6.03.2009

The nanny dilemma

Self-play.

I've always struggled with this, as both a babysitter and as a nanny. (I worry less about it as a babysitter since I'm with the kids for short chunks of time, but as a nanny when I'm with the kids for extended periods of time, it is a concern.)

I read an interesting article about how kids nowadays just don't know how to play by themselves. They're so used to being in front of the TV, or with a parent or babysitter or nanny--in the name of watching them to keep them safe--that they don't know how to use their own imaginations by themselves or with other siblings.

My girls A. & E. with my former family didn't know how to play at all when I started working full-time with them. They were so used to being in front of the TV that they literally didn't know what to do on their own. I worked for months helping them to learn different activities and things to do, helping to develop their imaginations, and slowly worked up to having them play off in the living room while I was making dinner in the kitchen. They learned to entertain themselves.

When my sister and I were younger, we'd spend hours off playing school, or doctor, or "adoption" together, in and outdoors. Our parents played with us a great deal, but we played alone a lot, too.

Kids with nannies don't really play alone, though, because it's lazy babysitting/nannying for the babysitter/nanny to sit off in the next room, letting the kids play. Does that make sense? In other words, why would a parent hire someone to just sit elsewhere, not be with the kids?

I've talked with fellow nannies about this. We want to encourage self-play in our kids while at the same time staying in our bosses' good graces. In my past experience, the kids I've nannied/babysat for turn to me to entertain them constantly--because it's my job. But kids who are constantly being entertained by someone or something else don't develop self-play/entertainment skills and, therefore, are much more demanding on the whole.

I'm not saying that as a nanny, I'd want to leave my kids to self-play all day. Not at all! Playing with a nanny is a great interaction and wonderful for social skills. I love playing zoo keeper, baby wrangler (when the big kids want to be babies), etc. But I also think that it's important that, for a certain chunk of time each day, the kids play by themselves, learning to keep themselves occupied and discovering their own imaginations.

A stay-at-home-mom or dad has various tasks to complete during the day, like cooking, cleaning, or working from home. As nannies, our sole purpose is to dedicate ourselves to the kids. And it's great fun for kids to have dedication like that! But I do wonder, in the big picture, if it is a problem?

P.S. I have *no* idea if this post makes sense or not! But it does in my head :)

13 comments:

Sugar Photography said...

You have my permission to teach my kids to play by themselves.

No, really....TEACH THEM!!!

On the other side of the fence is the plain ol' fact that first kids just DON'T play alone. second ones are a bit better, and in my experience (LOL) it's those 3rd babies that rock the house with their self entertainment.

so is it too late to teach a 6 and 4 year old new tricks?

Nanny...do your best!

Sugar Photography said...

PS) I should probably mention that the tv is broken. Has been since friday. and I have all the parts to fix it, but won't. because I LOVE that we (as parents) don't have that option, and they (as adorable kids who will sit like lumps all day if we let them) don't have that temptation.
so yeah...no tv the next 3 days.

WE LOVE YOUUUUUUUU!!!

niobe said...

I completely agree with this post (which totally made sense to me).

Jaime said...

Great post. Both of my kids self-play really well and I love it. You are right that as parents we have tons of stuff we need to get done when they play alone. Since your obligation is to the children, when they are entertaining themselves do things yourself that show the great number of things you can do for fun that don't involve the tv. If you are reading for pleasure while they play, you are still setting a good example and it is an easy way to be with them and monitor their play without actually interacting.

BTW- your blog is completely entertaining and I bet you are a fabulous Nanny.

Anonymous said...

Sigh...a wonderful post and I am so proud that you struggle with a dilemma such as this.

You are such a great nanny/babysitter/person/daughter/friend!

Love you,
mom

Tracy said...

Interesting thoughts...my kiddos are VERY good at self play, sometimes shunning my involvement altogether. :) I think it's because I've left them to play with themselves while I do laundry, wash bottles, clean house, or let's be honest, read blogs. One of my friends has a nanny and her kids are awfully demanding...she's always amazed that mine can entertain themselves or each other for long periods of time. I've never wondered why...but maybe the answer is that they have a playmate all day long in their nanny!

Nic said...

I sometimes feel guilty that my kids are playing in the other room while I'm cleaning, playing on the internet, or whatever, but try and remind myself that it really IS good for them to be learning to play on their own. They're NOT sitting in front of the TV, they're using their imaginations! I think Jaime had a really good suggestion, that you could read while the kids are playing. I feel like I should do that more, for sure! Maybe also talk to the parents about it and see what their thoughts are?

Minivan Mom said...

This post was fun to read, because it was like a happy validation of my super awesome parenting abilities, all tied up in a pretty bow.

(okay, so my kids probably rock the self-play because I have been too busy with grading/work to play with them much since, like, they were born).

But let's just pretend all 3 of my kids are great at amusing themselves because I. AM. SO. AWESOME.

Humor me.

Nikki said...

I get what you are saying! My kids are pretty good at self-play, for the same reason Minivanmom's kids are. I'm busy doing other things around the house and don't always have time to play Barbies. I am awesome too :)

Kaitlyn said...

You love me because I giggled when I saw the words "self-play".

livinginagirlsworld said...

Totally made sense and I used to MAKE my oldest (of 3) play on her own from the time she was able to sit up and do stuff. Mommy's got stuff to do and there is only so much you can do efficiently with a kid in your arms. Kudos to you for realizing this and trying to find a balance between "the job" and what's best for the kids.

And for what it's worth, I never thought of nannying as play/interact with kids nonstop. I'd say that definitely falls more into babysitter role.

nannysarah said...

I loved(and understood) this post!

I Nanny a 9 month old. I let her play by herself on the floor with toys/books..or in her saucer or high chair while I wash dishes or throw a load in the dishwaher, or do a load of laundry. Today she played happily in her crib while I went thru her old clothes. i had her out on the floor first, but she kept throwing her clothes everywhere and making my job take longer, hehe. :)

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