My Main Man Rupert

Meet Rupert.

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He’s a sock.

Well, he was a sock until he became a Rupert.

Now he’s a furry little guy who lives in my purse and comes out when there are children around to marvel in his magic.

I made him for an assignment in my Elementary Art Education class as a closing project. He is created from a sock, two googly eyes, some feathers, two cardboard triangles inside that provide structure to the mouth, and hot glue. Our teacher thought we could make them to take to our own classes one day and use as instructional tools. I might do that too, when the time comes, but in the mean time I have a better idea!

The kids I babysit love Rupert! He intrigues them in a way an ordinary toy couldn’t because he comes alive and interacts with them. The eighteen month old twins don’t understand that he is attached to my arm, or that it is my vocal cords that power his speech. All they know is that he is furry, he can tickle them, he talks, he moves all around, and he gives them lots of kisses!

On a car ride sitting in the back seat with children, out he comes.

When someone is fussy and can’t be consoled, out he comes.

I love that he is just a simple sock, too, because if I am using him to entertain one baby, and then the other baby gets into mischief (an extremely common and rapidly occurring event), I can quickly snatch her up or take a dangerous object from her hand while still wearing Rupert!

Sometimes Rupert comes on too strong, though. When the girls first met Rupert, they were interested in him, but also very confused and uneasy. He had to slowly gain their trust in order to acquire tickle and kisses rights- just like a person. Also, when kids first wake up is not a good time for Rupert to be excited or affectionate. Babies need their time and space to wake up, too!

If you’re looking for a fun activity to make with a child four years or older, I would suggest making a sock puppet with him or her! Make it a grand event with an important emphasis given to naming, creativity, and craftsmanship. You can develop a story of where your new friend came from and how they came to live with you. Pick a special place in the house where it will “live” and provide some washcloths or old baby blankets for a bed.

For younger children like the ones I watch, they can still appreciate the mystery of a sock puppet you make ahead of time and present to them. As a babysitter, I don’t leave Rupert at the kids’ house, but he does have a designated place where he can always be found- my bag.

If you are good at impressions, choose a funny accent to use when you are playing with your puppet. (I’ll admit I am inconsistent with Rupert’s voice. Sometimes he is a high pitched southern voice, sometimes he is a sophisticated Englishman.)

For children learning to read, use the puppet as a reading buddy! Reading aloud can help children build confidence, and an expert adult reader may seem like an intimidating audience. The child can slip their puppet friend onto their hand, find a quiet place, and read to their friend.

Some other ideas for how to use your sock puppet-

– For older children in an argument, your sock puppet can listen to both sides of the story and mediate conflict resolution.
– Your puppet can sing songs the children are learning (in a different voice than you normally sing it it) to reinforce the melody and words.
– The obvious way to use a puppet is to put on a play! You may have to show them first, but after a while older kids will be able to put on their own impromptu or even planned production.

Be creative and enjoy your puppet. I would LOVE to hear any other puppet use ideas, or different materials to make them with.

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Twin Problems

I hate it when bloggers apologize for not blogging and then offer excuses.

With that being said, sorry I have been neglecting this thing for a few days! End of semester art student portfolio reviews and finals time. Enough said.

So, I babysit sixteen month old identical twin girls. I’ve been with them almost a year, and I am pretty good about telling them apart now- most of the time.

We’ll call the girls Doodle and Belle.

Now usually the girls’ parents dress them a specific way to make it easier to quickly tell them apart (cheating, but very convenient). Doodle is usually wearing warmer colors like yellow, pink, or red. Belle wears cooler colors like purple, green, or blue. (As a side note, I don’t think their parents sat down with a color wheel to make this decision. That just goes to show the intuitive nature of art that I can classify their choice so easily). Of course these are just general guidelines- the girls have worn colors other than these before. Sometimes they even wear white onsies with their initial monogrammed on the chest in a very sophisticated little baby way. Yesterday, however, we ran into a little problem.

I arrived a little later than usual due to a morning appointment and the girls were already dressed. They were in tie-dye onsies friends and family had decorated at their baby shower before they were even born! Cute right? (Their mom prefers that tie dye be reserved for casual friday, but their dad likes to get them in it whenever he has the chance.)

I’m gonna paint the scene here:

So I walk in and the babies are running around, screaming with excitement that I had arrived, rushing over to hug me and be held before I even set my stuff down. They are awesome greeters. I attempted to tell them hello by name and ruffle their hair as I addressed them the way I usually do…. Except I couldn’t.

Which baby is which?!?!

I looked closely for a minute, made my guess, and asked their dad, “So this is Doodle and this is Belle?” (Trying to sound very confident in my guesstimating.)

He thinks for a moment, then says, “Ah, no actually I think this is Doodle and this is Belle.” (He is either very confident or very good at pretending to be confident.)

I look again… I still disagree. “Are you sure? I really think this one right here is Doodle.”

He says he thinks he’s sure and offers a solution. One baby has one less tooth!

So there we are, hanging babies upside down to get them to laugh and open their mouths so we can have a peek at their tooth count, and guess what? The baby with slower tooth growth has had a tooth growth spurt overnight and there is hardly any difference anymore. We get a little worried. We both lose our false sense of confidence in our guesses and look at each other confused.

All I can think is that I wish the girls’ mom was there because she can always tell her babies apart. She’s got that momstinct thing going on. (I’ll name her Madonna because I am an art history minor and I always picture her in paintings of Mary and Jesus and John.)

So the girls’ dad (I’m gonna go ahead and fake name him Bullet) comes up with an idea! Bullet suggests that we brush the girls’ teeth because “Belle loves it and Doodle hates it.”

Great idea! So we haul the babies to the bathroom. Baby one is presented with a loaded toothbrush and we wait anxiously to see what she does like the world watches that groundhog once a year. She takes it and begins happily brushing her teeth.

We have a small celebration that we have identified that baby as Belle, and just to prove the point, we present the second baby with her loaded toothbrush in order to observe the stark contrast.

She takes the brush and begins happily brushing her teeth.

What in the world??? We are laughing so hard at this point the babies probably think we are lunatics.

Bullet is especially annoyed because he and Madonna have to deal with Doodle’s defiance every night at teeth brushing time, and now that her defiance would actually be helpful she is cooperative.

Two strategies failed, we had one more hope- the ear bump.

Doodle has a small bump behind her ear that Belle doesn’t. It has been fading as she grows, but we felt just enough difference to identify her.

Whew!

Dear Madonna,
I am very sorry if this post is the first time you heard about this incident. We were very embarrassed. And for the record, Bullet was right all along.

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