We have our kids enrolled in zero summer camps, classes, or extra curricular activities this summer. This is partly because of stalling on our part (we weren’t absolutely sure what the travel plans would be this summer) and partly because I kind of love having nothing scheduled.
Our days have taken on a routine anyway, and our weeks have a sort of formula to them. And so far, it has been a wonderful unscheduled summer. I take the boys out every morning; to the playground one day, the zoo the next, sometimes the Botanical Gardens, others to a special place we don’t go very often. We meet up with friends at least once a week, and spend plenty of afternoons walking to and from the library. We make it home around lunch time, and I feed the boys, then put Emil down for a nap.
Then comes rest time. I often read stories to Oliver and Milo, then let them watch some PBS while I rest/nap beside them. But Emil takes nice long naps, so rest time turns into keep-the-older-kids-quiet time, which can involve lots of librarian-like shushing and the don’t-you-dare-do-that look (you know that look, right?). So… quiet activities.
This one came about months ago when I was sewing some buttons back onto Oliver’s pajamas and shirts (kid loses buttons like I lose my keys, seriously) and Oliver asked to string some buttons on a thread. That’s it. It occupied him for an hour that day, and he has asked to do it quite a few times since. And because I’m a sucker for easy, free, yet creative ways to entertain growing minds while also strengthening fine motor skills, I decided I would share it here.
All you need is a whole bunch of buttons (we always save the extras that come with new shirts and pants and store them in an old jam jar), a long piece of thread, and a pair (or two!) of little hands. We don’t use a needle for threading, but let them try to thread the string right through the button holes.
Start with the thread: you will want to tie one button on the end of the thread to prevent the rest from falling off, obviously. We also used thread that was a bit stiffer so it is easier to manipulate through the small button holes.
Let them thread as many buttons as they’d like onto the thread. Encourage them to make patterns or organize the buttons from largest to smallest, or even to group them according to color or shade. They can tie the string into a necklace when they are finished, or just return the buttons to the jar. Another fun thing to do is for one to hold one end of the thread and pass the button down the thread to the other person. This requires one to stand higher than the other, but it is lots of fun. They pretend that the button is a person using a zip line!
Milo and Oliver loved this activity, and shared the buttons well. They enjoyed searching for interesting colors, shapes, and patterns, and making different patterns on the string. Plus, it melted my heart to see them interacting so well. Especially since there has been a lot more… eh-em… physicality between those two lately. Okay, I’ll say it. They are like bear cubs who can punch.