By Jeanine Silversmith
The fear was overwhelming. Me. With both kids. All day, everyday. For pretty much the entire summer?! Add to it the many rainy days we've had and I was pretty sure I was going to lose my mind.
Like many others, I learned a few months ago that my job, which has in part kept me sane through my four years of motherhood, was coming to an end (sniff). It was really sad. I worked part-time from home. My supervisor was a good friend who truly understood the responsibilities of being a parent, and was completely flexible and supportive. I loved the work. And it broke up my week. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids and I love spending time with them. But I also loved having a break a few days a week. To save money, my husband and I decided to take our children out of daycare and I would be with them full time until my four year old starts preschool in the fall.
Almost every day for the first week, Sierra (my 4 year old) asked if it was time for ZooCamp yet. My one year old, Devin, would often stand by the door with his tiny little sandals in his hands and point outside. Man, I thought, am I that boring? We hike. We go to playgrounds. We visit friends. We (at least I) have checked out Kidoinfo's 100 things to do with your kids in Rhode Island at least 100 times. What more do you want from me, people?!
The fact is, when we're not at home, everyone's just dandy. It's when we're all crammed into our modest little condo, piled high with boxes because - oh, have I mentioned? - we're also in the process of moving, that we really don't know what to do with ourselves. We do play outside of course, but sometimes it's just difficult to motivate. My four year old asks to watch TV incessantly. So the other day, I tried something completely new for us: a Treasure Hunt.
"Hey, Sierra. Check out what I found!" I showed her a pretty crude drawing of our neighborhood in which I had labeled our house, the car, a few other easily recognizable features, and a big "X" about Â¼ mile down the road. "It's a treasure map. Want to go on a treasure hunt?" She was so excited that I thought she was going to have an accident. As she ran to get her shoes on (and a crown, scarves, and swim shoes since she decided she would be a princess-pirate-mermaid for our treasure hunt), I shoved a few pieces of her play jewelry in my pocket, wrapped up three pieces of banana bread, filled a few water bottles, plopped Devin in the stroller, and we headed out for an adventure.
I didn't mean for it to be anything but a way to get out of the house, but it turned into a lot more. Sierra went into full fantasy mode, "swimming" down the street in front of the stroller/boat. We used the map to decide which direction to go, identifying things along the way. Since I had labeled her favorite objects such as the rock in our neighbor's yard she always jumps off of, she tried to make out the words on the map. As we walked, we made predictions about what we thought the treasure would be and exactly where and how it would be hidden.
I had marked the "X" near a couple of benches within an island of trees and plants in the middle of a court in our neighborhood. When we got there, Sierra started looking around for the treasure and I sneakily stashed the banana bread and jewelry behind a rock. When she found it she was a bit confused as to how our banana bread and her toys had somehow become the treasure, but was nonetheless pretty excited. Suspension of disbelief is a powerful thing. We had our snack and water and then proceeded to play for another 45 minutes or so. Sierra made up a game in which she and I took turns hiding her water bottle and princess crown. The other person would find them and then have to wear the crown and drink a little bit of the water. (This turns out to be a neat little trick to keep your kids hydrated, by the way.) All the while Devin's just checking out the plants, eating up his snack, and giggling away. We made our way home just in time to start dinner, another afternoon of insanity narrowly averted.
Now Sierra's asking for treasure hunts instead of the TV. And I must admit that I'm actually enjoying myself quite a bit!
Jeanine is a self-described tree hugging, science and math geek whose love of nature, coupled with her absolute certainty that people, especially children, are happier, healthier, and wiser when they regularly spend time in nature, led her to establish Rhode Island Families in Nature. She loves to run, garden, bake, hike, and go camping, especially when accompanied by her husband, Ian, her four-year-old daughter, Sierra, and her one-year-old son, Devin. They live in Warwick.