Maybe some of you run those homes where Playdough is always put away and there are oodles of jars to choose from, but around here it has a shelf life of 8 1/2 minutes before it's on the floor, in the baby's mouth and rock hard. Victoria loves to play with dough and I rarely have the time to cook up the homemade stuff so I just let her make her own! She gets to play at cooking, to boot.
Instructions: Get a big bowl and a big spoon. Mix up two parts flour to one part salt and two parts water. Presto. Dough. :) Add a little more flour or water to tweak it if necessary. You can tint it if you want with a few drops of food coloring. I just leave it plain. For Easter egg decorations I gave Victoria a rolling pin and a pile of it and some cookie cutters. She rolled them out and cut shapes, poked holes in the top, then dried them overnight (flip them to dry both sides). We painted them the next day and hung them as decorations.
This stuff is so quick and cheap, plus if it ends up in the baby's mouth it's much better for her than Playdough. ;)
It's the strangest thing. Even though something like 3% of children are supposedly "gifted," at least 3/4 of all of the parents I know have gifted children. It's a huge business these days. There are web sites by the bucket dedicated to nurturing these little geniuses and selling their parents 150 different flashing toys to make them even more brilliant. The parents get on bulletin boards and bemoan the fact that their toddlers are so bright that they need advice on how on earth to cope, all the while slipping in every brag they can think of.
This bothers me on so many levels! First off, ALL CHILDREN ARE GIFTED. All babies are born with the most incredible gifts of all sorts. There are a thousand different talents a child can have, and intelligence is just a bit of the picture. There are also a thousand types of intelligence. The fact remains, however, that every infant who opens his or her eyes to this world is overflowing with potential and brilliance, and labeling just some of them is doing a disservice to the rest.
Second of all, this whole business pits parents against each other. There is no contest here. The smartest child doesn't get a frozen turkey to take home. You can still be a good parent if your 8 month old isn't reciting the pledge of allegiance. Really. And you know what? If you rate yourself as a parent by how bright your child is or how early she can leap those hurdles, you're always in for a letdown because someone is going to have a child who spoke one day earlier and says one more word. You're also going to have a miserable child.
Which brings me to the third reason I hate this business. No infant, toddler or tike should be expected to have to live up to genius status at that young age. They have far more important things to do right now than secure that Harvard scholarship. I promise they can still learn even into two digit ages! Yes, maybe they can learn French, the violin and algebra easier if they start at 16 months than at ten, but at what cost?! Why is a fluent grasp of french more important than a fantastically HAPPY messy, plain old childhood?
I'm not advocating leaving our kids in the mud all day. Well, I advocate it some days because frankly they enjoy it and you can sit next to them and garden. I do certainly recommend filling your children's lives with the opportunities to learn and grow and create and become the very most they can be. Just never at the expense of their joy, or as part of some grand competition. Sure, give them instruments to bang around on and music to listen to. Definitely get them talking to Grandma in Spanish. Of course you can point out letters when you come across them on street signs on your evening walk. Just remember too that the greatest "gift" is being allowed to be a child.
10 Fun things to do with your kids today.....
1. Square dance
2. Paint bread with paintbrushes and tinted water (use natural dyes or food coloring). Toast and eat your creations!
3. Have an eighties day! Raid your closets or Good Will for 80's style clothes (or whatever decade you grew up in) to wear. Do hair and makeup in 80's styles and play your old Rick Springfield or Michael Jackson tapes. ;) Watch Nick at Night or any cable channel that plays ancient reruns and haul out anything you have from your childhood/teen years to play with the kids. Be prepared to feel really old!
4. Make a time capsule and bury it or put it in a safe deposit box.
5. Start having "Survivor" type challenges at night. Whoever can stand on one foot the longest gets out of doing a chore for the night (dad included!). Whoever can remember the most from what others said at supper gets a treat, etc.
6. If your kids say prayers before bed, start a prayer collection. During the day, encourage them to write their own little poems or gather up neat ones from poems and books. Enough with that business of dying before we wake! There are some whimsical, poetic, beautiful little prayers out there in all faiths.
7. Have a feather blowing competition. Toss it in the air and blow it to keep it up. See who can keep their feather up the longest!
8. Make poetry stones. Gather up a bunch of small rocks and use a magic marker to write words on them. Make sure to use adjectives, nouns and verbs. For example.... I, you, we, love, wet, dogs, jumped, lick, stars.... the more words you make the more variety you can get in your poem. Drop the rocks in a bucket, shake, and grab a handful to arrange into each line. Make sure to add some funny words!
9. Get out the mousse and the hair gel and do each other's hair in outrageous styles. Boys too! Comb it straight up or do little points or crazy parts. Add chopsticks, clothespins or anything else you can find.
10. Interview your child. Pull a Barbara Walters and do a full-out interview full of philosophical questions and everything. Ask everything from "What are you proud of?" to "What sort of tree do you identify with?". For younger kids, ask them questions like what their favorite things are and what sort of candy, animal or color they feel like. Tape it if you can!
"You're only given a little madness.
You mustn't lose it."
- Robin Williams
I'll close with another poem, since I just love
sharing them with you all. :) This was written to Annalee (Rhiannon
Lee technically) when I was still pregnant with her.
Rhiannon, the world is waiting
impatiently to hear you sing.
Each day you grow and create yourself new--
eyelids, fingernail, bone.
I feel your slow dance beneath my ribs
in the thick of my crowded love.
Even your kicks are polite and beautiful.
Even your knees and elbows
roll within me with sweetness.
You are so large and real, and yet
you are a half dreamt memory, a wish,
a legend I want to believe in.
Victoria, your sister is within me.
You do not know, when you kiss my white belly
that it is her head, hands, heartbeat
that greets your love.
When you rub and hug, when you bounce with glee,
your sister is behind us, watching.
I think of your first touch, my daughters, and swoon
at the thought of so much joy
from this scarred white body.
Daryl, we have blue-eyed daughters
who will teach the world to dance.
Till next time,
Copyright Alicia Bayer 2001, All rights reserved