Last night I was in the kitchen throwing dinner together. Hubby wasn’t feeling well and had come home from work and headed straight to bed. I was desperately trying to keep the volume level on the kids down to a dull roar, while simultaneously finishing up dinner. Both kids had had a rough day at school for various reasons, neither of them were in the best mood, and they kept bickering. I knew I needed a distraction, and suddenly an idea popped into my head, “Do you guys want to play Mom’s Clues?”
Gracie stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me with mouth agape, and I thought, “Uh-oh, here it comes. We haven’t played in months. The kid’s eight, and she’s probably no longer interested in playing a made up game based off a TV show for preschoolers.” However a second later she started hopping up and down, squealing with excitement. “I’ll go get the mom prints!” and ran out of the room yelling for her little sister to join her. (Yeah, so much for the whole being quiet thing).
It’s been awhile since we’ve sat and watched Blue’s Clues. These days my daughters are more into streaming Yo-Kai Watch and My Little Pony. However, when my girls were just a tiny bit younger they had a serious Blue’s Clues addiction. It was one of the shows they would constantly request, one of the ones they loved enough that I attempted to track down DVDs of the various episodes, and when we first subscribed to Netflix this was one of the shows we were most excited to discover we could watch entire seasons of at a moment’s notice.
One day, when my elder daughter Grace was about four years old I came up with the idea of playing a real life version of Blue’s Clues with her. If you’ve ever watched the show you’re likely familiar with the premise. The live action host Steve (or in later seasons his brother Joe) lives in a cartoon world with his dog Blue. Steve talks with Blue and while the dog never speaks per say she does answer in a sort of humming grunty kind of way. Each episode is framed around Steve trying to figure out what Blue is telling him today as he wanders through their cartoon house, or sometimes out in the backyard or around the cartoon neighbourhood, in search of blue paw print shaped clues.
I’ve got a great deal of respect for Blue’s Clues. Despite the repetitive pattern, and the fact that I’ve now seen each and every episode at least a dozen times, the show has a relatively low parental annoyance factor, high educational value, and has been ridiculously well loved by my kids (also, as someone who did baby signing with her infants, I’ve always loved that Blue’s Clues incorporated ASL into the show).
If you’ve seen the show even half a dozen times, or if like me you’ve got Blue’s Clues enamoured little ones and have endured approximately a bazillion episodes, you’ll likely remember the little song they sing each time which goes something like “To play Blue’s Clues we got to find a pawprint! And that’s our first clue! Then we put it in our notebook! Cause they’re whose clues? Blue’s Clues!” Rinse and repeat until they’ve found all three clues and then it’s time to sit down in our thinking chair and think… think… think. ‘”Cause when we use our minds, and take a step at a time, we can do… Anything… That we wanna do!”
So, as I was saying, one day when Grace was three or four years old I came up with the idea of playing Mom’s Clues. We traced my hand onto some construction paper and cut out three handprints… and, well, I think you can likely guess the rules to this game.
To play Mom’s Clues you’ve got to find a Mom Print!
Yep. That’s right. I hid my three “mom prints” around the house and then followed my little sleuth around as she found each one and attempted in wobbly scribbles to copy it’s location into her scrap paper notebook. Then she would retire to her thinking chair and try to puzzle out what the clues I had left her meant. Once she figured out the answer we would go and do whatever the clues indicated. Flash forward to four years later and surprisingly we’re still playing.
The best part about playing Mom’s Clues is that it makes my kids excited about doing mundane everyday things, and to segway from one activity to another. When we first started playing one of my favourite sets of clues were variations on pillow, blanket and book, which my preschooler quickly figured out meant nap time. The first time I tried this I was shocked by how well it worked. No naptime struggles, just a kid that was excited to have figured out her clues and determined to move on to whatever activity they prescribed.
|Etc, etc, etc. The sky’s the limit, the variations are endless.
Eventually we made a set of much smaller handprints, based off of tracing my daughter’s hand, and we would swap off taking turns leaving clues for each other. Her clues usually added up to an invitation to play with her, to view a certain set up she’d made, or to read her a story. As her little sister grew older we added a third set of clues to the mix. Deciphering which tiny handprint was which could sometimes be difficult, at first we went with colour sets, and we later changed it from hand prints to icons. As it stands right now we’ve got Mom Prints, and wee Rainbows and Rockets (based off of my girls nicknames).
One of the other things I like to do, and this one takes a bit of pre-planning, is when you need some quiet time to work on a big project, or say just finish cooking dinner in peace, you can set up clues that will lead to a set up of quiet toys to play with, a half built lego castle, dinosaurs or action figures having an epic battle on the front room floor or a surprise new Hot Wheels car, anything that will delight and distract.
And while I fully expect sometime soon the novelty will wear off, apparently today is not that day.
Today I direct the kids to go sit in the bedroom while I put the clues out; in the toy bin with the rubber boat, inside the hall closet in the stack of washcloths, on the back of Rocket’s bedroom door where her bathrobe hangs. I’ve bought myself a good ten minutes of them scrambling around the house searching for my clues and trying to draw them on their note paper. The big kid senses the pattern right away, but little sister hasn’t quite caught on yet. “You better sit down in your thinking chair and think, think, think.”, I hear Grace directing Gigi. I hear the sound of paper crumpling and more low muttered voices until finally the six year old yells out triumphantly, “Mama is it bath time?” A moment later I have two kids hooting and hollering and jumping up and down with glee because yes indeed, they solved the clues and figured out it’s bath time. Woot!
Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, and as such I am compensated to provide thoughts and suggestions about what’s streaming on Netflix. As always my words and opinions are my own.