When I was growing up, everyone gathered at my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. My dad was the oldest of 11. So add spouses and cousins (about 3/family), a few other relatives and we had a big, raucous affair.
Some of my favorite memories are the time we kids spent up in the attic. We didn’t have personal screens for entertainment, and our imaginations would run wild with the magic of that space.
I woke up this morning thinking about those Thanksgivings many moons ago and wondered how I could QUICKLY and CHEAPLY recreate some of that for guests (young and old) in a small space with a big, crazy family. The only criterion is that the entertainment has to be built from existing supplies.
If you have a room not being used – like the living room – convert it to your designated screen-free space. It will be just the right spot for anyone who needs a break from the noise of lots of talking or the television.
Build an Art Box
This isn’t a fancy craft box, it can be a shoebox. Dump in some crayons, pens, pencils, markers. Don’t have crayons? Don’t hesitate to ask a guest with children to share some of theirs!
- Paper can be coloring books, printer paper, butcher block, or even parchment paper.
- Add some textured objects, like leaves, yarn, cardboard. Artists can create “rubbings” if they aren’t big drawers.
Idea: Encourage guests to grab a piece of paper and share something they are grateful for. Then post them around the kitchen or another high-traffic area where people will see them.
Make a Puzzle and/or Game Table
Grab a couple of jigsaw puzzles, puzzle books, some board games, and/or decks of cards. Set them near a coffee table or a card table.
- If you have a spot where you can start a puzzle, go for it. Having a few pieces already in place will most definitely encourage others to stop by and try their hand.
Send them Outside
Short of rain, snow, or mud, why not go outside for a bit? Put some chalk, jump rope, and balls in a bin, crate, or box right by the door. The kids will INSTANTLY spot them on arrival.
- At my grandmothers, it was always understood you’d bring “play clothes,” but you might want to let guests know.
How, exactly, are these ideas related to literacy?
If you didn’t think they look like literacy activities, the kids certainly won’t! There isn’t a book in sight, but there is a TON of literacy-related content built into these three ideas!
- Using your imagination. Creativity is one of those often-overlooked cornerstones of literacy. When we’re drawing, our brain is creating a story (or movie) that we are sharing through some medium. On the converse, when we’re listening to a story, we’re trying to envision it in our mind’s eye.
- Listening. Whether it is a pickup football game or chatting while we color, we are building our word banks as we listen to others share stories and ideas.
- Planning and thinking. It could be your team figuring out who is going to shoot the basket or just you deciding whether to send another player back to “Go.” Either way, you are using your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. “If Step A, then Consequence B.” It falls in the category of sequencing.
- Talking and sharing. This is the easy-peasiest of them all! When Aunt Bess asks your son about summer vacation, or Uncle Tom wants your teen to tell him about Snapchat, your kids don’t just get a chance to talk, they get to share their expertise.
Conversation is the most natural way to incorporate literacy into any event. It is a chance for vocabulary building and word practice. It builds comprehension retention and helps us present ideas so that others can understand what we’re thinking/what we mean.
Have a great holiday. If you are hitting the road, we wish you safe travels. We are going screen-free ourselves for a bit and will be on auto-pilot the rest of the week.