This year I will once again avoid the malls and make my own Christmas gifts for my son and my nieces and nephew. Here is a list of toys that I’ll be working on, some incredibly easy and some a tad trickier. If you want more ideas, please check out my previous post on Easy Handmade Waldorf and RIE Toys.
1. Sensory Basket Treasures (6 months and up) This is actually a gift that even my 2 year old will still love. Fill this basket with pine cones, large bottle caps, fabric scraps or anything else interesting. They LOVE random odd things.
2. Sunray Sensory Toy (Newborn – 1 year) – This is great because you can fill it will different textures, like mylar sheets or tulle. This one looks tricky but you can sew up any shape of fabric really easily.
3. Soft fabric balls. (Newborn and up)
4. Felt Finger Puppets (1 1/2 and up)
5. Sleeping Sacks for Dolls and Stuffed Animals (1 and up)
6. Cardboard Box Appliances (2 and up)
7. Blocks from Apple Branches (1 and up)
8. Play Cape (2 and up)
9. Really Cool Crayons (2 and up). Easy to make and perfect for tiny fingers.
10. Yogurt Containers! (All ages) Seriously, these have always been such a huge hit, and will continue to be for some time. Open-ended toys are perfect for cultivating creativity in your little ones.
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As a Kindergarten Teacher I often heard the phrase uttered from a little mouth: I’m bored! Now I would think to myself, what is the best way to meet these little ones needs? Boredom may be taken as the essential human condition, to which God, wisdom, or morality are the ultimate answers. Boredom is in fact taken in this sense by virtually all existentialist philosophers. What a great mind space to be in! As adults, we find instant ‘cures’ to our boredom in TV, computers, tablets, and smart phones. It is so easy to quell this discomfort for us. But with children with minds full of creative thought just waiting to bloom, being bored is the empty space to which they can fill with ripe, juicy imagination!
But how does one get from point A to point B? Through work!
~When the children come calling to you for their answers to boredom, we can wait and remain occupied with our own good work. “Yes dear let me finish my sewing, dishes, sweeping, laundry, etc; then we may do something together,” is a perfectly acceptable answer to this. Then take another 10-20 minutes to fully immerse yourself in some good work. More often than not, the children will find something to do on their own; something far more rich and imaginative than our own limited grown-up minds could have thought up. If after that time, they are still in need of your attention, then stop what you are doing and really spend some good quality time with them. Once they have this quality time, then they may feel free to go and spend time to themselves immersed in their own imaginative world.
Your toddler comes up to you with a handful of used tissues from the trash, how do you react? This innocent act by your child can either be met with shock and disapproval or seen for its goodness and met with playfulness and positivity. “Oh! You brought some trash! Let’s put that in the bin together. Thank you.” Most likely your child will meet your enthusiasm and be happy to help you. Now, your next act is to put that open trash can where your little explorer can not get it again.
Using a popular improv technique called “yes and” will get you very, very far with your children. We actually worked with this in improv classes when I was in teacher training. It’s a very powerful tool for connecting and moving along with your children…adults too!
(simplified) RULES OF YES AND…
1) Say “yes’and!”
2) Add new information.
3) Don’t block.
Here’s a picture. Your child is living in point a and you want him to get to point b: your objective. It will be frustrating and end up a battle if you shift suddenly to what you want without acknowledging the place they are living in: the moment!
First you acknowledge where they are and add on: “look at all of these block towers you’ve made in your room! You have been very hard at work!”
Next you can start the transition to your point: “hmm, we are going to the grocery store soon, what should we do with these towers while we are gone?” your child may or may not know this answer but giving the choice will be important to them.
Now finally you get to point B: “yes, we should leave them for you to play with when you get back” or “yes, let’s clean them up together and just pick our favorite to show daddy later.” Most likely small children will now come along with you. It’s not that we are ‘tricking’ them to do your will, it’s allowing them to feel ‘seen’ and acknowledged.
Practicing the technique of yes and will grow on you if you start now and will only help you in the future. This will help build a relationship with your children where they feel that their activities and opinions are respected as much as your own. You have an important agenda and you are willing to work with them to meet theirs as well.
And who knows, if you get in this practice with your children you may find it seeping into your adult life with your partner, family and peer which will only be for the better.
I would love to hear your stories of using yes and. For some this is easy and for others this is a challenge. What are your experiences with this magic word?
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These days as parents, we are trying so hard to be compassionate and respectful parents that we sometimes grossly overcompensate. We want to acknowledge them so they feel seen and we want to talk about their feelings with then and help guide their boredom and moderate their fights. All of this is great, but I think perhaps we do it WAY too much! The term “helicopter” parent comes to mind. I’ve always associated this with letting children guide their own independent play but I’m now realizing that it goes beyond that; I’m also realizing that I’ve turned full on helicopter!
I talk too much.
I address and talk about every single fuss, whine or complaint.
I marvel and ogle at him when he plays well, interrupting his process.
I explain every little thing we do or see, constantly talking about everything.
I never leave him alone!
This must be exhausting, I know it is for me. So lately I’ve been holding my tongue and hiding my presence.
When my son comes to me to whine about the crayon being cut in half or a box that won’t close for him I now just pretend that I don’t see him, or at the least I just smile at him and continue on my work. Soon enough he walks away and goes back to his play.
When he is yelling at me because I won’t let him come in the kitchen while I boil a large pot of water, I ignore it and eventually he finds something to do on his own.
And when he plays really nicely with his friends, I don’t even go near them! Even when they get into little arguments I’ll hang back and listen to see if they need help, more often than not they manage better without me.
I’m not suggesting that we always ignore our children, just sometimes, you know, when the time is right. I think as adults we feel that we know better, or that we have all of the answers when mostly we just get in the way. My mom recently told me that sometimes he won’t like me, that children get tired of adults, and I believe this now. It’s not that I am neglecting my child. No, I like to think of it as just trusting that he can figure it out on his own, he has to learn this lesson eventually so why not now. This means paying attention to when I need to let him be and when he REALLY needs me.
(The above photo is of my son telling on me because I took away a dangerous object. His yelling made her sad and they both started. I took a photo (horrible, right?) and then went back to gardening where they followed me and played happily not 1 minute later) :)