Tagkids activities

Five Ways I’m Encouraging Creativity in My Kids

As I’ve watched my kids develop, I’ve seen some amazing ideas flow out of their little heads. They have literally blown my mind with their creativity. It’s already in their minds. I just want to keep it going. Here are five things I’m doing to nurture it.

1. Let them pick their own clothes – I read an article years ago about encouraging young children to be creative. One of the tips that has stuck with me is to let your child pick their own clothes. This not only gives them a job and teaches them independence, it lets them explore what they like. Do I get so really “great” outfits at my house? Oh yay! We sneak photos and hide laughter. It’s an easy way to develop their sense of self.

2. Encourage them to makeup their own games – We have had a lot of fun over the years making up our own games, and it is such a great creativity exercise. We love to take existing game pieces and make up our own way of using them. We’ve made our own character cards and powers. We’ve made our own game boards for existing pieces. We’ve just changed the rules to existing games.

3. Keep craft materials available to them – Awhile ago, I realized that when my kids were having a great time being creative, my dining room table was covered in supplies. This drives me nuts after a bit. So, I purchased a three drawer table, and filled it with supplies: paper, markers, crayons, glue scissors, googly eyes, tape, pipe cleaners and more. It lives in the dining room where they like to work and is easy to access. They don’t have to bug me for supplies when they get an idea. And when they are done, there is a home for stuff.

4. Turn off the devices and let them to be bored – I’ve done this a few times recently, and I can’t even tell you how creative they become when they don’t know what to do. My kids have built cardboard dollhouses and hand cut all the accessories. They have built critters on top of a remote controlled car so it can chase you. They’ve “ice skated” around the kitchen floor on paper plates. I didn’t help think up any of this. I just point to the supplies they request.

5. Let them see me being creative – This is the statement every parent hates to hear: model the behavior. But it really works (and it’s good for you too). They can see what you enjoy and spin it into their own thing.

I used to save all my crafting for when my kids were asleep because I didn’t want them in my supplies. I didn’t want them wasting them. I really had to change my thought process on this one. Being creative is not wasteful. They’re just exploring the medium. I share some of my stuff, but not all. Some they have to ask to use or be supervised.

My takeaway: Nurture the creativity! It’s good for us all.

Five Life Lessons I Learned From Coaching Youth Soccer

youth soccer

youth soccer

I love soccer. I love to play it and watch it. I really wanted to share it with my kids (knowing full well that they’ll probably fall in love with a different sport. Murphy’s Law, right?)

So when my son’s team ended up without a coach last year, I gingerly stepped forward. But this new coaching role … it was hard! And I have and continue to learn a lot from these little players, both about soccer and life. Here is a glimpse at what I’ve gained:

  • Don’t let one problem person distract you from seeing all the good happening around you. On each of the teams I’ve coached, there are always a couple of players who act out. My first tactic is to ignore this behavior because I don’t want to provide attention for poor behavior. The problem is when one player’s bad behavior affects another player. Then I have to step in. I can handle this a few times, but after awhile, it wears me down and makes me angry. I have to remind myself that even though one or a handful of players are being obnoxious, the others are playing hard and learning. There are coaches and parents donating their time and energy. There are positive relationships being built. There is a lot of good happening around, if you can just look past those annoyances.
  • When it gets tough, just keep showing up. This one goes hand in hand with the first lesson I learned. After those hard practices that make you want to quit, just keep showing up. Just keep trying. Life’s not always pretty, but we make progress if we just keep going.
  • Parenting is part of coaching, part of being a mentor. This lesson caught me more off guard than it should have. I thought I was there to facilitate the fun. Nope. I am a teacher, and it’s not limited to soccer. Life lessons that have come up include:
    • Treat others with respect. (This is so multifaceted: respect adults when their talking, respect teammates when listening and practicing, have respectful physical interactions with teammates and opponents, have respectful conversations with teammates and opponents.)
    • Life is not fair; play the game you’re given.
    • Don’t play down (dirty); play like the kind person you want to be.
  • I want our sons and daughters to see women as leaders (coaches), and that means I might have to step up and be that leader. The first team I coached was an all boys team. I really worried that they’d look at me (a mom, a female) and think “What does she know?” To my surprise, this didn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t for this generation. Then I coached a co-ed team, and I can tell you the girls were thrilled to have a female coach. I hope they continue to see this throughout their lives.
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal: Fun! After those miserable practices where I’ve yelled a lot, I try to think of how I can do it differently the next time. How can I make sure it’s fun, and the team wants to keep coming back? Usually I switch something up: more time to goof around at the beginning, a different warm up drill  or new skill to teach, make them the activity leaders, or change the rules for the scrimmage at the end.

soccer2

My designer takeaway: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

My Favorite Things #1

I love a list of favorites. Don’t you? I usually discover something new with an honest critique/recommendation.

At this time of year, the feeling of beginning again or starting anew, has had a big impact on my favorites. Here is where my heart is at the moment:

1. Decluttering calendar
For the last three years, I have started to follow a calendar like this. Even though I get stopped each time, I love the progress I’ve made and the philosophy of tackling it in little steps each day. Recently, we even organized our junk drawer. I love to open it now!

coloringexample

2. Adult coloring books and this blog post: How to Color Like a Boss
I have given them as gifts, but this year, I received one! I love telling my family to stay out of my coloring book and markers. I love the excuse to enjoy a “child’s activity.” It’s nice to take the time to concentrate on it, even if it’s just five minutes. The activity seems to suck me in, and I lose track of time. It feels like a good test of color combinations and visual depth.

birddrawings

3. Draw a bird each day to avoid depression
I’m not so much worried about avoiding depression, but I love the concept of having one little drawing to do each day (and I love his collection of birds for sale). It’s like an ongoing artist study. We could easily switch this concept to any animal or object.

4. Audiobooks
I love a good story, written or read. Lately, I seem to be stumbling on to audiobooks that are like performances. It makes the experience so much richer than if I had just read the story. Here’s one to try: JoJo Moyes’ “The Girl You Left Behind”

5. Mini canvases
I bought a pack of canvases to try out, but I’ll admit it, I was chicken to start and “waste them.” One day recently, my son asked for something sturdier to paint on, and I busted them out. I love them. I hope to play some more, even if I do waste some.

6. Trying new recipes
I try to use a new recipe most weeks. Lately I’ve been toying with making a new soup each week. If that goes well, I’ll share with you here! But here is this week’s recipe that I’m going to try, Mongolian Beef. I love using a slower cooker!

7. Minute to Win It Games
Every time I host a party, I search for some minute to win it games. I love this concept, silly and fast. They are games that we haven’t done and won’t inherently be good at. They will make everyone cheer and laugh. My son’s school teacher even incorporated some at their last class party. Genius!

guitarvalentines

puppyvalentines

8. Homemade Valentines
Over the years, I/we have made a lot of Valentines for my kids’ classes. We’ve made puppies, ladybugs, rockets, guitars, fish, superheroes, dinosaurs and more. It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work. I realized as my kids have gotten a little older and more able to help that it’s a good project for them. They get to not only create something, but also think of others and give to them.

fairydoor

9. Fairy Gardens
While I don’t have mine up and running yet, I’ve been collecting items and ideas. I have a lovely front door and a large log with a vision. I hope to share this with you in the summer months.

10. Just Dance
Our Wii has come back into play since we bought a copy of Just Dance (a old edition). It’s a lot fun with some silly moves and, hey, it has to add a little bit of exercise into our playtime. In the winter, we need to get our energy out somehow!

A Mermaid-Themed Birthday

Last month, I threw a mermaid-themed party for my young daughter. Here are a few highlights of what we did:

sign-4th-birthday

Food: As our friendships have evolved and grown, we have groups with nut and gluten allergies as well as vegan lifestyles. While I can be accommodating to these, I just avoided it with this party. We held it in the morning, ending at noon. We had some simple snacks of watermelon sticks and a homemade party mix, and called it a day.

snacks

Homemade party mix:

  • popcorn
  • Teddy Grahams, honey and chocolate flavors
  • M&Ms

 

Cake: Well, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. For parties, I prefer cupcakes because they are less messy and quick to pass out. For the cupcakes, I made white chocolate sea shells with a candy mold. I bought some of those pearl sprinkles to add to the shells. They were very pretty! Later on her actual birthday, we made a full on mermaid cake using a shaped cake pan. The mermaid cake was a big hit!

shell-cupcakes mermaid-cake

Activity: I have done many parties in our pole barn, but I just didn’t have the urge to prep all that this time. We held the party at our local botanic gardens, which has a children’s garden, complete with water to play in.

playing

I have been wanting to create a scavenger hunt for a birthday party for ages because my brother and I used to make them for each other growing up. They were so much fun. I decided since my oldest can read, I would make a group scavenger hunt. It was great. I picked three areas of the gardens: the sand area, the tepees and the puppet stage. I had goodies set up with an adult at each part. The first stop included a bucket to hold all of these goodies. Inside the bucket were three shells buried in sand. We did this in the sand area so they could just dump the sand there. Then my son read the next clue, and they were off to the teepees. I had an adult in a teepee with a treasure box filled with goldfish packages and fish-shaped suckers. They read another clue and ran to the puppet show area. There we had spread out these fun beach balls with fish inside. Everyone got to pick one. The scavenger/treasure hunt was a big hit. I would definitely do that again.

scavenger-hunt

Overall, I think the party was a success! It was a nice day with some structured and unstructured activities. The kids ate sugar early in the day, but they ran around too. I got to take it easy the rest of my day. Over and done!

Me designer takeaway: Remember your childhood favorites and re-purpose them for today!

blowing-candles

Entering the County Fair

Our local county fair was held recently. I’ve been trying to make sure I enter something because it means 1) I’m doing something creative at home and 2) I’m finishing projects. It’s fun to share them with the world every now and then. 🙂

cowl-fair-entry-2015

This year I didn’t have much to share in the knitting department. I haven’t finished much, but I have been knitting! I did have this cowl hanging around that was almost done. It just needed buttons. I found these great huge red buttons that were exactly what I was picturing in my mind for finishing it. The buttons are roughly the same size, but vary in design and shade of red. It really pops on the black wool cowl.

butterfly-fair-entry-2015

I also entered a photograph this year. The photography entries for the fair rarely place because there are so many entered, but I had this great photo and thought I’d give it a try. We were given the InsectLore butterfly habitat as a gift. You get caterpillars in the mail and watch them become butterflies. This photograph was from the day we released them. They were hanging out on my daisies in my flowerbed before they flew away. The whole experience was really amazing to watch. We’ll definitely do it again! And, I took a ton of photos!

This year, I also had my son enter in the Lego category. What a great option for kids, huh!

My designer takeaway: Get a little public recognition every now and then. It’s good for the soul. (And it can even be as small scale as the county fair.)

The ‘Creative Making’ List

Christmas seems to be a time of “making” for me. We make goodies for our neighbors. We make letters/cards for friends and family. We make decorations, and we make crafts with the kids. Here are a few of the things we’ve been up to lately! (It feels good to list the things I’ve accomplished this time of year, but the to-do list is still plenty long!)

goodie-plates

Goodie plates:
I always get together with my mother and spend most of a day baking. We put together full plates of a variety of goodies to deliver to our neighbors. I love spending the day with my mom baking and listening to Christmas tunes. Puts us in the holiday spirit! Sometimes the kids help, too. I also love delivering the plates. We catch up with our wonderful neighbors. They know we’re coming each year!

christmas-letter-for-blog

Christmas letter:
I’m still into the Christmas letter. I still hand write in each card too. I like the process of it all. Spending the time to look back through our photos and select a few of each of us is fun. It reminds me of what happened that year and how far we’ve come. It’s a great chance to see all the wonderful moments that made up the year. I like thinking about each person I send cards to as I sign their card. Those are the moments that put me in the holiday spirit, thinking of family and friends.

wreath

Wreath:
There always seems to be some kind of holiday craft on my to-do list each year. This outdoor wreath has been on the list for a year (and I’ve had the supplies sitting around that long, too)! And I finally made it! It only took about two hours and was a fun process! I also learned how to make a lovely bow with ribbon wrapped around a box. How did I not know this!

cone-tree-decorating

Christmas Trees with Kids:
The last few years, our family has made gingerbread houses. While fun, it seemed like more of a grownup chore than fun for the kids. I dialed it back this year with an easy and still tasty Christmas tree made from an ice cream cone covered in frosting. The kids loved this project. I introduced them to red hots for the first time. They loved daring each other to eat them!

My designer takeaway: Make a list of all that you’ve accomplished. What a mental boost this time of year!

Adventures in Marbling with Shaving Cream

marbling2title

As I stated in a previous post, I would love to try a new craft with my kids each week. In that spirit, we did one last week! One day when I was picking my daughter up from school, they were marbling with shaving cream and paint on paper. I really wanted to try this.

So I bought some shaving cream (not gel) and then it sat on our counter for a few weeks. So last week I got online and looked for tips (like this one and this one). I found people were using all kinds of paint. I decided to try some finger paints we had on hand.

Boy, did my kids love this!

For materials, we used:
8 x 8 glass pan
Shaving Cream
Paint
Wooden Skewer (for mixing)
Paint Stir Stick (for removing)
Newspaper (under the mess)
Cardstock (trimmed down to fit in the pan – 5 x 7-ish)

So we made a layer of shaving cream in the pan and then added some blobs of paint. The kids set off mixing with the wooden skewers. The loved the mixing so much that I had to interrupt to make the print. You just stick the paper right on top of the mixed up mess. After you flip it over, you use a straight edge (paint stir stick for us) to scrap off the shaving cream, and the wonderful marbling is left behind. It’s kind of exciting to watch the unveiling as you scrap the goo away!

And, on one of the tutorials I read, it said to just add a new layer of shaving cream, if you want to start over. Super easy!

Here are some of our prints. Now, for the future, I want to try this alone (sans kids because of the staining factor) with some food coloring. I’m hoping to get some more intense colors.

marbling5

My designer takeaway: Remember it’s good to make a mess. Some wonderful creations are made when you make a mess (and wonderful memories, too).

Fourth Annual Halloween Party

Last weekend we held our annual Halloween party. I wasn’t sure we were going to pull it off this year, but it turned out great! Here is a rundown on this year’s event:

Googly-eye Invitations

Googly-eye Invitations

Decorations: Like last year, I used decorations I already had like the spider webs, the wild wreath my mother made, a couple signs (Boo and Spooky), tablecloths, and my paper bats. We got lots of pumpkins from a pumpkin patch this year, which was a lot of fun. My new idea for this year was to darken one of our rooms with black tablecloths. We hung some purple lights in there and I made glowstick pumpkin bowling available for the kids. Once you add people in their costumes, the room decor is really secondary. Speaking of costumes, I was a frog (using a green hoodie and styrofoam eyeballs)!

Annual Mummy Wrap Race

Annual Mummy Wrap Race

Activities: This was where I slacked this year. 🙂 We started off our activities with the traditional mummy wrap. This was the best one yet because the kids are getting old enough to wrap each other. It was a crazy blast! Then I always hand out prizes. I gave everyone a glowstick/glow-somthing to enjoy in our dark room. As I said, we had glowstck pumpkin bowling in the dark room. The third activity was a craft, making a bat. I was at the store, and craft kits were on sale. They were calling to me. So I picked up a couple build a bat sets, and we helped the kids who wanted to build one. I will say that my best idea was to use glue dots. These things not only saved my floors from being covered in glue, but it also gave instant results for the kids. There was no waiting for things to dry.

Owl Cupcakes

Owl Cupcakes

Cups of Halloween Trail Mix

Cups of Halloween Trail Mix

Food: Of course the food is important. My idea for this year was a variety of soups. I kept worrying that this was going to be messy, but it was fine. We made tortilla soup, chicken noodle soup and black bean soup. We had rolls, veggies with two kinds of dip, fruit, cupcakes with owl faces, and a Halloween trail mix (cereal, pumpkin shaped pretzels, dried apple, candy corn, mini M&Ms). Every year I make witch and skeleton finger dipped pretzels (using pretzel rod molds). Those are always popular. I think it’s the sweet and salty combo. This year, three guests offered to bring treats, which has given me the idea to do a potluck for next year. I think people like to show off their cooking skills! 🙂

I almost canceled the party this year because there were so many other things going on that same night. I didn’t, and instead, I expanded who I invited. It was really a wonderful mix of people in the end. It all came together.

My designer takeaway: This year, I learned that it will all work out in the end, just keep going.

A Lollipop Party

Last weekend, we held my daughter’s third birthday party. Let’s just say I was not in the mood to plan another party. I kept toying with holding it somewhere besides our house so I could minimize the effort I had to exert, but I just couldn’t find somewhere appropriate. So, dragging my feet, I did another party in our pole barn. And, it was great.

lollipops

I’ve decided three year olds are old enough to pick their own party theme. My daughter said she wanted a lollipop party. So, we went with that, not feeling overly inspired. I got online and found some beautiful mini swirl lollipops and ordered them. They came in a package of 48, which meant I could use them to top cupcakes and for the goodie bags. And then, I was a bit stuck. What to do at a lollipop party … hmm … So, we went really simple!

Print

Invitations: I drew my own little lollipop and made these brightly colored invitations for her party. I always like to include a photo.

Activities: These are the easiest ones I’ve done yet. I still feel a little guilty for the lack of effort I put into them, but the kids still had fun.

play-area

For the first activity, I put out all our playdough tools and toys on a low table. Then I bought a new package of all the colors of playdough so they would be nice and soft. The kids loved this area. I will warn you that all the colors ended up mixed together, but who cares, right!

For the next activity, we set out all our play pots and pans and food. Most of these toys live at grandma’s house so they feel new to my kids.

david-bugs

And then, I set out our play tent and tunnel, and soccer balls and goal. The kids didn’t use these too much this time. My son led a group around outside catching bugs for most of the party, ha! (Note the grasshopper in the bottle turned “bug box” above.) I always say, “They never play with things like I think they will.”

alli-candles

Food: I went for my standard party food: pizza, watermelon, grapes, veggies and dip, Cheetos, water bottles, juice boxes, cupcakes and ice cream cups. The cupcakes were cute and super simple. I iced them with white frosting and rolled the edges in sprinkles. Then I stuck a pretty lollipop in the middle. I left these wrapped so that kids could eat them later, if they wanted.

Decorations: This part was pretty easy for the lollipop theme. I just took the lollipops I drew for the invitations and printed them out as large as I could to hang on the walls. I made some full page versions to wrap around our outside posts. I also made little matching tags for our goodie bags.

My designer takeaway: Sometimes you’re just not feelin’ it, but you have to show up to the “party” anyway.

Planning a Kid’s Birthday Party

I’m gearing up for the next birthday party in my family, and it occurred to me that I am a planner. From my experience with other creative/artistic personalities, this is unusual. Most of my classmates in college and creative parent friends now are successful and thriving last-minute people. There seems to be something about the threat of a deadline that drives them artisticly.

Not me. I plan, with wiggle-room for changes, but I plan.

Between the two kids, I am on my ninth kid birthday party. Here is how I break down the planning:

1. About a month out, I ask the soon-to-be birthday child for a theme. Then I wait a day or two and ask again. And perhaps one more time to make sure we’re good with the selected theme. 🙂

2. I start a page in my planner for party. Just one page where I write it all down. This page isn’t pretty, just functional.
– Dates and times I might use
– Who to send invitations to
– Activity ideas
– Food and supply needs
– Decorations to get or make
The best part about this page is that I can look back through last year’s or the previous kid’s party this year and see who we invited or how many pizzas I ordered (and I always order too many, but I’m down to one extra rather than three now).

3. I start looking online or through my family magazines for activity ideas. As always, I go for three activities and maybe throw in something extra like sports balls or coloring sheets for kid-directed fun. If you’re hosting it at a venue, this step may be easy for you: just book the venue.

4. While I’m looking for activities, I usually see lots of decorating ideas and cake/cupcake ideas. These seem to be documented better with photos than activities. And, to me, the activities are the most important element for the fun factor and the part I struggle with most. If I start there, the decorations seem to come easily.

Decorations totally depend on where you’re hosting the party. If it’s in your house, you can probably do more than if it’s in your yard or at a venue. I always say a colored tablecloth goes a long way to making a party. It’s a big splash of color. I like an outdoor sign so people know they’re at the right location.

5. Two weeks before the event, I like to send out the invitations. I feel like this is close enough that guests won’t forget and not too close that everyone will already have plans (and allows time for gifts to be purchased, if you do gifts at the party).

6. After the invitations go out, I try to pace myself with the decorations, goodie bags and food/supply purchasing. I like to do as much early prep as I can.
– I make the decorations in 1-3 evenings (usually after the kids are in bed or sometimes with the kids’ help) and set them in the basement to keep them safe for the event.
– I guess on the number of guests and make up goodie bags ahead of time. I keep these simple. I do two food (candy/treat) items and one toy.
– I make a food/supply shopping list and stash the non-perishable stuff in the basement, too.
For me, this makes the process enjoyable because I can work on it when I want. Of course there are last minute elements to complete the day of, but it’s usually manageable and fun.

7. I know this is not for everyone, but I like to make my own cakes or cupcakes because I think they taste better than what I can buy. I also enjoy decorating them. Here I either keep it simple or get some assistance from my mother who use to decorate cakes in a bakery. Mostly, I do cupcakes these days because they are faster and easier for handing out at the party. I usually make these the night before the party so they are fresh.

My designer takeaway: Do what works for you. I have met enough people to know that if someone is a last-minute accomplisher, they will succeed without planning time. If you’re a planner, maybe looking through my process will help you organize for your next event.

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