Monday, February 27, 2012

THP's THPs ("Tips for Happy Parenting"), PART 3

Read PART 1 here, and/or PART 2 here.  Up to speed?  Great!  Pay it forward, and read on...

All caught up?  Great.  Read on...

GROUP C: Working & Learning
7. Song Lyric Packets. Everybody loves children's songs, especially when they are played over and over and over, and you happen driving in traffic or snow or both.  Strangely, there is actually another genre of music that I generally prefer over children's songs: grown up songs.

What I have discovered is that my children seem to enjoy grown up songs, too--perhaps even more than I enjoy children's songs.  My integration of grown up songs into their musical consciousness has been gradual and calculated.  I started off with songs that I was sure would be crowd pleasers, like "Pop Goes the World" by Men Without Hats and "MMMBop" by Hanson.  I also let them watch (carefully screened) music videos on Yahoo, so as to get them doubly excited about certain songs.

Later, I realized that having the lyrics would help the monkeys enjoy the songs even more AND help them with their reading skills.  The structure of the packet evolved, but this is the finished product:

There are two of them.  I let the monkeys choose the color of the paper.  I bought a $20 Scotch laminating machine at Walgreens, which was cheaper than having FedEx do it; the machine worked well.  Beth had a scrapbooking tool that rounded the corners so they weren't pokey.  Each page has 2 songs that begin with the same letter, so that the sheets can be organized alphabetically, even if the songs within each letter are not in order.  I copied lyrics from online into a Word document so I could format consistently and print them out all together.

So now on car trips longer than 15 minutes or so, we take turns picking songs from an itunes playlist of about 95 songs, about 25 of which have their lyrics printed out for the girls to sing along with.

Yes, Springsteen is represented on the list: "Long Walk Home" and "American Land" are their favorites.  There is also a good sampling of Christian music on both the playlist and lyric packet, which has prompted several good theological discussions with my girls (like when my younger one asked, "What does it mean to be 'sweetly broken'?").  My older one is currently most into "MMMBop" and "Rocky Mountain High," while my younger one has been interested in "Let My Love Open the Door" and "Song of Hope".  Oh, and I'm pretty sure that my 6-year-old has a crush on Rob Thomas.  Which, if I'm being perfectly honest, I can relate to.  There, I said it.

8. Plate Storage. When we moved into our new house, one of my first organizational tasks was finding homes for all of our dishes and utensils.  Without even giving it much thought, I put as many dishes and plates at a level where they could be accessed by my children.  Of course, if they were toddlers with grabby hands, things might have been different.  But my girls were just the right age take on jobs around the house like--oh, I don't know--unloading the dishwasher.

It just made sense.  We run a load of dishes every day or two, and unloading is pretty low on my list of favorite jobs around the house.  When one of my daughters asks if she can watch something or play Wii, my answer is almost always, "Unload the dishwasher first."  It's like having a robot, but one that won't go crazy and try to kill me.

9. Historical Action Figures.  The principle behind #7 above is that if the girls are going to enjoy music, they may as well enjoy music that is enjoyed by the entire family.  Similarly, the idea behind tip #9 is that if the girls are going to play with dolls, they may as well learn while doing it.  Hence, the introduction of historical action figures.

The long and the short of it is that there's a company out in Seattle that manufactured these, and I stumbled across one of them on Amazon--I think Ben Franklin was the first I saw.  The company that makes them is called "Accoutrements", and in addition to historical action figures, they make other awesome stuff like candy bacon jewelry and a sleep mask with zombie eyes printed on the outside.  I eventually purchased every figure I could find (I think I have every one that has been made except for Pope Innocent III).  They're action figures, but they are people from history.  Here are about a third of them.

back row: Mozart, Alexander the Great, Blackbeard, Anne Bonney, Van Gogh;  middle row: Moses, Wilde, Wagner; front row: Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette (w/ removable head), Annie Oakley, Austin, Houdini

Instead of just turning the kids loose on them, we spent some time putting together an informational chart that they can refer to while they're playing.  On the packaging is printed a short bio, often with a few interesting facts.  Here's an example:

Now, as awesome as these action figures are, there are several disclaimers that need to be mentioned:
-It appears that many of them are out of production.  I got most of them for less than $10 each, and some of them are still that cheap.  But some are clearly priced for collectors ($80 for an Edgar Allen Poe doll, anyone?).
-A lot of them contain small parts, like hats or guns or paintbrushes.  Make sure your kid knows not to eat them.
-Though they're called "action figures" they're kind of built more for "standing still."  About 3 of ours have limbs that have broken off.  Be warned.
-The company also makes action figures of professions and fictional characters.  I have limited our purchases to specific, historical figures.  Just my preference.

With that, we conclude our series of Tips for Happy Parenting, Hungry Preacher Style.  I hope they were at least enjoyable, and perhaps even helpful.  Until next time...


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