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Keep kids busy with creative fun

Posted: May 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Children enjoy a “kids’ time out” while their moms socialize.

 

It’s not by coincidence that busy stay-at-home mother of three Shannon Gleason frequently can be seen, kids in tow, hanging out with her friends in the neighborhood.

“I’m in the middle of motherhood most of the time,” she said. “But, I also need a regular dose of womanhood. That happens when I plan get-togethers with other moms and their children at parks or informal coffee shops.”

Sure, she and her friends talk about their kids over a mocha, but they also encourage one another to pursue what they want and desire for themselves.

That might mean taking a closer look at their individual nutritional needs or setting up a personal exercise plan for the summer.

“Plus, we have so much lighthearted fun just being together!” she said. “If I feel invigorated for my day, I make a better day for my family.”

Shannon’s 3- and 5-year-old daughters, Hazel and Tigerlily, benefit from the outings, too. Toting their favorite activities in a 1960s-era, olive-green Samsonite train case with mirror that they scooped up at a garage sale, they busily join their best friends for their own “kids’ time out” while their moms visit with one another.

Here are ideas to keep kids happy and busy when you’re out and about.

1. Take along a bookbag filled with tracing paper, pencils, scissors and a picture book of things your child is interested in.

For example, if your family is learning about birds in your backyard this spring, the kids can enjoy tracing and cutting out eagles, owls and other birds to play with.

2. Shannon drives a blue VW van that they call the “Blueberry,” and keeps it equipped with blankets and other items for an impromptu picnic. You might keep a hula hoop on hand and fill an athletic bag with T-shirts, stopwatch, whistle and a ball for fun at a park. Fill a tote or basket with other items that are kept only in the car, such as books, binoculars, car bingo, I-Spy game and DVDs. Garage-sale season is a good time to stock up.

3. For waiting in lines, always have some paper in your purse to use for making paper airplanes. Don’t be surprised if others join you in the fun and show your kids a new fold or two.

4. Talk and sing with preschoolers and toddlers in the car on your way home from a get-together. When there’s no silence between you, there’s little room for whining.

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What’s one of the first things you do after your baby is born?

I mean, after checking to see what sex it is. You look for the first smile, don’t you? You hold the baby up to the mirror, and you point and coo and tweet, trying to get him to laugh.

Of course, it takes some time, but soon it happens. The baby smiles! Life’s first giggles. From then on, family life is filled with keeping a watch for these milestones.

But the older sibling in the family is growing, too. Why not write a simple book about it? What’s the same? What’s different? Your preschooler or primary-school child will gain a better sense of accomplishments and appreciate the baby steps we take as we learn and grow.

First, have a mini interview with the older sibling to talk about his skills. Can he count to 10? Does he sleep in a regular bed? Can he hop? Jot down what he has to say, then put on your “publishing hat.”

On the top of a sheet of construction paper, use markers or print on your computer a line such as “MY BABY SISTER ...”

Finish the sentence with a fact noted earlier by your older child, such as “My baby sister crawls.” At the bottom of the page, print in large letters a corresponding fact about the older sibling: “I can jump and skip!”

Other possibilities:
“My baby sister has one tooth. I have lots of teeth.”

“My baby sister eats rice cereal and mashed bananas. I eat hamburgers.”

“My baby sister uses a bottle. I use a cup.”

End on a page where you note something the two kids have in common, such as “My baby sister smiles. I smile too,” or “My baby brother likes his blankie. I like my blankie too!”

Illustrate the cover and write a title, such as “BABY ASHTON AND ME.” Decorate the cover and pages with photos and drawings or glue pictures from magazines. Punch two holes along the left side of each sheet and weave a ribbon through, finishing it off with a knot or bow.

Now you’ve added a new book to your family library! It makes for fine reading you can share time and again together.

Tip: For extra durability, laminate pages according to manufacturer’s directions, or cover each page with clear, adhesive-backed paper.

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