Tag Archives: play

Pasta Bath!

pasta bath meme

Winter has hit us really hard this winter in Boston. And when we’re stuck indoors, it’s crucial to find new activities to keep the little ones busy, stimulated and giggling.

Enter Pasta Bath.

The idea came from our brilliant friend Tricia, who dumped a pot of spaghetti on her kitchen floor and let her kids swim in it. My husband wasn’t so crazy about the mess, so… the bathtub!

Have you noticed how cheap spaghetti is? We bought a value pack for $3.41 that let us make 4 pounds of spaghetti!

To address the food wasting issue: anyone who has kids knows that wasting materials is inescapable. If you go through a pack of construction paper, you’re wasting trees. If you go through a pack of pasta, you’re wasting wheat. Which has a smaller footprint? If you’re feeling guilty about it, you can match this activity with a contribution to the food bank.

We boiled up the pasta, dumped it in the tub, and let it cool. We brought up some kitchen utensils – nothing too sharp, and led the kids inside.

Squeals of delight! They played, they ate, they squished and scooped.

When the kids were tired of the dry pasta, we added some warm water! They loved being in a pasta bath, pretending they were pasta in a pot, playing with the now slippery smooth and squooshy pasta. I loved it too.

All in all, a fun hour of sensory play and a lifetime of memories via the camera for just $3.41. Not too shabby!

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

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Mamas and Papas, Embrace a Little Mess…and Play Instead

Yesterday evening I sat on our back porch, with an unrelenting, cheek-aching smile as I surveyed the scene of our townhome’s postage stamp-sized backyard. There was my husband, work pants rolled up to his knees, and our son, in a soaked cloth diaper sagging from his toddler frame, splashing and jumping in a pint-sized pool. An arc of water rained down on them from a nearby sprinkler. I’m not exactly sure why my husband bothered to roll his pants up, or why my son was still in a diaper; both articles of clothing looked uncomfortably saturated, but my boys could have cared less.

There were many chores I could have been doing while my son was cheerfully occupied–chores I’d been unable to tackle to completion all day–and yet I couldn’t peel myself away from my perch. I simply couldn’t walk away from my kid’s delighted squeals and gut giggles or from watching my husband’s unrestrained, big-hearted goofiness. I’ve discovered this to be a common theme since becoming a mother, this forgoing of household obligations for the sake of fun and play. Y’all, mothering has made me embrace messiness.

I didn’t always feel this way. In the first few months of my transition to stay-home motherhood, I felt such a weighty, badgering obligation to DO things around the house. A loaf of no-knead bread everyday? Why not? Scouring the grout between the bathroom tiles while my infant napped? Of course! Vacuuming, loading the dishwasher, weeding the garden, folding laundry, and a meal from scratch every night? On it! I felt like I needed to prove my worth and household contribution, like I needed to justify bidding adieu to a really solid salary to be home with my baby…as if mothering him wasn’t justification enough.

It is perhaps a needless confession, especially to those of you who’ve been there, but this pace wasn’t sustainable. Or, rather, it wasn’t compatible with my hope to give my baby calm, attentive nurturance. And it didn’t jive with my deep desire to be present with him. I shared this frustration with my husband one day, and he replied with a caring shrug, “Why stress? Do what you can, don’t worry about the rest. We’ll get it done.” And from that moment on, I relaxed both my standards and myself.

I’ve written here on TOBB before about play,  how vital it is for our little ones, how little you really need to stoke your child’s creative, playful spirit. But you know what else I’ve discovered about play? It’s perfectly okay–awesome and fundamental even–for play to come first. The laundry will be there. The dishes can sit. Taking time away from household chores to play is not an act of indulgence or negligence; it’s a worthwhile investment in your child’s development and spirit. Taking time to marvel at your child’s imagination and discoveries is one of the highest joys of parenting, I’ve found. And aren’t we all in this for the joy?

Sharing and engaging in play with our babes is another way we parent them, not an act to get around to when we have a convenient, free moment (which sometimes doesn’t come). Sometimes I need to be reminded of this when I’m doing the dishes and my toddler takes my soapy hand and pulls me over to his toys. When I see the yogurt-y handprints on our stainless steel fridge (seriously, y’all, stainless steel appliances and toddlers are not a good combo); when I see the crushed Cheerio graveyard that is the floorboard of my car; when that bulging wet bag of cloth diapers beckons, I have to remind myself, This can wait for a little bit. (Have you been reading One Perfect Day’s nifty weekly series “10 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Child?” I love Ness’s suggestion in week 4 to Begin Each Day with Play. It’s not something that I have been able to do every day, but it’s something I am now more conscious about, and something I now strive towards. Check it out!)

I understand that we, as parents, have much competing for our attention, like a never-ending tug-of-war of our time. I imagine this competition for priority is especially challenging for those with multiple children or for   those who work at home or outside of the home. I suppose I simply want to give a little permission–if I could, as someone once gave me–to lighten the load and lessen the pressure for perfection. Don’t feel guilty for delaying your chores to enjoy playtime with your child. If your experience is anything like my own, a little chunk of time spent  snuggling, singing songs, stacking blocks, or galloping through the park is just the needed tonic for righting your day and reminding you who is most important in your life.

Do you struggle to balance household obligations and special time with your little  ones? What are some of your tips in striking a cozier balance? What are some of your favorite ways to play with your tots?

Rhianna is a mess-making, rump-shaking stay-home mama to a mighty spunky 20 month old. They live in St. Louis and have been discovering all kinds of cool play activities worthy of chore avoidance.

Play, the Natural Family Way

The value and significance of childhood play has been broadly documented. Once believed to be an activity of indulgence, play is now understood to be a vital component of a healthful childhood and a springboard for adaptive and positive functioning in adulthood. It promotes emotional and cognitive development, cultivates social skills such as conflict resolution and cooperation, and stokes creativity. In my social work education and career, I have even studied and observed the brilliant, skilled use of play as a means of therapy for children. Play is powerful stuff!

I’ve learned in my relatively short parenthood journey that it is ridiculously easy to get pulled in by the promise of “educational” toys, music, and DVDs. Our love and dedication as parents makes us vulnerable; we lovingly want to give our babes every possible advantage towards becoming well-thought, kind, creatures. Studies have revealed, though, that those blinging, singing educational toys actually fail to deliver on their marketed promises. And others now recognize what we as attached parents have always understood: the best, most influential toy your child can have is  you.

We’ve tried hard to stem the surge of those kinds of toys into our home. We don’t buy them. Usually these toys have been given us to as thoughtful, well-intentioned gifts, and we’re grateful that someone cares enough to think of our son in this way. We pull those toys out as a matter of exception, usually for specific circumstances (like, for example, a long road trip), and as we rotate one in we rotate another out.

We’ve visited the homes of friends where shelves bulge and erupt with toys, where even I feel a bit overstimulated by the bounty of bright, loud, plastic playthings. In our home we’ve deliberately chosen to limit not just the types of toys, but also the amount of toys present. I especially love this perspective on why having fewer toys actually benefits your children. (Really, if you click on only one link from this post, make it this one. It’s an insightful read. And if you are interested in ways to cull your current toy stockpile, here are some pointers.)

We focus, instead, on time spent and activities enjoyed together as a family. Play is darn fun and can serve to expend our little ones’ bottomless energy, but it can also be a delightfully effective way to enrich attachment. And, you know what? These kinds of activities are often free or awesomely inexpensive–just one more example of how natural parents are richer.

Taking walks is a huge hit for us right now. We live just blocks away from a sprawling park with towering old trees, winding walking paths, and a safe playground. We collect leaves, smell flowers, pet moss on tree trunks, wave to robins and count squirrels. We take our shoes off and kick balls in the grass. Nature is free and wild, and little ones benefit from time spent outdoors with their caregivers.

Looking for other ideas for easy, mostly inexpensive ways to play with your toddler? Here are some fun ideas. Or perhaps other nifty ways to get your nature on with your half-pint? Here is a good place to start.

What kinds of toys does your child dig the most? What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with your kiddos? Have any favorite resources for natural play?

Best play space Rhianna ever made for her 17-month-old son? Dedicating a whole kitchen cabinet to him and filling it with random inexpensive kitchen related items like egg cartons, empty spice containers, herbal tea boxes, wooden spoons, and play food. She lives in St. Louis and spends a good deal of time in Tower Grove Park, where her toddler enthusiastically gifts her with sweetgum balls, chunks of mulch, pebbles, and beheaded flowers.

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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