By Shannon Cannon
When one of our daughters was 4 years old, she tried to convince her Sunday teacher that it was okay to drink beer as long as it tasted good. The teacher was not impressed and sternly suggested that we might need to have a family visit about the issue. Now this was the same child who informed us that she was learning Chinese, that our mutt could do backflips, and that she and a friend were going to go scuba-diving in Hawaii in the summer. So, I was not worried that she might begin drinking, and chalked the incident up to another one of her imaginative twists.
Some children just have a knack for imagination, so you have to be cautious when you play pretend with them. One year when we were doing N week, we trimmed our grapevines and made a huge nest out of the dead wood. Somehow I forgot the part about how birds usually build their own nests, usually in the fall, and that Big Bird was a tall, sweaty guy in a costume, not an actual big bird flying around looking for a home. Each day, this daughter of ours went out to see if any giant birds had come during the night and laid their eggs. It was weeks before I finally convinced her that it wasn't going to happen. I always hope that her teachers at school enjoy her imagination as much as we do. It would be a shame to have it go to waste. So let your imaginations run wild and have fun with these activities for N week:
• Write each child's name in big block letters on paper and decorate it; talk about what their name means and why they were given that name. What are their nicknames and where did they come from? Read Tikki, Tikki, Tembo and sing "John Jacob, Jingle-heimer Schmidt".
• Read P.D. Eastman's The Best Nest and talk about the different things that birds can use to build their nests. Using an empty strawberry basket, wander around outside gathering things to build your own nest. Help the children make the nest a soft, comfortable place for a bird to live. For fun (and to distract them from the extremely disappointing fact that birds won't actually be using these nests), find something to use as an egg for each nest. In desperation, we used tinfoil rolled up in a ball, but you could color eggs and use them, or find some kind of egg-shaped candy. Sing "The Green Grass Grows All Around" and then make these fun candy nests.
Melt chocolate chips over low heat on the stove.
Add chow mein noodles and mix until they are well coated.
Press into a well-greased muffin tin and make an indentation in each nest.
Rice crispies, corn flakes and crushed shredded wheat squares will also work in place of the noodles.
Fill with candy eggs, jelly beans, M&M's or whatever else you have.
• Find the nickels in a collection of coins. Talk about how each type of coin is different. Play the nickel game: Explain that a nickel is the same amount as 5 pennies. Then roll some dice and you get that number of pennies. You can trade every 5 pennies you receive, for 1 nickel. The object of the game is to get the most nickels. At the end you can "buy" something with your nickels at a pretend store.
• Gather several different kinds of nuts, such as walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and pecans. Have a taste test to decide which kind you like best. Talk about which nut comes from which kind of tree. With markers, decorate the extra peanuts to look like different characters and have a peanut parade or circus.
• Read the story of Noah and the Ark. Gather two of every kind of toy animal you can find and 'food' for them and take them with you under a blanket-covered table and pretend to be Noah in the ark. Don't forget snacks, a flashlight, and some books to read to the animals.
• Have a "Nose Day". Read The Nose Book; paint with your noses; test your sense of smell by guessing different scents while blindfolded; make animal noses out of paper and tie them onto your face.