Keeping Busy

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Categories Activities, How Do The Moms Do It, School-AgeTags , , , , 1 Comment

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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What to Do – Rainbows

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Categories Activities, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , , 3 Comments

My daughter is almost three and often has more energy than I can handle. I’m constantly struggling to find something that she can do – something that will hold her attention for longer than the 3.865 seconds that she typically spends – so that I can deal with my 8 month old boys. I thought it would be helpful to fellow multiple mommies to have a go-to list of stuff to do that you could whip out like the mother-of-the-year that you are (or in my case, that I wish I had the time/energy/patience to be). If your kids enjoy the beginning activity, I’ll provide more things along a theme. Stuff like related songs, books, snacks – you get the drift. The first theme is rainbows. (Why rainbows first? No idea. It’s just what appealed to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a child of the 80’s, when rainbows, unicorns and the Preppy Handbook reigned supreme.) Anywho…let’s get started.

Core activity: Rainbow hunt.

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: Nothing special, just stuff around the house!

Activity: We’re hunting rainbows! Or at least we’re looking for colors in the rainbow. The object of the activity is to have your kids look for objects around the house in each of the colors of the rainbow. When Katie was little, I used to take cups and bowls of several colors and then find little toys that would fit in each of the cups. Then we’d work together to match each thing to its “home.” For example, a blue ball would go into a blue cup, and a yellow ducky from the bath would go into a yellow bowl. Now that she’s older, I take different colors of construction paper and tell her to go find toys that match the colors. You can adapt this to your own kids’ age and interest level. I’ve tried this with kids stuck in chairs waiting for dinner to arrive at a restaurant. Each kid gets a magazine and then has 20 seconds to find as many colored images as they can. Here is Katie’s collection of treasures. She’s pointing to her favorite color (yellow) with her foot.

Note two things, if you will. Number one: I didn’t have purple construction paper in the house. I improvised with a marker. Number two: the foot that so gracefully points to her favorite color is still in pajamas. Today is a family sick day. We are all in our pj’s, including yours truly.

Sing. Here are some songs related to our rainbow theme. I did a simple search on YouTube to find clips of the songs so that you can hear the melodies.

Make. More rainbow-themed activities from other blogs that I found.

Explore. I did a couple of online searches and came up with some cool resources. My dad often sits a grandkid on his lap and does a Google images search for such favorites as helicopters or lions. Then they click through to whatever looks interesting.

Read. I’m a book-a-holic and children’s books are my favorite by far. Here are just a few – some are old favorites and others new ones to enjoy.

Experiment. Here are a couple of “scientific” activities that I found trolling the internet.

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, look at the mist in the sunlight.
  • Create an indoor rainbow with a prism
  • Make a rainbow in the dark

Eat. Fill your kids’ plates with fruits & veggies from a rainbow of colors. And you can use a drop or two of food coloring to turn milk or water into your kids’ favorite colors

  • Red: apples, strawberries
  • Orange: orange, mango
  • Yellow: banana, yellow bell pepper
  • Green: kiwi, celery, grapes
  • Blue: blueberries
  • Purple: grapes, eggplant, plums

Well, that’s all folks! I’m hoping to have a new activity every other Monday. You know, Monday, when you are chock full of energy and resolve that this week the kids are not going to watch so much TV and that you’re actually going to eat a piece of fruit or something that passes as a vegetable at least once every day and that you will, for sure!, get the minivan cleaned. Oh wait. That’s me.

If you have any more bright and colorful rainbow ideas, please add a comment. And if you have an idea for an upcoming theme, I’d love to hear about that too!

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