I’m not sure about you all, but the last little bit of less-than-perfect weather has flipped our house topsy turvy. As much as I would like to think our family is all free-spirited and laid-back, the truth is, we function much better with structure and routine.
With Fort Worth’s inclement weather, businesses shut down, schools closed, and the roads were no place for precious cargo. We were trapped inside with energetic toddlers for far too long.
My kids were running out of drawers to open and cabinets to empty, and there wasn’t enough coffee in the house to supply me the energy I needed to chase them around our house with a monster hat on again.
In a last-ditch effort to save my sanity, I asked myself what my grandparents did with their kids, and then it came to me. They let them use their imaginations. Brilliant!
I ditched the expectations I’ve built for entertaining my children, and instead decided to set up the stage so that they could entertain themselves.
If you ever want to see what kids come up with on their own, here are a few ideas for cheap entertainment that will buy you at least a few minutes of time.
Let them play in the sink.
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize what a hit this would be, considering how much time they spend in the water during the hot summer months. I sat them on the kitchen counter and provided measuring cups, Tupperware containers, and water bottles, and they went to town. The downside? The water didn’t necessarily stay in the sink, but nothing a few towels couldn’t fix. They enjoyed getting on their hands and knees and wiping up the floor when it was all over.
Let them “cook” in the kitchen.
Because my kiddos are a bit messier than the average kid (please tell me that’s not true, that your kids are just as bad as mine), letting them help me actually cook involves an intense amount of planning and supervision, but they can play cook with the best of ’em.
All they needed were a few bowls, two big spoons, and some beans and dry pasta. They scooped and poured for a solid 30 minutes before deciding maybe they needed some “sauce.”
Let them draw on the windows.
My fear was that they wouldn’t only draw on the windows, and that giving them permission to mark on a permanent fixture of the house was a lesson I would have to un-teach later. I had read about several DIY window paints made with flour, corn starch, and food coloring, but that made me even more leery of the pending mess. Then it hit me: dry erase markers! They were perfect for the window, and they’re not permanent, so it doesn’t take much work to get the extra special artwork off the windowsill . . . or walls . . . or faces . . .
Put on a concert.
We’re big on music in our house. We always have someone playing something somewhere. Music on the stereo in the kitchen; my husband on the guitar in the bedroom; the boys even have a drum set that I’ve come to love because as long as I hear something banging, I know everything’s ok. But we don’t often come together as a family and play it all, as directed by the children.
You should have heard the boys’ rendition of Itsy-Bitsy Spider on the piano. I’m sure we’ll get a record deal in no time.
Once I gave into the idea that their play doesn’t have to look like my grown-up version (that is generally very clean and comes complete with an object lesson), I started thinking of all sorts of possibilities. And the world opened up to me again. Sword fights with paper towel tubes, wagon rides with laundry baskets, basketball with wadded up paper into a trash can. Hello?! How much cleaner can it get?
Which brings me to my final point in cheap entertainment for kids:
Let them be kids.
They’re so much brighter than we give them credit for, and the brilliant part about their artistic expression is that they haven’t had decades of people telling them how to do it right, better, or more appropriately. Foster their imaginations along the way, and you might be the one that gets the lesson.
And above all else, let them make messes because life is messy, and the only way we learn to clean up is by practicing.