Painting is a frequently asked for activity in my house, but can turn into a 5 minute activity with a 20 minute clean up: the favourite part for my boys is squeezing paint out of the bottles and mixing it together; after that they can lose interest pretty quickly.
Recently we tried making prints with balloons and cotton buds.
The first thing they both instinctively did was try to paint on the balloon by dipping the cotton bud into the paint. I showed them that they could also dip the balloon straight in and splodge it onto paper. Zeph’s splodges quickly turned into one big swirled splodge and then he tried making patterns on the painty plate using his cotton buds. Elly made some splodge and then tried to pop his balloon. Meanwhile I made some pretty patterns.
That was back in February. He’d come signing ‘milk, milk’ and then give a cheeky smile and run away, ‘Bleurgh!’
That was one night last week, snuggling before sleep.
And so it seems that my youngest is in the process of self-weaning. It’s slow, some days it feels like he still at least half lives off milk. But it’s real. He rarely wakes for milk in the night anymore. He sometimes rolls away as he falls asleep rather than lingering there. If we’re out and busy he’ll go all day without even thinking about milk.
He is 22 months, and at the stage where sometimes he’s gently chewing or hanging on more than drinking, and I am ready in many, many ways to reclaim my body. With the exception of 5 months, I have been breastfeeding for the last 4.5 years, and some of that time was tandem feeding my toddler and new baby. I am so ready.
But my youngest will also be our last birth child, at least as far as our plans go. Once he stops breastfeeding my babies will both be gone. Our slow baby days will become slow childhood days and I will slowly forget.
So I’m going to hold these moments as long as they last. Hold them now. Maybe impatiently at times, but always gratefully.
My boys, especially my 4.5 year old, like taking stuff apart. Maybe ‘like to destroy stuff’ is a more accurate description. It doesn’t really matter what it is: if they can pull, rip, crush, knock down and generally decompose something into it’s various parts, they are happy. And more than that, they are igniting and satisfying their curiosity, they are exploring, learning and developing skills.
So when I have things that can be taken apart, I like to take advantage.
They are both allowed to use real screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers and the like, and have taken them to various items: a toy truck which got thoroughly smashed into pieces over the course of about an hour and a half; a toy keyboard that was given us and broke shortly after.
And most recently a broken fire engine toy and a very old laptop that prior to recycling got unscrewed, pulled apart with physical force, and generally disintegrated. Zeph kept going back to the laptop over the course of several days and spent hours on it in total.
Got any old stuff? Your kids might just love finding out what they can do with it and what bits of it they can take off!
Draw faces on some balloons and let the kids loose with any old make-up you have lying around. Face paint should work too.
Given that I don’t wear make-up on a day to day basis (ok, or ever unless it’s a wedding or something – it’s too much like work), my kids have no idea what to do with it. But they had lots of fun smearing it over the balloons all the same.
It got a bit messy, but it wasn’t too hard to wipe up from the table and wash off the boys.
Elly asked to open the new packet of toothpaste we bought today. Then he spent a good 10 minutes practising his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill (taking the tubes out of the boxes and putting them back in).
It doesn’t have to be toothpaste – and it shouldn’t be if your toddler is likely to open and eat any. Anything that comes in a cardboard box and can be handled easily would do. And there you have a nicely filled in time gap, or a quick few minutes to get something done.
This is one for the little people: a short, simple activity that gets them practicing their fine motor skills, pincer grip and hand-eye coordination. It’s mess free and can easily be left out for them to find and play with at will across the span of a day.
1. Clothes pegs (ones that can be worked by little fingers easily enough to ward off frustration caused by them being too hard to press open)
2. Something to pin them on (we used a colander, a cardboard box or similar would work just as well)
Elly had as much fun taking the pegs off the colander and putting them in and out of it as he did pegging them around it in the first place.
I had a good mama moment last week, where instead of leaving Zeph to play while I tidied the kitchen, I asked him what he would like to do while I was busy. I mean, he would have played happily enough – his ability and desire to play independently has come on in leaps and bounds since he turned four in January – but still, I felt like it was just the sort of thing one ought to do from time to time when one is doing this mum business well.
First I asked if he’d like the play dough out while I washed up after lunch… but I got that response ^^.
Super messy painting it is. Did he want to paint in the kitchen at the table where I was, or did he want to go by himself to paint in the conservatory? Outside by himself.
So we got out the paints and papers (actually opened up cereal boxes that I’d been saving for him to paint on) and off he went. After a while he called to me: Mum, come and see what I’ve done for you!
And, after finishing the dish I was on and drying my hands, off I went to see (like a good mama again). He’d painted me a cake, with candles, and cherries, and some juice. He called me back three or four times, showing me the pictures he was painting for me. Sharing all the thought and love that had gone into each one. Thoughts and love I might have so easily missed if I had prioritised finishing in the kitchen over going to see what he wanted to show me. And afterwards I went to sit with him, watching, without taking my phone or any other distractions.
Because the quiet moments together are precious.