Compared to a generation ago, we've become so much "better" at occupying children - giving them something to do when we can't give them our full attention or set up an activity for them.
But I'm not just talking colouring pages and crayons at the restaurant, or pram books and travel toys... I mean like, kids' own high-spec tablets, their own amazon accounts, tv at mealtimes, the military precision of plans to go from nursery to playdate to swimming to...
What are we afraid will happen if kids find themselves with nothing to do for a minute? It turns out: good things happen. Boredom begs the question of what to do next, to look around and respond to your environment, and most importantly to the people around you, hence why it's good for building social skills. Boredom sparks imagination, which sparks creativity and entrepreneurialism. Give it a try, your kids might surprise you!
Shared ownership storytelling
Tell your kid the first sentence of a story, then ask them to tell you what happened next, then your turn, then theirs... you get the picture. If they're particularly latched onto an idea (my oldest is really into lions and tigers atm), a recurring theme might develop pretty quickly! But it could give you another insight into things they're especially concerned with at the moment.
Bonus points if you have more than one child of talking age and they can run with the storyline while you fade into the background.
The perfect dinner guests come prepared
Another way to get the kids to join the conversation at your level - or at least meet in the middle! - while taking pressure off of mealtimes, is this great list of conversation starters from Natasha Daniels at AT Parenting Survival. Make sure grown ups get to take their sweet time answering questions too.
The leaning tower of toys
Instead of a screen or a set of games, give kids an assortment of random objects to make up a role play or story game.
This is why building blocks are so good, with infinite (someone check our maths please!) reassortment potential into new buildings and games.
The queen of creativity
This week in our series on the village it takes to raise our children, it is Chloe Amy Avery. Chloe is a mum of three, has a Masters Degree in surface textiles from London College of fashion and has spent several years living overseas with her family before returning to North London. She is an embroidery artist, product development guru for GRASP, mum extraordinaire and beloved sister of the GRASP founding team. In short, there's not much she can't do!
If all else fails... a dance off
I know this works because I have tried it: trying to get dinner ready with two toddlers asking for different toys half an hour before "bed time" (oops), I stuck on Harlem Shake and asked them do to their best dance moves. Simple, effective, hilarious.