12 posts categorized "Play"

"Mama, Jack said I was small": When size matters

January 16, 2014

"Mama, Jack said I was a small boy," said my four-year old, a little forlorn.  "He said I couldn't play basketball.  Aren't I a big boy?"  Many children pride themselves in being independent, being "big", being capable, and - yes - being athletic and coordinated.

Growing up, I was often on the smaller side.  I was an autumn baby, always a bit younger than all the rest.  I think I was pretty fit and active, and I had a good shot at being chosen early on teams for games like capture the flag.

A friend commented the other day that her son was feeling less confident on his basketball team, being one of the shorter members.  He, a fifth grader, was about the same height as his 2nd grade sister.

Does size matter?  A few years back, we talked about being vertically challenged and some medical interventions.  But for those that let height run its natural course, how has size played out on the playground, on sports teams, in friendships and beyond?  Is it a big deal when they are younger?  Is it a bigger deal when they are older?  Is it not a big deal at all?

How to be a Proper Play-Date Host

August 02, 2013

My preschooler, now in summer session with limited daycare, is fully on the play-date circuit.  With new friends circling through the house and with him going to different friends' homes, I am noticing trends.  Little folks get possessive and territorial, it is hard to share!  This is normal, I realize, but I often run out of ways to mediate.  When we host, I let the boy know that he needs to put things away if he absolutely cannot share.  Everything else is fair game.

At his friend's house the other day, there was a squabble over a particularly shiny race car.  The host boy ran to his parent for assistance.  His parent said: "You're the host.  Let your friend play with it."  It wasn't the answer the boy was hoping to hear.

I've never used the comment: "Be a good host" with the connotation that he should let the other friend have the toy/turn.  Perhaps I'm not a good host.  What are the elements for our youngest folks, the preschool set, to be the "proper play date host"?

Run and Bike for Mother's Day

April 05, 2012

Looking for something active to do on Mother’s Day? Check out two great events. First, our friends at Adoption Mosaic are hosting the 4th Annual Run Mama Run 5k and 10k at Mt Tabor. There is a preview walk/run on Saturday, April 7th. Details here.   

More interested in biking? Then check out Cylo Femme at the NE Sunday Parkways.  Addtional information at BikePortland and Sunday Parkways.

Timing is such you might be able to both.


Pushing toward activities with the littles: Yea or Nay?

November 15, 2011

We seem to have entered a period of hibernation. Last year at this time, we were excitedly participating in wrestling three days a week plus weekends, and Lego club, and I was biking the boys three (plus) miles away to school, and I barely had time to breathe. I spent most of my winter feeling that I should have gotten up earlier or stayed up later. I rushed everywhere.

This year Truman is at a much closer school, and not in any after-school clubs. I've been trying to get Everett re-enrolled in school after several months of a homeschooling respite, but... ok, a story for another day. Let's just sum up: no Lego club. And after a very busy fall of coaching for me, I asked the boys if they wanted to do wrestling club again this year. "Ummm... I'm tired," said Everett. You mean, every day you're tired? "At wrestling. I just think I'd be tired." Truman? "Well... maybe... I think 'no.'"

They are still getting over very bad colds (so am I, a punishing week-long feverish exhaustion whopper, so I'm giving myself until next week to make any decisions). And they're young enough -- six and nine -- that their future athletic careers can still be saved. There are plenty of Legos at home, along with running around the block and up the hill and jumping/climbing/showing off their amazing ninja moves. Activity level is not the problem. My feeling that I should, if I were a good parent, have my kids in at least one or two activities each, is the problem.

How do you feel about pushing your kids into activities (sports, art, music, science, whatever) that you think will benefit them -- but they're "too tired" or otherwise unmotivated to do? Do you have to insist on activities, or do they beg to do them? In your opinion, is hibernating, for either one long winter's nap or a few years, OK?

Halloween costumes sans context

October 28, 2011

Forget the debates over costumes in schools: I adore Halloween costumes and I spent hours last night sewing -- and probably will sneak in a little today and tomorrow among my work. This is my big leagues, my fashion week, my favorite time of the year to be a parent. I love to make costumes!

Last year, the boys were, in order of age, a fighting prince (a prince inspired by "Prince Caspian" from the Narnia book illustrations), a ninja, and a knight. The ninja costume was mostly something we'd picked up at the Goodwill Bins; the mask had been shredded, so I made a new one out of some old black silk lining leftover from a longago project. But the knight and prince were my crowning costuming achievements in eight years of Halloweens. I spent $40 or $50 for organic cotton canvas at Cool Cottons. I finally used that fabric paint I'd bought in 2009. I made bias trim. It was overkill, but I loved every last-minute rushed bit of it.

The boys use their costumes -- at least parts of them -- for years afterward, so I get to enjoy the fruits of my intense labors all year. And this year, Monroe is re-using the best of my costumery from last year again -- he'll be a knight fighting under a dragon regalia. Truman loves to be a "mage," so I stayed up until all hours crafting a dramatic and textural mage cape. Everett wants to be a zombie survivor, and I contemplated for days before coming up with a way to (hopefully) evoke this: he'll be dressed as a runner, with torn spots on his sweat pants and t-shirt, maybe a "bloody" handprint on his pants, an old-fashioned sweat band, ripped tube socks. I didn't spend a penny this year, using all old fabric (bought for other projects or on a whim in my intemperate 20s) and old clothes, which makes the endeavor all the more satisfying.

For once, I'm mostly done with the costumes now and can just set about enjoying the weekend with my boys and their imaginations and hopefully not toxic amounts of sugar -- we are planning to go to a few farmer's market celebrations in addition to the school harvest party and the ordinary Halloween night trick-or-treating. What are your children dressing up as this year? How about you? Any siblings or parent-child costume complements?

At the playground: are you watching, playing, chatting, or working?

June 20, 2011

Yesterday, I felt that we enjoyed a rare moment at the playground, a moments when each member of the family was actually out there playing.  Parents and kids alike, we were all monkeying on the bars and going down the slide.  It was great, great fun.

To be honest, it is not a frequent occurrence, to find us adults out there playing.  Many times, a stop at the park is time for the kids to get their wiggles out before dinner, to kill time between activities, to meet up with others so mamas/papas can visit while kids play, to buy a little time of distraction so working mamas/papas can check their email or return calls.  Gosh - did it feel great to play!

Really, though, is the playground more just for kids in your experience?  Do you use it as a way to find a distraction for them so you can do something else?  Or, do you find yourself out on the playground with them, goofing off and playing all together?

How & what do your kids play?

January 11, 2011

Over the weekend, while getting the chores done downstairs, I went upstairs to find laundry - clean and dirty - strewn everywhere.  There was also a pillow on the ground.  My daughter stood, with each foot planted firmly a reusable shopping bag, with a broom in her hand.  "What are you doing?!?", my voice elevated and stern.  "I have to keep away from the hot lava, and I am rowing to go to the bathroom."

Part of me wanted to scold her and tell her to fold up the clothes, put my shopping bags where they should be by the door, and bring me my broom.  Another part of me knew exactly what her strategy was.  I used to play hot lava too, throwing all the couch cushions on the ground and hopping from one to another.  Anyone who touched the ground was "dead."

A NYTimes article over the weekend talked about how many of our children today - while they can figure out how to work the newest iPhone app - can't figure out how to get a game of stickball going in the neighborhood.  Kids are unlearning how to play, spending less time outside at playgrounds, not given recess time at school, engaged in structured sports and other extracurricular activities under tight schedules.  Parents are less willing to allow chaos and disorder in the house, more stressed and unwilling to handle kids' volume when playing.

I don't want my kids to forget how to play.  I want to encourage them to make fun out of white paper, an adventure out of thin air, and - sigh! - a fort out of all our blankets and furniture.  I want to hear inspiring stories of play at your house.  Do you feel like your kids sometimes show signs of having forgotten how to play ("mama, I'm bored!"... it happens to us!)?  Are you irritated by the side effects of the most fanciful of play (holy mess, Batman!)?  Or, do you maybe make a game out of the clean-up itself?

"Toys" around the house for the littles

September 18, 2010

As I type at the kitchen counter, my one-year old crawls around at my feet, swinging open the low cupboard doors, clanking around and finding entertainment.  Despite my husband's requests to put babyproof those cabinets, these areas remain fully accessible to all.  They contain lunch bags, bulk dry goods, tupperware, lids for pots and pans, cloth napkins, and other various housewares.

He loves the tupperware area.  He finds a container then works to find the appropriate lid.  The activity makes his so focused!  Lately, the little one has enjoyed finding our stacked plastic kiddie cups.  There are a stack of 3 of them, and he takes them all apart and sets them side by side.  Then, he stacks them again.  Of course, he doesn't put it back, much to my husband's chagrin.  I have been trying to teach him to "clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere...."  Just now, he found three concentric star metal cookie cutters.  He has been so concentrated for many, many minutes putting them all within one another, then taking them out of one another.  So I think: it's not such a bad idea to let him tinker in the cupboards to find entertainment.

What kinds of everyday items around the house have you found that make great "toys" for the little ones?

Self-directed play and siblings

March 09, 2010

I was alone for several hours yesterday at home with Monroe, who's two-and-a-half, and contemplating my plans for next year in the backdrop of a book I have been reading, the fascinating and inspiriting Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. Truman was out on an errand with daddy and I was finding it impossible (as usual) to do any writing. Monroe, needing attention in the absence of his brotherly playmate, wanted to sit on my lap and punch keys on my keyboard. My choices: give him the iPod touch with its monkey games, put on a TV show, or do something with him.

I've made it my personal mission not to use screen time unless I'm truly desperate, and I wasn't, so we went outside and planted more peas and some lettuce and kohlrabi. He dug in the dirt and helped me sprinkle kelp meal until he got bored of it and decided it was time to go for a walk. As close to traffic as possible. Inside again then! I spent the rest of my "free" time making us a snack, wondering, how will I ever manage to entertain this child and get just a little bit of writing in each day, next year with Truman in kindergarten? And the next? Truman has always been the sort of child who can play by himself for hours, without heading for the street, and this littlest man in our family is demanding enormous levels of interaction.

Enter the radical homemakers, those who, according to Hayes, "are pursuing homemaking as a vocation for saving family, community, and the planet." I'd just been in the part in Chapter Five where Hayes describes the way these radical homemakers "redefine wealth and poverty," in her section beginning, "Child care is not a fixed cost." In other words, how can you redefine the way your home economy works so that you do not need to pay another person to care for your child? I was tracking -- this is exactly what I've tried to do with my own family, freelance writing from home when it became clear that, more than anything else, my kids needed me, a lot. One of her interviewees had her daughter in day care for a while and she says, "I noticed that in day care, what she learned was to be entertained. Out of day care, she had boredom. And when she had boredom, she got creative and she thought of things to do, and went outside and climbed the tree..." In contrast, all the activities and scheduling at day care had her wired on the expectation that someone else was supposed to give her that play structure she needed. "I don't think that's necessarily a good thing," the mother concludes.

This gives me hope: it occurred to me that the expectation of a sibling to play with could be a balm that, once it was less of a sure thing, Monroe could learn to work around. I'd love to hear stories from those of you who aspire to a simple and less structured life: once all the older siblings were in school, did your youngest adapt to life just with you -- and let you get a little bit of time to focus on whatever else you and your household needed?

Outside time, all the time?

May 03, 2009

As I type this, my two older boys run around outside in our (blessedly) big back yard. The youngest was outside, too, until naptime overtook him with a thunderstorm of neediness. Everett asks, "could you bring me something to eat out here?" and I unhesitatingly say, sure.

I've just been reading this about a U.K. preschool whose students spend nearly every moment out-of-doors. And I've been "studying" my kids' behavior and finding an unsurprising result: the more time outside, running, jumping, digging, collecting worms, fighting all those bad guys who seem to inhabit our block, or just lying in the dirt with a serious expression and a dump truck; the happier everyone is. Everett's therapist asks, "what do good days look like?" My answer is "plenty of intense outdoors play" and I immediately wonder what I'm doing with him in public school at all.


For a lot of complicated reasons, I've been considering home schooling him. With what will I fill his days? I wonder, imagining dozens of mini-power struggles over adjective worksheets. And then discarding all that wonder with the thought that maybe, we'll just have math, reading and outside time. Lots, and lots, of outside time.

Out there, we have a hundred lessons in science, math, social studies, vocabulary, agriculture; it's the Green Hour supercharged. I wonder if we'll have enough for him to build the skills in which he's lagging while at the same time protecting him from the often too-stressful, too-troubled environment of the school he's attending. Unschoolers have already been convinced, I know. For those of you who do homeschool, unschool, free school, or some variant thereof -- even just for preschool -- tell me how you've balanced "curriculum" and teaching children the parts of speech, multiplication tables, and all that with a sufficient amount of outside time. Have any of you considered changing your child's schooling to allow more time outside? How has the thought process gone for you? Have you tried it and gone back to the way of the formal schoolroom? Have you just longed for more untrammeled running, free-range kid raising time? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

How many books is 'enough'?

November 02, 2008


"One more time?" says Truman as we finish his latest book crush. This came in the "red bag" from school, part of a Multnomah County program to make sure underprivileged kids have books in the home.

Seriously? One more time? I thought. Even though I loved the book, I had things to do! But part of the whole reason I quit my job and am doing a few hours' daily freelance work is so I could do this, read it ah-gain. I read it again, expressively, and closed it decisively. "All done!" I said happily.

"One more time?" says Truman. "Read it ah-gain?" And this time I say, "no, two times is enough!" and head to the kitchen to finish the dishes. But I have to wonder: how many times is enough? Last night while Monroe was sleeping on my lap I read Inch by Inch four times in a row (and then it was requested again at bedtime). Later I listen to him, sitting studiously on the couch, "reading" it to himself. Be still my heart.

So repetition is good, I know from my sisters' early childhood development classes. But how much can I stand? How about you? When do you call it quits on "one more time"?

The Sandbox: Part Deux

May 12, 2008

The discussion on sandbox sand nearly two years ago (where does the time fly) is surely one of the most referred to urbanMamas posts.  Amy would like to broaden that discussion a bit to see your take on the best DIY boxes as well as alternatives.  She emails:

We're redoing our backyard and considering a sand box. I've read through the old post on safe sand (good to know!), and there were a couple of ideas on alternatives to sand boxes, and that got me thinking. I'd love some more thoughts on the pros and cons of sandboxes, ideas on making our own great sandbox (with a lid or cover!), comments on store-bought sandboxes you've tried and loved/hated, or alternatives to sandboxes that allow that same kind of tactile, messy-fun play outside.