Thursday, April 3, 2014
Going Camping (And Other Cruz Projects)
Friday night, we went camping. We spread a couple of sleeping bags out on the floor, stuffed a backpack with pajamas and a few camping essentials, grilled hot dogs and roasted marshmallows by the fireplace, and transformed a typical movie night into a new adventure for our little explorer. As we trudge through the remaining days of this long winter, I've found it is so important to shake things up from time to time and add a bit of a spark to an otherwise typical night. Although Cruz has never been camping for real, all it took was a couple of sleeping bags and a new battery-operated lantern to transform his world for a night. It's the amazing thing about a little person's imagination - sprinkle it with just a little water and it will flourish beyond your wildest dreams.
We got cozy under sleeping bags and read Curious George Goes Camping. Explored Cruz's room for treasures to "pack" in his backpack. Had a carpet picnic of hot dogs and fruit and roasted s'mores for dessert. Huddled next to the fire and watched Frozen. It was simple, it was cozy, and it was the perfect way to bring a little of the outside in on another cold night. I told Cruz that maybe one day this summer we'd go camping outside - he said that would be silly.
In addition to our little camping adventure, we did a few other crafts during Spring Break week that were easy, fun, and educational for the Cruz Man. With the strange mix of weather we've been having, I thought it would be fun to create a weather map for Cruz to learn and practice his meteorology skills as we transition from one season to the next. I used a paper plate and a clothespin for the arrow, hung it from the picture window, and Cruz gives us the forecast every morning. So far, we've had it all --- rain, sun, clouds, and snow, sometimes all in one week!
Because I discovered that neither child had a single green shirt to wear on St. Patty's Day (Cruz wore some green Tow Mater undies instead), we decided to focus on the leprechaun's rainbow to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Cruz helped me arrange a rainbow of fruits for breakfast and afterwards, we did a paint project that used wine corks as stamps. We talked about colors and rainbows and Cruz loved stamping. The best part (thanks to our abundant supply of wine corks) was that there were no brushes to wash and a quick cleanup afterwards.
With the new baby in January, and a long winter break and maternity leave in the middle of a long winter, I'll admit it was a challenge keeping Cruz busy and limiting screen time around here. He's pretty good at playing on his own, but I also made it a point to find the time for simple, special projects for the two of us to do together. I've included a few tips that helped us beat the winter blues and keep things exciting around here...
1. Involve them in the day-to-days. While I try to introduce a few new and fun craft projects every month, it's also important to remember that Cruz sometimes has even more fun helping me with the simple, routine tasks of the day. The other night, I filled the sink with suds while Mila bathed on the other side, gave Cruz a sponge and a few plastic dishes, and he washed dishes beside me while I washed his sister. Lately, while I prepare dinner, Cruz walks around with a little notebook and a pen, "taking orders" and assisting as my sous chef. It's not only fun for them, but keeps them close and allows for lots of dynamic conversations!
2. Plan ahead. Every couple of months or so, I go through my Pinterest board and make a written list of fun, age appropriate, and most importantly, doable crafts that Cruz would like to do. I keep the list in a shoebox next to our craft supply corner of our basement. Every few weeks, I choose a couple of crafts and put all the supplies I would need into the shoebox. Then, everything is ready to go on a whim when we feel like doing a project.
3. Make the ordinary extraordinary. It's amazing what two sleeping bags and s'mores by the fire will do to a simple movie night. This time where we can our transform our living room into Yosemite is so temporary and someday, I want him to remember these simple nights as some of his favorites.