Adventures Just For Fun

Thank goodness kids are fun! In between the tantrums and messes, there are golden moments to remind us why we do this job. (Capture as many as you can in photo and video to get you through the messy times, and to give you a reason to someday tell new parents that nerve-grinding promise that “they’re going to miss these days.”) We tend to find fun when we least expect it, so many of these tips are great ways to fool Murphy’s Law!

Contents:

What To Do On A Rainy/Snowy/Hot/Cold/Stuck-Inside Kind Of Day

“Sing. Sing A Song. Sing Out Loud. Sing Out Strong!” (Sesame Street)

Why You Should Make A Date With Your Kid

What To Do With A Little Gamer

How To Have An Adventure

What To Do On A Rainy/Snowy/Hot/Cold/Stuck-Inside Kind Of Day

By: Abby Plambeck

Some days, you’re stuck inside with your kids and can’t do anything about it. It might be too cold during a Northern winter, or too hot during a Southern summer, or too rainy, or someone is too sick for school. If your house is like ours, the Play-Doh/baking cookies/movie lineup might last until lunchtime. After too many long afternoons, during which we narrowly avoided manslaughter, I created a jar with fun activities written on scraps of colored paper. I call it the “Help! We’re Driving Mom Insane!” Jar. The kids take turns choosing an activity, which each last about 15 minutes. That’s a good 45 minutes of sanity time for us. It’s also a good way to reset everyone’s buttons when there’s too much bickering and fighting over toys. Here are some of our ideas.

  • Find a toy for each color of the rainbow and put them away. (Who says we can’t play and clean up at the same time?!)
  • Find three different leaves outside, tell a grownup about the one that’s your favorite, and make a leaf rubbing or collage.
  • Tell or read a story to a grownup.
  • Read a book about animals. (Or any other subject of choice. The goal is to make the kids find a book on that subject.)
  • Make paper bag puppets and put on a puppet show.
  • Have a dance party.
  • Paint a purple flower. (Or any other color/object. My kids seem to like being given specific instructions, at least in painting, if not in life!)
  • Make up a song and sing it to a grownup.
  • If you have four or more people, play a game like Duck, Duck, Goose or Musical Chairs.
  • Put on a stuffed animal circus.
  • Make paper airplanes and see which one flies the farthest.
  • Tell a grownup about five things that make you happy.
  • Play dress-up and act out a story.
  • Fill four glasses with different levels of water and clink them with a spoon to play a song.
  • Lie down on the floor with each person’s head on another person’s tummy and giggle. (Once the laughter gets going, you won’t be able to stop!)
  • Get out instruments (or pots and pans) and have a marching band.
  • Play animal charades.
  • Bake something with a grownup and have a tea party.
  • Do 20 jumping jacks.
  • Have your kids help you clean something, such as dust one room, wash three windows, or mop/vacuum one floor. I’m always amazed by how much my kids like to clean, and it usually lasts about 15 minutes.
  • Have a treasure hunt. I do this by hiding four pieces of paper with the numbers 1 through 4 written on them, and a small prize/treat hidden with #4. I give my kids a clue for each hiding spot, worded in a way that develops their critical thinking skills. For example, if it’s hidden in the washing machine, I say, “It’s hidden where we clean our clothes,” or if it’s on the counter near the napkins, I say, “It’s hidden near something we can use to wipe our hands.”(Which means they might go for the bathroom towel first, but it’s fun to watch them work it out when they guess wrong.) My 4 year old LOVES this game and will do it over and over and over again. To prolong it, let your kids hide the numbers and come up with clues for you to find them. It’s a fascinating glimpse into how they think!

I love having fun with my kids, but need something that they enjoy, yet won’t put my grownup brain cells down for a snooze. The dirty dishes and dust bunnies suddenly look appealing when my kids ask me to play pretend. We all get excited about the idea jar though, because it’s fun, different, short, and burns energy!

“Sing. Sing A Song. Sing Out Loud. Sing Out Strong!” (Sesame Street)

By: Abby Plambeck

Our kids couldn’t escape a childhood experience with music classes, since they have a mother who played cello in a youth symphony and a father who played trombone in a German polka band. (I can’t WAIT to hear their teenage groans when we retell those stories!) I think music grows the brain and the soul, so I signed up Big Sister for her first class at 18 months. She loved it, and by the next class a year later, the twins joined in at 9 months old.

We now have 4 and 2 year olds, and just started our fourth family music class. I’m amazed at how much the kids remember from last time. Rhythms and songs and what instruments are called and what they sound like. Big Sister can pretty accurately identify instruments she hears on the radio. My kids play “music class” at home (made all the more realistic for their ears and ours by the keyboard, digital drumset, and electric guitar they just got for Christmas!), and when there’s fighting, harmony can often be quickly restored by having a jam session.

We’re a sports-minded family too (since Mommy was a competetive swimmer and Daddy was a wrestler), but I’m noticing that it’s easy to get caught up in the sports activities so much that there isn’t time to expose our kids to the arts as well. Look for opportunities for your kids to experience music, art, dance, and theater. It’s a great way to develop their confidence and ability to express themselves. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. We took a great music class through our city’s recreation department. This past summer, we discovered concerts in the park. A picnic and dancing barefoot in the grass made for a perfect evening, although it didn’t escape my attention that everyone attending either had young children, or were senior citizens. I know I have a limited number of years when my kids will agree to sing and dance with me in public, but even when they give their teenage groans, the foundation will have been laid in their souls, and it will last them a lifetime. You might learn something new about your child too–like that he can dance!

Why You Should Make A Date With Your Kid

By: Abby Plambeck

When I had one kid, we barely took a break for naptime in between our dates. Then, I had two more kids 6 minutes apart, and dating anybody went right out the window. Fortunately, Daddy and I discovered that date night meant we could leave the children with someone else, so we reestablished dinner out and dozing through a movie pretty quickly. It takes a lot more effort and energy to plan one-on-one dates with my Trio of kids, but it has become a cornerstone of my mommy sanity and reminds me why we paid good money to make these babies in the first place.

Half the battle is finding an activity both you and your child will enjoy, and the other half is finding someone to care for your other kids. Then, there’s the explanation to the others about why they can’t go this time, while keeping the one who is going excited enough to use the potty and get dressed so you can leave on time. If you can make it through all that, I promise, from the moment you leave the house with just one kid until you return, you’ll have so much fun that you’ll forget the pain of planning, and the joy will carry you through to the next date with your next kid. It would be easy to spend a fortune, but there are lots of free or inexpensive things to do too. Larger cities have more resources, of course, but even small towns have a park or a library or a forest path or an ice cream shop. Kids crave our undivided attention most of all. An exciting activity is just the cherry on top.

Here are some of the ways I’ve gotten my kids out on dates:

  • The Rec Department: If your city has one, don’t overlook this incredible, inexpensive resource! Ours offers everything from family music classes to sports of all sorts to one-day field trips, like the day Mr. Twin and I explored the city garage and lots of big trucks up close. I’ve never looked at a truck twice before, but I had a blast that day because he did!
  • The YMCA: We’ve done swimming lessons and several toddler/preschool classes at our Y. Ours doesn’t require membership, and offers the same classes to community participants for about $15 more. I also learned to not be afraid of the childcare at the YMCA. In fact, they saved my sanity when my twins were infants and Miss Toddler and I needed a break for Big Girl Time.
  • The local library: Get thee to Storytime! It’s a fantastic way to connect with your child, to promote reading, and to indulge yourself in a new grownup book while you’re there. Find out if your library has special one-day events as well. Ours has art classes and “Read to Rover” days, when very patient dogs sit quietly while kids read to them.
  • Safety Fairs and Festivals: I found out that kids are drawn to firetrucks and police dogs like magnets. Safety fairs are put on by local fire/police departments, have lots of neat things to see, and your child will learn about fire safety too. We have yet to practice a fire drill at home, but my kids are at least acquainted with Stop, Drop, and Roll because of safety fairs we’ve attended. Check your city/county calendar for festivals, parades, and holiday events. It’s pretty easy to find at least one event every weekend. Many are free to walk around, though rides and food can get pricey. But then again, it’s just the two of you!
  • Local botanical gardens, cooking venues, and hardware stores: I’ve been surprised by the number of kids’ classes offered in gardening, cooking, and home improvement. Home Depot has free kids’ classes (ages 5-12) on the first Saturday of each month at all stores (http://tinyurl.com/3m6akzw). This is a great way to get dads involved too.

My dad was a great date, and those memories are now some of my most precious from childhood. We usually played tennis or went out for donuts, but my memory is less about the activity and more about the attention he gave me. Don’t let lack of an activity stop you from scheduling one-on-one time with your kids. Go for a walk or a drive, go to a favorite restaurant, or pack a picnic and watch the sunset. And, once in a while, go to a kids’ movie, where you can feel free to doze!

What To Do With A Little Gamer

By: Abby Plambeck

Our house is a video gaming house. While I agree that today’s kids have too much screen time and need to use their imaginations outside more, I do see benefits to gaming. First, involvement in something Daddy and I find enjoyable, and which we can share as a family in the future. There are oodles of educational games available, and I think it’s good for the psyche to indulge in a short break from reality via an occasional role playing game. Of course, it’s up to parents to choose games and limit screen time according to their prevailing wisdom.

When our Big Sister was 3, we tried some easy Playstation games, but she didn’t have the dexterity to use the controller. Then, I found a Sesame Street plug-and-play game at a discount retailer that has been the perfect solution! It’s shaped like a bongo drum, with only two buttons. Just plug it into the TV and you’re ready to play! There are five games that use the color-coded red and blue buttons, and Elmo provides directions and frequent advice understandable even to toddlers. My twins are 2 ½ and have already mastered three of the five games. I like that there are varying levels of difficulty, so the game has great replay value.

Our Sesame Street game is made by Jakks, and is still available through Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/3tywvfw) for $45, but it’s no longer listed on Jakks website (http://www.jakks.com). However, there are many other toddler-friendly plug-and-play games shown, including Dora and Winnie the Pooh.

We currently have two TVs and one computer in our house, so it’s convenient that we have three kids! When I get tired of doing laps between three different rooms helping little gamers to achieve the next level, the kids go outside to use their imaginations while I sit down and play a game on my mobile phone 🙂

How To Have An Adventure

By: Abby Plambeck

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” ~ Pooh’s Little Instruction Book

The holidays will be here in a blink, and this is just a reminder to save time for spontaneity in our carefully laid plans. I was a planner in my pre-kid life. As in, everything planned to the minute and if anything unforeseen came up, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But having three children within two years taught me pretty quick to send my lists and plans packing, and to live in the moment. And guess what happened? I started having a lot more fun! My grownup frame of mind tells me that one hour doesn’t give us enough time to try something new, or that it’s too much effort to take three small children to that place we’ve never been before, or that it’s ridiculous to ride our bikes in the dark just so we can see what the reflectors look like.

Fortunately, my kids ask, “Why not?” a lot, and that phrase has wormed its way into my grownup brain too. Why not, indeed? So we rode our bikes in the dark for 10 minutes last night, and saw a glorious moon, and I learned something new about my 4 year old. She already understands that when the moon looks like it’s moving, it’s really just the wind blowing the clouds.

It seems our best adventures (and best candid photos) happen on a whim, during the shortest timeframes. Exploring new parks was our favorite summer activity this year. Any time we had an hour to spare, we hopped in the car (perhaps it was more like lumbering than hopping with three children in tow) and Big Sister got to choose which park to try. We had a blast at new playgrounds and found a fantastic woodland trail that even our wheelchair-bound Ernie Dog could explore.

Treasures come in many forms: They can be physical things like a woodland path, or emotional connection to our children and pride when they reflect our dearly held beliefs and values. We’ve been learning in our house that being brave doesn’t mean lack of fear, but rather that we’re afraid of something and do it anyway. The first time I left my 4 year old at a gymnastics class by herself, she said, “I’m a little scared, but my smile means that I’m going to have fun.” She gave me her biggest grin, and I choked right up because there was the payback from all our spontaneous adventures. She had confidence in taking a risk to try something new, and her successful completion of the class has helped her confidence to grow even more.

Be on the lookout for Serendipity, for the inspiring moments that erupt out of the mundane, and for opportunities to ask, “Why not?” You and your kids will grow because of it, and I guarantee they’ll make you proud as punch!

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