Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday for the Kids: Parenting with Heart(s)

When I was seven years old, I got my tonsils out.  As part of the procedure, I had to get an x-ray. The nurse showed me where my heart was.  I was confused, and I said, "I thought my heart was shaped like this: <3."  The nurse laughed at me.  And then, even worse, she told the story to my mom...right in front of me...and laughed at me more.

I'm sure she didn't mean any harm by it.  When kids say funny things, it's hard not to laugh. But it made me feel ignorant and small and embarrassed.  I hated being talked down to, even at seven. It's why I quit girl scouts and ballet lessons.  I hated being treated as if I were stupid just because I was small.  My mom never, ever talked down to us.  She always reasoned with us and treated us like intelligent people...because that's what kids are.

Now that I'm a mom, I try very hard not to talk down to my son.  He'll be 2 in March, and he's just now getting to the point where he's really trying hard to talk.  But even in his limited ability to say real words, he understands everything that I say.  I have to keep reminding myself that he craves interaction and dialogue just as much as I do.  This morning, while I was changing his diaper, he was especially fussy.  I ran though my normal bag of calming-down-while-diaper-changing tricks.  "Do you want me to sing?"  "No."  "Do you want mama to tell you a story?' "No."  "Should we do animal sounds?  Funny faces?  Can you stretch/clap/touch your nose?" "No. No. No"  So I asked, "Do you just want to talk?"  "Uh-huh."  So we talked.  Our conversations mostly consist of me asking him questions and him saying, "yes" to most of them, although he doesn't really mean it.  It can be exhausting to keep up a mostly one-sided conversation when I know that even if he does answer appropriately, it will be with a response that I have crafted for him.  But he loves to talk to me.  He loves when I teach him new things. He loves when I give him my full attention.

Today, with Valentine's Day coming up--and honestly, with a heart-themed kid post due--I decided to spend some real, quality time with my boy.  I've been wanting to do more art projects with him because his fine motor skills are quite good.  So for Christmas, my Mom and Megan got Judah and I some art supplies to use together.  Jason and I just finished setting up our office/craft room/Judah's art space.  Here is Judah's corner:
Most of his supplies are organized in a shoe rack on the back of the door, which allows him to see everything and point to what he wants without him being able to get into everything.

I wanted to make a few different kinds of paper hearts with Judah, but I haven't stocked up on construction paper yet.  So I decided to let him paint.  Now, let me tell you...I hate messes... mostly because I don't like to waste time cleaning them up.  But my tidy particularity tends to limit Judah's exploration.  So I have to be creative in order to allow him to learn to do things without driving me absolutely crazy.  Here are a few tips that I have learned that make painting with a toddler much less chaotic:

1)  Create a space for him.  Judah has his own table that he can get as messy as he wants. This way I don't have to be super anal about him keeping his paintbrush on the paper.
2)  Use washable paint, and mix in a few drops of dish soap.  (Thank you, Megan, for this tip.) It makes for super easy cleaning of hands, table, carpet, etc.

3)  Give him a smock.  I recommend these, which you can get at Ikea in a 2-pack for $5.
4)  Limit him to three colors.  When picking colors, steer him towards three colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.  That way, when he inevitably mixes paint, you won't just end up with a big brown mess.  (Again, props to "Art Major Megan" for this tip.)

5)  Use big brushes.  This may just be a matter of preference, but Judah seems to be more satisfied when he can cover more area with one stroke.  They are also easy for him to hold and control.

Finally, I let him paint.

Here's what we came up with.
I admit--I did the one with the stripes.  The hand-print one was a failed attempt at a really cute Valentine's Day card for Judah's dad.  Oh was worth a try.

I let the paintings dry while Judah took a nap.  I had all sorts of intricate visions for what I wanted him to do with them...teaching him to cut, glue, staple, sew, write...  There are so many skills I want him to learn so that we can start doing really cool things together...things that are fun for me.  But even from painting with him this morning, I was forced to remember that he is still a toddler.  His attention span is limited, especially when I'm trying to get him to comply to my visions.

So instead, I decided to use the paintings for an activity that would be fun for him.  I cut the paper into hearts while he slept.  I made the hearts double-sided with cardboard in the middle so they would hold up better to repeated play.  Making them a little thicker also made them easier for Judah to pick up.

Then I hid the hearts all over the house for Judah to find.

When he woke up from his nap, we went on a Heart Hunt.

 After he found all the hearts, he spent some time looking them over...
 taking them in and out of the basket...
and re-hiding the hearts where he found them.

From start to finish, his interest in the hearts probably lasted about 10 minutes.  But he had a good time, and I loved watching the little spark in his eye and bounce in his step when he spotted a heart across the room.

This would be a great activity to do with a slightly older child, also.  You could write something on each heart that you love about your child, so each one would be a little love note.  Or you could design the hunt with your child for their father and decide together what you love most about their daddy.  You could also use it as a teaching tool...  After all, God leaves little love notes for His children all over...from nature to kind things people say and do to His provision for us.  Giving your child practice looking for love notes could be a gateway to a conversation about how God sends His blessings every day.  We just need the eyes to see them.


  1. This is so awesome, Robin!!! Great post!! XO

  2. I love this idea! I want to do it with my girls for Valentines Day. Excellent job, Judah! (I love how he concentrates with his tongue sticking out. Too cute!)

  3. We love projects like this, thanks for sharing! We've done letter and number scavenger hunts for the girls to order/create words and animal scavenger hunts where they all put them in the correct ecosystem :) I love pics of your little man, so sweet!

    1. I love those ideas, Melissa! I love the idea of the learning continuing once the hunt is over! It would also be fun to do a character scavenger hunt and put them in the right story...or make up new stories! Hmm...this has me thinking...

  4. Great post Robin. Really cute Pictures!