My youngest grandchild, just this week, saw two tulips that had finally reached a bloom; a cheerful glorious red just at that budding stage. She was drawn to their color and with toddler haste and focus, she went directly to them.
Before anyone could stop her, she plucked those bright beautiful blooms right off their stems!
Holding the dismembered petals in her little hands, she cried “Oh no! Doctor!”
I mean, how can you not laugh? How can you not be filled with joy just for having the opportunity to be present for this moment to witness a baby child experience cause and effect right before your eyes?
I could have chose anger or frustration. I could have reprimanded. Instead, I let her feel her own remorse. No doctor could put those flowers back together. Her mama picked her up and hugged her and together we were filled with overflowing joy. Joy for just being given that moment.
In this time of quarantine, thank God for Pinterest! This Grandma is determined to make a preschool like environment for her two grand-babies while they can’t attend their own. And Pinterest has come to save the day. But I have to tell you that sometimes things on Pinterest look so easy and reality plays out a different way. So I thought I’d start sharing what reality produces.
First of all, the process is easy:
I type in a word like “Toddler”. Then add another “Projects”
and up pops so many ideas that I have to stop and think! What do I really want to do with them. There’s so many ideas! Well, it’s springtime so why not add the word
So I freehanded the flowers (not too difficult) using a black marker on printer paper.
Watercolor paint was portioned out in a little paint container.
The end product was enough for this day. They were left to dry. The next day, I cut them out because they are too little yet to cut a shape like this.
Almost too pretty to do the next step but I told myself that we could always do this activity again.
So here’s the blooming part!
From here, things deteriorated to such a degree that I had to stop taking pictures. The two year old turned all of her flowers into pulp. The three year old tried to gently pull the flowers out only to rip them all. She then just enjoyed pouring water from the tub to the table. With a great deal of haste, I retrieved a sieve to drain the tubs and not clog the drains. So, while this was a picture perfect idea, I was not completely prepared.
My 3 year old grand-daughter stepped into my home on Friday and said “Grandma, do you have a project for us today?”
Claire, Age 3
Last week was a week of learning. Learning how to navigate life under social isolation, learning how to not watch too much news, and learning to be thankful for those little things. For me, it’s that I live next door to my daughter and her family. While they try to work from home, I am right here to take care of the 3 and 2 year old. And it’s because of this moment that I decided to change things up with them. I have been watching two grandchildren three days a week before this happened but now I am changing how I do things for two reasons:
One of them had participated in a preschool program 2 out of my 3 days so I felt that she was being challenged there. While she attended that, her younger sister attended a Child Drop program at the YMCA which gave her socialization time and me a reason to exercise. Now both of these services are closed and it’s up to me to provide a different stimulation for their young quickly developing brains.
I also feel as though they have reached an age where if my time with them was typical daycare, it really gave the kids full control over what we did. I was just there to play along. I have to tell you, those days sound simple but they can be exhausting. Now, after writing up plans and using coordinated play, I feel a sense of control and a renewed excitement. It is all still play based time and they still direct when and how long each planned event lasts but now I feel I have control of some of the time and I have the choice of what books are read/watched, what vocabulary is highlighted, what the fine/gross motor emphasis will be.
I’ve Made Some Changes This Week
After trying to follow my own plans this past week, I realized that I had way too many things planned for each day which put me behind immediately on day one. Then, one day, my daughter tried to follow the day’s plans and she didn’t understand it at all so I had to send her directions in an easier to follow format. And lastly, when I went to open up some of my linked documents, they didn’t save well in a pdf format, so this week, I have developed a format in Goggle Docs: one for each day of the week.
The next thing I’ve done is plan one concept for Monday, a different one for Tuesday, then a review/catch up/ or have fun repeating on Wednesday. Then Thursday, I expanded on the concepts from Monday, Tuesday, and even the previous weeks. This allows the needed repetition of words with just a slight twist. It also makes everything easier for this Grandma.
Friday, I want a blank template. Read your favorite books, bake cookies. Anything goes.
So Friday’s template is blank. Use this to make up your own themes and plans if you want. It’s fun. And it might be fun to share them back with me.
Plans for Week Three
Plans are set up one day at a time. There is no designated time limit and no intended sequence of activities. What I learned this week is that the kids need free play first when they get to my house. And, they seem to need to check out the whole house just to make sure everything is still in the same place or something. When I think the time is right, I guide them to one of the day’s activities.
Monday – this day is all about birds. Someone shared a link to 50 bird sounds. Wait till you hear that! And, I’m excited to let them make a nest out of blankets, build a bird from play dough, and (weather permitting) get outside to gather leaves and twigs and try to make a real bird nest. My other daughter also clued me in on a great little Children’s yoga video series called Cosmic Kids. We tried one last week, and the oldest could do about 15 minutes. Not bad!
This weekend, I got excited about writing a couple of blogs that brought me back to my teaching days. In fact, I was feeling darn good about the fact that I pulled together ideas from many places to produce a Monday through Friday list of plans all broken down, loosely, by Multiple Intelligences. I was thinking “Wow! You still have it, girlfriend.” And so then, I took yesterday off. It was Sunday after all – the day to rest.
Monday morning, I leisurely opened up my previous blog post so that I could simply download the little worksheets, check the art project link from Pinterest and enjoy a cup of coffee before they arrived.
I opened the first document. Selected “Print” and then looked at the sample. It was all wrong! Luckily I have the original so I quickly opened that one and printed it successfully. But my heart was racing. I didn’t save a lot of time for prep! I opened the next document and it too was showing up wrong. That one was supposed to be a sheet filled with raindrops that just needed to be cut out. Unfortunately, I had to simply freehand those. Thank god, they were just raindrops. They were, however, looking a little like teardrops by the time I cut out 24 of them! Then I went to the Pinterest link to just look at the umbrella project..Wait, more to prepare? Sure enough, I had to draw up two umbrellas and two handles – both freehand because I didn’t have time to see if they had included a free template.
Ok, ok, I had everything cut out and ready with just a little time to spare. I had forgotten that the written plan is just step one. Step two is prep! Don’t forget the prep! And prep is no joke, especially with little ones. Luckily, my basement has an art table already covered with a drop cloth and the paints were on the table from a project last week.
And Then They Arrived
In came two precious little ones but the mama already looked exhausted. The oldest one didn’t want to get dressed so she was in her pajamas but then at the last minute she wanted to add one of her princess costumes complete with a cape, tutu, a crown, and her magic wand.
And her little sister apparently completely lost it because she did not want to take of her fireman pajamas. Unfortunately, they were wet so she didn’t have the option to keep her’s on.
Then, the umbrellas both came as I’d asked but one was broken and they wanted to immediately open them up and play with them even though my “plan” was to have that as a great activity for later.
So Be Flexible Went Into Place
And then seconds later, they simply wanted to play with the toys at grandma’s house. Time to just take a breath and let them just be.
After some time of free play, I called them over to see the book/video that I wanted them to watch. Anything that has to do with technology has them stop whatever they’re doing and run. So that was a grandma win.
Finally ready for the art project
By this time, they were ready to go to the basement where I had all the things ready to do a “fun” project.
They, however, had other ideas when they saw the downstairs toys. So, relax grandma. It’s all good.
Finally, I got them over to the table and was quickly reminded of the rule of keeping everything out of reach until they were ready to do the first task. And, of course, I was the one to dump some paint.
We actually got through one project, kind of successfully, and that was it! They just wanted to play then and grandma was done!!!
So, we completed about 2.5 things on the overall plan for the day
Yup, that’s it. We played a little bean bag toss, watched the video about rain, and did one project. But the best part is, we can just continue the activities tomorrow and I followed my rules of:
Well, this activity reminded me of just how long it takes to develop plans for a week. It is now nearly 4:00 and I have been working on this all day. Now I did totally get into it, I have to admit but it’s not easy to pull together connected activities even for little ones.
I pushed myself to think in terms of multiple intelligences, laying out each day with little activities focused on each intelligence. The activities are intended to be short and flexible and fun. Seriously, if something turns out to be stressful, stop. It’s not worth it.
Now I’m going to test this blog for how well it will allow me to link my plan to you.
Make the kite by precutting a diamond from drawing paper. Let them see you cut it and divide it into 4 sections. Let them count the sections. Then give the free choice for how to color it. They could even choose from paint, markers, or crayons whatever you have available.
Make the tail but having colored construction paper cut into small squares with a hole punched in each color.
String the squares on a pipe cleaner that way each piece will stay instead of falling back to the bottom.
Glue the tail onto the finished kite when it is dry.
Add a string at the top of the kite to make it match a completed kite.
(This project may have to be done over the course of the day or even over two days. Little ones don’t have the attention span to to this all at once)
Other items needed for Thursday
Scarves or other items that could be pretend kites
Friday – Activities and Links
Nothing new today. Everything is an option for your child to choose to do again.
This is, hopefully, everything you need for a week of fun activities. As I stated earlier, be flexible. Use other books if you have them or other links if you’d like. The idea is really simply to organize thoughts so that there is a repetition of vocabulary and concepts while varying the activities to meet different learning styles. Little ones have likes and dislikes already. I’m seeing that every day. So if I have varied ideas planned then if one isn’t a hit maybe the next one will be. And always, when possible give choices within the activity.
We are entering week two of the Coronavirus Isolation. Many moms and dads are trying to work from home and take care of their children. For older children, the schools have identified ways to stay connected on-line to help keep the kids learning. However, daycares also closed. These little ones are home now with parents who are stressed. Some are out of work, some are trying to maintain a paycheck by working from home. No one has the time to figure out how to make each day happy for all concerned. That’s where I maybe can help.
Retired Teacher – Grandma
My previous working life was spent with children. I know a few tricks for playing with little ones but this has even tested me. I am dusting off my previous learning and trying to pull together balanced activities for two grandchildren that I watch three days a week. I have the good fortune of living right next door.
So, first I started with a plan to connect some like activities (see previous post). It was pretty simple and involved lots of painting, a little play dough, one book, and a walk outside. As I am sitting here, in my quiet, though I thought I can do better than that. I know some things about learning.
I tend to go to what I enjoy…art projects. And that does not always satisfy a child’s needs.
I know there there are multiple ways for children to learn and a good/balanced day will include these multiple approaches.
I also know that it’s fun to plan everything around a theme. It helps to control my short attention span…and their’s.
And, above all else, I know that the best laid plans won’t always work.
S-imple is better
M-ake it fun
L-et them lead
E-njoy this time with them
First I Dusted Off My Memory of Multiple Intelligences
There are several great sites online to simply google but this one from Scholastic actually gave a list of ideas. My grandchildren are young so I have to improvise but I always had to do that in my career, so this is just a good creative activity for me. From the list I think the following with work well with my 2 and 3 year old.
Verbal-Linguistic (Word Smart)
Words, Words, Words, Words, Words!
Talk to them about everything.
Read book after book after book and talk about the pictures.
Repeat rhymes over and over again.
Let them make up stories.
Logical-Mathematical (Number Smart)
Count everything (How many steps it takes to get upstairs, how many books did we read)
Make repeating patterns
Ask questions like “What will happen if we put this color with this color?” “What might happen if we drop oil into the water?” “What will come next?”
Spacial-Intelligence (Picture Smart)
Little ones learn so much about the world from story books: the pictures represent some form of reality. Then, if a child can replicate pictures, characters, settings with common objects is thrilling.
Break out the puzzle ideas. Make some related to the theme. Cut up pictures into the number of pieces that your child can successfully put back together
Break out the play dough and the cookie cutters. Make samples of the things that you’ve been talking about
Draw pictures of the characters, the weather…anything that links to your theme
Build structures with legos to keep the stories going.
Musical Intelligence (Music Smart)
I can’t speak for all children but I know that my grandchildren love rhythm and music. There is something about music that soothes the soul.
Listen to all kinds of music. Whether there in car seats or running around the house, music sets a tone. So if you want things to quiet down, play quiet music. If you want them to get up and get moving, play quick music. ETC.
Children’s music, nursery rhymes, and simple songs are so great to encourage little ones to sing along. Playing the same music over and over again helps them succeed.
Make up songs. I have been known to turn most everything into some kind of song. It doesn’t fail to put a smile on their faces. In time, I’ll ask them to make up a song.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart)
It’s a no brainer that little kids need to move but letting little kids just race around and jump off furniture is not safe. And, Grandma has more anxiety about bumps and bruises than when I was younger so…I encourage control.
Role playing is fantastic. Crawling like a caterpillar, flying like a butterfly, leaping like a frog, jumping like a kangeroo are all controlled movements.
Take the cushions off the couch and let them climb and jump from a safe height.
Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart)
Little ones move through developmental stages. In the beginning they play alone, then slowly move into a side by side and then cooperative. Being able to negotiate the changes as they happen is so important. Right now my 2 and 3 year old struggle with sharing. That makes it more important than ever to give them opportunities to practice.
Almost all activities we do have a component of taking a turn. Talk them through it. Don’t expect it to be learned easily or quickly. Praise them for their patience and willingness to share.
Encourage play that helps each child play their part. The 3 year old, right now is into playing a Disney character. She usually dictates what role her sister plays but for right now it’s working and they play successfully this way.
This is a good time, also, to practice good manners – Saying “Please” and “Thank-you” and “Can I take a turn?”
Intra-personal Intelligence (Self-Smart)
Little ones are developmentally self absorbed so this one is easy.
Identify body parts – simple point and name games
Touch your head…touch your toes
Find things that are their favorites…favorite book, favorite song, favorite toy and name it as such. This is C’s favorite toy, This is N’s favorite song.
This is a good time to have them answer question like “which one do you like?” This gives them the power of a choice.
Naturalistic-Intelligence (Nature Smarts)
Whenever the weather is nice, we go for a walk. Even during this time of isolation, we can still be outside. So, weather permitting we…
Go in search of…one day it was finding all the RED cars, one day it was listening for birds, the latest was looking for signs of spring (flowers popping up out of the ground, squirrels running around, birds singing),
Find nature objects to collect and bring back to use as a paint brush, nearly everything works. Don’t forget to bring along a bag. They will find a lot.
Plant seeds, start your own garden.
Walk in a woods to find a greater variety of leaves, plants, animals.
Now It’s Time To Plan
Going through this activity alone has refreshed me on how important it is to vary a child’s play. I am going to print this list off and keep it next to me as I plan this next week. I have been guilty of falling back on what is comfortable for me. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone to make sure that I let my littles practice every way of learning. I am going to develop next weeks theme and I will share it here.
Here I am, trying to come up with ideas of things to do with my grandchildren while their parents work from home and the preschool is closed. I want to help but I need to have a plan. Just sitting on the floor and playing with them works for a good deal of time but they enjoyed being out of the house with with other little friends too and now that’s not possible. So, this grandma works to bring something new and fun in my bag. I’ve been hitting up Pinterest hot and heavy these days. So, I decided that now might be a good time to try to share my ideas to help other people who might be looking for something different to fill the child’s day.
Believe it or not it’s spring!!!
Now that my grand babies are 2 and 3 years old, I don’t have to worry about things going into their mouth so much but activities can’t be too involved because they lose interest really fast. So this idea is a combination of art, literacy, and fresh air. It was great at spreading out our conversation about spring over most of the morning.
Water color paints (just yellow at first, then green added later) were set up at a covered table along with watercolor paper which is a bit heavier and paint brushes that were a bit wide.
This is a good time to go for a walk
Here where we live, there are no flowers blooming yet but we walked and looked and listened for signs of spring. We heard 1) birds singing, 2) a machine chopping up downed branches. There were few people (as expected right now). Then we saw 3) sprouts coming out of the grown that are sure to be flowers soon, 4) one bird up in the tree, 5) several squirrels busy running away from us.
And on this day, we also went by business doors and found the sign the said either “OPEN” or “CLOSED. The best part was that this is something we have never done and it allowed us to actually talk about the businesses more. For instance, there was an “OPEN” sign on a shoe store. My grand daughter asked, “What’s a shoe store?” I never would have thought to talk to her about this store. Another one that was “OPEN” was a Vet’s Clinic. We talked about how good it was that there was a place for sick pets to go.
Back Home And Ready For Part Two
Now the painting is dry and now is the perfect time to let them do part two.
Time for lunch and curling up with a good book
After they played as long as they wanted with the play dough, we washed up and had lunch. Then it was time to just quiet down and share a good book. I chose this one:
And just like that the morning was over and it was bedtime. So many things went well with this activity.
The activities were just as long as they wanted them to be, no longer
In between visits, we chat on the phone but I can’t see how much they’ve grown.
I want them to know me.
So visits are as frequent as they can be and when we’re together I can actually see…
They really do know me!
And So I Travel Back And Forth
When I leave home, my mind is preoccupied with all the things I’ve left undone. My home needs my attention. My other grand-babies count on me. There’s always a little melancholy as I pack to leave. Still, I pack that bag and hit the airport early so there is no chance I will miss that flight. And when I arrive, my home takes a back seat to this home, these babies. And sure enough, they’ve grown. But they know me!
We pick up right where we left off. My grandson…oh goodness, there will always be a special bond between us. He knows just how to melt my heart. This time, it was by moving a chair close to me and saying, “I want to sit by you, Grandma, because I love you.” On the first night, though, he struggles with his routine. “Can Grandma read your bedtime story?” “No, I want mommy to…but I still love you Grandma.” By the end of this visit, he invites me to that special time of the day. “You can come lay with us, Grandma.” I have earned a place again.
Now, my granddaughter, she’s a little tougher. She and I did not grow up together. Her connection to her mommy is deeper. I have to work to gain her trust, every single time, but last night she let me rock her to sleep. I worked my way into her heart one more time.
I’m trying to capture golden moments. I’m trying to be part of their life, feel their days – the good and the bad parts. It won’t be long and they’ll be too busy for their grandma. Friendships and activities will consume their time and I will be relegated to periodic visits for school concerts or athletic events. I know this.
And so, on each trip, we try to plan something that is memorable. This time, it turned out to be as simple as setting up a wading pool and sprinkler. They’d not done either yet. So, guess what? We did it! Mommy bought a new garden hose and pulled out a blow up pool that had been waiting since last summer. Together, we made that moment happen and it was so completely joyful. They jumped and splashed in the extraordinary May heat; laughing, screaming, and shouting out to the birds in the trees. It was the moment I will remember from this trip.
Then, I try to take part in their events. I want to feel their days. This trip, it was a short little kids yoga class at their preschool, library story time, and a T-ball game. Then, mix in the play time activities. This time, it was all about tiny legos. Last time, it was the Super Ultimate Garage! My grandson dominates the play choices still. His sister adores him so she gladly follows along.
And Before I Know It…
Another trip comes to an end and my eyes fill with tears…again. It never gets easier. It’s always the same. We talk about when the next time will be, how short a time there is to wait, but two months is a long time for all of us. We just pretend that the time will go fast.
No Matter What
Until they are too busy, until I am no longer able to travel, I will make these trips. I will continue to live from one memory to the next. My days as a Grandma are still the best days of my life. I’ll take the melancholy and the tears over and over again because in between them there is so much laughter and love.