A Free Kids' Activity: Little to No Effort for Me and Loads of Fun for Them

Chad Riddersen

Posted on April 09 2012

We had a family brunch at an Italian restaurant this weekend, and two people in our group ordered Linguine al Pescatore, a rustic seafood stew with calamari, shrimp, prawns, clams, mussels, and of course, linguine.  A random sound grabbed the attention of my daughters - the clanking of the mussel and clam shells against the bowl as they were quickly being consumed and discarded.

A barrage of questions ensued . . . what are those? are they alive? can I take them home? - Take them home?  Having just had a parent - teacher conference the day before, I immediately thought, "what would their teachers do?"  They [the amazingly patient and attentive preschool teachers] would somehow turn this into a lesson.  Now, I wasn't ready to plan and execute a lesson on molluscs and crustaceans, but I agreed to get a doggy bag for the empty shells and toted them home.

That afternoon, I filled a bucket with water and dish soap, gave them some sponges, towels, and old toothbrushes, and let the girls have at it.  They had the time of their lives washing these shells!  I kid you not, they were scrubbing away at those shells for almost an hour, chatting and laughing the whole time.

Isn't it amazing how simple children can be?  They find happiness and joy in the most mundane things.  As parents, some days feel eternal and no toy in the house captures the kids' interest for more than 5 minutes.  Take a moment to look around you, because you may be able to make magic happen with the most random things.

Here are two simple ideas inspired by this shell-washing activity:

1.  Put some rocks in a bowl or on a cookie sheet, let the kids paint the rocks, and give them spray bottles to wash and repeat.

2.  Prewash some berries, give your child a small bowl of water and a colander to wash, strain, and enjoy!

If you have any more ideas, please share!

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  • lollacup: July 02, 2015

    This will definitely extend the life of the shells. My daughter actually spotted the shells on the counter a week later and started to draw on them with markers. These shells are amazing.

  • Cathy Raymond: July 02, 2015

    We put a variety of shells in the sand table with buckets and shovels at the preschool I work at or they could also make a collage using a variety of shells and other natural materials

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