I have this dream of one day running my family like a well-organized, stimulating boarding school. Each night after the kids go to bed, I'll lay out the fun and educational activities for the next day, prepare healthy meals and then have time for five miles on the treadmill, a bubble bath and an Ogilvie Home Perm.
Or something like that.
I usually snap back to reality when the microwave beeper goes off letting me know the frozen burritos are ready to eat.
When I don't have time to put my long-lost degree in elementary education to use, these are a few of the no-brainer activities I fall back on when we need something to do:
-Freeze dancing. Play some '80s music, dance like mad, hit pause, freeze, rinse and repeat. It never gets old.
-Crafts. Of course. I always have the painting easel set up, a giant jar of Crayons on the kids' table in the kitchen, and plenty of blank paper on hand. Kid-friendly scissors go over big here, too. Lately Magpie will come up to me and ask, "Can I cut?"
-Play dough. This recipe for homemade play dough is way better than the stuff you buy in the store.
-Baking cookies. This can be dangerous, but sometimes it's worth the extra calories when the girls are begging for something fun to do. When my willpower is strong, we bring the cookies to our neighbors.
-Cleaning. The girls love being put to work. They'll gladly spray and wipe down windows, put clothes away in drawers and wash walls. The house isn't always cleaner when they're done, but they have looks on their faces like they've just cured cancer or something.
-Go to the library. They get so excited for this, you'd think they were going to Disneyland. Note: They've never been to Disneyland so maybe that's why it works? Keep the bar low when it comes to expectations for fun? Hmm ... Anyhow, I always make sure I have a diaper on library outings because there's something about that place that makes Magpie poop.
-Don't feel like getting in the car? Push the couches together in the living room to make one giant couch and call it the library. Pile up a stack of books and read them one by one. My sister and I did this for years when we were kids.
-Go for a walk.
-Clean out a closet.
-Watch home videos on the TV. Nothing thrills the girls more than seeing how they talked and looked six months ago.
-Have a picnic on the kitchen floor.
-Exercise. Pick out the cheesiest workout video from On Demand and press play. Avoid "strip tease." I made that mistake once.
-Give the girls a bath. It's like a playpen. The fewer toys in there the better. Just give them a couple of measuring cups and a washcloth and you've got a half hour of fun. Sometimes I dangle my feet in the tub and let them give me a foot massage. Brilliant, eh?
-Get fancy like Nancy. My mom (Nancy) used to be a makeup lady so I have a ton of old free cosmetics samples from her. This is a mess, of course, so you have to be in the right mood.
-Play school. Bo loves to "read" to her little sister. And boss her around.
OK, none of that was rocket science, but it helps us make the days fun. Care to add to the list? Let's get some ideas rolling.
For the record, we do watch TV here, especially during the cold months. We have one TV. It's in the basement, so have to make a bit of an effort to watch it. I wish I could say we're TV free. I think a child's imagination can be stymied when they're constantly fed images instead of being forced to come up with those pictures themselves after reading a book or listening to a parent tell a story. But TV--especially movies--can be fun. And it can buy me three of those five miles on the treadmill.
On a related note, one project they did today was to make Christmas cards for 10 kids around the world. We're going to take part in Kids Craft Weekly's annual card swap, where you send a handmade card to 10 children and receive 10 cards from 10 different kids from all over the globe.
I figured we'd better make the cards before signing up since I'm kind of famous for not sending cards to people I actually know. It's always my New Year's resolution to be better about that. Maybe 2010 will be the year I set out a stack of stamped envelopes on the kitchen counter and make it a habit.
Here are a few of the girls' creations:
Speaking of Kids Craft Weekly, I bought Amber's Christmas Crafts and Christmas Cards e-booklets last week. I love everything she does. Her projects are based in reality. I love that my kids can look at her examples and not feel like total failures because their crafts don't turn out like something you'd see in a Martha Stewart magazine, as is clearly demonstrated by the photo above.