#HolyLens, Lent, water play

#HolyLens- water on a Sunday afternoon (and prompts for Week 4)

Happy third Sunday of Lent, everyone!

I hope you all had great weekends and enjoyed whatever you did. After last week’s trials and exhaustion, it was nice to have some time to hang out as a family and rest a bit. I did completely lose it on Saturday morning over some dirty laundry and ended up shouting in the kitchen (breaking my no-yelling streak for the first time since Lent started), but my loving family members forgave me, and the rest of the weekend was lovely. I really enjoyed reading about how Rosie’s weekend went, too…she and I have similar kinds of chaos going on a lot of the time, and it’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one who can sometimes lose it with my kids.

This afternoon, I still hadn’t taken my picture for #HolyLens, so I put a bowl of water (today’s prompt) on the floor and waited to see what would happen.

Nora found it first.

She blessed herself.

Then Sam came over to join the fun.

Finally, Lucy couldn’t resist- she left her work of smacking all the magnetic letters down to make them disappear forever under the bowels of the refrigerator to come check things out.

Then, it spilled. Dinner was ready by then, anyway- it was probably just as well. My kids love playing with water, and it’s always hard for them when they have to stop.

For you intrepid Lenten photographers, here are the prompts for Week Four (which starts on Wednesday).

Also, if you are on Spotify and haven’t seen the Lent-Inspired Playlist yet, here’s a link. (I’m open to suggestions for more music, if you have them).

Have a blessed week!

activities, Best Idea Ever, toddlers, water play

Best Idea Ever, Vol. 7: baby doll bath time

My kids, like most other young children, are happy when they are wet. Water draws them like no other activity. 

What better way to cool off and fight the grumpies than splashing in a tub of water with some baby dolls on a hot afternoon?

We put a tub of water with a squirt of baby soap on the front porch. I added some baby dolls and a few cups for pouring, and we had an instant baby bathtub.

Nora always drinks the bathwater, even when it isn’t her own. She will reach into the tub when SuperSam is bathing and try to get water to drink. When she and Lucy bathe together, she drinks the water the whole time and sucks it out of the wet washcloths floating around her. I’ve almost given up trying to prevent this, despite the implications. (Two toddlers in a bathtub means there is almost a 100 percent chance that she is drinking pee, right?) 
Since there were only imaginary babies (and therefore imaginary pee) in the bath this time, I didn’t even bother asking her not to drink the water.
It’s tough to find an activity that can peacefully involve and occupy all three of my children at this stage. This one worked nicely for everyone. I’m planning to try this indoors with the girls one morning while SuperSam is working on some of his projects. So far, the most challenging thing about homeschooling is finding things to keep The Sisters occupied during “school time.”
messy play, play, Theme Thursday, water play

Theme Thursday: Play

So, today really isn’t about the photos for me. I’m still linking up with Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday, but it’s more about keeping my streak going than about my fine photography today.

See, the thing is, today was a long, long day…the kind of day when lots and lots of things happen and none of them are really picturesque. It was George’s second day of work at the new job, which means a very long day for me and the three little ones. I’m so grateful for the job, but I definitely got used to having my very involved, very hands-on, excellent dad-to-his-kids husband around here during Unemployment. He’s gone back to work, but there’s no less to do around here, and now I have half as many grownup hands to get it all done.

Plus, we miss him.

We have been filling our time up as much as we can, and we did a lot today. We visited a friend on her new farm and saw some new lambs and some chicks that are just getting their big bird feathers. We played outside. We survived a complete and total meltdown from SuperSam, who didn’t want to ride in his carseat. We had McDonald’s for lunch, because it was just that kind of day. Some of us napped after lunch, and some of us played outside more with friends.

At one point while the Sisters were napping, I looked out the kitchen window and saw SuperSam and his friend completely engaged in play at our sand and water table, totally immersed in the work they were doing there. The table was full of muddy water, the hose lying nearby. They were putting handfuls of grass into the table and shredding buttercups to throw in on top of the grass. Little plastic tea cups from the Sisters’ tea set littered the ground, and they were using the creamer and teapot to pour the muddy water over each other’s hands. I watched, wishing with all my might to be able to photograph them as they worked, but knowing that if I opened the door to get a decent shot, it would ruin the moment.

As I observed them, aching to be able to capture the image, SuperSam climbed up into the sand table and stood in the water. His friend kept dashing off to pick more buttercups for shredding. She would sling the yellow bits and their stems into the water with great gusto each time she returned to the table, and SuperSam would squash them with his feet. (It was vaguely reminiscent of the wine vat scene from I Love Lucy, now that I think of it.) Finally, after he was totally soaked from thighs to toes, SuperSam just plopped down in the water and sat there.

My friend, the mother of SuperSam’s friend, arrived at that moment, and I had to go outside to assure her that I was actually supervising my son and knew that he was sitting in the sand table. Yeah, I know most of my friends probably don’t let their kids sit in sand tables, because that’s not what sand tables are for, etc. etc. etc…but he wasn’t hurting anything, and he has dry clothes to change into if he gets wet or messy, and when it comes down to it, I just wanted to see what was going to happen next. (I would have intervened if the friend had climbed into the sand table, just so you know…and just so you aren’t afraid to let your child come over here to play or whatever.)

Sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut and watch the action and get over the fact that you can’t take a picture. Today is that day for me.

Rather than pull out some better photos from other days of play, I’m just showing you one of each of my children today, each engaged in his or her own thing.

“I see you.” -Lucy  (repeat again and again and again)
“Why did you bother setting up a play kitchen when you knew I’d just play with your stuff anyway?” -Nora
“I’ve never met a mud puddle I didn’t like…even in a sand table.” -SuperSam

For more Theme Thursday, visit Clan Donaldson.

And, if you like photos of our sometimes crazy day-to-day life, you can follow me on instagram (I’m dere_abbey).

water play

Best Idea Ever, Vol. 6: Box of soapy water

We were having one of those days where “independent play” is just not going to happen…not even long enough for the mama to get dressed. Unfortunately, the mama had also agreed to an upcoming obligation and had to make a phone call. 
What’s a mama to do? 
Put a plastic storage box of warm, soapy water on top of some towels in the middle of the kitchen and let them have at it.

It started with just the Sisters, who put their toy dishes and some real dishes in right away and started washing. Then SuperSam, hearing the splashes and giggles, came running with dinosaurs in hand. Impromptu dinosaur bathtime resulted (and dinosaur washing is almost always a winner around here).
The fun lasted for fifteen minutes, until everyone was totally soaked and getting cold (and ready for snack). The only cleanup involved was wiping up some water from the floor. (That section of the floor looks cleaner now as a result. Bonus!)
Hooray for simple fun.
activities, rainy days, sensory play, SuperSam, water play

Play with Water Beads

They bounce. They roll. They’re slimy. They disappear when you put them in water. They are the coolest things that didn’t exist when you were little. Water Beads!

The brand name is Orbeez, and you can buy them in many colors from Amazon, among other places. I found some clear ones at The Dollar Tree and bought two containers. (I love that store.) I have been saving them for a day when we need something a little snazzy to perk things up around here. I thought it would be a bad weather day…but it turned out that we needed just such a novelty to snap SuperSam out of a funk during his sisters’ nap.

We put the beads in a clear plastic shoe box, and he dove right in. (Not really, but almost. I think he would have stripped off his clothes and gotten into the box if it were possible.) He poured them in and out of containers, scooped them up in his hands, stirred them with spoons, and squished them to see what would happen.
After a while, he said, “What would happen, I wonder, if we put them in water?”
We decided to find out.
I filled a clear plastic measuring cup halfway with water, and he started dropping them in…and something amazing happened.
I thought they had dissolved. (I know, that makes no sense, but it’s the first thing that occurred to me.) We couldn’t see them at all. We held the cup up to the window, shook it around…no sign of the aqua beads. Then SuperSam stuck his hand into the cup and yelled, “THEY ARE STILL IN THERE!”
He was kind of spooked, actually.
We decided it was a good thing we had bought clear beads (all they had at the Dollar Tree) instead of the colored ones – this cool discovery would never have happened otherwise. 
The Aqua Beads were everything that water play usually is and more. We had a great time with them. They came out two more times during the day for “experiments” before I caught SuperSam trying to fill the bathtub with them “so I could see what it would be like to get under them with my whole body.”
“This AquaBead looks like Haumea.”
If anyone wants to sponsor this project, I am willing to host it in our bathroom. Please send donations of AquaBeads to SuperSam at our address. 
activities, bath, Best Idea Ever, parenting, rainy days, SuperSam, water play

Best idea ever, Vol. 1

Sometimes the best idea ever is the simplest thing…the kind of idea that, when I see it someplace (or even better, when it unfolds in my own brain!), makes me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before. It seems obvious, like it was right there in front of me all along.

Brilliance can be simple. Things don’t have to be complicated to be pure genius. Sometimes, parenting small people produces special opportunities for these remarkable ideas to surface- and when they do surface, I think we should be sharing them with one another.

With that in mind, I give you The Best Idea Ever.

(Okay. It’s possibly not really the best idea ever. That’s not the point. The point is, it’s a great idea, and it’s simple, and you can do it, too, and you’ll be glad you did.)

Are you ready?
Here it comes:

Wash your toy dinosaurs in the sink. With bubbles.

Ours were really dirty after being in the moon sand box. Today we cleaned out that box to make cloud dough and rescued them…all covered in sand and cornstarch. Poor dirty guys.

They got a bubble bath in the sink, complete with bath toys and snuggling in a warm towel afterward.

It felt like an Advent miracle- the carnivores and the herbivores shall lie down together, and a little child shall bathe them…and that little child shall be kept busy, happy, engaged, and relatively quiet during his sisters’ full hour and a half morning nap.


activities, parenting, projects, rainy days, SuperSam, unplugged, water play

Surviving the rain

This week, we had a rainy day with severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches and generally unpleasant weather.

I’m usually a “sure, you can play outside in the rain” kind of parent, but this weather was a little too icky for my almost-4-year-old, never mind the babies. So we were stuck inside.

What to do for nine hours until dinner time?

I try to make screen activities (computer, iPad, movies) my very last resort. That way, I know I have them as a backup if everything falls apart. Also, we’re not dependent on them if the electricity goes out.

Here are some of our favorite “unplugged” ideas to make the day fly by.

1. Declare a holiday. Make up your own, or look here for a calendar of fun holidays. Just saying, ‘Today’s a holiday! It’s _____ (insert your holiday of choice)!” makes the day seem brighter and more festive. We declared it Rainbow Day and made our own colors and sunshine. Our snacks and activities were (loosely) connected to this theme. (And whenever things got grumpy, I just said, “Hey, it’s Rainbow Day!” It actually made a big difference.)

2. Play with water. I know, it sounds messy…but it isn’t, really. It’s just wet. It doesn’t stain, and it wipes up with towels. You’ve got towels, right? Great! You can definitely handle it.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Have your child stand on a stool at the sink and help wash dishes.
  • Put water in a large plastic storage bin with some simple toys (measuring cups, bath toys, spoons, etc.), set it on the floor, and make your own water sensory area. The Boy likes to make various toys (Happy Meal guys or Little People) swim in “the pool” and pretend it’s the Olympics. Sometimes, he just splashes. Resist the temptation to guide them too much – just see what they come up with.
  • Use a little dish soap and the sink sprayer in the kitchen to have a car wash with toy cars.
  • Set up some glass jars with different levels of water and tap the jars with a spoon to make music. You can even tint the water with food coloring.

We used the last idea this week, but The Boy took it a step further. (If you have been following, you know he is curious about water changing color and will go to great lengths to find out how that happens…resulting in Episode 2 of Terrorize the Tropical Fish.)

He did all the filling, pouring and mixing himself. I helped a bit with the food coloring. (It’s hard to get just a drop or two to come out.) It helps to have a kid-sized pitcher that’s easy for small hands to maneuver.

3. Build a fort. Use whatever you have. The quick version at our house involves opening the kitchen table to widen it, turning the chairs around and putting a quilt or two over the top of it all. It’s not fancy, but it feels more exciting to do ordinary things inside a tent. Try reading, coloring, play-doh, Legos, games, or just snuggling and being silly.

4. Have an awesome snack. Do something unusual. Make the snack into an activity.

Try using snack ingredients to tell a story, or eat something related to a book you read earlier.

Let your child pick a bunch of ingredients to combine and see what you come up with.

Try eating snack in a different place, like inside a closet or in the bathtub. Pretend you’re eating in a submarine or a space ship.

We made color-changing instant Jell-O pudding and used our little plastic rainbow bowls from IKEA to sort fruit into rainbow colors. 

5. Have a picnic inside. Put a blanket down and eat your lunch on the floor somewhere. We ate in the fort under the table after packing our lunch in our picnic basket.

Best thing about a picnic under your kitchen table: When you realize you forgot the sippy cups, you can go grab them from the counter.

Try the Picnic Game: “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m taking _____” (using something that starts with the letter A). When it’s the next person’s turn, he says the thing beginning with A and adds something that starts with B. Continue on through the alphabet. 

6. Have a “Rainy Day Kit”with toys, books, and other items that you only bring out on rainy days.
Our kit includes:

  • Window markers (because drawing on the windows is just more fun than using paper)
  • Sticker books with removable stickers (they work on windows, too)
  • Silly Putty
  • Glass stones (like you can find in the craft section of many stores) and containers to sort them (little nesting boxes with lids)
  • Special craft materials (like sparkly pipe cleaners and stamp pads)
  • A few special board games
  • Partial decks of cards (useful this week for playing Post Office, sorting by color and number, lining up end to end in the cracks of the hardwood floor, dropping through the open leaf of the kitchen table onto the people below inside the fort, and throwing by handfuls into the air while yelling, “Rainbow Day Party!” Really, the possibilities are endless.)

7. Build an obstacle course from chairs, couch cushions, boxes, the laundry drying rack, whatever you have on hand…and use a stopwatch to time each other as you go through it. Or, just take turns assigning movements (“now hop on one foot to the end of the hall and back”) and time each other to see how long it takes. See if you can beat your own record.

8. Show your child how to go through the house with a mirror pointed up at the ceiling. If you look down into the mirror as you walk around with it pointing up, it feels like you are walking on the ceiling. If you never did this as a kid, you should try it, too. It’s fun, and it’s always good to get a different perspective.

9. Put on a play or a concert. This could be with puppets, toys, Lego guys or live actors. If you need a script, use a favorite book. Read it aloud and let your child make the action happen. Sometimes we draw the characters on popsicle sticks and hold them up from behind a sheet. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can kill half an hour this way, easy.

10. Skate on the kitchen floor in your socks. Try it. It’s still as fun as you thought it was when you were little. Put on music and go for it.

11. Play balloon tennis. Bat the balloon back and forth. See how long you can keep it going. Try balloon basketball, too…dribbling a balloon is one of life’s unsung pleasures.

12. Make a rain gauge and put it outside. Use a plastic cup, a jar, whatever you have. See how much rain you can collect. Check it throughout the day. Feel free to add food coloring.

13. Try some Rain Art. Put a piece of heavy paper on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan. Put powdered tempera paint on the paper in any design you like. Then put it outside in the rain, preferably in a location where you can watch it. The rain will splatter on the paint and create art.

14. Play hide and seek. It’s a classic for a reason. Your kids will think it’s fun. You might, too!

15. Give your kids rides around the house in a laundry basket. Let them make car noises. Stop and put more gas in the car. Follow traffic laws…or don’t. Do donuts in the living room. Pretend to go through the drive-thru and order food. Tie multiple baskets together to make a train.

16. Build a structure with jumbo marshmallows and toothpicks. 

17. Use painter’s tape to make roads on the floor. Give your child one piece at a time – have her go place it on the floor and come back for another piece. Try making the road go up over a pillow or under a chair. Pull out toy cars or trains and let them drive all over the road. Try adding pictures from magazines (or draw your own pictures) to make a whole city. If they get into it, it can take all afternoon.

18. Blow bubbles inside. (Why is this more fun than blowing them outside? Who knows. Try turning on a fan if you want to get really crazy.)

19. Make human sandwiches by putting each other between pillows. Try stacking lots of pillows up to make club sandwiches. It’s silly. That’s okay. Bonus points if you pretend to eat each other.

20. If all else fails…put them in the bathtub. All at once, if you can manage it. This, at our house, is like magic. If you’re brave, let them finger paint in there before you put the water in. Or add bubbles.

Remember, simple is good. Sometimes all you need to do is change the usual location of something normal (like eating snack) to make it seem like a totally amazing, new experience.

Watch out…if you have too much fun on the next rainy day, you and your kids might start wishing for bad weather more often!