Without question, one of the best parts of parenting is getting to go through your favorite life experiences and lessons again, but this time from a different perspective. That’s not to say that you failed to pick up on the fundamental principles of things like arithmetic and biology the first time around, of course. What I’m talking about here is reliving the good stuff. The fun stuff. Things like finding a bird’s nest, watching a sunrise, or seeing an egg hatch. While the simplest of concepts and the most elementary of lessons may have extra depth to you now that you’ve gained some context, more meaning now that you have firsthand experience, for children, it is all still so wonderfully new. Their reactions of awe and that look of dawning realization as they wrap their mind around yet another first say as much. It is priceless seeing the novelty of a new experience reflected on any child’s face, sure, but this is especially true when it is your own child’s. It is actually one of the best aspects of parenthood.
It was the anticipation of precisely this sort of reaction, combined with my affinity for all things autumn, that prompted me to undertake an effort to expand my cubs’ fall horizon beyond just candy, halloween and costumes last week. I was looking for a way to really drive home the things we’d been talking to them about recently regarding the changes fall brings. They had nodded along and asked pertinent questions when we’d told them that we’d have to trade in shorts and sandals for sweaters and sneakers because it was now colder outside. They took it in stride when we explained that we wouldn’t be able to go to the beach anymore either. When we’d told them, however, that in autumn the leaves would all first change color and then fall off the trees, their curiosity was piqued by this apparent connection. It was as though they’d just now realized that all those fun piles of leaves they were looking so forward to jumping in were presently still in their respective positions high up in the treetops, that they were- in fact- the very same ones! In that moment, I pictured their minds like little sponges, sopping up all this information and internalizing it. I knew that further explanation wouldn’t be necessary. This novel concept alone was enough for them now, and watching them mull it over was enough for me. Educational aspect accomplished, it was now time for the fun stuff!
I have found that I actually do my best work once the kids have gone to bed for the night. Occasionally I’m even able to squeeze some meaningful progress out of what’s left of their paltry mini naptime too. Even more rare, however, are the mornings I’m actually able to tear myself away from my bed before they wake up (I know, right?). On those early mornings, I’m able to pitter patter around, enjoying the tranquil solitude, the quiet, and that beautiful early morning light as I plow through my to-do list. All right, maybe plow is a bit of an overstatement. But I digress. Back to what I was saying, it was exactly on one of those rare, tea-sipping, papasan-chair-sitting, iPad-perusing mornings that I found this clever idea for a fall craft activity on the wonderful world of Pinterest recently. A quick search for fall-themed art & crafts brought me to Michelle over at CraftyMorning.com. The idea is to use paint to stamp leaves onto the bare branches of a tree printout using stamps made out of toilet paper rolls. Seeing as empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls seem to be in abundance in my casa these days, I knew I would be able to oblige. Perfect.
Like all things crafty and/or potentially messy around here, I thought it best to set this activity up while the littles in question were safely out of the picture (See previous paragraph). As I just so happened to have a freshly vacated paper towel roll at my disposal, I decided to forego the bathroom variety in favor of this option instead. I cut the roll into about six one-inch slices and, following Michelle’s directions on her blog, gently squeezed each circle to give it more of a flatter, leaf-like shape. I then cut each circle open and taped each one closed so that the ends met in that more elongated, pointed shape. Once finished, you’ll find that each piece of paper towel roll has essentially been converted into a leaf-shaped stamp.
Once my stamps were ready, I used the same link Michelle provides on her blog post to print out the free tree image she used. One for each budding artist. Next, I hunted down some craft paint which reminded me that I badly needed some craft paint. Luckily I was able to find a few little jars of Crayola washable kids’ paint in my trusty catch-all closet. I went with orange, red, and [what was left of] yellow on this one. Classic fall foliage colors. Technically you wouldn’t be wrong if you showed those evergreens some love right about now, I guess, but I was out of green anyway so that made it easy for me to shun them. I poured a little bit of each color into a container I didn’t mind my kids handling vigorously and then went to fetch said kids.
I set them each up with their own little stamps and paint stations and explained the idea of the activity to them. As expected, they looked ecstatic at just the sight of all the bounty of fun in front of them and were probably actually tuning me out. I ambitiously started off explaining that each stamp was for a particular color and that worked out pretty well for about five minutes, give or take five minutes. Eventually they just forgot, got mixed up, stopped caring, etc. and just started dipping and stamping into any which container at random. So, based on this and the resulting multi-colored leaves, I guess you could say that this activity doubles as an introductory lesson on grafting?
Once your cubs have finished stamping away to their heart’s content, you can either continue the activity by showing them how they can fill in the leaves using a paintbrush or you can decide to cut your losses and end the activity right there. Step back, allow your littles to admire their handiwork for a moment and then go ahead and set that wet paper somewhere very high and very far to dry in peace, thereby ensuring that your house remains blissfully free of fall-colored tempera paint smears.
I know that there will come a time in their lives when things like leaves changing color will lose their luster, when all the magic in everyday details will just blend in with the more unremarkable parts of life. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. We all reach that point eventually. It’s mother nature’s way of moving us forward and making room for more in our minds as in our lives. What I do think is that this progression, so to speak, deserves to be acknowledged, celebrated even. It’s exactly the kind of progress that allows us to sit back and appreciate all of the little things in the first place, so why not indulge in these stepping stones right along with them? While one day, their autumn knowledge repertoire may be expanded upon with things like photosynthesis, chlorophyll, and heliocentrism, today my cubs are still at a delightfully preschool level. That means in-depth explanations aren’t in big demand just yet and, at least for a little while longer, arts and crafts will do the trick just fine, of imbuing their minds with the particular tenet in question.