Deployment is hard to comprehend as a child (if I’m honest, as an adult too). The ability to see the big picture (including the difficult concept of time) is more challenging to explain to my sweet three-year-old. She just knows she misses her Dad and that he is “at work for a long time”. One way that helps her understand that her Dad is gone and aid in her coping in a positive way, have been crafts and projects for her father.
You can afford to be creative with these six crafts and projects. Check out what we are doing to help with the adjustment of having a loved one far from home:
Calendar: The concept of time is tricky for young kids, and it is nice to have a visual of the days passing and events to look forward to. You can use a month by month wall calendar, a large dry erase board- or a calendar typically used for classrooms (I purchased one form the dollar spot in Target). My daughter enjoys removing the number from each day that passes.
Paper Chain: I like this idea for shorter deployments. For our family, the thought of stapling over 150 paper rings together was too daunting. But this is a great visual representation of the days passing (and very satisfying to take down!) Here is a quick how to chain tutorial.
Deployment Countdown Kiss jar: Almost as good as a daily vitamin, this Hershey's kiss treat starts the day off on a sweet note. This is also a great way to visualize the time passing and it is easy to add or subtract “kisses” as the homecoming dates fluctuate. If chocolate isn’t your preference, substitute you favorite sweet treat.
Memory tree: Opposite of the paper chain and kiss jar where something is removed each day, you and your family add to the skeletal structure of a tree each day. In the end, you have a tree full of leaves filled with a daily memories and antidotes for the deployed parent to enjoy when they get home.
Photo projects: My girls have loved the photo projects where they can “see” their Dad’s picture. You can make a photo pillow case using iron on photo paper. If you are less “crafty”, you can order a photo pillow like this (no ironing required)! We also printed out 4x6 prints of the kids with their dad and photos of their dad at work to put into a cheap plastic photo album (so far this has lived through spills and some teething action). Lastly, I have been sharing a #PicADay on my Instagram account set up to print through a service called Chatbooks-who prints an album automatically when you reach 60 pictures, and have it shipped directly to my husband on the ship (they ship FREE to APO/FPO addresses)!
Paper hug: One of our favorite deployment Books, The Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski, suggests making a “hug” to send with the deployed parent. My daughter had fun putting this together and sending to her dad in a care package (Warning it is hard to read the book without getting a little teary eyed).
Along with the crafts above, we try to have a care package box out so that my daughter can add some of her coloring, drawings or “treasures” (aka things she finds in the back yard) to the box whenever she pleases. These things are budget friendly and encourage your child’s creativity to shine. Including your kids in these activities will help them have a little fun associated with the deployment.
What crafts and projects helped your kids better connect to your loved one during a deployment?
About the Blogger: Briana Hartzell is a Navy spouse, mother to two beautiful girls (3 years and 1 year), a former full time USAA employee and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Briana writes at Being Briana, a blog focused on the joys that military life and parenthood can bring.