Thursday, March 22, 2007

Free Time

Good morning to all our friends and family! A have a quiet moment and decided that my laundry basket can wait 5 minutes while I get out some thoughts to you all. I just received an e-mail from a friend who has been reading the blog and asked, "How do you find the time to write?". Well, it got me thinking... "how DO I find the time to write?". I decided to put a few ideas out there about how I keep my kids busy while I get work done/write on this blog/read a bit/do chores/write a note to a friend/make phone calls. So, here are some things I do (please do not think I have this technique mastered!)...
1. Visit the library and check out books AND books on tape/CD. You can usually get 10-15 minutes out of one reading on CD. (In fact Sophia and Nicolas are reading along with a book called "Strega Nona" right now!)
2. Set up an art station with paper, markers, fun scissors, stamps and other things. My kids are CRAZY about art and they usually make things/draw for at least 30 minutes at a time.
3. Keep LOTS of LEGO blocks on hand. Sophia and Nicolas usually make villages, farms and little "communities" with their legos (they really like setting up a "Narnia" land with their legos). I usually interject with ideas to keep them "going" (like, do they have a mountain? You should build a really big mountain for them to climb over!).
4. If you're brave... set up a little water station on your counter and let them play in it with measuring cups/spoons, ladels, strainers, cups, turkey basters... I find that the clean-up is worth the time they spend keeping busy. (Not to mention that this kind of sensory play is so great for them).
5. Make them a fun snack and let them enjoy it while you step away. Sometimes I make an "odds and ends" snack (they are so excited to see all of the things in front of them that they take their time eating it and talk about what Mom has given them) and give them little bits of whatever I have in my cupboard/fridge. Since I am close by, I let them eat their snack alone sometimes.
6. Give them REAL money (coins) and let them play store. I have them set up what they want to "sell" and give them old grocery bags to go shopping with. They of course have to take turns at who plays storekeeper and shopper (sometimes a bit of tension there!).
I know that some of you may find these ideas corny or think, "Yeah, right. Easier said than done". But these have worked for us. Also, I am very blessed to have two kids who really play well together. I think that the big sister taking the lead about how/what to play also helps. It is nice to see Nicolas stepping up and being assertive about what/how HE wants to play (Sophia actually listens to him now!).
Many of you are probably thinking, "Well, what about Elias? Where is he during all of this?". Well, I have to say that most of our productive time happens while Elias is napping (morning and afternoon still). When he is up, he is actually starting to join them in play and is absolutely amuses by what they're doing.
Also (I promise, my speech is almost done), it REALLY helps to have a routine. Not a schedule, but just a normal order of what is done when. It helps the kids to know what's coming next, what's expected of them and it mostly helps ME to be/feel productive about my day.
Sorry for the uninvited mama advice. Just disregard this message if you have things under control OR are not at all interested in how I find free time!!!

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