“Here Mama. Eat. Have enerzy tell story.” A pretend bite of pancake is shoved into my mouth. The salty taste of toddler fingers lingers on my lips as I pretend to masticate then swallow the gigantic bite. Clearly a few truths are evident here:
A) You don’t need fifth grade health class to teach you that food contains calories which equal energy.
B) Imaginary pancakes prepared by toddler hands are far superior to those that flip off of my stove top.
C) Little Friend’s Mama must have far too many low-energy slumps throughout the day. Either that, or she’s using “no energy” as an excuse to get out of story telling.
Here’s the underlying problem also evidenced in this interaction: my Little Friend has a longer attention span than I do.
Somehow that baby attention span of 7 seconds has grown right along with the arms, legs, torso, and hair that equal the rest of Little Friend. Her attention has stretched from one book to a gazillion books (at least it feels that way to Low-Enerzy-Mama.) While this attention span can be frustrating when my head is bobbling on my shoulders as I attempt to keep eyelids raised to the “The End” page of a book, I’m actually quite delighted to see the mature thinking, eager attention, and curious mind that emerges along with a longer attention span.
Here are two of our favorite Toddler activities that require at least 20 minutes of attention span:
SHAVING CREAM PLAY
How cheap, how simple, how clean can child’s play possibly be? Shaving cream is the answer. For a little over $1 a can, Shaving Cream Play is the perfect 20-minute summer activity.
We set up Shaving Cream Shop on our back deck this afternoon and introduced Little Friend to the sweet-scented joy of shaving cream. After some clear instructions on not eating the cream, she got down to business.
And what could be fun with Shaving Cream if not the hose-down at the end?
You can’t tell me that you’d turn down the chance to turn the hose on your own kid every now and then. Let’s just review: now this is fun for kids and parents.
Little Friend is a two-year-old with an impressive memory. She remembers that time that her Mama fell off a bike and suffered a scraped knee that still boasts rocks grown into the wound. She remembers the frog that her Daddy found and nurtured until someone (certainly not his brother who was charged with watching the frog one weekend) let it out of the cage and it escaped. She remembers the time her grandmother attempted to dig her way to China in a Michigan back yard. She remembers how her grandfather lost his new shoes after jumping from a barn loft into a juicy pile of manure below.
She remembers a lot. Even if she wasn’t there for the original events in the stories.
Her memories are thanks to a cadre of story tellers who have gathered around to share the little slices of life that make for captivating toddler entertainment. For about a year now, we have been stretching Little Friend’s attention span by telling her the life stories of the people closest to her: parents, cousins, and grandparents. No story is too small to be embellished into toddler wonderland.
The stories have been collected and stored in our Story Box.
“Do you have any stories we could tell Little Friend?” we bug our family members and friends. Because quite frankly folks, Little Friend’s attention span outlasts our own. After the seventh retelling of “Daddy and the Frog”, our brains want to shut down. So we beg new tales and write down the title on a strip of paper.
The strips go into the Story Box.
Which lives in whichever room it was last needed.
The story box, in another life, was a boring cardboard shoe box. The collage of pictures once upon a time were lost in the pages of a Real Simple magazine. A little bit of creative cutting and a glue stick or two later, and the Story Box was born. It’s been well-fed with story strips ever since.
And when Little Friend (read: Mama and Big Friend) needs new yarns, we fish out a strip of paper and knit a new tale.
As much as I complain about the (literally) hours of time we’ve spent telling Little Friend stories, I’m not really complaining. Deep down in my heart of hearts, I will always find the enerzy, even without fuel from imaginary pancakes, to tell family stories to a little one whose eyes blaze with interest and who can retell and mold the stories to her own liking:
“One time, I hear noise. Go ‘ribbit, ribbit.’ Find ittle frog. Pick up ittle frog. Take show Grammie. Grammie say ‘Oh, goodness!’ I put in cage. Ittle frog stick out ittle finger. Open cage. Hey! Where frog go?!”
This post shared with Mama’s Losin’ It Writer’s Workshop.