Wednesday, May 2, 2012

occupy the toddler: down and dirty

this weekend was all about chores (i cleaned out the my office and the fridge), managing other duties (like taxes, the wife did that),  and unfortunate situations (in which we tried to find ways to help some of our dearest).  which meant that while we refuse for our babes to take a back seat to such necessities, we needed them to be occupied. 

so, we hired my dearest godson (who they both adore) to "manny" for a few hours, and when he had his life to get back to, i turned to both indoor and outdoor exercises in getting dirty. 

i wasn't allowed to get dirty as a kid. my grandmother sprayed everything with disinfectant. i avoided mud like the plague and i was allergic to cleaning up (because i was lucky enough not to have to do it). 

in mothering, however, i am all about self-discovery, sensory experiences, and open-ended free-play. and i consider myself successful at promoting this kind of play when toys aren't in the forefront.

today i share some of my successes in occupying the toddler, partly because sharing is caring. but mostly, because i would also like to be able to look back on these days and pat myself on the back when bad parenting days strike.

homemade play dough is a god-send, no joke. i don't worry about what goes in their mouths because i know what's in it. the only detriment to me? the after-clean up. play dough sticks to carpet like nobody's business. but the time my babes spend occupied, discovering, being creative, using their imaginations = worth it. 

kitchen work
the boy gets to help out a ton these days because i've been working with him in the kitchen since he was as young as the girl is now. he can mix ingredients, decant liquids into solids, and he is well aware of the dangers of a hot oven. i didn't learn how to cook until i was in university so one of my goals as a parent is to equip my own littles with practical survival skills - like developing self-awareness and cooking for themselves. 

the invention of the learning tower is genius. 

if you don't have one, and you intend to work with your toddlers in the kitchen, i recommend the investment. it pays for itself in not worrying about whether your kids will fall or hurt themselves in the kitchen. no, i am not being paid by the manufacturers to endorse them. i bought ours used, knowing i would have two babes to use it. and they're often both on it at the same time. honestly, my kids wouldn't be allowed in the kitchen as often if i didn't have it.

i have been dreaming about outdoor play for the kids since we moved to this apartment. 

we've never had a ground floor patio before. this means water and mud play for the kids - fettered only by how dirty we can stand the kids to get.

(we found the water table during spring clean up at the coop, discarded by one of our neighbours)

and to be honest, i don't mind how dirty the babes get, because in my view, it boosts their immune system and allows them to explore their natural surroundings without having to worry about anything except their safety. 

in fact, i'm quite sure my parents would be horrified by some of these photos. 

i am also pretty confident that the dirtier the kids get, the keener their sense of the world, the more they know about the ground beneath their feet, the healthier their respect for their natural environment.

bringing outside in
my tulips are just about the only things thriving in our garden right now. everything else the wife planted last year is in various states of spring recovery. but the tulips, they are delicious. and i bring them in all the time because they happen to be my very favourite flowers. 

the last time i brought them in, the boy insisted on arranging them in the vase for the first time. how could i refuse? 

be still my beating heart.

full disclosure
when i engage my babes in such activities, i have no intention to educate any further than the experience themselves. i am no early childhood educator. i'm an adult learning professional, which means my attention span for nurturing the senses of my littles amounts to as much time as it takes for them to get bored, themselves.

all the above activities don't last very long and are pretty well supervised. also, my toddlers were only occupied to the extent that they weren't hanging off my legs while i tried to tidy, etc. and the clean up can get insane. i let them make a mess simply because i don't want to be harping about not making a mess the whole time.  

i know there are many in the blogosphere that do these things better, so i'll list my favourite resources, in case you are inclined to be inspired by their examples of mothering and home schooling:


as an aside, i've had this post almost ready to go since sunday. this week has clearly gotten away from me. i have chosen to sleep more in lieu of blogging. and things seem to be heading towards the right path so optimism and clarity are returning to my senses. 

hope your week is going well!

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