Dress Up: Hours of Creative Fun

Whole industries feed on parent’s desires to provide the latest and greatest playthings for their children. Most of them are utterly unnecessary. Every baby I know is perfectly content with a set of measuring spoons and Mama by their side. As they get bigger, less is still better.

Dress-up clothes, however, are a worthwhile investment. A simple assortment of clothes provides hours of fun play as a knight or princess, soldier or nurse. Creativity leads the way and transforms teddy bears into sick patients or the stuffed alligator to a fearsome foe.

Not only are they fun, but they provide a perfect teaching opportunity. What kindergartener wouldn’t love to dress up like Robin Hood while studying England’s history or get to play Martha Washington? A nurse outfit creates a perfect opportunity to teach the names of the major bones and muscles and how they interact, all in the name of play.

Dress-up clothes don’t need to be an expensive investment. Rosalind’s nurse outfit cost a grand total of 25 cents (including the thread!) Garage sales, thrift stores and Grandma’s attic are good places to look for fun, inexpensive garb. Washington’s buttons certainly don’t have to be 1776 replicas! Sherlock Holmes, an old time doctor and knight all use the same black cape. A white apron works for a nurse, chef or Betty Ross. The point is creative fun, not perfect authenticity. A little time and effort are all it takes to provide hours of instructive, creative enjoyment.

And who knows, you may even get roped into playing too.

Best Career Ever

I thought time passed too quickly before having children. Boy, does it hit the fast track once you are a mom! Three years have already passed since we welcomed our little princess into the world.

Those three years have been the best of my life. Despite exhausting nights, busy days and the ties that keep you from being able to “go and do” on a whim, motherhood truly is the most rewarding of careers.

As a stay at home mom we may not affect world policy or architect buildings, but instead have been given the awesome responsibility of architecting a worldview. Our lives shape the standards and create “normal.”

Motherhood’s salary doesn’t make it to the top ten highest paying, but in addition to the intrinsic rewards, staying home with the children encourages financial freedom in other ways, as Frugal Granola pointed out. When it comes to birthday celebrations, a special day with mom and simple gifts is enough to thrill a toddler.

This year, I turned a garage sale curtain and sheet into a vintage Red Cross nurse outfit. She couldn’t be more happy.

Top 10 Baby Toys

Tomorrow, my little princess turns three. Rosalind has been looking forward to June second for weeks. I can hardly believe it’s almost here: that for three years we’ve had her bubbling joy fill our home.

And that in three short years I have answered 5,620,103 questions. At least.

Watching your child open a gift and see the look of joy in their eyes delights a parent. Yet it is generally acknowledged that little children prefer non-toys. Rosalind cried her first Christmas when we took the wrapping paper away and gave her the teddy bear.

A baby’s gift is exciting just because it is wrapped. These are my baby’s favorite toys:

  1. Wrapping paper
  2. Pacifier (for chewing on, of course)
  3. Water bottles
  4. A ring of metal measuring spoons (more sanitary than keys, but still so fun and jingly)
  5. Refill wet wipe container
  6. Plastic cup
  7. Pots and pans
  8. Mommy’s mouse, camera or cellphone
  9. Child proof vitamin bottle (forget the rattle, folks–and fill with beans or something safe, just in case!)
  10. Shoes

The blocks may cut it for a few minutes, but then it is off to find something more exciting. Like my water bottle.

It constantly amazes me how content children are with the simplest of “toys”, especially if mommy plays with them!

Can You Come for Tea?

Rosalind received a play kitchen for Christmas from her grandparents and spends hours concocting play creations for us to try. Joshua often discovers he has two lunches packed, one complete with a wooden orange.

Yesterday she invited me for tea: we had shortbread topped with orange sauce. When I asked what was in her special sauce, she didn’t hesitate, “Vinegar and salt and oranges.”

Can you come for tea?

The care she takes in preparing each dish even though they are all, thankfully, tasteless, left me thinking.

If you prepare three meals a day for your family, that works out to over one thousand meals every year. That’s a lot of time in the kitchen! All evidence of dinner is usually gone within an hour, and sometimes it feels like wasted time.

But preparing home cooked meals over and over and over again is a worthwhile  service to the family. Flowers bloom in the desert where no man ever sets eyes on their beauty. The hours spent in the kitchen not only nourish our family, but should also be a simple act of service to our God, for the kitchen is part of His creative Creation.

A part that He commands us to take dominion over. As I work in my kitchen I am setting an example for her. There I can teach her how to capture wild yeasts, discover the amazing power of herbs, enjoy endless creative variety and maybe someday even get around to teaching her that vinegar doesn’t work for absolutely everything!

And finally, the hours on end she spends in her little kitchen brought home the fact that I get to do for real what she plays doing all day. Homemaking is like getting to play house all day… except we really get to taste our concoctions!

part of Tuesday unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky

photo by Gabriel Del castillo

Toddler Dominion

There are so many ways even a toddler can help. Sure, it may not actually cut down on the time it takes to complete a project, but incorporating children in this aspect of family life is so important. The extra effort is well worth it!

From the time a child learns how to pull out the toys (and that skill comes pretty early) they are old enough to help clean up. Even though it is easier to pick up the blocks or dolls yourself than train them to do so, it doesn’t teach them the valuable lesson : if you make a mess, clean it up.

As they grow and blossom, children should value the importance of responsibility. Mom is there to help, but they shouldn’t expect someone else (i.e. mom) to constantly clean up after them.

Not only does training them to put toys away teach responsibility, but instills a sense of order and peace in the home. A tidy room makes play time more enjoyable. There is no longer an array of toys strewn across the floor to distract or be tripped on. The blocks are much more fun when the  Noah’s ark is put away. One toy is more exciting when there aren’t a dozen others vying for attention.

Once the job is done, playing is even more fun.

In addition to putting their own toys away, little ones can help contribute to the family. I’m not advocating forced child labor, but even the littlest children can and should take part in the tasks required to make family life run smoothly.

My oldest is just approaching three, so there are many areas we haven’t delved into, but I’m constantly amazed at two year old capabilities. Of course, all munchkins are different, but there are so many ways a toddler can help:

  • Pick up toys and clothes
  • Be the errand runner
  • Get diapers and a change of clothes for the baby
  • Serve Papa or guests a glass of water
  • Sort and put away silverware
  • Empty the washing machine and load the dryer
  • Water plants
  • Sweep the porch

…And with a bit of supervision:

  • Make rolls and mini loaves of bread
  • Wash windows
  • Help set the table and clear away the dishes afterward
  • Wash off the table
  • Feed the baby (with lots of supervision—but it’s so fun!)

Even an 18 month old can:

  • Put away their toys
  • Load small clothes into the dryer
  • Put potatoes and onions into the “cellar basket”
  • Bring Papa his shoes in the morning… and put them away when he gets home
  • Help take out the trash (or at least walk hand in hand to the dumpster)
  • Add flour or sugar to a batch of cookies…

Of course, helping should be fun, not drudgery. Growing up as the oldest in a large family I saw the huge difference my attitude made. If I viewed work as fun, the little ones did too. Now working side by side with my own daughter gives me the opportunity to show her the joy of work.

Through work children learn they are a useful, integral part of the family. Work is a normal part of life. God created us to labor, to take dominion and to rejoice in His creation. As we train our children to work joyfully beside us we help equip them to be godly men and women.

Absent-minded Motherhood

When introduced to a stranger who asks “So, what do you do?”, while eying the baby on my hip, the temptation arises to answer “I tutor” or bring up the work at home job I recently began, rather than give the truest answer: my job is to make a home. Those other things are just “spare time” activities.

I AM a wife. A mother. My work is soul work.

As I sank into bed last night, I realized that even though my little Rose spends most of every single day by my side, my mind is often absent, thinking about garden plans, the half a dozen things I forgot to get at the store or the book we’ll be covering in class next.

But we weren’t called just to be stay at home moms in body. Heart and soul and mind should be engaged in this high calling. To talk of God’s commands while we make bread or do the dishes. To plan out the garden together while discuss the miracle of dead seeds springing to life. To glory in the beauty of Creation together.

To be a purposeful mother, not an absent-minded one.

Part of Steady Mom’s 30 Minute Challenge and Chatting at the Sky’s Unwrapped Tuesday

photo by Theophine Sebastian

Creativity and Contentment: Lessons From a Child

I sat on the floor of Rosalind’s room the other day with a pile of blocks in front of me. They are a garage sale find – a mix of real Duplos and cheap knock offs with just one little person.

As we played I thought, “I really ought to get her more people. All she has is this fire man. She needs a little family.

But as we constructed a house, then an amphitheater and finally a tower just for the little man I realized that she is perfectly content. One Duplo person is enough. Having just one makes him extra special. Imagination supplies anything that may be wanting.

As mothers we desire the best for our children. This God-given desire is ingrained in us and it’s a good and wonderful thing.

But so often, what we think is best, really isn’t.

Inadvertently, our desire for what is best can lead to discontentment. Rather than making sure she has all the toys “necessary to be happy”, I should be focusing on instilling creativity and contentment.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain,” the Scriptures tell us.

I can’t teach my child to be content if I am not content. Grateful joyous contentment, not only in where God has me, but the toys that my daughter has must lead the way.

Much better to gratefully enjoy what we have than want more. Not filling up our homes with “little people*” leaves room and time to treasure the blessings we have been given.

*Little Duplo people of course, hopefully my home will always be full of real little people!

Grow Old Laughing

Wrinkles. Whole lines of products are designed to obliterate them. As a child this fact was completely lost on me….

An integral part of growing up with a large extended family was the occasional reunions. Aunts, uncles and cousins crowded into my grandparents’ modest home.

Amidst the childish fun, one face stood out, my youngest aunt. She seemed to always be smiling and her wrinkles intrigued me. She wasn’t old by any means and her skin is beautiful. But she had wrinkles around her eyes from smiling so much.

When we got back home, I determined to get “smile wrinkles” too. As soon as possible. So that night I resolved to start smiling myself to sleep, quite pleased with my brilliant idea.

I awoke in the morning in terrible pain. My mouth ached and I could barely talk, let alone smile.

Could there be a better way?

Want to age with beauty? Grow old laughing.

Grow Happy Wrinkles

Of course, I can’t help but laugh as I reminisce. What exactly is the point of looking happy, if all the smiles are bestowed on a ceiling- in the dark?

For the happy wrinkles to be earned, they need to come the hard way. They need to come through laughter and singing and choosing joy even when it’s hard.

As a wife and mother to young children, there are so many little trials that can quickly sap the joy: unconquerable piles of laundry, sleepless nights, financial worries or a seemingly never-ending cold.

According to Pollyanna, the Bible tells us to rejoice over 800 times. It uses sweeping terms like “in everything give thanks” and “rejoice always.” God is pretty serious about this command. The Biblical portrait of a virtuous woman isn’t a tight-lipped prude. It’s quite the opposite.

Sometimes rejoicing doesn’t come naturally. We have to choose to see the laughable irony in the fact that the baby always spits up right before it’s time to head out to church. Or that if you wash the kitchen floor, a messy disaster is lurking right around the corner.

Through all the frustrations of motherhood, the joy of knowing and resting in the goodness of God should sustain us. It is what should put a smile on our face even at 2:00 in the morning.

Then, soon enough, the “happy wrinkles” will be well deserved.

photo credit