Lately, I’ve been noticing something at our house. Kael is 4 years old (5 in November), and Asa turned 3 in July. It seems to me that right now their interests and abilities are probably as different as they have been in quite some time. We have definitely taken advantage of the fact that they are close in age when buying toys, games, and other play things around our place. We often buy things for them that we know they will both like and be able to use. Up until now, I think this has worked pretty well for us. They play together pretty well for the most part.
They have great imaginations and do a lot of creative play and imaginary play.
They have no problems finding things to do when we are out and around town at parks or friends’ houses.
The problem (if that’s even what it is) comes when we are at home. Kael is outgrowing many of our toys. He’s showing more interest in reading books himself, spelling things, manipulating numbers (and memorizing my phone number!), and mazes to name a few of the more “academic” interests he’s showing. He’s showing less interest in his fire trucks, stuffed animals, and other toys. More and more often, I find that he is getting out toys, playing for just a few minutes and moving on to something. Sometimes the thing he moves on to is another toy, but many times it’s irritating his brother. (No pictures of that. 🙂 )
For a while I thought maybe he wasn’t getting enough active play. Maybe he was too tired and needed more sleep. Maybe there was a diet imbalance or sensitivity to something we were eating. Then, today a friend mentioned she and another friend had felt similarly about their children who are about Kael’s age.
Another observation that my friend made was that Kael’s birthday and Christmas are about six weeks apart. This means that the majority of the stuff he gets as gifts comes during this time period. It also means that by this time of year, most of those things are also geared for someone almost a year younger than he is. I feel like much of what we have to do around our apartment is geared for the 2-4 or 3-5 age range. I also feel like Kael is moving very much into the next bracket whatever that is. Maybe 4-6 or 5-7? I am not really sure since this is new territory, but I think you probably get the idea.
What do I do about this? I’m not really sure. There are a few things that Jason and I have thought about and talked about. None of them seem to really solve the problem, so I’m guessing the solution is more of a little of this, little of that kind of solution vs. a black and white answer.
We talked about getting Kael some new stuff. I feel like cringing as I even write that sentence. On one hand, I know that stuff (games, toys, books, etc.) is not the answer. However, on the other hand, I understand the value of having age appropriate and challenging opportunities available for him.
We talked about doing some sort of playdate exchange with a friend where one day a week, Kael would go to a friend’s house to play for a few hours. This would give him a change of scenery, some new toys to play with, and a different experience than he would have at home. My hesitation with this one is that I can’t just send him to a friend once a week. I would also need to have this friend’s child over to our house for a morning once a week. With the upcoming move and a baby on the way this seems overwhelming right now.
We talked (very briefly) about putting him into childcare or preschool for a few hours a week. Neither of these were quite right either. We don’t need someone to just keep him at a childcare center and watch him play. We also are not all that excited about most of the options that are available here. There are a couple options that we are comfortable with as far as the philosophy of the preschool goes, but they don’t work out for other reasons. One costs more than we are willing or able to spend on a “just because” preschool. Another is just a couple hours in the morning and requires fairly frequent parenting participation. Between the short time period and the required participation, I think it would be nearly impossible to work out the logistics after Baby is born.
As I read through this post, I feel like the last part is quite a bit of, here’s what we could do, but here’s why it won’t work sort of excuses. I’m actually a little hesitant to leave it like that, because when I have a conversation with someone with that attitude, I usually want to say something like, “Well, I guess you’re stuck.” But, I’m going to leave it mostly as a train of thought sort of post.
So, what would you do? Have your kids ever outgrown their toys? What toys, games, activities, supplies, books, etc do you recommend for an almost 5 year old? Any other thoughts or ideas?