31 Days of Play: January

Monday, December 26, 2011 2 comments

2012 is going to be a wonderful year! I have a couple of fun things in store for 2012 that will help us connect more with ourselves and with our children.

We're going to kick off January with our 365 Days of Play series. Each month, I'll post 29-31 activities (depending on how many days are in the month) that will put focus each and every day on playing and connecting with your kids. Connection is the heart of positive parenting, and there is no better way to connect than through play, so here's to a happy, playful new year!

I recommend printing off this list and posting it on the fridge or somewhere you'll see it every day. Pick any of the 31 activities each day and do it.

1. Have a game night. Whether it's Candy Land or Scrabble, gather around and spend some quality time together.

2. Fill some balloons with water and food coloring and let them pop them in the bath. See this post.

3. Buy a new book or 2 and read it at bedtime with enthusiasm. See this list of top 100 children's books of all time.

4. Make a sensory tub, and play in it with them! Here are some tub ideas.

5. Have a movie night at home, complete with popcorn and a warm blanket for snuggling!

6. Bundle up (if you need to) and get outside and play for at least 30 minutes.

7. Leave a special note in your child's lunchbox or on the pillow before bed.

8. Make a craft together. Here are a bunch of ideas!

9. Build a fort out of whatever you'd like; cushions, blankets, boxes. Have a snack or read a book inside the fort.

10. Have a dance party in your living room.

11. Bake and decorate cookies.

12. Play an active game indoors! Here's a fun one: Supplies: A line drawn or taped on the floor. Tissue paper snowballs.

How To Play: Set a time for 2-3 minutes. Yell, "GO"! Each team throws their tissue paper snowballs back and forth across the lines. When the timer goes off, the team with the least amount of snowballs on their side wins.

13. Let them play in the sink. No, really! Look at these great ideas!

14. Amaze them with an science experiment. An easy one is baking soda/vinegar volcanoes. Put in a couple of drops of food coloring into a container, cover with baking soda, and let them use a baster to squirt in the vinegar and watch it "explode."

15. Give your child a back rub or foot rub.

16. Before its time to go to sleep, turn out the lights and make up stories together.

17. Let them help you plan and cook dinner.

18. Take your kids on a date, either a movie, or a restaurant with a play land or game room.

19. Have an themed day. Wear your clothes inside out, or wear something really silly. Maybe have a "blue day" where you wear blue and drink blue slushies and eat blueberries.

20. Unplug from the electronics for a whole day and focus completely on play and connection.

21. Make 10 sticky notes and put them on the walls in your child's room. On each one, write one thing you love about them. If they're too small to read, draw them little pictures, and tell them what you drew.

22. Get out the water beads. If you haven't played with these yet, its a great time to get some and try them out. I think all kids love these things.

23. Paint something today. Get creative with puffy paint or shaving cream paint!

24. Play Ring Around the Rosie or Duck Duck Goose.

25. Have a karaoke night. Give your child a microphone (or a hairbrush if you don't really have a mic) and let them sing along to their favorite songs on "stage."

26. Carve out one hour. Play superheroes, have a tea party with all the dolls, build Legos, whatever your kid wants to do, but focus the entire hour on your child.

27. Make some treats together, then deliver them to the neighbor, grandparent, or friend.

28. Build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or go sledding!

29. Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier and read a couple extra books.

30. Grab some glow sticks from the dollar store. Throw them in the bath and turn out the lights!

31. Wake them up 15 minutes earlier, and stay in bed and cuddle.

Calm Down Corner - My Way

Monday, December 12, 2011 8 comments
I saw this great idea on Here We Are Together and knew it would be perfect for our home. I don't do the traditional time-outs with my kids because they push away rather than bring closer, and connection and relationship are at the heart of this family.

But kids are kids, and sometimes they act up or get too angry and need to be removed from the situation. I know that my children's frontal lobes, where sequential thinking, logic, and self-regulation take place, are grossly underdeveloped until at least age 6, and the maturity of this region takes a long time. You can read more on that here, if you're interested. I also know that until the brain is regulated (calm), lessons I'm trying to teach my child go in one ear and out the other. So my goal is to help them get regulated (and the more I help them, the quicker they'll learn to regulate themselves!) so that I can then teach them the lesson I want them to learn.

You may have seen the "calm down corner" that America's Supernanny does. It is anything but calming! This, however, is our version of the calm down corner.

Here is the set-up. A comfy Pillow Pet to sit on and a calm down box to engage the brain out of that "fight or flight" mode and back to calm and reason.

Inside the calm down box is our calm down jar made with water, glitter glue, food coloring, and glitter. The idea is to shake the jar, and as you watch the glitter twirl around, it brings your attention onto the motion in the jar and instantly the brain begins to calm. It works for me too, and the boys love it.

Also inside the calm down box are a few books, a drawing pad and markers/pencils, and a container of rice. I made some colorful rice by adding 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring to a plastic baggie of rice and let set overnight.

Once dry, I put the rice into a container, added a few drops of lavender oil for that calming smell, and added a couple of pretty gems and spoons for digging around in.

The final result is a soothing place to go, engage the mind, and get regulated.

I know you may thinking, "What? A fun place to go when they're in trouble?" :) This is not a punishment, but a place to calm the mind. When my kids are regulated, I sit down with them and we talk about what happened and ways to improve or handle things better the next time. After all, the goal is to teach them better so they know what the right thing to do is, and they are much more receptive to my teachings when their brains are calm and regulated.

Of course, they're welcome to go to the box anytime to play, read, and draw. In fact, the more practice they get with it, the better it is for everybody. I'm sure I'll be sitting on that penguin shaking the life out of the jar myself at least once a day. ;-)