I do love spending time with my children; after all I am a stay at home mother.
However sometimes there are types of “play” that I’m not all that crazy about. I actually like imaginary play, art projects, food projects, and Lego building. I despise having to dress up the dollies over and over again with different outfits…and I dread having to play certain role playing games with my son while he tells me blow by blow how I’m supposed to act, only to be curtly corrected when I’ve not talked exactly how Luke Skywalker talks during the part when he’s in the swamp in the Degobah system. So you can imagine my anxiety at the prospect of being home with my two kids (2 and 6) for an entire week…unexpectedly. My son’s school went on strike this past week and my little first grader, along with the entire neighborhood were home.
Despite my planning abilities I’m terrible at actually planning concrete activities and crafts for my kids. I’m a much more “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of entertainer. Sometimes that’s really fun, and sometimes that’s really painful…for both my kids…and me. So this week when faced with having both kiddos home all day I came up with some spur of the moment activities that I thought I’d share with you in case you’re a terrible planner like me.
- Nature Walk—When I tell my son we’re going on a nature walk he complains instantly. Anything that takes him away from legos or his neighborhood friends is met with resistance. It takes everything in my inner power to go to my zen place during these moments. Typically he throws himself dramatically on the floor. I quietly pack a backpack with snacks and water and put the toddler into the car (who at this point is also crying because oh my god no more little people will fit into this teeny tiny purse and why can’t I carry my dolly’s high chair with me on the nature walk). Ok, I’m getting off the point. Take your kids on a nature walk. Make it interesting like I did this past week. We called it the” five senses nature walk.” I gave my son a pad of paper (he is learning to read and write currently) and we walked through the woods. He eagerly noted everything he smelled, heard, felt, saw, and tasted (he tasted mass produced nutri grain bars—but who’s keeping score here anyway, right?). Just leaving the house and changing up the environment changed the mood and everyone was excited to be out and about. If your kids can’t read or write yet you can give them little bags and let them collect items off the ground. Bring food on the walk…everything tastes better when you’re picnicking in the woods.
- Recycle Art— I consider myself artsy, and creative. I don’t however have a fancy craft box. I do have a bunch of pipe cleaners, googly eyes, poofy puff thingies, and glue, and markers…all of which were left over from past projects…my box of art supplies is kind of like the land of the misfit toys from that Rudolph movie. We do have a lot of recyclable garbage. After all, we’re good ole Vermonters who compost and recycle. So I go thru the bin and lay everything out on the table and let the kids pull things apart, glue yogurt containers together, slap on some sparkly glue and call it a UFO. Bam! Instant new toy and no money spent. My son brought me home a bunch of recycle art from school last year. I remember him presenting it to me with a huge smile and big eyes full of pride. So what if it was a tomato container with mesh wrapped around it stuffed with old newspaper. It hangs on my wall in our bedroom. For real. Romantic, eh? But regardless, creating art fuels confidence and creativity.
- The Old Hide the Quarter in the Leaf Pile Trick—This activity is literally what the title suggests. My in-laws came up the other night to save me from losing my mind visit the kids. Before I knew it, a group of neighborhood kids were furiously clawing through a leaf pile. My father-in-law had hidden a quarter in the leaf pile. I don’t know about you, but my six year old is into saving money for big ticket items…like the Lego death star. He will do just about anything for money. Those kiddos were literally looking in the leaf pile for 30 minutes and enjoying every moment of it. If you don’t want to spare a quarter or think it might be too small, try other toys and hide them. Or you can elevate the game and hide random things around the yard…an outdoor treasure hunt. And unless your child has a compromised immune system, who cares if it’s raining outside? Bundle ‘em up and get outside. Two weeks ago only ¼ of the kids on Henry’s soccer team showed up for their game because it was raining. What? What kind of message are we sending our kids if we let a little rain stop them from having fun. Again, if your kid is sick or is being babysat by someone other than you, or you are sick, I get it, and I understand why you wouldn’t want to go outside.
- Outdoor Obstacle Course—I know…more of me going on about the great outdoors. This one is super fun, and really easy. If you have a garage and a bunch of random junk in it, you can do this. Find said junk and random items and set up old flower pots or buckets, or large kitchen bowls, make the kids run around them. Put out some balls, and make them dribble the balls around an obstacle. Create a fake balance beam, make them jump over stuff. If you combine all these activities in a way that they start on one side of your lawn and finish on the other, and you time them, they will love it. My dear friend Shannon introduced me to this idea and we’ve done this now two years in a row at my son’s birthday parties. The kids love it. I love it! I always forget about this idea and it comes to me when I need it most, so I still consider it a spur of the moment idea.
- Ask Your Kids What They Want To Do—I often spend so much time just coming up with the ideas on how to have fun and forget that my children actually have a voice. Sometimes Henry will say he doesn’t know what to do when I ask him…and so we sit and stare at the walls together on the couch. It’s kind of nice. That kind of down time is where some of our best conversations begin. And it’s ok to have downtime with them. Something I’m still learning to embrace. It’s ok for them to be bored and not know what to do. We don’t always have to come up with ideas for them. Letting them ruminate can help them foster independence and creativity, and strategic thinking (lord Jesus, I sound like an MBA student).