By Malissa McClintock, Contributing Writer
I can hardly believe that when I look at the calendar the word March stares back at me. March means spring is coming, and with it even crazier weather than the winter brought. With two very active little girls and the impending birth of a little boy, I am compiling a list of ways to entertain my girls in the house. I am trying to create simple ideas that we can enjoy without buying anything extra or expensive. I’m also trying to prevent creating any extra work for myself — I’ll have plenty with the kids. So here’s a small list of what we are planning on doing as I grow bigger, the spring rains fall, and a little boy is born.
Both girls attend a simple gymnastics class once a week. Their classes are a great introduction to skills, listening skills, following direction from other means of authority and a physical energy outlet. They love doing their climbing and tumbles and try to do them at home. Santa capitalized on this at Christmas by bringing them a small tumble mat as their big gift. I have moved their little yard slide in from the garage and cleaned it up. We have gathered together all the extra bed pillows from around the house that are no longer good for sleeping but are great as padding. Our upstairs hall is just the right size past the steps towards our bedroom to make a little gymnastics course. They can tumble. They can balance. They can slide then do a forward roll. They can get their pent up energy OUT! And they are in a small contained space that allows me to watch them easily and at one time. So grab some pillows, cushions, towels and blankets, and foster some little gymnasts.
Since we’re talking pillows and blankets, let’s talk forts and boxes. All this baby stuff that I’m sorting through has left us with tons of boxes of various sizes. Enter the fort. The girls LOVE to climb in and out of the boxes and pretend to be all kinds of critters — from bears, to dragons, to puppies. They pull out their playsilks to make rainbows over their fort. They turn the boxes into examination tables for all their doctor check ups to their clinics. They have even attempted to use them as blocks to build a giant house. Boxes (and forts) are great fun, occupy their minds and their time, and are readily available.
My girls will sit at the table with crayons, paper, and stickers for hours. So, I’ve been attempting to stack our supplies with glue sticks, magazines, catalogs, newspaper left overs, and general paper scraps to give them a deeper supply list. We are also planning on doing some treasure hunting to gather Fairy supplies to make some treasures from those as well.
One of my favorite books, Scribble Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl, was a great resource for me as a preschool teacher and Museum educator. It taught me to teach the process, not the product. Watercoloring is more about learning the medium rather than making a masterpiece. I also have added some less than traditional supplies to our art center — cotton balls, Q-Tips, cars, huge paper, Model Magic and paints. Giving them more time to explore through more mediums gives us a longer run at the art table. Sure, it might be messy, but they’re only little once. A controlled , supervised mess is much more welcome than a mess created when left to their own devices.
On warm days, we grab our easels and head outside. Even if for 30 minutes, so chalk, paint, and fresh air will do us all a world of good.
This fall we used mod podge to preserve some leaves for our fall table. As the spring leaves emerge, Miss Moo will use her handy, dandy camera to take photos for us to use on our nature table. We will also try our hand at drying some flowers and herbs from around our house to adorn our table. Last spring we made leaf prints with our Getting OUTSIDE on the days that we can for walks, adventures, and even picnics will be a welcome break in the newness of a Baby Brother while still giving me the comforts of home. Moo also enjoys bird watching which we can do on nature walks and treasure hunts for our seasonal table.
The girls love to help me cook. This love will be particular helpful as we make some dishes to freeze for when Baby Boy arrives. I don’t allow them to do anything dangerous when they assist me in the kitchen and I always have my eye on them. But stirring pots, measuring wet and dry ingredients, and helping me put things into storage containers can be both helpful, educational, and empowering for them. They both want to help me and prepare the house for their brother. Giving them tasks to focus on helps me remain calm during the day and gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment in household tasks.
And, When All Else Fails…
Throw them in the tub! Bubbles, bowls, and bath water make unending fun for toddler and preschoolers. They can bail water for HOURS. They can swim like mermaids and make bubble cakes for far longer than you think they can. If you have bath crayons and bath paints, you have an even longer window of enjoyment. They don’t need expensive toys to entertain them. Just provide them something they can use with water and let them have at it!
Keeping your kids entertained at home can seem overwhelming. But if you look past the planning and more into the daily doing, simple activities will become those they enjoy the most. All they need is your time and attention. They rest will fall into place.