Why there is still value, even when you struggle to keep your child interested during an activity?

Click. Rattle. Plink. Click. Rattle. Plink. Click. Rattle. Plink.

It’s Week Seven of the “Shelter-in-Home” government mandate. This is what I’ve heard for 43 days. 

I promise I haven’t gone mad. 

(Yet…)

I lost the coffee table among hundreds of sharp, shiny, tiny clickable pieces of plastic. Every day is hours of listening to click, rattle, plink, and me trying my best not to sweep up a Disney Princess head, or a stormtrooper, or one of those minuscule dog bones. I don’t even have to tell you what I’m talking about now. You already know. Because you’ve most likely cursed loudly at least once today, because you stepped on one.

It drives me absolutely insane sometimes. But I can never stay mad. How can I? It is the source of hours and hours of joy (not to mention all the other great benefits of playing with them). And many of the fleeting precious moments of alone time I get is because the Wild One is clicking away, constructing a complex, great masterpiece with elaborate designs. It’s impossible to stay mad when the kid loves them so much. 

The BIG KID loves them a lot too. He’s a high school IB Language and Literature teacher and, therefore, spends a lot of his time working or preparing for his classes. Any spare time he has is spent building all sorts of things (sometimes it’s not even with the Wild One). Many Daddy-Daughter Dates are spent building. It’s their time, and I enjoy watching and listening to them bond over a shared interest. I rarely join them. Not because I don’t want to, it’s because they have so much fun together, and it’s so meaningful for both of them—it’s become their special thing. (Also, that’s MY precious alone time!)

We have our thing too. We explore STEAM projects, crafts, artworks and science experiments—and of course, being the feminist that I am, I love introducing the different women in history that have excelled in these fields. I am not an expert, and admittedly, I learn about the different concepts and skills as she learns them. It’s a lot of fun! Needless to say, I try to find different ways to bring up inspiring women in a way that will fascinate and spark her curiosities. So, when  Left Brain Craft Brain featured the Story Time LEGO Challenge, I thought it was perfect…I could introduce another inspiring woman, AND engage her in LEGO play (Also, I really, REALLY love a good activities challenge!)

The challenge is simple and fun: read a story, and then use LEGO to create something inspired from the story. Perfect, indeed. She chose Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. We’ve read this book countless times and it never, ever gets old. It has provided many play-based, learning opportunities: we have explored what it means to be an engineer, and the different machines and inventions, and gadgets and gizmos that they create. We’ve explored the importance of being resilient and possessing positive dispositions, such as perseverance and self-confidence, and always following your instincts. We’ve explored the importance of family and how we will always support and encourage her endeavours. And of course, we’ve explored the strong female characters in the story. (Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack in this wonderful story.)

I directed her attention to the page with drawings of various  airplanes, which were piloted by pioneer female aviators. She was always attracted to the Lockheed Vega 5B airplane, “Red is my favourite colour,” she would explain. So, I told her the story behind it. In 1932 a woman successfully flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in that red plane. Making her the first female to achieve such a feat. Of course, it was the amazing Amelia Earhart

“Let’s make the Lockheed Vega 5B out of LEGO!” I suggested. She looked puzzled for a moment, because as I’ve said, this is usually her thing with her dad. But then, wide eyed, she ran to the LEGO table and started collecting all the red bricks. I switched on the Disney karaoke and we started “engineering”. But alas, as soon as Into the Unknown came on, my Wild One ‘magically’ transformed into Elsa…and she was off, wrapped in a blanket shooting ice crystals from her fingers.

At this point, you can probably guess that I finished the rest of the Lockheed by myself. (Note to self: save the Disney karaoke for after the activity). I sat there on my own and clicked the bricks together (and it took waaay longer than expected!). And I just kept wondering. “Why couldn’t I keep her engaged in this?” She spends hours doing this with her dad. I felt a pang of jealousy (just a teeny tiny bit).

I finished the airplane. Placed it on the table and waited for her. Even though she lost interest in building the airplane with me, her reaction was still satisfying. She was so happy. I looked on as she placed a princess mini figure in the cockpit and zoomed around the room with fervor, “Yay! Amelia Earhart is flying across the Atlantic Ocean. BY HERSELF. That’s so awesome!” She continued to zoom, spin and skip dizzyingly, as I watched her narrowly missing obstacles in her way.

LEGO brings much joy. For most all of us.

Just before she went to sleep, we read the Amelia section of the book HerStory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. She was thoroughly fascinated, “Can I be the first to do something science? Amelia Earhart really liked flying, but I think I like science more than flying.” My heart skipped a beat. It happened. She was inspired. A breathed a sigh of relief and I tucked her into bed.

I reflected on the day and what had transpired. I realised that it’s not that she didn’t want to play LEGO with me, it’s just not our thing. She stayed engaged while we were reading stories, and played happily being a Disney Queen, she demonstrated her learning through play using something I built for her, and more important, she was inspired by a strong, feminist icon. These things are OUR things. And I am so, so happy with that. 

So, whenever you’re spending time with your child, remember: there is an opportunity to learn with every story, with every game, and with every playful moment. And Even if they don’t seem interested, it’s just their own way of processing what you are teaching them. Just keep on doing what you do. It is definitely worth your time. And it’s time that they will treasure forever. As Amelia Earhart said…

….“The most effective way to do it, is just to do it.”

You never know—you might be raising the next, great pioneer!

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