Growing Community: Finding Joy

We don’t even know how to start this column right now — talk about how every week gets weirder than last week, when we thought that was the height of weirdness? Or start with being grateful for spending time with family over the holidays and looking at the bright side?

The crummy, no-good days seem to alternate with feeling OK and leaning-into-optimism days. So instead of any of the above, how about some ideas for this most bizarre holiday season? Kids First has put together an online collection of fun activities — we hope this creates some memories of spending family time together, and we are adding more every day as we come across new ideas (padlet.com/kidsfirstaspen/holidayplanning).

For starters, take advantage of our beautiful days and go outdoors. Children really enjoy using pinecones, seedpods, acorns and twigs to create original art. It could end up being a wreath or a bird feeder or just a creation. If you have little tea lights, you could incorporate them into your art; the battery-powered ones are inexpensive. You might just need some glue, string, some nut shells and fabric scraps, and you’re set.

There are ideas for virtual events, some that are local and some that aren’t — but it’s virtual, so it still works. The best part is when it’s streaming, you can watch on your schedule. For many of us, our families will be virtual this year, too, and with little ones that can be challenging. Now is the time to put on your performer face: share a favorite song. Yes that means actually singing, but young children don’t care how well you can sing. Or you could try new food together, but virtually. What about doing that craft project or even frosting cookies together, but apart?

One of our favorite indoor activities is making slime. It’s really not as icky as it sounds, and the kids love it. Our favorite recipe is simple: 6 ounces Elmer’s glue, one-half teaspoon baking soda and 1.5 tablespoons of contact lens solution (get a brand that contains boric acid and sodium borate). Mix the glue and baking soda in a bowl and slowly add the contact lens solution. Mix it slowly and adjust as needed. Mix and knead it together until it begins to harden into slime. Wash your hands before and after playing with slime and keep it in a plastic bowl with a lid.

We’re always looking at what else is going on in the community, and there are some fun things. The city of Aspen is hosting a free scavenger hunt — check it out on their website. There is an app to download, but the whole family can play, and I hear you get a cookie if you figure it out. We’ve also been encouraged by the “Colorado Spirit” section of the MindSprings Health website. It’s like an advent calendar, only with short video messages of resilience and gratitude. I just listened to “Connection – not perfection.” Yes, this has been one of those days. It does remind us, though, that sometimes doing a good thing for someone else is the best way to lift our own spirits. If you are able and have the time, shovel a walkway, drop a plate of cookies or a loaf of bread. Even a friendly hello might just make someone’s day. That someone might even be you.

We are just about out of good advice, but we do hope you are having a joyous holiday time with your loved ones, whether it was what you had planned or not so much. Take care of yourself, ask for help when you need it and give support when you can. Here’s to a new and improved year!

Growing Community, by Shirley Ritter, the director of Kids First, and Katherine Sand, the director of Aspen Family Connections, runs every other Wednesday in the Aspen Daily News. It features topics of interest related to early childhood, parenting and education. To reach the authors, email Shirley at shirley.ritter@cityofaspen.com or Katherine at ksand@aspenk12.net.

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