Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gratituesday and Toddler Tuesday: An Early Mother’s Day Beach Outing

Okay, so I meant for us to celebrate St. Joseph the Worker’s memorial day with a plethora of fun activities and experiences that I had collected and brainstormed. Yet, we only ended up singing a couple choruses of “St. Joseph, St. Joseph, teach us how to obey...” (from a favorite faith formation CD by Carol Ann Fisher -- Sing Bible Prayer Songs) and hammering rocks into sand with other rocks on the saint’s memorial day. Why? Well, because we got so busy celebrating an early Mother’s Day isntead...

Yes, since Mike will be away at drill next weekend, and since the forecast said that Saturday was supposed to be the nicer of this past weekend’s two days, we decided to have a “just-us” family Mother’s Day outing that day. And, where did we go? White Horse Beach! The beach Mike and I were betrothed and where we walk with the kids every year on our betrothal anniversary.
And what a time we had! The day proved a perfect combination of relaxation and sensory fun. For although the water was cold, cold, cold, the weather (and our hearts) were warm, warm, warm, allowing us ample opportunity to enjoy our time together as a family, nourishing our spirits and our bodies while appreciating the simple pleasures God graces us with. Praise be to God for them all!

And, some of those simple pleasures fit so naturally into toddler/pre-k sensory fun and learning. Perfect! That allowed us to subtly maintain Luke’s sensory diet (which helped stave off potential day-spoiling melt downs in late afternoon) and both the kids’ sense of exploration and fun.

What do I mean?
Well, how about some serious tactile-proprioceptive, physical-fitness fun when coming onto the beach? Crawling in the sand! Not long after Nina kicked off her shoes to walk in the deep sand with me at the beach entry, she decided she should drop to her knees, giggling, to crawl through the sand, plowing it with her palms. Luke followed her lead, smiling through the sand as only a young child experiencing its warmth and texture can. I knew then and there, we were having a “good day”!

Then, as soon as we got to a spot to drop our blanket and bags, Luke raced off to the shoreline – a surprise, since last year he would have very little to do with ocean water. Splashing right in up to his knees, Luke called “Daddy, Daddy, play with me!” Poor Mike followed, thinking the water must be unseasonably warm since Luke barely paused upon entry. Wrong! It was frigid. But, Daddy braved it, since Luke quickly declared, “I like the coldness!  Come in, Daddy!” (So glad Luke was in a “Daddy-play-with-me” mood, not a Mommy one and so proud that Daddy, who usually refuses to enter Massachusetts’ waters at all costs, braved numbness to ankles and calves to enjoy time with his boy!  Besires, someone had to stay with Nina, who had found the munchies...)
Then, there was some basic science and auditory discrimination (not to mention great muscle work) when I played “Kerplunk or Kerplink” with the kids. (Okay, so what if it began as an attempt to get Luke interested in something besides asking me to join in the frigid water play?) Basically, we found rocks of different sizes and threw them – overhand, underhand, with winding pitches – into the water, guessing what sound they would make based on their sizes and the ways we threw them and listening for if they made a “kerplunk” or a “kerplink” sound.

Later, there was tracking and tactile fun: following the trail made by a truck’s tires down the beach. While tracking, Luke “discovered” tire-compressed, just a wee bit damp sand wafers he could pick up whole and compared them with the dry, soft, loose sand just off the tracks. Nina and Luke also noticed and touched many textures (rocks, sand, dried sea weed, etc.) and picked up big rocks of different colors and patterns to carry along the trail. Got to love that heavy work!

And, for more visual discrimination along the beach walking way: wish rock hunting! Since childhood, I have followed a tradition of finding “wish rocks” – rocks with white rings all the way around them – to throw in the water with a wish or prayer in mind. Luke and Nina are already learning this tradition, and kept their eyes peeled for wish rocks, racing down to the shoreline to toss found gems into the water, and, then, running back to tell us their wishes and prayers – everything from bringing the dinos back, to meeting Baby soon, to prayers for Nana and Papa. Not bad! Sensory diet, physical fitness, visual discrimination and prayer time all in one simple, fun, spontaneous activity.
And since no day at the beach is complete without snacks. there was also Nina’s seeming favorite of the day – snacking on crunchy things. Yes, while Luke kept racing back into the cold waters, Nina kept running back to our blanket to raid the cache of crunchy (read: “sand repellent”) snacks I had packed for us. Luckily, since these are particularly good for Luke, she shared small handfulls of our pre-packed oral-motor delights with him, running down to the water’s edge to call out to Daddy and Luke to come have a bite.

Nina and Luke also enjoyed lots of digging sand, making rock and sand constructions and filling, carrying and emptying buckets – no-brainer beach activities that are super sensorimotor activities and introduce concepts of engineering, science and even social skills (respecting one another’s spaces, bodies and constructions!) when you look at them with educator-parent lenses.
And more sensory and learning fun? How about beach towel peek-a-boo (wtih kids rolled in towels and ome occassional weight and pressing on them), lots of bear hugs with “I love you so much”es, running about playing Fetch with some of the many dogs that were on the beach and other random acts of fun and sensory nourishment?
Oh, and let’s not forget to mention, Luke the Observer, who practiced acceptable (and bizarre) social skills late in the day, when he, first, oddly enough, brought a snack over towards a family with a much younger boy in it and, then, plopped himself down to simply nibble away while observing them, coming back to our blanket several times for more nibbles, but always returning to his observation spot on the sand. It made me wonder if I should redirect him. But, as Mike told me, “It is fine. He’s a little boy,” and as the family didn’t seem to notice nor mind, I let it go... Well, soon enough, Luke went from Observer to Playmate, running back and forth to our beach toy bag, bringing things over to offer the younger child so they could play together. Odd social dance that it was, I was thrilled to see Luke reach out to befriend the young boy and even happier that he remembered to bring any toy he and the other child were finished with back to our blanket before grabbing another. (If only he would do that at home!)
Nina, not to be outdone in initiative, created her own activity while her brother did his social dance – filling empty water bottles with sand and pebbles, telling me “This one is food; this one is drink” and pretending to feast on them with me.. And not just once! This activity turned into a classic toddler pastime – fill and dump and fill again!

And, so it was that we thoroughly enjoyed a family beach day – making me so grateful to be the Mom of two active, inquisitive, happy children and wife to one super Dad -- while easily seeing how the beach and Jammies School (albeit in swimsuits) fit together. (I will now have no guilt about “schooling” at the beach as many times as my preganancy allows this spring and early summer!  The SPD-early child lenses I put on there preclude guilt.)

As for St. Joseph the Worker’s day? As I mentioned at the beginning, we did sing a few choruses in his honor, and we hammered some rocks into sand as we recalled his job and mimicked it building our own beach constructions. Plus, we celebrated more on Sunday. But, that is a post for another day. For today, I am just thankful for toddler/pre-k explorations and family fun at the beach on my early Mother’s Day!

To see what other folks are grateful for today, please see the links at Heavenly Homemakers, and to see what others are doing to help their toddlers learn and explore, head on over to One Hook Wonder.


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