Archive for the ‘spontaneity’ Category

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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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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Doing art projects out in the world (library, special events, etc) is a challenge for my LP.

She is all about the process and exploration of materials and usually those art experiences are about product. LP wants to feel the paint, glue and glitter on her skin and explore it completely with her hands.  Her art experiences at her wonderful preschool are all about process as our 99% of the ones we do at home (every so often I push for product for a present), so she has many opportunities to go for it on the process front.  When she participates in an art project in public, I want to balance honoring her natural impulse to EXPLORE materials with what is appropriate to the setting.

I believe that it is important for kids to consciously experience adjusting to the rules of a situation AND find their spontaneity within those rules.  It is challenging for a person of any age to find their place in a group and public events are opportunities for our little people to work on those skills.  I want LP to learn to find her own balance of joining in a collective experience while being true to herself.

These public art projects are a great chance for LP to get that experience of creating within more boundaries than usual. Often there is 1) limited time, 2) limited materials and 3) a “sample” that the kids are supposed to emulate. Those are three tough limits for my girl.

While I can’t do anything about 1 & 2, I am always supportive of LP doing the project she wants to do within those constraints.  If she wants to do the sample, that’s fine too but that day has not yet come and for me the point of the project is to have a collective experience, not make a garden collage or challah cover that looks like the sample.

The biggest difficulty is with materials since my tactile girl wants to rub glue all over her arms and spread glitter with her nose and paint all over herself.  The where and when of these events determine the boundaries I set with her. (I watch the art project set up with my questions in mind…Do I have a change of clothes? Is there a sink reasonably close? How soon do we need to catch the bus home? How much of the materials are there? And of course, the occasional parent insecurity about what other people think…)  Within those boundaries, I let her go for it.

But oh the heartbreak of projects with gluesticks.  Her desire is to use her fingers on those gluesticks and dig out all the glue and sculpt with it.  And that is not an option when multiple kids are supposed to be sharing a gluestick.

Like a recent morning at the library.

After storytime, the librarian directed the kids over to two covered tables to make garden collages.  Gluesticks, tissue paper, colored paper, crayons and markers were laid out and the librarian showed “the sample.”  LP wanted to do the project (I was hoping to head out to the farmer’s market right away) so we stayed.

As the minutes went by, her energy became more and more withdrawn, so unlike herself, as she sat and tried to wait patiently for her turn with the gluestick. I could tell that this was not satisfying…like just one bite of a chocolate chip cookie. After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was done and she was quite ready to leave this project behind.

I mulled it over during quiet time.  Despite my observation of her not enjoying the project, she did enjoy the overall storytime experience and wants to go back every week.  She was very successful on the impulse control/sharing front.  I wanted to acknowledge that AND give her  for a balancing, playful experience. After working so hard on restraint, I wanted to give her a chance to fully explore.

After quiet time, I asked her if she wanted to do a glue project which got a cheerful “YES!” in response.  So I gave her paper, two gluesticks (a bounty in our house!) and a bottle of glue and let her go for it.

LP enjoyed glue to her heart’s content for about half an hour.  I sat with her at the table and worked on my own crafty project and just enjoyed her pleasure.

It is a helpful frame for me…when LP has worked to rise to the occasion that calls for restraint, to give her an opportunity to be fully expressive and exuberant — whether that means a chance to run free after a long bus ride or sculpt glue (& herself) until she’s done with it.

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Quick and playful – what more could an impovisational parent want?

Give your little person yoga pose inspirations.  Yesterday, as we waited for our neighbors in their garden, LP was having a hard time waiting and not picking things.  So after explaining for the 50th time why she had to wait, I switched tactics.

“Show me lettuce pose.”

And she did! I wish I had my camera with me as she squatted down over a growing head of lettuce and put her head gently down to it.

It lasted for a few more vegetable poses and then she moved on to exploring their gardening tools.

When I stepped back in to our house for a minute to check on dinner, she had moved on to “bunny pose” which was similar to lettuce pose but involved munching on the lettuce. Sigh. Another moment with a four year old adhering to the exact rule — “no picking” — and not the spirit of it.

Making up new yoga poses is great for playfully passing the time when you are waiting.  LP, who adores her yoga class at preschool (and probably knows more real yoga poses than I do!), has initiated creating her own poses in the past.  When we had to get up at 4 am to go to the airport, she passed the time while ImprovDad and I loaded up the car by doing “heater pose.”  It works well to give her something to do with her energy when we’re in a situation that calls for patience and/or containment.

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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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One of my garden projects this spring is creating a bean teepee.  I set it up a few weeks ago with one scarlett runner bean seedling that LP chose at the nursery and many pots that LP & I planted with sugar snap peas.  LP has been disatisfied with the amount of string on the poles, so I finally got around to getting another roll of string and fixing it up.


and after:

And then of course, there was string to be played with! LP unrolled lengths of string and I cut them for her and she put her creativity to work.

The playhouse became a chicken coop that needed decoration:

There was intricate twisting and twining:

and decorating herself with string too:

and the chicken coop and teepee needed to be connected:

I forget sometimes how one new thing in a playspace can be the inspiration for a different kind of play.  This is a year that I”m wanting to evolve our little yard into a more fun place to be and I can see how keeping the movable elements in mind (string/balls/boxes/indoor toys that can venture out) will feed LP’s imagination and play in new ways.

This post is part of “We Play” at Childhood 101…this group of posts focus on outdoor play with lots of great ideas.

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Today LP & I were working on a paint project with a purpose.  The goal was to create wrapping paper for the three baby gifts that are ready to be mailed.

I even tried to preplan how to handle the clean up blues.  First timing…after quiet time and before dinner when the dinner plan was leftovers.  Second, paint protection in the form of a layer of newspaper on the kitchen floor and then a long piece of white paper taped down the center. (Of course our kitchen is all white but I figured if I kept on top of the glips and glops and overflow, the end clean up would be simple.)

LP started off drawing with a marker while I finished setting up.

I found her creation pretty fantastic, especially as she narrated as she drew. It was so interesting to watch the interplay of the spontaneity of her drawing and of her words. Sometimes she drew something and then talked about it and other times, it was the reverse.

The creature is a Mymerona. It has quite detailed anatomy when it comes to pee and poop AND on its other end had separate mouths for each kind of food it likes…so an apple mouth, a date mouth, a banana mouth and so on. (I love how little people translate their current interests into activities!) This was the first time I’ve seen LP embrace drawing with so much energy and purpose and I thought she might stick with drawing and not ask for paint. I sat on the floor with her while she drew and talked.

And then she did indeed ask for paint…

I had suggested that it might be fun to have handprints and footprints on the wrapping paper so she started off by getting her “tools” nice and full of paint.

And then she settled into enjoying exploring paint and paper. She dumped and poured and swirled and skated (a little bit but was upset when she fell down…paint is pretty slippery).

She did a little bit of Jackson Pollock-type splattering but I had to put the kebosh on that because the paint was flying out of control.  I have to remember that for an outdoor project when the weather warms up. Or when I’m ready to cover every surface in preparation. (Read about a very cool Pollock inspired father-daughter paint project here.)

She painted my arms and hands and we did some handprints together and then she returned to her own explorations.

And then there were handstands…

And then there was cleaning up. Lots and lots of cleaning up.

In the end, about half of the paper is usable wrapping paper which is plenty.  Hopefully it will dry overnight and tomorrow morning we can wrap things up together and go to the post office to mail them.

This post is part of We Play over at Childhood 101. Click on over for lots of great play ideas!

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One of my biggest joys is being an aunt.

It has been  one of my favorite roles in life. From the first time I held my oldest niece, H, I was hooked.  When H and her brother L were small, I was lucky enough to be in a time of life when I could see them often even though I lived on the opposite coast.  I said “YES!” to every opportunity to see them.  I had such fun in those years and even though I sometimes thought I should be using my vacation time to see the world, the payoff of delight of being in their worlds brought me there time and again.

(An added bonus was some great on-the-job training for parenthood. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for that good deal!)

One of the things I miss now that I’m a mom is the freedom of being an aunt who has just come to play and have adventures. I miss my time with the older two and have been sad about not knowing the younger three kids in the family as well as I would like.

It is becoming easier as LP gets a bit older;  she is more ready to go off with other family members and as I continue to heal from PPD,  I am able to let her go. Even as it gets a little easier, I miss those days of having open time to just focus on one kid whether it was to take an adventure of imagination or ride the train into Boston for a museum or aquarium exploration.

So a hope of mine for the recent East-Coast-family-visit-extravaganza trip was to have time to enjoy my five nieces and nephews who now range in age from 15 to 6. While there were many adjustments and moments of figuring out how to relate and getting an open mind to see each child as their individual, creative self, it wasn’t hard and it delighted my soul to have time to be niece & nephew focused for awhile.

So to my nieces and nephews…I loved sharing the time with you and enjoying all the ways you are creative and spontaneous. From sharing poetry, writing and playing music, enjoying the “band” of cousins performance, dancing, doing handstands, listening to drumming and piano and guitar, tree climbing, art making, peeling bark off logs, making forts and panda caves, playing with pirate ships and kitchens and trucks and so much more —  it was such a great reminder of all the different way kids can be creative and spontaneous and then add intention and craft to the things that capture their imaginations.

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What Else?

This might be one of the most simple story games ever.  I overheard ImprovDad and LP make it up as they were hanging out before bedtime last week. I think it all started when LP asked for a story. It went something like this…

ImprovDad: One you know or made up?

LP: Made up.

ImprovDad: There was once some paint. What color was it?

LP: Green.

ImprovDad: The green paint spilled and got on the floor.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: and the ceiling.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: and the cat.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: The cat tried to lick it off and said “yuck!”

LP: What else?

They went on like this for a long time. First exploring the cat’s feelings about the green paint experience and then moving on to the next thing and exploring that, all with LP asking “what else?”  Then ImprovDad turned the question back on her.

ImprovDad: Now its your turn…what else?

LP: Why?

ImprovDad: I made up a lot of things and so now it is your turn. What else?

LP: There was paint on the car!

And they were off again.

I love how simple this is. So often I am tempted to make the process of storytelling and co-creation complicated and the truth is simple is not only easier, it is also very satisfying. It turns out that “what else?” is a lovely question to expand a story moment…either to provide more color or move on to the next plot point. That question communicated to ImprovDad, that LP wanted more and led to a playful (and long) story interaction.

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Bog Baby Soup

and Panda Soup and Horse Soup too.

I’m still struggling back onto my feet after a bout of the flu so playtime challenges abound.  LP is clearly ready for her fun improvamama to come back and replace her ready-to-lie-down-a-mama.  ImprovDad has a heavy teaching schedule which includes most evenings and it seems like the hours between quiet time and bedtime are going incredibly slooooowly.

Which makes it all the more fun when we find that wonderful, spontaneous moment that LP can explore.

It all started with a pepper experiment which I thought LP would be fascinated by; however her interest was in adding the pepper to the water and she asked for more spices.  Fortunately for LP, we have way too many containers of long expired spices so as her sous chef, I guided her to those choices (ones I could say “yes!” to) and we were off! Some containers had shakers that she could use and others I poured some into her hands so she also had the tactile experience of the different textures. Cardamon, basil, thyme, dillweed, curry, paprika, pepper soup, anyone?

She called her first batch “Bog Baby Soup” complete with tea leaf bog babies floating around. (“The Bog Baby” by Jeanne Willis is a current favorite around here)  She asked for bowls and ladled out enough for all the bog babies and then was ready to start on the next batch.

She poured fresh water into the bowl and set to work making “Horse Soup” — with additions of spice rub, soy sauce and the outside paper from garlic, in addition to repeats of many of the other spices.  My favorite moment was when she looked up from stirring and said, “Here come the horses!”  She spooned up bowls for her favorite horses and then, of course the pandas needed to be fed.

She was so engrossed in making Panda Soup that she didn’t even want to help knead the pizza dough and make the pizza (except to ask for some dough to put in the soup).

Like many fun activities at our house, it involved more mess than originally planned for…next time we’ll be cooking for the bog babies, horses and pandas outside AND I’ll set her up with more autonomy over the spices and condiments that are available.

I’m participating in the WeePlay link up over at Childhood 101…lots of fun play ideas to check out there so click on over!

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