Friday, June 6, 2014

Start the Play and Walk Away

            Today after yet another fight between my youngest two, I remembered something that had helped a while ago.  Fights between the kids seem to happen after 15-20 minutes of being left to their own devices. When the breakfast rush is over, and I get absorbed in the tasks of the day, cleaning, organizing the next of life's tasks, etc. my preschoolers usually play and are ok.  But after about 20 minutes, the noisy, unkind screeching begins.  I realize I haven't talked to them for a while even though they have been playing in the same room as I have been working.
       I realize I need to be more engaging, reading books with them, playing a favorite song and singing with them or just intervening a little more often.  The idea that came back to me today was to sit and play for a few minutes.  But being busy, I usually just end the fight and get back to work on something.  Today, I decided to sit and play.  The cars in the Little People Houses seemed the theme of what they were already playing with, so I sat and helped the cars talk.  "I have to take a nap." (Snore, snore).  "Let's go have breakfast." (cars down to the main level room, some car knocks on the front door "Who is it?" type of thing. 
          The kids squabble over who gets the house, so I start more conversations in the Little People barn.  "Good morning, cows." (to a white colored car"  "Moo." "The chickens are sleeping, shhh!" (yellow car in a corner)  It's silly but fun.  After a couple of minutes sitting by them, the key is to release  yourself from the play and let them take it from there.  And honestly, I'll get bored if I "play" much longer. :) I get back to work for another 15 minutes and sometimes it actually works and the kids are happy.  A little interaction seems to go a long ways.   And leaving the play and sitting back, gives them the chance to be creative without me continuing to steer the play.  It cracks me up to hear Elise giving her toys voices now, in an oh-so high pitch sound.
        Sometimes reintroducing toys or ideas to them is necessary.  I'll try looking at the house with new eyes, seeing what's really here that I can use to help enrich their days.  Once I even went around the house writing down the ideas as I saw them to use over the space of the month. Like the playdough that's tucked in a cupboard, the puzzles in the basement, the dolls and their clothes, the blocks, the trains and tracks, the bikes and scooters, the sidewalk chalk, the old kites, the beanbags, bowls and spoons for drums, the lego's, the balls in the back yard, the sand box and army soldiers.  And starting the play and walking away, like starting a mini story, can help the kids remember what fun they had with those things.
         Making a schedule for the toddlers has always been another things that's helpful.  Not anything super set in stone, just a time when they can watch a show, get read to, have their lunch and nap or quiet time.  For us an outing every other morning is about right.  Our favorites are a quick 20 minute trip to the library, a walk in the neighborhood, meeting up with friends at a park, or being out doing errands.  Most of the time, our daily in's and out's (appointments, shopping, meetings for service organizations and church) seem to be enough to keep my kids busy. 
           But sometimes I wonder, am I really talking to them?  Am I really being engaging or just directing them from event to event, in and out of car seats, eating meals and getting them dressed.  I struggle knowing what to say to them, how to chit chat on a preschooler level.  It's good for me to remember. Belting out their favorite songs in the car can help them share the joy of language without the effort of figuring out what to say.  Reviewing what the events they just did and what's coming next can be good filler.  At lunch or meal time, sometimes I remember to talk about their favorite things, foods they ate, toys they played with, a show they got to watch, things we picked from the garden or saw in the back yard.
            When I'm really in a rut of running around like crazy and not paying attention to the youngest kids, I feel like I need to slow down for their sake.  Free up my schedule to  I have more down time so I can be refreshed enough to enjoy them.  Because being a parent is really awesome and I don't want to get so busy that I forget that.

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