Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
‘Tis the season for three things: hot tea, dark chocolate, and reading all the books we can handle. (Okay, okay, it might ALSO be the season for other things—giving thanks and making merry and wearing scarves, for example. But let’s focus on the books for a minute.)
Books were my own closest companions growing up, and I want to offer my kids a love of story and a tribe of fictional friends to call on whenever they need to. I want to invite them into worlds built entirely out of words, and I want them to enter into other people’s experiences through scenes and sentences.
Reading is incredibly powerful for deepening our empathy, and for shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. I want that for my kids.
And besides all that, I want my kids to look back and remember us reading together, all in the same space, sharing adventures between the pages.
Yes, we’re together all the time, but in our daily routines, a lot of that time is spent absorbed in our own separate projects. That’s good and important and necessary, of course. I just also want to fill us up with regular being-together-on-purpose time.
And yes, I would like to spend all day, every day curled up under a blanket on the couch. That would be ideal.
But my youngest kids have a hard time sitting still, because they are human children, and that is a common fact of human children. And without a little extra help, my teenagers have a tendency to get lured back into their own screens or math problems or whatever they were working on five minutes ago.
This can all make reading aloud challenging. But you know what? This—reading and being together—matters to me. This is what I want my kids to remember later. And sure, sometimes parenting means we have to let go of our grand ideas about what our days should look like—but sometimes it means finding a way to make things work.
So we keep trying. We read aloud, even if someone small wanders off in the middle.
Some days we have tea and cookies while we read. Some days one of the older kids takes a turn reading. Some days we break out the colored pencils and coloring books alongside our stories.
But lately, our best option has been… surprise! Fidget toys.
For us, there are three tricks to using fidget toys while we read:
One, we choose toys that don’t make a lot of noise while they’re being fidgeted with.
Two, we have to have enough fidgety things on hand that each kid can hold something at the same time.
And three, we only take these fidget toys out while we read aloud—both so that we don’t have a chance to get bored of them, and so they don’t get lost.
These are our current top picks. (And bonus: they all make excellent stocking stuffers.)
The Geoflux (afflink) is everyone’s absolute favorite thing to play with right now.
It looks kind of like a slinky that ate its own tail—it’s one long loop of metal twisted around and around, and when you put your arm through the center, the GeoFlux “flows” down your arm in the direction of gravity. We have one regular (arm) size, and one mini (finger) size, and these are what everyone reaches for first.
We like that the colored spheres in this Rainbow Fidget Spinner can be removed and rearranged in any order, plus it’s pretty. This is our only spinner, and it’s a good one.
A little bit like a Jacob’s Ladder toy, but in cube shape. This one bends my mind to watch. I like that it’s made of sturdy metal, and my kids like that you can keep folding it forever. (It is called an Infinity Cube, after all.)
A friend who teaches yoga showed my kids how to breathe in as they expand the mini Hoberman Sphere, and breathe out as they slowly collapse it. This one is perfect when someone needs to relax while listening.
So that’s what’s working for us right now. My kids get something to keep them busy, I get to read aloud, we all get lost in the story.
With tea and chocolate on the side. (Of course.)
Do you have any cool-but-quiet fidget toys to recommend? And how do your kids keep busy while reading aloud?
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