I’m a very rules-oriented person. Thinking outside the box isn’t something I do well. If I’m cooking, I need a recipe that I will follow to the letter. If it calls for cream of chicken, but I only have cream of celery? The thought that I could just substitute it will short circuit my brain because that’s not the recipe! (I know. I’m adorable to live with.) Since becoming a parent, I’ve really tried to loosen up and be more discerning about the rules I follow, because a lot of them are arbitrary and for the convenience of someone else. But if it’s how I’ve always done things, it’s hard to turn that around. In fact, there are some rules and routines that are so ingrained, I’m actually shocked at the idea that I could do things differently, so it’s something I’m always working on.

I try to say yes to my kids more than no, which is a challenge, because my initial reaction is often NO, thanks to all those crazy rules.

“Can we dump this bucket of sand down the slide?”

My instinct is to say no. The rule is: sand goes in the sand box.

But why not? Why not let them dump the sand down the slide? Yes, it will probably make a mess. And there may be less sand in the sand box to play with next time. But, what a great way to learn that lesson, right? Truly, where’s the harm?

So, I let the kids dump the sand down the slide.

And I let them play with rice, even though rice is food and food is for eating. Folks, I even colored it for them.

Phoebe can't wait to play with the colored rice!

I followed the how-to at Powerful Mothering, but the idea totally came from my friend who has always had some colored rice on hand for the kids to play with every time we’ve been to her house. And my kids remember this. They call her house The Fun House.

I want to have a Fun House.

Orange is her favorite.

Phoebe could hardly wait for it to dry so she could stick her hands in there. And yes, I’ll confess, when she gave in to temptation, I stopped her and starting sorting the rice she mixed together grain by grain back into their respective containers. I have no idea why I did this. I heard myself say, “Oh, no! You mixed them up! We’re not ready to mix them, yet. It’s not time to start!” And in the middle of that knee-jerk reaction, I had a thought. “Wait. Why do we have to wait? We don’t have to wait. You know what? Go ahead! Play!”

Yesterday, we took it outside and did just that.

Colored Rice Play

Even the big kid couldn’t resist playing.

Even the big kid can't resist!

Lucy plays with colored rice.

Playing with colored rice.

Funnel fun

“Hey Mom…

Jackson and Julia

Do you think Jackson would like to play in it? We could put his feet in it or something.”

Jackson's foot in colored rice.