-going, but I’m telling you the kids notice and love even the smallest changes. Too many days without routine they start acting fussy and disobedient. Just the right amount of flexibility and change, they eat it up. We’ll have ice cream for lunch or swim instead of independent playtime or watch an entire cartoon movie instead of only 20 minutes of screen time. It could be anything different, but just breaking the norm works wonders.
During winter months, rainy weather or after prolonged periods of ‘blah’ a change of scenery may be just the ticket. Do you try to give your kids frequent changes of pace throughout the week? Do they behave better when they’ve gone out for a while or when they stay home more often?