Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unplugged Fun

Unless you live in a log cabin in the woods, off the grid, with no neighbors, and homeschool your children, you have to decide whether or not to let your child watch television and play video games, which ones, and how much.

It would be great if we could just send our children out to play every afternoon after school, wouldn't it?  Some people still can, and it isn't safe for others.  We live in a  city apartment, so it isn't an option for us.  Most of our outdoor adventures are on the weekend.

After school activities and team sports keep many children busy to some extent, but that still leaves plenty of hours to fill, especially on the weekend.  This posting is about filling those hours with activities which encourage children to use their minds, their imaginations, and their bodies in lots of fun and healthy ways, and build relationships.  While they are doing these things they will be having fun and making great memories of a childhood well spent.  These activities will build confidence and persistence and capability, encourage independence, and teach skills.  You'll hear laughter and see smiles and the look of pride.  (Most of the outdoor activities are winter ones.  Summer is whole other barrel of fun outside!)

Family fun is on the top of the list.  My husband and son are playing Bananagrams in this picture.

In this picture my sons are having a great time together.  

All three of the children wrestling....I wish we lived closer to my two oldest children so that the siblings could see one another more often.

Let the wild rumpus begin!  Here are some of the cousins playing together.

 It gets noisy, but a lot of the noise is laughter, and I love it!

Play outside in the snow!  Sledding, (which looks like a very serious business,)

building forts, (always more fun with friends,)

burrowing in deep snow,

having a snow walk,

or a snow hike,

snowshoeing, (and of course skiing,)

playing with ice from a stream,

crawling on top of ice, (this is a frozen beach,)

having a snow picnic,

shooting a bow and arrow at a target,

learning traditional skills, like how to whistle on a acorn cap, make your own toys, build a fire, and whittle, (there are instructions about how to do all these things and more on Acorn Pies!)

making a snow lantern,

playing in the woods with toys,

doing chores, which no one is going to get excited about, but it builds skills, is part of being a family, and if you give your child important chores, they will feel that they are making an meaningful contribution.

Doing a chore with a parent is more fun than working alone.  And let them help with your projects...they'll learn a lot and be proud.  (This boy is helping his father mix cement with a shovel.)

Reading books, comics, and magazines, especially with a cup of cocoa by your side, in a cozy spot,

using books to learn new things,

doing science, like this water pressure experiment,

building robots,

doing science kits,

trying to repair something, like Grandfather's broken train,

 playing with construction toys like bucky balls, lego, erector sets, and more, 

 creating something using recyclables,

or wood scraps, like these things made by Andrew, (getting to use real hand tools like hand saws and hammers is great for children,)

 making your own toys and games, (this is tiddlywinks with buttons,)

 and this is "Troll My Dame," an American Colonial skill game with marbles,

working on your collection, (here a coin collection glued into a world atlas,)

 making a play, puppet show, or shadow puppet play, (this is Peter and the Wolf,)

 designing your own dessert for the family, like these homemade cookies for dipping in whipped cream, oh, yummy! or learning to make a simple dinner,

 drawing your own inventions, like this Sky Snow Maker,

or this Turbo Limousine, with a cut-away of the engine.

Some of the big questions are, what do you want your child's childhood to be made up of?  What images do you want in their imaginations?  What do you want them to learn?  What skills do you want them to take into adulthood?  Giving your child a childhood which is not heavily dependent on the digital world for entertainment takes energy, purpose, and some parenting courage, especially if you live in an environment where you and your child feel like you are bucking a trend.

Think about your favorite activities from when you were a boy or girl.  Even better, what were your great grandparents doing in the days before television, when they were children?  There was lots to do,  and if they were bored, their parents probably made them solve that problem on their own.  By the way, children don't have to busy all the time.  They can tolerate quiet time, and use it to imagine, think, and plan.  Just because the adult world is busy, busy, busy, doesn't mean the lives of our children have to be.

Libraries and book stores are full of great books with unplugged activities for children, many with great illustrations and geared to children to read.  The world of family-oriented blogs and craft blogs are also full of ideas.  Tell me about your ideas for encouraging children to stay busy without dependence on television and video games!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Build an Igloo!

 I'm so proud of these boys!  They worked hard for about four hours yesterday, until they had constructed a beautiful igloo.  My son is exhausted today!!!!!

The first thing my son did was draw out the shape and size of the igloo with his feet.  We brought plastic toy boxes, which the boys filled and refilled to make snow bricks.

 The snow was just right yesterday, not too powdery.  The bricks were pretty strong.  They laid them the way a brickmason lays bricks, with each brick covering the gap between two bricks from the row below.  That makes a stronger wall, as any child who plays with lego knows!

 We ate lunch and had hot chocolate in the half-finished igloo.  For most of the time, I read a book in the sunshine, but they asked me to excavate the interior at some point.  That was a good idea!

 In this picture my son is showing me how they solved the problem of how to build bricks across the entrance.  Later, when the wall above was strong, and the boys and I had carved an arch over the door, (an arch is stronger than a flat ceiling, think about bridge construction,) they removed the column.

 Their persistence was incredible!

 Towards the end the boys got very, very tired.  The sun had been out and the snow was getting incredibly heavy.  I helped them with making the last bricks and doing a lot of the lifting.  I'm still tired!  How did they do that for four hours?

 After the igloo was finished, they dumped snow on their heads for the final picture.

 Then they had a snack inside.  They are laughing and joking as they divide up a bag of gummy bears.  They thought about six children could fit inside.  I could sit up inside with 2 or more feet above my head.

 Before we left, some adults came to take pictures of their children peeking out of the door.  Other adults came to shake their heads in amazement and ask the boys how they built it.  We wished the igloo were somewhere we could visit every day.  (It is at a ski resort twenty minutes from our town.)  It was hard to leave, and we might have stayed a little too long.  I had to blast the heat in the car to warm the boys up, and I got a hot drink for our friend, who was wet and chilled.

How long will it last?  Will visitors try to keep it intact?  Will it freeze hard and last until the spring thaw?  I hope so!

Franciful Arts sent a great link on how the Inuit build an igloo.  The little movie was made in 1949, and is fascinating.  The narrator calls the Inuit "eskimos," as we used to when we were little, but this is considered offensive by some, because it may be a denigrating name given by foreigners, and may mean "eaters of raw meat."  Inuit is the name the people have for themselves.  It means "the human beings."

Thank you, Franciful Arts!  We'll try it this way next time!