Eat, Play, Love

By Brenna O’Dea

Put the tablet away, it’s time to play. I’m not talking about the latest app or the most recent update on Angry Birds (is that game even cool anymore?). I’m talking about real life, hands on stuff. The good stuff. The creative stuff. The stuff that I, a millennial, used to do as a kid. Before there was “an app for that.”

I have heard parents of young children today joke about how their kids try to swipe their fingers across every flat surface they see. No, they are not checking the floorboards for dust, they think everything is TOUCH SCREEN. Kids are smart. They are sort of the perfect omniscient narrator of your lives (I’m talking to you, parents). Of course, the little ones cannot yet verbalize what they see, but they see it, they see it ALL. Parents, siblings, anyone and everyone spending hours upon hours swiping across those screens. Eyes glued…HAND CRAMPING.

Let’s take a step back. Let’s pause. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. A day devoted to just a lil’ extra lovin’ (and a lot more chocolate). We need to remind our children what it means to love each other, to connect with each other. Not through a screen or a speaker, but with our hearts and our minds. Of course, we are grateful for all that technology has done for us, especially in terms of education. We can research anything and everything related to healthy eating and cooking, and we can easily communicate with our wide network of amazing teachers and chefs in order to bring this information into the classroom. However, one of the reasons our teachers and chefs are so wonderful is because they go beyond the basics that you can find on the internet. They don’t just read their students a story about salmon fishing. They bring a whole, fresh fish into the classroom, break it down piece by piece, and invite every single child to smell, feel, and finally, TASTE that freshness for themselves.

This art of tactile learning, learning with all of your senses, has become somewhat lost on our youngest generation. Not by any fault of their own, not really by anyone’s fault at all. We must keep up with our rapidly modernizing society and part of this (a huge part of this) means bringing technology into nearly EVERY aspect of our lives. This is not all bad, but we believe that kids need and deserve so much more than what their screens can offer them. We want them to slow down, ask questions, create something new, try something new, whether that means literally trying a bite of fresh salmon for the first time, or trying out the Hunger Games series once they finish off Harry Potter.

These expressions of creativity, these opportunities to push yourself and your kids (or students!) beyond comfort zones can start in the classroom, and even right at home (preferably in the kitchen!). Instead of bombarding you with sweet n’ sugary recipes to whip up for your loved ones this year (hopefully you’ve already got plenty of those) we decided to share one simple way that you can encourage your little ones to step away from those screens and close those keyboards…FOOD. Okay, it’s not quite that simple…but it is something edible.

This recipe for EDIBLE PLAYDOUGH is so foolproof, even your two year old can pull it off…with just a little help measuring. This particular recipe calls for peanut butter as the base, but you can certainly substitute a non-nut alternative for an allergy friendly version. Sunflower seed butter will work wonders and nobody will know the difference. Wild Friends Foods even offers chocolate, maple, and honey varieties for even more sweetness n’ love. This recipe will already be pretty sweet on its own, with the other two ingredients being powdered sugar and honey. Plenty of recipes out there call for less sugar and the addition of some flour or cream of tartar, but this three ingredient bad boy definitely does the job.

So invite EVERYONE into the kitchen or around the toy table (don’t forget to put down a tablecloth for extra easy cleanup) and get to measuring and mixing! I have countless memories from my own childhood playing with playdough for hours on end. I remember feeling so free and excited every time I cracked open a new carton. I had the world at my fingertips. Not because there was a computer game there to guide me along, but because I had no guide at all. I could use my own two hands and the only SIM card I needed, my BRAIN, to create something beautiful, something entirely my own. We can’t forget the next step…learning to share…but learning to create is pretty important too.

And the most important lesson of all…LOVE. Give and take all the love you can wherever you go. Not just tomorrow, but every single day. Show love through words, hugs, high fives, dance moves, punch lines, playdough, food (our favorite, of course) and any other way you can dream of. Show love not just to your closest family and friends, but to new faces, unfamiliar faces, faces that look different than your own. Whether the gesture is big or small, the person young or old, act with love, act with kindness.

I’m not super into those cheesy, semi-inspiring quotes that we see floating around the interwebs CONSTANTLY…but sometimes there are people and there are words that stick with you and make your heart happy. Fred Rogers, or as I more fondly remember him, Mr. Rogers, is one of them, and he sums it up pretty damn well:

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

Wishing you all plenty of playtime and downtime this week (with a side of full hearts and full bellies).

(Image by flickr member rouncival licensed under Creative Commons)

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