Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quality Play

                As parents, we all know the value of spending quality time with our children.  It is important for us all to find different ways to interact with our children and to play with them.  To play with them, not just direct them while they play.  Experts say that play is an important part of learning, and I also firmly believe that playing with our children enables us to build a strong bond with them and opens the lines of communication.  How can we expect children to be able to come and talk to us when they are feeling sad or when they are having trouble at school or with a friend if we do not foster a comfortable relationship with them.  When children are young, they are definitely very eager to communicate with their parents, and at this stage they like spending time with us.  Let us make this time count!  Here are some of the fun things that my three youngest children and I do together:

Cook Together:  I am a huge advocate of cooking with children!  Many say that children are more likely to eat meals and snacks that they have taken part in preparing, and I agree completely.  Also, it is a great time to teach young children about safety in the kitchen and nutrition.

Tell Stories:  When my mother visits, she usually tells the girls stories that she makes up as she goes along.  As soon as they see her, they expect to get a story out of her.  I followed her lead, and began to make up stories of my own some nights during story time. The stories always include characters that are basically my own children.  I just slightly alter their names (Yasmine becomes Jasmine for example); I use these stories to teach them lessons or to address topics that are of concern to our family.  My stories are usually pretty corny, and lack any real flow or story line but the kids are hooked.  Now, during story time they always ask me to tell a story rather than read one!

Have a Dance Party!:  It is great exercise and the kids love it!  Dancing allows them to express themselves and let off some steam.  In the end everybody feels great!  I have many priceless home movies of our dance parties which they love to send to their grandparents and watch at home!

Sing!:  I make up silly songs all the time!  Pretty soon the kids join in and we all have a great time.  Some of those songs stick with our family for months!  Most times, singing can even gently nudge a grumpy child out of a bad mood.  They can never keep a straight face for long once I make up a song about a mean face turning into a happy face!

Have a Jam Session!:  My daughters love playing their drum and my eldest daughter often composes her own little songs on her kalimba.  She is very proud of her songs and plays them for my husband and I all the time.  It allows her to use her mind creatively and build her inventive skills.

Go ‘Camping’:  We dress up in our hiking gear, pack our backpacks, get our flashlights out and walk through the make believe forest (actually the hallway) to the camp site (actually the living room) and get in to our tent (we make our own tent out of blankets but a real tent works out great too!).  Once in our tent, we tell stories, read our pre-drawn ‘maps’, and do whatever else comes to our imaginations (usually at some point, my children want me to be a dangerous bear who tries to tear down the tent and drag kids into the forest lol!). 

Decorate the Windows and Doors:  Recently, after I ran out of space on the fridge, I began to display the kids’ art work from school and home on the doors and windows.  They love it!  As soon as we finish an art project at home, they immediately ask me to hang it up.  They like being able to look at their work hung up all around the kitchen.  It makes them feel as though what is important to them is also important to me.  The art adds color and vibrancy to my kitchen!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Warmth

     Winter is a wonderful season!  We often spend time complaining about the cold, when in fact it is the perfect opportunity to spend lots of quality time with the kids & family.  What better way to spend time with those you love than being snowed in with them?  As a child growing up in Canada, wintertime was a time to partake in countless activities, indoor and outdoor.  I have many fond memories of ice skating with my Grandpapa, Papa and brother.  Others of baking with my Grandmaman while listening to a record of ‘Peter and the Wolf’, one of my very favorite stories!  And of course, I can never forget roasting chestnuts at the fireplace with my parents during power outages.  As a parent, I strive hard to capture just a fraction of the warm, fuzzy feelings that I used to experience with my family during bonding time.  I appreciate it all so much more now that I have kids of my own. 
     For me, trying to capture those wonderful feelings of emotional warmth and love means just embracing each moment.  Snowed in?  No problem!  Playing outside after dark is one of my favorite things to do with the kids.  Last night we were out there, blizzard and all!  Running, jumping, making snow angels, throwing snowballs, making a snowman, making a snow fort, making ‘snow ice cream’ and ‘pies’, sliding down the front steps.  The kids even squealed in delight and cheered through my failed attempt at making maple syrup snow candy (another thing my Grandmaman used to do!)…I tell you, we had a blast!  I felt like a kid again, and it was so much more fun than it would be to complain about the weather.
     Once we were back indoors, we got cozy with some hot chocolate and a warm bath.  The kids and I were worn out, and bedtime was peaceful…
     Last night was cold, windy and snowy, but in my heart, I felt warmth!  Slow down, take time out, and enjoying the moment feels absolutely magnificent!