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A couple years ago, a friend asked me to compile things I’d learned about keeping preschoolers busy.  I’ve been babysitting for about 20 years now, but I was still surprised at all the things I was able to write down.  I’m sharing them here in case you are looking for inspiration.  

 

Have a ball or object that you pass back and forth.  Before you pass, you have to say something in a list: a number, a letter, a color, a musical instrument, something they’re thankful for, a song, a toy, a character from a movie, something you can see, a sport, a type of transportation (cars, planes, trains…), an animal…  You get the idea.  You can practice saying a rhyme, verse, song by passing the ball back and forth and each person has to say the next word before they pass it.  Teach the game using a saying, song or rhyme they already know.

 

Set up a tricky way to pass some object to each other: around a chair, under a table, down a blanket like a slide.

 

Do simple games where there are two or three things they’re supposed to act out, and they must switch when you say the other thing: butterflies and caterpillars; land, water, sky; hills, mountains, plains/fields; (incorporate it into a story or lesson: grasshoppers and giants like the 12 spies’ perception when they spied out canaan);

 

Have a collection of objects.  Name them all together.  Cover the kids’ eyes.  Take one object away.  Have them guess/figure out which one is missing.  Play again with a different missing object.

 

You can do all sorts of things with a deck of cards, things for all ages.  For littles: 52 pickup; cards that are red; cards that are black; cards with faces; cards with numbers; hand them one card and tell them to find one whose shape, color, or number matches; have them practice counting by bringing you whatever amount of cards you say (you’ll probably have to help them count).  Lay numbers in order.  You can lay the foundations for odds/evens, addition, subtraction, division.  I’ve had older kids bring me cards adding up to a certain number – or just an odd number.

 

Train to be listening: have a code word for the day.  Any time the child hears you say it, they come to you and either get something (cracker, M&M) or do something (high five, hug).

 

Bat a balloon or roll a ball across a line, no picking up.  Also try kicking.  (Pre-soccer skill.)

 

Have kids try to stand on one foot without holding on to anything.  Count as high as you can, out loud, until they put their foot down or touch something.  Now have them do it while doing something else, like singing a song or patting their head or watching you do something silly.

 

With more than one child, instead of “tag”, do “bubbles” and “poppers”.  Tag is too abstract.  Tell them that once they have popped, they switch roles.  This works even if you want a number of kids who are “it”.  In my experience, kids won’t really switch; they’ll just pick their favorite role, keep doing that, and most kids will be ok with that.  The others will try to debate with fellow toddlers.  It’s kind of hilarious.

 

Have them balance something on their head.  Then have them walk, or sit down and stand up again (depending on how hard the balancing is).

 

Set up a bucket or bag (or two for two teams; you can compete, too).  Have the child fill up the bag, bringing only one object at a time.  (Use toys, socks, cereal if it’s a snack-size bowl.)  Just make sure the container is rather far away from the objects, so that the kid is using up a bunch of energy.

 

Have the child echo patterns of sounds or actions.  Start small.  Clap, stomp, make some noise, wave…

 

Streamers are super fun and cheap.  Wave them.  Use them as finish-lines.  Use them as lines to “balance” on.  Or to divide a room.  Or as a maze line to follow on a treasure hunt.  Pull off a strip and do something with both you and the child holding on.  If you let go or tear it, you have to start over.

 

Teach more basics of soccer.  But break it up.  Try not to put too many rules together all at once.  Have the child try to get a ball past you to a specific wall or basket (using hands or feet or whatever – just can’t be holding on to the ball).  Trade places and have them keep you from getting the ball past them.

 

“Is it the truth?”  While you’re playing, make statements whose truth or falsehood is obvious.  If it is true, the child stands up.  If false, they sit down.  Or have them do some other fun action.  If it’s true, they jump up and down…  If it’s true, they spin in circles.  They just have to switch once they hear the next statement.

 

This one is from a book called “Let’s Play!” that’s decent for ideas.  It’s for a group, not just one child.  Form pairs and give these directions: “touch feet” (kids touch their feet to each other’s), “touch wings” (touch elbows like wings), “tweet to your partner”.  Then call out “scatter sparrows!”  The children flap like sparrows, tweet like sparrows, while they’re either 1) scattering and finding a new partner or 2) scattering, then listening for your call to “touch feet” again when they must find a new partner.

 

Set up an easy obstacle course… line up objects in one straight line with several feet between each object.  Have the child weave in and out between the objects.

 

“Bowl” with whatever objects are on hand: cups, books, toys

 

Pretend you’re in a parade.  March.  Wave.  Bring a stuffed animal or balloon.  (Ever seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV?)  Stay in line and take a tour of whatever place you’re at, all in parade mode.  You can even stop at an opportune spot and do a performance.  Make sure to pretend you have a microphone if you’re singing!

 

Use a paper plate as a Frisbee.

 

Put small stuffed animals or soft balls (cotton balls, q-tips, other soft small objects you have are fine; raid your purse) on a large blanket or sheet (larger keeps the things on it better, but if there are only 2 of you, it will have to be smaller so you can hold it.)  You hold one side.  They hold the other.  Then wave it to see them pop.

 

Use a ribbon, streamer, jump-rope, narrowly-folded blanket to make a “river” in the middle of the floor.  Jump over the river.  Throw something over the river.  “Swim” under the river.

 

Play hot potato.

 

Go to sleep bunny, bunny.  Say that.  Have the child pretend to be a sleeping bunny.  When you think they won’t be able to “sleep” anymore, call “wake up, little bunny! hop, hop, hop!”  They have to get up and hop until you say to sleep again.

 

Again from Let’s Play!: Give the child an object they can toss in the air.  Tell the story of Jesus calming the sea.  Then play the game like this: when you say “Storm!” they toss their object up, over and over.  When you say “Be still!”, they must grab their object from wherever it is and sit down quietly.

 

Have a bunch of something: crumpled up junk mail, socks, paper airplanes, little balls like in a play-place (soft!).  Split them up evenly.  Make a line out of a streamer, couch cushions, tape in the middle of the room.  Put half of the objects on one side, half on the other.  Half of the children stand on each side (or you on one side, the child/children on the other).  Turn on a song.  While the music is playing, each of you throws as many of the things over the line as possible, even the new things just thrown over your line.  At the end of the song, the side with the *least* objects wins.

 

Teach hand signals for sports teams, like the referrees would use (I had to look up on the internet how to do these).  Show them.  Say it.  Have the kids do the motions, and say the phrases, too.  My favorite about this was that for soccer instead of any signals, I just have the kids put their hands in the air and run around like madmen yelling “SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  They like that, too.

 

Be active: gallop, toe-touch, jumping jacks, spin.

 

Set up items with only 1 letter on them in different parts of the room.  These could be posters you make or those little blocks with letters on them.  You probably only want to do a few letters at a time.  Call out the letter and have the child hurry to go touch it.  After they’re good at that, teach them one of the sounds the letter makes, and have them remember or repeat the sound before they can leave and go to another letter.

 

Since I was doing Awana, I taught the Cubbies how to stand with their toes behind a line.  I’d have them run, then say, “Line,” and they had to all get behind the line, not even touching it, quickly.

 

Take a walk and announce a color.  Say the names of things you see that are that color.  Encourage the child to participate.  The next time you take a walk, choose a different color.  It’s not guessing one item; it’s just identifying.  It’s like a preliminary to I-spy.

 

Kids love bubbles.  Blow bubbles for them.  See if they can catch them without them popping.  See if they can guess where they’ll land.   You can also try to catch leaves blown from trees in the autumn.

 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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Fun

I bowl. I go to Elitch’s. I jump on trampolines. I play board games. I wear formal or old-fashioned outfits to stores and parks and libraries. I even dance on occasion. Not because I have to. Because I want to.

 

And because I can. I don’t have to spend most of my time keeping a house or supporting a family or choosing homeschool curriculum.  I also don’t get to do those family-oriented things, but I don’t regret, while I wait for them, enjoying fun things.

 

It makes me wonder what kind of mom I’ll be, by the time it happens?  If fun has become an adult habit, not just something that young adult me does while transitioning out of youth group life, will that translate into the way I run my house, and the priorities I share with my kids?

 

I wonder.  I like to think about the story God is telling in my life, how my life is different from the average “grow up, get married, have a family” story that I assumed I would have.  And imagine what He’s making of the differences.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: I know fun parents.  God has various ways of bringing things about in people’s lives.

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Charley Horse

You know that awful feeling when your foot cramps up?  The instinct is absolutely to freeze, tense, since moving made it start hurting.  But the right thing to do, to end the cramp quickly, is to stretch.

 

There are other things like this in life, things where being tense and resisting what is happening are the worst things you can do.

 

Earlier today one of our family cats, a specimen so large that he was named for an assassin in the Bible, was on the back of my sister’s easy chair.  He decided to be done on the top, and was planning to use her as a ramp to a lower level of ease.  This was not my sister’s plan.  And because her response was to go stiff in resistance to his attempts, his claws scrambled for a new course, snagged her shirt, got stuck in the upholstery, and ended up with him dangling from the reclining seat back.  Actually that wasn’t the end, since another sister rescued the pair from the predicament.  Aside from a hole in her shirt, neither are the worse for wear.

 

The house cat is actually back on the top of the same easy chair, where I’m lounging with a laptop on my knees.  Sometimes he nuzzles the back of my head, and I lean back into it, not with opposition so much as meeting his gesture.  Then he goes back to stretching and purring and thinking whatever lazy ponderings cats do.  I’m  not afraid he’ll walk down on me, even though he very likely might.  I’ll shrug him onto the armrest and we’ll both continue with what we’re doing.

 

I know I’m not always like that.  Other things in life make me seize up.  I’m trying to learn to be less afraid, to trust God’s work, and just to go forward with the story God is telling.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve read a lot of articles that say, “Don’t ask.”  They’ll be about illness, infertility, divorce.  “It’s personal,” they remind us, “so mind your own business.”

 

Today I was in a woman’s house.  I don’t know her.  I have talked to her a couple of times.  I will be doing some work for her.  I suppose I broke the rules, because after she’d told me a little about her life, raising two little boys though she’s their grandmother and wasn’t planning to do motherhood all over again, I asked her if she’s raising them alone.  And you know what?  This woman wanted to share.  She’s desperately lonely in her situation, and not only feeling like she’s the only one going through this kind of thing, but also just generally like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to love and support her.

 

I think I know how she feels.  I have wonderful friends, who know me and my story very well.  And I still feel lonely sometimes, still would rather that people sincerely ask what is going on in my life and how I feel about it.  Even the private, personal things.  If it takes me a minute or two to figure out how to answer with appropriate discretion, that awkwardness is worth it to me for what it buys: relationship.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Today I was thinking about heroes.  So often our favorite super heroes can save everyone.  Doc Ock tosses six different people six different directions, and destroys the brakes on a speeding train.  Spider-Man shoots his webs to save the stragglers, uses his super strength to stop the train, and saves the day.

In that same movie, Spider-Man decides to come out of retirement to save a little kid from a fire, and is disheartened to hear afterwards that some “poor soul” on a higher floor didn’t make it out.  But this isn’t shown as an inevitable edge to the protagonist’s reach; I get the impression that we’re supposed to believe that if only Spidey hadn’t been taking some time for himself, both victims would have made it out alive.

Sometimes the crisis of the plot is the hero deciding whether to save one dear friend or to save a larger group of people (and somehow, predictably now, the dear friend  heroically sacrificed is saved in the nick of time anyway).  Other times, the super hero makes a glance at the crushing weight of collateral damage: fighting evil is a destructive war.

How often do the heroes in our tales face the fact that their powers are, however impressive, limited, and they cannot save everyone?  What if we saw heroes not only facing this, grieving this, but standing slowly – like a weight-lifter, only the weight is borne in the heart, bending shoulders –  standing, straightening, squaring those shoulders, and going out with all the zeal they had yesterday, to save the ones they can, to face defeat again and again, to still care about every one they can’t save the same as they care about the ones they can, and still to try?

Today I was driving to an abortion clinic, to stand outside among such heroes, who spend day after day watching most of the moms they encounter go right on ahead and end most of the lives the sidewalk counselors are trying to save.  This is a heavy burden.

It is not all discouraging failure.  Yesterday, a couple changed their mind, and rejected the violence they had intended.  Would Spider-Man bear up against those odds: one rescued for dozens lost?  These people do.  By the grace of God, they are real heroes.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Across the Sky

Have you noticed that many processes are interactions?

Farming and gardening are examples that involve a lot of work and initiative and dominion – but in cooperation with what “naturally” occurs: rain, sun, a branch sprouting in the wrong direction. To get good fruit, we humans both initiate and respond.

Children are raised not by a curriculum, but by attentive discipleship: when we go out and when we come in, when we sit and when we lie down and when we rise up.

Writing or creating art – even these are best done when, as I have read, we “sit with” our material (sometimes sharing the process with a community of artists). We look at it in lots of lights. (Isn’t it convenient that the sun moves across the sky, shining on different aspects of creation in the course of a day?) We wait until we have enough facts, and the facts from outside of us have been catalyzed by the spirit within us. Then comes culmination, fruit-bearing, birth, harvest, maturity.

This is sometimes ugly, sometimes bearing witness to what we wish would just erase itself from existence, and letting it change us instead of ignoring it. This is sometimes painful, sitting in the dark with grief and failure. This is sometimes hard, persisting in a process whose end we are unsure of.

I think that God is (slowly) teaching me about His wisdom and glory in *using* time, and this truth is part of it. It isn’t only beautiful seeing a basket of picked elderberries, or a kid finally making a selfless choice, or a fleeing sinner caught at last by the merciful Shepherd. The *process* is beautiful. The loving abiding with people, and tender tending of our works are profoundly moving. I think God is excited to work this way, and that inspires me.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Sometimes I play apothecary, and make all sorts of potions from various oils that I’ve collected.  Then I use these oils for the next few months for my beauty regimen.  The internet has fueled my research and guided my decision-making on the ingredients, but except for the deodorant, I have mostly just made up the exact proportions, and even then, “exact” is an overstatement.  I include the following information for your consideration, for my own reference, and not to be followed by anyone in a precise way.  If I have been learning the past several years that measuring is not so essential in cooking, it is certainly less important still in beauty products such as these.  Give it a guess.  Mess around with things.  Substitute.  Omit.  Supplement.  Have fun.  Learn.

 

Recipes:

 

Deodorant (makes ¾ to 1 cup)

Mix in 1-quart bowl, using a fork:

5 T. coconut oil

1 T. castor oil

10 drops rosemary oil

10 drops lemon oil

3 drops tea tree oil

4 T. corn starch

4 T. baking soda

 

When thoroughly mixed, transfer to a container (at least 1 c.) with a lid.  OK to store at room temperature.

 

To use, apply about ¼ t. to each arm pit before dressing in the morning.  Thoroughly rub in, wiping any excess with a clean, dry rag.

 

Notes from experience:

This recipe works better than Toms, which I just tried for the first time, dismayed at its impotence.  It does not work as long as Dry Idea, which is my go-to store brand especially during high-sweat situations.  Of course, this recipe is primarily a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, though it is somewhat effectual at absorbing wetness.

 

It may be useful to note that if this cream gets much above 75 degrees, the coconut oil will melt.  It is still useful, but you may have to stir before using.  Also, if it melts and then re-hardens, it can sometimes separate.  There was one time that the coconut oil I had was apparently already thinner than usual, and I had to add extra corn starch to give it the right consistency.  This may have added to the separation problem and made it a bit irritating to my skin.

 

 

Facial Cleanser/Shaving Oil (makes about ¾ cup)

Mix:

¼ safflower oil

¼ c. grape seed oil

2 T. melted coconut oil

1 T. castor oil

1 t. sesame oil

10 drops rosemary oil

10 drops lemon oil

5 drops tea tree Oil

 

To use as cleanser, dip fingers in solution and rub on face in circular motions.  Steam face by covering with a hot wet washcloth.  Rinse washcloth and wipe face with warm water until face does not feel oily or greasy.

 

This can also be used as a makeup remover if you are careful around your eyes.  Dip a tissue or cotton ball only a tiny bit into the oil, then rub gently across the makeup.  Finish by wiping clean with a wet washcloth.

 

For shaving, apply a couple of teaspoons per leg.  Do not rinse.  Shave, frequently rinsing/wiping razor.  Should provide a very close shave.  Rinse.  No need to wipe off.  Oils should not leave skin very greasy once rubbed in.

 

Notes from experience:

The essential oils in this mixture give a slight relaxing/tingling scent.  Before, I used peppermint, but that is unnecessary.  Struggling with acne most of my life, I like this treatment for softening my skin and reducing oiliness, but it is not the only thing I use on my face.  I also use a salicylic acid cleanser once a day, then witch hazel as an astringent, followed by a zinc oxide ointment (skin protectant and sunscreen).  In the evenings or when I shower, I use the facial oil, and do not add anything else to my face afterwards.

 

Hair Conditioner (makes about 1 cup)

Mix:

6 T. olive oil

2 T. safflower oil

2 T. melted coconut oil

1 T. castor oil

1 t. sesame oil

10 drops rosemary oil

10 drops lemon oil

(optional: mix ¼ c. yogurt with 1-2 T. oil just before using)

 

To use, pour a couple of teaspoons at a time into the palm of your hand.  Pull through wet hair, using fingers to comb it through.  Pay extra attention to the ends of the hair, and avoid the scalp (applying to the scalp could cause it to be too oily, or make you over-rinse the rest of your hair).  When there are basically no more tangles, shape hair into a bun if long enough, and leave to soak in while you finish the rest of your shower.  After 10 minutes, release the bun and give your hair a quick rinse in cool water: literally, put head under water, then take it out again.  You may need to practice this routine a few times to get the right amount of oil on your hair and the right amount of rinsing, potentially adjusting for humidity in the weather.

 

About the ingredients:

First, my understanding is that many essential oils can be dangerous if used incorrectly, especially if pregnant or nursing.  I have not had problems with these recipes, but nor have I been pregnant or nursing.  If you have reason for concern, consult a professional (like a doctor or midwife).

 

Second, I am not obsessed about these things.  I usually buy the cheapest I can find, like the bottle of castor oil I found at a garage sale this weekend.  I do not subscribe to a certain brand, nor do I look for an especially high quality of any of these things.  As I understand it, the dangers of my method are that 1) some not-so-great chemicals may have been used in the processing; and 2) my concoctions may be weaker than those made with the highest quality oils (especially the essential oils).  I consider all of my recipes to be good enough  so far to make me happy.  Saving money is worth the risk, to my mind.

 

Coconut oil is popular, and can easily be found at the grocery store.  It is supposed to be antibacterial.  It can be relatively inexpensive.  The high melting point gives it the advantage of being solid at most room temperatures.  The oil is supposed to help hair growth.  I have tried using it on my skin and hair by itself, and found it far too greasy.  I’ve read that it is a sunscreen.

 

Baking soda is deodorizing.  It is also alkaline.  It may cause itching and drying of the skin if the proportions are too high.  I buy a big box in the cleaning section of Walmart to use for non-food recipes.

 

Corn starch is cool.  It has interesting physical properties when mixed with a liquid.  It is absorbent.  If you’re worried about the safety of this ingredient, search for a brand that is non-GMO.

 

Castor oil encourages circulation.  It is considered antibacterial.  It is also useful for encouraging hair growth.  Some people use it for cleansing, especially of the liver, but also of the lymph nodes.  I do not like the smell, and most sources discourage using it without other oils, so I keep it as a minor ingredient.  You’d more likely find this ingredient at a health food/natural store than at a regular grocery store or Walmart.

 

Tea tree oil smells like medicine.  I basically can’t stand it.  So I use it sparingly in things that will have other smells.  It is supposed to be pretty good for skin infections.  I think this is because it is antibacterial.  So people use it for acne, cuts, and burns.  This is one oil that tends to be sold by everyone that sells oils, including grocery stores sometimes; I think I’d look in the pharmacy area.

 

Rosemary oil is good for circulation and smells good.  I think it is also said to be antibacterial.

 

And lemon oil smells good, clean, having a sort of fresh scent that cuts through other ones.  It is soothing and astringent.  If I didn’t have this oil, I might use lemongrass oil.  You can use regular lemon juice, but then you’d have to refrigerate your product, which hardens the oils and makes everything take longer.

 

Safflower oil has Vitamin E, which I have long understood to be good for skin, and which my regular conditioner advertises as a special ingredient.  It is rich in oleic acid, linoleic acid, and omega-6 fatty acids.  These things are good for fighting acne, reducing blackheads, and strengthening hair follicles.  It is a blood thinner and helps with circulation.  I found mine on clearance at the grocery store.

 

Grapeseed oil absorbs easily into skin, and is both astringent and antioxidant, so it helps treat things like wrinkles.  It is anti-inflammatory and helps skin retain moisture.  The linoleic acid is the likely cause of its acne-fighting properties.  It is a source of Vitamin E, which helps skin recover from scars.  It is also supposed to strengthen hair.  This oil is also found at grocery stores.  I noticed that Trader Joes has a decent price.

 

Sesame oil has a nutty scent, and it is a light, absorbent oil.  I had some extra, so I put a tiny bit in.  The dark color can transfer to hair, but there is not a significant amount in my recipe, so it probably won’t make a difference that way.  Zinc in this oil is good for the skin and immune system.  And the copper in it helps the body’s blood production and blood flow.  I am not sure where I got my sesame oil, if it was in the Asian section of my grocery store or if I went to an Asian market to pick it up.  Either way, it is probably way cheaper at the Asian market.

 

Olive oil is my hair’s favorite.  If it didn’t leave my hair smelling like salad dressing, I’d use just it.  It has anti-oxidants, Vitamin E, and is anti-inflammatory.  However, this oil tends to clog my pores, so I do not use it on my skin much.

 

Some other popular oils are jojoba, argan, and almond.  All of these are more expensive, which is the only reason I haven’t used them.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

 

 

 

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