Activties for new single mom and daughter?
September 27, 2010 8:22 AM   Subscribe

What activities can I do with a 4 year old to help her adjust to her new, single-parent home?

This week, I am moving with my 4-year-old daughter out of the house I share with my husband. We are separating, and probably divorcing, though we are struggling through counseling right now. It is fairly amicable so far, though he is very opposed to the separation. I will have her by myself this weekend for the first time in the new house. I have painted her room a color I know she will love (she chose it herself w/out knowing why I was asking her about colors) and have set her room up to be very special and "hers." I have fears of us (not just her, US) rattling around in the house, being freaked out by this new place. What kinds of things could I do with her this weekend to settle in and make the place our own? To make it seem like an adventure and a nest with just the two of us rather than an empty, echo-y hole of sorrow? If we were dogs we'd pee in all the corners to claim the territory. Can anyone suggest activities that won't lead to strange odors and lost security deposits? Thanks.
posted by staggering termagant to Human Relations (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Could you have a little party to christen the new place? Maybe make her favorite food for dinner, play her favorite board game, watch her favorite movie?

If you have some extra cash, maybe you could go shopping and let her pick out some things to decorate?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:26 AM on September 27, 2010

Bake cookies together, some kind of cookie you both love.
posted by alms at 8:34 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Picnic on the floor, measure and mark her height (and yours!) on the kitchen doorframe, go for a walk in the neighborhood, paint your toenails together, add something new to your bedtime-reading ritual. Remember that to her it's just another place, she doesn't have the attachment to the old place/life that you have and she will pick up on your anxiety/emotions with regard to the changes. The more relaxed and matter-of-fact you are about it, the better for both of you. She may have questions about "where's daddy" and "why don't we live in the old house anymore" but mostly they're just questions and she will accept your answers.
posted by headnsouth at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Maybe plant some flowers or do something (gah, wrong time of year, I know, but you could improvise?) to where you work on the place together to make it your own?
posted by lemniskate at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: Treasure hunt with a map to follow, puzzles, and challenges. Some of the challenges can include "give a special name to this room", make a drawing for this room, make up a story for this room (whatever she likes to do as the type of task). Throw in tiny prizes after she finds the next clue.

But if she is racing through the house exploring it and finding prizes, how can that not be fun?
posted by Wolfster at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

On the 'give a special name to this room' angle -- my aunt had a room in her house called the Duckless Room. And you would ask why it was the Duckless Room, and she would point out that there were no ducks in it.

The fact that there were no ducks in any room of the house was not important.

But everyone became attached to it being the Duckless Room, and when she tried to change the name last year, we all protested. Our ages range from 20-50, BTW.

Rooms with silly names = good thing.
posted by MeiraV at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

I know my four-year-old would love a dance party, which means the two of us dancing in the kitchen to music she loves.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2010

> Maybe plant some flowers or do something (gah, wrong time of year, I know, but you could improvise?)

I don't know about where the OP lives, but around here it's bulb planting time -- which is something little kids are good at helping with.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2010

Decorate the front steps and driveway with chalk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:11 AM on September 27, 2010

Let her know it's okay to be sad and miss daddy.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2010

i just want to (very kindly and gently) suggest that your fears for her discomfort may be your own projected.... i've found most little kids (even my own) to be very resilient and easy going with regard to changes in environment. the best thing i can think of is do whatever you would normally do. Be normal in the new place, hence life is still normal, just differently located.

/end 2 cents

good luck to you in a difficult time.
posted by chasles at 9:18 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, do stuff she likes together. Let her help decorate, make food, take photos of yourselves being goofy in the front yard and put them up in your bedrooms, get a stuffed buddy to be her roommate, explore the whole entire house together.

You need familiar sounds and smells and such - don't change your detergents or other cleaning products for a while, make sure she has a blanket or two from the old house. You also need to create new memories and patterns, stuff that appropriately acknowledges the fact that this is "new" as well as "ours." Check out the traditions question from last weekend; maybe have a "last Mondays of the month are now Pickles and Pictionary night" thing that starts today. And MeMail me if you do that Roman feast thing, because I am very attached to the idea.
posted by SMPA at 9:37 AM on September 27, 2010

You could get out of the house and explore your new neightborhood. Nothing's more of a downer than sitting inside all day.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:05 AM on September 27, 2010

Bath stuff! Bath crayons, toys, cups, etc. She can literally make her mark on the bathroom walls with some bath paints, etc. Maybe combine new toys with her old bath toys and make sure she has a special spot/bin for them in the new bathroom. Hopefully you have a tub/she likes baths...

Also, maybe paint one wall of her room in black, chalkboard paint so she can draw on that wall... Easy clean up and fun for playmates too.

Good luck. You making the effort to make this easier for her will help a lot. I bet she knows you're trying, and don't neglect what you need to make the space your own too.
posted by ShadePlant at 10:13 AM on September 27, 2010

First, a bit of reassurance: when my daughter was four, we moved into our own place for the first time. Prior to that, we'd lived in shared housing and with my parents. I was worried and stressed, and you know, she was totally fine. She thought it was a great adventure.

That said, it's probably not a bad idea to be prepared in case yours *isn't* totally fine.

Sometimes when my now-seven-year-old's having a rough week, we make a literal nest. We go to the supermarket and spend about $20 buying whatever she wants--mashed potatoes from a package, Doritos (ew!), candy bars, gross supermarket sushi, whatever. Then we go get a movie, either rental or something from the $5 bin at WalMart or Target. Then we go home and we get in my bed, and we pull up all the blankets that we can find, and we hang out in bed and eat horrible food and watch movies until she's tired of it. It's hard to be sad and scared when you're having a party in mom's bed, you know?

And I'd second getting out and exploring your new neighborhood. "Ooh, this is our new park! Let's swing on the swings and explore the path over there!" And then you can move on to "Ooh, we have to pick a new ice cream place! There are three of them, so we'll have to come back every weekend until we decide which one we like best." My kid loves shopping, so "Ooh, our new shoe store!" or "Ooh, our new supermarket!" work pretty well with her, too. "Ooh, our new movie theater!" has potential, as well.
posted by MeghanC at 9:11 PM on September 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you guys so much. These are all great suggestions and give me hope and optimism at a time when I sorely need it. Y'all are the best, bless your hearts.
posted by staggering termagant at 6:53 AM on September 28, 2010

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