DIY parenting

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You don’t actually have to be there on the floor playing with your kids every minute of the day. Honest, writes Orla Breeze.

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I never play with my kids. Well, when I say never, I mean about 99.99 per cent of the time. There have been the odd occasions where I’ve joined in. And before you go all Judge Dredd on me, I have a good reason. Honest. You see, I never wanted my children to think that I was an essential part of their playtime. I wanted them to feel free to begin any game without needing an adult to make it happen, partly to encourage the beginnings of independence, but also partly for me. Our kids need us for so much else that I wanted to create a space where I could count on not being needed at all.

And, all in all, it’s worked out pretty well.

All three of my kids can play independently, happily creating worlds and characters and adventures that often go on for hours – sometimes days – without the slightest bit of adult intervention. Encouraging DIY Play has allowed me time to do the things that I need to do, by myself, for myself.

The arrangement works for both parties: I get to be an adult and do adult things like, oh, I don’t know, online shopping or Facebook checking. The important stuff. And they get to be kids, doing the most natural of kid things. It’s the perfect balance. And, in the parenting world, where alone-time can often be fleeting or non-existent, it’s also a very welcome break.

Having regular time for ourselves as parents is essential to our sanity. But, for those of us who became parents in Hong Kong but didn’t grow up here, it’s even more vital. They say it takes a village to raise a child. But when your family and friends are thousands of miles away, that village can seem a little remote, and not exactly somewhere you could just drop your kids off for a few hours or days, no matter how much we’d love to. And believe me, there are days when I’d LOVE to.

Which brings me back to DIY Play. It appears to work pretty well, so it’s got me thinking about other schemes that could also deliver quality adult time in abundance. True, the following suggestions may not be as appealing to children as free play, but, with a little tweaking, I reckon we could still come out on top.

  • DIY SockMatch, in which all unmatched socks in your home are placed in a pile and the children are required to pair them back up. All of them. Throw in a few single socks whose pairs have long ago disappeared into the great sock abyss and this task should keep them occupied right through the weekend.
  • DIY AutoCare, in which you don’t wash your car for at least six months then hand your little angels some buckets of water, sponges, a hose and a clear instruction not to come back inside until the car is shining. Bye bye, kids, hello Game of Thrones box set!
  • DIY Find $100, in which you explain to your kids that you’ve mislaid a $100 note and need them to find it for you. Top tip: Don’t hide it.
  • DIY CatchAMosquitoWithAChopstick is self-explanatory and a three-for-one: Increase in chopsticks agility for the kids, reduction in mosquito population for the family and a whole lot of free time for you.

So no more excuses for no me-time. You’re finally free to do something for yourself guilt-free whilst your kids do something for themselves parent-free. Which is exactly the kind of DIY experience the whole family can enjoy!

This article appeared in Playtimes September Issue 2014 and was updated in April 2019.

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