JOPLIN, Mo. —
While the kids are free for long days and nights of summer, there seems to be no limit to our coming and going. We're constantly leaving for parties, cookouts and trips to the pool. Summer is a busy season.
In the middle of it all, I find myself wishing for some laziness. I used to think that summertime was meant for moving slow, relaxing and forgetting the cares of the world. The truth is more insistent -- parents don't have off seasons, and we don't usually find much in the way of quiet languor.
But what we do have is a handhold on the reins. We don't have to let summer gallop away without being tethered to the front stoop every so often so we can catch our breath.
If you're looking for ways to keep the kids happy at home for a slow-moving day, a family movie night might be just the thing to settle in with.
A movie's entertainment value can be stretched with complementary activities to fill large chunks of time. While any kid-friendly film probably has plenty of opportunities for creativity or crafts, here are some ideas to get you started:
"Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue": In your back yard, your children's leisurely search will uncover handfuls of materials perfect for building a fairy house. Strips of bark, twigs, fallen limbs, flowers, acorns, rocks -- all of these, when seen through the critical eye of a child hoping to lure fairies for a visit, can be used in a tiny architectural feat of imagination.
Encourage your kids to build the fairy house in a spot that will be protected from wind or prying eyes, and fill the house with small jewels or other shiny things a fairy might love.
"Monsters, Inc.": Your kids will want a monster to keep them company on their very own nightstand after watching this movie, only this craft is way more fun than saving up money to buy a trademarked toy.
Using baking clay or air-drying clay from your craft supplies, show your little ones how to make pinch pots. These are small, simple bowls with sturdy walls. Then, lay the pot on its side so the opening becomes a gaping mouth.
Add crooked teeth, wacky eyeballs and spiky ears made from bits of clay, and allow the whole thing to dry. Later, the monsters can be painted and initiated as members of your own monstrous clan.
"Cars": If you have a few old cardboard boxes lying around, cut off the top and bottom flaps and cover the box with solid-colored wrapping paper or old paper bags. With electrical tape, paint, or even some thrown-out car parts, let your kids get creative. Have them decorate the box to look like a race car, fire truck, taxi cab or any other automobile that gets their engines running.
Use black paper tires and foil headlights. When the car is looking just right, run two ropes lengthwise through small holes in all four corners, creating a costume that will rest on your little driver's shoulders. And off they'll go!
You can create capes for heroes, crowns for princesses, swords for pirates, and pillow forts for animal burrows, all without venturing into the busy world. Home fires can still burn brightest, even during the heat of summertime.
Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife.blog spot.com.