Rainy Days: The Indoor Safari

rainydayWe are having an extraordinarily wet spring where we live, and I’ve had to reach deep into my bag of Mommy Tricks to find ways to pass the rainy days.  A few weeks ago, my preschooler came up with an easy and fun game that we have discovered has many variations: the indoor safari.

Her original idea was to go on a “bug safari” inside our house.  We got out a bag of insect foamie stickers and each of us hid them all throughout the house.  Since our shovels and pails were suffering from inattention due to many days in a row of not being allowed outside, we decided they would be perfect for gathering the bugs we found on our safari.

Everything is a race these days for my four year old, so we counted backward from ten and set off to try to gather as many bugs as we could find.  I enlisted the help of my toddler for my team, and she was thrilled to add bugs to our bucket.  (Even more fun for her was taking them out to re-hide them!)  Once all the bugs were collected, we met in the living room, dumped the contents of our pails onto the floor, and admired our finds.

First we played with numbers by counting how many bugs each of us had captured.  Then we enjoyed some categorization by sorting the bugs into piles of same colors and then into piles of same creatures.  When we finished that part of the safari, both girls had fun placing some of their bugs onto pieces of construction paper to display the results of the morning’s safari.

This is a fun activity that can take lots of different directions.  You could

  • find exotic creatures online, print and color the pictures, and cut them out and go on safari to find them
  • hide stuffed animals from your child’s collection and search them out.  Older kids might like to classify them by the continent they live on or by what kind of ecosystem they call home
  • cover animals with blankets in one room and let babies play peek-a-boo as a safari alternative for your littlest ones

Okay, moms and dads of Simple Kids – let’s hear from you!  What is your favorite rainy day play?  Please share your idea here and you may find it featured in an upcoming edition of our Rainy Days series!

Photo by Flora

Simple Kids Showcase: 5.9.09

Whew!  Better late than never, I suppose!  We are out-of-town and getting to a computer has proved to be more of a challenge than I thought!

To kick off the Simple Kids Showcase series, we have a few inspiring shots from Corey of Living and Loving Every Minute of It.  Last spring, she and her Sugar Bear planted Egg People.  I think this is such a concrete way for our children to connect with nature in a way that is fun and a little silly, too!

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Bathtime Meditations

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Bathtime is an important part of our evening ritual.  For both of my daughters, time in the tub signals the end of the day, and they know the pouring and splashing and washing and rinsing will soon give way to pajamas, storytime, and lights out.

Now that my girls are older, I bathe them together every night.  This works nicely for me because they love to play together in the tub, and I find I can bring a magazine, book, or my daily docket for the following day to keep me occupied as I sit closeby to supervise the bathtime play.  While this does offer some much-needed wind-down time for me, it occurred to me a few weeks ago that bathing the girls could also provide me with just a few minutes to be mindful in my end-of-the-day connection with my girls

What does a bathtime meditation look like?  Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Prayer
As I bathe each daughter, I might say a simple prayer like, “Thank you, God, for these sweet little feet.  May they carry her to exciting places to do life-changing things someday,” or “What a blessing this chubby cheeks are to me.  May her smile be an encouragement to everyone she encounters.”

Even if you aren’t a participant in organized religion, you might think of ways to speak positive thoughts over your children as you spend a few mindful minutes bathing them.

2. Gratitude
Whether your child is six weeks or six years old, I think it is important to model gratitude.  You might say something like, “I’m so thankful we got to go to the library today!  We have so many new books to read!” or “I am so thankful for the visit from Grandma and Grandpa.  They love you so much.”

As your children get older, encourage them to offer their own words of gratitude and appreciate for the day.  The things my four year old comes up with to be thankful for always bring a smile to me.

3. Affirmation
This is particularly important to me at the end of the of a day that has been filled with more tears than giggles and more correction than encouragement.  My oldest daughter when through a phase where one hundred was absolutely the biggest thing she could imagine, so I might say something like, “You know, I love you ONE HUNDRED!”  Or I might tell my toddler, “Even if you marked on every wall in every house on every street, I would still love you so very, very much.”

Sometimes we get silly and say things like, “I’d love you even if your elbows looked like your knees and you had horsey breath!” and “If your hair looked like a rainbow and your nose looked like a blueberry, you’d be my most favorite rainbow-haired, blueberry-nosed person in the whole world!”

Now certainly, there are evenings when I really do just lose myself in the glossy, perfectly put-together pages of Martha Stewart Living or enjoy a few precious minutes with pen and paper and no one trying to grab them from my hands.  And yet some evenings, it really works for me to turn the time spent kneeling beside the tub into a mindful, intentional, reflective celebration of my daughters and our day.

(PS – Our email subscription link has been fixed!  Those who were not able to subscribe via email last week, please try again today.)

photo courtesy of Ernst Moeksis

Separating Yourself From Your Children's "Stuff"

toymessPhoto by Robert S. Donovan

Fans of Simple Mom know that her Spring Cleaning Party begins today.  I”ve purchased and downloaded her e-book and I am ready to go.  My home is in need of a clutter purge!  And when it comes to the amount of toy clutter that sweeps across the floors of our home on a daily basis . . . well, it is enough to make me just want to lay down on the floor and give up.  I”d have to clear off a spot amidst the blocks and books and baby dolls, of course, first.

In the chapter on decluttering and cleaning the rooms of your children, Tsh warns that when it comes to purging toys, parents can “prepare for some possible emotional battles.”  My children are not quite yet to the age where they get a keep/toss/donate vote on each toy, and in fact, most of my toy decluttering is done while they sleep.  Yet I find that the emotional battles that are the most difficult in sorting through my children”s toys are fought within myself.

I would not say I have superhuman memory powers, but I do have the uncanny (and when it comes to decluttering – inconvenient) knack for remembering where most every toy in our home came from.  This makes the purging process particularly difficult for me.  I pick up the blinking and bleeping toy laptop and remember fondly the occasion on which it was present to my oldest daughter by her grandparents.  Nearly every stuff animal in the monstrous heap in which they all reside has some kind of fond story of a loved one  attached to it.  I find it to be almost physically painful to toss or donate these things which were lovingly chosen and given to my daughters.  But the weed-out process is necessary if we don”t want to drown beneath a sea of kiddie clutter, so I”ve written out these steps to make the process a little bit less painful for me. 

1. Mantra: Getting rid of a toy does not mean getting rid of a relationship.
Logically, I know online roulette this is absolutely true.  Emotionally, this is where I struggle.  I must focus on the fact that finding a new home for a toy given to the girls by one of their favorite aunts does absolutely nothing to damage the relationship they have with that aunt.  Their relationship is not built on them receiving gifts from her.  If she never gave them another toy, they would still adore her just as much. 

2. Consider alternate “dumping grounds.”
My husband”s parents had already been grandparents for nine years when my oldest daughter was born, so their house has long been a fun haven for my children to visit.  On the other hand, our oldest daughter is the oldest grandchild on my side of the family, and my parents have not yet collected an expansive toy collection for entertaining the little ones.  This week, I”ll be packing up and taking several boxes of toys from our home to my parents” home.  This way, the toys that we have special attachments to won”t be gone for good, just gone from our toyroom.  

3. Be realistic.
When a toy has been played with and loved on for a long time, I find that I want to tuck away and keep it in a special place for the girls to have and keep when they leave home.  I think this is a fine idea, but I have to remember they aren”t going to want an extra large U-Haul box full of toys traveling with them from college dorm to first apartment to first home.  How will I decide?  I”ll probably just have to cross my fingers and go with my gut in making these decisions. 

In the creative family, Amanda Blake Soule writes

When it comes to playthings for our children, I can”t emphasize enough that for creative play, less really is more in regard to toys . . . A sad product of our modern world is that our children are taught early on to overconsume and want more, more, and more.

I know the hearts of the people in our lives who love our girls, and I know they would not want this outcome for them.  I know they would ultimately want the girls to have bright, organized, inspiring spaces to play – spaces that have just enough instead of way too much in the way of toys, even if that means finding a new home for something they gave to the girls as a gift.  And I think I”ll find this to be the most helpful motivating thought as I attempt to invite more simplicity into our home this week.

Do you get emotional when you sort through your children”s toys?  Or do you tend to be more practical?  What are your best toy decluttering thoughts, tips, and strategies?

Let Go, And Go With It

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One of the most powerful, inspiring, and helpful books I’ve read in the past year is Amanda Blake Soule’s the creative family.  Chock-full of ideas and brimming with beauty and delight, it has become a sort of guide book for the way I want our family to approach creating.  We’ve got a long way to go, of course, but this book is an endless supply of inspiration.  I’m sure I’ll reference it many times here at Simple Kids.

In Chapter Seven, “Exploring Through Nature”, Amanda describes the sweet wonder of creating fairy houses with your children.  I was captivated by this magical and imaginative idea, and so Dacey and I began working on creating fairy houses last summer when she was three.  I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted the fairy house to look like, but her ideas always took a very different, definitely less constructed path.  I found I had to step back and remind myself why it was we were building fairy houses, and it wasn’t so we could be featured in a minature version of Town&Country magazine.

A few weeks ago when the weather turned warm and wildflowers began springing up in our yard, Dacey and I were enjoying some quiet play time in the backyard.  I can’t remember who it was that first suggested that we build our first fairy house of the season, but we were soon hard at work collecting our materials – sticks, handfuls of grass, the odd pinecone here and there, and lots and lots of flowers.  In no time at all, Dacey was more concerned with her wildflower harvest than with the building of a fairy house, and once again I found I had to make the mindful choice to just step back and follow her playful lead.

Eventually, Dacey decided that what “Taluah” (our resident backyard fairy) would want more than a house would be a little garden.  This meant, of course, grabbing a shovel and digging up earth.  In my grown-up mind, this was a good start on a flower garden.  What I didn’t foresee was Dacey deciding to completely bury the flowers under the mound of dirt she dug up.  In her mind, that was planting flowers and that was precisely what she intended to do for Taluah, despite my gentle protests and attempts to persuade her otherwise.

plantingflowers

After the flowers were “planted” and we had gone inside and thoughts and talk of Taluah were put away until another day, I thought about how often I want to step in and direct my daughter’s imaginative play.  Is it the dormant teacher in me awakening to see the lesson plan is not being followed?  Maybe it’s the big sister within who never really recovered from being so bossy in play.  Regardless of the reason, the urge to insist on doing things the “right way” in play is something I have to intentionally resist.

It’s just play.  It’s just for fun.  Playing is learning.

These are mantras I find myself repeating.  Hopefully one day, the stepping back and letting go will be my first response.  In my heart I know that when it comes to play, the most important rule to be heeded is to just go with it.

Am I alone in my bossy tendencies?  Anyone else have to be reminded to let go and go with the flow?  Or perhaps you can share some gentle pointers for the rest of us on how to step back and let play unfold in a wonderfully organic way.  I would love to hear your thoughts!