In Spain schools break up early, around the middle of June. So we are now into our 3rd month off school as my son doesn't start until mid September. It's mainly because it gets really hot here and the kids just can't concentrate and be expected to be shut indoors in searing temperatures.
I have a super active 6.5 year old boy, who has LOADS of energy and LOADS of love to give. But it has been a struggle keeping him occupied for this time, especially as we have a 9 month old baby crawling around the place.
My son's been getting frustrated because we have cut out his screen time. It was getting waaaaay too much and I was almost starting to use it like a babysitter, just so I could get stuff done! Although he's pretty independent, he still wants me to play with him, read to him, paint and draw with him. Sadly I just can't do that all day, as much as I would love to. So on the days I couldn't sort out a play date for him, he had a lot of screen time.
We were noticing a real change in him. He was screaming and shouting at us when we took the laptop away from him. He was getting obsessed and asking all day long if he could watch. He was withdrawn and unresponsive and in his own world. So last week after a weekend of HUGE meltdowns we cut it out completely.
The first few days were like cold turkey for him. He was very emotional and hurt that we had taken his beloved screen time away. He was lashing out at us, asking why could we do this to him. He was hitting himself and kicking things in his room. He was also being mean to his baby sister by teasing her all the time.
By day 3 things were getting better. We had spent more time together as a family and he was coming back to us. It seems crazy talking like this, but he was really addicted! He was starting to understand the reasons why things had to change.
Time we spend all together as a family is limited at the moment, due to work and baby, but I began to recognise that when we were came together as a family to do an activity, he came alive and was buzzing with energy and smiles.
We had a chat about screen time and agreed to have a movie night on Fridays and make some popcorn and snuggle up together. Then an hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
To combat the boredom and no TV blues I had an idea to get a jar and fill it with ideas on things to do as a family.
He LOVED this! We busily started to fill the jar with notes. Some big things like "Go to the beach", some little things like "make a den together". The ideas were flowing and he was so happy.
We picked one out and it was “Have a picnic by the river”.
So at sundown we packed a quick picnic dinner and walked down to our nearby river and settled down for some food. He was running into the water laughing, rock jumping and making mud cakes. It made me realise just how simple it was to help him feel entertained, included, happy and loved.
Sometimes it's the most simple of things that work. Step outside your house....go for a walk...find your little spot in nature to play...that's when the magic happens.
So we are going back to the river tonight when it cools down to frolic and play and to come alive again.
In my next post I am going to talk about another really amazing tool that has helped our son feel connected, wanted, loved and most of all grateful for the good things in his life.... I can't wait to share it with you.