Play on

Have you noticed a Corona virus theme being reflected in your children’s play lately – asking you” how much is six feet?” as they “distance socialize” their stuffed animals or dinosaurs, tying masks on dolls, playing doctor and nursing their babies back to health – saying out loud “I hope she doesn’t die” and then pretty quickly “She’s better”.

I’ve heard from a few parents and read about others that their children are definitely into this type of play – and I’m not surprised. This is the perfect solution for children dealing with strong emotions and fears.

Because – a child’s play is magical and being sick one instance and better the next helps make us all feel hopeful and safe.

And that’s what this type of dramatic play does for children.  It helps them work out their fears and their stress in a child’s version of what’s going on – a scenario that makes them feel centered and in control.

It builds resilience.

Experts say it is definitely a common and positive way for children to work out the difficult feelings they are experiencing.

In older kids you might see games where if you get tagged, you have Corona virus and then – you’re it!  There is much screeching and chasing and laughing and it’s all in fun – and the energy and stress that is relieved in this type of game is powerful and helpful.

Parents might think this seems insensitive to those who have suffered and are sick.

But in the right place and the right time, this sort of social play is a coping skill that is healing and delivers a potent antidote to the anxiety lurking inside.

And I’d say we’re all in need of that!

Play on!

 

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That’s all it takes

This weekend I learned that the sand pile was actually the very first playground for children in the United States. It was in Boston in 1885, when a pile of sand was poured into a churchyard at the beginning of summer.

Within two years, there were ten additional sand gardens in Boston – becoming for the children the ultimate play experience.

And though times have changed since then – and shiny new playgrounds are numerous, the humble beginnings of the sand pile still ranks high.

And I’ve definitely witnessed that attraction recently with an unobstructed view of a new house construction taking place right across the street from us.

The basement was dug – and left behind were two gigantic 14 feet- high dirt piles.  The owner of the site would show up with what I believe were four of his young grandsons – ages perhaps four- nine-years-old – and say no more.

Those boys romped, climbed, dug, jumped and built for hours at a time – and I from my window view devoured every minute.

When the work for now was accomplished and the huge piles were finally distributed around the yard and much carted away, the “yard” was still sand and dirt.

And so every morning – another woman with two different little boys walks over and these boys – drawn like a magnet- explore, jump, pick up stones/sand, march, run, and sat down and dug – until they were told it was time to go – always a disappointment to the boys.

The amazing thing to me is none of these young children had as much as a shovel along with them.  It was just them, being one with the dirt/sand – lost in the enchantment of pure adventure.

(And no lie – as I write this right this very moment –   a mom with three children walked by. The children spied the pure temptation of the sand calling  to them – and were off – but sadly rounded up, somewhat unhappily, to continue on their way.)

What magic!  No wonder sand is included in the National Toy Hall of Fame!

Do you have a sand pile in your yard?

That’s all it takes!

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a gift

In the midst of Safer at Home – in the midst of one day seeming very much like the other – a marvelous discovery was made.

In a basket that hangs on the side of our house, immediately right outside our kitchen door –  a sparrow built her nest.  It is the most perfectly beautiful nest  – sitting cozily in this old basket that held a few of Tootsie’s tennis balls.

My husband noticed it first.  After admiring it for a few days, we waited to see what would happen. We waited …  and we waited … and we waited.

At last one day my husband came in and announced that there was an egg in the basket.  On day two, there was another egg – as well as on day three and day four.

I imagined that the mama bird would be sitting all day on her eggs – but that wasn’t the case.  We actually didn’t see much of the mama bird at all during this time.

In fact I began to think that someone was playing a joke on us.  Are these eggs for real?

And then it happened – the baby birds hatched.  And since then we have peeked in, noticed them huddled together as one soft pulsating feather bed.  Sometimes they are awake – their beaks open wide – in hungry anticipation.

And so – we have been gifted – in a worn-out old ordinary basket – hanging very near a  busy in- and – out back door.

And we are filled with gratitude that this mama bird trusted two very nosy residents and gifted us something to cheer for – to be awed by – to be charmed.

Even in the midst of a pandemic.

 

 

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pulling focus

Recently I heard the expression pulling focus. 

Apparently in cinematography, pulling focus is when the camera lens is slowly adjusted for the sharpest clarity of image.

The focus puller has one of the most significant jobs in filming a movie.

And, of course, it got me to thinking.  As parents, this is what we can do, isn’t it?

When we’re looking for reasons , interpretation, insight  – looking for meaning, connection, understanding that sometimes may seem hard to grasp – we can be like the cinematographer ourselves –  and practice this art – pulling focus on our child’s behavior.

Take a few minutes  throughout the day pulling focus on your child’s face – his expressions, his actions. It’s in this close-up – this transparency  that we may see and understand the real message, the clarity  behind the behavior that our child needs us to know.

So often we are reacting to the whole picture – but as in cinematography, that may be blurry – without first pulling focus to see things more clearly.

Pulling focus.

Ready, Set, Shoot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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an adventure

I could tell talking with five -and -a -half- year- old Theo  on Face Time recently that he needed something new – an adventure perhaps – and since I’m in Wisconsin and he’s in Massachusetts , and we’re both following Safer at Home – what else was there to do – but imagine one – together!

And so we did .  The set-up revolved around a large red Octopus kite that Theo and his brother had gotten for Easter.  It was very large, with big black eyes and very long tentacles hanging down.

When lifted easily into the air, it floated and dipped and entertained – but in this scenario, it appeared menacing and alive. And so we went from there.

The red thing spied hovering over yards in the neighborhood created fear and suspicion and help was needed. It ended up all of Theo’s Kindergarten class arrived, one by one and two by two  – the fastest runners out in front, the “brains” sharing the best way to cope with this hovering menace.

But the big red “monster” as it was now called, evaded their every attempt.  At last it was decided the Kindergarten teacher needed to be called.  She arrived on the scene in a hurry  – sized things up, joined in the planning on what to do and how to do it – to no avail.  It was starting to feel desperate when finally the teacher called out in her loudest teacher’s voice “Rest Time!” and to everyone’s surprise, this fierce red octopus with very long tentacles floated down to the ground.

This was only the first part of the series and we’ve had a second one since – calling on the Principal and yes, even the Governor to help.

At one point – in his excitement – Theo commented “I wish this was real“.

And sometimes – definitely in times like now – when adventures seem few and far between, it’s fun to imagine – the sillier, the more fantastical – the better.

Try it.  Your children will definitely help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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a poem in your pocket

There’s something about a poem – the simplicity, yet the complexity – that somehow just the right words, just the right pattern, just the right emotion – can convey so much.

When we begin a Parent Educator’s meeting at The Parenting Place, we always start with a poem.

As we all rush in to the meeting at noon, still “downing” lunch, our minds  full of the morning’s busyness, it is the poem shared aloud, three times – to hear it, to digest it, to respond if one wants – that prepares us ready to begin our meeting with a settled, refreshed, renewed mindset.

And so I introduce to you a poetic suggestion.

April is National Poetry Month – and April 30th is designated Poem in your Pocket Day. On this day, we can choose a favorite poem, write it down, carry it with us in our pocket, and share it with others.

What a perfect opportunity to introduce the charm and the gift of poetry to your children.  If you have no poetry books at home, there are poems galore on line for all ages – and  so many for children.  Check them out  – read some with your children – read them again.

That’s the beauty of poetry – the more familiar it becomes, the more it speaks to you.

When your children discover a favorite, put it “in their pocket” – and on April 30th, have them find a grandparent, teacher, friend, neighbor –  to  read it to –  six feet away in person,-or maybe even on line -a simply beautiful poetic gift.

A “poem in your pocket”.

I love it!

 

 

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gratitude

I’m not sure there’s been a time like this before – certainly not in my lifetime – where gratitude reigns.

Yes – gratitude – even as we are being ordered to stay in our homes, unable to gather together, go to work, eat out, party, do what we love to do – assemble and connect with friends.

And yet – we witness a beautiful display of recognition and universal expression of thanks being displayed toward those in our community and nation, our cities and small towns  who are heroically meeting the challenges they face every day to keep us all safe.

We know who they are – the medical personnel treating the sick, the firemen, the policemen, the first responders, the grocery store workers, the truck drivers, our teachers, daycare providers, delivery people, our volunteers, our neighbors, and so many others who show up to do their jobs -to meet the needs, no matter what.

Gratitude is felt everywhere.

We see it in big cities – apartment buildings full of residents sharing in unison, banging pots, playing music, yelling greetings to thank those in their cities who are protecting them and staring  Corona virus in the face.

But -as for me,  right now, here –  I personally want to recognize, salute, send hugs, pats on the back, high fives to a huge segment of the population that may be our unsung heroes – and that’s the parents -who are keeping the home front going, asking more of themselves, more patience, resilience, love than ever before.

These moms and dads are making the home a safe place to be, working with their children on school work, entertaining, protecting, loving, worrying, comforting, responding  – every day.

And  your hard work and love does not go unnoticed.

And so – I send a huge and respectful thank you and salute to all the parents out there who are empowering their families – and all of us –  by holding them close and doing the best you can.

The Parenting Place remains open to your questions, concerns, successes. Let us thank you personally. Calls answered daily Monday – Friday , 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.  784-8125.

 

 

 

 

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a new lens

What brings me a bit of peace these days is looking at my book shelf – and choosing one to pull out, hold in my hands, open and peruse, recall – read a section – sometimes seemingly like for the first time.

And you can actually make this happen also for  your children as they discover toys and books – old, but new.

But perhaps right now all the toys are contained neatly  together in clear plastic bins – or piled all on top of each other in the toy box, or scattered pell-mell in the corners of the playroom.

So,  I suggest that you purposely select something from this bunch and isolate one or two items while your child is napping or before you go to bed at night.

Choose something from this pile of toys and find a completely different spot to place it –  isolate it – near the fireplace on the living room floor, or cars lined up along the rim of the couch top, the farm and all its pieces in the sunny spot near the front door,  or under the dining room table.

Find a surprise spot – an unusual spot – to place it. – to set it up –  as a welcome invitation to your child – to be drawn in to the magic of discovery.

Trust me on this.  Your child will notice and begin to play – focused and engaged.

Because sometimes there’s just too much – and when there’s just too much, none of it seems special, none of it stands out, none of it calls you in.

I’ve done this when my children were growing up – and I often do it in the Playroom at The Parenting Place.

And so I know its value.

Let your child have the opportunity to encounter this “attraction” on their own – to come across it by themselves,  to be drawn into the novelty – yet familiarity – of it –  the satisfying comfort of the old enjoyed through a new lens.

Try it!

 

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memories

We all have memories from when we were young – some stronger and more poignant than other ones.

And it’s not that we remember every little thing – just the significant parts, the meaningful  parts – the funny, hilarious parts, the sad parts, the frightening parts.

And then there’s always the memory that just pops up out of nowhere – and we wonder aloud – why would I ever remember that?

So  our children, unaware, are busy collecting memories everyday – and in times like these, we wonder  – what will they remember about now?

For in spite of our limited mobility, our need to stay close to home, our social distancing, families are closer than ever – and memories are being made.

I’ve been reading a chapter or two from a book every day during the week on Face Time to my 5-year-old grandson, Theo. It’s such a meaningful time personally for me.  Sharing the adventures in a book with someone else creates a certain bond.

I’m hoping this might be one of Theo’s good memories.

When routines and connections are disrupted – and we are all figuring out our best selves to get us through – to flow from one settled peaceful mood to another mood of worries, stress, and uncertainty – all in one morning – is learning to live differently.

And we need to appreciate and be gentle with ourselves and our children in that this is new for all of us – and trust that the simplicity imposed on us will show us the way – to connect, to laugh, to feel, to imagine – even to be bored.

Yet making memories – like no other.

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harmony

A parent who I’ve met with several times emailed me recently how things were going with her six-year- old daughter.

“It feels good to say there is a specific time for that.”

And “that” for her has made all the difference. And “that” for her happened to be screen time.

Previous to this mom holding her ground – there was continual whining, yelling, tantrums and begging at any moment of the day. Both of them were worn-out and their relationship not very positive.

I believed this young girl was asking her mom to draw the line – begging her mom to draw the line for her – a line she could not manage on her own.

When mom decided that everyday at the same time, this young girl could have screen time, her daughter felt settled – the constant requests and bickering stopped.

And for the mom – she felt empowered by the realization – the thunderbolt she said – that sometimes kids need to know – want to know – that this adult in their life is in charge – in a firm, kind wise way.

This is so valuable to consider at this time of long days home with our children.  Sticking to a daily rhythm offers children a sense of well-being which helps regulate their emotions and peace of mind – as well as our own.

A child’s routine then becomes the palette that other choices and expectations are blended in – and – at times like this,  a home routine is particularly significant, particularly comforting.

Rhythm of the day – rhythm of your family.

Harmony.

If you have any concerns or questions about finding that rhythm in your family or any parenting questions, email me at franswift@theparentingplace.net and I will get back to you by email or by phone if you share your number.

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