PARENTING, TRAVEL, AND LITTLE JOYS
Do you find playing with your kids really boring? I sort of do!
Here's my trick that seems to, in my case, make it a lot better: play how you want with the toys. Like, try to actually have fun instead of doing what your kid wants. It works because:
(1) Your kids see you having fun. That makes them happy.
(2) You kind of have fun. That makes you happy.
(3) Your kids learn that playing with toys is fun and makes one happy.
(4) Your kids maybe want to play the way you're playing (sometimes they don't). Then they learn a new way to play. OR...
(5) Your kids don't want to play the way you are. Then they learn how to compromise or coexist.
It... doesn't work perfectly. You can't be selfish and take the toys and do whatever you want. But I was surprised that acting a little more selfish in playtime seemed to make it more fun for everyone. So if I'd rather build a rainbow than a house, that's what I build.
If you dread playtime because you're forced to do the same boring thing over and over, try mixing it up by playing in a way that's interesting to you!
This whole "don't leave the house" thing has me with the travel bug REAL bad. I thought I'd share just a few travel photos here. Maybe we can all just wanderlust from home for a while until the world is open again.
Let's be clear - this isn't homeschooling. This is trying to do some school-like activities while trapped at home in a pandemic. My son is four. Our expectations are LOW.
That said, a little bit of structure in the day is making it easier on everyone. A little bit of learning in the day gives us all something to do. I try to have a couple hours a day of "school" where we do some activities together that aren't watching TV or playing solo with toys.
The best tool in our arsenal has been this:
The "Cat in the Hat Learning Library" is 20 books written in the style of Dr. Seuss on topics like seeds, mammals, or money. The books vary in quality, both in writing style and in content. There are at least 2 different authors in the series, and one is better than the other. Some of the rhymes are kind of a stretch, but they include lots of info and are pretty easy to read.
There are some factual errors (like the whole section on how ostriches live in Australia?!), though overall I've found the content pretty informative and accurate. It's accessible at a pre-school level with some concepts and vocabulary that would be interesting and new all the way through elementary school (or to those of us who haven't taken a science class since the mid-90s).
This doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation so far... so why am I such a fan? There's enough material in each of these slim books that it gives us sort of a curriculum theme for the day, and then I can look for other age-appropriate activities that go along with it. So for the "Oh Say Can You Seed" book, we have planted seeds, counted beans, and looked for different types of leaves in the yard. Older kids could label parts of a plant or write a summary, as just some examples.
Having a theme for the day and some basic terms, diagrams, facts, and pictures helps everything else feel like "school" and kind of feel tied together. So if we're drawing, playing with clay, playing with toys, writing, doing an art project, singing a song, or looking for another book to read, we can look for one that relates to the theme.
For us, this set worked well because these books are new to us and have lots of content. But if you don't want to order a new set of books, you could think about just choosing some books you already have in the house and using one a day (or few days) as a theme "unit" for all your homeschool activities. This is far from a novel concept - it's used in schools around the world all the time. But somehow having a little "textbook" like this to anchor it to was a lot easier for me than just coming up with my own theme of the day and trying to find all the materials myself.
What have you tried that's worked well?
To be honest, a lot of our quarantine meals have been old stress-eating classics like "cheese from the bag while standing in front of the fridge" and "a couple ice cream sandwiches."
But, we started getting weekly produce delivery because we're avoiding the grocery store, and so we were overrun with some choices we'd normally skip. Cue this yummy salad, which we've been eating for two days.
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced VERY thinly
- 1/2 bunch celery, sliced VERY thinly
- 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, sliced VERY thinly.
Mix those all together in a bowl. Dress with:
- juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese and/or seasoned breadcrumbs
- Roasted nuts (we happened to have cashews, and chopped them)
For that real quarantine vibe, serve with like 4 handfuls of chips and then another few handfuls.
It is not all roses. There is lots of yelling and plenty of exasperated sighs. There is LOTS of spaghetti and missed bedtimes.
But there are also little toes in the moss, and dinosaur jammies, and jokes. There are winter beach trips and family naps, pancake dinners and Peter Pan. (Peter Pan is disastrously inappropriate now, but here we are.)
Come on, April. We got this.
"Like the week between Christmas and New Years, but make it apocalypse."
We have been in the house for 19 days. To say the novelty has worn off is an understatement. It's going mostly okay, but I think all of us could use some space and a little personal time. We have enjoyed the pajama days and strange baking experiments, but I miss my regular work schedule. A lot. Here's hoping that April can bring back a little bit of a productive routine.
Note: This post is not sponsored or compensated by Misfits Market. There is a referral link at the bottom if you want a 25% discount on your first order.
We're currently doing our part by staying at home. We haven't been in a building that isn't our house for 12 days. I'm a vegetarian and we try to eat lots of fruits and veggies, so going without trips to the grocery has been a little tough. Plus, being stuck inside makes you want to eat junk basically all day!
So we decided to give Misfits Market a try. Generally I don't love when you don't know what you're getting ahead of time, but the price seemed reasonable ($39.50 including shipping) given that our other options right now are instacart or going to the grocery store and potentially being exposed to a pandemic.
Just 2 days later, the box arrived! Normally I would have taken a cool unboxing video, but we're currently opening everything outside and washing items before they come in the house. Eeks.
My first major concern was whether the packaging would be wasteful. I was pleasantly surprised that the box is almost 100% recyclable packaging, less a couple pieces of tape, a few compostable "plastic" bags, and 2 small icepacks.
My next concern was that the stuff would be weird items we wouldn't eat, bad condition items, or lots of the same thing. Nope! There was only one little bruise on one tomato, and otherwise everything was in great condition. Most of the items are organic versions of things we would eat, even if they aren't what we'd normally buy.
What did we get?
Organic lemons, organic fuji apples, green peppers, red and yellow peppers, parsnips, potatoes, organic tomatoes, oranges, brussel sprouts, red cabbage, organic celery, organic kale, green onions, and carrots.
In a time when we really don't want to go to the grocery store but still want to eat healthy, this was really worth it for us.
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And then since we're playing with everything we can get our hand on, being stuck inside, we played "Garden" for a while. Honestly that alone was basically worth it.
I took this photo in the Galapagos at the top of a hike, but it's a good reminder for today: stop.
There's very little we can do right now. I happen to run a study abroad company, so there really is VERY little I can do right now in terms of work but comfort my future students and wait together. And most of the things we like to do as a family include going places, like to the playground or the library or to visit family. It's very easy to get frustrated.
But today, we're just going to stop being frustrated and try to enjoy being home. Are we going a little stir crazy? Yes. Have we watched the same youtube videos so many times that mom and dad can recite them? Yes. Are we out of wine? Tragically, yes. But we're doing our part, and in our house, this isn't an emergency. So we can do this.