Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Exercise and writing - our first new winter indoor activities

One of my concerns this past holiday was how to limit my kids' screen time. They were limited to two hours of screen time (which included TV, Playstation and computer) per day. This allotted time was usually staggered throughout the day.

While they managed to sneak in extra time on some days, on others they would spend most of their allotted time playing outside / on family outings.

Before Mo took leave last week, the kids and I spent our mornings in gym - with the older two on the cardio circuit with me, while the younger two played in the gym's designated play area. Since 2 year old Aisha is not at school yet, the experience of being in a public play area with other children was a major source of excitement.

On Tuesday I bravely (and, as it turned out - stupidly) agreed to allow them to swim at the gym. So after I'd had my workout, we collected the younger two at the play area. While Shakeel (12) waited for us at the pool, Tharaa (10) helped me to get the younger two ready in the ladies' changing rooms. They giggled with much amusement as I tried to squeeze my darling Aisha (2)'s giant head into the tiny swimming cap.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed their time in the water. I readied myself to dive in at a moment's notice, should either of the younger two experience difficulty. Aisha stayed on the wide step at the edge of the pool, while 7 year old Nuha bravely swam a strange, but cute combination of doggy paddle and breast-stroke down the length of the pool. Since she is not a confident swimmer yet, I walked alongside her while Tharaa stayed with Aisha.

Shakeel and Tharaa, as usual, were competitive and noisy and I constantly had to remind them that this was not our local public pool. They swam laps - each trying to beat the other's time.

It was all going swimmingly - until Aisha started to cry, saying that she was getting cold. I panicked, because I knew what was to follow. I ordered the others of the pool, but as usual, they begged to be allowed one more lap. As I spoke, they dove underwater, pretending not to hear me. Until I said, ''Guys, Aisha is about to have a tantrum''. Which is when they swiftly leaped out of the water and into the changing rooms before she emitted her first piercing shriek.

I'd clearly not thought ahead when agreeing bring the kids swimming in cold weather all by myself. Although the indoor pool is heated, it was icy outside, so I could not leave until they had showered and dried their hair. Aisha became increasingly tired and agitated, moaning and then screaming all the while. I got stares from the other women in the locker room - not all of them understanding. A young lady flashed me a sympathetic smile as she, no doubt, witnessed the perspiration dripping from my forehead.

With a frozen smile I dragged screaming Aisha past the lounge area, in which the well-groomed toned bodies were enjoying their morning coffee (or more likely herbal teas). Never again, I promised myself.

At home we spent the cold days indoors. I gave the children writing exercises to do, having gotten the idea from a homeschooling mother of eight kids. This amazing mommy blogger (who blogs at this address ) gave this advice on how to tackle creative writing. So borrowing this idea, I decided to make writing a holiday activity. Admittedly, this was initially not received with overwhelming enthusiasm, but after a few minutes the noisiness died down and the only sound that could be heard, were those of fervent pencils scratching paper. What added to their excitement was the fact that I'd asked them to do a dramatic reading of their writing - and oh, how they love being dramatic!

Despite some of their initial complaints, I could not stop them once they'd started writing. Following the advice of amazing mommy blogger mentioned earlier, I did not focus on spelling and provided the correct spelling of words only when asked.

They were, themselves, surprised at how much they had to write (even on topics about which they had initally felt they had nothing to say). Very often one simply just has to start writing - and the ideas will flow.

The dramatic readings were just as I'd imagined them to be. Shakeel hid his discomfort and shyness with displays of over-the-top theatrics. Tharaa marvelled at how well her brother expressed himself in writing (and I too was really impressed).

Tharaa's delivery of her reading was more understated, but dramatic. I was amazed at her language usage and the way her sensitivity reflected in her writing. As I had expected, she read out her piece with confidence.

Nuha, who is usually quite shy, surprised me with her willingness to stand in front and read her one-page essay (while often getting confused at her own unique spelling). I was amazed at how much detail she recorded in her writing - this tendency enabled her to flesh out a topic about which I'd thought she would not have much to say. She read her piece earnestly and seriously, but oh-so-adorably!

Then it was two-year old Aisha's turn. She stood in front of us, holding her page of scribbles and started to 'read'. Her delivery was dramatic - arms flailing wildly; facial expressions showing her passion. The random words, which she had strung together to form meaningless sentences, were spoken with expression - her voice deepening and lilting as required by the context of her gibberish.

This year I am determined to use the icy weather to its best advantage. Winter need not be a season of gloom. It can provide families with the opportunity to become creative, as they try to find stimulating and exciting ways to keep themselves occupied indoors. More importantly (for me), spending this time indoors (while creating indoor fun) can foster a feeling of closeness, togetherness and warmth - which is the perfect antidote to the chilly winter weather.

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