Anyone who has ever had a child, worked with a child, or been a child knows that kids can get really fixated on something. To us adults, superheros or princesses seem to be an obsession for them. Currently, my son is eating, breathing, and sleeping space. Every question, book, game, and activity revolves around the planets (with his sub-obsession being the dwarf planet, Pluto). How can he think about space ALL the time? The realization hit me- when someone (parents) are meeting your basic needs (food, water, shelter, laundry, etc.) you can focus all your thoughts and energy exclusively on your topic of choice. No wonder their little brains can soak up so much!
As I was saying, my son is over the moon about space. I must say I’ve learned a great deal about space these past few weeks. Including Pluto, there are 5 dwarf planets known in our solar system and potentially more. What is the difference between an asteroid, meteor, and meteorite? An asteroid is in space, a meteor (shooting star) enters a planet’s or moon’s atmosphere, and a meteorite touched down on a planet or moon. But I digress. I’ve tried to supplement his interest with materials from the library, my classroom, and Itzie.
I’ve even used his fixation for behavior modification by using homemade “space sheets” as a reward for good behavior. They are just a photo of a planet with a couple of facts stuffed in a page protector. He loves them and takes them with him everywhere.
This weekend we watched a space video, sang planet songs, and drew a million variations of the solar system on his whiteboard. And then, as predicted, there was a snow day. Another day lost in space.
I really just didn’t have it in me to come up with new space activities for today. I tried searching on Pinterest for a few brief moments. The trouble is that all the pre-school activities are not really things I can do with my 1 year-old. I don’t want to leave her out, but she eats crayons, feeds Play-dough to the dog, and could destroy a Styrofoam ball in 10 seconds flat. When we play as a family it usually involves running, climbing, dancing, swinging, and spinning. Instead of coming up with something new (who has time to do that on a snow day???) I brainstormed a few ways to incorporate space into some favorite indoor activities.
“Sun light, Moon light”
This is the old standard, “Red light, Green light” with a space twist. I put a piece of tape down for the kids to line up behind (of course you know the toddler stayed right behind it-NOT!). Then I stood at the opposite end of the room and held up a picture of a sun and yelled “Sun light!” This was the cue for the kids to run towards me. When I yelled “Moon light!” they dropped to floor and went to sleep. We kept it up until The Bear reached me and then we switched roles. The Bear (age 3) got his space fix and Baybay (age 1) giggled as she ran around the room.
Solar System Express
A staple of a snow day is lining up all the dining room chairs, kid chairs, high chairs, and any other furniture we can move to make a train. The kids both LOVE to climb on everything and I love that they burn some energy indoors. Today we applied the same idea to create a climbable solar system. First, I taped the planets’ names on the chairs. They don’t show up very well in the pictures, but I just made them with scrap paper and a marker. We even tried to make it to scale with kid chairs for the smaller planets and adult chairs for the big planets. Super nerdy. And I got schooled for including Pluto. I had to make an addendum – “Dwarf Planet, not a planet.” (You can also see some of my home made space sheets I used for a behavior reward- Jupiter and Saturn). We traveled all through the solar system and had quite an adventure. And I’ll admit that I made myself comfortable on Saturn and read a book for a while. The kids were content and I needed a mental break. Win win.
The best part about this was at snack time when the Bear said, ” Mom, can I turn over Uranus so we can eat off it?” I know, how immature Mandy?! But seriously, when it came out of his mouth I burst out laughing. Couldn’t help it.
This was probably my favorite because it wasn’t my idea at all. It was The Bear’s. And while I know I should try to always “follow the child,” I usually try to micromanage our play. What can I say I have strong leadership skills (bossy pants)? I felt really satisfied, however, at letting him lead and this game evolving from our play. It started with his request to act out the solar system. I was the sun and he was Mercury orbiting around me. Then we switched and I was Jupiter and it was funny to make an BIG orbit around the room. Somewhere in there the sun was eliminated and the person who was “it” was an asteroid trying to collide with planets. And so Space Tag was born! Baybay did not like being a planet or an asteroid. She wanted to be held during all this ruckus so I was Earth and she was the Moon. We tried to escape The Bear’s asteroid. Then Daddysaurus joined in and there were asteroids, moons, and planets flying everywhere. It was a blast!
Planet Pancake Mini-Muffins
Finally, we had a space snack. This was also done on the fly. I planned to make some pancakes to freeze for the upcoming week’s breakfast.The Bear had informed me recently that he didn’t like pancakes (which is totally not true). I was already dreading fighting over breakfasts when I saw PW’s post this morning on my Feedly. Pancake mini-muffins- YES! I really like pancakes because I can add fruit and nuts or bacon for protein plus there are whole grains so I feel like it’s a good start to the day. We chose some planet colors (orange and blue) and selected our asteroids (blueberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips).
This isn’t really a recipe. It’s more like a blueprint. You follow the directions on a the Bisquick box and scoop into mini-muffin pans. Then add your favorite fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips and bake at 425 degrees for 10-14 minutes. I sprinkled some cinnamon over one tray just to keep it interesting.
I really like how the browning of the baking combined with the food coloring. Pretty planetary color scheme, right?
The best part about today was I felt like a good mom without losing sight of why I want to be a good mom. So often I’m caught up in comparing myself to The Perfect Mom and I forget that I don’t have to be grandiose to make my kids happy. Nothing we did today was out of the ordinary, but I made it extraordinary for them. A giant step for mom-kind!