I am writing this on the eve of my children’s last day of school. I stare at those words and they do not penetrate. I actually cannot wrap my head around the fact that, starting tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., my children will be more or less at home, sans schedule, for three months. One of the many paradoxes of motherhood is that I both want them to be home with me and cannot wait for them to be at school — it is very difficult to find sustained quiet for writing when they are in the house. I am always half-listening and half-gauging whether that thud was my son’s head or perhaps an expensive heirloom that should not have been played with. Anyhow — mini will be participating in three weeks of day camp, and both will attend swim lessons, but besides that, the summer stretches out vacantly in front of them. I say them because I will be maintaining my work hours, and they will be largely in the care of our devoted and saintly nanny. She and I sat down last month and generated a long list of activities for the children, some more involved than others. There will be many outdoor days at a nearby playground and in our backyard, rainy days at the library and local My Gym-type place, and then, every Friday, I have scheduled a morning outing for the four of us (Mr. Magpie will be working). On this list are trips to Glen Echo aquarium, the Children’s Museum, the movies (!), a pottery painting studio, a nature center, mini golf, the zoo. It required a herculean effort to organize myself, generate the list, and research tickets and logistics, but now that I have calendared it all and printed out the schedule on paper for our nanny, I am excited at the prospect of participating in their summer in this structured way. But principally, my intention is for them to have one of those unspooling, easy summers to which I laid claim for much of my childhood: early morning play in the basement, watermelon right out of the fridge, bare feet on grass. I’ve been describing it to my friends as “a very backyard, dirt-focused summer.” We lived for a too-long time during the pandemic in an apartment together and though that memory is beginning to yellow at the edges, I still feel that this feels right for us this summer.
Anyhow. Yesterday, I spent five whole hours — five — organizing all of the toys in our house. We were at a place where many of our toy sets were scattered across three floors (and in the garage, too) and everything was jumbled together. I spent hours gathering the diaspora of sets of matchbox cars, my little ponies, barbies, tool sets, duplos from hither and thither and reuniting them in properly sized bins, pouches, and baskets. I gathered and discarded thick piles of used-up sticker books and coloring books. I tossed broken crayons and all those little knick-knack plastic toys WE seem to accrue. I put baby toys we’ve outgrown into a separate bin and stowed it at the top of the playroom closet. I found a bigger bin to accommodate our now-expansive collection of costumes.
It was cathartic. I am sure this will only last a week, but the activity afforded me the impression of control just before summer swings through. In the process, I took note of some vacancies in my activity closet and have been putting together a large order of summer supplies and organizational tools for long or rainy days and thought I’d share some thoughts along these lines.
DELUXE WATER WOWS (SEEN ABOVE) — MR. MAGPIE’S COUSIN SENT THESE FOR THE CHILDREN AND THEY ARE NEXT LEVEL! WE’VE ALWAYS USED WATERWOWS BUT THESE INCLUDE A LITTLE SPY GLASS TO ADD TO THE FUN…MY CHILDREN ADORE THEM
BLANK, UNLINED NOTEBOOKS — MINI LOVES TO FILL THESE WITH PICTURES, WORDS, AND STICKERS
RE: STICKERS — MY CHILDREN JUST LOVE, LOVE, LOVE STICKERS AND THE SETS FROM MONDO LLAMA ARE FANTASTIC (YOU CAN SEPARATE INTO INDIVIDUAL SHEETS TO PARCEL OUT OVER A SUMMER/BETWEEN CHILDREN AND GOOD QUALITY FOR THE PRICE) — I JUST ADDED THESE, THESE, AND THESE TO MY CART TO HAVE ON HAND THIS SUMMER
I ALWAYS HAVE A CRAFT KIT ON HAND FROM EITHER MONDO LLAMA OR KID MADE MODERN (<<THESE ARE CURRENTLY BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF SO COULD BE GOOD TO BUY ONE AND KEEP ONE FOR A GIFT)…FUN TO JUST LET THEM MAKE WHATEVER THEY WANT, OR TO COME UP WITH A STRUCTURED ACTIVITY
KMM ALSO MAKES MORE THEMED KITS LIKE THIS ENCHANTED FAIRY TALE ONE
HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT THESE 1,000 TIMES BUT I USE THEM FOR ALL OF OUR PUZZLES, GAMES WITH SMALL PARTS, SETS THAT HAVE LOST THEIR BOXES, ETC.
WIKKI STIX ARE FUN FOR A QUICK DISTRACTION
I ALSO JUST DISCOVERED THESE SQUEEZABLE (WASHABLE) PAINT BRUSHES…COULD BE A FUN NEW MEDIUM FOR SUMMER
DOT STICKERS ARE FUN FOR SO MANY THINGS – WRITE LETTERS ON THEM AND HAVE THEM MATCH THEM ON A POSTER YOU’VE WRITTEN WITH THE SAME LETTERS, DECORATE BOXES, ETC.
MELISSA & DOUG PUFFY STICKERS ARE AN OLD STANDBY — THIS TENDS TO BE WHAT MINI DOES BEFORE SHE FALLS ASLEEP AT NIGHT WHILE IN BED
THE USBORNE STICKER BOOKS ARE THE BEST, BUT THEY AREN’T REUSABLE AND ARE MORE PRICEY SO I TEND TO RESERVE THESE FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS/SPECIAL SURPRISES
CRAYONS — I KEEP THESE IN A DIVIDED COSMETICS CONTAINER OUT ON MINI’S TABLE AT ALL TIMES…THIS WOULD ALSO BE GOOD IF YOU WANT TO ORGANIZE MARKERS, CRAYONS, SCISSORS, ETC, BUT I LEARNED THE HARD WAY TO KEEP MARKERS OUT OF MICRO’S REACH
I KEEP THE REST OF OUR ART SUPPLIES IN THESE BINS HIGH ENOUGH OUT OF MICRO’S REACH NOT TO BE BOTHERED…ONE FOR MARKERS, ONE FOR PAINTS, ONE FOR CRAFT SUPPLIES, ETC…AT FIRST I RESENTED THE FACT THAT THE LIDS DON’T “SNAP ON” BUT ACTUALLY IT MEANS MINI HAS BEEN ABLE TO ACCESS THESE THINGS WITHOUT ANY HELP FROM ME!
I BOUGHT THESE BIN CLIPS SO I CAN LABEL THE HYACINTH BINS WE HAVE ON THE BOTTOM OF OUR IKEA KALLAX UNIT — ONE FOR MUSIC STUFF, ONE FOR DOLL STUFF, ETC.
CRAYOLA MESS FREE PAGES – I FIND THIS IS THE KIND OF ACTIVITY THAT IS REALLY FUN IN SPARING DOSES…LIKE, I HIDE THESE KITS WHEN NOT IN USE AND TRY TO WAIT A FEW WEEKS BEFORE BRINGING OUT AGAIN
THESE FINGERPRINT PAINTING BOOKS ARE SO CLEVER
KINDERGARTEN WRITING PAPER — MINI HAS BEEN WORKING HARD ON HER WRITING AND LOVES TO USE THIS!
WE HAVE TONS OF LITTLE FIGURES OF ANIMALS, KNIGHTS, ASTRONAUTS, ETC WE’VE AMASSED FOR SENSORY PLAY, BIRTHDAYS, ETC — I REALLY LOVE THEM AND THE CHILDREN PLAY WITH THEM ALL THE TIME; I KEEP THEM IN BINS LIKE THESE
I JUST ADDED THIS BIGGER DRY ERASE BOARD TO MY CART — MINI WILL LIKE THIS AND I LOVE THAT IT COLLAPSES FOR STORAGE
THIS AQUADOODLE MAT WAS SO HELPFUL DURING QUARANTINE — I PUT IT AWAY THE LAST FEW MONTHS BUT WILL COME IN HANDY THIS SUMMER
Good luck to my fellow mamas!
P.S. Great indoor activities for children.
P.P.S. Organizing art supplies.
P.P.P.S. Getting started with sensory play.