Courtney Arseneault, MS Ed
Busy, Busy, Busy!
These three words bring the image of the villain in Frosty to my mind and make the little kid in me smile, and my body feel light. But alone, the word makes my face strain and my adult body feel heavy. I miss the busyness of childhood. I miss feeling lighter and smiling more.
My young adult children who are struggling with remote learning and the pressures of college feel overwhelmed. I have to stop myself from sounding insensitive because this is part of life I know, their teachers are preparing them for the pressures and stress when you have deadlines and work is pulling you in multiple directions: This is my world. I try to gently communicate this, but it doesn't help. In their minds, their teachers and professors are just mean and don't get that their class is not the only one they have to complete work for. We spend time discussing instead what they or I can do to make it feel less hard.
What are you doing to make things feel less hard? Mama bears feel busy twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Whether your child is an infant or adult, you never sleep through the night without waking at some point thinking about what you need to do and if your kids are okay. We all need to access a toolbox when things feel too hard. These tool boxes differ for adults, young adults, older, and younger children. This piece is going to focus on a tool to help mama bears of small children. The next blog will focus on toolboxes for older children and adults.
For those moments when you need and deserve to take a break from the busy, create BUSY BOXES for your little ones. These should only be taken out when you need ten to twenty minutes to make a phone call, enjoy a cup of coffee, read a book without pictures, or just stop and catch your breath. I promise these will keep young children BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!
How to create a Busy Box:
Take a plastic shoe box with a cover. Include theme based items that are easy for your child to use and explore independently after you have shown them the contents and looked at options of how to use them together. Items can be purchased at dollar stores, Amazon, or educational sites such as Discount School Supplies. Supplies and materials need to be adjusted for toddlers who may put things in their mouths.
Rainbow in a Box
Jewels or plastic colored items
Blue Flubba (recipe at the end) *only provide a small amount and at a table top area
Plastic take out food container, tray, or plate
White ice cube tray (color two sections with permanent markers in each rainbow color for sorting items by color)
Give your child the box and explore with your child initially to show the options for use. The ice cube tray can be used for sorting the colored items; use fingers or tweezers to move the items. Flubba can be placed in the plastic take out container and stretched, pushed, squeezed. The plastic colorful gems or items can be placed on the Flubba to make designs or fossil imprints. The CD/DVD display rainbow reflections, have your child look at their reflection. Place jewels on the shiny disk, shine a flashlight on top. To keep the novelty alive rotate rainbow plastic items from gems, dinosaurs, bears, sorters...
Crazy Scientist Box
Place plastic cups from tops of beverage containers, laundry detergent, yogurt, etc. Add markers, aspirators, eye droppers, paper towel squares, white coffee filters, dissolving packing foam, 1/4 and 1/2 sponge pieces, old medication bottles with tops, and items that sink and float. Take this out and place some water in one or more of the cups on a cookie sheet or serving tray. When the containers are out alone, children can move water from one container to another using aspirators and droppers. By adding markers they can change the color of the water or draw on the paper towel or coffee filter and then add water drops to create colorful designs. Packing foam can be dissolved by dropping colored or clear water on them.
Farmer's Market Box
Go to the dollar store and purchase fake flowers and gardening items. Cut the flowers and have plastic cups and planting pots to place them in. Make play money or purchase. Collect planting catalogs i.e Gurneys. Your child will enjoy creating their own farm stand/flower shop. Replace with toy fruits/vegetables and containers. Add a cash register, baskets, and bags.
Add homemade or store bought play dough with clay presses, cookie cutters, rolling pins, etc for modeling fun!
Arts and Craft Box
Paper scraps, stickers, labels, markers, crayons, glue sticks, tissue paper, scissors, tape, ruler, sticky notes, etc.
In one bowl, mix 2 cups of Elmer's school glue and 1 ½ cups of water with watercolor liquid paint-mix
In a second bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of Boraxo* powdered hand soap and water-mix
Slowly and gradually add the 2nd mixture to the 1st (mix the soap as you go so it does not settle on the bottom of the bowl). Stir as you gradually add soapy mixture to glue mixture. Once all has been added stir and let stand for a minute. Knead until no more liquid and not sticky. Store in airtight container. Lasts for months will be time to remake when the water begins to separate from the mixture.
*Not Borax, BORAXO hand soap is sold in the hand soap section of stores or online