Being a parent can be tough. The job is incredible, rewarding and oh so exhausting in equal parts. Parenting with a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis adds yet another dimension: Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms we live with – often on a daily basis. So when fatigue strikes it can be difficult to look after yourself, let alone children who all seem to have endless energy and a limitless need for entertainment.
Since my diagnosis I have had to come up with a list of activities to keep my son occupied on days when I struggle with fatigue. Activities that is, that doesn’t involve unsupervised screen time while I nod off on the sofa. When I know a busy day is coming up, I make sure to plan ahead and build in plenty of rest and pit stops. I try to stay hydrated and avoid overindulgent sugary treats that will make me feel sluggish after eating them. Most of all I try to keep activities simple. Here is my top list of things to do that entertain my son while allowing minimum effort from my side.
Colouring, drawing or painting are fantastic activities that children and parents can get stuck into. They’re wonderfully mindful and relaxing. They also don’t need too much setting up or clearing away (especially if you stick to pencils and crayons! Paint usually requires a lot of extra set up and potential clean up). The best is that you can keep your special creations as keep-sakes or even as presents for family members. Seasonal holidays offer a host of inspiration on what to craft or paint, but if you are stuck for inspiration, simply choose to colour in. There are thousands of wonderful books for children and adults available that allow for hours of inexpensive fun.
Board Games are fun for the whole family without you needing to leave your seat. Dig out your old favourites and have an afternoon of games. It’s more than just a heap of fun: kids also learn how to be not only gracious winners, but also how not to be sore losers – a very precious life-skill!
Instead of just plonking the kids in front of the TV, why not enjoy a proper movie afternoon. Make some popcorn, turn off your phone and draw the curtains. Grab blankets, pillows and cushions to make a cosy snuggle space in your living room and let the fun begin. There are many movies that are fun for children and adults to enjoy together, and when the times comes for the inevitable re-watching of Frozen for the umpteenth time, you can even take a little nap.
Soft play centres are indoor activities for children that offers equipment and environments that are made of soft materials. IF you can bear the noise of a bunch of excitable toddlers and IF your kids are old enough to go in the playing area without you, this is a great way for them to run off some serious steam. My son is an only child, but he makes friends in less than 30 seconds after arriving, after which I will not see him for about an hour, barring the occasional return for a cold drink. I love spending the time over a nice coffee, reading a book or writing a blogpost, especially now that I have found a soft play centre where the noise is not too overwhelming.
Yes, movie afternoons at home are great, but there is something about going to the cinema that just doesn’t compare. Kids movies today tend to be really lovely and are often full of jokes designed for the adults that are watching. The dark theatre can be a restful space that allows a time-out from the business of the outside world. Top tip: Buy your tickets online and reserve your seats in advance to avoid big queues on arrival. And don’t forget the final toilet stop before you go in!
If you are lucky enough to live near the seaside it’s seldom a bad idea to organise a trip to the beach. Take a large blanket and a good book and relax while the kids collect all sorts of treasure: shells, unusual stones, empty crab shells, sea glass, driftwood etc. My son is a complete magpie and could spend hours quietly collecting while I chill out and take in some lovely sea air. The fresh air and the change of scenery will be good for you both.
Another great activity for nature-loving kids is pond dipping. This entails ‘net-fishing’ ponds to explore the plant, insect and animal life that live there. While there are some safety precautions to take for younger kids, it’s a great way for children to spend hours exploring and learning about nature. We have a local nature reserve nearby which we often go to for walks and picnics when I’m feeling energetic, but when I don’t have the energy for a long walk, pond dipping is a great alternative. It is usually supervised by volunteers to help children identify all the exciting things they find in their nets. Check your local nature reserve website for info.
There are plenty of low energy activities that will you keep your kids occupied and entertained without being too taxing on our bodies. It’s often those simple pastimes we use to while away the hours that our children will remember and cherish for many years to come. Your kids will make the best memories by just spending time with you and you won’t feel under pressure of needing to enjoy every moment of an expensive day out.