Photo by: NPA

That's Entertainment: The Importance of Outings for Kids

Photo by: NPA

Ah, the Irish activity center; you know them. I’d say they have these all over the developed world: soft play areas where kids can throw themselves into pools filled with plastic balls and climb frames swaddled in cushioning. Mothers sit on hard chairs sipping coffee, hoping their kids don’t suffocate under a pile of pre-schoolers scrambling for access to the slide. They cost money, these things. But they’re worth every penny, because your kids come out of them exhausted—you know you’re getting them into bed early that night.

My friend and I took our kids to one nearby this past Saturday. It was crawling with gangs of kids attending birthday parties. My friend and I kept doing headcounts on our children. Max, my two year old, being the boy that he is, took all his clothes off, including his diaper, and made a run for it. I had to wrestle him to the floor and strap the diaper back on. There was no way I could get the jeans back up. The T-shirt stayed put, but only after a lot of crying (“peeeeese, mami, peeeeeeeese”) and pulling at the collar (“off, mami, O-O-O-OFF!!”). Distraction was employed (don’t know how I did it, maybe chocolate?) and off he went finally to play – defying the dress code in only a t-shirt and a diaper.

Keeping the diaper on was a service to other visitors. These places are large Petri dishes, incubating all manner of disease. At one point, I followed my boys into the bowels of the multi-level, soft play monster. Crawling up a level, I was suddenly surrounded by toddlers clambering for the slide. All I could smell was urine and feces, the scent of old diaper and Caldesene powder. People were drooling everywhere. After I escaped, I told my friend about the experience. She’d actually been in another place, and the ball pit had had a couple of centimeters of liquid in it – human urine from countless children. Her kids’ socks got soaked in it. I recoiled, gagging.

You’re thinking: that’s gross, Lory, why would you let your kids roll in this filth? The answer is: entertainment, exercise, keeping them occupied. When you’re at home with them all the time, planning activities becomes very important. They need field trips. I need field trips. If we stay home every single day, we’re all coming out of here in strait jackets. They’re at the age where they can self entertain for only so long before someone gets hit over the head with a rocket ship. Outside is good, but ever since Zach learned to turn the hose on and off, it’s become MESSY. You send them out, and they come back in like they’ve been camping in Glastonbury for a concert weekend. And the sand box! Why the hell did I think it was a good idea to buy a sand box? Tactile stimulation, learning, something, something, blah, blah. All I know is that I’ve got the flippin’ vacuum cleaner out twice a day hoovering up after their excursions into the garden. So, outings on occasion are important. And not just to the grocery store.

On the way out of the play center, I made everyone wash their hands, and face, twice. I then smothered them in anti-bacterial wash. My little piglets slept well that night.

Lory grew up in Miami, Florida, lived in New York for 12 years, traveled the world and now lives in rural Ireland with her husband and children. She has a BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, and an MA in Creative Writing from City College. She has won several awards and grants for her writing and has been featured on national radio and press. Lory is a writer and stay-at-home mom.

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