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Here on Manhattan's Upper West Side, nursery schools ask a lot of their parents. They ask us to spend the entire day after Labor Day speed-redialing their offices just to request application forms for the coming year. Once we're in, they ask us to pay some of the highest tuitions in the country. And so it's only fitting that the concept of "snack parent" takes on a different meaning here as well.
At our childrens' former nursery school, a different set of parents came in each Friday to read to the class, bring a snack, and otherwise make their child feel special. We were all also encouraged to bring flowers, which at first seemed an odd (and possibly expensive) request, though the teachers said we could be creative with it.
So when my turn came around, instead of buying a fragrant centerpiece that was sure to be ignored in the presence of cupcakes, I went online and printed out a stack of simple coloring pages of various flower varieties.
I worried about whether there would be enough pages to go around, or if the pages would even be welcome. What if everyone wanted to color lilies and we ran out? What if the kids complained that their special table had no real flowers?
In the end, my son assured me it was a good idea, and I printed out at least six of each flower variety. I offered them almost apologetically to the kids at the end of our snack time, but they were thrilled.
They all gave serious thought to which page they should take, they asked if they could bring home extras for their siblings, they even told their parents at pick-up time that they wanted to stay and start coloring their flowers.
The lesson, of course, is that simple ideas work, worrying is never productive, and above all, preschoolers love a good coloring project.
So the next time you're about to buy an expensive box of cards with a huge picture of your child's favorite TV character and only two tiny lines to write on, head for your computer printer instead. Your wallet — and your child's inner-artist — will thank you.