Monday, May 6, 2013

Fun Facts About our Current Stage of Sibling Play-Time

Lucy and Michael are 18 months apart and are just getting to the age that they can play together. They are beginning to learn to play with each other in a way that is fun and doesn't usually result in tears (although 75% of the time, that's still the end result). 

Lucy is 2 1/2 and will be 3 next month (seriously?) and Michael is 16 1/2 months. I've been observing a few fun "facts" or "tendencies" about their play-time and wanted to record them here - plus I have some fun play-time pictures to share! :) 

Fun Fact #1: Lucy enjoys showing Michael activities that she thinks are fun. 

This is 1 year old Lucy on a (very dusty..... yuck) treadmill. Lu has always liked climbing on the folded up machine and sitting on it like a bench. 

Wasn't she adorable? Still is... just in a big-girl, preschooler way and not a baby way anymore. 

Lucy has shown Michael how to sit on the "bench" and it was a favorite activity for a few days - until mom and dad realized that two kids (equaling over 40 lbs together) playing on a folded up treadmill is very different than one child (weighing barely 20lbs) and we've since made the treadmill bench off limits for playing. It's just a bit dangerous..... :-/

Here's another example of Fun Fact #1 (that's a bit safer): 
Laundry Basket Sailing. (I love Michael's expression in this picture! He's such a cutie!) 

Often after less than 1 minute in the same basket I grab the other basket so it can be 1 child/basket - Lucy likes to tip the "boat" while Michael prefers to stay afloat. Haha

Fun Fact #2: Lucy and Michael like playing side by side with the same toy/activity.
(No pictures for this one, but here are the things they like doing side by side)

  • Duplos - this is a big hit, but Michael is in a "destroy everything" phase and Lucy very much enjoys playing with the buildings we create - so it's best to keep them separated a bit when they play together with this toy. But we talk often about how part of the fun of playing with blocks is that you get to build and rebuild your fun creations! 
  • Colored Animals and Jenga Blocks - for some reason this combination is SO fun for the kids! We have a large set of smallish animals that Lucy loves to make a "Zoo" with (that's what the Jenga blocks are for - "houses" or cages for the animals). Michael REALLY likes taking the animals in and out of their container and knocking over Jenga block towers. 
  • Magnets - both the kids enjoy playing with the ABC magnets on the fridge. They don't stay on the fridge because they are a little sharp underfoot but when we pull them out they usually enjoy playing with them. Oh and we found that two of our cookie sheets are also magnetic so they play well side-by-side as each one has their own "Board" to use. 
  • Train! We usually build two tracks (because of the "Destroy everything" tendencies that the boy currently has.)
  • Books - It is not uncommon to walk in on Lucy and Michael in his room reading board books or her room reading "regular" books. I LOVE this. 

Fun Fact # 3: Lucy and Michael Like Being Creative Side By Side. 

Both Lucy and Michael enjoy Play-Dough, Coloring (for short periods of time) and playing with chalk! In our house, Play-Dough is a momma supervised activity and can fill up a good 45 minutes to an hour! We play about every other week, I've tried to keep it a special activity so that hopefully it will continue to be a GOOD time filler. :) 

Michael likes squishing the dough - here he's using a wooden block "stamp" and pressing it into the dough - it's a good arm workout for the little man!

Lucy got a great "Princess Castle" Play Dough accessory/kit (what do you call these things?) for Christmas and it's been a huge hit - it has molds to help you make dresses for the princesses and even a form for a prince! Oh and the best part - Rapunzel is in the tower and you can press through LONG LONG hair for her! This is Lucy's favorite part.

Here you can see the princesses with their pretty dresses on.

She was so proud of them! :) 

When I ask Lu to "Smile" this is what Michael does! Haha he makes me laugh. 

More pushing! 

Do you see the white prince giving the princess a kiss? She started doing this all on her own... if you ask me the other princesses look jealous. 

Here the Prince is climbing up Rapunzel's "long long hair" to see her. 

Ok - so usually I'm against mixing play-dough colors, but on this particular day we were using all our old play-dough and giving it one last go. Lu had received a new set of fresh colors in her stocking so we had a back up set to use next time. :) 

Fun Fact #4: Lucy and Michael are learning to interact while playing with each other. 

It's really natural for kids at Lucy and Michael's ages to play side-by-side instead of playing WITH each other - but one of the fun things about having siblings is that it forces you to learn things a bit sooner than other kids (not in all areas! But in this one - definitely). This rarely looks perfect! Playing together is messy and often needs mom's intervention. But sometimes it WORKS! Sometimes they play together SO well and it gives me hope that we are making progress! Here's a list of some things the kiddos like doing together. 
  • Kitchen - This one is a work in progress, but Lucy and Michael both enjoy our play Kitchen. Lucy often feels frustrated when Michael interacts a bit too much (ie. decides to reset the table or remove a VITAL object from her place setting) but it has provided many opportunities to talk about how we have to teach younger kids how to play with older kids (and often I feel humbled when "teaching" this concept because I realize I need to be more patient with my daughter when she wants to do something with  what I'm focused on - an important learning moment for both of us). 
  • Ball - Michael has always be attracted to Balls and loves rolling them around. Lucy has learned how to interact and play with him really well with both small and medium sized balls. Most of the time this "Play" turns into... 
  • Wrestling! Lu and Michael love to rough-house with each other. It is so funny to watch them. They roll, they tumble, they chase and they (try to) tickle. Honestly, this usually ends in tears as one child bumps their head or feels offended - but they are learning! Haha!
  • Games - This one definitely needs mom's supervision and help as Michael is learning how to take turns and play together, we currently have one game they can "play" together - it's called the duck game and it quacks and it's annoying for any adults who are in the home. But they are learning and loving it and so it's worth it. :) 
Fun Fact #5: We also fill our days with a few routine - "separate the kids" or "give them a break practices." :) 
  • Room Time - Most mornings Lucy and Michael play in their rooms for 30-45 minutes by themselves. We really want our kids to be good at entertaining themselves and playing independently - and mom usually needs a few minutes to shower or catch up on a few chores without the kids underfoot in the mornings! :) Lucy plays in her room and Michael, at this stage, plays in his crib. We found that if he tried playing in his room he just sat at the gate in the doorway and cried the whole time. A smaller confined space with a few select toys has worked really well for him at this stage. :) 
  • Phone Game Time - We just started this, so I'm not sure how it's going quite yet. We have loaded up our old phones with games and shows for the kids. This is pure gold for road trips - let me tell you! We let the kids play games (and have told Lucy "no shows during this time - just games") on their electronic devices for 20-30 minutes - it's a good time-filler while mom is making lunch or dinner. I'll let you know if this goes south, but so far it's been nice for us. It hasn't yet become an everyday thing, just a good thing for me to keep in the back of my mind if the kids are crawling up the walls. 
  • Shows/Movies - We usually let the kids watch one show a day (Netflix, Hulu or a movie we own) - some days it's more and some days the TV doesn't turn on. But we try to limit it. It's really easy for me as a mom to become focused on what I selfishly want to accomplish in a day and not pay attention to what the kids need. This is why we've instituted the above two "Kids-play-independantly" strategies into our routine - they have helped a lot! 

Ok - that's us during this season of life with an almost 3 year old and an almost 1 1/2 year old! Phew! I can't wait for our weather to even out - it went from 90 degrees to snow last week within 48 hours! It's MAY! Longest. Winter. Ever. But I'm anxious to explore outside more and build in OUTSIDE into our routine! :) The park is calling for us! 

What ages are your kids? What do they like doing together? Any suggestions to help fill time? Do you have any strategies or tricks to pull out on days you want to pull out your hair as a parent? :) Are you a "Don't mix the play-dough" person too or do you let the kids "Go at it" and mix away? I'd love to hear whatever you have to share. :) 

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