“Coloring outside the lines is a fine art.”
– Kim Nance
working in harmony = mommy bliss
We were having one of THOSE days in Littleville. Everyone had gotten up on the wrong side of the crib, and when you’re dealing with the senseless behavior of those under five, things can deteriorate quickly. They tend to feed off of each others’ bad moods. Like tiny Dementors, they “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them.” It’s true. If you have experience with small children in groups, you know. . . At least they’re cute. It makes their evil side much more palatable.
T quickly figures out that she’s the ONLY one tall enough to reach the top!
Ro ditched the brush and chose to beat the canvas into artistic submission
happy Cordy tries to reach T’s territory
Now before you start saying things about how I need to find a new line of work, let me tell you – I can deal with a grumpy baby or three, and I’m usually pretty good at distracting little ones from themselves long enough to get them grinning again. . .but when they all turn on me at the same time, the situation can get pretty tricky. They outnumber me, for one thing, and they’re LOUD. It’s difficult to keep a happy I-love-you smile and a calmly pleasant demeanor when ones nerves are getting frayed. It takes quite a lot for a kid to frazzle me, but if they ever succeed in breaking my mood, there’s absolutely no hope for any of us for the rest of the day. Plus there’s always the threat of a hostile takeover. . .
Jules went a little bit wild
some serious hard work going on here
T always reverts to hand-prints when paint is involved
A was out that day, so T was grumpy to be short a best friend, nobody was sharing and they all wanted the same toy, there was hitting and much hollering, the littler ones seemed to be tripping over and crashing into everything in sight, and at least two out of the four were howling over nothing at any given moment. Physically, they were fine. Everyone had eaten a good breakfast and had clean diapers, it was still early in the morning, so there was no obvious reason for them to be so cranky! I tried play-dough, popsicles, the magic of television, and a trip to the backyard – but nothing worked to snap them out of their funk. I had to do something to fix the situation – fast! And I know from much experience that the only way to win over this kind of chaos is to present something totally and completely new and unexpected to distract them from their imagined misery. But WHAT??!
Mix-master Ro decided that playing with the paint is more fun than painting with it
Teagan put a lot of thought into where her next brush stroke would go
clever Jules was the first ‘discover’ the back side
I found two big branches in the backyard that had fallen during the hurricane, and put the kids to work digging holes while I ran off to find an old piece of fabric and a staple gun. I strung the fabric between our branches and plopped them in the ground. The holes weren’t quite deep enough to hold them as taught as I would have liked, but moods were sinking, and there wasn’t enough time to do it right. It ended up being a bit floppier than I had hoped, but it looked like it would hold up. In just a few minutes, we managed to throw together the largest canvas any of the girls had ever laid eyes on! Of course, they didn’t know that yet. . . you never tell small children of your plans until you’re absolutely sure they will work – especially when they’re all being brats.
could they get any cuter?
finger painting for the WIN!
Cordy is fascinated by the paint dripping down her fingers
The next problem was paint. . . there was no way that our current dangerously low supply could come anywhere close to filling up such a huge space. So I decided to make my own. Flour, water, and food coloring can go a fantastically long way in creating something that you don’t intend to keep forever. Another bonus is that you don’t have to worry about anyone eating it (unless, of course, they’re allergic to food dye. In which case don’t try this at home)!
I love messy babies!
Ro paints herself to match her shirt
C & T carefully dump the remaining paint when everyone is done
Set up complete, the girls changed into their painting clothes (which made the littlest three scream bloody murder…you’d think by now that they’d have figured out that ugly clothes = fun with messy things = best day EVER! You’d be wrong. Getting changed = holding still = TORTURE!). I made it clear that the ONLY rules would be that the paint bowls had to stay on the table until we were finished, and that there was to be no painting on each other, then I turned them loose and they set to work. THEY HAD A BLAST! Grumbles and whines immediately turned into giggles of delight. It was a total win. The girls returned to their normal cheerful selves, and the good mood held through nap time and for the rest of the day. I got to SIT DOWN and watch their adorable antics for an HOUR AND A HALF (now you know why there are so many pictures)! They were having so much fun, they didn’t need my intervention once! And though I normally would be painting right beside them, after the tough morning we had, I was perfectly content to sit back for a change and watch them in action!
Cordy & Ro wash up in a bucket filled with soapy water
the completed masterpiece. . . until next time!
This is a fantastically fun project that can be repeated time and time again. I only have to toss the fabric into the washing machine when my minions are done with their masterpiece to get it clean for the next round. Flour and food dye are also way cheaper than poster paints. I plan on making this more of a permanent structure in the backyard, using something other than fallen branches and a staple gun! Adding a crossbar to the top of the frame (and maybe the bottom too), will lend it more stability and allow me to pull the fabric taught, and putting hooks in the wood and grommets in the fabric (a vinyl tablecloth might work well, too) will make removing the fabric for clean up a breeze. This could be a mind-bogglingly simple way to make everyone in my crew happy for many long hours of playtime! I’m looking forward to playing this game again often in the future, and I can’t wait until T gets the chance to have a go at that giant canvas all by herself!