Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.
—Henry Ward Beecher
I’m not a person who likes change, or at least not too much change. When things are going smoothly, when all my kids are in stages I like, I sometimes wish that time would just freeze and I could hold on to the golden moments forever. The first time I experienced that feeling was the day I came home from the hospital with my first-born daughter. I knew I would never again experience that special joy of becoming a mother for the first time. Never again would I feel the same surge of pride and happiness I felt when my parents held their first grandchild for the very first time.
But to be truly alive is to change. As Natalie Babbitt writes in Tuck Everlasting, “You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest.” Without change, Babbitt writes, “We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.”
Life with children is certainly about change. When your first child was born, your life changed. When he first slept through the night, your life changed. When he began walking and talking, your life changed. When your needy toddler grew into an autonomous preschooler, your life changed. And when your child entered school for the first time, your life changed again.
Did you think it would ever happen? After years of sticky fingers, runny noses, diapers, spilled milk, teething, endless days, sleepless nights, and all the other joys of life with babies and toddlers, did you think your child would ever turn into the independent little person who now boards the school bus or walks to school with the neighborhood gang each morning? Perhaps now you’re able to return to work or have some time to pursue your own hobbies or interests. Or perhaps you still have little ones at home, and it seems like it’ll take forever before they’ll all be in school! Or maybe your family, like ours, has chosen to home-school, and school is no farther than the kitchen table. Whatever your situation, the arrival of the school years means change of one form or another.
Many people breathe a sigh of relief when their children begin school. Finally, they think, they’ll have some time to themselves. (And after five or more years with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, this can be a very pleasant thought.) Others, like Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons, weep when their children begin school, “not because of the child we’re losing, but because of the chances we’ve lost. So much is left undone.”
Like Kelly and Parsons, you may have a lot left undone, but life isn’t over yet! Although your school-age child may have a full schedule and a busy little social life, he’ll still have some free time. And what will you encourage him to do in that free time? Watch TV? Play computer games? Or is there something better for him to do? Something that will encourage him to think, be creative, or interact with others?
The purpose of The Children’s Busy Book is to help you make the most of your child’s free time. The 365 games and activities in this book will challenge your child’s creativity, imagination, thinking skills, social skills, and more. You can use this book to plan activities for after-school hours, for a summer afternoon when you’re taking a break from the heat, or to fill a winter weekend. The games and activities you set in motion will encourage your child to be creative, to think, and to interact with others, which most computer games, DVDs, and TV programs won’t do.
While the ideas in The Children’s Busy Book are most suitable for children between the ages of six and ten, older children and adults will also enjoy many of them. On the other hand, you may find the ideas in this book too advanced for your six-year-old, an indication of nothing more than the fact that he is completely different from every other six-year-old in the world. The ideas in The Preschooler’s Busy Book might better suit your child’s present interests and abilities. Don’t hesitate to come back to The Children’s Busy Book in several months or a year.
I’ve tried to organize this book in what I think is the most logical way, but many ideas easily fit into two or more categories. For example, pencil-and-paper games are great for traveling, but they’re also ideal for rainy days and they definitely help develop language and math skills. Many indoor games can easily be played outdoors in the summer, while some outdoor games are adaptable for indoors when the weather won’t cooperate. Arts-and-crafts projects are great for rainy days and holidays, too, so be sure to “think outside the box” when it comes to selecting activities from each chapter.
I hope you find this book helpful. If you do, or if you have questions or comments about any of the books I’ve written, you can write to me in care of Meadowbrook Press. I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. In recognition of the fact that children do indeed come in both sexes, and in an effort to represent each, the use of masculine and feminine pronouns will alternate with each chapter.