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Guest Column

Entertaining children and grandchildren on the farm

Jan. 20, 2011

By Ginger Isham

I don’t know if children today have enough creative play or use their imaginations enough with all the modern technology and games.

My children — now ages 41 to 50 — used to play outside a lot. They played such games as Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, Red Light Green Light, Mother May I and Red Rover Come Over. One time they made a hammock in the woods from old baling twine. Baling twine had many uses in those days.

In winter, there was sliding and making forts and snowmen. They once made an icehouse out of a large snowdrift in back of the house and wanted to sleep in it all night. This was their exercise.

When the weather was bad they would play Hide and Seek in the house, along with Hide the Button (the button being the red rooster from the Fisher-Price barn), a Color Guessing Game and lots of board games.

I would cover one end of an empty toilet tissue roll with a piece of wax paper or clear plastic and punch a few holes on the side of the roll; my children placed their mouths over the other end and blew in it to make a sound. A block of wood with a few rows of nails with rubber bands stretched over them became a guitar.

When I wanted to clean the kitchen floor and keep the children occupied I would move all the kitchen chairs into the living room and line them up to become a train. There was a large chair for the caboose.

I showed them how to make paper airplanes and throw them from a step near the top of the stairs. This is a favorite pastime for the grandchildren today.

I made play dough clay from flour, salt and water.

The girls made May Baskets out of empty 1-pound cottage cheese boxes. They made their own valentines for school. Sometimes, heart-shaped cookies of different sizes that were frosted or decorated became the valentines that could be eaten. Nothing was very costly in those days.

When my grandchildren came along, I had fun making things for them to play with out of recycled items. I have trouble throwing some things away. One winter, we had an empty refrigerator box in one of the living rooms. The box had windows, a wheel on top to drive as a car, truck, boat or airplane. Empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls were used for peepholes or spyglasses and pictures were drawn inside the box.

Another winter, I brought the Little Tikes slide inside. I placed a large sheet over the top so they could go up the three or four steps and sit under the roof or hide under the platform. Sometimes we made a cabin with chairs back-to-back in a circle and a sheet spread over the top.

I used three old sap buckets and marked each bucket with numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the sides. The kids used paper balls or bean bags I made to toss into the buckets from a distance and see who could get the highest score with a limited amount of throws.

I set up empty plastic soda bottles for bowling pins and they used a ball to bowl. Sometimes I’d pull the children around the house in a plastic clothesbasket.

When the new basement was added, I painted a Hop Scotch on the floor with black paint.

And now, for the last two years, I have been collecting large oatmeal boxes. I like the store brand as I can remove the outside paper so they all look alike. I think I have about 22 large boxes and a few smaller ones stored in a large black garbage bag. The grandchildren like to stack them up or make a wall to hide behind and knock them down, sometimes by rolling a ball. Later, I may number each one to help them learn their numbers. Recently, a friend’s 9-year-old son stacked them one on top of the other almost to our 9-foot ceiling! He had to use a chair to get the last ones on top. My youngest grandchild loves to watch them roll along the floor. I have even put small blocks inside so he could shake them.

One cupboard in the kitchen always has plastic refrigerator containers for the toddlers who have learned to open doors.

My latest toy I am excited about is making tops that spin from old CDs. I read about this idea in a parenting magazine at a pediatrician’s office in November. Glue a large marble over the hole on the underside of the CD. You need a glue gun for this. I had to use 1-inch wooden balls as I could not find marbles at this time of year. Then, glue a cap from a liter soda bottle over the hole on the other side. One could paint the topside with glitter glue or come up with other ways to decorate it. They work like a charm! I am going to call them “Whirlies.”

Outdoor fun is having a play barn and a playhouse next to a sand pile under a 160-year-old maple with branches that provide shade like an umbrella.

Lastly, I must not forget to mention the hours of fun a plastic pail of bubble water will give the old and young. I bought six large bubble wands at a dollar store a couple years ago. Why buy six of them? Because they are not easy to find. All at little cost!

As a mother of six and grandmother of 13, children have enriched my life!

Williston resident Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.