Archive for the ‘activity’ Category

It was too quiet yesterday morning.

I knew it was the kind of quiet that I should probably check on, but LP and I had already had a long weekend of solo parenting and oh, the quiet.   So I sat on the couch with the Sunday paper. I drank tea. I enjoyed the quiet.

I could hear LP going back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room table. I could hear her moving the step-stool around, the rattle of dishes and the occasional unidentifiable sound.

Then the call, “Will you change the grind to large?”

Ah. That sound was the salt grinder.

The table was covered with water and spices. LP had four or five bowls going with various combinations of water, spices and leftover toast scraps from breakfast.  What was she doing?

“Making a cake for Harness! It’s her 92nd birthday!”

I had no idea she was 92…you have to admit, she looks great:

Well, can’t deny a 92-year-old stuffed dog a birthday cake.

I admit I was not in the mood for the mess AND I’ve really been working to actively encourage LP’s independence and taking initiative.

So I re-iterated some boundaries for LP (especially how she is supposed to ask before using spices.  I think I’ll be rearranging the spice rack to put ones she can use with abandon on the lower shelf and ones that I reserve for cooking up higher.) I changed the grind on the salt and pepper to the largest setting and got out a pan to cook the cake.

After cooking for 30 minutes at 350, Harness’ cake came out of the oven and it was time for the crucial step of swirling whipped cream in it (LP’s idea, naturally).

The half hour of cooking, gave us time to work on cleaning up together. I’ve realized that I do far too much of the cleaning up and so things are changing around here on that front too!

LP sampled the finished cake and pronounced it “delicious!”

And Harness seemed happy too.

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The past month has been one of improvised baking and concocting.  I’ll be writing a couple of posts about engaging and supporting a little person’s interest, so consider this one a teaser.

Below is the recipe for a “Show” ~ the first concoction that LP created about a month ago.  She made it while I was making dinner (homemade pizza) so most of the ingredients are what I was using (except for the goldfish!).

LP’s recipe (as dictated by the girl):

Start with a lot of goldfish.

Add just two whole mushrooms and a lot oil and a lot of wheat germ becasue the oil and the wheat germ taste good and they’ll make it taste good.

Add lots of garlic, cutted garlic.

The cheese makes the Show taste a little like popcorn.

Add pizza dough and pineapple.

Flour’s the last ingredient. It makes the show taste powdery.

Some shows get spinach in them.

Bake for very long. The long should be 20 minutes.

We eat the show when it comes out of the oven. It’s a cheer you up show!

(The recipe was dictated to me over dinner. As you can see, there are a few ingredients – pasta, celery, olives) that didn’t make it into the formal recipe.  And yes….she did eat some of it!)

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Take one preschooler home sick for the day add a hot glue gun, craft sticks and a bunch of craft odds and ends and you have…


LP, who was feeling pretty sick, mostly wanted to art direct the crafting.  With a little coaxing she did play around with the hot glue gun and the materials for a bit but what grabbed her interest telling me what to do.  It was one of those good sick day activities that is fun, can eat up a lot of time and take everyone’s mind off feeling lousy.

After the crafting, it was time for puppet shows.  The new puppets became villagers and LP’s Mr. Snuffleupagus puppet took on the part of dragon with a cold (yes, he sneezes out fire leading to all kinds of trouble).  We haven’t done many puppet shows so it took me a bit to get into manipulating all the characters, telling the story, doing different voices and incorporating LP into the action.  It was lovely (and easy) to bring LP into the show, from having her hand the puppets imaginary objects they need and helping make the soup for the sick dragon.

A few days later, she wanted to make more puppets and this time she was all about doing it herself.

She made this puppet:

and then it was time for another puppet show.

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Earlier this week, LP and I were visiting with our neighbor, M and her dog. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon to sit in her backyard. M and I were enjoying coffee and a chat, her dog was curled up in my lap while LP romped around the yard.  After too few minutes there, LP ran up to us, eyes alight, calling out “let’s do a treasure hunt!”

Such beautiful energy. And I didn’t want to set up a treasure hunt.

Fortunately, M had an inspiration and said, “I have something for you to hunt for.  See if you can find a blue flower that’s in this part of the garden.” She pointed to indicate an area with plants that was close to her and I could see that there was a solo blue flower peeking out from under a large green bushy plant.

LP happily hunted and when she found and picked the flower.  The treasure hunt evolved from there.   M offered her a glass jar to hold the treasures. She dropped the flower in and asked for the next clue and then raced around to find “something under the lemon tree.”  She brought back a lemon and dropped it in and M gave her the next clue to find a flower that grew by the birdhouse.  When she had that, I gave her the next clue of finding a leaf from a plant that she could eat (basil).

LP enjoyed her treasure hunt and we enjoyed watching her AND still got to have our chat. It was pretty easy to spot things around the garden to include in the hunt and the game came to a natural end when she decided to pick lemons instead.

I’m looking forward to trying out our on-the-spot treasure hunt again. Perhaps next time we are in the woods or on a nature walk….although really, we could do it around the house too.

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The best kind of imagination game?  One led by a little person. This kind of game is especially appreciated when it 1) comes at the end of a day with a lot of whining and 2) is played happily by the little person almost completely solo.

Late this afternoon LP spontaneously created the Dinosaur Snow game which really turned our day around. Here is her recipe for Dinosaur Snow fun:

Take two dinosaurs named Roar and Roar.

Dress them for the snow.

Find a deep hole (previously dug for an imaginary friend and then deepened for LP in a prairie dog mood).

Submerge dinosaurs in a colander of cornstarch.

Hold Roar and Roar over the hole and shake.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

LP also recommends covering the adjacent rosemary bush with dinosaur snow and climbing into the bush and singing a song to Roar and Roar while they hide in the colander of snow.

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I can’t believe we missed International Mud Day (June 29th). That is really our kind of thing.

Fortunately, it is never too late to celebrate.  I had not mentioned it to LP but it must have been in the air because she initiate the mud play of today.

While I was planting a few new seedlings in her garden, she played around with the potting soil and compost.  Then she wanted to take a mud bath so I directed her over to a hole we’ve been digging on and off for the past two weeks. (The hole is meant to reach her imaginary friend Simon the bunny who went under ground to rescue worms… I always enjoy LP’s reasons for a project especially when there is such narrative!).  I turned on the water, LP dragged the hose over and the fun began:

LP had a glorious time, splashing and sliding in her personal mud pool.  I stuck my feet in for a bit and it was cool and lovely on this very hot day. She was fully engaged in it for over an hour and would have continued but I could tell it was time to insist on coming out for lunch or there would be meltdowns.

Looking for wonderful muddy ideas?  hands on: as we grow has a fantastic round up  of “30+ Dirty Kid Activities” plus linky list all about mud and The Imagination Tree has book suggestions all about mud.

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LP and I are on the road again.

We’ve started this trip with a visit to my Dad so she can have some good Grandpa time.  We’re staying at his place and in usual LP style she has commandeered all kinds of objects to play with.  The first night we were here, she kept pestering him until he brought all of his many model ships down for her. There was an armada on the coffee table!

A lot of rain has kept us more indoors than out and so it has been lovely to witness LP step up her imaginative action to make up for the lack of available toys and art supplies.

Last night she was ripping up some newspapers and called me over to help her make dinosaurs.  I wanted to use painters tape but LP had a vision for newspaper only dinosaurs and the ones I made with tape were sent to live at the bottom of the stairs.

Today, LP was determined to see her vision realized.  She began ripping and folding newspaper and handing me specific bones….some known (“this is a rib”) and some made-up (“this is a bruteen”).  So I loosened up my ideas of what a dinosaur looks like and said “yes” to her offers and enjoyed exploring the possibilities of the newspaper.

After we had made two that she particularly liked (named Juffee and Martella), she had us play hide and seek with them. Every time she would be in charge of the hiding dinosaur and would giggle with delight as the seeking dinosaur and I looked all over Dad’s apartment without finding the other.

Here (from right to left) are Juffee, Martella and a friend who is as of yet unnamed:

At home, a project like this might emerge but I think it would not evolve as far because LP (or I) would get distracted by other things.  Being on the road, I appreciate her creativity even more than usual.

This post is part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101…every week there are lots of great play ideas from all over the world!

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Behind the Scenes week continues here at Improv-a-Mama with one of my favorite parts of a performance — pre-show!

Since early on, one of Un-Scripted’s ensemble members, Christian, has pushed us to connect with the audience before the show starts.  We mix and mingle and talk to folks as they come in and are sitting down. As a shy person, my first reaction (and 2nd and 3rd reaction) was “No!”  So I  had to do some work to get to “yes” and now nine years later, I love this pre-show time.

This mingling with the audience  is the beginning of creating together for the evening.  As performers, we have a chance to set expectations about the show (our style of improvisation as theater without a script is different from much other improv that folks have seen), get the audience thinking about the kind of suggestions we’re going to ask for, answer questions and really, just make a personal connection.

Sometimes it is thought of as a time to “get the audience on our side.” I do think that it does serve that function;  a roomful of people that has met you and connected with you is more likely to join into the communal imagination of creating a show than sit back and heckle. (Really. A connected audience is waaaaaay less likely to say, “proctologist” when asked for a suggestion while an unconnected audience almost always will.) However, I believe there is a deeper and more powerful something going on than trying to get people to like us and that is  an experience of community.

Yes it is a temporary community. It is a community of a few hours. It is a community of the performance for that evening. Still, it is a community and that feeling of being a part of something is valuable for all of us, especially in our modern society where increasing numbers of people report being shy and feeling isolated.

Improvisation is a communal art form;  we as performers are impacted by the audience as much on a kinesthetic level throughout the show as we are by their suggestions to inspire us at the beginning.  Just as improvisors warm-up before we go onstage, the audience needs an opportunity to warm-up to the experience.

I feel like I’ve had a successful pre-show if I’ve not only conveyed important information about the show, but also learned something about audience members and drawn them out to tell their stories. In recent weeks, I spoke with a woman who was a child prodigy on the piano. She performed at Carnegie Hall as a young teenager and played with many of the greats and she came to chose a path outside of the arts so she could have a more balanced life.  A man in the audience told me that he had an identical twin and he had moved across the country to California after high school to have room to establish his own identity.  Audience members’ stories tend to stay with me in a vivid way. Do I use them in the show? Usually not consciously but I’m sure my unconscious is chewing on those images and drawing inspiration from them.

Two weeks ago, an audience member asked me what I do to get ready to be onstage? Did I have any rituals or routines?  I was stumped for a moment and then I realized how important this preshow was to me, and I could simply answer, “Doing this.”  We talked about it for a few minutes and it was fun to bring the community of the moment to the surface and enjoy that together.

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Full credit to Teacher Tom for this… See his blog posts here and here for inspiration and ideas for how to give little people the opportunity to work with hot glue guns. Things went pretty much as he described, she was so intent on her project that when she did touch the too hot glue, she reacted only briefly and got back to work.  My main supervision ended up being around making sure it was put down safely and adding more glue sticks.

LP was excited for her chance to use the hot glue gun.  Here she is waiting to begin with a selection of materials to glue (randomly grabbed from our art boxes):

And she was off:

She was focused and seemed blissfully happy putting lots and lots of glue on the box as her main exploration although she did take time to experiment with spreading it out:

and weaving a spider web with the dried glue strands:

Here’s the “cake with anchovy frosting” final product:

One thing that is great for me about a project like this is that it challenges me to control myself and give her space to discover the possibilities.  I had visions of building sculptures…LP wanted to build glue piles and dots and squiggles.  The important thing in this moment was to say “yes” with my behavior to support her creative exploration and to allow her to use her spontaneity to explore rather than be directive and product oriented.

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I have a confession.

I love blue painters tape.

This feeling started slowly…a roll of painter’s tape for an emergency diaper fix, to cover a few electrical outlets and quick hang up some family photos for baby LP to see.  It quickly grew… blue tape, LP and I, we can do anything together. Need a spoon? I can make you one.  Need in indoor swing for a stuffed animal? We can do that. Puppets to entertain on the plane? Check. Tape pictures on the floor or wall? No problem.

When LP and I went visiting family for 3 weeks in the fall, we went through a full roll of tape before the final weekend. It was the major source of entertainment on planes and trains and also got a major workout creating circle paddocks for her horses. ImprovDad was meeting up with us for a family celebration a few days before we returned home and my SOS to him when he asked if he could bring anything was “blue tape!”

The blue tape creations are getting more wild and wonderful as LP takes more and more control of them.  She’s just starting to get the hang of ripping off pieces on her own.

Recent blue tape creations at our home:

Bandages for Raz:

A costume for Violin Case:


Labels for the herb pots in the garden:

LP has been on a labeling kick with blue tape.  Below is the photo of Feather’s House (Feather being the space heater who lives in our old computer desk when she’s not in use), complete with its own name and a blue tape mailbox.

Got your roll of blue tape ready? Need some ideas to get you started? Check out:

“Spider Web” on Tuesdays with Daddie — this post also has the best description of painters tape ~ “Its like a roll of duct tape married a stack of post-its and they had a blue baby.” So true!

“Masking Tape Portraits” on Art Projects for Kids

“The magical, multifunctional properties of painter’s tape” on Parent Hacks

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