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We do a lot of activities with the kids, some things go better than anticipated and others turn out to be total fails. Back in the spring I wrote a 3 part series of posts titled ‘Parenting Fantasies Vs Reality’, one of which discusses some of the activities ive found make you want to pull your hair out. In this post, I will discuss some new additions to add to my ‘Beware: May cause Fury’ activities list. Maybe you share my pain or maybe your little one is ace at these or maybe you are just more patient than me!

Video calls

Gah the video call. I’ve never been one to like the whole telephone call malarkey at the best of times. Give me a text any day. Its like all the awkwardness of a phone call plus your own haggard mugshot in the corner of your screen. As much as I try to concentrate on the face of the person I am communicating with, all I can stare at is my own damned face staring back at me reminding me I’m getting old, I look tired and my hair needs a re-dye.

I don’t know about you, but my reasonable and mature 4 year old turns into a full scale raving lunatic the moment he sees his own little face in that little box in the corner of the screen!

The child of 4 has no care for humility, they will happily spend the entire phone call looking, laughing and hiding from their own image without a care for whomever is on the other end. The recipient, normally nanny, will have a lovely 10 minutes of close up eye shots and up the nostril cams, all to the soundtrack of some wacky tune Ravey has composed that moment to encapsulate his sheer joy at staring at his own face and competing with either his sister or I for the phone.

During UK lockdown 2020 part 1 we were doing WhatsApp videos calls regularly and it was the height of stress for me. You would sit the kids down either side of you, prepared for a calm call where you can actually talk, and within 2 minutes of that call coming your kids are clambering over you like a climbing frame, scrambling to shove their face at the screen. I’m pretty certain 80% of these calls are terminated by the child themselves jabbing at the screen and the remaining 20% by the recipient, usually muttering something like “I can see you have your hands full…….”

Watching a new film that you actually want to see

Have you ever tried to watch a film with a 4 year old? It’s a non stop roller coaster quiz show where your specialist subject is a film you have never seen before.

You’ll be sat together and the film will start and a few seconds in to the first scene they say “mummy what are they doing?”. You explain you don’t know you haven’t seen it either and encourage them to keep watching.

20 seconds go by and they ask you another question. What are they doing? Why are they doing that? Where are they going? A constant barrage of questions you don’t have an answer to.

You barely take any of it in as you are too busy listening to their commentary. This must be the reason kids watch the same thing over and over again. They are too bloody busy asking everyone what’s going on to see what is actually going on!

If there is a film you actually want to see, watch it without them first!

Butterfly releasing

So we got a caterpillar kit. Watched them crystallise and then emerge as beautiful butterflies all within the mesh butterfly house. Very nice.

You count down the days until release day. The anticipation and excitement of those gorgeous perfect pictures of the kids with butterflies whirling round them, landing on an outstretched hand.

The day finally comes and we all get dressed and sit out in the garden with the butterfly habitat. The sun is shining and the camera is at the ready. You open the lid and the kids peer in all excited. You pick up the phone and flip to camera mode and wait poised to snap as all the butterflies fly to freedom around your kids in a magical moment that you can treasure forever, and share with the world.
You wait.
And wait.

The kids are getting bored.
You wait some more.

The kids are agitated now.
One hour and one butterfly leaves but nobody even bloody notices but suddenly there is one less.

After an hour and a half everyone goes inside and leaves the lid off for butterflies to leave at their own will.
You go back an hour later and there are still 2 butterflies inside.

After another 30 minutes you finally get the butterfly on the hand moment. Nobody sees because your partner and kids have given up on this colossally boring activity you have provided. The only capture is a blurry close up.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are supposed to be relaxing. People do them for fun! For me a jigsaw is a mixed bag anyway, if it isn’t too complicated and too big then it can be quite a nice activity to pass the time, there is something quite therapeutic about the process and its quite rewarding once its complete. But anything too crazy like those 3D globe ones or a 5000 piece one entirely of cats or something, then it can have the opposite effect and really piss you off.

One thing I hadn’t discovered though, was the infuriating world of puzzling with a 4 year old. Until this week when my son decided he finally wanted to attempt the 4 paw patrol puzzles he got last Christmas.

I thought it might be fun and clearly so did he. He has done well with his smaller ones in the past, but these ones are about 30 pieces each and turned out to be far more complicated than is necessary for a toy aimed at under 5s.

The first hurdle we experienced was me trying to explain the process of finding the edges and corners first in which to make the outside of the puzzle.

Let me tell you now my son was bloody abysmal at identifying any edges or corners. The concept of a straight line clearly lost on him. So after a few minutes of patiently putting aside edge pieces I glanced at the pile to see he had understood my actions to mean, add any piece at random into the pile.

Then comes the jabbing. Your child getting any pieces whatsoever and proceeding to jabbing them together to make them fit regardless. Edges are squashed, parts rip off. The puzzle is ruined.

Cracking eggs

I’ve learnt the hard way that baking and cooking with kids can be great when their involvement is minimal and the tasks are manageable. But don’t be the fool and give those 4 year olds the eggs to crack. You are absolutely destined to crunchy egg shell clumps in your Omelette, pancakes, cakes or whatever it is you are making.

The combination of stubby little fingers and uncontained enthusiasm at being allowed to break something as intriguing as an egg nearly always results in the egg being crushed to smithereens with an avalanche of tiny egg shell pieces strewn throughout making it impossible to completely rectify the mess. Not to mention getting cracked eggs off the kitchen floor! It just moves around in a slimey ball doing Houdini tricks and managing to fall out if the cloth each time you lift it off the floor to dispose of it.

And then the worry at getting that raw egg off their hands and the impending threat of salmonella!

So there you go. My latest addition of things to avoid doing with littles. What are your ‘no go activities’?

5 Replies to “Activity Mum Fails for under 4’s”

  1. I bought a book on cooking with kids, which teaches parents how to teach kids to cook, then has recipes to do with them. Annabelle is now better at cracking eggs than I am. Before this book came into my life I wouldnt let her near the egg ?? ever

    Anna has the same issue with Puzzles no clue what corner or side are, so we just attack it trying to match pieces. No organisation at all

  2. My son LOVES cracking eggs! We learned that when he took the newly-bought dozen of eggs and smashed it into our fabric sofa… Let’s say that we changed that for a faux leather sofa not so long after the eggs incident 😀

    1. Oh my goodness ? that would have been the worst to clean up! I imagine its pretty satisfying smashing eggs into a sofa ?

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