4 No Cost Ways to Get the Job Done (by someone else)

from Jan

We recently wrapped up winter break.  I knew it would be tough to keep Joshua at his usual level of engagement for two weeks and I felt particularly challenged, when, on the FIRST morning of winter break Joshua declared, “Winter break is too long.”  Uh oh!  Although we’d planned a trip to Grandma’s, a week-long morning music class with a performance, and lots of dining out, I was feeling intimidated.  I did not want to spend a lot of money (you know me!) and I still had “regular house business” to take care of.   

I started paying attention to what was important for Joshua during this time.  What kind of things made him feel like his effort was worthwhile?  Were orchestrated activities necessary for fun?  As the first week passed, I came to notice that Joshua is happy to operate at a slow pace.  It gives him time to explore, consider, and talk about what he is experiencing.  I ended up reveling in his pace.  I was fascinated by his thought process and willingness to try different ways of doing things.  And, let’s face it, the more time it took the better!  Although it is definitely fun to do big excursions or try new play spots out, I also discovered that simple fun is really satisfying for both me and Joshua!  

Here’s are a few examples of things we did. 

Picking up and/or piling leaves or sticks. (Time used:  usually 20 minutes or more; Cost:  $0) 

This activity can be done with or without tools.  If you have tools, trimming bushes (under supervision) can also be a fun activity.  This is a great way to spend time!  It gets everyone outside, it is physically active, it is helpful, and it can involved imagination and made-up games.  The added bonus:  a sense of accomplishment.  Joshua is so proud when he gets “Grandma’s projects” completed (although the clipboard she provide helps, too).  When we do these activities in our local park, Joshua pretends we are park-workers or landscapers and feels proud that he has helped clean up the park.  I admit, sometimes I get a little bored with this one, but overall it is nice to be outside and, I believe, it counts as exercise (really doing almost anything with a 4 year old counts as exercise at the pace they move!). 

Using a toy dump truck (or shopping cart, or laundry basket, or round pull sled, or bin, etc) to do just about anything. (Time used:  15 minutes or more, depending on the job; Cost:  $0) 

Joshua got a rather large toy dump truck for Chanukah.  At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by its size, but that is one tough, helpful dump truck.  It can:  take out the trash, put dirty clothes in the washer, put clean clothes in the dryer, get the mail, carry luggage to/from the car, unload groceries, shall I go on?  This line of play is also great for physical activity and getting house tasks done.  Again, Joshua has a great sense of accomplishment and comes up with some great story lines and dialogue for what we are doing. 

Bulldozing anything into a pile and using an excavator or front loader to scoop it into a container, also known as putting it AWAY. (Time used: 10 minutes of more depending on the mess; Cost:  $0) 

This is great because you can use toy construction vehicles or you can just use your body to pretend to be the vehicle you need.  Joshua’s hands can turn from regular hands into grabber hands, bulldozer hands, or scooping hands in a matter of seconds!  Picture this:  Legos are spread ALL OVER the living room floor.  You face strong resistance to “cleaning up the Legos.”  But, what if you suggest “bulldozing” them?  A pile is born!  I’m not sure how much of a sense of accomplishment or pride this activity gives Joshua, but he has fun doing it and Jeremy and I enjoy not stepping on Legos (two pieces of which I accidentally vacuumed up this morning…oops!). 

Clearing your table when dining out (Time used:  5 minutes or more; Cost:  meal) 

If you’ve read BellyGrowling 5, you know that, for better or worse, we did a lot of eating out during winter break.  (Perhaps this was another reason I was feeling conscious about spending money!) 

We go to a lot of places where you bus your own table.  If you are lucky, the place will also have at least two, sometimes three, options for discarding your trash.  This activity involves sorting, learning about recycling, balancing, politely asking people if they are finished/can you take their trash, and appropriate body movement in a busy place.  Plus, the joy of looking (hopefully only looking) at what other people have put in the trash!  And, another few minutes that you get to SIT DOWN! 

What are some of these non-activity, activities that you have found?  I’d love to hear your suggestions…spring break is just around the corner!