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Jul 14 2014

How to Entertain Your Kids in a Bomb Shelter

By at 10:07 am

Israeli family takes refuge from rockets in a bomb shelter

“Why didn’t anyone DO SOMETHING?!”

I remember sitting in Hebrew School learning about the Holocaust for the first time. While I was in shock at what humans were capable of doing to other humans, I was almost more angry at my grandparents and other Americans–how could they just sit at home and let this happen for years before entering the war?

Now 25 years later, I am in my grandparents’ shoes. I see 200 schoolgirls get kidnapped in Nigeria. I see unimaginable violence in Iraq and Syria. And now I see murders, rockets, and bombings in Israel. I see moms, dads, kids, and families just like mine, who just want to go to work or school, go home, play in the park, and live a normal life. Yet they’re prevented from this by violence I can’t pretend to understand. 

Why doesn’t someone DO SOMETHING? Why don’t I do something?

What can I do? I am a working mom with two toddlers on Long Island. I can’t pull aside representatives from opposing sides of these conflicts and talk them through a resolution the same way I help my twins learn to play together nicely. I can’t stop bombs from flying. I can’t go out and find those missing schoolgirls. What can I do?

My friend from Israel recently posted a picture to Facebook of her kitchen table covered with colored paper and crayons–she has four toddlers, and this is what Operation Defensive Edge looks like in her house now that summer camps and daycares are closed. This made me ask a question that I never thought I’d ask–how does one keep toddlers busy when violence keeps them inside?

I can’t stop the conflict, but perhaps I can make someone’s difficult life a bit easier. Here are some things I’ve found useful in my own house (credit to Pinterest and Facebook for some of these!). While they’re hopefully helpful for bomb shelters, they’re also useful for any rainy day. Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

1. We’ve been big fans of “gluing projects.” I cut construction paper into small squares and triangles and I cut pictures and letters out of magazines. I save these in small bags so they’re ready when we want them. The kids pick out a color of construction paper which I then cover with glue dots and lay out the pre-cut pieces on a plate. They can then spend quite a long time gluing the pre-cut pieces to their paper.

2. The cardboard insides from paper towel and toilet tissue rolls are awesome. We’ve cut and glued construction paper eyes, noses, mouths, and hair onto them to make a community of “people.” We’ve also taped them to the wall to make a racetrack for small crumpled pieces of paper to fall through. Taping them up at different angles and putting them one after the other makes for a really fun physics experiment.

3. Never underestimate the fun of pipe cleaners and a strainer. We put them in a hole and pull them out the other side–fascinating!

4. Big sheets of roll paper are very useful. My kids lay on the paper and I trace their bodies. We then have fun drawing clothes, facial features, etc. on the life-size cutouts of themselves. I put the date on it, and it makes a great memory of how small they were at this time.

5. We can spend a long time playing different versions of “on your mark, get set, go!” I sit at one end of the hallway and my kids stand at the other. I say “on your mark, get set, go–SUPER FAST!!” and the kids run to me. They get hugs, say “bye bye,” and run back to the starting point. Each time the instructions are different. Go super fast, slowly, tip toe, marching, sideways, backwards, skipping, hopping, etc. Hooray for fun ways to burn energy and build those gross motor skills!

6. There are many craft projects you can make with kids’ handprints. Cut out their handprint on black construction paper, glue cotton balls to the palm, and draw an eye and a mouth on the thumb, and you’ve got a sheep. Glue a handprint to the back of a toilet tissue roll, and you’ve got a peacock. Use a handprint as the base for a beautiful flower.

While these ideas won’t bring peace to the Middle East or Africa, hopefully it can help bring indoor peace for some families who’d much rather be playing outside.

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