Teaching art to children

Whether you are homeschooling or just to keep kids busy during the summer, these are some great blogs to follow for inspiration and "how to" instructions.

Concept to Object and crayon art

This Lansing, MI artist has wonderful creations to sell on etsy (check out discount codes here), but also shows you how to do some neat DIY art projects.  Her crayon art was featured at the 2011 East Lansing art festival. She graciously provided crayon art instructions in case you want to try your hand at making an original art piece yourself.  It would be a great outdoor summer project to do with the kids using the sun.

If you are a mother or teacher of preschoolers, this is a "must-follow" blog!  She gives complete step by step instructions for drawing objects so you do not have to be an artist yourself.  It's very empowering! The art projects use simple supplies that you'll likely have on hand or can easily obtain from a box store or dollar store. The near-daily blog posts show you what artwork is going on in her classroom.  So you can use this site to help you plan your own curriculum and activities.

Here are some wonderful tutorials:

Parenting the intense, explosive, inflexible, sprited, twice gifted child.

A rose is a rose by any other name, but a challenging kid can have lots of different labels.

I'm not against labels if they help me get resources, find support, and give some validity to the challenges we face.

Emotional intensity seems to be a common factor in all these labels, along with the autism spectrum and ADHD and sensory processing disorder.

In a decade our understanding of brain science will figure out the nuances, similarities, and distinctions between these labels.

But in the meantime, what are parents to do in the face of everyday struggles and and challenges?

Here are some resources that I appreciate for strategies:

An Intense Life Blog - where intensity is embraced and celebrated as an asset for children when channeled into positive means.  She offers 7 tips for working with emotionally intense kids.

Celebrate Calm - providing specific strategies for dealing with behavioral outbursts in positive, calm ways to help parents get the respect they desire while respecting the child.

Lives in the Balance: Cooperative Problem Solving Approaches to Behavior - helping parents and teachers recognize the skills that kids with behavioral challenges are lacking, like flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving and help build them. Rather than viewing them as unmotivated or manipulative, Ross Green's approach helps builds mutual respect between adults and kids by meeting needs and building skills.

Kidlutions - providing anger management tools for kids and their parents and offering special tips and guidance for understanding and helping angry/intense kids.

The importance of knowing your neighbors, lots of them.

From NPR: How Social Networking Can Help Neighbors During Disasters

Knowing your neighbors, and lots of of them is important.
Daniel Aldrich analyses indicate that neighbors and people in the immediate environment were important in surviving and recovering from natural disasters.  
  • Japan earthquakes - 2011 - It wasn't government intervention or first responders that saved the most people. It was neighbors who did.
  • India tsunami 2004 - It wasn't money, or power that helped the most. The people who were doing best after the disasters were those who knew lots of people; those who were most socially connected in their community.
How socially connected are we to our neighbors?

If you use facebook as a measure of how socially connected we are to our neighbors, then the news isn't so great. 

According to "Social networking sites and our lives" quoted in this NPR report, on average, people only connect with 2 neighbors on facebook. Facebook appears to be more useful for re-connecting with existing social networks (family, friends, co-workers, former classmates, voluntary organizations) but not establishing new connections with people who share a sense of nothing but place.
How do we connect?
In this report they suggest using the "Front Porch" social media application designed to connect people only from the same community. 

But that application has only been rolled out in a very small sample of communities.

So what can folks do in the meantime?
  • Start or participate in a block group or neighborhood association. 
  • Pass out flyers to ask folks on your block to bring a dish to pass at a summer block party outdoors.
  • Introduce yourself to 2 neighbors. Ask your neighbors to introduce you to their neighbors.
  • Organize a group ticket price for a local sporting event and ask neighbors to meet there together.
  • Ask neighbors to join in on a block garage sale.
  • Start a walking club on your block.

Whether or not you connect with these neighbors on facebook, at least you will know each other! When you are comfortable, exchange telephone numbers or email so you can connect with each other in multiple ways.
Happy neighboring!

For the CNN junkie who likes gardening: The story of Luther Burbank

It's hard to believe that many of my geeky interests co-mingled in this one book; Plants, politics, and history.

 If CNN was around at the beginning of our history, the contents of this book are what we would have been watching as our nation's infrastructure, land grant universities, and ideals unfolded with an amazing cast of characters;Inventors, politicians, celebrities, scholars, business owners. 
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding, and
businessman Harvey C. Firestone at one of a series of camping trips 1921 in Maryland.

Here's a smart kid who was a misfit by all accounts, who would fall though the cracks of today's education system, but went on to become a great inventor right alongside Edison and Ford. 

Photo of Burbank with Thomas Edison taken in garden
beside ivy-covered wall of new residence
 by John Ross of Santa Rosa. http://www.sonic.net/~rb45/P-I-F.htm

Seeing the photos and reading the stories of Edison, Ford, Firestone, and Burbank interacting with one another were fascinating, along with accounts of interations with the Wright brothers, Hellen Keller, Leland Stanford and other dignitaries of the day.

This book gives us insight into the running thread of history and agricultural policy decisions in the context of Darwin, Irish potato famine, poverty, American enthusiasm for inventions and ingenuity and the politics and emergence of the American academic institutions.

So many of the debates and discussions are still relevant today, some ideals having come full circle.  This book made history come alive in technicolor.

Decisions regarding plant patenting that Luther Burbank fought so hard for but did not see before his death, continue to evolve and were modified as recently as 1994.

We now see plant patenting issues discussed in response to the medical marijuana laws enacted by states.  The pharmaceutical industry, the designated distributor of other medicines, is blocked in distribution, not only by drug laws but by plant patent laws.

Heirloom Vegetables
We can see how the initial goals to improve plant production to address poverty and bring improvements has resulted in genetically modified foods, tasteless produce that travels well, and loss of heirloom varieties.  It is an arc of probably unintended consequences from the initial quests.

How could I not know about Luther Burbank before reading this book?  Arbor day was created in his honor and celebrated on his birthday. His birthplace resides "down the road" at Greenfield Village.

Certainly this book has been food for thought.

Lawns with Less Grass: Outdoor play spaces for children

We have been working to eliminate as much unnecessary grass as possible. 

If the grass isn't a space in the yard that is conducive to playing ball or some other purpose, I feel there is no need for grass which needs to be watered and mowed.

Instead, my goal is to make our yard a magical place for kids to grow and explore, even in the middle of the city.

So we added a small pond, lovingly referred to as a puddle by my neighbor, and lots of plantings.

Perennial beds, vegetable gardens, fruit trees and bushes, and paths give us lots of alternatives to grass.

Butterflies, birds, rabbits, hummingbirds, bees, and even deer come to visit our little oasis in the city.

I drew much inspiration from "A Child's Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children" by Molly Dannenmaier.  The photos are incredible.  The ideas unique and magical. I wanted to jump into each page and live there. 

The book provided ideas for creating the essential elements of an outdoor playspace including, water, dirt, sand, creatures, and places for climbing, pretending, hiding, picking, moving, learning, imagining.

Because we live on a corner lot, with lots of front yard and hardly any back yard, all our gardens are front yard gardens.  So it was wonderful to find a book all about growing in the front yard instead of the traditional back yard garden. 

I love the concept of The Welcoming Garden by Gordon Hayward, with gardens that call out an invitation to enter and gather instead of being seen as barriers or perimeter borders.

Here are the books which have been useful in thinking about how to create our outdoor environment for children and adults, keeping in mind low-maintenance goals while being on a small plot of land in which all our space is in the front.  That's a tall order!  These are some great books to help.

Easy recipes for busy families: One pot cooking

I'll admit it.  I hate hate hate to cook.  But I don't mind making soups.  I love to eat soups and I feel like I can be at least mildly successful making them.

I guess the truth is that I feel like I can cook when it involves putting stuff in one pot to cook.  Here are some of my favorite recipe books in the "one pot" theme.

5 Star Rated Soup! Hot and cold recipes for all seasons by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson.



Divides recipes into:
  • Classic
  • Chunky
  • Smooth
  • Chilled
  • Spicy
  • Special Occasions
  • Further detailed classifications include sweet, savory, aromatic, cleansing, refreshing, smoky etc.

Just One Pot: Over 320 Simple and Delicious Recipes, from Hearty Stews to Tasty Tangines



Includes recipes for:
  • Soup pot
  • Fry pot
  • Stew pot
  • Boiling pot
  • Oven pot
  • Tabletop pot (fondues, hot pots, slow cookers)

More help for picky eaters

Our family has found a great food strategy that in keeping with the tricks of "Sneaky Chef" Missy Chase Lapine to hide nutritious foods into yummy kid friendly food.

Smoothies have come to save the day!

Like many kids with sensory processing disorder, my son has very distinct preferences for tastes and textures.

Many kids with SPD have an affinity for cold or frozen foods because it gives more oral sensory input and is more pleasant to them.

 It's hard enough to get the day started without fighting over what to eat for breakfast.  Some of us folks who are not morning people, find it even harder to deal with the unpleasant nature of food first thing in the day.

So our strategy now is to just offer our son a smoothie for breakfast. 

Our son had asked for a Ninja blender for his birthday and it has been a lifesaver.  Unlike our blender, it can really crush ice and frozen fruits into smooth textures.

It was certainly a gift we are all enjoying, not only because it makes mornings more calm, but because we all get to enjoy the tasty frozen (and healthy) treats.

Some of our favorite healthy concoctions:
  • Orange juice, carrots, pineapples, ice, sugar to taste
  • Frozen blueberries, frozen bananas, strawberries, yogurt, wheat germ
  • Orange juice, ice, honey, powdered milk
  • Frozen strawberries, ice, sugar to taste
  • Frozen strawberries, ice, lemonade power with water (more concentrated than normal) to taste
A favorite decadent treat that is a simple version of Serendipity 3's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate loved by Oprah.
  • Mix in Ninja or other Blender that crushes ice:
  • 1 tray ice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Ghirardelli sweet cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder

Help for picky eaters and moms who hate to cook.

D.W. the Picky Eater (Arthur)

Many families struggle with picky eaters.  Maybe that's why our family really loves the tale of "D.W. the Picky Eater (Arthur)"

The picky eater dilemma can be overwhelming in families with children with a sensory processing disorder.

These kids are super sensitive to textures, tastes, temperatures and meal time can be very distressing to them. Trying to get sensitive kids to eat a diverse range of healthy foods can be extremely challenging.

Preparing foods can be a draining chore for the adults in the household, especially  knowing that the food might not be well-received.

There are some great tips for managing food sensitivities caused by oral defensiveness associated with sensory processing disorder, though useful for a broad range of picky eaters.

Here is one more trick in the tool bag to help beleaguered parents of picky eaters: The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals

It does sound dreamy doesn't it? Kids eating healthy stuff they can't detect in food that they won't complain about eating??

Grab the book from your library or bookstore and ponder the details outlined here:

Learn 13 Strategies for Sneaking Healthy Foods into Kid Friendly Dishes
  1. Add pureed nutritious foods
  2. Combine refined ingredients with unrefined
  3. Use foods that hide well (don't change color, texture, or taste)
  4. Substitute nutritious liquid for water when boiling foods
  5. Combine foods that are nutritionally complementary
  6. Identify nutritious foods that kids will enjoy on their own
  7. Alter the cooking method to avoid frying
  8. Cut the effects of toxins or fats by diluting with something healthier
  9. Cut calories and increase volume with low-cal, nutritious fillers
  10. Use slower-burning foods to avoid blood sugar "spike and crash"
  11. Add visual decoys to make food look appealing and fun
  12. Use kid-friendly flavor decoys to distract kids from what's underneath
  13. Use kid-friendly texture decoys
Learn 13 Recipes for "make ahead" juices, purees, breading, and blends to add to foods

Learn 12 Foods to always buy organic

It's certainly worth a try. Now granted, you might have to sneak things in slowly for the kids with super-human powers of detection.

My son could always tell if the milk came from a different store (or maybe a different cow!). One mom told me about a kid who could tell which bottling plant processed the soda just by the taste.

For the man in your life here is The Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on Your Man (In the Kitchen!): Hiding Healthy Foods in Hearty Meals Any Guy Will Love

When kids push your buttons



I really appreciated the "Daily Groove" words of wisdom. 

There are lots of  practical suggestions from at EnjoyParenting.com like these:

"When your child pushes your buttons, s/he's doing you a favor: revealing that you've given your power away to the triggering behavior or conditions."


I like his positive asset orientation in observing children's potentially annoying behaviors.
  1. "They need to know what's there — to map the emotional terrain and keep the map up to date."
  2. "It's an efficient way to get their parents' heightened attention and feel more powerful."




I like his reminder to parents to pull the plug on our emotions in responding.

He says to "de-activate your buttons — consciously choosing to stay Connected and Present, regardless of conditions and behavior — you reclaim your Authentic Power! You cease to be someone who can be controlled like a mindless machine."


These reminders and practical tips can be very useful, especially for those of us with intense children or "explosive children" with inflexible thinking that often accompanies sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and other autism spectrum disorders


This father-son duo from "Celebrate Calm" has some great advice especially for dads who feel like they have to yell at their kids. There are alternatives!

Our University family resource center hosted this duo for a session on "parenting intense children" and it was useful for our family.


There are also great resources from Ross Green and his colleagues who are focused on positive communication strategies for "The Explosive Child."

This book is highly rated and quite popular:

Here are some free resources for using their "Collaborative Problem Solving" model which I think are very helpful for intense children:

Popsicle Stick Bracelets

What a fun and inexpensive way to make jewelry out of summer's leftover pieces.

Have fun with this tutorial for making Popsicle Stick Bracelets from Jules at Bles-Id.

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