Do you have an extra three hours a day? If so, you could live up to IKEA's latest recommendations about how we parent.
Because who better to tell us we should be parenting better than a retailer that sells us moderately priced furniture with names we can't pronounce and strangely delicious meatballs?
IKEA shared a study last week telling us that, like fruit and vegetables, there is "recommended daily allowance" (RDA) for play time. Which sounds okay so far, right? I'm always telling my kids they should go play so I can fold the laundry/cook the dinner/stare at the wall in peace.
For the study, IKEA teamed up with child psychology development expert Brendon Hyndman to develop the RDA. And they say, like with fruit and vegetables, variety is key – so not only do they need to play for three hours, they also need us to ensure they're mixing it up and not putting all their plastic eggs in the one play basket, and we're keeping things fresh and interesting every day.
"The RDA for Play is similar to that for fruit and vegetables: it's best if you don't reach your target by eating five apples – variety is ideal," IKEA said in their media release. "The same is true for play – mixing up the types of activity is key for development."
But hold up, IKEA also tells us that, although 97 per cent of us would like to engage in more offline play with our kids, four in 10 of us are "falling short" of the three-hour daily minimum. (That's a minimum – feel free to blow out to four or five hours if you like.)
Unsurprisingly, the study also found that 9-12 year olds play an hour less every day than 0-4 year olds. That's probably because 0-4 year olds have literally nothing to do with their time except play. But IKEA say they should all be fitting in a fun three hours every single day.
So I sat down to crunch some numbers, and I'm hoping IKEA might be able to tell me where I might find these magical three hours every day to sit and play with my children.
Like most people, I have a job, and my kids are school age, so we're all pretty busy during the day. After school we juggle a combination of after-school care and extra- curricular activities, and then we come home and the children do homework and have showers while I'm making dinner.
We sit down to eat together as a family most nights, because other studies have told us that's a good idea, and then it's time to clean up, read books, and unwind a little before going to bed so we can do it all again tomorrow.
I'm wondering if IKEA can tell me where in that schedule I should fit the three hours of play? I'm also wondering, if four in 10 parents are "falling short" (thanks for the judgement-laden terminology, IKEA), how on earth are the other six getting there?
I can only assume these six parents have children that don't yet go to school, and perhaps they are lucky enough to be home with them, or work part-time. Or perhaps they don't eat or clean – that would save a whole lot of time. How ridiculous.
It's not that we don't have fun in our house, or that we aren't playful – but a dedicated three hours of varied play every day? That sounds as likely as an empty laundry basket.
One of IKEA's suggestions to help us reach our RDA of play is to "reset" our evening routines to include an extra hour of dedicated play, which sounds infuriatingly simplistic to me.
The corporate giant doesn't offer us anyone to come over and do all the jobs we would usually do in that time, but if simply "resetting" worked, I would have reset my evenings to include cocktails