Friday, May 20, 2011

on slates and old-fashioned entertainment

I must admit I've been a bit obsessed with these skirts. I started out making one for my older daughter. I was so delighted with how it turned out that I had to make one for her sister as well. Then, after Allyson's enthusiasm and suggestion to add a pocket for a little notebook and pencil, my imagination started running wild. I dreamed of the girls carting around charming little slates and slate pencils and doodling on them instead of Magna Doodles; pulling them out of their pockets to keep themselves busy at church, instead of filling in a coloring book's idea of what kids want to draw (unicorns dancing on clouds, for example).

My daughter and I have been making our way through the Little House on the Prairie book series. These books are delightful and inspiring in their simplicity. When I read to her about Laura and Mary, what little they had yet how rich their play was, she is enthralled. So am I. Allyson's post on simple games made me wish that battery-powered toys, computer games, and videos had never been invented. I thrill at wooden toys and toys that encourage open-ended play. I sometimes wonder if this obsession of mine has created an exaggerated yearning in my daughter for plastic toys. A four-year-old's version of rebellion?

And another thing: it's not only the quality of the toys my kids play with that concerns me, but also the quantity. Laura and Mary were brimming with happiness when they received a stick of candy, a heart shaped cake, and a penny in their stockings for Christmas. Laura cherished Charlotte, her rag doll. Her only doll. Perhaps even her only toy.

I've put a lot of energy into keeping in check the number of toys we acquire. Sometimes I wonder if I'm being unnecessarily controlling. Does not letting my kids have a room packed with toys make me a mean mom? And when my children declare their boredom, I have second thoughts about my principles. My daughter routinely begs for trips to the dollar store - she simply wants more stuff. Is this where Americans' obsession with having, getting, and buying begins? As children with little impulse control bombarded by store shelves lined with inexpensive plastic toys?

Is obsession too strong of a word? The number of companies devoted to helping us manage and successfully organize the excess we have makes me think not.

If I can somehow teach my children to enjoy and be content with a few well-chosen toys, will that spill over into their habits as adult consumers?

Back to my slate fantasy. Slates and slate pencils, it appears, are no longer made. I looked long and hard for them and only found a few antique slate pencils on Etsy and eBay, but nothing that would work for my purposes.

So I decided to make my own little chalkboards.
 And some little pockets to hold them.
The girls doodled on them happily.
Even wore them happily.
And then frolicked in the long shadows of the evening.


  1. these are great. where did you get slate? slate tiles at the hardware store?

  2. I didn't know you could buy slate - that would've been much better! These were masonite that I covered in chalkboard paint.

  3. Jennie, you write beautifully! You are passionate, articulate, and inspiring. I love reading what you write, and I really feel strongly that there is a venue out there which will make your writings available to more people. Perhaps I'm getting carried away, but I am so impressed with the message of this blog, and the clarity with which you were able to write.