Monday, July 1, 2013

When your child is finally able to entertain himself: Max and the purple shovel

Going to the beach with kids is never the relaxing experience you had in your pre-parent days, when you could veg out for hours on end on the sand. Going to the beach with a child who has special needs can be especially trying. It's not easy for Max to walk on the sand. Also, he loves pushing around this beach cart we have with big wheels, except it's hard for him to push but he keeps trying and gets ticked off that he can't move it. Good times!

Max will get into scooping sand into a bucket—for about seven minutes, then he loses interest. He'll dunk his feet, but he's not up for going all the way into the water.

This is why we end up at the pool a lot.

Having a kid who can't entertain himself has been one of the most challenging parts of special needs motherhood. For years, we could not leave Max alone in the playroom because he literally couldn't play by himself. He needed Dave or me to push, press, prod, open and hold toys for him. I could never duck out to make lunch or dinner, or even do a little cleaning. Floor time was also laced with anxiety, because it was therapeutic play and I so wanted Max to be able to do things.

This is not to say I didn't occasionally park Max in front of kiddie DVDs. I did. He enjoyed them, and I got a break. I refused to feel guilty, because taking breathers made me a more sane parent.

Eventually, by around 5, Max started pushing big toy trucks back and forth on his own. Because they were large, they were easy for him to grasp. Because they were things that GO, he loved 'em. Max still does this a lot, especially with a red Hess firetruck we've had for years. He could sit for hours on our deck if we'd let him, and push a truck back and forth and back and forth.

Max isn't into board games. He still needs help with coloring, painting and doing crafts. And so, moving around trucks is his best way to play independently.

Then came The Purple Shovel.

We were at the beach. Max was losing it a little bit. Cousins of ours were there, and one had a purple shovel. He lent it to Max. And, wow, it was a match made in heaven.

First Max helped build up a big mound of sand. Then he just walked all around, poking holes into the sand with the shovel and dumping it into buckets. Sometimes the buckets weren't his, and I had to explain that it's not polite to walk up to another kid and dump sand into their bucket (oh, the conversations I have).

Max spent a good few hours playing with that purple shovel. Our cousins gifted it to Max. I'd like to have it set on a plaque and hung on the wall, so grateful am I to this purple shovel. 

Meanwhile, I let Max sleep next to it. 


  1. Awesome!! It's so great when kids find their "purple shovels", I'm very happy for Max and of course for you! He seems very proud of what he can do with it too.

  2. My son, Kyle (7 years), does not play independently and I have often wondered what it was like for other children with special needs. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of what it has been like for you and I can completely relate. I'm afraid to go to the beach for the same reasons you mentioned above but your purple shovel gives me hope that we may have success if we ever go one day!

    1. Kelli, I hope Kyle finds his own version of a purple shovel.

  3. It's the little things that make you love life madly thank heavens for the purple shovel :)

  4. That's awesome! It's always the little things that are so memorable, kuddos to the cousins for being so giving.

  5. What a beautiful story of strength and unconditional love. You are both truly blessed. Good karma always comes full circle because you pay it forward to each other like a match made from heaven. Love and hugs and tons of encouragement in your travels through life. May it continue to be a rich one.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...