Saturday, March 14, 2009

Those drip-drop days ...

It's a cool, rainy day outside, which reminds me of those cold, rainy days which made outdoor play off-limits. The boys, especially, would ask,

"But what can we do?"

On days like that, camping out is a good option. Not outdoors, mind you, but inside where it's warm and dry. I'd pull out sheets or blankets and hang them over tables to make a tent for them. Sometimes they designed their own, and with their sister's help, pinned them to couches and chairs, expanding the layout.

Inside a home-made tent, imaginations don't bed down - they wake up! Give your little ones time to come up with their own ideas for the tent itself and what to do once inside it. If too much screen time has worn out their imagination station (the brain), help them come up with some fun ideas:

1. Story time! Read out loud to your little campers. If you crawl inside and spend a little time with them there, they'll think you're one cool parent! Read the original title "The Boxcar Children" to ignite the fires of imagination in your youngsters.

When I was a third grader, The Boxcar Children was my favorite book. I read it over and over that year, living out the lives of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny. I read it aloud to our children who loved it, too. Every parent ought to read it at least once - aloud - chapter by chapter, stopping now and then so their children beg for more.

When you read aloud to your children, you are training them to be "active listeners." This means their minds are forced to picture the story. I don't know about the newer editions, but the original Boxcar Children book didn't have pictures on every page - and when it did have one, it was a black silhouette. We do our children a disservice by supplying too many visuals. When there are no pictures available, children envision their own characters - and perhaps imagine themselves playing the roles. This is creative learning.

2. Serve lunch inside the tent. Preheated hot-dogs can be put on a chopstick and "cooked" over a red construction paper-made fire. (Have your artist prepare the fire while you heat the hot-dogs on the stove.) Serve s'mores for dessert!

3. Build with Legos. If your child doesn't have any, I recommend some basic Lego blocks. There's a lot of hands-on learning in building your own fort, house, etc. Our boys, when they were 8 and 11, built their own chess board and chess men out of Legos.

4. Make up silly stories or songs about rain. Get things started by giving your children a first sentence: "Once upon a time, it rained so hard, all the rabbit holes were full of water. When Jack looked outside, he saw fourteen rabbits sitting on the family deck...." Let your kids take it from there. If they can't, prompt them with "Wouldn't it be fun if the rabbits started talking to Jack?"

You'll probably come up with a lot more ideas for those drip-drop days. The secret is doing it on sunny days so you've got supplies and ideas ready when it rains. Don't dread the drip-drop days. Enjoy them - and make life-long memories with your children.

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