It’s true that the simplest items make the best play things.
A few weeks ago, the kids and I went for a walk and stopped into a Starbucks for hot chocolate. The barista was an elderly gentleman, who was especially kind to the kids, taking time to really talk to them and hear what they had to say about everything. He told us of his grandson, living in another state, and how much he enjoys getting to spend time with him when he’s able.
When our drinks were ready, he brought them to our table (which was a pleasant surprise!). Then he returned a moment later with an entire sleeve of the sample-sized holiday cups. He said they were getting rid of them because clearly the holidays were over. He said to William, “I bet you can think up something really great to do with these cups.”
That was all the inspiration William needed. He quickly set to work creating a pyramid:
Later, on our walk, he laid a cup on the sidewalk, and he and Ryah chased it as the wind nudged it along.
For the next several days, the kids built all sorts of towers and pyramids. They played house and used them as their dishes. They filled them with coins. I was amazed how long they stayed interested in a sleeve of paper cups. In fact, they continued playing with them until all the cups were smashed, torn, or lost.
I’m so thankful for the kindness of the gentleman at Starbucks, and I was thrilled to watch my children use their imaginations with something so simple.
What simple things do your children enjoy playing with?
One of my fears with my children was that the space between their ages would make it difficult or impossible for them to have close relationships. My own relationship with my little sister growing up was probably my most precious relationship during my growing up years. I cried several times when it seemed like the 5.5 years between Naomi and Will, and the nearly 4 years between Will and Ryah would be an impassable canyon.
But then, their relationships blossomed naturally. Apart from the usual sibling skirmishes, my children actually get along beautifully. They love each other, and genuinely enjoy spending special time together. It’s been such a blessing to see the special ways they connect. Their connections are very different from my sister and me, since we were just 2.5 years apart. Instead, I find that my older kids enjoy reliving their favorite memories with their younger siblings, and the younger ones are open to trying new things with the help of a big brother or sister.
One example of that is when Naomi has given some of her old favorite toys to her little sister. Recently, we pulled out a photo album of when Naomi was three years old, and this is what we found:
This immediately sent us running to pull out the exact same jammies and of course the beloved princess couch. We all laughed in amazement at how similar Ryah and Naomi looked! Ryah could not be convinced that the above picture was Naomi. She repeatedly insisted, “No! That Ryah!”
We quickly decided to stage the same photo with the little sister.
Then we all got a HUGE laugh when 11-year old Naomi jumped on the couch in the same position.
I’m so glad my children didn’t live up to my fears. I love their special relationships and love for one another.
Naomi and I recently started a very special tradition that I am excited to see where it goes.
I bought her a small spiral-bound notebook. I left it on her pillow one afternoon with a note on the first page, which read:
Happy Valentine’s Day! I bought this journal for us to use together. My hope is that we can write back and forth in it about anything and everything. There are no rules with this journal. We can write about whatever we want. We can write as often as we want. I look forward to sharing this with you!
Since then, Naomi and I have been leaving it in one another’s rooms every few days.
Sometimes I leave her an open ended question.
She has been reading through Proverbs lately, and she often leaves me a verse that caught her attention.
Once we daydreamed together about our dream vacation.
Today I wrote down one of my favorite memories of her.
We have used it for apology notes and notes of encouragement.
I started this tradition, because I have noticed that sometimes it’s easier for Naomi to write about her thoughts and feelings than to express them verbally. My hope is that this will be a great way for us to deepen our relationship and to enjoy each other even more fully.
What special ways do you connect with and communicate with your children?
So, I don’t typically do a lot of holiday-related crafts with my kids. Not because I don’t want to, but because frankly I forget. (I’m honestly not sure how that’s possible when the last several weeks Pinterest has been blowing up with red, white, pink, and hearts out the wazoo.)
However, I do tend to realize the morning of the holiday that I really would like to commemorate the day in some crafty way with my kidlets. It is in that moment that I typically scan through my mental file of easy-to-pull-off crafts and find one that can be adapted for the holiday at hand.
Here’s one of those ideas. Last summer I posted a series of 101 Ideas for Bored Kids. One idea that jumped out today was Idea #64: Make a clay handprint. I thought, Hello, I’ve got kids, they’ve got hands, I love my kids, I love their hands. Valentine’s Day is about love. Bam.
And thus we took a common craft, threw some pink food coloring in and called it a Valentine’s Day craft.
Just like that.
What crafts have you adapted for a holiday or theme in the past?
My kids are artists – way more so than I am. They spend hours each week creating masterpieces – from painting to drawing to coloring to molding with Play-Doh, these kids are constantly churning out beautiful creations.
I love all of them, and it melts my heart when they bring one to me and say, “Mommy, I made this for you!” (Seriously, is there anything more precious than the first time your baby draws a heart for you??)
The problem comes in, though, in the fact that I have three artists. If each of them creates 3 masterpieces per week (which is a low estimate) that means I end up displaying and/or storing…
9 masterpieces each week…
36 masterpieces each month…
468 masterpieces each year…
25,272 masterpieces by the time they all graduate from high school!
(Assuming, of course that they continue this rate throughout the teenage years…. yeah right. )
Of course those numbers are silly, and naturally I don’t keep every scribble my children create. But if you’re a parent you know what I mean. These projects are precious, and you feel guilty throwing any of them away, but seriously, are we really going to keep all of them?
Enter a handy little app called Artkive.
Photo credit: Artkive
It’s a free app you can download to your iPhone or iPad. Once downloaded, you can set up a profile for each of your children. As they present you with their creations, you snap a quick photo and pin it under their name. There is an easy menu of options you can tag in the photo too, including date created, child’s age, title of the project, and any other notes about the project or how it was made.
Photo Credit: Artkive
After adding the project photo to the correct kid, you can also choose to share it with anyone you choose, but unless you share it, it will be kept private on your phone.
Finally, there is an option to print some of your child’s creations in a hardback book. Check out the Artkive website for their printing options. I havent tried this option yet, but I’ve been keeping a collection of Will’s projects from kindergarten, and I am hoping to make one specifically of his Kindergarten year.
Have you tried Artkive? What did you think of it?
So I’m pretty frustrated.
I really loved our homeschool curriculum that we selected at the beginning of the year. But that love is waning quickly.
In preschool, I made up our own curriculum. Thankfully, there are a lot of free resources for homeschoolers on the internet, so it was easy to find a wealth of ideas and printables in preschool. The downside of that was that it consumed a huge amount of time to sift through it all and put together our weekly lessons.
When we decided to continue homeschooling Will for Kindergarten, Brian urged me to purchase a pre-made curriculum. He pointed out that as life gets busier, it makes sense to look for ways to streamline all that I need to do. We researched the shiitake mushrooms out of the curriculum world, and finally settled on one that seemed to match our educational philosophy.
I was happy!
The year started off phenomenally. I love the unit study approach, which is what our curriculum uses. Will also loved the approach, as well as the minimal amounts of seat work (a big reason we chose this curriculum – it’s very hands-on). He was learning a lot, and I felt that this was a sustainable amount of work and preparation for me.
Then we hit November.
And things plateaued. At first I thought it was me. Then I thought it was William. Then I realized it was the curriculum. We literally reached this place where the learning just leveled off. For a good three weeks, every lesson plan was exactly. the. same. Just different letters. I thumbed ahead and was disappointed to realize that this repetition would likely continue until February or the beginning of March.
And it wasn’t good repetition. It was boring repetition. And I knew that I could not stomach that for much longer. Will was clearly ready to have more challenge, especially in the reading and math areas.
So I started supplementing again.
At this point I feel like I’m supplementing so much each day that I am ready to toss our curriculum out the window and just finish off the year on my own.
So, here’s my question for you: How do you know when to quit? When can you say that you’ve pressed through enough and that it’s just time to count your losses and move on? Has anyone else had this experience?
“Gah!” I finally exploded. “Quit being rude to your brother! Seriously, how many times do I have to tell you this?”
She looked down at her lap. “I don’t know,” she answered quietly.
I should have stopped there, but I was still fuming. “Do you have any thoughts you want to talk about with this?!”
Silence. Then the tears spilled over. Oh great, I rolled my eyes inwardly. Here come the water works.
Then the words spilled out faster and heavier than the tears, landing on my heart like a ten-ton weight. “I don’t know how many times I have to hear this. Every time you say it, I think, ‘I’m really going to try this time!’ And I really do want to do what you say, but I don’t know why, I just mess up… again.”
Then everything inside me cracked. I scooped her up in my arms as if she wasn’t an almost-woman, almost as big as me. I laid my head on her forehead and cried with her.
Finally, noses dripping I told her that I was wrong. She peeked at me through puffy eyes. You were wrong? She asked the question without words.
“You see, God tells me lots of things that I need to change and work on in my life. I need to not yell when I’m mad. I need to trust him when money is tight. I need to forgive seventy times seven times, even when it really, really hurts. And even though I’ve been a Christian for 26 years now, and even though I know what I should do, and even thought I want to do what’s right, I still mess up. All. the. time.”
I had her full attention now.
Then I spoke from the deepest core of what I know to be true. “Even though I mess up in the same ways over and over and over again, God has never asked me, ‘How many times do I have to tell you this?’ He’s never said, ‘When are you ever going to figure this out?’ Instead, he keeps on forgiving me, and cleaning up my heart, and drawing me toward being more like him, a little bit at a time. That’s the whole reason Jesus came – to forgive the ugly parts of me that I’ll never be able to fix on my own. So, if God doesn’t say that to me, I shouldn’t say that to you either. I’m so sorry.”
Even though I’ve asked her that question at least a hundred times in her short life, she forgave me instantly. She’s never looked back. I have so much to learn from her.
And I have banished that phrase from my mouth forever.
Last night we made the sun craft as part of our Truth in the Tinsel celebration. I had originally planned to let the kids cut their own strips of paper for the decorations, but they were both being pretty difficult and stinky leading up to our craft time, so I decided to keep cutting utinsels out of their hands.
Instead, I let them do all the gluing. For Will that wasn’t such a big deal (he gets to glue most days in school). But for Ryah, it was a BIG deal – this is the first time she’s ever used a glue stick!
You couldn’t tell though – she handled it like a pro. Will got done quite a bit faster than his sister, so he decided to decorate both sides of his sun.
Oh and for some reason he decided that he wanted to communicate only by whistling this entire evening. It was actually pretty cute.
I love how these turned out! We’ll hang them on the tree once they’re dry.
Good morning friends! Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite blogs. It’s one that I check first thing every morning, in eager anticipation. The blog is called No Twiddle Twaddle. Each day (well, most days) Bethany, the author, posts a list of children’s books, all of which can be downloaded for FREE that day from Amazon!
These books are designed for Kindles, but if you have an iPhone or iPad, you can download the free Kindle app and have access to most of the titles on your device.
We have gotten some wonderful titles from Bethany’s lists. I think you’ll find that you quickly fall in love with No Twiddle Twaddle too.
P.S. If you’re struggling to help your young reader connect with books and reading, be sure to read my review of Melissa Taylor’s recent book called Book Love, over here.
I saw this on another blog awhile ago, so I can’t take credit for inventing this idea. However, I had to pass it on, because it really was a big hit in our house, and not just with the toddlers.
The idea is simple, really. Take masking tape or painters tape (just NOT duct tape!) and lay it on the floor to outline a little city full of criss-crossing roads.
Be creative! Make roads in various directions, with different lengths and turns. It doesn’t need to look like a grid.
Then get out the cars, trucks, and trains. At first the kids had fun creating a little town with houses, people, and other features. Then they drove their cars to “visit” each other.
Next, they brought out the train tracks and constructed (with help from Naomi and me) an elaborate network of tracks, complete with little bridges jumping over our tape roads. This was a BIG hit, and the kids literally played this way for two days!
Finally, when the fun was starting to wind down, William suggested that they be monsters and destroy the town. This was of course everyone’s favorite activity, but it did also signal to me that the tape town had probably run its course. I removed the tape that night and put everything away. When the kids asked why the next morning, I cheerfully told them that we will definitely be building our tiny town again soon!
A few words about this activity: If you struggle with having toys scattered around, just take a deep breath and let it go for a day or so. If you’re really struggling with the mess, maybe you can limit it to just a few cars or trains, or consider laying it out in an out-of-the way area like the playroom or a bedroom. Also, be sure and test a section of your flooring with the tape before you lay it all out to be sure it doesn’t ruin your floors.
Other than that, have fun with it! This is great imaginative play for your toddlers, and big kids will enjoy playing too.