09 November 2009

Learning New Ways to Have Fun

A few days ago, someone wrote a letter to Barbara Meltz’s Child Caring column asking a two part question. The first part was whether or not they should capitulate and give in to their children’s demands for everything they wanted (er…no.) and the other part was for suggestions on ways to have fun with their kids, presumably if the answer to the first part was “No”.

Without knowing the ages of the kids in question, I suppose it’s hard to suggest some age appropriate ways to “have fun”, but it got me thinking about what we do to have fun with our daughter who will, in just a couple of days, be 19 months old.

I remember that I worried a lot before she was born, mostly about where we lived, but also that I wouldn’t know how to play with her and would end up being more a part of the furniture of her childhood rather than a participant. Fortunately for me, it turns out that kids are largely capable of creating their very own age appropriate activities, often without any toys or supplies required. All we as adults have to do is follow along and accept the fact that, as in Calvinball, the “rules”, such as they may be, are subject to change or be completely abandoned for reasons only our children understand.

I cherish our fun times together because right now, she’s patient when I don’t do it right and will correct me in ways that only a baby can. I know that will change soon enough – eventually I’ll be abandoned for other playmates and she’ll completely ensconce herself in the world of children when she plays, but right now, we do so much more than I sometimes realize when it comes to fun. Here’s a list of some of the current favorite activities:

  •  Playing “Lump in the Bed”. When I try to make the bed on weekends or days off, she’ll scramble under the covers and sit, giggling like mad, while I try to smooth down the “lump”.
  • Endless singing. I sing silly songs I make up on the spur of the moment all of the time and am always rewarded with a round of applause and, “Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaa!!!!!!” for my troubles. We also sing, “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your feet”, endless rounds of “ABC”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” – anything that helps her engage and think. She claps her feet in the appropriate moments (and face it, it’s so much more fun than clapping your hands), she points to all of her body parts, dances the Hokey Pokey and tries to make the spider climb up the water spout. I’m starting to worry she’s going to remember her early years as a Disney Musical and find herself rather put out when she realizes that people don’t actually go about singing instead of saying. But hey – she sings along with me, she dances and she is a great audience.
  • Monster! This is a new one of her own invention, but it seems to largely involve climbing and falling on me while going, “RAWWWRRR RAWWWWRRRR RRAAAWWWWWRRRR!!!” I respond with my own “RAWR”s and tickle her. We can do this forever and she’s still entertained.
  • Adventuring! Last Thursday (the night of the Slackups), after we had set dinner in the fridge to absorb the goodness in the sauce before cooking, I took her out into the early dark with a bucket and a flashlight and we gathered leaves around the neighborhood. This did take some doing – any parent will remember or tell you their own stories about walking with a baby. You have to stop every 6 inches to poke, prod or observe whatever shiny thing it is that caught their eye, so this really became two adventures rolled into one. After dinner, we took the leaves and taped them to some paper and finger painted around them. OK. So, that one involved supplies, but…
  • More Adventuring!! Saturday afternoon, we took our Charlie Cards and added a couple bucks to each and jumped on the subway. We got off a Haymarket, took the long way to the water front through Faneuil Hall (I get so annoyed down there, but it’s always fun to watch the Tourons [Touron: n; Tourist Moron] and leave nose prints on the windows of the Coach Store), stopped to pet one of the carriage horses who was awaiting fare (she loved this and tried so hard to give him hugs and kiss after kiss…) then moved on to the outdoor Atlantic Harbor Seal exhibit at the aquarium. We lucked out – they were doing a training session, so the seals were especially active and she thought it was hilarious watching them catch the fish. After she got bored, we went around to the back of the aquarium and suddenly, 2 hours had passed. All we did was watch her run back and forth, jump on the blue lights inlaid into the platform and wave at boats. All for some added fare on the Charlie Card.
During the week, M will take her down to the Boston Commons and Public Gardens and let her loose on the unsuspecting human and wildlife populace. She chases ducks by the swan pond, kicks the ball across the open expanses of the Commons and sometimes finds a favorite stick to run, shrieking with. They usually take the long road down to the waterfront and stop off to see the horses along the way, the seals when they arrive and have races behind the aquarium too.

He also tries to take advantage of the playgrounds we have around us – she’s a slide junkie – and the toddler story and sing a long time every Tuesday at the library.

They have a daily routine that I get to be a part of during the weekends and holidays where they go for a walk to the square, stop to smell (and sneeze at – something she saw on Tigger and Pooh) the flowers, wave to the local business employees as they pass and he will get a coffee for himself and a jelly munchkin for her. Or sometimes, they’ll pass on that and just explore insect life and autumn leaves.

All of these things are totally or, in the case of the coffee run, almost, free and don’t require batteries, but our kid seems to think that it’s the most fun she’s ever had that moment. I know that for me, sitting under one of her blankets and shaking my head back and forth, trying to keep up with her; or spinning in circles until we fall down together on the grass has taught me a lot about what I used to think I knew when it comes to playing.

And to think, I was a kid once. How could I have forgotten so much about fun already? Thank God I have her to remind me every day.

How about you? How do you have fun with your kids?


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