A reader named Chrissy wrote to me and asked how we entertain Isabella without TV or video games:
We build towers from a set of wooden blocks and laugh our heads off when the towers fall down.
Towards bedtime, we sit on the couch and listen to classical music on the crank-up radio and try to hum along. Isabella sucks her left thumb, and if she is feeling generous, she holds up her right thumb for me or Michelle to suck.
We sit on the steps to the neighboring building and talk to people walking by. Isabella chooses the particular step and says, “Sit here, Daddie.”
We walk around, going nowhere in particular, and Isabella shows me how she can run, moving a lot, in her toddler body, like the tin man before Dorothy gave him oil.
We dance and we dance and we dance.
We take turns giving Mommy kiss attacks.
I stick my finger under Isabella’s arm and leave it there till she says “wiggle it.” I do and we squeal with laughter.
We talk about all the things we can see and say hi to them all: “Hi cars, hi buildings, hi sky, hi trees, hi dog, hi lady…”
We ride over to the Hudson River Park where Isabella always walks to the rails and says, “Hello river, how are you?”
We play in the fountain in Washington Square Park, where Michelle worries that the water is too dirty but can’t help cracking up at Isabella’s joy.
We go to the new swimming pool for kids and their parents on Thompson Street in SoHo, where an 11-year-old boy keeps trying to get Isabella to give him a high-five but she just smiles because she is too shy.
We eat lots of grilled cheese sandwiches cut in long strips and I fruitlessly attempt to get Isabella not just to bite off the cheese and give the bread to Frankie the dog.
We make bread together, which means I make the bread, and Isabella stands on a chair and takes everything out of the kitchen drawers and drops it on the floor.
We cook together, which means I cook, and Isabella stands on a chair and takes everything out of the kitchen drawers and drops it on the floor.
We stomp the laundry in the bathtub together. “I’m splashing with my feet,” Isabella says.
We wash the dishes together. “You need my help, Daddy?”
We rough house on the bed together.
We ride aimlessly around on the No Impact Mobile (our tricycle with a back seat for Isabella), seeing what we can see and singing This Old Man if it’s sunny and The Old Man is Snoring if it’s raining.
We bang things really loud.
If Michelle isn’t there, we tell her things all the same and wonder if she can hear us in her mind.
We practice seeing who can scream the loudest.
We play hide and seek
We examine Isabella’s body for booboos and kiss them all.
We practice jumping really, really high.
“We go weee, weee, weee,” which is Isabella’s way of saying we go to the swings.
We go for a bike ride over the Brooklyn Bridge, and stop in the middle to look at the other bridges, which Isabella adores.
We go somewhere with Isabella’s best friend Hannah. When they greet each other, they hug each other really hard, lose their balance, fall over, and start crying. We then cheer them up by putting them side by side on the No Impact Mobile and ringing the bell a lot.
We put Isabella’s hair in pony tails and then she goes and shows them to “my sister Frankie”—the dog.
We play fetch with Frankie and Isabella laughs her head off.
We read books.
We call the grandparents—Nanna or Grannie or Poppie or Jojo or Poppa—on the phone and Isabella gets so excited that she talks too fast to get the words out.
And at bedtime, we sing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and a James Taylor song that starts “Well the sun is surely sinking down…”