Keeping Busy

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J in her blue sequined tap costume.One of our end-of-year rights of passage is my daughters’ dance recital. They and their classmates have worked hard all year to earn the right to strut their stuff in adorable matching costumes. While fall dance lessons are all about fun, discipline and technique, spring lessons are a painstaking journey to perfecting recital numbers. In this, their third, year of dance lessons, the M and J’s class performed two pieces: one tap and one ballet.

I served as a “stage mom,” one of two mothers who hangs out backstage with the whole class of children for the entirety of the performance. Being the mother of a sixth to a quarter of the class, there’s a sense of obligation to fill this role. Our girls had a piece to perform before intermission, another after, and were expected to remain backstage to make a grand appearance at curtain call. We got to the performance space (late) at 6:30 pm and didn’t get home until 10:30.

M in her blue sequined ballet costume.For nearly 4 hours, the other stage mom and I needed to find a way to keep our herd of 11 6- and 7-year-olds under control and ready to perform in a room shared with at least 5 other classes worth of young children. Due to an unfortunate incident last year involving green room walls and crayons, this year stickers, crayons and markers were banned from the premises, so we needed to get creative.

I’m pleased to report that our group stayed pretty focused, although they did start to get a little rowdy towards the end. It was my fault. I got complacent and didn’t offer up a new activity early enough and let the ones we had out get stale.

So, what works to keep 11 first grade girls (plus 5-15 adoptees from other groups) occupied for several hours in a confined space? I came prepared.

  • Photo Credit: nic0
    Photo Credit: nic0

    Beading. I put out a big bin of all sorts of beads, made sure each child had a good length of string, and let them go to town. It would have been better if I had brought scissors to cut the string, but I used my Amazing Mommy Teeth to good effect. I think these beads bought us nearly an hour of peace.

  • Color Wonder markers and colouring books. Yes, we’d been told to steer away from colouring activities, but this ink dries clear everywhere but on specially treated paper, so it seemed a safe bet. This was especially handy for the younger children nearby. One 4-year-old, in particular, was committed to escaping the room until we were able to distract her with markers.
  • Photo Credit: giveawayboy
    Photo Credit: giveawayboy

    My jigsaw puzzles were a big flop. We only have 100, 150 and 500 piece puzzles at our house, and the other kids felt that the 100 piece ones were beyond their capacity. Live and learn.

  • Card games. Two rounds of Uno with 9 people was a blast! Even better, our card games filled the dead time between the girls’ second dance and curtain call.
  • Movies. A kind mom furnished us with a portable DVD player and a number of movies, and I brought additional DVDs with me. We ended up not using this as a distraction, but I was glad to know that we had it available in a pinch.
  • Books. It ended up being far too loud in the room for story time.
  • Board(ish) games. I brought Battleship and Connect 4 with me, but that would have entertained only 4 at a time, leaving me with 7 other girls to entertain. Granted, 1 or 2 were on bathroom or water break at any given time, but we still needed larger group activities.

I need ideas for next year.

How best to keep a bunch of elementary school ballerinas busy?

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

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