My youngest child just started school in the same building as her older brother and sister. Hallelujah! Only one PTA meeting to feel bad about missing every month, only one school asking us for more than we can give. It's simplified everything. The trick is that, now, she has to leave with them in the morning. No more packing them off to big kid school while we laze around in pajamas only JUST starting to consider what we want for breakfast, and what we should wear for the day. It puts a little more pressure on bedtime, and it puts a little more pressure on establishing some solid routines. Throwing out nighttime television (shhh unless the Mets are on) and morning television is a good beginning for us. Our little girl cannot tell time but 'after Dora,' and 'one more Backyardigans' has felt a little bit like 'I'm staying up til 8,' and 'I'm not going to bed til 8:30.' So cutting out those thirty minute chunks of time that eat away at her bedtime so easily seemed right. That left us with the question--well what are we going to do after dinner then? (Some of you will shudder as you struggle to answer the same question, and others will shudder at how ridiculously tv-centered our lives must be that we'd even have to ask it). Here's what we do: we do a lot of drawing, and then when the little one goes up to bed, we break out the board games she doesn't have the stomach for (she actually cheats at Candyland so we figure she's not ready for the hard stuff yet). So it was fun to be able to offer my kids the new and exciting Crayola True to Life stuff. Crayons, markers, and pencils, each with a tri-colored tip. I'm guessing the True to Life series gets its name from the idea that, in nature, no green is just plain green, no blue, just plain blue. In each case, there are a handful of obviously related colors (yellow/red/orange) and surprising combinations (purple/orange/red). The names of these blends are stunning--Maui Sunset, Grand Canyon, Yosemite Campfire... And we've all really enjoyed drawing with them. If we had to pick a favorite, we'd choose the crayons. There's something about the texture of the crayons and the blending of the colors that goes more hand in hand than in the case of the markers. Markers seem to me to be a bit more specific. If you want to color in something with a marker you tend to feel strongly about the color you choose. But with crayons, you get that kind of scrubbly texture anyway, and the colors don't tend to be as pure. So the subtle surprises in the crayons are slightly more satisfying than with the markers. A circle filled in with Amazon Rainforest (three green shades) with the marker creates a kind of schizophrenic disk of scribbled lines, yet in the case of the crayon, you end up with something that looks like a lemon that isn't ripe, with some extra greenness at one tip. In that instance, the True to Life series really does earn its name. As an art teacher, the only drawback I can see is that some children know exactly what color they want something to be, and don't feel very flexible about variations on that idea. Young children can be much more rigid in their expectations of their artwork than grown-ups tend to think they'd be. That said, I could see using the True to Life series in many different types of art projects--designs with watercolor washes on top, invented flowers and fruits, or anything else where the surprises would be welcome. And in one final nod to the markers, I'm looking now at a 'board game' that my four year old just created this evening using them. Long intersection lines form the boxes that the pieces travel in, and there's something really lovely about how the gold turns into purple and the purple turns into olive green, and there's something really interesting about what happens when those lines overlap. I'm not sure she has the sportsmanship to play this game any time soon, but games and drawing, and sometimes combining the two? Who needs TV?**
**stay tuned, we're only finishing our second week.