Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oma Kits

Chelsea (5)

Lucy: Oma, tell us a story about when you were a little girl.
Chelsea: She wasn't a little girl. She was our mom's mom.
Lucy: Before that she was a little girl. Right, Oma?

Eliza and Jill (3)

So I got out the Clothesline Oma Kit and told them about visiting my grandma. "When I was a little girl she didn't have a regular washer. She used a huge tub and scrubbed the clothes by hand, and then a wringer squeezed all the water out. But first, all the dirty clothes were dropped in a clothes shoot. It was a little trap door in the bathroom floor. I'm sure a few of my cousins wiggled through it and rode the tin slippery slide to the soft pile of laundry in the basement.

"After Grama washed the sheets, she guided them between two big rollers called a wringer, and twisted a crank. They'd come out the other side, and land in a wicker basket. Then she stuffed her apron pockets with clothespins and we went out to the big back lawn. While I picked hollyhocks to make into dolls, and my brother tried hard to fall into the fishpond, she hung the load on the line. I can remember the clean smell as the wind whipped the damp sheets like billowing sails."

The little girls listened to my stories while they pinched the clothespins and fastened calico fabric pieces on the line we'd strung between the dining room chairs.

When I arrived they'd danced around, asking if I'd brought the Oma Kits. Oma Kits are baggies with prepared activities I bring in a rubbermaid box when I come to babysit. Today we had time for several:

~The Button Box: Buttons of all kinds—coins, jewels, hearts, balloons, animals, faces. We sort them, count them, hide them, make up stories about them, and even practice sewing them. I have a spool of thread, a few needles, some swatches of fabric, and a pair of kid's scissors in the baggie, plus a thimble (which can be used for Hide the Thimble later.)


(We've tried spinning a big button on a thread, but so far, I'm the only one who can do it.)

Illustration by Sarah Chamberlain

~The Memory Game: A stack of 3x5 cards and stickers (two of each.) The first time I had the kids stick a picture on each card. Now we use the deck to play Concentration.

~The Other Memory Game: A bunch of objects (comb, finger puppet, toothpick umbrella, spoon, ribbon, etc.) We spread these on the table and one person (It) hides their eyes while another person removes one of the objects. Then It looks at the display and guesses which thing is missing.

~Felt Paperdolls: A bunch of felt pieces I cut into shapes.

~Fridge Magnets: Random magnets I've collected—people, a dragon, a cuckoo clock, a violin, flowers, etc. We sit on the kitchen floor and take turns making up stories with the refrigerator as the stage.

~Books: I bring the ones I like to read.

~Finger Puppets: They put on a show from behind the couch.

~Anytime Games: This baggie contains a typed list to remind me of songs, finger plays and games that don't require anything (I Spy, Hokey Pokey, Jump-rope and clapping rhymes, Twenty Questions, Going on a Bear Hunt, I Have a Little Doggie, Gossip, Who Stole the Cookies, etc.) Plus there's a bandanna for a blindfold, dice, a spinner, pennies, a string for Cat's Cradle, Old Maid, little golf pencils, pad of paper, marbles, jacks, Pick Up Sticks, pipe cleaners to bend into shapes, and some little wooden tops.

To assemble these kits, I first typed up a list of activities, and then a list of stuff to buy. I got three rubbermaid boxes and a variety of baggies. After a trip to a toy-store and a craft store, I put together my kits. It took some time, but it wasn't very expensive. I keep the boxes in my car and I'm ready for an Oma day anytime, without any effort at all.

I love to borrow from the past and pass on the old-fashioned, simple games my grandmothers played with me. It's an excuse to tell my stories, introduce my grands to each other, and create a legacy.

Alex Haley said, "Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." That's my goal.


Christie said...

You truly are the most awesome grandma. I wish we lived closer so my kids could get to use the Oma kids regularly.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

Okay, you're pretty freaking awesome - I wish you'd come babysit me!

Diane L said...

I love all your ideas - you are so creative! I will do this too. Thanks for the good example.

(I put together my travel-be-ready kit that you suggested when we did school days - I love it!)

The Grandmother Here said...

We moved into a new house and shut our cat up in the bathroom over night. She was accustomed to opening the door under the sink and sleeping on the pile of towels (never use the top one!) but in this bathroom when she pulled open a little door in the wall she fell down to the basement. The pitiful meowing woke us up.

Heidi said...

Those kits are the highlight mom. I could make some of my own, but it's just not the same. The ritual you have with the grands is perfect.
Thanks for tending!

Raejean said...

Thanks for the grand idea! I hope I can remember it when I'm a grandma :)

Grandma Shelley said...

I love the idea of the Oma kits.I had never thought to do the clothes line with the cut out fabric and clothespins. I have some grands that would love that. Thanks for sharing. I love gleaning ideas from other grandmas!

Susan Adcox said...

Your Oma kits are awesome! I, too, love doing old-fashioned activities with my grandchildren. Come share a jump rope rhyme!

Abby said...

What a great grandma you are. So much fun. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the quote at the bottom, gonna have to steal that one!