One thing I realized about Manila: Outdoor play days are limited, and few and far between. Some days it’s too hot and humid, and when we take the kids out they sweat buckets or end up sick. On the intermittent rainy days – obviously we can’t play outside, either. Even splashing in the puddles isn’t an option because… well you wouldn’t want to splash in Manila rain puddles (trust me!). On the days after the rain, it’s still hard to get out because the sidewalks are slippery, the grassy portions are too muddy to walk on… and the traffic to get anywhere fun is really a buzz killer.
Because of these “limitations” I’ve had to improvise indoors. A lot of the time, the girls enjoy some form of painting or crafting project. I don’t know why I’m attracted to a lot of these artsy activities when I never had a lot of them growing up. But Sam has always loved art in all forms and shapes and sizes, and Jamie enjoys the exploration part of it too. So why not, right? There’s no downside to it: Art keeps them busy, they get to build their imagination, their creativity, and some other necessary developmental skills. It’s all win-win and most importantly it’s fun. After all, as my cousin-in-law Patty would say, “Creativity is the New Currency.”
Yet after pulling out the same paint brushes, crayons and paper for several days in a row, the girls got tired of the routine and the art time shortened considerably. So the challenge was to keep their interest by making creative time a little bit more creative. I invested (and kept) in several different kinds of materials which I hoped would extend their interest and their activity time.
At first we went the thematic route and I asked the girls to build a spaceship. I remembered our Kindermusik class with Rebecca when she had said to “let the child lead the process” and so I’d ask Sam how she thought we could make a rocket ship, and what it should look like. With a little bit of help from my husband and a whole slew of materials, this was the outcome.
It didn’t look like much to us adults, “It’s really just a box with splotches of paint”, my husband would say, but the girls flew to different planets with it. I think this is even where Sam first said she wanted to be an astronaut.
Another time, we had cleaned out a cupboard and we found two extra plastic plates. “So what can we do with this?” Sam asked in a mood to do something with it. She and her dad turned it into a pet turtle (with pink legs).
We also get some wonderful ideas from co-parents and friends. My best friend Polly once asked us to buy some ping-pong balls for her son for one of his activities. I don’t know what got into me but I decided to buy a few for the girls too. And we made good use of them!
Sam started out by putting her paint dots on the paper, and at first, the ball would roll over them but not spread. We had to come up with a solution, which was sprinkling water over the paint dots. Sam had immense fun tilting and rolling, and trying to keep the ball on the tray. When I asked her what she made, she said it was a map. She could tell me exactly which places the map covered and where they led to. She even had the topography mapped out – which were mountains and hills and which spaces were streets and rivers.
Jamie’s process was quite different. I have to admit, I’m amused at how the same activities showcase the difference in the way my girls think. She also asked me to put some dots across the paper. Then after, she dipped the ping-pong ball into her water bowl, and manually “bounced it all around” to spread the ink (and of course, spread on herself…).
Another time, I read DIY Corporate Mom’s Sandy Paint Weekend Play… and oh my God! What a genius idea! I went on a manhunt for sand. The best that we could get was black, but it seemed like the girls didn’t really mind. They mixed it in with all their other art materials, again each in their own ways, and made some pretty cool messes out of them. Jamie went full on with her hands, and Sam used popsicle sticks to mix and paint.
Incidentally, a lot of people have been asking me about the shaped sponges — I got them off Amazon. They’re very VERY useful and the girls ask for them each time. Jamie loves to just put paint on it and squeeze.
It literally rolls down her arm and onto her dress.
We do these art exploration activities so often that half the time, the art smocks are forgotten. Their clothes are bound to get some paint on them.
Uh-oh right? Let’s face it: kids’ clothes aren’t cheap. And I’d like for Jamie to inherit Sam’s clothes, but if the nice ones are stained for life, then it won’t be as presentable for Jamie anymore to wear out of the house!
Then again I can’t complain. I brought this upon us and filled our home with paint, sponges, sand and all sorts of things for creative educational purposes. Of course I’d do it over again because I can see the tangible benefits these have on the girls. The paint on the clothes…it’s part of their learning process as it is mine. I will say though, that it’s made it easier to accept because I:
1. Purposely dress them in situation-appropriate clothes. The girls have dressy dresses, but we only bring them out once in a while. Even the birthday parties they go to, I send them into shorts and t-shirts because they’ll just get messy, dirty and sweaty. I try to forward-plan what the kids will do today and pick out their clothes based on the choices.
2. Listen to Coach Pia. Seriously, she has changed my parenting style as well as my outlook on parenting. She said it’s the expectations we put on our kids that We need to learn to free ourselves from it and change our mindset. When they paint, I expect stains on the clothes or fingerprints on the wall. It’s too much to expect them to keep clean and neat without hindering their creativity.
3. Use Breeze. Again, no kidding. my worries over stained clothes have pretty much disappeared (along with the stains!). We’ve been using it since they launched last March and haven’t had any problems since. And if you look at the clothes, they really look like they’re good as new and the colors don’t fade. We also pre-treat tough stains with Breeze before sticking it into the washing machine.
Painting and art exploration have become so integral in our playtime routines. And the girls really get “down-and-dirty” with it, and it’s totally fine. They love it, and so do I. And I enjoy spending this time with them creating something unique, literally from nothing. They teach me and make me see how they view the world. It’s a Sige Sa Mantsa moment in its truest form.