Staging Play

Do it like school does.

Preschool children come in to a room that has been staged. There is usually a theme. Let’s say it is about building. There will be a table with nuts and bolts to screw together. There will be a picture at another table to color or do some type of art work about building. There will be a table with play dough with some type of objects that refer to building. There will be books about the subject of building. There will be work clothes in the drama section, tractors and blocks, etc. The whole room is staged to engage your child in play and discovery.

Stage at home.

Have a designated table, a chalkboard wall, a bulletin board… close to where you are working that is a good staging area for something unexpected. As your children are engaging nicely at a random time, take a few minutes to stage an activity when they don’t notice. THIS IS THE KEY. THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE IS WHAT MAKES IT WORK SO WELL. Put it out on the table you have designated. As they start to hang on your legs, ask for food when they aren’t hungry walk them over to the brand new activity that they hadn’t noticed and let them go at it. Sometimes I would cover it with a towel.

I have done surprise staging tables even as my children have grown older. Many times the older children will enjoy doing the staging table activity playing with the younger siblings, but sometimes not. But they played and discovered.

A big no-no in my childhood philosophy is to rate a toy or activity by age.

“Oh that is too young for you!”

That is so beyond ridiculous! When my husband turned 40 I took all his “boy friends” and went slot car racing and gave each one a match box car. They LOVED it! We are all young at heart. We never are too old for toys! Look up the America’s  Funniest Home Video of the grandpa caught playing with Legos and making fighting noises that boys do naturally. He won! Why do Google’s Campus’s have Lego rooms, and play equipment everywhere. Play stimulates creativity and thought. Make staging tables and sit down yourself and play.

Ideas for a few:

  1. Brand new freshly made homemade, play dough. Not the kind you buy. This smells great and has a better consistency for play. It is luscious warm, too. A very sensory pleasing moment. Put out strange things to do with it. Not the commercial toys. Put golf tees, plastic flowers and cups, of course butter knives, army men, Legos, etc.
  2. Save the last bits inside the bottom of the cereal box and put them out with a big bowl and a small pitcher of water.  Allow your child to make their own food concoctions. Let them stir and mix and pour. Put a broom next to the area. Teach them to sweep and pick up. They can do it and that is part of the fun.
  3. Put out an old game that the kids have not played in awhile. Stage it like you are selling it. Set it up, have snacks next to it. Make it look engaging.
  4. A bowl of sudsy water and a bunch of little toys. Make it a car wash, an animal bath, a bubble tea party, let them play in the suds.
  5. Shaving cream dollop on a cookie sheet. Put a drop of food coloring on top and let them finger paint on the cookie sheet. It cleans quick in water.
  6. Set up toys you have put away. They become new again.
  7. Cardboard boxes and tubes, and lots and lots of tape, etc.
  8. A pile of Legos with NO Directions!
  9. Gelatin or Jell-O to play in, cut up, bounce toys off of..and eat with their fingers
  10. The list is endless. Use what  your family likes to do and has around.

NOTE: Tired mammas, daddys, caregivers, or grandparents can minimize clean up by going to the dollar store and buying a pile of plastic table cloths. When you stage put one under. When they are done, save it or gather the mess and toss the whole thing. Plan a stage every week and keep track.  You will see how much fun it is.

Have fun!


Stamp of Approval

Buy suckers! (lollipops if you are from the East)

Put some in

your purse,

diaper bag,

glove box,

coat pocket,

church bag,

the car door holder,

in your sweater pockets,

high up in your pantry,

upstairs on your closet shelf,

in the bathroom cupboard,

stashed behind the stroller,

under your bed,…

…but never always available anytime.

These are the specials

when you “need” to pull one out and give to the kiddos

for your own moment of sanity.

Grandma C’s approved! And her husband was a dentist. She, one hundred percent carried candy stashes (lollipops if you are from the east) on hand just when she needed one or two for a “surprise…”

She was the oldest daughter of 10, the mother of 6, the grandmother of 27 and posterity of over 100 plus.

I trust her judgement!

(Dum-dums are EFFECTIVE and you can buy them in big bags)

I’m so tired I can’t think…

I know. You can’t do another thing. You are barely surviving the day. A list of back-pocket ideas (last post) for your kiddos to happily play-by-your-feet-while-you-fix-dinner gives you less guilt but really, you just want to give them the I-phone, give in to the piece of candy they want, let them stay up or out all night if they chose, just, just, JUST PLEASE LEAVE YOU ALONE AND…


Then curl up and fall sleep anywhere.

(You know you have become a full fledged parent when you can fall asleep standing  up!)

A long list of back pocket ideas will clog all your receptors like fog and  you will shut down.

So here is the first and main one to work on for awhile…after you checked yourself in a hotel over night alone to nuzzle into a pillow and really get some shut eye…(well you can day dream about this…

or night dream as you nurse, change pee-pee sheets, readjust the vaporizer, find a new nightlight battery  or wait up for the teen.


Parenting is a total crack up! I pretend I am being videoed by angels and they are having a jubilant time reveling in my catastrophes. I talk to them all the time, in fact. (Sometimes I even give goofy looks for the invisible camera. It’s up at the ceiling, or in the sky.)

Like one of the 6 hour Jet Blue flights traveling with five children, each summer. This one I had to kneel down in the main aisle, 6 billion miles up in the air, after my third child vomited chunks right where everyone walks to the bathroom. I scrubbed with the only thing I had, an airline blanket as the entire plane leaned in to watch me clean the carpet, plugging their noses. The stewards made me keep that vomit blanket under my seat the whole flight because they didn’t want to touch it! I waved to all the passengers and smiled but all the while I whispered sternly to my video-tographers! “I hope you are enjoying yourselves!” Not many went to the front plane bathroom that flight without jumping over “the spot”…

All the negotiating, all the crying, all the crabbing, all the comparisons, all the guilt, all the squabbles, all the body fluids you have to touch, the thousand times you have to change diapers and little clothes. All the socks you have to match, all the schedules to keep, the food and more food to prepare and put away, all the sleep you loose, all the time you sacrifice and life that drains right out of you is NOT ABOUT YOU.

When the entire package of parenting becomes too serious and you start to feel aliens have invaded your life and now they will never leave it, its time to find your funny bone.

Do NOT laugh AT your children. (danger zone) But certainly laugh at the humor of your life with children because some days YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!

Laugh more.

Look at situations for the sheer ridiculousness of it. If your child is tantrumming and you can’t stand it…tantrum with them. CRY and pound your fists on the floor. They stop fast!

Your child does not plan out their day and make lists of how they will torture you.

They aren’t even thinking of you.

They are thinking about themselves and trying to figure out how to live in the world at being only 2 years old, or 10 years old, or 16 years old… They have no clue.

They need you to show them how.

They do not have control of their life.

They are waiting for you to help them out.

If you are taking them and life too serious and make parenting a victim role then you react in your exhaustion, when you could actually take the entire moment and make it funny, or light, or defuse tension in the air.

Most things in childhood are not worth making it a bad memory. Most problems can be solved with a light heart and humor with children.

#1: Find humor in your pocket and your days will be…funner.


In the trenches

Right now, you may have kiddos pulling at your pant leg begging for your attention. You may have someone in “time-out” screaming while you move to another room and take a second away. Right now you may have kids calling, “Mom…” or “DAD!…” and you are purposely doing something else just to have a break. You may be changing a diaper, driving kids to practice, waiting for someone to come, putting in a load of darks while your tween-ager fills the hamper with clothes she doesn’t want to put away, or preparing food for cranky pants who won’t be consoled. You may have left the kids laughing in bed so you could sneak a bite of that chocolate bar you hid.

Most of my blog posts have been somewhat like boot camp explaining the why’s and reasons so sweetly written like a constant lullaby in white space where you struggle to keep from nodding off as you read. But I know real life with children. It is in the trenches where real “experience” exists. Those precious calm moments are usually when they are asleep.

So here we sit in the trenches. How do we make it through? My first tid-bit of advice is ALWAYS have a secret kept in your back pocket ready for the troops, when they blind-side you unexpectedly; because they will.

The posts coming are back pocket helps for those surprise attacks…


“Say Lovin’ Words” beyond…

Sticks and Stones can break my bones,

but words can actually destroy me.

Our children listen and watch. The way we speak about other people, issues, or living things; our choice of words, tone, and body language, will be picked up and mimicked. Adults are models for children.

“Say lovin’ words” about other people’s circumstances and about the beautiful world we live in. Be careful about grown-up issues that are too developmentally intense for children and do not speak about them when they can hear. Be careful how you speak in front of your children.

I have observed preschool girls stand with hands on hips, whispering and pointing at other little children and shun.

I have observed children say a parental script exactly down to the tone it was presented.

I have talked children back in to enjoying something in nature that was told by an adult was dirty, ugly, gross, or boring but when returned to their natural earth connection which is their birthright, they love it and love learning about it; such as holding and reveling in worms.

The world is harsh already. Teach children to  use words which contribute to a better place to live for all living things and allow them to be loving humans by you leading the way.



That first “stupid” comes out of your angel’s mouth.

“Gasp! Where did they hear that?” We look around like we are s…

My dad had creative ways to alter big family squabbles and wrangles.

He used to say, “DDDDDDDDDD!”

It always got our attention and he meant business.

With a cheesy grin and brows raised, he would glare out the side of his glasses staring us down and then complete the moment by saying…

“Children….Say lovin’ words.” in a sing-song fashion.

He would then return back to what he was doing while his six children knew exactly what that meant.

That was it.

When your baby is small is when you determine your word weather. I will tell you that it is extremely difficult to change your word weather later! Some of our taboo words in my husband’s and my home were stupid, dumb, shut-up, fat, butt,  kill,… and no swears ever. Discover substitutes and model them for your children.

Some families can stir up a pretty harsh word storm meant to be hurtful and demeaning. It creates a weather that is difficult to get rid of and feels scary and sad. Words do hurt. Words are lethal.

Begin young to determine your family language.

Do something strange to get your kid’s attention away from word hurting, in a fun way.

To this day, I can hear my father make that noise and say those words.

It makes me smile.

Do you know what?

It worked.


Put a Pause in it…

The very minute your baby enters  your life you shift into something I refer to as “maintenance mode.” It is an entrance to a never ending treadmill ride where you are constantly running in sync with time.

  • Baby wakes up.
  • Baby needs changing.
  • Baby needs food.
  • Baby needs a bath.
  • Get baby dressed.
  • Put baby in the car seat.
  • Take baby out of the car seat.
  • Feed baby again.
  • Change baby again…

And it just keeps going on and on and on and on. And you coast on maintenance mode driving and rushing forward until you crash in bed for a few minutes before baby wakes again, and it starts all over.

Adding more children that speed on that treadmill gets going faster and faster and doing things seems to be always on a deadline to “hurry up.”

So I am suggesting every once in awhile to push stop on that treadmill and look at your child…right in the eyes.

I heard one mother of triplets used to do it when she would place her babies in their car seats. She took one moment out of her day and looked right in their eyes…  and paused out of maintenance mode and forgot about time.

She may have given them a rasberry under their chin, tweeked their nose and said “You’re a snicklefritz,” or sang a song…”I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…”

Every once in awhile put a pause in maintenance mode. We all know “IT” has to be done and the treadmill keeps rolling, but you have control of the pause button. And when you stop and look, you are once again reminded why you love being a parent. It’s that baby!