The Rain Forest in Wisconsin


For the second day in a row, my angel has awakened with icky congestion and a stuffy nose. I can see the misery in her eyes, but there is nothing I can do to help her. Not really, maybe some symptomatic relief with Motrin or Tylenol, but no cure because science stands essentially defenseless against the common cold.

So I held her, read to her and talked to her.

And we played rain forest in the bathroom. Cold mist humidifiers can only do so much for congestion, but spending time in a hot, steamy bathroom can do wonders. My challenge was figuring out how to get an unwell but still precocious four-year-old to spend long enough in the steam to help the congestion. So, I suggested we make a rain forest in the bathroom. Thank you Slippery Soap from Blue’s Clues for the idea.

We transferred two potted plants from their normal homes to the bathroom.

“What kind of animals would be in the rain forest?” I asked.

“Monkeys…and birds.”

So we got some of her stuffed monkeys, and we found a bird from a flower arrangement and made a nest for it in one of the potted plants.

“We need flowers,” she said.

So we found a brightly flowered table runner and hung it from the towel rack.

“Oh, I have the perfect book.” I said, going to her book shelve and retrieving Journey of the Red-Eyed Tree Frog. We removed the book jacket for the display.

“We’ll need a water fall in the bathtub.” She suggested, placing her waterfall/water wheel in the back of the tub.

We got her KaiLan tree house, some dinosaur finger puppets, and a few small plastic character toys. Then we set off on our adventure. I cranked the shower to full blast and HOT. She shut the door, and we sat down to play with the toys and look at the book. We spent a good 30-45 minutes in the bathroom.

“Look, there’s steam!” She said excitedly as things began to fog up.

“Why is the back of the toilet wet?” she asked

“Well,” I said, “when that hot steamy air collides with a cold surface, like the back of the toilet, “it cools and you get water droplets. It’s called condensation.”

“It feels yucky.” She said.

We made a cave for the dinosaurs out of a towel draped over two shampoo bottles. We found a plastic doggie, who made friends with the roaring ‘saurs and danced with them. We put the plants into the tub so that they could get a drink of water.

I never thought that one way to get some of that precious mother-daughter time was to spend it on the floor of the bathroom soaking up the steam, but we had a great time.

“Your hair is getting curly.” She laughed.

I smiled. “Do you think you’ve had enough steam?” I asked.

“Yes, but can we do this again?”

“As often as you need it.”

Maybe we have managed to create one of those treasured memories of childhood, one that comes flooding back to her when one day as an adult: “You know my mom used to play rainforest in the bathroom when I had a bad cold and a stuffy nose. It was so much fun, and I always felt better.”

Maybe. Just maybe.

© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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