We were on the drive in to school yesterday when my kindergartener piped up from the back seat, “Hey, Mom, how to zippers work?” I mean, really, I get countless questions like these throughout the week, sometimes to a point that drives me crazy. I opened my mouth to give him an answer and then stopped myself.
It was the simplest question to answer. But that’s what sparked my realization that it was time to stop rattling off meaningless answers and find a way to set up a simple exploration at home that night. So instead of getting his answer, my son was promised some answer-finding later that night.
When my lunch break came around that day, instead of scrolling my Instagram feed or shopping the latest Nordstrom sale, I set to work finding some simple ways we could explore more about zippers. I got in my car, drove over to the craft store down the street and stocked up on a handful of zippers from the sewing department/ I made sure to grab a variety of sizes and colors because I wanted my son to challenge his thinking about what makes a zipper a zipper.
When I got back to work, I hopped online to find a couple of resources about zippers and also the letter z (hey, no reason the 3-year-old can’t get something out of this too :). I love Wonderopolis as a free space for kids to learn about the world around them and they had a great article about zippers. Design Squad also had a fun video about zippers. I also found that my library’s subscription to Scholastic’s Teachables had some great downloads in the form of letter-formation practice, a zipper-rubbing zebra craft, and some printable books about the letter z.
I wasn’t sure how ambitious I was going to be by the end of the day, but this zipper pouch project caught my eye (which we ended up making and they are awesome). In the matter of a lunch hour, our after-school investigation was ready.
On our drive home, I asked my son if he was ready for his zipper challenge. His first task was to find at least 5 different objects around the house that had zippers. He then made a comparison chart about what was the same and different about all of the zippers. By doing this, he analyzed what is an absolute must for zippers and what are the more decorative features that vary from zipper to zipper.
Then the kids played around with the zippers from the craft store, they had a great time examining them closely while we read the article and watched the clips I had saved. My daughter wanted to decorate the letter z, which I cut out of construction paper. She had a great time using pompoms, googly eyes, and paint sticks to make her z more personalized. While she got in her fine motor practice, my son read some of the Teachables books and practiced writing the letter z. This gave me the time I needed to put dinner together and unload the dishwasher without sticking them in front of the TV.
I could’ve just told my son how zippers work, but instead, we had fun together, great dialog, and screen-free learning with hardly any preparation on my part. It’s so easy for us to overlook the simplest learning opportunities to incorporate at home. It’s simple to answer the basic questions. But what if instead of always thinking about meeting our children’s needs immediately, we look for the moments where answers can wait? How can we think differently and look for ways to work toward the answers that encourage curiosity, creativity, and independence?
It’s okay to make our kids wait for answers. Waiting instills patience and it’s the anticipation that can make the inquiry more exciting when it happens. I know I’m looking forward to doing more of these explorations with future questions because, with the minimal cost and effort on my part, we gained so much from our time together. More importantly, I know with time, my kids will realize that they, too, have the power to find answers to their burning questions…so maybe someday I’ll get those 2-minute, question-free moments back to myself.
How do you answer the questions that your kids come up with? Have you found ways of empowering your kids with the confidence to find information or create a family mindset of problem-solving together? Or, have you ever tried something like this and it was a complete disaster? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below because knowing what does and doesn’t work in your homes is the best place to start in planning strategies and tips to share with you in the future. If you share some of your own family explorations on IG don’t forget to tag me @BecauseofJericho because I not only love to see what’s going on in your own home but I also would love to share it back out in my stories.
If you’re interested in designing your own explorations for your family but don’t know where to start or feel like you’ve already tried it all, this guide will be the perfect fit for you! Be sure to download it, as well as catch my video over on IGTV that shares some insight into my own process for the zippers exploration I created for my own kids.
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Mom life is complex,
but it doesn't have to be complicated.
LET'S SIMPLIFY THINGS.