Last October Ray and I had the opportunity to bring our youngest grand daughter home and spend a few days with her, one on one. It was delightful. We promised big sister she would have a turn to have a sleep over by herself too. Then everything got crazy with all of us being sick for weeks on end. Finally the week after Christmas we made it happen.
When I took Julia to the airport to go back to school, my son met me (this is about the 1/2 way point between our homes) and I picked H up. We were worried little sister wouldn’t understand why she wasn’t coming along. However her father had the good idea to meet in the Ikea parking lot and the promise of Swedish meatballs for lunch with dad was a good distraction; everyone was happy!
Spending time one on one with a grand child (or a child) is so special. The dynamic changes and it seems like the relationship deepens. I grew up in a big family and then had a big family (four children) which is wonderful. But having the chance to single out a child and focus on them entirely is such a blessing. (On the flip side, little sister was getting lots of extra attention from her parents while H was at our house.)
Planning to have this time with H, I had a mental list of fun things we could do. It was supposed to be very rainy so outdoor time would be minimal. Letting her take the lead, we did the things she suggested as much as possible. Board games, jig saw puzzles and coloring are activities she favors so there was lots of that happening.
This little girl loves to make things. She also loves to cook. Her parents give her a lot of room in the kitchen and she is developing a really good understanding of how to bake. For Christmas, Santa bought her a Disney Princess cookbook and she brought it over. I asked her what she wanted to make and she chose Monkey Bread. The recipe was simple, biscuit dough rolled into balls and rolled in butter and cinnamon with sugar.
H is careful and able to measure most of the ingredients on her own. ( In the photo you can see the apron I made for her for Christmas. She also got a new nightgown and was looking quite the princess when making her Monkey Bread).
What really impressed me with this part of the process was she controlled that incredible impulse to lick her fingers between rolling the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture. I watched quite closely and at the end of the process we celebrated by licking all ten of our fingers. The Monkey Bread turned out so pretty and H was satisfied. However I made a mistake and forgot to have her put the salt in so it tasted rather flat. Oh Grammy. She didn’t seem to notice but Ray and I sure did. Sigh.
Next this girl went straight for my heart and asked if we could ‘make something in the sewing room’. As if I would say no to that request. Upstairs we went. I have a huge bin filled with flannel and minky scraps. There really isn’t anything in there that I would miss if she cut it up so I let her have at it. Wanting her to take the lead, I worked hard to bite my tongue and not suggest anything. (This wasn’t easy!!!) She was immediately drawn to a scrap of black minky with a bubbled texture on one side. When she asked what we could make with it, I suggested a stuffed animal or a pillow. She chose pillow. I told her she could put a different fabric on each side or the black minky on both sides. She just lit up and went digging through that bin, turning into the Tasmanian Devil with fabric flying everywhere. But this sort of mess is creativity in my book. She chose a crazy tie dyed flannel and then found a pale mottled fabric that she liked. Wanting to incorporate all three, she kept thinking. Finally she decided to cut the mottled cotton fabric into squares for each corner of the minky side of the pillow plus a bigger square for the center.
It was interesting to see how much concentration it took for her to pin her squares where she wanted them. (I couldn’t worry about turning under the edges of the squares. Pinning them was hard enough!) This part took a bit of time. When we went to the machine to sew, she chose to work the foot pedal and I guided the fabric under the needle. My machine has a speed control which was set to slow.
We stuffed the pillow with polyester stuffing and this is the finished result. The project took well over an hour and she started to lose interest during the stuffing. Off she went to shop in the fat quarter baskets for something else to play with. She also found a bag of pipe cleaners and decided she needed to twist them all together.
Honestly I could watch her play in here all day (well actually we did spend the larger portion of the day in there)!
Finding a cheetah print minky scrap, her wheels started turning again. The thinking process for this project was super interesting. H decided she wanted to make a snake. She told me she wanted to “use insulation for the middle, not stuffing.” This was momentarily confusing… Insulation? Then she pointed to the bin of batting. OK – there’s the ‘insulation’. (Why did she even know that word?) Looking at the picture you’ll get an idea of her plan. She wanted to layer the batting and the fabric and roll them up into a snake. She was very firm that she did not want to make a tube and stuff it. I left her to play with it for a bit and she finally figured out she needed to get the fabric under the batting to roll it up or the fabric would be on the inside of the snake. The issue for me was I didn’t want to roll up all that minky to the inside of the snake. I stepped in and suggested she could roll just the batting and then cover the roll with the cheetah print. She understood and that’s what we did. As we rolled, she thought and said ‘you know, a snake’s head isn’t just round’. OK – after we tapered one end to a sort of triangular shape this girl asks for a ‘forked tongue’ and eyes. Out came the tubs of ribbon (tongue) and buttons (eyes).
H was so proud of this project. Making Elizabeth (this is what she quickly named her snake) took much thought but what a great finish for her! The minky was wrapped around the batting (aka insulation) that she rolled up. We pinned it tightly and hand stitched a seam the length of the snake. H did about three inches of hand sewing and grew bored of that so I finished it up.
After making her snake, big sister told me that her little sister would be sad if she didn’t have a snake. Back to the tub of flannels! She picked out a piece of solid pink and another of solid purple plus two green buttons for the eye. This time I made a tube with the mandated triangular head and ribbon made to look like a forked tongue. Big sister had no interest in helping to make this – she chose the fabrics and moved on. While I sewed H found scraps of orange fleece from the pumpkin costume I made for her several years ago. She didn’t sew anything with it but played with it for a long while – arranging and rearranging the bits and telling me what it looked like. Also, if you look in the background of the photo, you will see a big fluff of poly stuffing with ribbon around it. She spent a long time tying ribbons around this fluff. She wanted to contain it somehow. Finally she wrapped it in a piece of fabric and then tied it with ribbons.
When a younger child is making something, it often is more about the process than the final product. Playing with the orange scraps, playing with the wad of stuffing – H spent a long stretch of time doing this without any desired outcome. As adults, we often want to ask ‘what are you making’. I think this is a mistake. Much of the time, the child doesn’t know what they are making. When I asked H is she wanted help with that fluff and her ribbons, she said she couldn’t get it to stay together. I suggested she look for fabric to wrap around it and off she went. There doesn’t have to be an outcome or a finished item. She is thinking, playing, and imagining and that is what is important.
Whether it is fabric and ribbons, flour and sugar, or paper and crayons, I love watching this girl make her projects. She gets so absorbed by her ideas. As a grammy, it is my job to step back and just enjoy her. Making the craft supplies available and then keeping my mouth shut unless help is asked for; that is my job!
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