Morning activities: start the day with play!

The following post is by contributor Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

What’s the mood like in your house in the morning? My girls happen to wake up early most days, ready to go. I, however, am not nearly as perky as they are. I’m not big on plopping kids in front of the TV first thing in the morning (at least not every day), so I needed an alternative for my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girls.

When my girls were preschool age, I started setting out an art, exploration, or play activity at night before I went to bed. I chose very simple activities that the girls could play with independently, often using toys that had been tucked away or art supplies we hadn’t used in a while. The set-up time was always under 5 minutes.

When we got up in the morning, the girls could jump right in and start playing. They were always so thrilled by the surprise of seeing a project first thing in the morning – even if it was just a bin of Legos spread out on the table or a stack of forgotten coloring books and new crayons. I could sit with them, have some morning conversation, and wake up over a cup of tea or coffee.

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From the Archives: Bathtime Meditations

Today I’m revisiting the Simple Kids archives to share one of the first articles I wrote after taking over Simple Kids last spring.  We have added so many new readers to our community since that time!  Now that the summer season has drawn to a close and many families have settled into familiar rhythms and routines, I thought it would be timely to revisit a universal aspect of parenting: bathtime.

bathtubfunphoto courtesy of Ernst Moeksis

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 went 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 Real Simple or enjoy a few precious minutes with pen and paper and no one trying to grab them from my hands.  But every now and again, I pause and remember to turn the time spent kneeling beside the tub into a mindful, intentional, reflective celebration of my daughters and our day.

What makes bathtime special for you and your children?