Wendy, owner of "Calliope Crowns" (@calliopecrowns on Instagram) and lover of our wooden blocks tells a story of her latest family road trip.
My husband is an award-winning filmmaker. We are fortunate to travel with him on most of his projects. He recently had a shoot in a different area of the Pacific Northwest. Once I heard the location and assignment, I went into Wonder Woman mode. (It's a combination of food packer, clothes packer, toy packer, gear packer [minus electronics] and more. Most people might just call it Mom/Wife, too.)
Our children are four and two years old. They are used to being on the road with Dad. They absolutely adore being outside and exploring anything and everything possible. They will contentedly play for hours (and days) outside, barely stopping for a drink or snack. The weather forecast for this trip, however, indicated rain. More rain. Rain after an already very long Fall, Winter, and Spring (seemingly seven months of straight rain). Rain after a few brief steady days of sun. With rain on the horizon, and the focus of child and parent sanity and learning, I planned our toy bag. We take one bag of toys on a trip; that's it. We do not have much space left after everything else. It's not always the easiest bag to pack, as our girls have differing personalities, but we do it and we learn from it. Note- the girls are encouraged to help pack the toy bag.
If there are any current "must have" toys to which they are attached, those toys (hopefully) make it into the bag. This trip's toy bag included: four books, Dr. Squeak (a mouse puppet), Little Sapling Toys blocks, and a few crowns/Calliope dolls. We also brought their bikes and helmets, and at the last minute, a dollhouse was requested. Figuring that we were staying in a yurt and had the extra space, I allowed the dollhouse. Here's what I learned from the toy bag and extra toys...
- The bikes were one of the best things we brought. The girls rode them outside and inside. They were a positive source for their energy and also a sense of comfort.
- The books were read a bit, but not too much.
- The dollhouse was mostly a hit, but also a struggle (e.g. car fights) at times. The dollhouse is on the "to be determined" list for future trips.
- The other toys that were most consistently played with were the Little Sapling Toys blocks.
- Little Sapling Toys (LST) block towers with Calliope dolls on top.
- Making snowflakes with the LST blocks.
- Making Christmas trees with the LST blocks.
- Dr. Squeak using the LST blocks to diagnose injuries and other random illnesses with the Little Sapling Toys blocks.
- The girls gathering the LST blocks in small bags, riding their bikes in the yurt, and delivering the "toys" to Mom/Dad.
- Making LST block forts to hide from the Yurt Monster.
- Seeing if the LST blocks could land in a specific spot in the yurt, while being tossed from the top bunk. (No injuries were had. This was supervised entirely by a parent.)
- Creating LST blocks songs (tapping blocks and singing parodies) while it rained.
The beauty of the Little Sapling Toys block play was that it calmed my "mom mind." There are times on a husband-lead and Wonder-Woman-supported trip that balancing everything becomes a bit tiring for me. The block play was simple, but complex. It was one toy being used over and over and over again. Our girls' faces showed their joy in playing with them, as did their sounds and voices. The comfort of them playing eased a bit of the, "and it's raining more..." thoughts and "what's next..." Because, what was next was more play, more ideas, more imagination, and more laughter with a classic toy: LST blocks. It was more, "Wow! Whoever would have thought..." Or, "This is really fun!" observations as I played with our girls. It was also a bit more work time for my husband, which is often hard to come by when the girls are awake. As a bonus, the blocks packed so nicely into odd-space spots in the car. (You know, the spots under balance bike wheels where other items just will not fit, and yet, there's more gear that is needed to be packed).