Let’s Play: Creative-Free Play in the Spring

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

April Showers

Spring. The peas are planted. The bulb flowers are starting to emerge. The kids are running out of school seeking the sun and fresh air. Mud. Worms. Puddles. Bugs. Green grass.

One of the best things my mom did for us was providing hours of unstructured free play. She gave us the gift of just being kids.

With this fresh, new season I am challenging you to head outside with the kids, but take nothing from inside. No toys. No sports equipment. Nothing. Snack before you go. At least for an hour or two, forget all the ideas that today’s kids need classes and team sports and organized fun and electronics. It is okay to get bored to the point that you need to hunt around and investigate your surroundings to occupy yourself. Some of the best memories from my childhood are wandering about with my brother exploring the creatures living in the creek, poking at things with sticks and sending leaves floating in the puddles after a heavy rain. We had a lot of free play time growing up in the countryside in the 70s. My mom never had to be reminded that kids need exercise and fresh air. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: When Your Child Loves Your Spouse More Than You

I Love Daddy More!

Ila’s chin quivered as I undid her car seat buckle after school a week ago.

“Is daddy home?”  She asked.

“No, sweetie, he’s working,” I replied gently.

And then…the saddest cry in all humanity came from the depths of her.  Tears swelled and cascaded down her tiny face.  She cried hard…her-little-mouth-opening-with-no-sound-coming-out hard.  I scooped her up and asked, “Sweetheart, what is the matter?” Read the rest of this entry »

Awaken to the Moments

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Grace Uncommon

I hope we can all awaken to the moments when we are in the presence of such gifts, and better still, to recognize the potential for it in ourselves. The good news is that grace will come, even when you are too busy to roll down the window and wake up.

Spring comes as a miraculous surprise to me every year.  The fresh air arrives out of nowhere and makes me giddy.  The branches are bare and the ground is muddy, but I am intoxicated by the scent of the wind.  In the bustle of my life I often overlook graceful simplicity, because I can’t seem to slow myself down to see it.  Like many parents, I spend most of my time in a minivan.  But when I happen to roll the window down, the unexpected, graceful spring air wafts in and I am blessed; I stop feeling sorry for myself and I step back into my body.  Persephone has returned, and so have I, fully awakened by the uncommon grace of spring.

Two weeks ago I accompanied my daughter to the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton.  She was performing in the ballet Beauty and the Beast with the Pioneer Valley Ballet (PVB).  As I waited to drop off my darling dancer along with the other parents, a little boy not more than four exclaimed, “Look!  The fust- flowah-a-spring!”  All of us swung our heads to view this improbability, and lo and behold, he was right.  There it was, poking its dainty purple crown purposefully out of the mud.  The spell was broken when the same sweet cherub jabbed his umbrella within a hair of this purple miracle and announced, “I’ne- gonna-deeg-et-up.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: The Gift of Honey

Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating

Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table.  It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt.  It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax.  How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)? Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Anger, Quarrels & Love

Anger: The Unvarnished Truth

We had the blowout of the century last week, my husband and I.  The blowout of the century.  The topic isn’t as important as the pure seething vitriol that came from both our mouths, flung at each other with all the might we could muster.  It was a horrific display of the worst of our humanness.  I had had it.  He had had it.  For weeks the blood boiled in both of us and reached the point where the pressure cooker burst–burst wide open.  It was late at night.  The dog was sleeping.  The cat was sleeping.   Ila was sleeping…or so I thought.

The next morning, we both did our best to paste a shiny smile on our faces so that she wouldn’t suspect that our feelings for each other at that moment were less than fond (to put it mildly).  Although I didn’t notice then (shame on me) looking back now, Ila was very quiet that morning. She moved through the routine as if she was walking through molasses.  The car ride to school wasn’t full of top-of-her-lungs “Frozen” songs and she was shy and clingy when it was time for me to leave her in her classroom.  That afternoon, after picking her up, her tiny voice cut through the silence and pulled me from my very busy mind.  “Mommy, why aren’t you married to Aidan’s daddy anymore?” Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Learning Activities for Mud Season

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Mud Season Activities

Mud Season is the time between winter and spring. It is when the snow disappears and the grass has yet to grow. It’s when mud is the primary ground cover. It is still often too cold to take your toddler out for long periods of time, but it is warm enough to get out there for a short spell and get dirty. It is in between snow boots and galoshes; ice and mud puddles. It is the time of year that we start to think about spring but it isn’t spring enough to be able to act like spring yet… or is it? Here are several learning activities you can take advantage of during mud season with your young children that have hints of spring and loads of fun: Learning Activities for Mud Season

Language Play: Learning to Play an Instrument Support Language Skills

Hearing, Language, Learning and Music

Wondering how to help encourage kids to practice their musical instruments? See what works for other parents in western MA and suggestions working musicians offer too in Hilltown Families post, “Getting Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The last two weeks, I participated in an online continuing education training concerning language listening skills. I came away in awe of the new research being done on something that we don’t really think of as necessary to learn. We think of it as something optional to learn or even optional to have available at our schools. All the latest research shows us that learning to play an instrument helps us to listen to language and improves learning and cognitive function throughout our lives! But it’s especially a benefit for kids with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder (listening and understanding language at the level of the brain), specific language impairment, autism, and stroke recovery.

In a three year assessment of kids who had music training vs. those who didn’t, the kids with training did better at reading, speech in noise, and had stronger brain responses to sounds including language. Their brains changed! Of course, the longer the training, the better the cognitive changes, but scientists now know that the effect usually requires at least two years of music training. These results appear to be long term, too. Musicians have much fewer problems when older with hearing in noise, even if they’ve stopped their training at some point. We’re not talking about listening to music; we’re talking about active engagement in learning music. Current research studies are focusing on the effects of singing and drumming on understanding language…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Celebrate the Shortnose Sturgeon!

Our Friend, the Shortnose Sturgeon

Short-nosed sturgeon

Since the Atlantic Salmon was declared extinct in the Connecticut River two years ago, I have wandered the river banks with students, wondering what a healthy living river is like. That the Shortnose has survived under such duress, with such poor assistance provided by humans, made us love it—because it expresses the brisk vitality that remains in that 400 mile waterbody. The Shortnose does not give up, and neither should we. Before we lose this last clan entirely, let us try to assist it, and raise the Shortnose’s image and story to the forefront of our biocultural awareness. Let this environmental-adapter epitomize us and our still beautiful Nonotuck biome, at this moment of epochal transition.


Spring equinox has passed and the great thaw is underway, turning greys into green and silence to chansons. Have you enjoyed the cold (as much as the otters, who fished the icy pools)? The ice it brought let us walk rivers and tributaries as if they were sidewalks, and grand boulevards. What a wonderful feeling!

The perspective gained by walking above the river was as rare as the record-breaking weather that enabled it. Seeing the way trees lower, extend and up-curl their limbs over the water, to catch the sun on each yearning pinkytip; and noticing deep punctures of buck hoof puzzled over by bobcat pads as wide, soft and light as hamburger buns—such perceptions awaken dormant parts of human being, sparking awareness of how lucky we are when we find time to unplug. Despite the best attempts of technologists to rewire us, we’re wild; and, when we step into places without signs or brands or passwords, a brisk vivacity and slight confusion welcomes us, and matches our character, as Shakespeare made plain in this description of some dukes chillin’ in the forest of Arden: Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Mix and Match Creatures

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Mix and Match Creatures

Mix & Match Creatures inspires creative free play while supporting quality family time!

We were spoiled over our February stay-cation. The end of a relaxed week brought 50+ temperatures and SUN. With books and beverages in hand we sat outside in February enjoying a warm-ish afternoon. Spring appeared to be on its way. We were fooled. The frigid, icy mornings returned with the restart of school. This put me over the edge. I am joining the throngs of other whiny voices waiting for warm breezes and lighter jackets. We were hibernating as much as possible.

The little one has also retreated to avoid going out. She is reading and drawing around the clock. Small breaks are only taken for food and to carry the cat around the house. He has convinced her he needs private transportation from her bed to his lounging spot in the living room. It is exactly like the Olivia Trains Her Cat book! I had no idea cats had this power over kids until now.

I love that she reads and draws but I would like to interact with my girl. What can I set up at the table to entice her into a little family time?  Mix and match creature drawings…

Hindsight Parenting: When Little Boys Grow Up

Not Nurse Nightengale

When Son1 was 17 he had the brilliant idea that he wanted a three person sling shot. It was made out of high tech stretchable exercise bands and was made to launch water balloons at “friends.” I immediately said no to the ludicrous idea knowing full well it wouldn’t be just water balloons that he and his friends would be launching…Nuh uh. I knew my son well enough to know that there would be lots of mischief making with a toy like that. Not surprisingly however, his father DID purchase it for him and my super mom senses were correct that he would choose to use said toy in a way that was NOT recommended…yup…that one fateful day in which he decided to put a potato in the harness that was meant for a water balloon. Yes, I said a potato.

So…picture this if you please… Read the rest of this entry »

Just My Type: Brave Little Girls

Sleep Tight

Her face was streaked with tears, her little blonde head bobbing with anguish. “It’s not fair,” she sobbed. “I want to go to the sleepover.”

“I know,” I whispered, sitting next to her and putting my arm around her. “I know.”

The second-grade girl in question? Not my daughter, Noelle, but her Girl Scout Brownie troop-mate I will call Hope, who was just diagnosed with type one diabetes last fall.

I’m used to this scene. It stinks for these little kids who get this disease and can’t be normal. In this case, the troop was planning its first overnight excursion, and Hope’s parents had decided they weren’t ready for this step.

I understood. Hope was getting her insulin pump just two days before the sleepover, and the first days, even weeks, of having a child on an insulin pump are nerve-wracking. Here you are, used to giving shots, knowing exactly what insulin your child was getting, and now your child will be attached to a device that will constantly administer this life-saving but also potentially lethal steroid. It’s a lot of trust to put into a machine the size of an iPod!

As a parent who has been through those days, I got it. But as I hugged the devastated little girl, I got her point, too…

Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Comes in April

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

March Revelation

March is the worst of its kind. After traveling through the inky darkness of  winter, we arrive, weary, on the doorstep of March.  March tells us, wide-eyed, that he is the official herald of spring, a time when daffodils shine in abundance.  The most desperate among us will crack the bedroom window allowing March to sneak in. I’ve known March a long time, and while I still want to believe he is the real deal, I finally know better.  Spring comes in April… Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: It’s Not What We Say, It’s What We Do!

Your One Thing

Every day we are challenged to be authentic. Authentic to ourselves, to community, and to our loved ones through our speech or actions. There is a tendency to alter our opinions in hopes that they will match others, or in efforts to not offend, or sometimes its skewed to diffuse tension. The goal is to be expressing honestly and receiving feedback empathetically. I am about to tell a story that touched me so single pointedly around my authentic self and my values. I got a soaring feeling in my heart when it happened and I knew that it aligned with my intentions completely, though I hesitated to share it. I was concerned other people would feel guilty or ashamed if they didn’t care about this one thing to the same degree as I did. I wanted to avoid potentially hurting or alienating myself in the parenting community. What I realized in validating that assumption was that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I was playing party to the ‘what if’s.’ If we are coveted or fear-based about what we truly are and how we express then we are teaching confusion of opinion and identity to our children.

So here it goes… Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Whining Monster vs. Angry Monster

“Let it Go” Let Me Let it Go!

I had a day last week. BOY OH BOY did I have a day! You know…one of THOSE days, where nothing goes right, nothing makes your child happy, and he or she whines and whines AND whines…and WHINES! When I was in my twenties and had THESE kinds of days with the boys, I would explode, implode…lose—my—mind! Yelling, stomping, snarling, slamming. I did it all.

But now I have Hindsight and I know that what I do is what my children, in the end, will do as well. I also know that a mother who loses it in an unpredictable way will not be a human being that her children will trust and therefore they won’t come to her with problems that might in fact make her blow a gasket. These are truths that I know.

The problem on THAT day last week is that as hard as I tried to remind myself of the things that I knew about anger and raising children, my body, my mind, my SOUL just wouldn’t respond appropriately. So as the day progressed and the whining got louder, more frequent and MUCHO irritating, the more I felt unable to keep the angry monster from jumping out of my throat. Even the heaviest iron boots wouldn’t keep him down.

Believe me, I tried. I did everything that Dr. Speed Dial and my constant companion, Hindsight, have taught me about being a mother who wasn’t a raving maniac. I reasoned. I hugged. I ignored. I distracted. I played and played and played and played. And still…and still…she whined. She whiiiiiiiiiiiiined… Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: 10 Easy Chores for a Two Year Old

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

What A Two Year Can Do

To help your toddler gain their independence, create day-to-day learning experiences that are toddler-friendly. Attach a key ring to their zipper and buy them shoes that are easy for them to put on, and watch their self-esteem soar as they get dressed to leave the house in the morning!

What can a two year old do? I often ask myself when working with a group of twos, what can they really do. How far can I push the idea of independence for which they so much strive. What is the threshold of their capabilities? Two years old is a very special age. It’s the age where they want to do everything “On my own” and “By myself.” It’s the age of the beginning of independence, self-reliance and perseverance.

Parents are sometimes surprised at how much a two year old can do. They are talented little people with a great desire to learn and grow. With a little help, a two year old can pour milk, drink from a cup, set the dinner table, use a fork and clear the table when the meal is finished. She can take her shoes off, put on a hat, and find the missing sock. With minimal assistance, a two year old can accomplish these tasks and in doing so, develop life skills and build self esteem. Yes, sometimes this can take longer, but this extra time is valuable and can afford many beneficial learning experience.

In order to help your child have these experiences, make tasks child friendly so that they can participate. Here are some 10 easy chores a two year old child can do: Read the rest of this entry »

Language Play: Winter Activities & Talking with Your Kids Encourages Language Development

How to Get Through the Winter: Talk to Our Children

Spread the word about the importance of talking and reading to our children, and stay active in the winter! Peruse Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events for opportunities that get you out and engaged in your community… especially in the when it’s cold outside! (Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield)

A long time ago, when I worked as a receptionist, I noticed that during a New England winter, people either looked energized or run down. Since I totally knew why people looked tired after colds, flu, freezing temperatures, and never-ending snow removal, I decided to focus on the ones who were energized, as a kind of sociological study. I simple asked them how their winter was going, and their answers explained it all. They stayed active. They skied, ice-skated, snowshoed, made snowmen, and took trips to local events. They worked with the weather, not against it, and they loved to talk about what they were doing.

When I work with children, the ones who tell me they did nothing over the weekend are the ones I worry about. They’re not going to talk much, and that’s what my job is all about. Once I get kids talking, I see where gaps are in their abilities and figure out how I can help them express better. I prefer this natural method of probing their vocabulary, grammar, and narrative skills.

When kids are active, they come in with enthusiasm and lots of stories. It is natural to want to share a fun experience using language. I work with some kids with limited or no language, but when they’re happy and thinking about their good experiences, they find an icon to show me the topic. They just need to share… Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: The River Will Rise

The River Will Rise

Bridge remains at Chesterfield Gorge. (Photo credit (c) Sienna Wildfield)

This shivery month of melt, please bring your family to the upper neck of the Chesterfield Gorge and look across the Westfield River. You’ll see a twenty-foot tall stone wall tower— the remains of an old colonial bridge, a massive abutment built in 1769 by meticulous stackers of dark granite schist.

I remember looking at it a few years ago, marveling at the brawn and artistry of the backwoods engineers who made it. They must have believed their incredible backaches were worth it, that their bridge would stand for centuries, and they and their progeny would make a living collecting tolls where hemlocks now cluster and choke.

Over two hundred years have gone by, the bridge is long gone and the road it extended is a deer and porcupine highway. Another two more centuries will go by, I imagined then, and the abutment will remain unstaggered, a gratifying, even beautiful, example of our manipulation of the biome to achieve economic goals. And aside from this, I thought, the imperturbability of the stacked stone next to the swift and crashing rapids is, itself, a story that offers a lesson… Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Winter Flashlight Tag

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Tag in the Snowy Darkness

Looking for something to spark play and get you moving in the middle of a long, cold winter? How about flashlight tag… in the snow!

My daughter and I are finding it hard to get ourselves outside to play this month. The initial, “Yeah! It’s a snow day!” thrill is disappearing as the winter goes on. Sunny days and more hours of early daylight are fooling us into thinking we can try to head out minus the necessary hats, mittens and scarves. She has grown tired of the gear and bundling time needed to enjoy the cold and snow.

“Mom, we could just stay in to snuggle up to read or make something inside.”

“Kiddo, we should get a bit of fresh air. Let’s at least go for a walk or sled ride. I’ll pull you.”

The moans and groans commence.

So here I go. Time to add spark to a long, cold winter and get us moving. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: 20 Ideas of Love

What Love Is

When you read this, Valentine’s Day 2014 will be a memory, but the column was penned the week before…so bear with me. Anyways, is there ever really any BAD time to talk about love? And truly, is there anyone more qualified to speak about this particular subject than a mother?

Although I didn’t grow up with the best model of what love is, the older I get the more chances I have had to observe those that are experts at it. Not only have I observed it, but I’ve experienced great love from so many special friends and family, that it is impossible not to learn more and more each day and give it back to my children. And although I have a lot to learn about the strongest emotion in the world, I am beginning to understand the nuances of this complicated thing called love:  Twenty ideas of love…

Just My Type: From Working Mom to SAHM

Working it Out

I got my first full-time job as a junior in college, working the graveyard shift in the composing room of the Troy Record. I was hoping it would lead to a job in the newsroom, as I was studying journalism at Russell Sage College; it eventually did, and I started my career as a newspaper copy editor a couple months before I graduated. From there, I went on to work at several daily and weekly newspapers in the Northeast over the years, including the entire time I was pregnant with my daughter, Noelle, and seven weeks after she was born.

But this is not an autobiography. This is looking forward.

For the first time since that first job in Troy, N.Y., I am not working full-time anymore… Read the rest of this entry »

A Love Letter to My Children

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

A Love Letter

My daughter is curious about love. She is ten going on 25, and wants my dirt. “Who was your first kiss?” Tim Rikkers. “Were you in love with someone in high school?” Yes. “Did you ever curl up and cry really hard over someone?” Gulp. The last response gets stuck in my throat like a long-forgotten bone. Yes, I answer honestly, wanting her to know the truth about me and inevitably, herself. I explain that it was a really long time ago, and that the morning he left, I felt as though my heart walked away from my body. “Did you tell your mom?” No, I admitted, I hadn’t. My mom wasn’t the touchy-feely type, and had little time for foolishness. But if someone could have told me a few things about love ahead of time, I would have listened hard. There are lots of articles on the general topic, but most are written with the finger pointing squarely at the other person, and what they are sorely lacking. They have titles like, “11 Signs you are Dating A Boy, Not a Man,” and “30 Signs you are Dating a Jerk.” But everyone knows, or has at least heard, that you can’t change people, you can only change yourself. So assuming that my young adult children will not associate with complete sociopaths, there are some things I want them to know before I miss the opportunity. A “love letter” to them would read something like this: Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five

I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!

With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste…

Hindsight Parenting: Mother & Daughter Solitaire Extraordinare

Solitary Not-Confinement

She walks into the party.  Her patent leather shoes shine, stockings are straight and sleek.  Her hair is in a perfectly high ponytail with red grosgrain ribbon to hold it in place.  When she arrives, she is happily greeted by the other children attending.  They surround her.  Two grab her hands and lead her to the awaiting bouncy houses.  She scurries up the ramp and begins to bounce.  Her laughter mixes with the laughter of her friends.

Her mother is greeted by the other moms.  She knows them all by their first name.  She is gloriously adept at making small talk; remembering to ask about this one’s son and that one’s husband, commenting on the fierce cold, and sharing recipes for perfect Valentine treats.  She is pulled together perfectly; jeans, boots, and long sweater.  Her hair, in a high pony tail, matches her daughter.  She nods her head in sympathetic agreement as she listens intently to one of the other mothers exclaiming how she would just PERISH if she wasn’t able to go out every weekend “just to get away for a bit.”

Can you picture it?  I can…but that’s it.  I can only PICTURE it.  None of this scene has ever really happened in this girl’s world; not last year, not last month, and not at a party last weekend… Read the rest of this entry »

Language Play: Memory, Language and Learning

Language and Memory

We think about memory as we and our relatives age. It seems like it gets harder and harder to remember people’s names or the places we did things or what was said. We know that a lot of this is the normal aging process or too much on our plate at once. Unfortunately, people are much less aware of childhood memory problems. We expect our children to never experience memory gaps because they are young with fresh absorbent brains, but it turns out that many children struggle to remember things…   Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: How Rivers Still Flow When It’s Way Below

Ice-Walking Bugs, and the Lessons They Teach Us

(Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield)

For the next two months or so, if the weather isn’t too bizarre, we’ll be knee deep in snow, and our rivers and streams will be flowing beneath their softest, whitest blankets, like restless kids dreaming of bodysurfing at the beach. When it’s really really cold outside, the river becomes the warmest part of the biome—kinda like our beds become the warmest part of the house when the frost creeps over the windows.

A few weeks ago, when the temp was in single digits, I saw bathtub steam rising off the Westfield River. In the squeaky-snow brilliance of the unclouded morning, more vitality in a deep breath than a whole pot of coffee, I had a flashback of some Rocky Mountain hotsprings, arrived at after two days of backcountry snowshoeing and skiing. Like a chrome grasshopper off the top of an ear, a gleaming sliver of myself leapt to that river steam, magnetized by the delicious feeling drifting in the wavering mist: of the coincidence of opposites, wet/dry hot/cold, manifesting as a high country hottub, as exclusive and elegant as they come. I wanted to jump into this fantasy, but didn’t—because I knew that water was so cold that it burns… Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Four Steps to Support Toddler Art

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Art Under Three

Creating art with children under three years old can be challenging if you don’t remember that it is not about the artwork itself. For a toddler there is no end result in sight. Rather it’s the process; it’s the doing. Art with this age group is the art of creating and mushing and mixing and smearing. It is the art of identifying colors and textures. It’s a depth of imagination that many of us have forgotten about.

Art with the under three crowd is messy and scattered. Projects at this age are never finished – well, until they are crumpled, ripped into pieces and thrown at the walls. That’s why when we introduce art to children in this group it is important to have age appropriate expectations and to be prepared… Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Top Five Most Misused Words and Phrases by Preschoolers

Fluent in Preschool

You did it!!!  It may not have been smooth sailing at times, but at least the dingy didn’t capsize! You made it through the sleepless-nights-poopy-diapers-tantrum-throwing-potty-training years of infancy and toddler-dom.  Now, you have a preschooler, and he or she can speak! What does that mean? All of that incessant crying to get what they want—done!  After all, you are living with a pint-sized communicator–all right–a rudimentary communicator, but at least able to say what he or she wants and needs.  Now it’s going to be much easier, right?

Maybe…It really depends, because you see, those teeny humans, like any human learning a new language, may use a word or utterance in a way that it is not meant to be used.  And without a translation guide, parents are…well… back in that dingy without a paddle.  Luckily, not only have I unlocked the code to the top five most misused words and phrases by preschoolers, I have devised a parental action plan to take for each, and share them with you here: Top Five Most Misused Words and Phrases by Preschoolers…

Oak & Acorn: Beet Brownies

Beet Brownies

If you are having a sweet craving but want to add a little healthy nutrition, try this recipe for Beet Brownies! [Photo credit: (c) Leslie Lynn Lucio]

Recently we had some rainy days, so we spent a lot of time doing activities indoors. Whenever we have days like that, we do things like play games, read books, do a puzzle and usually we end up baking a delicious treat or some yummy food together. I don’t like giving my six-year old daughter Thu, too many sweets but I admit that I was the one craving a sweet really bad the other day that I decided we should bake something. While going through the kitchen, I saw some beets and thought that maybe we should give it another go to make some beet brownies.

Check out the recipe…

Just My Type: Marshmallow Heart

Safe and Sound

Every day when I send Noelle off to school, I am putting her life in the hands of people who are virtual strangers.

“I don’t ever want to talk to you again!”

My daughter, Noelle, uttered these words as she flew out the front door to wait for the school bus. She was angry because she and I had just tussled over her use of her new iPad Mini before school, and this was her parting shot to me.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched her board the bus. Logically, I know kids say these kinds of things to their parents all the time when they are angry and full of youthful drama. But on a purely emotional level, I was devastated, and it didn’t take much soul-searching to realize why.  Every day when I send Noelle off to school, I am putting her life in the hands of people who are virtual strangers. The people who work at her school are, without a doubt, kind, well-meaning and professional, but they are effectively strangers… Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Favorite Reads Inspiring Creative-Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Favorite Books

I am currently working with a small and energetic group of 2 and 3 year-olds. Our daily routine involves lots of food, group activities and free play with the usual suspects—cars, babies, trains, play food and building toys. We have art time with play dough, paints and simple projects. And, of course, we all (including the 2 adults) need outside time to run and breathe in some fresh air before lunch and nap. The cold, cold days mean less time to run outside. There is only so longthose short legs can trudge through the snow piles and those tiny fingers can keep warm and dry. Everyone loves a snowy day but the frigid temps often take over.

We are constantly seeking new activities to spark play and imagination. We need to keep those minds and bodies engaged through the winter cold. I turn to favorite books to add surprise games. During the fall a train book slowly became a pre-nap favorite—The Goodnight Train by June Sobel. One little one insists upon it before a final heads down, blankets on and “Have a good sleep, everybody.” Like many children with favorite books, they have it memorized. If I skip a word or say the “Choo, Choo, Sleeeeep, Sleeeep” line with different emphasis they catch me. I like to change things up for my interest but not the kids…

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