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Let the Children Play

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 1.04.17 PMWhen I read a recent news story stating that doctors should prescribe ‘Play’ for children, I did a double take. Surely, everyone knows children need to play. Surely.

A report, “The Power of Play,” was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Michael Yogman, lead author of the report, stated that play often gets a bad rap as being a waste of time. He said, “Play is really brain building because it has all kinds of effects on brain structure and function. Executive function skills, learning to persist on a task, learning to solve problems, learning to be flexible about how they are learning things. It’s how we learn, not what we learn.”

As a retired elementary school teacher and grandmother of eight, I agree. Children need time to play. Free play. Inside and outside. Time to explore and pretend. Playtime alone, with friends, with siblings, with parents.

I think of when I was a kid and played in the barn loft and struggled to move the heavy hay bales to make a house and a maze. I didn’t know I was learning to plan and carry out a task.

When my childhood friend Elizabeth and I squished mud to make mud pies, we had fun and we learned. How much water was needed to hold the mud together? Where would the mud pies dry fastest? How long did it take them to dry?

I hope every child climbs trees. Obviously, it’s good physical exercise, but it requires decision making and problem solving.   Which limbs are strong enough to climb and which limb can be reached next?

I was probably eight years old when I sat in the top of my family’s cherry tree and thought I couldn’t get down. I was scared. I was allowed to climb any tree, as high as I wanted, as long as I could get myself back on the ground. My hands trembled. I eased down much more slowly that I’d climbed up. No one watched, unless they watched from inside the house. When I finally jumped to the ground, I felt a sense of accomplishment and success. I didn’t know I was building self-confidence.

Last week, I watched 4 year-old Jesse line up about twenty-five matchbox and other small cars and trucks in order. Big to little. Three red cars together. My Grand was learning classification and organization. When Fisher Price little people (two-inch toys) were stuck inside a small plastic playhouse, he turned the house upside down and shook it, but the people didn’t fall out. Then he looked through a small opening to see the stuck people and pushed them with one finger. After several minutes, he got the people out. I resisted offering help. This was Jesse’s problem.

“We’re recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it’s so important,” said Dr. Yogman. And he stated that the most powerful way children learn isn’t only in classrooms or libraries, but rather on playgrounds and in playrooms. I agree.

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Fingers and Noses

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 8.11.19 AMWhat is it about a kid’s finger and his nose? Evidently, an invisible magnet on the end of a child’s pointer finger attracts metal hidden deep inside that child’s nose. If this vision is repulsive, stop reading now. I understand. I don’t like it either. But not so long ago, Husband and I and two of our Grands laughed hard about fingers in noses, and then I thought of all the nose-pickers I’ve known.

My Grand looked downright cute wearing Husband’s TTU baseball cap. The cap bill slung low to one side and my Grand cocked his head. A perfectly innocent pose to capture on my camera phone. Click. I held the phone in front of Husband, “Look at this cute guy. I’m sending it to his mom.”

“With his finger up his nose?” Husband said and burst out laughing. My Grand’s finger was really close to – not up – his nose. But Husband’s comment gave my Grand and his younger sister, who stood beside him, an idea.

“Take another one!” my Grand said and he stuck his pointer finger second-knuckle deep inside his nose. “Me, too!” his sister said. She matched his pose. Their heads bumped against each other as they laughed. Husband’s laugh was a snort.

My two cute Grands. Wide open eyes. Mouths open. Laughing. With their fingers up their noses. I laughed so hard I could barely steady my phone for a picture. And yes, I sent it to their mother. Thankfully, she saw the humor in her children’s exaggerated poses.

As an elementary school teacher, I had at least one student in most every class who was a nose-picker, and I was always sure I could teach that child to stop. And it wasn’t just boys. Princess-like little girls dig for nasal treasures, too. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve told a kid to take his finger out of his nose.

At the beginning of the school year, I’d whisper in the child’s ear, “Take your finger out of your nose, please.” He (again, he could be a she) would duck his head and scrunch his exploring finger with his other fingers into a fist. By December, I’d stand in front of my entire class and say silly things such as, “So let’s review the steps of division, finger–nose. Divide, multiply, subtract, finger-nose, bring down.” The nose digger would slide his nose-picking finger over his lips, down his chin, along his neck, across his shirt, and rest it on his math paper.

By springtime, I’d give the culprit a wide-eyed stare and point my finger high in the air as I continued reading aloud about the adventures of Charlotte the spider trying to save Wilbur the pig. By then, nose digger simply rested his finger on his neck for a few seconds and then the metal inside his nose claimed the magnet on his finger.

Thinking back over my decades of teaching, I didn’t convince a single child to keep his finger out of his nose. I should’ve announced on the first day of each school year, “Give me a nickel every day you want to put your finger up your nose, and I won’t try to make you stop.”

I could’ve retired years earlier. And laughed all the way to the bank.

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What Kids Said

14764892-illustration-of-girl-and-boy-holding-callout-picture-on-a-whiteMy folder labeled “Kids Said” is overflowing. And the children aren’t just my Grands. Friends share what their children and grandchildren say. So many snippets not long enough for a column and too good to remain hidden in a folder.

From the mouths of three-year-old kids…

Mother walked into the dining room and saw Robin holding her fingers pointed down over her half full glass of milk. Robin likes to dip her fingers into her milk and she’s been told, more than once, not to do it. Robin looked at her mother and said, “May you turn around?”

Granny asked Chuck to ride with her to the cemetery. She explained that her parents and grandparents were buried there. Chuck asked, “Will God be there?” Granny answered, “Yes,” and didn’t give an explanation. Chuck said, “Then I probably won’t get out of the car.”

As Grandma buckled Madison in her car seat, Madison asked a question that Grandma didn’t understand except she heard the words ‘poka dots.’ Grandma didn’t see any polka dots, or any kind of dots, in the car or on their clothes. So Grandma asked Madison where she saw dots. Madison answered quickly, “Your hands, Grandma.”

One November day, Grandmother told Elaine that her grandfather was blowing leaves off their yard and into the woods. Elaine immediately shouted, “With his mouth?”

When Jack’s parents asked him what gifts he wanted for Christmas, he looked into space for a few seconds, and then shouted, “I know! A choking hazard!” Just like other kids, he’d been told many times that he couldn’t have something because it was a choking hazard.

According to five year olds…

When baby brother was born, big sister told Mother, “I really wish you’d had your umbilical cords tied after you had me so I would be the only child!”

Mother looked at Andrew, tousled his hair, hugged him, and said, “You are changing.” Andrew pulled away from Mother, looked down at his legs and then at his arms. “No, I’m not!” he shouted.

When little Mary was asked to pray before the family meal, she looked at the food on the table and then said, “Not for this!”

 

Grandmother: I’m going to Yoga.

Caroline: What’s a yoga?

Grandmother: It’s exercise to make muscles and joints feel better.

Caroline: Does it get rid of soft, fat tummies?

Grandmother: No. Probably not.

Caroline: Good. Cause I like yours.

 

The perspective of a seven year old…

Gran dropped her iPhone onto the kitchen floor. Lou put her hand on her hip, cocked her head, and said, “So, now do you have a DUMB phone?”

Lou rode in the backseat of Gran’s van and when they stopped at a traffic light, Lou silently read an inscription close to the top of the Putnam County Courthouse.

 

Lou: Hmm. That sounds like something Yoda would say.

Gran: What?

Lou: In God, we trust. That’s the way Yoda talks. Not like normal people talk.

Gran: What would normal people say?

Lou: We trust in God.

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Kids Still Say the Darndest Things

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Remember Art Linkletter’s television program Houseparty and its segment, Kids Say the Darndest Things?  Or how about Bill Cobsy’s weekly TV program in the late ‘90s that was about the funny things kids say?  If anyone ever airs another show that lets children say what I think, I know a few youngsters who’d be perfect guests.  Some of my Facebook friends share their children’s comments, and I really do laugh aloud.

Joel, a first grader, asked his mother, “Do we have a copier at home?”

Mother:  No.

Joel:  Do you have one at work?

Mother:  Um, why do you want to know?

Joel:  Well, money is made on paper and you can copy what’s on paper.

How about this logical reasoning from another five year old?  “I spent all my money, can I buy some more?”

            Kenan was learning the beginning sounds of words.  He asked,  “Does tea, the drink, start with t, the letter?”
Mother: Yes.
Kenan: Awesome!
Kenan: Does Leah Beth (his new baby sister) start with a g’?
Mother: No.
Kenan: Oh, I thought it did because she’s a girl.
            Jonah, age four, pointed to his forehead and asked, “Mom, when I turn five is it called a fivehead?”  Another day, Mother said that her phone battery was almost dead.  Jonah asked, “Will it go to Heaven?”
            And then there’s Max.  When he was two, Max and his mother were looking at some photos of their friends and Max said, “I like the girls.”
Mother:  Yes, we have some pretty friends who are girls.
Max:  I like the naked ones.
            At age four, Max announced that he had a new pet that was small and black and sometimes ate dinner with him on his plate.

Mother: Oh, is your new pet a fly?

Max:  Yes!  And his name is Friendy and I don’t want you to kill him.

Mother:  Well, how will I know that it’s Friendy and not just some other housefly?

Max:  Because Friendy has nipples!

            When Max was five, he said, “I wish I were a tadpole instead of a boy.  Then I could swim more and not get ticks.”
            Travis, age 5, was engrossed in a television program when his mother told him it was time to turn off the TV.  Travis said, “But it’s a cooking show and it’s not over.  Please.”  Mother shook her head.  Travis said, “But I’m learning how to cook.”  Mother shook her head.  Travis tried one more time.  “But, Mom, you should watch too.  You might learn how to cook.”
            Sometimes long words are confusing.  Lou, age 3, saw a short brown twig on the ground and thought it was alive.  She said, “Look, there’s a catterputter.”  One rainy day, Richard asked to take his underbrella outside, and when he wanted binoculars he asked for beach-lookers.  Aaron asked to visit a friend who lived in a condominium.  “Can we go to Russell’s amphibian?”

Thanks, friends, for allowing me to share your kids’ gems.  The things they say would make great reality TV.  I’d set my recorder to watch Kids Still Say the Darndest Things every week.  Meanwhile, please continue to share -we all need a good laugh.

 

What Could Be Better?

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I’ve often said there’s nothing better than playing with my Grands.  And I bet most grandparents would agree that time alone with a grandchild is as good as life gets.  But this week, I ate those words and they were delicious.

My youngest little Grand is 19 months old.  Full of energy and a happy, busy little boy.  He loves to play with balls.  Any kind or shape or size.  So last week when I visited him and his parents, my Grand and I played ball.  We rolled a small rubber basketball across the carpeted floor.  “Show Gran how you can shoot a basket,” his mother said.  With more encouragement, he threw the ball through the goal that’s at his stretch-high-as-he-can fingertip level.  “Good job!”  I clapped and cheered.  My Grand and I tossed the balls toward each other and sometimes we caught them.  But we rarely shot baskets.

For three days while my Grand’s mother ran errands and did household chores, he and I played.  We pushed red and yellow and green plastic balls through the openings of a drum that had perfect round circles in matching colors.  We hid those plastic balls under stacking cups and we built a tower, six cups tall, and then knocked it down.  There’s something funny about watching plastic cups and balls bounce across the floor.

We played farm with a Fisher Price barn and silo and animals.  We made animals sounds – baa, moo, neigh.  We pushed and pulled every lever to hear recorded barnyard noises.  My Grand hid all the animals in the silo and squealed when I found them.  We lined up toy cars and tractors on a table, and he rolled them along my outstretched leg.  And we laughed – out loud – when a car wrecked.

And I read to him.  He piled books from his book basket onto the seat of the wing back chair where I sat.  Little Blue Leads the Way.  From Head to ToeWhere is Baby’s Belly Button?  My Grand turned his back toward me so I could lift him onto my lap.  He flipped pages and jabbered; I read and hugged.  Yes, as good as life gets.

Then my Grand’s daddy came home from an out-of-town business trip.  As soon as he heard the garage door go up, he ran to the back door and waited for Daddy to walk into the house.  Daddy lifted my Grand high into the air and gave him a two-arm hug before setting him on the floor.  My Grand ran to the playroom, found the small basketball, clutched it tightly, and stood in front of the basketball goal.  When Daddy walked into the room, my Grand threw the ball, hitting nothing but net.  “Way to go!”  Daddy said as he sat on the floor by the goal.  “Gen!”  my Grand shouted.  And he shot the ball through the goal again and again and again.  And Daddy gave him a high-five him after every shot.

I watched.  A lump in my throat.  Wet eyes.  Full heart.  What’s better that playing with my Grand?  Watching my son play with his son.