Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Get Your Kids Outside!" Activity #3: Paint with Water!

When I was little my mom would give me and my siblings an ice cream bucket filled with water and a wide paint brush, and we would have a blast "painting" the garage door.  This works great on dark colored surfaces...even on the paved driveway.  Whatever you "paint" with the water looks darker, and over time the sun gradually dries it up, everything vanishes, and you have a clean canvas again.  Who knew a bucket of water could be so entertaining.  Thankfully, my mom did.

Sammy tried this out yesterday and had a blast painting the house.  Every day at the dinner table Daddy asks him what he did today, and the first thing he said was "paint the house!"

Since I've been posting other supporting links and articles in my previous "Get Your Kids Outside" activity posts, I thought this would be a good place to share this great article, which I found via a friend's link on Facebook: "Idle Parenting Means Happy Children." Basically it talks about just leaving your kids them the space and freedom to play, develop their own sense of imagination and creativity, and a chance to learn their own lessons.

I really liked this paragraph: 
"The idle parent is a thrifty parent. We don't work too hard and therefore we can't expect to be rolling in cash. With thrift comes creativity. "Waste is unpoetic, thrift is creative," as GK Chesterton wrote. With no money, you start to discover your own inner resources. You make things and draw. Put a pile of A4 paper on the kitchen table, along with a stapler, scissors, crayons and glue, and you'll be amazed at what your children come up with. Forget digital gewgaws. Go analogue. It's more fun and a lot cheaper. Put a bird feeder outside the kitchen window. Fun does not need to be expensive." 

(Well, with the exception that we do still work hard, and my husband works very hard so that I am able to be home with my boys!)

I don't 100% agree with everything in the article...I found the most harsh lines were "… leave the children alone. Pitch them out into the streets or the playgrounds, and take no notice of them."  While I myself still prefer to be at least within view and/or earshot when Sammy is entertaining himself, I see the general point that we should give our kids a chance to learn things on their own, play in an "analog" manner, as long as they are in a safe place.  I absolutely love to watch Sammy play on his own and have been "teaching" him to do so since he was old enough to find toys entertaining.  (Unfortunately in this world of electronic gadgets and digital media, this has become something you have to consciously TEACH your kids...or in following with this article, allow them to learn on their own without constant interference.)  Most days he can completely entertain himself all day long if given the opportunity...although most of the time it just looks too fun and I have to join in.  I do think that if you go to the extreme in the article of shoving your kid off to play on their own and leaving to do your own thing every time, you are missing out on a lot of the enjoyment of watching your child learn and grow.  I prefer to watch from the sidelines when he doesn't know I'm looking!

I do agree though, that this ability to self-entertain can come in very handy on occasion as a work-at-home mom, when I have a last minute emergency client request to take care of.  I don't have to feel like I'm neglecting my child, because I can see and hear that he is safe, he is having a blast, and he knows exactly where to find me at any given time if he needs help re-building a Lego tower, needs an owie kissed, or has to go potty.

It's amazing to compare how he plays in the living room, same environment & same toys, with a tv on versus music.  Many days he never watches any TV, and when he does, I try to keep it to one or two half hour shows on DVR that stop when the show is over.  (It's way too easy to let live TV blend from one show into the next until the day is done!)  When the TV is on, he sits still and quiet.  When music is on, he gets completely into his play, building choo choo tracks, setting up tunnels, driving his little cars to Grandma's house, making up songs to sing, "reading" his books, doing puzzles, cooking little meals for the dogs and his stuffed animals, and performing to make his baby brother laugh. Don't get me wrong...I've had my fair share of instances where nothing but a re-run of Wonder Pets would do, and I know how hard it can be to turn off that TV when it's the only thing giving you a little peace and quiet during the day! 

While I do love many of the points made in this article, it is pretty extreme in one direction.  I of course would not condone staying in bed until noon because you are hung over by any means, and would never agree with neglecting or ignoring your kid. I think it's best to use common sense, and strike a balance between letting your kid entertain themselves sans-electronics, making sure they are safe AND still getting in there and actually playing with them yourself, too! Your kids are only this young for so long, so don't miss out on watching them learn through play or giving them memories of that one summer when Mommy threw herself down the slip-n-slide right along with them.  Those things stick in kids' heads, so put 'em there!  Now get outside and have some FUN! :-)

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