Jazzing up the arts and crafts

first painting

The Child’s first experience with arts and crafts was at a play group — she went crazy for painting, and nothing’s changed. If there are things to be glued or painted (or rolled), she’s all over it. I had never thought of doing arts and crafts at home prior to seeing her enjoy it so much, mainly because I’m not artsy, and my craftiness involves needles and thread.

We’ve got paint at home now, and The Child uses brushes and her fingers most of the time to decorate an A4 sheet of copier paper — as well as the cheap plastic tablecloth I put down — and I thought I had totally nailed this art thing until I decided to do some cutting of felt pieces for another project while she was painting (the things I will do for this child — I’m working harder than I ever have).

stamping with felt

So she loves painting (it’s the daily wheedling for “Painting? Paintiiiiinnnng????!” that gave me the clue), but she needs a little more to paint with:

  1. We’ve done cardboard tube printing, but the end result was a lot less… usable as-is.
  2. I’ve also taken to collecting bits of bubble wrap to do more printing, which I imagine I’ll introduce to The Child after we’re back from holiday.
  3. I haven’t yet decided if I should just put the plastic tablecloth on the floor to let her roll a couple of peach pits around in paint in a shallow box.
  4. Ditto to the rubber band splatter painting / messy activity. Actually, on brief reflection, this is definitely going outside. She is half The Husband, and I know what he’d do if he got the chance to splat paint.
  5. Another really quick set up for a painting session with a difference would be clothes peg painting, which uses pom poms or cotton balls.
  6. Something that will require more preparation is proper printmaking made suitable for toddlers. Maybe I’m a little nuts and over-ambitious, but at least I know where I can get a brayer locally. That’s what I’m telling myself.
  7. And finally, I’m itching to do some tape-resist art to be a cheapskate with decorating, and wax-resist cards to be a cheapskate at birthdays and christmas.

Real help with the laundry

I used to wait till The Child was napping before sneaking downstairs to hang laundry (we live in a first-floor flat). However. She has decided to really annoy me by semi-regularly skipping her afternoon nap (oh, the joy of two-year olds), so this can no longer be a dependable strategy. So I invented a ‘game’.

She carries the peg basket downstairs, while I heft the laundry bag. I tried doing it the other way round but I think the bag weighs more than she does. More’s the pity.

When we get down there, I ask her for one, two, or three (or more) pegs, and request that she hands them to me one at a time. I count out loud as she hands them to me, so she knows when to stop. So we hang the laundry together.

When we go back downstairs to collect the (hopefully) dry laundry, she gets to hold the basket while I slowly drop the pegs back in. It isn’t as much of a learning or engaging experience for her, but I’ve told her it’s an important job. Don’t spoil my fun.

Tips for flying long-haul

crazed before travel

Her first long trip was a road trip to Scotland at six months old. Since then, she’s gone on another Scottish visit (one year old) and flown two long haul flights (eight months and 17 months old). She’s only two, but The Child is a pretty seasoned traveller. We’re going on another trip, to Canada this time, and while planning how to minimise the screaming rages, I thought it might make sense to make a list that others may find helpful when embarking on a long journey.

  1. Pre-flight activities. Depending on the time you’re travelling, and how many time zones you’ll be crossing. Our limited experience suggests multiple naps — rather than one long sleep — have a slightly less horrific impact when it comes to dealing with jet lag. Multiple naps = small activities in the terminal. One long sleep = run them ragged. Do whatever you think is better for your child.
  2. Food. If you’re breastfeeding, that’s the best way to calm a baby, especially on an aeroplane’s ascent and descent. You can even twist over and kill your back to boob your baby in the back seat of your car if they’re still in a rear-facing car seat. For older kids — snacks. Lots of snacks. You can’t bring too many snacks. Did I mention snacks?
  3. In-flight / -car seat activities. If they won’t or can’t sleep, make sure you pack plenty of quiet-ish activities they can do. I patronise my favourite charity shop and get a bunch of toys on the cheap, as well as make my own — if I have the time, pre-trip. This trip, I’m bringing stickers, colouring pages, a puzzle, dry-erase writing practice, play dough mat (and play dough, of course), a calculator, and a face-making game (blank face template, stick features on). And if they want to walk around while the seatbelt sign is off, it’s better they do that than scream because you don’t let them for fear of irritating other passengers.
  4. Use the nuclear option as the absolute last resort. By that I mean apps / movies / television episodes that can be accessed on your tablet or smartphone. If you wield it too early, the other activities you’ve brought may go wasted and your kid’s going to get all crazy having watched too much TV.
  5. And finally, snacks.

Knowing our luck, The Child who has been pacified with the above in earlier trips, will eschew them all in favour of screaming. Because she’s two.

(The photo was shot at a play area in Heathrow Airport in late 2013. I thanked the planners from the bottom of my heart, and The Husband got to see what soft play was like with a crazy, climbing toddler.)

The whimper in the night


We’re just starting week two of night weaning The Child (previous post), and I’m pleased to report that so far, I have not been needed past nursing her to sleep. Even The Husband has not been needed the past couple of nights — he’s gone over to check on her when she’s whimpered or cried out for a feed, but she’s either been talking in her sleep, or just rolled over and dozed off again.

YES. We have had the first nights of the Holy Grail of parenting — sleeping through the night. Or at least, not waking enough to require a cuddle through the night.

All we need to do is train ourselves — as parents — to go to bed earlier! I’m still a little tired, and The Husband is, too. After The Child has gone to bed (usually nine- or ten-ish), we stay up for at least another couple of hours. She wakes up around six or a little later, and that’s my cue to give her the morning feed.

(No, she doesn’t sleep a whole lot at night. Which explains her need to nap at half-past ten this morning.)

Super-lazy parenting tip #1

You know what’s a great fine motor activity?

  1. Clip your child’s nails while they are sitting and watching way too many Yo Gabba Gabba clips on YouTube.
  2. Leave the clippings on the floor overnight because you forgot to clean them up.
  3. The next morning, your child will sit back down on the floor, notice the clippings, and be curious about them.
  4. Ask your child to help pick them up.

Turn a wee chore (vacuuming while your child shouts, “Vackkkkk cleaner!”) into an activity where someone else helps you clean up by working on their pincer grip. What a win.

(I did actually do this. Since people bite their nails, it can’t be too bad if a toddler decides to taste their own nail clippings.)

I wonder what other minor chores I can get her to do while pretending it’s a fun game, so I don’t have to.