Better Late than never. This week has been so hectic trying to get ready for my sisters baby shower and her sons 2nd birthday, which we had at my house, yesterday in one crazy back to back party. Including sugared up kids and a rainstorm…..good times. So here’s my short and sweet list of bedtime books that we have been reading a lot this week. I will mention a couple of my favorites. I am in love with Dragons Love Tacos, I love the narrative and it is just so easy to get caught up in reading it outloud…it does say the word “hate” a lot. That kind of bothers me a bit. We recently got The Inside Tree at the library and I think it’s so funny, Char laughed at it as well. Another favorite that I’ve loved since Char was a baby is I love You Through and Through, it’s kind of corny but the message is surprisingly important to remind young toddlers and kids. So again, this is short and sweet. I’ve enjoyed reading all these books and can’t complain.
Char is 4 and ever since she has started using her imagination and pretending I have happily joined her in hundreds of princess balls, pirate captures, hero rescues, and so on. But over the past 3 or so weeks I have truly been struggle to muster up any enthusiasm for pretend play. And it isn’t just about not wanting to play the same story over and over, like I mentioned recently we have moved on from only ever playing Disney Princesses. It’s something else… Partly I’m sure it’s just the stress of my adult life and adult problems creeping in. It has been really hard to focus on being a Knight that trains chalkwall drawn dragons when my mind is elsewhere. But I’m not sure what the other part is, the part that silently grits her teeth anytime I am asked “Mommy, can you be…” I have tried just using the yes idea, just say yes, start playing and you’ll probably start to enjoy it…no luck with that. I have bargained with myself, play this for 15 minutes and then either switch games or activities or start a chore. But none of it helps me get immersed in her games like she is and I, at least mostly used to get.
The hardest creative play for me is being a pretend person in a pretend world. I can handle pretend play with dolls or legos better then actually having to physically and vocally act out situations myself for some reason. It’s the repetition, which is totally normal for kids, of wanting to play the familiar scenario many many time. Even when I used to try and change things up and add in “ I think I’m going to do this over here, or I think you should save your horse and fight of the witch.” The story still somehow gets pushed back onto the same exact course. Writing this I am actually thinking I am having control issues and wanting to be in control of the situation. When you lack control is certain areas you usually tend to try and find it elsewhere. Acknowledging that helps. When I agree to play with Char I should let her have most of the control. As a parent who desperately wants to encourage my children to have powerful imaginations I can’t keep saying no and trying to set the rules of our games myself. I need to ask more questions, make suggestions, allow her to at least think of other ideas on her own, instead of always sticking to the same old script. I need to remember that a lot of her imagination stems from things we read, watch, talk about, and go out and do. If I am feeling like we’re in a rut I need to look at what she has been exposed to lately.
Although part of my struggle is definitely my current adult life crashing into my parenting life, and I can’t change or stop that right now. There are still steps I can take to spend time with Char so that I am not constantly saying no or making up chores as excuses to not play with her. So I am writing out a list for myself of things I can do when I really don’t want to be a super hero, wicked queen, monster, prince, or knight.
Ideas for playing with my kids without jumping into their imaginary scenario
- Set up an invitation to play. This is something I used to do and a lot of parents do, there are tons of ideas on pinterest. The idea is to set up an activity that you can invite your child to do or play. It can be anything from setting up a certain toy, like a farmset or Duplos, to organizing a craft from them to do or getting a board game out that they can play. The idea behind this is to spark their creative and imaginative side and give them some new ideas to engage in, it also allows me a little control over what we might do. Sometimes I feel it can be a little overwhelming for a child to invent a completely new story or game to play. At least at preschool age. This leads us to the next idea.
- Less is more…and keep the less clean. We are fortunate enough to have a decent sized loft that has become the girls playroom, I think as an adult we see spaces differently or at least I tend to. For me, a sparse space is something to fill and complete with furniture or toys or books, whatever. But kids need open space and not a lot of clutter. They don’t need 30 different toy options out and they definitely don’t need them all out at the same time. We go back and forth between having a clean up routine in the playroom and not. When it’s clean I think we all feel better and we are all more able to engage in play.
- Toy Rotation and keeping things new and different. Toy rotation is sort of along them same line as less is more and keeping things clean. The idea behind toy rotation is to have a set number of toys to be out in the playroom at any one time, the rest go away in a closet or cupboard. Every so often you switch out the toys in the playroom with the toys that have been stored away. This gives everyone a change of scenery and new things to imagine and play.
- Routines and structure for specific activities. I think I have hesitated with set routines to some degree because I have always wanted to make sure the kids have enough freetime for flexing their imagination and creativity. I have always fought the idea of schooling and schedules because I feel it tells the kids what to do instead of giving them the chance to question what they want to do or what the possibilities are in play. But a routine doesn’t take all of that away. Just because I make a schedule of free play for 30 minutes in the playroom and then we go outside for 30 minutes to do more physical play, doesn’t take away from their creativity. They still get to choose what they do in each of those specific times. And I don’t loose my mind in the free for all playroom loop of repetition of the same pretend play over and over. Art, physical play, and even group games still allow kids to use their imagination and grow. It doesn’t always have to be about making up stories to act out. And using your imagination in different ways only helps it grow even more.
- It’s ok to say no and do chores sometimes. Char is 4 now and she is perfectly capable of playing by herself and imagining the other players in her stories. She doesn’t always need me anymore. Half of her rest time now is spent playing Barbies or doll house alone and she loves it. Nobody says no, she knows exactly what to do and doesn’t have to constantly explain what is going to happen next. And showing her that grownups have chores and things that aren’t always fun to complete but we still have to do them, prepares her for the fact that life isn’t always going to be fun and that there are chores in her near future too. I want her to be so amazingly creative, but I also want her to understand how the world works and that there or tasks and jobs that must get completed.
Remembering these things isn’t always easy and the daily grind often makes me too exhausted to always want to clean up or always remember to set up something fun to play. But writing them out this morning makes me excited to start the day and plan something fun. I can’t say how long that will last, but at least it’s a little kick in the butt for now.
This week we’ve read several oldies but goodies. First off though I have to rant about our local library…why do they insist on randomly displaying Christmas books when it isn’t Christmas. It’s not that they just have these out on the shelves in their appropriate places, they are actually out on the tops of shelves being displayed, which of course draws kids to them immediately. This leads me to our first preschool age book, A Bad Kitty Christmas….adorable book, we love the Bad Kitty books, but I have been begrudgingly reading this all week and can’t wait to return it. Next is Usborne’s Stories for Little Girls, this book has several stories in it, I like that each one is illustrated differently, Char seems to really enjoy the stories in this and we’ve been reading it off and on for a couple years now. One of my, not Char’s anymore, all time favorite collection is the Bear books by Karma Wilson, this week we read Bear Wants More. These are such great books to read aloud. Lastly was Little Bo Beep Can’t Get to Sleep, I love the twist on old nursery rhymes and I really like the illustration style in this book.
For Goo (toddler age) we have been reading a lot of books with actual pictures, especially of other babies. Her current favorite is Rachel Hale’s Baby Colors. She loves seeing the other babies and we have honestly read that everyday this week at least once, usually more. She has also picked out Woof Woof by Sami a lot this week.
I know, I know, I’ve posted before about how it drives me crazy to constantly pretend play with my daughter and always recreate Disney Princess worlds. It has been a struggle so far to keep up my rules on not always reading Princess stories and saying “no” when asked to be Mother Gothel. It’s a little easy to slip into the habit. Ninety precent of the time I still groan inside when Char wants to play The Little Mermaid for third day in a row. But then an amazing thing started to happen, she started branching out. Her most recent characters that she loves to talk about, not always play (it’s a start), are The Incredibles. We’ve watched the movie once and she was really intrigued by super heroes and wants to know all about Superman, Bat girl, what bad guys they catch and why. We have a Disney character Encyclopedia book and she always wants to reread the Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl pages, still Disney but I’m totally ok with that. We also just watched Mulan and have read a Mulan storybook several times. She’s really interested in why Mulan wasn’t supposed to fight in the war as a girl. And all of the sudden Mulan got me thinking. Though she’s not a princess she does get lumped in with them often and she is tough and independent and has compassion and strength, and I’d be happy for Char to learn something from her. (as long as it’s not defying her parents)
Now this whole new Mulan and superhero interest has made me start looking at other characters in Disney that really aren’t that bad, even princesses. I mean look at Merida, she’s strong and tomboyish and not afraid to get dirty and climb huge rock cliffs. And I love Anna from Frozen, she immediately goes after her sister without a second thought in order to help the kingdom. Heck, even look at my good ole’ Ariel, she is a hero and rescues Prince Eric. I mean, she is a mermaid so it probably wasn’t that hard to save him, but it was risky and against her father’s wishes. Rapunzel saves Flynn from a bunch of Thugs at The Snuggly Duckling. Sure, Cinderella gets bullied by her stepfamily and has to be saved by a Prince, Aurora gets saved and has to spend her childhood in hiding…pretty much the only strong and brave person in that movie is Prince Phillip when you think about it. But what about Belle and how she talks back to the Beast how she doesn’t take his crap. Maybe Princesses aren’t all so bad. Maybe it’s just a matter of looking past the surface and really paying attention to their good qualities and attributes instead of immediately seeing a damsel in distress. Not sure if I’m going to stay lax on my rules simply because the same thing over and over still drives me crazy, but I’m happy to encourage play that revolves around some of the more independent boisterous princess role models.
Snow White….you’re not invited…sorry.
This week our preschool age reading list has some really great books that I love. Giraffes Can’t Dance has a great story about finding yourself. How To Babysit Grandpa is silly and I love the writing. I’m not as much a fan of the story and writing of Please Bring Balloons, but I really enjoyed the art in it (Char really likes it though). The Disney Family Story Collection has a ton of different stories that all contain lessons about being a better person, being strong, and being patient, find courage and helping others. We read a lot of Disney….and I like that this one has stories that aren’t all Princess or Pixar.
Now onto toddler books.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about Sandra Boynton but both of my girls are absolutely in love with every single one of these books that we have ever read. In all honesty Goo is still currently picking out The Going to Bed Book from last week’s list, but we just got Are You a Cow? from the library and have already read it several, ok probably at least 15 times this week.
Last night the family went out to dinner and I realized just how picky my oldest daughter is. Char is 4 and since she was about 2 ½ she has fallen down the slippery slope of picky eating. And I know that it’s fairly typical for this age group. Our pediatrician wasn’t concerned at all and made the horrifying statement of “ Kids usually start to grow out of it by around 7.” 7 years old, I have to wait until she’s 7? Ugh.
So what happened last night that really opened my eyes? Our youngest who is 1 ½, now she has her picky moments too, but last night she ate bites of grilled cheese, salad with a spicy ranch, some of my Turkey Cobb sandwich, a piece of bacon, crackers, applesauce, a piles of shredded carrots, milk, and french-fries which she dipped in ranch. And her first word in the car “nack” which is her word for snack. We have teased and called her The Closer before, because she pretty much stands around waiting to finish whatever Char leaves on her plate. But either way she happily munched on all of those things. Our food took a long time to come out because the restaurant was busy and Char was starving and asking for her dinner so when my salad and her Dad’s soup came out we asked if she wanted a bite of either, even just a crouton, she shook her head and just said she’d wait.
I think we’ve tried all the tricks for picky eating. We’ve gotten mad and tried to force her, we have tried rewarding her for trying new things, I’ve perfect many breakfast muffins that include fruits and veggies in them. But her staples still include, mac and cheese, waffles, French toast, pesto pasta, the occasional chicken( she was a vegetarian for a couple years and just started eating chicken), forced bites of a few different vegetables, and peanut butter and jelly. My favorite thing about her is that she loves guacamole, raw red bell peppers (although she’s growing out of that a little….) and pesto.
I guess we’re stuck in picky eating station for 3 more years…..hopefully Goo wont hope on the picky eating train, I can’t take another 7 more years here. Now I’m off to make these Chocolate Banana Oat muffins I found on pinterest. I’m going to try using applesauce in place of the canola oil, we’ll see how they turns out.
Saffron Streaks Chocolate Banana Muffin
This week I have decided to start a new weekly post of what books we’re reading to the girls at naptime and bedtime. So here are the top 5 for Char. and the top 2 for Goo. I will note that The Going to Bed Book is pretty much her go to book and we have probably been reading it daily for well over a month.