I read an article on the BBC website last week that said it is good for children to be bored.
Boredom is good for creativity is the main argument, because it forces children to invent fun and find ways to entertain themselves. They interview Grayson Perry, the Turner Prize winner who divides his time between making ceramic vases and cross-dressing as a woman called Claire and who described boredom as "a creative state" and an opportunity for reflection, leading me to suspect that he has never met a child.
Children are the kings and queens of boredom. I don't mean very little children - Henry never seems bored. He is 14 months old and the house is his playground. He likes nothing better than to toddle into the sitting room, brazenly whacking everything he sees with a tube of foil he has stolen from the kitchen.
But somewhere between, say, 15 months and two, someone pushes a great big switch inside their heads that says 'Boredom - ON'.
And children have read the dictionary. Because rather than sitting quietly and vase-like to paddle in their own self-reflection they go like a bull in a china shop for the actual definiton of boredom which is:
'weary by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions'
or as I like to translate:
'cleaning the kitchen, That's Not My Kitten and having a poo when in charge of a toddler.'
The article suggested not automatically putting children in front of screens when they are bored and letting them find their own activities. Which is all very well, but on days when I do manage to enforce our 'No Television Before 4pm Rule' I end up at 3.59 with a face like The Scream.
And as yesterday was the first official day of the Easter Holidays I had been starting to feel slightly anxious about how I was going to entertain my four year old while the baby rifles through the kitchen drawers and tips granola all over the floor.
"I'm bored" said Henry's sister crossly, the second she finished her breakfast on Day One of the Easter break. "What can I do?".
Design your own vase? Pretend your name is Claire?
"Let's make some biscuits", I suggest with genuine enthusiasm eyeing the Peppa Pig Make and Bake Magazine I had impulse-bought in the Post Office on Friday.
Out of all the magazines for children it was impossible not to buy this one. For those that haven't seen it, they have basically placed a perfectly ordinary-sized magazine onto a huge carboard backing and then over-inflated the brilliance of the free gift by covering it in a lot of plastic and huge colourful words. The free gift was a child-size rolling pin and a spatula. The free gift which is, of course, not actually free unless you are stealing the magazine. The free gift which you realise you are very much paying for as you hand over £4.99. (To be fair, the first two issues are less than that. Issue one was only 99p. Issue two is £2.99. I suspect I will find myself in Tesco in August with issue 54 and a receipt for 350 quid).
"Wow, Sparkly Moon Biscuits!" I say, pointing to the picture on the cover. "Shall we make these?"
Of course we will. They're called sparkly moon biscuits! It's Peppa Pig! Such fun!
So we began at 9.00am with a quick scan of the ingredients:
- 200g plain flour - definitely got
- 30g icing sugar - really? not real sugar? ok, well, probably
- 50g very soft butter - lift lid on butter dish. The average temperature of minus three outside coupled with no central heating in our kitchen means our butter is more 'frozen' than 'very soft' but I'm sure it will be fine
- 200g white chocolate chunks - no. Raisins?
- Edible shimmer spray - YES! We do actually have that, and that's the best bit! Mummy win!
9.05am: Wash hands, put four year old on chair to reach worktop, get out bowls etc.
9.10am: Measure out ingredients using digital scales to include maths lesson. Turns out we don't have icing sugar but confidently swop for caster. This is going brilliantly.
9.15am: Allow four year old to tip ingredients into bowl. Feel warm and wholesome.
9.20am: Follow instruction to mix ingredients together until they form a smooth dough.
9.23am: Stare at dry crumble. Mix again.
9.25am: Google 'children's biscuit recipe' on phone and click on trusty BBC Good Food link. Notice they use an egg.
9.27am: Allow four year old to crack in egg. Congratulate on perfect execution, remove visible shell from mixture and scoop yolk off worktop. Use hands to mix.
9.30am: Panic. Add milk. Instantly regret it. Consider another egg. Realise have made watery play-doh.
9.33am: Attempt to re-Google recipe but impeded by egg on screen. Mix again.
9.35am: Double check preparation time really did say 10 minutes. Briefly consider suing.
9.37am: Accidently heavily flour worktop surface. Hands covered in egg; dismiss idea of scooping back into jar. Use teaspoon to scrape off the seven eighths of the mixture that is stuck to our fingers.
9.40am: As magazine came with free child's rolling pin allow 4 year old to roll out 'dough '
9.45am: Somehow find a way to say "that's shit, let me do it" without damaging her self-esteeem
9.50am: Use suggested glass to cut out shapes
9.55am: Look at magazine picture of child's hand using free miniature spatula to move shapes to baking tray
9.57am: Look at own child using free miniature spatula to scrape wet egg-circles off worktop. Think about suing again
10.00am: Remember have no chocolate chunks. Break news to four year old. Check I didn't say George Osborne has banned Christmas as part of the Budget. Try to make raisins sounds as delicious as chocolate using tone of voice. Fail.
10.05am: Grab coats, keys and wallet and
10.25am: Open share-size bag of chocolate and hand to four year old. Make mistake of blinking. Use remaining three buttons to decorate biscuits.
10.28am: Put in oven. Based on misleading preparation time, calculate biscuits will take nearly four hours.
10.30am: Open oven door every three minutes to prove biscuits aren't done.
11.00am: Take biscuits out. Compare to magazine. Start letter to solicitor in head.
11.05am: Get out shimmer spray. Notice it was Best Before May 2012.
11.07am: Use below-par spray to coat biscuits in shimmery gold listeria. Look at beaming four year old's face and realise this has all been worth it even though spray is now dripping on floor as did not Allow Biscuits To Cool On Wire Rack Before Decorating.
Do allow children to eat biscuits and skip lunch.
Spend rest of the afternoon getting confused between allowing my children to be bored and therefore ensuring they grow up to be Orange Prize winners and setting up activities to keep them entertained for five minutes so that I can do some work.
7.00pm: Children in bed. Consider feeling bored. Clean egg off kitchen wall instead.
8.00pm: Do some work. Feel creative. Thank Mother in head for allowing me to be bored as a child. Realise as adult have not felt bored all day.
10.30pm: Lie in bed. Receive unwelcome attentions. In an attempt to avoid tedious repetition, start discussion on camping. Feel both weary and dull. Go to sleep holding hands but not before realising the recipe for happiness is probably just trying to live your life as best you can between a little bit of boredom and a dash of sparkly moon biscuits.