My children have spent literally every summer day this season outdoors. It has been my quick solution to quiet time in the house, a way to get the house cleaned and enjoy it for a few minutes, and also keep my children active enough to tire them out by the end of the day.
For the past few months, California has been on fire with many areas burning uncontrollably. People have been made to evacuate and relocate, eventually able to return to their homes, while others have lost everything. My family recently spent the day in a town on Saturday and by Sunday afternoon, it was on fire. This is the closest that I have lived near raging fires. My home was never threatened, but we experienced some of the residue of the earlier fires. I commend firefighters who work under these conditions all of the time.
When I received a message from the local agency advising us it was safer to be indoors, scenes from a horror film rambled through my mind. What was I going to do indoors with my three children who woke up every morning asking to go outside before breakfast was served? The only time they voluntarily came inside was to eat and drink and sometimes I had to force them to do that. Also, our summer has been free from schedules, responsibilities, and I made no lists of things to do because I knew we would be spending a lot of time outside.
Always a mom, I went into fast action mode (as fast as I could so early in the morning) and came up with a list of things for us to do. We didn’t get to do everything, but if this happens again or during the colder months to come, I’m going to pull out our list and work from there when we again find ourselves “trapped” indoors. If you are ever caught off-guard as I was, then these ideas may come in handy. Most of everything you need are items you already have at home. The following are a few suggestions, which you may find fun to do with your children too:
1. Arts & Crafts
My new favorite rescue is making playdoh which I added to our recipe book. It is extremely quick and so easy to make.
Just about anything can be called “art” and a craft can be made out of just about anything. This is when you smile because you finally get to use those empty yogurt containers you have been saving (I’ve got many and can’t seem to be able to send them to be recycled.) You can get more ideas from Recyle 2 Art, Amazing Moms, and Kaboose, which has a variety of seasonal projects from which to choose. These ideas are more structured and may require some things not already at home, but we have had fun while doing some of them.
I finally got rid of my paper bag supply from grocery purchases, but if you are stuck with an abundance of plastic bags (every time company comes, plastic bags keep popping up), then there is some fun to be had with these hard to recycle items. Repurpose them with some creative ideas from RecycleCindy at My Recycled Bags. She has some really neat projects for you to do and I’ve never seen Barbie looking more fashionable.
I don’t know how it happened, but cooking has become an enjoyable pastime for me. My children, even my toddler, enjoy cooking too. Everyone pulls a chair up to our kitchen island and we cook together. If your children are new to cooking, sometimes having them help you with a simple meal like making lunch is all it takes to get them interested. Some great recipes and tips can also be found at Kaboose. Another motivator for promoting cooking with children is watching other children doing the same. Spatulatta is a fun Web site that you and your children can watch together. Since most cooking calls for preparation, all of you can sit down, watch and learn how to make a dish, and prepare your grocery list for shopping later. This is also a great time to teach them about healthy nutrition and they will enjoy selecting their own fresh ingredients at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
3. Sort Recyclables
Even though we have been recycling for months, I still have not purchased dedicated containers. For now, we are using what is left of the paper grocery bags and cardboard boxes. Our recycling system starts in the kitchen where I try to sort as much as I can, but sometimes, it’s easier to just put everything in one container and then sort later. If this happens to you, then solicit help from your children. Letting them sort the items and put them in the correct containers is fun for them, teaches them what like items can be recycled, and reinforces the concept.
4. Clean Up
Surprisingly, my children love to clean. I think they just like using the spray bottles, but that is just my guess. There are quite a few occasions when I have to ask them more than ten times once to clean up their playroom, but any cleaning outside of that room, they do willingly. Since we use non-toxic and natural cleaners, I can comfortably give them cleaner to use and do not have to worry if they get it on their hands, etc. Just like a graffiti artist cleaning up after tagging, I also make them clean all of the little finger prints they put on the windows. Give them a broom to use, and depending upon the age of the child, he can also help you vacuum around the house.
5. Read Books
Reading to your children is so important. Reading a book of any type whether the topic is green or not is good for your children. If you have an early reader, then let him practice reading to the family. Most children enjoy being read to, so mom crack open a book and go for it. Fluff the pillows, cuddle up, and wrap a few blankets if needed and enjoy a great read together. If you are looking for a few age appropriate books, then take a look at what we have been enjoying. We stock up once a month at the library, so we always have some good books on hand. Our library allows us to check out up to 50 books at a time. Now, that is a lot of reading and think of how many trees you will save.
Another option is listening to and watching a book being read by members of the Screen Actors Guild at Story Online, which include artists like Melissa Gilbert, Tia and Tamera Mowry, Hector Elizondo, and even Al Gore as featured narrators.
6. Make Room
Your children can go through their toys, while you go through their clothes and collect items that are no longer used and can be donated, shared with another, or sold. I have three closets that need much attention. Most of the clothing filling two of them are of clothing that nobody in our house can wear ever again because they have outgrown them. It is hard to let go of many of these items, but reducing, re-purposing/reusing, and recycling is the name of the game and not consumption. You can treat this like a treasure hunt and have your children search for two items (or more) each that they no longer use. If you have a family in mind for receiving the items, then your children can hand deliver the toys to their new owner. There are so many lessons they can learn from this.
We still prefer the fun we have outside, but there is much fun to be had indoors as well. So moms, the next time you and your children are forced indoors, if you don’t already have your “green activity list” ready to go, then we give you permission to use ours.
Remember CUW, September 19-21, 2008 and Pick that up!
Laugh, learn, and live more green and natural with Jennifer at Little Green Secrets where country living is a little easier. Subscribe to her blog here and enjoy great recipes for delicious vegetarian food that will make your mouth water, her experiences in homeschooling, and a few (ssh!) little green secret challenges she faces everyday.
An original post written for 5 Minutes for Going Green.