It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Though they crawl through the valley of the shadow of death

The children run the loop in my house. Living room, front hall, dining room… round and round and round and round they go. They’ve been at it for, oh, about 12 minutes so far. Non-stop.

It is currently 28 degrees, with a humidex of 39. (That’s 82 and 102 respectively for those still in the 19th century.) Yesterday it peaked out at 44.

Ye gods.

Twenty-eight, which feels like thirty-nine, and the children have been running and running and running and running.

My house has no AC.

We will be going to the park shortly, but I had a few small tasks to complete first. And while I do this and that, they run and run and run. But you know, the longer this goes on, the more my attention shifts from “Ye GODS! How can they STAND it?” to something else entirely. After another four or five minutes, I have to say something.

I pause as I wipe down the dining table and catch their attention.

“Hey, you guys! You have been running and running and the babies have been crawling around and getting in your way, and you haven’t knocked them over even once! In fact, you haven’t even bumped them! Way to go! You’re really being careful!”

Because really, it’s entirely remarkable. The babies, oblivious to their near-mortal peril, are crawling directly in the path of the thundering hoards. They are meandering, they are tottering, they are making odd changes of direction. They are not, in any way, shape, or form, taking any account of the speeding pre-schoolers who are whipping past.

And yet they are unscathed. Uninjured. Untrammeled.

If that doesn’t call for some commendation, I don’t know what might.

“You guys are GREAT! Okay, off you go again, and keep up the good work!”

The thundering recommences. The babies remain unsquooshed.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | health and safety | , , , , , | 4 Comments



We’re getting a new couch and chairs for the living room
(well, new to us, at any rate)
and in preparation for its arrival
I’ve moved the old couch and loveseat out.
Which means that my livingroom is pretty much
devoid of furniture.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | quirks and quirkiness | , , , | 5 Comments

Non-toy playthings

When my eldest was three, she had a “doctor box”. I’m not quite sure how it earned that name, but that’s what it was.

The doctor box was in fact a shoe box, filled with … oh, this and that. A lot of it came from the kitchen: plastic measuring cups and spoons, a funnel or two, a mesh strainer. There was often a (carefully washed) pill-bottle or two in there. (Maybe that’s where the name came from?) Fabric scraps, a belt buckle, a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces, a couple of polished rocks, a feather. You get the idea. It was just a collection of interesting stuff. Interesting to a three-year-old, at any rate.

The contents of the box were not static. Some things were returned to their orginal spots, or used in crafts, or just lost somewhere. Other things were put in.

Whatever its contents, the doctor box was the favourite plaything for months and months. I could take it on car trips or trips to the doctor (maybe that explains the name?) or anywhere there’d be an otherwise boring downtime, knowing that the wonders of the doctor box would keep her happily occupied for as long as necessary.

Sometimes she was a doctor (name?), sometimes she was a chef, sometimes she was a fireman. (Not “fighter”. She was a fireman.) Sometimes the items in the box had personas and characters: they tended to squabble amongst themselves a lot, the strainers and the feather and the rocks. A lot of chatter, a lot of imagination, a lot of very happy hours were passed with the doctor box.

It was the best money I never spent.

I take a similar approach to the daycare. People often assume that, as a daycare home, I must be overrun with toys. It’s true, I have more toys stored in my dining room than the average mother of teens and a twenty-something! But I’m quite, quite sure I have far fewer toys kicking around than many (most?) homes with only one toddler. In part, that’s simply practicality: I have a small house. I do not want piles of multi-coloured clutter toys littering my home. I do not want them, but, even more to the point, children do not need them.

Children do not need great mounds of toys. I am convinced that children with shelves and closets and cupboards full of toys are poorer at amusing themselves, and more in need of distraction, than children accustomed to fewer toys. Just because they have fewer toys does not mean they play less! They just play differently. One might argue, more creatively, using more imagination.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s discovered the glories of the non-toy. I know I’m not because the writers and commenters over at Unclutterer have come up with a lovely long list of toy alternatives. Don’t stop with the post. The commenters have a ton of good ideas!

One might note that a significant number of these non-toy playthings look to the adult eyes like work: sorting socks, making cookies, straightening the fringe on the carpet. Not to the child! With these kinds of activities, the children’s play is not something remote and unconnected with the Real Life of the household, but is, instead, part of it. This sort of children’s play models adult behaviour, helps children feel part of the family, gives them real, productive tasks in which to take pride. It builds self-esteem.

It is we adults who have decided that “play” is by definition frivolous, with no agenda but the activity itself. For children, play is how they make sense of the world around them. Everything and anything is play fodder: colouring, singing, sorting socks, putting dirty dishes in the sink (non-breakable, at this age!), blocks, puzzles, washing the car, counting to ten, sweeping up the dried leaves that fell off their leaf belts. Play is not frivolous, it is practicing life.

Life. Work, recreation, even conflict. It’s all fodder for play.

My, I’ve wandered from my original idea… All right, given that we needn’t feel guilty for “only” baking with our kids and “only” letting them help with chores, rather than playing with them; given that you can choose not to spend a heap of money on a mound of toys… Given all that, how does this manifest in your home? What are some non-toy playthings or activities that your child particularly enjoys?

October 9, 2008 Posted by | crafts, daycare, Developmental stuff, socializing | , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Method! Order!

Pitter patter go the raindrops on my windowpane.

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM go the little feet in my home. (Little feet do not “pitter patter”. Whoever coined that phrase knew nothing — NOTHING — about children.)

“HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!” go the happy children.

My home gets very loud during days of rain. But, like the dog, if they don’t get their exercise, discipline tanks. Well-exercised puppies and toddlers are happy critters, cheerful and cooperative and surprisingly quiet. Puppies and toddlers with all that energy muted and denied chew books and bark in the house. Some of them have been known to pee on the floor. (And no, not the puppy.)

Though I discourage barking, laughter is a good sound.

“HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!”

Actually, it’s sort of weird laughter. A sort of machine-gun firing of hilarity. Mechanical, almost. And incessant. There is no ebb and flow of liquid giggling, no bursts of chortles with pauses between. Just a continuous, rapid-fire, “HA! HA! HA!”

“HA! HA! HA!” as they BAMBAMBAM.

All but Timmy, that is, who is concentrating his energy on the running. Which he does like the wind. Lordy, that boy is fast. You’d think with that kind of speed he wouldn’t be landing on his heels quite so hard, but you’d be wrong. He has the BAMBAMBAM down pat. Just no “HA! HA! HA!” to go with it. They’ve done two lengths of the house when Emily notices his defection from the ranks of hilarity.

“Timmy, why are you not laughing when you run?” Her tone of voice is gently enquiring, but the expectation is clear. It is not sufficient that Timmy is part of the game. It is not enough that he is smiling. Laughter! We must have laughter! Suitably chastised, his next lap is dutifully — and volubly — jovial.
“HA! HA! HA! HA!”

Because we are having much! more! fun! when we make the Happy Noises.

Some while later, they collapse into a panting heap. I suggest the time is ripe for some quiet play. Puzzles, perhaps, or crayons?

Emily nods sagely. “Yes. It is time to colour now, so we can rest from all that running around laughing.”

I foresee a bright future as an Events Coordinator for the girl.

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Emily, individuality, peer pressure, quirks and quirkiness, socializing | , , , | 5 Comments