Hurricane’s a-coming!

It’s been a while since we had to prepare to ride out a hurricane up here in Rhode Island.  Right now I’m making a list of what we’ll need to have on hand – bottled water, bread, peanut butter, flashlights & batteries, books, sharpies, cardstock, pool noodles, story cubes … what, is my list a bit different than yours?  Maybe that’s because I keep thinking about what my kids are going to be doing while the storm blows outside.  Since I don’t want them to spend the whole day on the computer/Wii/tv and they won’t be allowed to play outside (obviously), I’d like to have a few ideas in mind to head off the inevitable laments of “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”

Maybe this sounds like a good idea to you, too.  So while you’re gathering provisions for this weekend’s summer storm, remember to include a few supplies for some simple yet fun arts activities for your family:

Reading aloud together can be an entertaining way to pass the time (especially if you really put a lot of personality into it!).  It’s also a good way to distract your more fearful kids away from their anxiety about the storm, and it gives older kids a way to revisit favorite stories from their younger days.  Outstanding read-alouds include Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty Macdonald, and Scumble by Ingrid Law (and also her first novel, Savvy). 

When your kids start to get antsy, fort-building is a classic activity that all ages can enjoy.  You can use the traditional chairs-and-sheets method of fort construction, or you can bring in those pool noodles and build a more modern boots-and-noodles framed structure (curves, anyone?).  Just present your kids with an assortment of materials (sheets, pool noodles, boots and/or adult sneakers, wide-width painter’s tape, clothespins, etc.) and let your kids find their own way using their imaginations.  Need a hint? put the ends of the noodles in the boots and voila! you’ve got an arch – and look here for more inspiration!

Another perennially pleasant way to pass the time together is to look at old family photos.  Before the hurricane hits, dig out those boxes of photos from the days before digital cameras, the ones you haven’t yet put into photo albums (we all have them).  Kids of all ages enjoy looking at old photos of themselves and their family – and to bring some humor to the day, dig out the photos of your teenage self and laugh as they marvel at your total lack of cool. 

Telling stories about “the old days”  is often inspired by looking at old photos.  Another of our favorite storytelling inspirations is Rory’s Story Cubes (pictured above), a little orange box positively brimming with fun!  Inside are nine 6-sided dice with a different picture on each side.  You take turns rolling the dice and making up a story using the nine pictures that come up – playful entertainment for the whole family!  I love the line printed on the front of the box, “let your imagination roll wild!”  Rory’s Story Cubes is definitely a gift worth giving to your kids, but for this weekend you can easily make your own – in fact, this is a craft project that can occupy your kids for a good long stretch of time while the hurricane rages.  All you need is some cardstock or Bristol board or similar sturdy paper, a pencil, a ruler, a couple of Sharpies (or washable markers, depending on your kids), scissors, Scotch tape or a gluestick, and this folded box templateTip: draw your pictures on the paper BEFORE you begin your cutting, folding, and gluing. 

A hurricane is nothing to take lightly of course, and we should all make the necessary preparations for the safety and well-being of our families and homes.  That said, I also know I don’t want to spend the day dealing with whining, complaining,  and quarreling kids!  Time will tell, but I’m hoping these arts activities will inspire us to find a little fun while we ride out the storm!

So, You Think You Can’t Dance?

Join Blithewold in Bristol for a six-week series of Latin Ballroom dance lessons!  Have fun, get some exercise, and meet new people!  Learn how to ballroom dance this summer with Joe and Mary Souza . The Souzas have been married for 50 years, have been dancing since they were teenagers, and have been teaching since the 1970s.  The class will cover a new style of dance each week, salsa, cha-cha, merengue, and tango.  Singles, couples, and groups of all ages are welcome.  Classes meet on Monday evenings from 6:30pm – 7:30pm, beginning August 22nd and continuing through September 26th.  The series costs $90 per person ($80 for members) or $150 per couple ($140 for member couples).  Drop-in for $20 ($15 for members); drop-ins must pay at the door.  Visit Blithewold’s website to find out more.

rainy day project: My Heart is Like a Zoo

This book by Michael Hall is one of our favorite finds from the library this summer, so much so that it’s made our “Must Buy” list.  We are a family of animal-lovers, and the simple, vibrant graphics and rolicking verse make this book a real treat for all ages.  It’s also an interactive book in the best sense – inspiring kids to use their imaginations to come up with all sorts of ways to arrange the ‘heart’ shape into artistic compositions, animal or otherwise.  You don’t even have to have the book on hand to be inspired – just visit My Heart is Like a Zoo’s website to watch the animals come to life!

I’ve been waiting for a rainy day this summer to pull out my tall stack of colored paper (always sure to elicit “oooohs” and “aaaahs” from the kids) and hand them the scissors, re-reading My Heart is Like a Zoo aloud to remind them of the humor and cleverness of the artist: 

“My heart is like a zoo … Brave as a lion, thoughtful as an owl, peaceful as a portly walrus lounging on a towel.” 


Recalling the lesson learned from the toddler who would rather play with the empty birthday present box, sometimes the simplest projects are the most engaging.  My kids, (even with 6 years between them) happily cut out shapes from colored paper and put them together in varying configurations for HOURS.  At first we mimicked Michael Hall and limited ourselves to heart-shapes, but the kids, always more daring than I, soon began to cut out star shapes and jagged shapes and whatever else their imaginations could come up with. 

My favorite surprise is a narrow, curvy Christmas tree topped with an enormous star that my eldest held out to show me in the palm of his hand, and the strikingly simple log-on-fire my youngest proudly presented to me – if I put them together we’ve created a lovely Christmas card to send out this year.  For now we’ve arranged a rainy day gallery on our window ledge that adds a smiling spot of color to the view today – in fact I don’t mind the rain one bit!

Children’s Summer Theater

UPDATE- there will be no “Seussical, Jr.” this summer after all here on the East Bay – due to a schedule overlap, the Rhode Island Youth Theatre (RIYT) opted to cancel its children’s theater program for the East Bay, so as not to compete with the Bristol Theatre Company’s summer production of “Annie, Jr.” 

We commend RIYT for their magnanimous decision, and we turn our attention to the excitement that’s building for the Bristol Theatre Company’s upcoming performances.  Opening night of “Annie, Jr.” is Friday, August 12th at 7pm, with additional shows scheduled for Saturday, August 13th at 2pm and 7pm, and Sunday, August 14th at 2pm.  Performances will be held at Mt. Hope High School on Chestnut Street in Bristol.  General Admission tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and children 12 and under); Reserved Seating tickets are $20.  For more information, and to purchase tickets, call the Bristol Theatre Company box office at 401-237-0320.

a beach, a book, a balmy day

photo by Jenny Rollo

Tired of your light and carefree beach reads?  Take a look at this list of classics posted on Today’s Back to School page, and finish off your summer vacation with a great read, guaranteed. 

All ten books are available at one or both of our local public libraries, and you can buy (or order) them at A Novel Idea Booksellers on State Street in Bristol.