Craft: Caring, Careless and Carefree, Starring Salt
This week, someone who loves us sent a care package. Inside, among other goodies that did make us feel loved, were craft idea booklets. While I don’t like crafts because many of them just produce kitsch, I can be convinced to make crafts that don’t require a trip to the craft store for supplies to make said craft. Especially when I can recycle the craft when I’ve successfully used it to distract little ones.
So this blog post starts with something that, believe it or not, is supposed to a craft.
Salt. In a tray. Combed quietly into a zen garden, complete with pebbles. And, whaddya know, I didn’t have to go out and buy anything.
I’m not dumb. I knew that when I handed this activity to my kid that the salt wouldn’t stay in the tray. I combed it, he shoveled it. I tried to introduce the pebbles, but he protested that they were in his way. He made an uncoordinated-but-careful pile on the table, and I tried making a pile in the tray instead. Then I tried to distract my pile-maker by throwing the pebbles into the tray. He liked that activity until we ran out of pebbles.
Toby went back to shoveling salt from the tray onto the paper-covered table. I transitioned from combing to just making sure it was evenly distributed in the tray so he had less depth of mass from which to pull.
Then, his untrained muscles twitched and he accidentally flicked salt onto the floor. I caught, with a cupped hand, as he repeated the accident. Then I caught a glance from his face.
“This is getting boring,” the face told me.
I realized why I was doing this in the first place–not to fill the minutes of the day, but to share an experience. My cupped hand over the floor was the cautious in me, the one who prevents and restrains, the one caring for the careless one next to me.
I realized that I could teach the careless how to be carefree instead. With this realization tightly held, I dipped my fork into the tray and flicked onto the floor. I heard a shriek of delight, and very soon, we had a puddle of white silt on a black rug, full of controlled abandon. Some kind of mess that we made together.
The difference between careless and carefree is what happens after the action. The careless throw litter on the ground and do not care. The carefree throw their belongings on the ground to roll down the hill with a spirit of spontaneity, but eventually pick up their dignity, happily refreshed, and go more happily on their way.
In this case, we turned clumsy toddler behavior into minutes of glee. Flinging anything is fun, whether it be food, salt, grass, paper, or mud. Salt is the easiest to vacuum up when we’re finished and the easiest to pour back into my salt container to reuse. Because Toby helped me pick up the paper and watched me vacuum up, he learned a little bit of careful. It’s important for children to see their parents having fun, but they also need to know that there’s value in caring for the surroundings.
Salt is reused wonderfully, even after we’ve picked it up and poured it over our fingers to feel the texture. There’s only one type of bacteria that grows in salt, and it’s not harmful to humans. All the better for my cookies to be flavored with a tiny bit of carefree delight.