Dear Learning Expressions Readers,
Since around Thanksgiving time, our toddler has been talking non-stop about tricycles. As a freshly minted two year old this past summer, he didn’t even notice them. But somehow, now that he is closer to two and a half, trikes have come to the forefront of his mind. He frequently recalls that the “big boy” across the street (an aged lad of at least three and a half) rides a trike and, incredibly, this item has become more coveted than even the most glorious of trucks and trains.
This new yearning for a Christmas tricycle had my husband and I stressing throughout the holiday season. You see, we are a couple of California natives learning to make our way in the frosty Northern Midwest. Christmas time in a sunny Los Angeles suburb meant dashing outside straightaway with our haul of loot and attempting to master roller blades, Skip-Its, or Pogo Sticks – a scenario not very likely here in the arctic-like tundra of Minnesota.
So as the line in the mall inched closer and closer toward Santa, I had a brilliant idea. I tried: “How about asking Santa for a toboggan? Those go even faster than a trike!” My toddler: “No, I want big boy twike!!!!” Sure enough, he climbed onto Santa’s lap, repeating his wish over and over, and even adding in a few please and tank-yous. We caved, and now there’s a shiny new tricycle sitting uselessly in our basement until it can be taken outside after the ground thaws, which at this rate will probably be sometime in mid-August.
In lieu of long trike rides around the neighborhood, I’ve had to do some serious thinking about how to spend the winter days home with two young boys. Below you’ll find the top three indoor activities in the Riolo home.
Teacher Lisa, the beloved and fearless leader of my son’s pre-preschool class, sent this recipe home, and I can’t thank her enough! You’ll need 1.5 cups of cornstarch, 1.5 cups of baking soda, 1.5 cups of water, and food coloring (if desired). Mix the cornstarch and baking soda, and slowly add the water and food coloring until the mixture reaches the texture you want. “Goop, goop, wundafa Goop!” exclaims my toddler as he squishes the cool slime through his fingers. This stuff doesn’t make a mess, and it lasts forever if stored in a plastic zipper bag. My little guy loves making the Goop, and this gives him a little skin in the game, so to speak. This, in turn, makes him appreciate playing with the Goop more than if I would have just bought him your run-of-the-mill slime from the local quarter toy machine.
2. The Do-It-Yourself Ball Pit
Don’t give away your Pack-n-Play just because your youngest has outgrown it and you swear you are done having children! Instead, give that beat up old thing a new life as a ball pit. I’ve found that you need about 4 bags of balls to make a decent pit - that should fill your Pack-n-Play up about 1/3 of the way. Both our one and two year old boys LOVE our ball pit. It buys me about 20 minutes of entertainment per session, which is a long time in our baby/toddler world!
The ball pit is also a great tool for teaching the boys to take turns, since they can’t be in there together just yet. Also, I love having loads of these balls around the playroom because they are so light that they don’t break windows or hurt when hurled at your forehead. Make sure you keep a close eye on your kiddos in the pit though, lest they sink too far beneath the ocean of balls
3. Tempera Paint
Another tip from Teacher Lisa’s class, this stuff is not to be confused with the succulent Japanese dipping dish of Tempura. Tempera paint is a must-have for any kid’s art supply stash. Make sure you get the washable variety. I’ve had it ground into my off-white carpet. I’ve had it smeared all over my walls. I’ve even had it painted all over my dachshund. I love this stuff because it really does wash out! My boys love it because the colors are so vibrant, even after the paint is dry. It also dries extremely quickly, which cuts down on more potential mess. To add even more interest to this activity, try having your kids apply the paint to paper using cookie cutters, eye droppers, straws, string, toy cars, and even cut up vegetables (Hey, they won’t eat them anyway!).
Happy New Year to all, and happy indoor playing!