One Step Ahead of the Escape Artists

July 5, 2016

Three days a week I spend with five young boys. In eight hours we do lessons, such as math, history, etc., make lunch, two take naps, arts and crafts, and what I term “creative play.” But there are challenges. For instance, say I’m helping the eight year old with his long division. Suddenly, the two year old and one other will just disappear.

The family business is located in a 23,500 sq. ft. building. Mom and dad both work on the main floor. We spend most of our day upstairs moving from one room to another, though primarily in a space we’ve carved out for ourselves at the end of one of the large rooms. (There are at least 17 rooms upstairs and many small closets. Sardines is a favorite game in the mornings before the store opens.)

I’ve learned the two-year-old goes to a favorite employee who gives him cookies or crackers. The ten year old has pretty much stopped hiding out with a laptop to watch Netflix, but any one of them at any given moment, especially if they have lost interest, will just leave. Every time.

(I get a lot of “steps” in going up and down finding them.)

In my search for activities to keep their attention, Pinterest has become my best friend.

One day, while the older brothers were at a music camp, I had just the two-year-old. Trying to keep him happy and busy for several hours (no academic lessons) meant changing activities often. Anything that held his attention more than five minutes was a success. This one lasted the better part of an hour.

I took some yarn and he watched / helped as I wove it back and forth randomly between a double row of chairs so that the web ran up the aisle created by the chairs. Then I scattered red pompoms through the path. I had been working on teaching him colors and wanted to reinforce “red.” Then I gave him a container and let him work his way through the web, gathering pompoms. He repeated the course several times. Eventually I also scattered several colors to add variety and incentive to try a couple more times.

However, I’m keen to watch for any tiring. My motto is “Quit while I’m ahead.” Or have to go looking for them, right?

I left the web up and the next day showed it to his older brothers, ages 5, 6, 8, and 10. For them I said that the yarn represented laser beams. If they touched a beam, it would hurt. After 5 hits, they were dead. They challenged each other to get through quickest and stay alive. Some belly crawled as far as they could. The smaller boys had an advantage of fitting through tight spaces, while the older boys had longer legs for stepping over the yarn. It balanced out. And they loved the challenge.

And nobody left.

yarnThe day after that, I took down the yarn, winding it up into a ball. At some point, part of it became wet and sticky. (Now how could that happen?) So at home I rinsed it out and set it out to dry. As I walked it back and forth on my deck I began to question myself—why was I spending so much time to keep something that had already had good use—twice—and would not cost much to replace?

I still don’t know. Maybe I’ve learned to value things that don’t walk away.


But I also often recycle props. One week we made structures out of craft sticks, blocks and paper cups. The next week we wove the craft sticks, then let them explode. Well, at least they fell apart. Last week we used the craft sticks to make catapults for marshmallows (the marshmallows had been depleted by two previous uses because what doesn’t get eaten, got thrown away—it’s tricky convincing the 2-yr.-old not to eat the ones that have landed on the floor after being fired from something). Anyway, this week we’ll make wrist bands from the craft sticks and Washie tape. (If I entertained girls, we’d call them bracelets.)

And the yarn might get used again. Do you think the parents would object if I used it to hobble their boys? Okay, maybe something else.

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About Susan

Susan is the author of Cold Pursuit, Hot Pursuit and other projects.
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