Way back when my friend Corrie asked about the time requirements for the many projects I try to do with Linus. She's a busy mom of two and was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of the huge dinosaur day.
I never got around to responding to Corrie (sorry about that...) since I'm both a very bad responder and a busy mom. Anyway, better late than never.
Most of my days with Linus are not filled with projects. I do this both intentionally and out of necessity. I truly believe if I filled every minute of Linus's days with guided activities and projects, he'd never learn to entertain himself (heaven help me). In addition, he'd never have the opportunity to develop his imagination, follow his own interests, or just plain relax. And, I'd get even less laundry folded than I do now. (If that's even possible.) Yes, this is what I tell myself on those days where I feel like I'm totally ignoring my child because I'm swamped with household chores or just wanting to dig into the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel. I give myself a pass. I am not his teacher and, honestly, I wish schools' curriculums were less demanding and instead allowed for more wandering learning.
Project days are definitely fewer and farther between than our regular book reading, car playing, couch vacuuming days. They also aren't really scheduled. They happen when I'm inspired (by a book, a blog post, or a new medium) or when I'm otherwise motivated (watching two preschoolers, struggling with a whining kid, or avoiding a 90+ degree day).
Yes, on days I have a project that is successful and I post it on the blog, I'm feeling like Super Mom, but generally I'm just a mom constantly torn between the desire to sit around reading to my little guy, getting the grocery list made, getting another load of laundry folded, or just taking a minute to sip my coffee. I feel guilty for not doing enough most days, but like most moms, I'm doing the best I can.
Anyway, here's a super easy project you can do with your kiddos without any preparation. (Okay, a little preparation if you want to bring in the literary tie by checking the book out from the library.) This one was inspired by a recent check-out of Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh. The book practically screamed this project at me the first time we read it.
Materials: Construction paper, scissors or paper slicer, circle punches or cutter (optional but easier), glue
1. After numerous readings of Mouse Shapes and while seated at work table, hand the book over to your little one. Have him or her "read" or retell the story to you. While he or she is doing this, begin cutting out some basic shapes from the construction paper. You'll want a nice mix of squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles. Another option is to cut one at a time and have your kiddo tell you the shape and color as you hand it over to him/her.
2. If your child is very familiar with the story, s/he'll immediately start sliding the shapes around to create pictures. Linus immediately wanted to make a "mouse house" and flipped to that illustration in the book to see how the mice did it. He quickly located a square and a triangle to arrange in the shape of a house.
3. At this point, you could just call it good. Linus could have spent quite a while moving the shapes around creating images from the story and some of his own. I made the mistake of pushing him forward when I really could have stopped there.
4. Hand over a larger piece of paper and glue bottle. Encourage child to glue his/her pictures to the paper.
As I said, I definitely pushed Linus onto step four a little too soon. I had a final project in mind and failed to see his creativity and enjoyment with just sliding them around on the table. The shapes were actually facilitating quite a story retelling by Linus. Handing the glue over only complicated his thinking and caused him to become distracted and frustrated. His output definitely decreased. I'll definitely try to do better next time.
Oh, and if you want even easier, you can do a similar activity with a set of shape blocks, pattern blocks, or shape magnets if you have them. For older kids, you could even step back and let them cut their own shapes out.