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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Very Nearly a Soccer Mom

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Categories Activities, PreschoolersTags , , , 6 Comments

I’ve already got the house in the suburbs, the dog, the swingset in the yard, and the minivan.  I figured it was time for some soccer in our lives.

Actually, it was my son. For a kid that doesn’t always seem to have a lot of body awareness, he has a real love for trying out different sports.  When we were up in Wisconsin over the summer, he got my aunt to try and teach him badminton.  Not to mention beach tennis, fishing, sailing, and swimming in the middle of the lake.


I told him he had to be able to swim with his face under water before he could try skiing.


But most recently, he has developed something of a fixation on soccer.  Neither my husband nor I are remotely athletic, and we both skipped that suburban childhood rite of passage that was the kids’ soccer team.  But wherever it came from, Daniel has decided that soccer is the thing to do.

Our local YMCA does an Introduction to Soccer class for three-to-five-year-olds.  I don’t hold any illusions that my son will learn much more than where the goal is, but it’s not too expensive, and I figure he’ll get a kick out of it.  The sheer mention of the class is enough to get him bouncing with excitement.

Here’s the thing.

My daughter? Not so interested in the soccer.  What she has latched on to is the idea of dance class.  She mentions it nearly every day.  “Mom, can I take a dancing class?”  I think it has as much to do with the outfit as the actual dancing. (She’s also Little Miss Arts-and-Crafts, and no, I don’t know exactly how I ended up with such gender stereotypes for children.)  But again, there’s a class at the Y, the price is reasonable, and I’m happy to let her explore her interests.

madame butterfly

Two kids. Different classes. They aren’t even at the same time, nor on the same day.  And this is where it begins, apparently, shuttling my kids to and from school and activities.  Mark it: age three years, three months.

This is the first time I have ever even considered signing my kids up for different classes.  For the last three years, it has been all three of us doing the same things.  I sign them up for music or gymnastics, and we ALL go.  I already started to be cut out of the equation when they started solo swimming classes in the summer, not to mention once they started preschool.  But at least they both go to swimming at the same time, they both attend the same school.

While their separate activities are on different days, they’re both weekend days. I’m hoping this can turn into not only a fun class, but an opportunity for weekend one-on-one time.  I’m a little concerned about feeling over-scheduled, but the class is only two months long, so it’s not forever.  But it seems worth the experiment, both in terms of the kids’ interests and in terms of our own time management.

So, what about you, moms (and dads)? Have you done separate activities with each child, or are you holding out? If you have, how old were your kids? What was that experience like?

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