Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mom would say #15: "What's around you?" for preschoolers

I recently spoke with a friend who considers herself creativity-challenged. She's intentional, methodical, and deliberate. I love our conversations, because she slows down the whirlwind in the my head - makes me ponder - gives me space to think.

We brainstormed about what to do with a toddler or pre-schooler in the "times between" planned activities. Here's what swirled through my head, thinking "What do little ones enjoy?"
  • Rice-box - the indoor version of a sandbox. Pour a sack of rice into a big bowl and place it on a tarp or blanket that can be easily shaken out. Add spoons, measuring cups, drinking cups, sand shovels, little trucks or dolls (beach day for the dolly?), etc. and steer your 3-yr-old in that direction. For a more complicated version: click here.
  • Sink or float - David Letterman did this on his show in a big way, asking, "Will it sink or float?" 
For our 2-yr-old granddaughter, I add 2" of water to a basin and put it on the floor or our indestructible coffee table. (If you're afraid of water spillage, put the basin on a towel or tarp.) Then gather household things - kitchen utensils from wooden spoons to metal forks to plates and food (noodles, sealed packages of spices or grains, etc.) Before placing them in the water, speculate together, "Will it sink or float?" and watch the results.
For a less messy version, click here.
  • More or less - compare bigger or smaller, colors, shapes, textures, smells, etc. A child can spend a long time exploring things we take for granted. For example, go outside and look at blades of grass, leaves, flowers, stones, raindrops - whatever is there. 
Put things side by side and compare them.
Pick them up and talk about what they feel like. 
Close your eyes and find bigger and smaller stones. 
After a rainy day, toss a few stones into a puddle and listen to the different sounds.
  • Tell Mommy (or Daddy) a story - have your child tell you the story in their favorite book. 
Have them draw pictures and tell you about them. 
Ask them tomake up a story about their toys and playmates. 
They may like to retell and recreate a story they've heard.
  • "And here's what happened" - use stuffed animals or dolls to model and playact behaviors that you see - or prefer to see - in the child.
For example, our granddaughter often wants to be held ... but her mom's back is fragile. One day I told her the story of "Mommy hold me." Our little stuffed mouse jumps on Mommy mouse, who falls over crying, "Ouch my back hurts!" "Oooooh, what do you think?" I ask little Miss K? She watches openmouthed. "Does Mommy's back hurt? Who will hold Little Mouse?" We let little mouse run to daddy mouse, who swings her up and holds her, tells her she's such a good girl.

We do a lot of role playing with old Barbies, stuffed toys, and even popsicle sticks that we name for her family members. 
On different days, we give various outcomes for the same scenario. Sometimes I tell the story; sometimes she tells me the story. Once in a while, I ask her what she thinks should happen and we go with that story line.

What have you done with your preschooler in 15-20 minutes ... that's spontaneous or a teaching moment wrapped in fun?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mom would say ... #14: Where can I find it?

Here's a link to some wonderful resources for children.

YouthPlay.org talks about where to find books, crafts, supplies, etc. from math to science, from art to music, from language to social studies. Community resources as well - you'll get lots of ideas by clicking here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mom Would Say #13: Christmas is about Jesus

Most of us feel caught up in the holiday rush. With kids underfoot, the daily routines are tiring enough.

But then we're expected to have a clean house for guests, host family or friends, and find and wrap presents. Trim the tree. Decorate the house. Bake cookies. Visit. Go to Christmas parties... on and on it goes. It's exhausting just to think about December.

Here are some ideas to help you set priorities and enjoy the month:
  1. Remember that it's about Jesus. Write down some things you know about Him. Loving. Kind. Gentle. Giving. Caring. Constantly adjust your attitude to match His as you move into the season.
  2. Focus on people not things. What will make the people around you feel comfortable and loved?
  3. Clean where people gather: the kitchen, living room, the entry closet, and your bathroom/s. (Lock bedroom doors if you don't have time to tidy them.) If your main areas are tidy and clean, people feel comfortable in them.
  4. Decorate within your means and for your season of life. When the kids were little, we made decorations and hung unbreakable ornaments. As they got older, I hung more precious things on the tree. 
  5. Establish a tradition or two. You don't have to have 10 family traditions. The kids will remember the one or two that they connect with. Watch to see what they love doing, eating, and where they want to go. Do it again next year and the next to set up a meaningful family tradition. Note: persist through the teens. Though they groan and moan, the continuity and memories build up as family history. Things that go wrong become tall tales. Good things create warmth and connections.
  6. Pray and read the Christmas story together. Read through a short Advent portion, like the one from Focus on the Family or click here. Thank God every day for the Savior who was willing to live among us. Think about it: God with us ... as a baby, toddler, child, teen, young adult, grownup. Marvelous and mysterious, isn't it?
  7. Keep the heart of Mary even though sometimes you'll feel like Martha! Listen to what God is saying ... even in the noise, the hustle and bustle of giving, and while guests come and go. An excellent reflection on this is Joanna Weaver's book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.
  8. Be nice. You'll feel crabby, overwhelmed, and impatient. We all do, especially when we feel stressed. Breathe deeply and take an internal timeout when you need it. Treat others with respect and model kindness to your kids. Let them know you expect them to behave with respect, good manners, and kindness to you and others, too. This can be as simple as answering the phone with, "Merry Christmas. John speaking."
  9. Jot down things you want to remember in a Christmas journal, a line or two at a time. Put it somewhere safe so you can recapture the memories in years to come.
  10. Last but not least, GIVE yourself away. Make philanthropy and service part of your Christmas. Take the kids to a shelter to serve. Buy and wrap presents for the less fortunate. Invite a family to spend Christmas with you. Sponsor orphan or support a missionary as a family giving project.
Merry Christmas! and have a lovely December.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mom would say ... #12 We're in this together

Do your kids have regular chores? If so, you teaching them life skills and a work ethic. A recent study shows how doing chores boosts future success for children. I'm not surprised.

By the time our kids hit their teens, they were dividing most of the housework between them. We didn't have yard work, but we assigned our 3 sons and one daughter four weekly inside chores (besides caring for their rooms):
  • dust the house, including picture frames and door moldings
  • vacuum the house
  • clean bathrooms (2 1/2)
  • wash down kitchen appliances, cupboards, and counters
Our children chose the chore they disliked least ... or thought they could get done quickest. Once in a while they'd swap, but usually they stuck with what they'd chosen. That made it easy for me to evaluate their efforts. I tried not to be too hard on them and to appreciate their help. I'm not perfectionist - but I did note when they'd skimmed or done a lousy job. Doing GOOD work is important.

They also cooked sometimes, messing up a clean kitchen or experimenting on us with strange food combinations. Our rule, which acted as incentive for learning to cook? If you cooked for the family, someone else would clean up. When they cooked or baked on their own, they cleaned up their own mess unless someone pitched in - which the other kids often did. I bought groceries or let them forage the pantry and fridge. Today, they're creative cooks and bakers and know how to keep house.

When parents get too impatient or fussy to let their children help out, we prevent them from learning how to work with others and contribute to a family.

Sure, it's a pain to have little ones "get in the way" as they ride the vacuum. Elementary students can splash more water out of the sink than actually wash dishes. Teens take a long time to fold clothes and put them away. Don't give up!

A lack of skill when tackling a new job is a given, no matter what the chore - or future employment, for that matter! Training can be boring and repetitious. It can also be good fun to hang out together and admire what you've done.

Are you willing to invest in your kids' future? They'll learn at least three things from doing regular chores:
  1. Significance - I'm important and my family depends on my contribution.
  2. Cooperation - my good work and yours make a difference. Working together, we make a positive contribution to our group.
  3. Usefulness - what I do is necessary work. Maintaining what we have is resourcefulness that is good for the planet and good for our family.
For tips on strategic management of household chores, click here. Another resource: here's a chore reminder list.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mom would say ... #10: Real beauty

This wonderful guest post is from blogger Asha Grinnel (bio below)
 * * *
Something Momma taught me...

Momma never put too much stock in outer beauty. Sure we could easily be caught in Sephora or paging through the latest issue of Vogue, but it was all pure fun. Looking good on the outside was just one of the delightful perks of being a woman. Everything my Mom really wanted me to know about beauty can be found in this verse:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:30

As I journey through parenting my own darling daughter, I want to instill the same sense of real beauty that my Mom left inside of me. I want her to be drawn to the heart of a person. I want her to see beneath the layers of other people's pain. I want her to be completely confident in who she is and know without any doubt that she was made outrageously beautiful inside and out. Her beauty, my beauty, all of our beauty lies in how deeply loved we really are. Nothing can separate us from that.

Something Alana has been teaching me...

My little girl is so quick to delight in this world. Can you remember the last time you were truly delighted by something? It's hard for me to even slow down enough to take things in. Some days there is too much to be done, not enough hands, and I'm just tired—worn thin. Alana has been teaching me the incredible merger of delight and exclamation. It's impossible for her to delight in something with out squealing at the top of her lungs about it. This kind of response to delight is contagious and it draws other people in instantly. So here is this little girl, taking pure delight in the world God made. In an airplane flying high above. In a stick. In a flower. In a balloon at the end of a grocery story aisle. In a stranger. In me. Her entire day revolves around delighting and responding. If you think about it, that changes everything.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. Psalm 37:4

Something I'm learning about myself...

I hear a lot about seasons in life and people around me seem to be constantly striving for more or yearning for what they once had. I hear statements like, “Oh, soak in this time...it was the BEST time of my life!” Or something like this, “I can't wait to be married, finish school, get a new job, etc.” I've felt the Lord urging me lately to embrace exactly where I am right now. Not because it is 'the best time' of my life or because I'm forcing myself into this false contentment, but because I want to live fully alive. The only way I know how to be fully alive is to be fully present. I really want to bloom, right now, in this season—because the Lord planted me here.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver

Asha is a lover of family dance parties, gourmet cooking, and spending time by the sea. She is married to the man of her dreams and a momma to one darling daughter.  You can find her blogging at Only True North.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mom would say ... #9 Your life at home

Older career women are bemoaning the attrition of young women from careers to home management and raising children. Somehow we didn't think the choice of "stay at home" was a good one in the 70s-90s. After all, women won the right to leave the home for a career.

But their daughters ... the kids shuttled off to daycare and babysitters ... the ones who hardly saw their parents? Those gals are choosing to stay home.

"Your life matters," my mom would tell me when I was drowning in diapers and baby food. "Being at home with your children shapes a whole generation. You may have more influence by loving and caring for these few precious ones than you may ever experience by fulfilling your job description elsewhere."

We can't all stay home. And we don't all choose to. But let's give a hurrah today for those stay-at-home moms who pick up the slack for those of us who "go to work" each day.

Many of them:
  • provide an alternative to the "you have to work to be significant" propaganda targeted at women
  • make us all smarter by using their education and skills to interact with neighbors, friends, and children
  • keep our neighborhoods safe when they go for walks and notice friends and strangers
  • keep our schools going by volunteering in the classroom and on the playground
  • shop during the day, giving worker bees jobs!
  • cook homemade food, staving off junk-food diets that will cost us billions in healthcare as we age
  • provide a nurturing space for their children and their friends
  • keep our kids safe by providing a friend's home  as a hangout before or after school
If you're doing all or some of these things, please recognize your role at home as a significant one. You are part of the glue that holds society together.

Some of us have to work outside the home. There's no guilt or condemnation for that! But if you can stay home, you're one of the lucky ones. Your influence will shape the next generation.

Mom would say, "Do the best job you can! and be content with your privileged life."

What part of staying at home do you love the most?

Going around Facebook ...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mom would say... #8 Clean your room

"A clean house helps organize the mind," according to my mom. "Everything seems clearer when the house is in order."

Need help to tackle a room (or house) out of control? It's easy to let things slide, but these resources can help get your home back.

1. Don Aslett has written a bunch of books that I found helpful: he's a professional cleaner with amazing ideas on thorough cleaning with efficiency. Start here if you need a cleaning coach.
2. The magazine my mom used to read - Woman's Day - is online with tips for quickly cleaning a house.
3. If you thrive on time management ("I have 1 - or 5 or 10 - minutes, so what can I get done?"), these Housewives checklists are for you!
4. Martha Stewart on laundry. Check out the other great tips on her website.
5. WikiHow is amazingly practical about cleaning a child's room.

Keep in mind:
  • To have a home is a gift, whether it's rented or owned. Many people have never had a place to call their own.
  • Your house reflects your state of mind and your taste.
  • That said, rich or poor is not the issue. You can be clean or dirty in either.
  • Hospitality is your gift to the world. Invite the world in!
  • People love you because you're nice "people," not because of your house or fancy furnishings.
Have any great resources to share? We'd love them (comments below).