Archive for October, 2010


What can a little person and her mama do with pinto beans?

So many, many things…over many, many days.

I do want to start with the caveat that I rarely have us do art or exploration with food that won’t get eaten since a friend raised my consciousness about the message that sends about wasting food when so many children go hungry.  We had an old container of pinto beans in the back of the art supplies which LP asked for which is what kicked off the beansploration.

Day One

  • Pick them up with her toes and put them in a bowl (this is what started everything off…LP requested both beans and bowl)
  • Pick them up with her mouth and drop them in various bowls and containers
  • Play catch with handfuls of beans
  • Put handfuls of beans in an empty strawberry basket and shake them through
  • Create designs on the floor (mostly me but she watched and then requested letters so…)
  • Create letters on the floor
  • Make a nest for a baby pumpkin
  • Play “find the bean” for all those beans that had rolled far and wide during the above activities. (yes, this one was my idea but LP did play along)

Day Two

This time I poured out the remaining beans on her little table and set up a number of containers (small empty jars and vases mostly). When she came racing out of her room after quiet time, she went right to it playing with them, calling them “penguin nuts.”

  • Fill all available jars
  • Ask for a bowl and carry beans around in your mouth until it is time to spit them out in the bowl (LP is very interested in spitting and I figured this gave her a limited way to experiment with that)
  • Ask for toothpicks to try and spear the beans. (Beans were too hard for our toothpicks so we set aside a bowl of beans in water to see how long it would take to soften them up).
  • Set up a bean “potluck” for assorted stuffed friends.
  • As LP’s attention was waning I wanted to see if we could extend the play by adding new elements. First in was some old toothpick umbrellas I found in a drawer. She loved them and experimented with standing them in the vases & jars both alone and with beans.
  • Next into the mix was playdough and we made a cactus lollipop (green playdough ball on a stick with lots of pinto beans sticking out of it).

We took a break for dinner and then LP returned to bean-playing (mostly setting up another potluck for her buds) until bedtime.

Day Three

A lot of revisiting filling up jars….my favorite new addition to the bean play involved her donkey HeeHaw (I’ve been told this toy is meant to be a horse. It was a hand-me-over and I’ve always though it looked more like a donkey so that’s what it is in our house).  HeeHaw got a bean shower and then the pile of beans became her babies and she nursed them for a long, long time.

After all the bean hunting to clean-up, I was ready to retire the beans for awhile.  So off to the compost for the beans that had been in her mouth (or in particularly dusty places) and back to the container for the rest.

Day Four

One week later, I’m sick and LP is full of energy. I dumped the remaining beans in a bowl and was so happy that she went to town for a looooooong time.  I probably missed more than a few iterations of her bean play from my position on the couch but I did see her:

  • spread them out on the floor and go swimming
  • gather up handfulls to fill the bottom of a laundry basket and then climb in and ask for a blanket cover to be in her stall

The bean pile is dwindling but I think there’s at least another day’s play in it.  It has been fun to watch all of her spontaneous creations and also it has been wonderful independent play!

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“Spontaneity need not be showy or dramatic; it can be subtle, gentle, and unassuming. It can be present in the way one thinks, walks, looks at nature, dances, or hums a tune softly in the shower.”
~Adam Blatner (in Foundations of Psychodrama)

I love the quote above because it embraces the idea that one can be spontaneous is so many different every day ways AND that it isn’t about being big or funny.  The practice of improv provides all kinds of opportunities to cultivate spontaneity. Really it is about the delicious oxymoron of practicing spontaneity.We have a million little opportunities every day to choose to practice spontaneity.  Sometimes that practice can take a lot of effort (sign up for an improv class, get a babysitter, go to class, breath deeply and jump in!) and other times a person’s spontaneity practice might be in holding  a different mindset while taking a walk down the block.

A little more from Adam Blatner:

“…[spontaneity] refers to the readiness to create, the state of mind involved which often involves a more energized bodily state and interpersonal or group involvements.”

I think it is a beautiful idea…to practice readiness to create. Take the pressure off being creative or original or funny or good (whatever that is) and just see what it means for your own self to be ready to create.  I know when I feel the improv flow, I am both alert and relaxed in body and attention.  I  have a mind-body experience that is the state of spontaneity. I am ready to find out what comes next; I am ready to say “yes!”

It can be hard to attain this state while parenting. Add to the mix of other obstacles that get in my way, I also always hold at some level awareness of being responsible for my little person.  Most of the time that responsibility is just assumed; I am not actively thinking about it — it is just a natural part of my role as a parent. Yet holding too much responsibility inhibits my ability to be in the moment.  I am working on taking the time to step back and realize when I am being over-responsible (i.e. focused on things I “need” to do or getting overprotective) and holding myself back from spontaneity practice opportunities. LP is a great role model of spontaneity practice because at 3 and 1/2, she lives in an almost constant state of readiness to say “yes” to her imagination (and “no” to all kinds of other things).

To close, these beautiful thoughts about spontaneity from the great Viola Spolin:

“Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves.  It creates an explosion that for the moment frees us from handed-down frames of reference, memory choked with old facts and information and undigested theories and techniques of other people’s findings. Spontaneity is the moment of personal freedom when we are faced with a reality and see it, explore it and act accordingly.  In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves function as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery , of experiencing, of creative expression.” (from Improvisation for the Theater)

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Just continuing to enjoy the bursting spontaneity that is 3 and 1/2…the enjoyment is good balance for the challenges of raising a strong-willed little person.

LP had an early affinity for giving things names. She used to spend hours making bouquets of grass or leaves and would give each one a name. AND then she would seemingly remember the names.  This has evolved twofold…into both a delightful practice of naming stuffed animals and objects that come into her life and in creating new words.

On the object front, she has a collection of strawberry baskets with yarn tied to them that have become her puppies. (This all started as a craft project that I thought would be fun that LP wanted no part of because why would you create yarn webs inside a puppy?)  They are Sadie, Puppinaise, Puppinaise’s Cousin and As You Drift Away.  She also is into nicknames as her beloved wild thing named, Violin Case, is now also known as “The Mad Baby.” (Lots of work in our home on using words for emotions…glad to know it is making an impression.)

And one of my favorite things to do when we come across a new object is to ask her what it is called.  I need to start keeping pen and paper at hand both for posterity and because she gets quite put out when I don’t remember them (I always was slow at learning other languages).

A new twist is the addition of made-up verbs…the most recent is “sninging.” Sninging is when you start to sneeze and end up singing. (Once you know about, it starts to happen all the time.)  We had quite a good time sninging at dinner the other night and ImprovDad is a champion sninger.

At the library I was happy to stumble on a book that is delighting LP in this area of creating new words. We were already fans of Jack Prelutsky and I think  Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is some of his best work.  17 short poems about what you get when you cross an animal (like an elephant) with an object (like an umbrella). The illustrations by Carin Berger are wonderfully wild and some of the combos are brilliant. My favorite is the Clocktopus while LP is most fond of the Pop-up Toadsters.

LP has internalized the idea of making a new creation out of two known things. Last night, while enjoying a red popsicle, she proclaimed she was eating a “lobsicle”  – half lobster, half popsicle.

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