Tuesday, March 12, 2013
A Simple Sanity Saver Before Dinner
In our house, we begin dinner between 6:00 pm and 6:15 pm most nights, unless Drew's work day has been hectic and I've adjusted times accordingly. Generally, this means I start cooking around 5:00 pm and the girls are asked to play in the Play Room while I do so. Although they have matured a little in the last few months, leaving them to their own devices in the playroom for 45 minutes or more results in hurricane like forces turning the room upside down. This has forced me to rethink the way I cook dinner and the resources and activities avaliable to them during "the witching hour."
Sometimes it is play dough, tools, and cookie cutters. They both enjoy the tactile experice of playdough and often are cooking just like I am at the time. Sometimes, we pull out the magnetic paper dolls. Miss Moo can sit and play with those for hours- switching outfits back and forth among the dolls, creating stories around their outfits, and creating dialog among the dolls themselves. Miss Roo isn't as entertained with these dolls for as long as Moo tends to be, so I usually supplement the magnet dolls for her with a few books to "read", some blocks or legos to build with the dolls, or some small animals from our felt farm.
But my best tool is the art station. We have a little organizer from Ikea that hold all our paper, crayons, stickers, markers, and other various creative goodies. Some nights they get stickers, crayons, and construction paper. Others, they washable markers and activity placemats. Sometimes they get huge pieces of paper and they make their placemats for dinner.*
Art is a great outlet for most people, but especially for little children. Allowing them to explore without instruction and expectation yield a great learning experience of creation for process sake rather than forced product. Moo has moved from scribbles to creating snowmen, animals, people, and forming letters on her own. Roo now repeats the way to make letters, such as "up down up down" for a M, even if she doesn't make the letter at the time. Her scribbles are starting to be more controlled and she's interested in using more than one color of crayon, marker, etc.
Giving them this freedom, and often sitting to color and create while I can if something is boiling or roasting, has made our dinner transition much easier. The girls look forward to our art nights and I look forward to the gentle time I see them spending together. They are learning to share without an adult sitting right with them. They color and create on one another's papers and occasionally together.
I am learning how to allow them to explore without feeling the need to interrupt in order to teach or direct. I'm also using their creations as a way to foster their love of art by asking questions in a supportive way - "That's beautiful! Would you tell me about your picture?" rather than "What is this a picture of?"
So give it a try- grab the kids, some big paper, and set them at the table. Ask them to make a placemat for themselves for dinner. Let them create. Ask them about their picture. Start a pre-dinner tradition.
What simple solutions do you use for your "witching hour?" Do you ever participate with your children?