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Meaningful Mother's Day
and More (cont.)

...mom or grandma, even an older grandmother who might be in a care facility (a cozy sweatshirt can help keep her warm).

The idea is to make a shirt or apron covered in the handprints of mom or grandma's entire family -- children and grandchildren, spouse, parents. All generations can be represented.

Spread newspaper over your work area. Lay the shirt or apron front side up. If you're doing a T-shirt or sweatshirt, slip a sheet of cardboard inside to prevent the handprints from bleeding through to the back of the shirt.

Pour paint onto paper plates. Each person can choose their own color. Take a paintbrush and cover the palm and fingers of one hand with paint. For the best handprint, spread out your fingers and keep your hand still and firm as you press on the cloth. Then print or write your name underneath the handprint using a fabric pen.

Let dry. Heat-set the handprints according to the directions on the fabric paint package.


Color Me Flower

Connections: Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of flower pattern; wax crayons; scissors; cotton balls; vegetable oil; newspaper.

Doing It:

Even very young children can brighten Mother's Day for their mother or grandmother with this "stained glass" effect decoration. It can easily be mailed to a long-distance grandmother, and is ideal for hanging on the window of an older adult in a care facility or nursing home.

Use crayons to color in the flower pattern in a variety of bright, Spring colors. Cut out the rectangle.

Using a cotton ball, rub vegetable oil on the back of the rectangle. Lay the rectangle flat, crayon side down, on a pile of newspaper to dry.

Once dry, you can tape the rectangle in a window. It will look very pretty when the light shines through.


Mother, May I?

Connections: Families; Schools (Physical Education); Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: No materials.

Doing It:

Spending time together just having fun can be one of the best Mother's Day gifts. Here's a classic game that can be played by all ages (great for intergenerational programs).

One person serves as the "Mother" (or Grandmother, or even Father or Grandfather). Everyone else lines up about 20 feet away from Mother and faces her.

Mother starts at one end of the line and says something like, "Sarah, you may take three big steps forward." Sarah must respond with, "Mother, may I?" Mother then says "Yes, you may" and the player proceeds by taking the three big steps forward. If Mother says only "Yes" the player cannot proceed.

Mother then moves to the next person in line. Mother can instruct different players to take a different number of steps and different kinds of steps each time (e.g. big steps, baby steps, regular steps, hopping steps).

The game continues until one person finally reaches and touches Mother. Whoever reaches Mother first becomes the Mother for the next round.

The game sounds simple, but as it continues someone inevitably forgets to ask "Mother, may I?" or makes a mistake by moving when Mother says only "Yes." When either of these things happens, or a player doesn't take the number or kind of steps designated by Mother, Mother sends the player back to the starting line.


Generations Guessing Game

Connections: Families; Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Paper; markers.

Doing It:

Play this generations guessing game anytime. Players consist of parent/child (e.g. mother and child) or grandparent/grandchild (e.g. grandmother and grandchild) teams.

One member of the teams leaves the room. For example, all the mothers step outside. Children are then asked four or five questions about their mother's preferences. They write their answers down on sheets of paper and place the sheets face down in front of them, in the order questions were asked.

The mothers then return to the room. They are asked the same questions. After a mother has stated her answer, her child reveals his/her answer. Do the mother and child have the same answers?

Switch places to see how well the mothers know their children. You can run several rounds of this game with different questions. You can choose to keep score or not.

Asking about "favorites" makes for a good game. Here are some examples: favorite color, season, animal, flower, holiday, sport, movie, movie star, TV show, cartoon character, musical group, song, singer, musical instrument, fruit, vegetable, snack, cookie, chocolate bar, pizza topping, flavor of ice cream, restaurant, hobby, talent.


Mother's Day Message Morsels

Connections: Families; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: 1 box of chocolate cake mix; 1 egg; 2/3 cup of liquid whip topping (e.g. Nutriwhip, available in the dairy case of your grocery store); 1 tube prepared white icing; cooking oil spray; bowl; spoons; cookie sheet. Optional -- plastic gloves (useful in a group activity).

Doing It:

This is an easy, tasty Mother's Day treat children can make for mom or grandma, or that young and old can make and enjoy together (e.g. at home or as part of an intergenerational program). It's also a great activity for older adults who may have some functional limitations. Activities related to food -- even when they're simple -- are usually winners in most seniors facilities. Cooking is familiar. Many people enjoy it and the end result. And older adults feel useful and productive as they engage in a meaningful activity. They can make this as a Mother's Day dessert for themselves, or as a treat to offer visiting children and grandchildren. Depending on the abilities of the older adults involved, you can pre-prepare certain steps and help with others. You can also set up an assembly line, with each person doing one step suited to their abilities.

Mix together the cake mix, egg, and whip topping in a large bowl.

Spray a cookie sheet lightly with cooking oil spray. Spoon out small dollops of the mixture onto the sheet, leaving enough room for spreading during baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

When the morsels are cool, use a tube of white icing to print one letter on each morsel. The idea is to spell out a word or message (e.g. your mother's name, a child's name, "I LOVE YOU"). You can present the message morsels with the word or message spelled out, or mix them up and ask the recipient to unscramble the message.

Other easy food activities you can use for Mother's Day include "Krispie Kiss" and "Strawberry Surprise" in the Love-ly Crafts & Gifts section of the Valentine's Activity Kit.


Edible Garden

Connections: Families; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Loaf cake (e.g. banana loaf, pound cake); chocolate frosting; ladyfinger cookies; chocolate wafer cookies; sugar; red, yellow, and green gumdrops; green plastic toothpicks; plastic bag; waxed paper; knife; rolling pin; scissors.

Doing It:

This is a pretty garden children can surprise mom or grandma with on Mother's Day -- and it's edible! Young and old can also make the garden as part of an intergenerational program.

Start with a simple loaf cake of some kind. Smooth chocolate frosting all over the top and sides.

Use a knife to shape the top of several ladyfinger cookies into a point, to look like a fence picket. Then stick the pickets against the frosted sides of the loaf (tips sticking up above the top of the cake) to create a fence around the garden.

Put several chocolate wafer cookies into a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Sprinkle these cookie crumbs onto the top of the loaf to create soil.

Sprinkle some sugar onto a large sheet of waxed paper. Using a rolling pin, flatten some red and yellow gumdrops so that they are about 1/4 inch thick. With clean scissors, cut notches in the tops of the flattened gumdrops to create tulip shapes. Insert a toothpick stem into the base of each tulip.

To make leaves for your tulips, flatten some green gumdrops. Cut them into teardrop shapes. Use two leaves per tulip. Push a tulip toothpick stem through the wide base of each leaf, pushing the leaves about halfway up the stem. Use the exposed portion of the toothpick stem to plant the tulips in the garden. No watering required!


Bagel Family

Connections: Families; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Large bagels and mini bagels (cut in half, toasted or untoasted); cream cheese; black olives and/or green olives (sliced in half); chives (chopped); red pepper (sliced); carrots; cherry tomatoes or red grapes (sliced in half); string cheese; dried parsley; knife. Optional -- smoked salmon (sliced into strips); poppy seeds.

Doing It:

Create a portrait of your family using bagels. This can be a Mother's Day breakfast treat, or just a fun snack anytime. Making the bagels is an easy activity for children, older adults with some functional limitations, or for young and old to do together. Ingredients can be pre-prepared depending on the age and abilities of the people involved.

Make bagels to represent each person in your family -- children, parents, and even grandparents. Use large bagels for adults and mini bagels for children. Start by spreading cream cheese on half of a bagel, covering over the center hole. This is the head.

Now use the ingredients listed above to create the facial features. Use string cheese, smoked salmon, or even grated carrot to make hair (make it long or short, drape or curl it, and/or make bangs to look like the real person's hair). You can also use chopped chives (cut to an appropriate length and stuck into the cream cheese along the top of the bagel) to create a short, male hairstyle.

Use olives for eyes, with a few flakes of dried parsley for eyelashes (the parsley eyelashes make for a grown-up looking, mom bagel). Another way to create eyes is to use a carrot disk with a small bit of black olive in the center as a pupil.

Use a small, triangular piece of carrot laid flat to make a nose (you may want to omit the nose on the mini bagels to create more of a child-like look). Use red pepper, cherry tomatoes, and red grapes to create different mouths for different family members (e.g. half a cherry tomato creates an open-mouth, surprised look; a slice of red pepper creates a smiling mouth). Use a few sprinkled poppy seeds to create freckles if someone has them.

The bottom line: be creative!


Mommy Facts

Connections: Schools (Language Arts); Community Groups; Families.

What You Need: Copies of "Mommy Facts" sheet; pen/pencil; pencil crayons and/or markers.

Doing It:

This sheet can be completed by younger children (great for preschool and lower elementary grades) on their own or with the help of an adult. The idea is for children to complete the sheet using their own perceptions, without asking their mom the questions. The sheet makes a humorous gift for mom. She'll often be surprised at her own child's perceptions. Kids say the funniest things!

Complete the Mommy Facts sheet. For some of the answers, if children don't have an exact number encourage them to make a comparison (e.g. mom's weight could be "weighs less than an elephant"). Probe for some of the questions (e.g. for "What does she do during the day?" find out if she is a stay-at-home mom and what the child thinks she does all day; or if she works outside the home, what the child thinks her job is).

Once all the blanks are filled in, children can draw a picture of their mom in the rectangle and color the flowers on the sheet.

Extension: Children can complete the sheet again, this time with mom's help filling in the answers. How do the answers compare (e.g. maybe the child thought mom's favorite drink was soda, but mom says it's tea)?


Mothers Then & Now

Connections: Schools (History, Social Studies, Language Arts); Seniors Groups/Facilities; Community Groups; Families.

What You Need: Paper; pen/pencil.

Doing It:

How have mothers changed over the last few generations? How have families changed? In an intergenerational group, children and older adults can compare mothers and grandmothers over the years.

To start the discussion, you may want to explore some storybooks. To compare different mothers, read Through the Night by Jim Aylesworth (set in the 1940s, a mother and children wait at home for the father to arrive) and When Mama Gets Home by Marisabina Russo (the three children of a single-parent mother wait for her to get home from work). To compare different grandmothers, read Something to Remember Me By by Susan V. Bosak (a more traditional grandmother) and My Grandma's The Mayor by Marjorie White Pellegrino (a grandmother who works outside the home). For other storybook suggestions, see the "All Kinds of Grandmothers" and "Family Book Reviews" activities in the Story Steppingstones section of this kit.

Here are some questions you can then explore:

  • What does/did your mother/grandmother look like? What kinds of clothes does/did she wear?

  • Does/did your mother/grandmother work in the home or outside the home? If she works/worked outside the home, what does/did she do?

  • What does/did your mother/grandmother do around the house? How does/did she do various household chores (e.g. laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning, making clothes)?

  • What is/was her typical day like?

  • Is/was your mother/grandmother involved in her community? How?

  • What sorts of things does/did your mother/grandmother do with you?

  • How would you describe your mother/grandmother? According to one source, the "ideal" American woman in the early 19th century was:

A devoted mother, an unusually virtuous person who had to remain aloof from the corruption of politics, a domestic individual who labored most happily and productively within her own home, and a weak-minded, physically inferior being who needs guidance from stronger and wiser people -- men.

Does this describe your mother or grandmother? Why or why not?

  • How would you describe a "good" mother/grandmother?

  • What have you learned from your mother/grandmother?

Wrap up the activity by writing down a summary of mothers and grandmothers "then" (i.e. the mothers and grandmothers of older adults) versus mothers and grandmothers "now" (i.e. the mothers and grandmothers of today's children).


What Do Moms Do?

Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Health, Language Arts); Community Groups; Families.

What You Need: Paper; pen/pencil.

Doing It:

What exactly do moms do all week? What does the job of the modern mother involve? This is a good activity for children to complete and then present to their mom on Mother's Day or any day for discussion.

Brainstorm a list of all the things that mothers do during the week.

Then, assign a title to each job or group of jobs a mother does (e.g. drives me to swimming lessons = chauffeur; helps me with homework = teacher; makes me feel better when I'm sick = nurse; takes care of the garden = groundskeeper; makes great dinners = chef).

Extension: What do dads do and how does it differ from what moms do?

This activity goes well with the following activity.


If I Were a Mother I Would...

Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Health); Families; Community Groups.

What You Need: Paper; pen/pencil.

Doing It:

After you've thought about what it is that moms do (activity above), imagine trading places with your mom for a day. What kind of mother would you be?

This is a good activity for children to complete and then present to their mom on Mother's Day or any day for discussion.

Children can complete the following sentences:

For breakfast I would serve my child...
During the day my child and I would...
My child would have to help with these chores...
I would discipline my child by...
I would show my child how much I loved him/her by...
For dinner I would serve my child...
I would let my child go to bed at...
I would always...
I would never...
I would be different from my mother because...
I would be like my mother because...



Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Social Studies); Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Paper; pen/pencil. Optional -- pencil crayons and/or markers; scissors.

Doing It:

There are some things that mothers say... again... and again... and again. These are the things that drive us crazy, the things we remember fondly, and the things that stay with us until the day we die.

To set the mood for this lighthearted activity, you may want to read the book Always Wear Clean Underwear: And Other Ways Parents Say I Love You by Marc Gellman. It's an amusingly illustrated book that explores the litany of rules parents repeat time and again -- and the important life lessons behind them.

Then, everyone in a group can discuss the things their mother tells/told them. This is a great discussion activity for an intergenerational group, a group of older adults, or a group of children. Make a complete list of "motherisms."

Once your list is complete, you may want to write each item out on a sheet of paper, decorate it, and then post the decorated sheets (cut them to different shapes and sizes) on a "Wall of Motherisms" for everyone to enjoy.

To get you started, here are some examples of the kinds of things mothers say (we've all heard at least some of these):

Look at me when I'm talking to you.
Don't make me tell you again.
I would have never talked to MY mother like that!
Don't use that tone with me.
Am I talking to a brick wall?
What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
You're going to poke your eye out with that thing.
Were you raised in a barn? Clean that up.
You can't find it? Well, where did you see it last?
What would you do if I wasn't here?
Money doesn't grow on trees.
Eat your vegetables.
Don't talk with your mouth full.
Put that down! You don't know where it's been!
Don't run with scissors in your hand.
Act your age.
How about a hug?
I love you.


A Mother and More

Connections: Families; Schools (Social Studies, Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Family photos; basic scrapbooking supplies like acid-free paper, straightedge scissors, photo-safe adhesive, acid-free pen, stickers, rubber stamps, die-cut shapes.

Doing It:

While being a mother is great, it's not all most mothers are. What many mothers would like on Mother's Day is to have their family honor all the parts of themselves (read The Story of Mother's Day to find out how Mother's Day is about more than just being someone's mother, and the Celebrating Mothers & Grandmothers section).

Make a scrapbook page to honor your mother and her work, skills, and interests. Her paid and/or volunteer work outside the home is important. Our jobs are how we support ourselves and our families, express our individuality, and contribute to our communities. When you take the time to make a scrapbook page about that part of your mom or grandma's life, it makes her feel appreciated and that what she does both inside and outside the home is valued by her family.

Sheri Kerr of San Jose, CA made a scrapbook page (below) celebrating her work using photos of herself with her baby daughter at the fire station where Sheri is a firefighter. The sample scrapbook page has been supplied by Memory Makers magazine (www.memorymakersmagazine.com or 1-800-366-6465). Written by avid scrapbookers, each issue is filled with great information and ideas for families, seniors groups/facilities, and schools. Scrapbooking is an activity all generations can do together to create a sense of connectedness and family history. It's a meaningful activity older adults can do quite easily, even those who may have some physical and/or cognitive limitations. At the other end of the age spectrum, children also enjoy scrapbooking on their own. It's fun and educational. See the Grandparents Day Activity Kit for a complete introduction to scrapbooking.

Extension: As a way to celebrate Mother's Day, an entire school class can do scrapbook pages and create a Wall of Fame that highlights the diversity of activities in which their mothers and grandmothers are involved.

At Mom's Work


Mother Interview

Connections: Families; Schools (Language Arts, Health); Community Groups.

What You Need: Optional -- paper; pen/pencil; tape recorder or video camera.

Doing It:

How much do you really know about your mother? Do you know about who she was before you were born? Do you know her just as your mother, or as a person?

Do an interview with your mom or your grandmother. It can be more formal and become a keepsake (you can write down her answers, or record the interview), or you can just use some of the questions below to start a conversation on Mother's Day. These are questions that can prompt personal stories or spark an intimate conversation. People want to talk about their life, their hopes and dreams, their personal challenges. But they are rarely asked. Mom or grandma will appreciate it when you show an interest in who she is; that can be a gift in itself.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How were you named? Were you named after someone? Did you have a nickname when you were a child?

  • Do you remember having a favorite bedtime story, nursery rhyme, or song when you were a child?

  • What was your best subject in school? Your worst subject?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

  • How is the world different now from when you were a child?

  • Why did you want to have children?

  • What's the best thing about being a mother or grandmother?

  • What's the best thing about having children? What's the hardest thing about having children?

  • How do you think you're like your mother? Unlike her?

  • If you had it to do all over again, would you change the way you raised your family? How?

  • What's the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you?

  • What's the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

  • What was the most difficult choice you ever had to make? Do you feel you made the right choice?

  • What's the one thing in your life that you're most proud of?

  • Do you remember someone saying something to you that had a big impact on how you lived your life? What was it?

  • Who was the person who had the most positive influence on your life? What did they do?

  • If you could meet one famous person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

  • What quality do you most admire in people? Why?

  • If you could change something about yourself, what would it be? Why?

  • How would you describe yourself politically?

  • How would you describe your spiritual beliefs?

  • If there was one piece of advice you'd want me to always remember, what would it be?

For a more detailed list of interview questions, check the "Grandparent Interview" in the Communication & Storytelling section of the Grandparents Day Activity Kit.


A Bevy of Butterflies

Connections: Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Round, paper coffee filters; watercolor paints and markers; paintbrushes; clothespins; colored paper; scissors; ruler; glue. Optional -- glitter glue (available in a craft store).

Doing It:

My parents recently moved into a retirement community. My mom was part of a woman's group in her old city and when she moved they gave her a butterfly pin so that she could "spread her wings and fly" in her new life in her new city and home. Wouldn't we all like a chance to spread our wings?

Create an environment that encourages your mom or grandma to "spread her wings" this Mother's Day. Fill the house with these easy, colorful butterflies.

Use watercolor paints and markers to decorate round, paper coffee filters with various patterns to look like butterfly wings. You can also use a little glitter glue to add some sparkle.

Once the filters are dry, pinch them one at a time in the middle like a bow tie. Clip the clothespin onto the middle and fan out each side to create the butterfly's wings.

Cut two thin strips of colored paper (about the thickness of a matchstick and about 3 inches long). Curl one end slightly with scissors and glue the other end onto the end of the clothespin that pinches together. Now the butterfly has antennae.

Fill the house with butterflies on Mother's Day -- on curtains, lamps, tables, counters, sofas, chairs, the ceilings, the refrigerator.

Talk to your mom or grandma about what her hopes and dreams were when she was younger. What did she want to do? Has she done it? What are the things your mother or grandmother would still like to do? Everyone has hopes and dreams, and having a chance to share them with the people you love can be a very special gift.

What can you do over the next year to help make your mom or grandma's hopes and dreams come true?

From Mother's Day Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2003

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