Saturday, August 1, 2015
Grandma Camping 2015 - Part 6 - Routines!
Here we are, waiting for grandma's corny, homespun, totally-not-scary "ghost stories" right before bedtime!
It helps when grandma campers have had school experience. They're used to structure and schedules. They know what it's like to be herded from art to gym to lunch. That makes it easier on you. No respectable grandma camp operator allows her kiddoes to run wild while she flops flat on the couch for a mid morning nap, wine glass in hand (err, well maybe once - or twice - but only toward the end of the week!) As any well seasoned teacher will confirm, as much as those little inmates are adored, they will run the asylum for you if you don't step up early and take control of it!
So, we post a few rules, presenting them at camp orientation. This is my favorite:
Crawl downstairs like the quietest little mouse you can be after you wake up! Don't go knocking on the tent next door, looking for trouble! Tired kids are crabby kids. Who wants those creatures here? Not grandma! Success rate = 100%
Early birds sit quietly with grandpa, listening to him drone about how many crumbs he swept up the previous day. As the week progresses, the number of early risers dramatically declines; little birds opt, instead, to occupy themselves inside their tents with puzzle books! Problem nicely solved!
Thank goodness my guests like to ease into the day like I do. Once breakfast in front of morning cartoons is cleared away, it's time to do some thinking. Kids are the most mentally alert then, so we dive into our daily school session. Let me explain.
My daughters reinforce academic skills by investing a little time each day with workbooks and flashcards. The kids are proud of what they accomplish at "Mommy's School." When I spotted delightful name brand (Crayola, School Zone, etc.) workbooks at Dollar Tree, I decided to join the fun! I hand these out on a regular basis and reward kids with a small Lego set for each two completed. They enjoy working toward a goal while keeping up with math and spelling, and parents appreciate the support for learning through extended family teamwork. And grandma? Well, there's no better phone call than one from a little scholar, alerting me that it's nearly time to cash in for a prize!
After school, it is "library time." What fun the kids have taking a turn as librarian! This person really knows how to wield power, too! Nick began the ritual of making "patrons" wait on the couch while he tidies up his desk and shelves. When he is satisfied, he flips his sign to "open." Kids browse the shelves and have their cards stamped. They return books from the previous day and are allowed their choice of "reading club" stickers for their folders.
Details on the Family Library I constructed from cardboard boxes are here.
And here's Nick, proud of his first day sticker array, issued under the authority of his bespectacled librarian-for-the-day brother!
It's ten o'clock now and time for something lively. Daily hikes through the woods are always a first choice. We couple them with nature and art activities, such as those shown here and here. Always learning? Yes! But having fun along the trail, too!
A group gathering on the deck follows. If we've brought back treasures from the hike, we display and discuss them. Some stones are begging to be painted like ladybugs; some sticks need to become tribal totems. This is when that happens in between sips and nibbles of a mid morning snack.
I have way more than enough planned for the kids, and that comes in handy. They like to have choices, and I like to offer them. It's our routine to have a "kid of the day," and that's who decides what we'll do next. My list includes driveway basketball, sidewalk chalk games, paper airplane making, zombie hunting, neighborhood walks, Lego building, flying kites, jumping rope or arts and crafts. Note that some are suitable for indoors, just in case it's raining, and most require only passive participation by grandma! (I'm never quite the same after that spirited hike through the woods!)
I toss field trips into the mix, too. There's a community park nearby with an inviting pond, frequented by ducks and geese to feed with day-old bread. One of these years, we'll bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the swings, too. A farmer's market convenes every Thursday a mere mile away. I hand out five dollar bills and tell the kids to shop their hearts out for ripened red berries and sunflowers the size of their heads. By next year, they'll be able to deftly calculate exactly what that amount will buy for them! Don't overlook programs at your local library, too. Ours is a wonderful one that hosts story time, magic shows, animal petting sessions, and the dream of little boys everywhere - a convention of cars and trucks: police, fire, ambulance, community utility and giant transport vehicles to climb into and pretend you are soooo cool!
Lunch time now. Sometimes grandpa steps up, and other times he puts in a half hour playing board games or marbles with the kids while I work in the kitchen. No matter the "clueless grandpa" jokes I indulge in, his participation is invaluable. So is the afternoon at Aunt Christy's house, late in the week! My campers are ready to jump this ship by Thursday afternoon. We meet at a nearby restaurant for lunch, and then head over to Bree's to swim and enjoy relay games and a bounce house. There's pizza for dinner, a Disney movie or two and big tubs of popcorn later on. It's a great break for everybody!
Daily "quiet time" follows lunch, and I am appreciative of the way my daughters enforce this ritual at home; the kids are used to resting or silently reading. I've stocked their tents with dot-to-dot, sticker and maze books too. They enjoy their own cozy place, and secretly, I think, cherish the time to refuel.
During two glorious hours of quiet time, I fix dinner and prepare for our dessert baking session. "Kid-of-the-day" has already made a choice, and that's the first thing we do when tent doors pop open at 3 PM!
I'm looking at a good four hours to fill once dinner is complete. The previously mentioned list of fun comes out again, and a choice is made. That lasts until dusk, when we start to get "itchy" again. Night hikes are a really big deal here, and it never gets dark enough, fast enough to please us! Grandma plops herself down with a stack of nature books and we examine and discuss pictures of wildlife, insects and the bright, shiny things we're likely to spot up in the sky. This session does the trick. It's dark now! We're pumped! Lots to see out there. Away we go!
Join us for Part 7 of Grandma Camping right here!