Since my third son was born last March, I’ve done a few projects with his oldest brother, Pumpkin (4.5), to get him interested in and help him learn about babies. He usually gets to do a special bed time activity for about 20 minutes just after his younger brother goes to bed. A few times, we’ve done “Welcome baby” projects.
The first project I tried was supposed to be black and white shapes to decorate Peanut’s crib. I had a simple plan to print black and white cards from the Internet to tape into the bassinette.
I tried to rope Pumpkin into helping with the cutting, but he had different plans. They always do. Why do I always forget that a preschooler’s help is never just that?
After printing the image, I offered the pages to my son and showed him where I wanted him to cut. He suggested that he paint them instead. I balked: “Babies like black and white, I told him. They find the contrast interesting.”
“Babies like red, too.” Well, I was stumped. I didn’t feel like launching into the research on baby eye site and developing brains, and it didn’t seem totally implausible that the baby could prefer red. It’s not like I actually talked to Peanut about it. Most importantly, I had to remind myself that when doing art with a preschooler, I needed to let go of my plans about how it turns out. I am only the facilitator; he is the visionary.
I like his work much better. They are unique and made with love.
Fast forward a few months. This week Pumpkin told me he wanted to do more black and white art for Peanut. I guess the black-and-white-for-babies thing did stick with him. We gathered black and white paper, markers, and his shape stencils. First he did a picture with circles.
Next, he did some rectangles. Sadly, #2 embellished the image with pink marker (There’s a reason his nickname is Pepper). This caused some tears.
Lastly, he wanted to do some Christmas art for the baby. I guess he’s getting a jump on gift-making. [Question: Are your children as interested in far-off holidays as mine are?]
I think he would have kept going in this motif, but I was ready for a change after a week of this. I suggested he make a touchy-feely book for Peanut instead. This was an involved project and spanned a few days. We worked on it together while the younger boys napped in the afternoon and as his special bed time activity.
As a little back story, our boys have loved the Usborne touchy-Feely books. We have used them pretty consistently since my oldest was about 10 months old. They are great first books for babies. They have simple text and graphics, are repetitive, have textures to feel, and are easy to interact with beyond just reading (for example, we sometimes look for the “mousy friend” on each page).
I chose dinosaurs as a topic and printed the art before we began. This led to some funny discussions during work. He knew that dinosaurs lived a long time ago and he asked me if they ate people. I told him that people weren’t around then. Naturally, he followed up with a question about how the people came here. I wanted to be scientifically accurate but stay at as high of a level as possible. What followed was a very bumbling account of evolution that I hoped a 4 year old could follow. When my son wrapped it up saying, “So, the last monkey had a baby that was human”, I realized I had botched the job a bit. Next time, I’ll defer the questions to his Aunt Molly.
Today the discussion continued: “So, when the dinosaurs lived, there was no Thanksgiving, right mommy?” I was happy to answer a confident yes.
The touchy-feely book came out great. I’ve gone on enough here that I’ve just decided to split this into two posts. You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to see how it’s done.