Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why I Let My Children (And Me...) Get a Pet

So I finally caved in and let one of my daughters get a hamster.  For years I have been saying no.  We have a dog, 2 rabbits and some fish.  I said no for years to the dog as well but caved in with him over 2 years ago.  So it was only natural for me to give in to a hamster over time.  I am not sure why I say yes but I have a few guesses:

1.  Motherhood guilt always creeps up on me.  This is usually my number one reason for saying yes to anything. What is the big deal?  It is only an animal.  They are not asking for a trip around the world.

2.  Fear of complaints when adults.  I can hear them now "You never let us have any animals".  They will forget about all the fun things we did together and just remember that they went through childhood with no pets.  Not sure why I care but I do - I know pathetic.

3.  My own childhood memories.  My mother did let us have pets.  We had a dog that I don't think I ever walked but I remember loving that dog so much.  The dog even had puppies - it was so much fun.  I am the youngest of 7 children so I think between all of us we had every pet except snakes.  We have so many fun stories and memories about the pets through the years so how could I not allow my children to make the same memories.

I keep telling myself there are benefits to the children.  They develop a sense of responsibility and a caring outlook for all creatures.  They can develop a bond with the animal that they look after, feed and love.  All sounds great if it really worked that way.  Here is what happened to us with the hamster.

At the pet store, 10 year old daughter pledges that she will care for the hamster 100% and never need any help.  They have one at school and she takes care of it all the time.

OK I agree.  We get a long informative speech from store worker (all I remember is take it out for the first time in the tub in case it escapes and we have a 14 day return policy for the animal if it is not what you expected).

She buys the hamster and the cage with her own money.  She names it Gladys which cracks me up every time we say it.  On the way home we giggle about how the hamster is chewing on the box.  We pull in the driveway and my daughter realizes it has chewed a hole so large it can almost escape!!!!  She runs in remembering to get in the tub.  We all get upstairs and close the door tight making a total of 6 people in the bathroom and one hamster.

Quickly I, the mom, sets up the cage.  Here is problem #1: within minutes of being home I am helping when I lectured in the store that I would do nothing to help.  But I do not want a loose hamster.  Finally the cage is together.  Time to put the hamster in the cage. Here comes problem #2.  My daughter is so scared of the hamster.  She is claiming that at school it is much friendlier.  So I have two choices - stick to my plan of not helping OR help and get the hamster out of the tub.  Obviously, I pick number 2.  So I put gloves on, turn into Rescue Worker mom and try to relocate the hamster.

I get close to the hamster but I can not pick up the rodent.  It is scarier than a mouse to me right then.  I take some deep breaths and finally grab the box it is climbing on and put that in the cage.  We lock it up and admire it from afar.

Now time to disinfect the tub quickly before making dinner and putting actual children in the tub (I know disgusting) - somehow I had to do quite a few things for this pet in under one hour.

Well, week one of hamster ownership continues - my daughter will hand feed it but has not attempted to pick her up yet.  Therefore, she needed help to clean out the cage (guess who helped? Yup, me again!) 

Anyway, I keep checking if my daughter wants to use the 14 day clause that allows her to return the critter but she does not.  At the end of the day, I will help because I am starting to like the little creature.  My toddler just loves talking about her and visiting her cage.  I will expect my daughter to do as much as she can and feel confident she will get to a point where she can do 99% of it.

So mission accomplished.  We have one more pet memory to add to their childhood experience..."the hamster in the tub incident".  The motherhood guilt has officially disappeared.    

UPDATE 5/1/16:  Fast forward four years.  Gladys went on to live for about 18 months (average life span of a hamster according to the pet store).  And, guess what my daughter never was able to pick Gladys up.  We cleaned around her and of course, I helped way more than I should have.  

Our bunnies died a few years ago.  Recently, one of my other daughter's bought a new bunny.  I am doing much better with a hands off approach and she is basically 100% responsible for her little bunny.  I do occasionally remind her to clean out the cage but she does a good job looking after the bunny by herself.  

My son has a fish tank which is the #1 best pet to get!  It is very calming and not as much responsibility as the bunny. He has learned a lot about maintaining the proper water, the filter and different types of fish as well.  

Do you allow your children to have pets?  Would love to hear how you do it?  Are you able to have a hands off approach or does the pet ultimately become yours?   

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pretend Play Masks

Download two free masks from the Pretend Play Masks packet.  They are in color or black and white so you choose whether to print in color or color them yourself.  Get 20+ masks, including animals, fairy tale characters, super heroes, community workers and more with the Pretend Play Masks complete download at Growing Play.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kale and Apple Salad that Kids Will Actually Eat!

I can't believe it. My kids actually ate this kale and apple salad and asked for more. I like vegetables and happen to like kale but usually not raw. I adapted this recipe from Cooking at the New York Times.

Quick funny story - my kids tasted raw kale at lunch time
that I was putting on a panini. Their reaction ranged from comments about it being gross to actually spitting it out. At dinner time the same day, I made this kale and apple salad and asked them to try again.  I thought they might like it this time because the combination of the lemon juice and the parmesan cheese took the bitterness out of the raw kale. They loved it!  Some even came back for seconds.

Here is my adapted recipe.  I am lazy cooker so the least amount of dirty dishes are the best.   

Some kale ripped up small (about 4 cups - I didn't measure)
2 Chopped Apples (I didn't bother peeling)
Handful of shredded cheddar cheese

Squeeze one lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
Crushed garlic clove
2 tbsp parmesan cheese 

Stir it up and pour over kale. Toss the salad and serve. 

Would love to hear if your kids eat it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sock Bean Bags from the Sensory Box

Why not take sensory play outside the box with sock bean bags?  We have so many mismatched socks around this house so this was a great upcycle project.  We have a sensory box with dried split peas and lima beans.  Have to admit not one of my favorite sensory boxes - the split peas feel so nice running through your fingers but they are very hard to clean up.  

My toddler was able to help make the bean bags.  I put some small paper cups in the bean box.  She scooped up beans and poured them into the small socks.  I used a rubber band to secure the beans inside the sock and turned the sock inside out over the sack of beans.  Voila - bean bag!  We repeated this process 4 times.

The toddler quickly grabbed the bean bags and began throwing them around the room.  There was lots of throwing, squatting, reaching and carrying of the bean bags.  It entertained her for some time.

The older kids quickly found a cure for their boredom and practiced juggling with the bean bag balls.  The baby sock bean bags were the perfect size for small hands to juggle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Creative Brain Series Question #5 - New Holiday?

Here is question #5 to get your creative brain juices flowing - Every year we celebrate holidays.  If you could start a new holiday what would it be and when would you celebrate it?

This post is part of the Creative Brain Series from Growing Play on creativity, imagination, outside the box thinking, something quick to do while you are waiting or a boredom buster.  The series will include one question every couple of days to get children and adults to think on their feet. There is no right or wrong answers just try to be creative.  Spend 1-2 minutes to think or just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind to share your answer.  

My answers for question #5 would be a Family Fun Holiday. It would be a holiday that everyone plans a few, fun games, crafts or an outing to bond together as a family.  You don't have to prepare a meal or make it a huge gathering but just slow down and PLAY TOGETHER!  
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #4
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #3
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #2
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #1

Monday, April 18, 2016

10 Nature Challenges for Your Family

Here are 10 ideas to get your creative juices flowing to head outdoors!

1.  Go on One Hike:  Head outdoors for at least one hike.  I love hiking with the family as long as we pick appropriate trails.  I like well marked, short jaunts (maximum 2 miles round trip) that are not too hilly.  For me, I do not like any cliffs or extreme drop offs (plus I drive my husband crazy saying be careful every two seconds).   I try and plan our hikes by researching on the internet or using trail books to determine appropriate trails for the family.

2.  Start a Nature Collection:  Pick one item that you will collect this summer.  It can be anything general or specific i.e. a rock collection or maybe only white rocks, seashells or only tiny shells.

3.  Follow a Trail Map:  Children learn so much by bringing along a trail maps and trying to lead the way.  Again, research this and go for a walk where maps will be available and appropriate for children to guide you along the way.  We have found that most nature centers usually have trail maps that children can easily follow.

4.  Grow Something From Seed:  There is a nice sense of accomplishment to start something from seed.  Whatever you choose, flower, vegetable or fruit, let the children do it from start to finish.  Lettuce is sure to be successful. 

5.  One Hour, No Plan:  Head outdoors in the yard, at the park or in the forest with no plan.  Let the children guide what to do and just follow along.

6.  Go birdwatching:  Sounds boring to some but this is actually quite interesting.  Again, this is a good one to research a bit before you head out.  Maybe the kids can research what birds live where you are heading.  Print out a picture and see if you can spot that bird while hiking or enjoying a picnic. 

7.  Climb a Tree:  This one is easy but let your children climb trees.

8.  Sketch Something in Nature:  I loved this as a child.  Head outdoors with a sketch pad and a pencil.  Find a cozy spot and sit down and sketch what you see. 

9.  Find Animal Tracks:  Go walking to find any type of animal tracks and identify them.

10.  Explore a Stream: Sounds simple and maybe a little wet but my children have spent hours exploring and crossing streams.   If you are worried about their feet make sure they wear puddle boots or crocs.   Looking for crayfish, minnows and frog hunting is a super fun experience.  Half of my kids love to catch frogs and half won't touch them.  Bring along nets or wear garden gloves if children are hesitant.  We always catch and release the animals. 

Whatever challenges and goals you set for your family, everyone benefits from spending time outdoors.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Giant Animal Memory Game

Check out this fun, giant game of memory that you can print and play!  Get kids moving and thinking with this activity.  You can print the pages in color or black and white (color before you play).

Watch it in action below. Download the free Giant Animal Memory game at Growing Play.