As Alya’s learning to walk and getting more and more active each day (she’s currently 14 months-old), I realize she needs to channel her energy in a better environment outside home. The other reason is because I can’t stand the mess she makes when we’re staying all day at home. At the end of mostly every day, I will be tidying up the clothes she takes out from her cupboard, the medicines she takes out from the shelf, the refrigerator magnets she takes and spread out all over the apartment, the makeup she takes out from my cosmetic pouch, and the snacks she takes out from the box. For her, everyday stuffs are more interesting to be played than her toys (which can be counted by fingers).
They said that mess is a blessing. It’s kids’ nature to make it. Many many years later, when your kids have grown up and you see your house squeaky-clean, you will miss those days when the house used to be full-of-mess and full of kids’ sound. Still, I find a house in a mess a very disturbing view and it affects my mood greatly. That’s why I come to a decision that she needs to spend more time outside than before. I also have a little concern about her timid behavior around adults, even though she gets really enthusiastic every time she sees kids or listen to their sound. So, this will be a good chance for her to socialize better.
Thankfully, Pittsburgh has a lot of library scattered all over the neighborhoods, with a large children area in all of it. The nearest library is only one block away from our apartment so it’s even easier for us to go there regularly. Every Thursday morning, we join story time session for 30 minutes-1 hour in the library (which include singing, dancing and interacting with the storytellers) and spend the next 2-2.5 hours to play. We also make frequent visits on any other day, just to borrow or return various interesting children books. Lately she seems to be more interested in playing rather than joining the story time session so I just let her be, playing with various toys available in the library (from alphabets, trucks, cars, dinosaurs, and blocks), chasing other kids around, listening to me reading a book, or taking out board books from the shelves. This way, she spends her time in a healthier manner ’cause I still have difficulties setting her apart with TV, iPad and phone at home while I’m finishing various house chores.
Since the toys belong to the library, kids have to share it with each other. However, since the kids coming there are mostly older than my baby, she has just a little chance playing with the toys ’cause they are often got snatched away by other kids. I remember I told myself that I would not buy my kid a lot of toys, just so I have one less problem to worry about at home. Another consideration for that is because we’re only staying temporarily in the US (less than 2 years). But sometimes, us the parents are the one who can not resist the temptation for buying our children toys. Especially after seeing that my baby can barely play with any toys in the library, I can’t help but feeling pity for her. So, the next day, I buy her a toy school bus. The other day, my husband and I find a really cute stuffed animal and we’re both thinking that it’s such a pity (again) that our daughter doesn’t even own one. So, we also buy it for her, but turns out she likes her school bus better since she can push it around the house, so the stuffed animal remains sitting in her toys box, barely even touched.
As she grows up and observes various activities we do at home, she loses interests at her toys and shifts towards eating and kitchen utensils. She likes holding on to a spoon and imitate us eating or feeding her. Sure, it costs no money, but anything can suddenly turn harmful for a baby. Soon, I realize the fact that danger is lurking everywhere in all our apartment area because it is not sufficiently baby-proofed. Even though I always make sure that she always keeps her distance away from electrical cables and plugs, stove, oven, bathroom, or other potentially dangerous things, the risks are still there.
Fortunately, other than having many local libraries, Pittsburgh also has a lot of playground in every neighborhoods. There are about 3 playgrounds around 1,5 miles radius and the closest playground from our apartment is only 10 minutes walk and located strategically near our favorite coffee house. So, when she starts making a lot of mess around the house, plays with risky things and gets really cranky (me, as well), I take her outside to the park/playground. Now, she takes this as signal to take her outside when she feels stuffy at home. We go there regularly (at least twice a week) and more often after finding out that she likes swings very much and gets excited seeing other kids playing. As she’s still learning to walk, going to the park/playground also encourages her to take a few steps farther since kids are always running around happily there and she gets curious about her surroundings, from birds, slides, grass, leaves, flowers, stones, and many other things.
I’m glad that I have a chance to raise my kid abroad, particularly in the US. Aside from activities available in or by the library, there are also many others offered by various communities (for example Jewish Community Center and Kids + Pediatrics), free or with only little fee. With parks and playground all over the city, I can keep my kid busy and more active while at the same time encourage her to explore the nature. The Parks Conservancy here regularly hold various events in different parks for various ages from infant to elders. With all the activities offered here, my kid now prefers playing active games with me or my husband (chase, peek-a-boo, hide-and-seek, asks us to read her a book, etc.) and needs just a few toys to entertain her.
Even if she needs another, there is the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library, which provide hundreds of toys available to borrow for home use (I haven’t had the chance to explore it but hopefully soon). If she gets bored of all the toys and we can’t play with her at home or bring her outside, I let her take out stuffs again around the house and lastly, (though unfortunate but still mostly unavoidable for me) switch on TV and play kids songs. For sure, we will miss the ‘luxury’ of living here by the time we need to go back home, especially, the free and affordable activities for children as well parks and playgrounds close from home.
Cities in Indonesia are still far from this ideal condition, but we’re starting to move towards the right direction. Providing a healthy and safe environment for our children to grow up is a huge task and will need collective efforts, not only from the government but also all citizens. While hanging on that hope, I have started browsing various activities for children around Bekasi and Jakarta for later use, not free, of course, but at least there are quite a lot of options available though there’s usually a competition to get a slot. I also browsed various Instagram accounts selling educational books and toys then make a list on my laptop and note that I’m going to buy it for her later. There’s only a few decent parks, playgrounds, or green area in our city back home, Bekasi. It’s also hot and humid everyday so even adults (like me) prefer spending their free time indoor with cool air from AC. However, nowadays a lot of malls provide great outdoor areas for children to play, so this can be a win-win solution for children and their parents 😀
Well, I’m grateful that my daughter has the opportunity to grow up in a healthy environment here. Surely, we will make the most of it until the time comes for us to go home next year. Now, every time she notices me and my husband getting ready to go outside, she gets hysterical and super elated until we finally get outside 🙂