Q&A | What should I buy to keep my kids busy during isolation?

If you have bored kids driving you crazy right now, the easy solution might be to shower them with new toys and activities to keep them busy. But sadly, Amazon doesn’t have the answer to all our problems. An onslaught of new stuff will keep kids busy for a short period of time, but the feelings of boredom will emerge whether we like it or not. Today we are chatting about using shopping as a way to feel more in control along with some mindset shifts in how to view boredom.

Show Notes/Links

Hi there and welcome to episode 206. Today. I'm answering a question about how to entertain our kids during a quarantine. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi, thanks for tuning in. Wow. It has been a week or a couple of weeks, depending on what part of the world you're in now. Kind of a funny story. I have always struggled to explain to people that I meet, what I do when I get asked that question. I usually fumble over an answer or something like, well, I wrote a book, I have a podcast. I help people. I'm just very generally inarticulate about it. And during this crisis, it has really become clear to me, crystal clear what my job is and my job is to support parents. So right now I am really working overtime to try to do my job. If you follow along on Instagram, you'll know that I've been very active, trying to provide as many resources as possible over there. Last Saturday, I hosted a live virtual coffee chat, which was amazing to chat with.

So many of you joining me from all over the world. It was such a great experience. We're going to do it again. This Saturday, March 28th, at 10:00 AM Eastern, you can go to simplefamilies.com/coffee to reserve your spot. It's super casual. We're just getting together to talk and to support one another and to build community. So that brings me to my something simple for today. If you're new to the podcast in this shorter Q and A episode, I always start off the first half of the episode, sharing something simple that I'm loving. And in the second half, I answer a question from an audience member and today the something simple that I'm loving is I'm relaunching the masterclass. Many of you who've been following along for some time. Know that last year I had a program called the masterclass, which I absolutely enjoyed.

I ran it three times last year at different points during the year and had amazing groups join me. The feedback that I got on the program was overwhelming. And over the past few months, I've had so many more requests to bring it back and I've been wanting to do it, but I knew that it needed to take a different form when I was offering it before it was an eight week program. And I knew that I wanted to change it. I wanted it to be completely self-paced. So you could work at your own speed. So I've been working behind the scenes for the past couple of months, getting it ready to bring it back and change it and make it self paced. So in doing that, I'm changing the name. It's probably just this minor slight thing. But to me, the name masterclass seems like something urgent, something that needs to be hurried when the reality is simplifying your family really is a process that needs to be taken at a pace that suits you.

Therefore, now it is called the Simple Families Foundations Program, because it's about laying the foundation to simplify your family and make simplicity a core value that lasts a lifetime. It's the same amazing content from the masterclass, just reworked into a self-paced format. I wasn't planning on bringing it back until later in April, but I had this overwhelming gut feeling that now is the right time. I know that many of us are at home and we're struggling. We're struggling with the pressure that we're under. We're struggling feeling like we're not doing enough to be educating our kids at home, to be managing our kids' behavior, to be keeping the house clean. So it's not driving us absolutely crazy. And that's really why I designed this program was to relieve the pressure that so many of us feel in Parenthood to help move you towards simplicity so that she can stay focused on the priorities that really matter and let go of the rest of the stuff.

So if you're interested in that and you want to get on the wait list, it opens later this week, simplefamilies.com/foundations. I'm really excited to get this underway. And since I hadn't planned on relaunching at it until the end of April, I had a lot of work to do on it. And I've literally been up until midnight the past week or so trying to put the finishing touches on it so that it's ready sooner. And in many ways, I think that having a project like this has really, really helped to support my mental health through all of this, which also leads me to believe that having a project may also help you all as well. So if you're looking for a project, something to focus on the wellbeing of your family, the wellbeing of your children, the wellbeing of your home as a whole, I definitely recommend checking it out.

You can go to simplefamilies.com/foundations to get on the waiting list and registration for the program opens up later this week. I'd love nothing more than to be able to be a resource for you, whether it's through the foundations program through one of our virtual coffees, or just bringing you a little bit of inspiration via Instagram, whatever I can do. So before we move on to the Q and A section of this episode, here is a quick 62nd word from our sponsor. And the timing for this one couldn't be any better. The sponsor for today is Better Help. That's H E L P. But our help is an online network of counselors and therapists that are available to provide you emotional support online, via video chat, via phone, whatever suits you. It's not a crisis line. It's not self-help, it's actually professional counseling done securely online.

So if you're feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders right now, and you need a helping hand, which I think we all do. I have a session scheduled tonight at eight o'clock. In fact, go to betterhelp.com/simple. Again, that's betterhelp.com/simple, and you'll get 10% off your first month. You'll be joining over 700,000 people who are taking charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional onto today's question. This comes from Lorna in Portland, Oregon. She wrote, do you have any advice on the non-stop temptation to buy stuff, to entertain my kids during quarantine? I can't decide what, if any kits, art supplies, games, outdoor toys, and workbooks to buy the clutter will drive me nuts, but so will the shenanigans my kids will get into without something to occupy them.

Thank you for this question, Lorna. And you're not the first person to ask me this. I think that our temptation as humans is to find the easy way out of our problems. And in many ways, going on Amazon and using the one-click buying to fix our problems, would in fact be an easy way out if it actually worked. It reminds me of when I was a new mother and I was having some sleep challenges, and I was fairly convinced that it was the sleep device. That was the problem. We just didn't have the right kind of swaddle. We had like the swaddle me wraps. We had the Muslim swaddles, we had the miracle blanket. We had pretty much every swaddle device on the market. And then I had people telling me that we needed the Merlin suit for anyone that's not familiar with the Merlin suit.

It's, it's basically this little suit that makes your baby look like the Michelin man. For whatever reason when I got to the recommendation for the Michelin man suit, I finally drew the line and I was like, I'm not buying any more sleep devices to get this child to sleep. This is a problem I can not buy my way out of this might be a problem that I have to sit with and I have to endure for some time. There may not be a device on Amazon to fix all my problems. I have a friend who is currently doing this with all things, immune boosting and germ killing. I hope she doesn't kill me for sharing this, but she messaged me yesterday telling me that I needed to get an ozone device to shoot ozone at all my packages to kill the germs on them. Now, maybe this will work. I'm not sure.

I do not know the research on this. I highly doubt there is actually any research on this yet. I think what's happening is that we're feeling desperate. And if there is something that we can buy to make this desperation more tolerable, we're going to do it. If there's something that we can buy to make us feel like we're more in control, we're going to want to do it. Whether or not we have the money. Most of us have credit cards. So I am here to tell you that, yes, if you buy your child a new toy, it will help to occupy them during quarantine for at least 10 minutes, maybe 15, buying your kids new and novel things to entertain them will in fact, entertain them for very short periods of time. And you will need an abundance of these things. I'm talking a lot.

If you're going to be at home for two weeks and you've got 12 hours a day of awake time, you're going to need a lot of new novel things in order to keep those surges of dopamine up. Can it be done? Sure. Will it bring you relief? Probably not. Because what you're doing is you're not really buying toys. You're attempting to buy calm. You're attempting to buy control. You're attempting to buy relief. And while you might get small glimpses of those feelings by giving your kids stuff, it's not going away.

The truth is that boredom can be really scary. It can be scary for adults to be bored. The idea that you might have to sit in a doctor's office and wait 20 minutes to see a doctor and not have your phone in your hand. What are you going to do? Or imagine being on an airplane and not having a screen for six or seven hours, what are you going to do? The feeling of quiet downtime can be scary. It can be unsettling, especially during a time when your mind is flooded with uncertainty and stressors like it is right now. So you're probably a little bit afraid of boredom yourself, maybe a lot of freight of boredom for yourself, but you're also afraid of it for your kids. But boredom is healthy. Boredom leads to creativity, boredom leads to fighting and arguing.

But we know that fighting and arguing, especially between siblings is actually a healthy way of learning, how to problem solve and manage conflicts. So instead of trying to buy our way out of it and trying to avoid the fighting and the arguing and the boredom, what if we could embrace all those things as good things? What if we could look for the potential benefits and growth that can come when I'm noticing that my kids are getting restless and getting irritable, I'm acknowledging those feelings. Just this morning. My son was ragging on my daughter about something. I don't remember what it was. She had a book that he wanted and he wanted it right then something of the sort, and he was more explosive than usual. So I sat him down and I said, it's really hard being at home right now. Isn't it. It's really hard having to stay home by yourselves, without any friends, without any play dates, not being able to go anywhere.

Coronavirus just kind of stinks. Doesn't it? And he shook his head. Yes. The goal there is to put some language to his feelings, to his irritability, to his restlessness, because he he's feeling all of those things. Even if he's not able to put it into words. Now the irritability and the restlessness is a shift in energy. And we'll see that come and go. As our kids are spending time at home during the day. And it's something to pay attention to. It's usually a sign that they need to move. If you see irritability and you see restlessness and you think, Oh, it's time to stick them in front of the TV. You might be doing yourself a disservice, because if you put restless squirrely kids in front of a TV for an hour or two, when they're done things are going to be extra messy. The reason is that they were probably restless and squirrely because they needed extra movement. Not because they need it screen time.

So while I said in last week's episode, schedule your screen time for sure. Use screen time. As much as you need, feel free to not abide by the two hour a day recommendations from the APA, do whatever you need to do, but it's much better to schedule screen time into your day, rather than using it as crisis management using it because your kids are acting off the hook. If they're running around acting out of control and they're having a hard time managing their energy and managing their bodies, that means they need to move and you have to find a way to get their bodies moving. If you're in an apartment and you're literally not allowed outside of your apartment, try some yoga videos. Cosmic kids is great. I've mentioned that one before. I love that blanket forts taking the pillows off sofas and jumping around on them.

Maybe even dare I say it, jumping on the sofas, that's permitted in our house. And I should clarify that my children have never, ever gone to someone else's house and jumped on the sofa. So try not to be too afraid of that making obstacle courses, but finding ways for our kids to move. And if you can get outside still and you can find an empty trail or a space away from people, absolutely 1000% do it getting outside is the best solution to this. So the full circle answer on this is kids are going to be restless and irritable. You cannot buy your way out of this, no matter how much stuff you try to throw in front of them, they're going to get bored. It might help for a short period of time, but the boredom will come. So as parents, we have to start embracing the boredom and embracing the irritability and the conflict.

It is not a sign that we are slacking, or we're not doing our job. It's not a sign of poor parenting. Instead. Think of these as adjustment behaviors, adjusting to new circumstances, adjusting to more hours of unstructured time. If you have kids that are really struggling with unstructured time, they might be the kids that need it the most to learn how to be creative and learn how to innovate and learn how to work through that boredom. So switch your mindset to fear it less and embrace it more. It'll make the whiningness much easier to handle.

The best thing that we can do for our kids right now is provide for their need to move. Don't view it as a deficit. Don't view it as misbehavior. If they're getting squirrely and wiggly and can't control their bodies, view it as them communicating to you that they need to move their bodies and help them find an outlet for it and what our kids need more than anything right now is hugs and love and affection and grace and compassion and caring and patients, all of which we should also be offering ourselves. I'm thinking of you all during this time of uncertainty, and I'm hoping that I can continue to support you in any way possible. Thanks again for tuning into simple families. And I hope you have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.