Raising an only child can be tough. But the old stereotype of only children being entitled spoilt brats is long gone. At the last census, there were over one million single child families in Australia, and that number is growing. Only children are curiously, not alone. With an eleven year age gap between my two, I get the joy of essentially raising two “only children”.
The first spent much of her younger years begging for a sibling, and as the years wore on and the IVF failed again and again, it was looking like she was destined to be sibling less. Amusing yourself, having no one your own age to play with gets pretty old pretty quickly and my heart used to break for her.
We had plenty of play dates and she is a very sociable kid, but there was inevitably lots of alone time. I found that I was constantly looking for solo activities for her at home. Now don’t get me wrong, I have just about played every board game known to man, but there are times when I needed to do other things other than entertain her.
I learnt very quickly that open ended play was the best. Things to build, things to imagine, things to make. She could spend hours creating a city out of blocks (And I don’t mean on minecraft!). She was naturally curious, so open-ended play was a life saver. Open ended play is just play that has no set limits and no fixed answer – children simply follow their imagination to allow the play to go whichever direction their creativity takes them. There is no winner, and the game is not “over” when an outcome is reached. Open-ended toys include wooden blocks, wooden rainbows, train sets, or multi use puzzles just to name a few. They have endless options and encourage a child to use their imagination and creativity.
And now as my second “only child” becomes a toddler and stares adoringly at her sibling who will be fast approaching her teenage years, I do get a kick out of the fact that these toys are still around, still in great condition, and generously handed over by a big sister who just wants to share the joy. And who is willing to be the one to play the board games.