#21 What can we create – look back to move forward!

1955 Family Lakeshore Drive Duluth.jpegI am old. Let’s start there. I grew up in the early 50’s and coming of age so to speak in the 60’s and 70’s. No, it was not the dark ages but the world was very different. It was simpler in some ways. (This photo is from 1955 – My father and I. He would be with us for a few more years. We lost him in 1958.)

This is not a post about wanting to return to that time period. There was lots of things that were not good – sexism, racism and more. It was bad!  It is not good now but we have grown some – or at least some of us have (all of that is for another post maybe).

Anyway, I was e-mailing with my one of my nieces this morning and she was worrying about her little one who is now out of pre-school. She was hunting for guidance on how to help keep her learning. The easy and quick thing to do was get lots of worksheets from someone. Things to color and do on paper. It was a great start but I keep thinking about little ones and their need to move, to jump and to just plain do things.

It occurred to me that these young parents and many like them have had the wonderful opportunity to just go places on the weekends or at night. Their kids are involved in classes – swimming, dance, soccer – you name it. All this activity is great but it is all directed from the outside. They have not had to spend long hours at home. It has been a great experience.


Now that the traveling time is gone. The classes are gone. There are long hours ahead at home. The question becomes how much time on computers and TV do you want your kids to have? So what do you do?  All this rambling made me thing of my growing up and what did we do?

I grew up in a single parent home. We had a small nice house, plenty of food and lots of friends. We did not travel – there was little money for that and hard for a single Mom to take off work or feel comfortable traveling with three little kids. If we really needed to get out of town or Mom needed to see and ask for help we went to the farm about 2 hours away to see family.  Most of our time was at home and in our yard.

What I remember is – we created fantasy games in the back yard. We built fairy lands with sticks, rocks and bits of things from the house. We sewed awful looking blankets for dolls and stuffed animals. Bits of left over fabric, a needle and thread and we were making clothes for the stuffed bears and shoes for the plastic horses. (the ceramic horses did not survive my dressing of them I am afraid.) We were measuring, cutting, problem solving, creating.

I recall Saturday nights making donuts before watching a black and white TV program. We made cookies, rolls and always were helping with dinner. Dishes were washed by hand which meant I got to play in warm soapy water until someone decided it was enough and I was moved over to drying dishes instead.

It was not shower time but bath time – I would play in the water on a Saturday night with soap and toys until the water just got to cold. I soaped up the bath walls and drew pictures. Anything to stay playing in the water. (Mom never wanted me to warm up the tub water so I could stay longer since there were others that wanted a hot bath as well.)

Blanket forts were made where we read books, wrote in diaries and wrote letters to friends and cousins. We pulled out crayons and pencils to draw. I was not great at pictures but loved to make a pages full of swirls that I colored in to make wonderful designs. We redesign, on paper, the rooms in the house -measuring, marking in windows and doors. I remember using towels to make curtains for a play house that was in the corner of our bedroom.

We worked in the yard. We edged the grass with hand clippers, raked and trimmed. All by hand – which takes a bit more time than using our electric Weed Wacker now. When things broke the first step was to think how do we repair this ourselves. One weekend my brother and I took apart the kitchen exhaust fan and cleaned it. It was a glorious mess driving our mother nuts. In the end it was clean, the kitchen was clean, we were kind of clean and the fan worked. It was no longer stuck and gooey.

I guess what I am saying is we worked by hand. We worked slowly and did as much as we could with what we had on hand. These days when something is not quite right I think what do I need to buy or who do I call to fix it. I have lost that creative thinking – how do I do this myself.

I think it may be time we try, at least for a while, to fix, create, explore and do things around our home. Take time with our kids to explore making and doing.

  • What little thing need to be painted?
  • What room can we rearrange to make a fun reading and writing station for the whole family?
  • What closet can be an exploration into our recent past by cleaning it out completely?
  • What foods could be made at home that you usually go pick up ready made?
  • If you have a yard what can be done out there? gathering sticks to make a fort for little critters – the squirrels might like a new home? Clean up the gardens from the winter mess?
  • Who can you or your kids write a letter to? Not a computer e-mail but a snail mail letter? If you have kids can they add a drawing to that letter.
  • Can you as a family make a set of greeting cards that you can send out to people who are living alone right now?  or just sending cards to friends you are not seeing right now.
  • We use to have pen pals from around the world. Who do you know living far from you that you could start sending things to?  Maybe a daily or weekly e-mail post about what is going on at your house this week?  ( Grandparents, Aunts and Uncle who live a long ways away would love it. I know I would.)

Now it is your turn. Tell me what things you are finding to do. What things are you helping your kids find to do that are not a paper pencil task?  Let’s share!

If I get enough responses I will compile a list and send it out in another post.

Happy creating!









what did I do as a kid – sewing, painting, etc.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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5 Responses to #21 What can we create – look back to move forward!

  1. I’ve been reading a lot, blogging. Making videos of wellness tips to post on my Insagram. (a lot of screen time, I’m afraid!) but I cook each day and get movement via walking, dancing, or yoga, too. No little ones for me yet, but I’m really longing for a dog now… and it’s on my list! 🙂 Thanks for sharing about your childhood and creativity! 🙂

  2. Sharon Gubser says:

    Great slice! We did many of the same things growing up. Your title says it all!

  3. Patty Nault says:

    I love everything about this slice! It could be my own childhood. Thank you for bringing back those memories like blanket forts and Saturday night bathtime. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the Carol Burnett Show while my mom put my hair in pin curls. Boy! Did those pinch. This morning I dropped off a bucket of sidewalk chalk to a colleague (teacher) who had a challenging week of balancing online teaching for her students and the responsibility of homeschooling her own three young boys. I fastened an invitation to the lid suggesting they “Chalk the Walk” and then pass the bucket along to a neighbor to do the same. Later, they can all get outside to admire each others work. As for me, cooking, sewing, fitness, reading, and writing are keeping me busy.

  4. Trina Bartel says:

    This slice makes me so happy…I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, and I did a lot of the same kind of stuff…. I love your suggestions!

  5. I loved reading this slice. I felt like I was in my mom’s living room with my grandma and great-grandma listening to stories of working together.

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