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!

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

When I first discovered I was pregnant the first thing that came to mind was how amazing the Peter Pan theme would look in my baby’s bedroom. Peter Pan has been my favourite story for as long as I can possibly remember (The J.M. Barrie book version, just to clarify!). So, naturally I tried my very hardest to ensure my love of this classic story extended to my daughter (her bedroom says it all…), but as she “Rawr…rawr…roars” to me with a fierce showing of her ‘terrible claws’ I am reminded that her favourite story is Where The Wild Things Are. I’m not going to lie, I really thought that she would also just love Peter Pan basically from day one because, osmosis. But of course, I understand that she is far too young for a story about a young girl who runs away from home to live a life of adventure and yeah, there’s also a boy who can fly and doesn’t want to grow up. (See what I did there? Shout out to my fellow feminists!)

Okay, I digress. What I’m trying to say is always read stories that pique your child’s interests and are developmentally appropriate. Endure the nights of reading the same stories over and over again, because one day they will do something AMAZING! They’ll point out their favourite character by name, or the colour of an animal or imitate the sound it makes, and they start communicating their experiences in their own clever, little way and you’ll be convinced that the little human you created is the smartest person on the planet (and it’s true!) You children possess the capacity to become whatever their little heart’s desire…and it’s your job to encourage these amazing discoveries by creating enjoyable and meaningful play experiences.

So…Yes, my little one likes Max, King of all the Wild Things, or rather his “hat”—which is actually his crown if you somehow didn’t make the connection. It’s okay, you’re a parent, and more than likely sleep deprived. And because you’re sleep deprived, here’s the world’s easiest craft…so easy, even the most thing of all could do it!

Step 1. Cut triangles out of coloured paper (or a magazine, or anything really…just find different colours). If your little one is old enough have them do this part too. Fine motor skill practice, heck yeah!

Step 2: Get a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half and cut a zig-zag where fold opens and cut down the middle of the fold to create the crown shape.

Step 3: Let your child squeeze glue on both pieces of the “crown” and use their fingers to spread it around (Messy play is the best way, after all.). Have them stick “jewels” onto the crown using your assorted triangles.

If your child isn’t into the messy glue, you could always decorate with stickers…but then what will you do with that extra time gained from not meticulously cutting out those triangles?

Step 4: Tape the two pieces together and attempt to measure it around your little Queen’s or King’s head to ensure it sits well. Then tape the other side to complete the crown.

Unsurprisingly, my Little Queen refused to put her newly decorated crown atop her head. But all was not lost. I showed her how to place it very carefully on our beloved dog, and she spent the next 15-20 minutes chasing him around trying to put it back on him. So, in the end, this forty minute boredom-buster—created from something she loves—provided an opportunity for both fine and gross motor development…not mention, a little bit of baby-pet “bonding”.


This post has also been featured on the Timeout Beijing Family Blog.