I’m swiping this week’s list from August of 2002, when I had just found out that I was pregnant with Jack! It’s nice having nearly ten years’ worth of yapping to fall back on when it’s late and you want to go read a magazine.
1. Cut old sheets, curtains, skirts or spare material into long strips and pin them onto the kids’ clothing. Let the kids run through the yard with their streamers and fasten some to sticks to ribbon dance with. If they’re plain white and you want to add art, use markers to decorate.
2. Plan a special afternoon with each child and tour a local art museum. Take your time and talk about works you each like and why. See if there are some techniques you guys would like to try at home. We went to a great exhibit of an Ethiopian artist at a tiny nearby museum and the kids were delighted to see that some of his paintings were done with materials like yarn and scraps of paper glued on. The quiet atmosphere and slow pace is perfect for conversations.
3. Start reading a book series together at a special time each day. Ask your librarian for suggestions or check out any of the great book lists online. Victoria and I are up to book #10 in the Magic Treehouse series and she and Annalee now play act the characters. It’s become a special saga for all of us to keep up on. Check out Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook for suggestions of marvelous books to read aloud for each age.
4. Invent a secret handshake or special good-bye. A darling family on Oprah demonstrated incredibly convoluted "handshakes" that the father shared with each child every morning before school. What a special way to start the day and know you’re loved!
5. Have a No No Day. No "no’s" allowed! For one day, make it off limits for either you or your child to say the word no. Make up funny punishments for slipping up or put fun things in a jar as punishments (some of mom’s: cuddle with me for 10 minutes on the couch, wear that darling outfit that you make faces in… some of the kids’: read us 3 books, play frisbee in the back yard…). Find creative things to say instead of no, like "That sounds like fun but maybe instead of ice cream for supper we could make supper look like ice cream" or "I don’t think we can do that but we could ____ instead" or even (gasp) "yes"!
6. Brainstorm on creative ways to do 10 dreaded cleaning chores. For instance, see if the kids can clean the full length mirror behind their backs, make their beds with their eyes closed, or "sweep" the hallway by repeatedly pressing a big piece of old contact paper on it.
7. Sit down with the kids and help them write several manufacturers of products they like, saying what they like, what (if anything) they don’t like, and any suggestions they have for improving them. Mail them off and talk to them about how maybe they’ll get a letter back and how their opinion could help change the product. Don’t tell the kids, but be on the lookout for free coupons when they write back! Kids can also do this with stuff they don’t like. Victoria called a cookie mix company last week with my help and said how sad she was that the sprinkles on the cookie picture didn’t come with the mix. It can be empowering for kids to feel like they’re taken seriously as consumers! And free goodies are never a bad thing.
7. Start making toasts every night at supper.
8. Mail your child a long letter telling her special memories you have of him and reasons you’re proud of him. If you have a teen, start leaving notes for each other to talk. Sometimes older kids have an easier time addressing things through letters.
9. Take a field trip to tour a nearby factory. I still remember touring the Paul Mason winery near our house in California when I was little. We got lollipops at the end (wine for grown ups!) and we sat and watched the fountain light up. Even the most mundane factory can seem enormous and fascinating to a child.
10. Give your child a flower petal bath. Gather some flower petals from flowers like roses (any will do though!) and scatter them on the bath water. If you like, you can add a couple of drops of some essential oils like lavender. You can make it more elaborate and make it a magic bath– tossing in a handful of epsom salts for strength, a teaspoon of baby oil for luck, and so on. Invite your child to create her own symbolism for what the petals represent. Or they can mean nothing at all. No matter what, it feels luxurious and fun!
It’s kind of neat how some things stay the same. Jack and I are now reading the Magic Treehouse books together and just today we all took a tour of a vineyard and winery together. The kids didn’t get lollipops in the end but we followed it up with a picnic at a gorgeous park, a hike to a waterfall and dessert of the world’s biggest, sprinkliest donuts. (Yes, I made that word up, but don’t you think it needed to be invented?!)
Have a magical week, folks! Don’t forget to take care of you.