Yay for Playtime!

Kids playing with blocks

Our neighbor is a plumber.  Last week when he was cleaning out his garage he made a pile of odds and ends of pvc pipe to take to the dump.  My kids were over there pestering him–of course.  They asked about the pile of pipes and much to my chagrin, began bringing all the pipes into the backyard.  Using the different sizes and shapes, they began to lay out patterns.  It was fascinating to watch.  My husband pulled out the glue he uses to fix our underground sprinkler system and the whole sculpture went 3-D.  I started wondering how play fits in with learning and child development.

When our children leave home for school, the whole dynamic changes. Now they are away from us for up to 40 hours a week, and when they are home, family time is often structured  to include homework and reading. With a stressful day behind both the children and the parents, relaxing for the rest of the evening by enjoying favorite TV shows feels like an ideal way to end the day.

This can leave little time for independent play time where students use their imagination to create the games, role play and meet up with other children.

Depression and Anxiety Rising Among Children

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. According to Psychology Today, children’s freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades.

Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests.

When children do not have the opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, they may be deprived them of opportunity to learn how to problem solve, how to negotiate, and how to innovate.

Structured and closely supervised play may not foster the pride in accomplishment and increase in confidence that the parents hope to encourage. Making their own discoveries can encourage children to learn and grow to satisfy their own curiosity, and prove to them that they are their own best teacher, if they are persistent.

Recent studies show that oral language and the diligence and persistence to stick with a challenging task are predictors of future academic success.

Despite research to the contrary, there is a movement in our country that penalizes parents for allowing children freedom of movement within ones neighborhood.  The days of Timmy and Lassie heading out the door in the morning to return by supper are over in many communities.

U.S.A. Today reported April 15, 2015 that Danielle and Sasha Meitiv have been accused of child neglect for allowing their children to play at the park alone. The park is eight residential blocks from their home, which is located in a safe suburban area.  They also occasionally walked home from their school, located a few blocks from home.  The parents have been convicted of parent neglect and stand to lose custody of their children, if they allow them to “wander” alone again.

Arts and Crafts as Elements of Free Play

Another way to create open learning experiences at home, in the evenings and on the weekends is to set up open ended art projects.  Working with found objects the they create unusual and amazing sculpture.

This helps the children develop logic, spatial awareness, and self-determination. Save up all the paper tubing, boxes, bottle tops, cartons and up-cycle them into a sculpture.

Using a hot glue gun or bottle glue, let the students make an shape or item they desire. When they are finished use a inexpensive can of golden spray paint and paint the final product. The final art piece will be amazing and one of a kind.

Take a photo of the children with their art, print it into a postcard and send it to loved ones. Upload it to Facebook, and let them see you post it. Move over some of your decor and feature the new art in a prominent location.

Next time the soccer ball goes permanently flat, take it partially apart and let them imagine something new. Throw some boxes, glue, tape, and/or markers into the backyard on a sunny day. Offer your cutting and spray painting talents, as they make a new house, neighborhood, kingdom or whatever else they may imagine.


Lunch with Love

Fun Lunches for Kids

Many mothers express their love through inventive lunches. Nothing says I love you, when a child is at school, like a beautiful cold lunch. A simple way to dress up a lunch is to collect interesting cookie cutters. They can be used to cut sandwiches and toast or form pancakes and jello.


Of course, choosing cute containers also makes lunchtime more enjoyable. These containers are adorable.


With a few crackers, some cheese, turkey and an apple, you could create this inventive lunch featuring Pinochio and Jiminey Cricket. Definitely, a big improvement over the popular lunchable.

When we take the time to do something unusual or disrupt our routine to create a moment for our children, it reminds them that we do cherish and value the time we are able to spend with them.

Here is a video explaining how to make a simple bento box for a school lunch or just for fun.

Reading Treasured Books Can Build an Unbreakable Bond

When we look back on our childhood, most of us remember a treasured book that we either discovered on our own or read with someone special.  I remember sitting on the sofa with my mother reading The Little Engine that Could and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.  Time spent reading with your child says “I love you” and “you are special.”  Cuddling together and sharing a story stops time for a bit carving out a private moment just for the family.

It is often difficult to find the time to sit and read together, so parents get creative.  A friend of mine has her son sit on the kitchen counter and read to her, while she prepares dinner.  She pauses to look at the pictures and continues to cook while they discuss the story.  Her son loves the attention so much he is one of the top readers in his first grade class.
Another friend has her daughter read to her as whenever they are in the car.  She keeps library books stashed in the car, so there is lots of variety.  When they run out of books, they tell each other stories.

By adding a few props, activities, and theater to your reading time, you can create memories that will last a lifetime—and instill a deep love for reading.  Here are some examples using some beautiful children’s books.

  1. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Woods
    This is a simple story about a mouse who is trying to hide a strawberry from the big hungry bear. In the end, he shares the strawberry with the reader, so “that is one strawberry the big hungry bear will never get.”  The fun comes in all the ways the mouse tries to hide the strawberry. First, he tries to bury it. Next, after covering it with chains and a lock, the mouse begins guarding it. Finally, he disguises the strawberry with a glasses, nose, mustache toy disguise. This is a great book for preschoolers because it has repetitive wording that allows them to participate in the story.

When you read this book bring some magic to it with inexpensive plastic “disguise” glasses with attached nose and mustache.  Have some strawberries on hand to guard and share.  My two year olds loved wearing their disguises while we shared the strawberries, before the big hungry bear could eat them.

You can listen to the story here.


  1. Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk
    A rhyming book, Miss Spider’s Tea Party chronicles Miss Spider’s attempt to find bugs willing to come to tea. The verse is simple and easy for children to understand. This book is a good opportunity to talk to your child about the feelings of being left out and misunderstood. Especially, if they are experiencing school for the first time. The gorgeous pictures really draw in the reader. Be ready for many requests for tea parties after reading this book.
  2. Chato’s Kitchen is a delightful book by Gary Soto. This multicultural story has a latin rhythm that is mixed with ethnic terms and simple Spanish terms. A house of mice moves into the house next door to Chato, a cool, low-riding cat. He invites the mice to dinner, but they are not to sure about his intentions. The pictures have vibrant colors that match the cultural feeling of the book. The mice finally agree to come to dinner, but they ask to bring a friend. Thinking there would one more mice on the menu, Chato readily agrees. Chato and his friends cooked side dishes all day. When the guests arrived, they brought their guest, as well, a low-riding dog. In the end, they all sat down and had a good meal–without any mice on the menu. After reading this story, we cooked simple tacos and used the Spanish food terms for the next few day. The boys still remember cooking our Mexican dinner.
    Here is  the book trailor for Chato’s Kitchen.

Continue reading “Reading Treasured Books Can Build an Unbreakable Bond”

Ray of Sunshine in a Busy Day

One summer, we were particularly busy and my husband and I had opposing schedules, so we could not take a family vacation. I was scrolling through Facebook when an ad from bendlimousine.com crossed my feed. They had a summer special, so I spontaneously booked one for the next day. We packed in food and beverages and drove all over scenic Bend, stopping to hike or eat.  We took the best family picture downtown next to a statue of a man sitting on a park bench.

We played games, like I-spy and 20 questions. Because we were not driving, my husband and I were able to give all our attention to the children. It was the perfect stay-cation.It is still possible to steal time in the day to make sure your child knows that he or she is special.

Children need to see that we are willing to disrupt our daily routine to spend precious time with them. The best way to show a child that you love him or her is to create an enjoyable eating experience.

Some families are fortunate enough to have time to cook together in the evening. Other families are more pressed for time with homework, sports activities and work obligations.

Impromptu Picnics or Tea Parties

When my children were young, we would stop by the deli on the way to the park for fruit, chicken and salads. I would bring a table cloth and tableware. We would create a small party/picnic at the park or playground, so we could eat and play together.

I purchased fine china tea cups at the thrift shop and kept them in my car, so that we could spontaneously have high tea at a local park, while we were doing our errands.

Those stolen moments are the times that my children remember when we are sharing family stories.

Scrapbook Adventure for the Un-crafty

Scrapbooking transforms a box full of photos into a memorable work of art. Dedicated creators collect the tools of their trade, such as a Cricket, a machine that cuts letters and pictures from scrapbook paper to use their time efficiently, so they can focus on what is the most important, the images they are showcasing. The owner purchases dies (the cutting templates) to match their desired designs.  Shaped scissors for decorative edges, circle, square and other shaped cutters create the backdrops for the photos. Other items are circular punches, corner punches, shaped punches, stencils, stickers and rub-ons.  Found objects, such as scrabble letters, small Barbie toys, and actual artifacts from an event, like a ticket stub, can make a page unique and personal.

Scrapbooking for Busy Mothers.

This posting is about using free or inexpensive scrapbooking programs on the Internet to quickly and simply create scrapbooks. It is a trade-off between textural and 3-D elements and ease of use. Today’s full tilt pace makes it impossible for me to spend the time going to through my pictures, much less cutting pasting, selecting elements, deciding on color theme, etc.

One day I decided to purchase the multiple picture frames that are so popular.  I love the homey way they look on a wall.  I enthusiastically pulled out a couple boxes of unsorted pictures–first problem.  By the time I had looked through the first half of the first box, I was exhausted.  Each picture I selected had to be cropped and sized to fit into the frame.  I shudder to think how long a scrapbook would take.

I am not crafty at all. I admire all mothers who can create fabulous scrapbooks. As soon as I took out scrapbook paper, the punches, some fun 3-D objects and decorative stickers, my two year old twins would swarm the area to “help” me.  The thought of spreading out all the materials, organizing them, using them and then putting everything away again is overwhelming.

Online Scrapbooking to the Rescue.

I added the digital option to my picture order when I had them printed, so I could access them on my computer when creating the scrapbook, so much simpler. The following are some of the more popular sites:

  1. Smilebox– This is a very user friendly site that allows you to save individual projects and picture banks that can be used to create cards and scrapbooks. The choices of styles are limited, but the result is very attractive. It is inexpensive to share them electronically, but be prepared to pay, if you want to download and print.
  2. Mixbook.com-The designs provided in this program are beautiful. The software is easy to use. The company will print the finished album. A simple 20 page album in a smaller size with a soft cover starts at $15.00. A 20 page traditional sized 12 x 12 album with a hard cover and dust cover is $75.00. Looking at the abandoned box of scrapbooking supplies I bought at a home party, I think it might be a bargain.

A Fresh Idea–An Album of Fun Family Selfies.

Take spontaneous photos with your children and you will find that there are many perfect settings that you just pass by each day–an interesting tree, the front of their school, the near-by park. Make them into cards to slip into their lunches, drawers, etc.





My New Favorite is Shutterfly’s Program “Custom Path”.  It is not free, but the resulting book is amazing.