Friday, July 22, 2011

fail often

I've been tuning in to America's Imagination Summit, and the most important call to action (in my humble opinion) is to support kids in FAILING!  Seems counterintuitive, I know.  But failure is key to success.  We learn from our failures.

If we teach kids to do everything right the first time, they lose out on the valuable lessons that come from doing things wrong.  In order to fully understand what works, we often need to explore what doesn't work and why.  By creating safe spaces for trial and error,  we can support children in exploring their creativity and reaching their maximum potential.  Learning is a process, and failure is an integral part of that process.

I'm sure you know people with extreme talent that don't do anything with it for fear of judgement or criticism.  A fear of failure inhibits creativity and imagination--2 vital components for personal success and positive change in the world.  Let's work to combat that fear in today's children.  By creating judgement-free zones where failure does not have any severe or life-threatening implications, we can give kids the gifts of exploration and discovery-- the roots of REAL education that will benefit them (and the society around them) in the long run.

Project-based learning, particularly projects involving design and innovation, are excellent examples of safe spaces to fail.  Have kids come up with a problem and work towards a solution of that problem.  Encourage imagination and teach them to accept and learn from failures as they inevitably occur.  For some good examples of project-based learning, check out Edutopia.  And if you're interested in design and innovation, check out what kids are coming up with in the Young Makers groups around the bay area.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Research suggests that self-control is a bigger predictor of success than socio-economic status.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Of course, Colbert has his own opinions on the subject :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

not your mother's tweety bird

Twitter.  Do you use it?  Do your kids/students use it?  As media and technology evolve at an exponential pace, how do we keep up?  And how do we figure out meaningful ways to incorporate technology into the lives of children?

You may have seen the recent article on Twitter in the classroom at  Brave teachers around the globe are using social media as an educational tool.  They're using Twitter as a forum for students to respond to questions in class.  Of course, many people are resistant to new technology, and the use of Twitter in the classroom has been met with some controversy.  Critics worry that it will breed a socially inept generation lacking in verbal communication skills.  I agree that kids should not solely communicate via tweets.  That would be weird.   They would be missing out on important opportunities to practice verbal communication and social skills.  That said, the moderate use of twitter in conjunction with traditional classroom discussion introduces an awesome new group learning dynamic.  

Think back on your own experience at school.  When your teachers would ask questions, did the whole class raise their hands to respond?  If your experience was like mine, it was usually the same 4 or 5 kids monopolizing the conversation (Ok...I admit...I was one of those kids...).  But what about the kids who aren't talking?  What about their ideas?  By using Twitter, even the shy or less interested kids are encouraged (or required) to share their thoughts.  Not only does this benefit the quiet kids by getting them to engage in the topic, it also benefits the talkative kids who might otherwise not have had the chance to learn from their quieter peers.

Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are a host of social media tools that, if used right, could really enrich the classroom learning experience.  Check out this list in Knewton's EdTech Blog for some ideas.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mind in the Making

In her book Mind in the Making, Ellen Gallinsky outlines "seven essential life skills that every child needs."  She takes evidence-based research from uber-intelligent academic-types and organizes their findings in an easy-to-read book with practical suggestions for parents and teachers.  If you want to learn about child development without having to learn a second language, this is your book.  The life skills she discusses are:
Her website is full of additional info on child development --it's a nice supplement to the book.  I recommend Mind in the Making to anyone, with or without kids.  If you're anything like me, you'll realize that you yourself could work on some of these skills!  Focus and self-control...eek!  :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

sneak peek

Here are a few of the illustrations for the book I'm working on.  It's an inspirational tale of a boring, ugly, ordinary fish who finds out he's not so ordinary after all.  Based on a socio-emotional curriculum for early childhood.  Coming soon!

i'm addicted... Motion Math.  If you have an iphone or an ipad you know how addictive mobile games can be.  Angry Birds, anyone?  Why not use the allure of mobile games to help kids with math?  Kids like to play games.  They're going to play games.  Period.  Let's give them games that help them in school and make learning fun.  If your kids/students are struggling with fractions, instead of piling on extra worksheets (read: super boring, lead to burn-out), let them spend some time playing Motion Math.

Here's how it works:  "Motion Math helps learners perceive and estimate many important representations — numerator over denominator (1/2), percents (50%), decimals (.5), and even pie charts! By connecting each type with its distance on the number line, learners can develop a fast, accurate perception of fractions." --quote from the company's website

The game was developed by people with good intentions and is based on solid research.  Check it out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

the future of learning? i hope so.

David Kelly talks about the evolution of education and the potential for more individualized learning with the use of technology.

And here is an EXCELLENT blog on the evolution of education:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs

I'm with this guy.  Mostly.  Check out Cameron Herold's lecture on raising entrepreneurs.  He has some good ideas to keep kids creative and give them the tools for success.  Maybe some of the qualities in your children/students that you're trying to squash are actually their greatest assets.  Let's look for the signs of entrepreneurship and nurture the interests and skills of children.  Who knows what they might accomplish with a little support!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

you know how great your kids are. do they?

I have been a busy bee lately, I apologize for the lack of posts!  This one will make up for lost time.  I hope.  I was reminded of something invaluable during the San Francisco International Film Festival, and it was all thanks to one little 5 minute puppet show called Jillian Dillon.  In the charming short film by Yvette Edery,  a hippoplatypus named Jillian Dillon saves the day, "transforming her 'flaws' into the powers that resolve conflict and drama in her town, proving that a Hippoplatypus is indeed, a good thing to be." --IMDB

As parents and educators, there are a zillion things to think about...we want to make sure kids are learning their math skills, their handwriting is legible, their reading comprehension is up to par, they're eating right, taking their multivitamins, getting exercise, having fun, treating others with respect,  and so on and so forth.  But there is one thing that trumps all...we need to make sure kids love themselves.  They need to treat themselves with respect and be confident in who they are.  You can send your kids to the best school in town and sign them up for every extracurricular activity out there, but if they aren't confident in themselves, they will have a hard time translating all of the skills they've learned into success.

We don't want a bunch of arrogant monsters running around, but we do want strong, assertive children with plenty of self-respect.  There are tons of children's books and programs for building self-love in kids.  They can be valuable resources.  You can start with these books, recommended by Geek Dad.   It is also essential to be a model self-confidence for your children.  Show them what it means to love yourself, respect yourself, and be confident in who you are.  They will learn from example.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Schools at the Festival


I'm working at the San Francisco International Film Festival's "Schools at the Festival" program this year.  We're gearing up for our first screening on Friday.  It's a great program -- a wonderful opportunity for bay area teachers to take learning to a new level.  Here's how it works: teachers are invited to bring their students to view entertaining and thought-provoking films at the festival.  All of the youth screenings take place during school hours, and cost is only $1 per ticket for public schools, and $2.50 per person for all other schools.

Students learn about the subject matter presented in the films (which can almost always be tied to their existing schoolwork in some way), as well as the medium of film.  They're encouraged to think about films critically and consider things like the filmmaker's perspective, the target audience, the way music, lighting and composition work together to elicit feelings, how editing plays a part in the message that's delivered, and more.  TEACHERS, if it doesn't work out to bring your students this year, contact the Film Society for future events.  Incorporating film in your classroom is a fun way to break from routine and spice up your curriculum.

Check out the Schools at the Festival website for more info.
For a listing of this year's film screenings, click here.

PARENTS! You might want to look into the 2011 Young Filmmakers Camp if your kids are interested in learning how to create films :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

post-it note animation

Next time your kids ask to watch their favorite cartoon have them create their own animation instead!  All you need is a pencil and some post-it notes.  Check out the step-by-step instructions at the Smithsonian Educator Resource Center

Friday, April 1, 2011

hooray for bubbles

It's been heating up in SF, and on a nice sunny day there's nothing more magical than bubbles in the park!! Check out this page for lots of different homemade bubble solutions.  Whip up a batch and head outside.  Pipecleaners make excellent bubble blowers and you can bend them into cool shapes (this is especially fun for preschoolers learning their shapes).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

grocery store schooling

Not everyone has the time and money to take kids to museums or enroll them in extracurricular enrichment classes.  Luckily there are ways to enhance learning outside the classroom that don't cost extra and won't take any time out of your regular routine.  If you take a moment to think about it, you turn almost every outing into an educational experience.  A prime example of this is a trip to the grocery store.  The grocery store is a rich learning environment, full of stuff to sort, match, count, add, subtract, etc.  It's a language rich environment with plenty of opportunities to identify letters, sound out words, and practice reading.  It also hosts goods and products that can spark conversations about culture, geography, nutrition, agriculture, consumerism, marketing, and more...

One way to turn the average shopping trip into a fun learning experience is to play I Spy:
For younger kids this can be as simple as asking them to identify basic shapes, colors, letters and numbers in whatever aisle you are in.   For example,  you could say, "I spy something that is red."  Your child will look for something red such as an apple or spaghetti sauce.  Or, "I spy the letter 'A'."  Your child will look at packaging and price tags in search of the letter 'A.'   Older kids can look for goods that contain certain ingredients or are popular in certain cultures or geographical locations.  For example, "I spy a food that is popular in Mexico."  Your child will look for foods that are popular in Mexico such as tortillas or jalapenos.  To incorporate lessons on nutrition, you may have your children look for foods that are protein rich or foods that are high in carbs, etc.

The produce aisle is a great place to talk about seasons, and locally grown food versus imported food.  Ask your kids to determine which produce is in season in your area by looking at where the produce is from.

In the cereal aisle you might ask your kids to pick out their favorite cereal box and ask them why they chose it.  What do they like about it?  Is it the colors on the box?  The cartoon character that endorses the brand?  This is a good way to provoke thinking about marketing and raise savvy consumers.

For a finance lesson, you can give your kids a budget and ask them to find as many items on your list as possible without going over budget.  This will encourage price comparisons and addition/subtraction skills.  And the checkout line is a good place for money counting if you are paying with cash.

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling.  I'm sure once you start to think about it you'll come up with even more ways to turn your ordinary grocery trip into a learning adventure.  Happy shopping!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

50 simple things kids can do to save the earth

Earth Day is still a month away, but let's start the party early.   Let's teach kids about the environment NOW!  There are a bunch of great resources for teaching kids how to play their part in taking care of our planet.  My recommendation is The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by the Earth Works Group.  It's an excellent book for parents and teachers to use to help kids understand what is going on with the earth and why it needs our help.  The book lists tons of practical ways kids can chip in to make a positive impact on the environment in their daily lives.  The Earthworks Group also has a great website with environmental facts, weekly challenges, and activities.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"can we build it?"

"Yes we can!" ...Sorry I couldn't resist the Bob the Builder quote ;)   

Did you know there are free "How-to" workshops for kids ages 5-12 at all Home Depot locations the first Saturday of each month?  Woodcrafting is a fun way to encourage problem solving and the development of fine motor skills.  Upon completing a project at the workshop, your kids will walk away with a new toy and a sense of accomplishment...can't you already hear them shouting, "Look what I made!"?

Monday, March 21, 2011

why i heart play dough

Why is play dough the most magnificent early childhood toy of all time?  Several reasons:
  • It's open-ended, fostering creativity.  
  • It's a sensory experience.
  • It helps to develop small muscles in the hands, leading to improved fine motor control.
  • It can encourage dramatic play ("Look, I made a pizza!  Would you like a bite of my pizza?"), which is an important aspect of social and emotional development.
  • It's easy to make at home!
There are a zillion play dough recipes online.  I've tried several of them and I like this one the best:

Ingredients: Flour, Water, Salt, Cream of Tartar, Oil (any kind is fine), and Food Coloring

Step 1:  Measure ingredients and pour into pot.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • food coloring (as much as you'd like depending on the shade you're going for)

Step 2: Stir continuously over medium heat until the play dough begins to thicken (usually about 3-5 minutes)

Step 3:  Scoop the playdough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed the flour into the dough until you reach your desired consistency.

Step 4: Play! Touch, poke, pull, squeeze, roll, create!

Step 5:  Store your playdough in an airtight container (such as tupperware or a zip lock bag).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

play around the bay

Keep this book in your glove compartment.  Play Around the Bay covers every play space in the San Francisco Bay area...playgrounds, zoos, children's museums, etc.  It's written by moms who've personally tested each place out so you'll know what you're getting into before you arrive.  The writers have summarized the play spaces and included a quick reference for all the logistical things caregivers want to know:  Is there parking?  Bathrooms?  A fenced in play area?  Room for strollers?  Cost?  Hours?

If a real live book with paper pages feels a little old fashioned for you, try Kaboom's online Playspace Finder.  It's less thorough than the book, but a great way to locate playgrounds on the go without leaving the comfort of your smartphone.

Kaboom's Playspace Finder and Play Around the Bay also work well as a team...check out the playgrounds listed on the Kaboom's map to see what is near you, then look up the local spots in Play Around the Bay for playground summaries.

Now GO PLAY!  According to the 10-day forecast, this could be the last nice day we see for a while.  Get outside and soak it up!

Friday, March 11, 2011

talking to your kids about the earthquake in japan

My heart goes out to Japan and to everyone affected by the devastating quake.  When such a far-reaching tragedy occurs, kids are going to hear about it, and they're bound to have questions.  Here are some good articles on talking to your kids about the earthquake in Japan:  
Sending lots of love across the pacific...

puppy play

This morning I had the pleasure of dogsitting the cutest little, sweetest little puppy in all of SF!  It was a beautiful day, so we took a long walk down by Crissy Field.  Tillie wanted to play with everyone she saw.  She stopped to mingle with other dogs, chased after joggers, and came to a screeching halt every time we walked past a parent pushing a stroller.    She especially likes kids and desperately wanted to play with every kid we came across.  Some of the children she met seemed comfortable with dogs, and others were a bit more reserved.  It got me thinking...have you talked to your children about how to interact with dogs? 

Tillie is a very sweet and mild-mannered puppy and I had a close eye on her... but not all dogs are so gentle.  It's important to teach kids what is safe and appropriate when interacting with other people's pets.  Here is some basic advice to offer your children:
  • If a strange dog is off leash and running towards you, don't run away.  The dog will think you are playing and continue to chase after you.  Instead, stand very still and quiet and let the dog sniff you.  The dog will likely get bored and leave you alone.
  • If you'd like to pet somebody else's dog, first ask the owner if it's okay.
  • If the owner says it's ok to pet the dog, let the dog sniff you before you pet.
  • Remember to pet gently.  Never poke or pull or tease a dog.
  • Do not try to pet a dog while she's eating or sleeping.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

helping children cope with death

I received some devastating news this week.  A child I knew passed away.  He was in kindergarten.  His death is beyond my comprehension-- he was so young and full of life.  For being such a small child, he made a huge impact on his community.  He was loved by many and will be missed by the children and families whose lives he touched.

Death is hard enough for us to understand as adults, especially when it occurs suddenly --  how can we possibly explain it to young children?  NAEYC offers a list of resources for teachers and parents which address how to discuss death with children.  Kids Health also offers some good, basic advice  on their website about helping kids deal with death.  We need to make kids feel safe and protected, but we also need to talk to them and help them process death in a way that is approachable to them.

I'm sorry this isn't an uplifting post, but it's been weighing heavily on my heart today.  I hope you don't have to talk about death with your children or students anytime soon, but if you do, there are some good resources out there to support you.  And as I've said before, remember to look out for yourself.  Grown-ups need to grieve too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

st. patrick's day by the bay

St. Patrick's Day is coming up.  Do you have anything planned for your family?  Red Tricycle just came out with a list of family-friendly St. Patty's Day events in and around San Francisco.  Check it out!  It looks like there's plenty of fun to be had this year.

If you prefer to stay home, I recommend a treasure hunt in the house or backyard.  Pretend a leprechaun lost his pot of gold and hide his "gold" around the house or yard.  You can use anything to symbolize money, little circles cut out of yellow construction paper, candy (if you dare!), or whatever else you can come up with.  Have your kids search the house to help the leprechaun find his gold!

Here's how to sneak some math into the game:  Once your children have found all of the gold, have them count it and tally up how many pieces of gold each child found.  You can also use the gold in addition and subtraction word problems-- for example, "If the leprechaun lost 100 pieces of gold and you found 20 pieces, how many pieces are still missing?"

If you'd like to incorporate map skills, have your kids draw a map of the house or yard.  Each time they find a piece of gold, have them mark on the map where they found it. 

Teachers: this can be done at school, too.  I used to hide gold on the playground for our St. Patrick's Day party and my class loved sifting through the wood chips to find all the little gold pieces!

Monday, March 7, 2011

adora svitak: what adults can learn from kids

super sculpey

While nothing beats the look and feel of natural clay, most of us don't have easy access to a kiln.  Super Sculpey is a nice alternative.  When I worked at Disney,  I sculpted Maquettes on my lunch breaks with the uber talented Kenny Thompkins.  We used Super Sculpey to create the maquettes.  Sculpey is awesome because it doesn't dry out or require special tools or glaze.  When you're ready to finish your Sculpey project, you simply bake it in your oven, sand it with sand paper (if necessary), and paint it with acrylic paint.

Here is a maquette I made of Mr. Smee.  I started with a wire base and attached bits of clay to the wire.  Kenny taught me to focus on building the basic shapes (mostly spheres and cylinders) and to worry about the details at the end.

Your kids can use Sculpey to sculpt little statues like this.   It can also be used to make beads, bracelets, and other objects like cars, animals, model buildings...whatever your children are interested in.  Let them do their thing with the clay, pop their creations in the oven, and give them some acrylic paint to finish them off! It's a nice material to have on hand in your home or school art studio.  It doesn't dry on it's own, so you can leave works in progress out for as long as you'd like.  This allows kids to take their time on projects and revisit them over several days, weeks, or even months.

Friday, March 4, 2011

it's an app world

The other day I watched a two year old take his mom's iphone out of her purse, open a game, and play it.  Two years old!  There is no question apps are changing the way kids play and learn.  In my perfect world, kids would spend their entire early childhood climbing trees and building forts and picking flowers and painting and drawing and sculpting and socializing... but it's 2011.  Kids are playing with apps.

When I entered grad school as a naive 23 year old with no children of my own, I wasn't interested in working in children's television because I felt strongly that kids shouldn't watch too much TV.  But then I met a wise woman who challenged my thinking.  She convinced me that whether I like it or not, kids ARE watching TV.  A LOT of TV.  So why not work to make quality content for them to watch?  Why not make TV educational?

Now it's all about apps, and I think the same principal are using apps, so let's make sure they're using good ones.  As parents and educators, the amount of apps on the market can be overwhelming.  App development is exploding, and with so many apps to choose from, it's nice to have a little guidance.   One of my favorite websites for kids' app coverage is Moms with Apps.  They are a group of parents who strive to develop quality apps for children -- and on App Fridays they offer a free or discounted kids' app.  If you're looking for book apps, my friends at Electric Eggplant told me about Digital Storytime, which is a good review site for kids' book apps.

There are a bunch of other review sites, too.  Here are links to a few of them:
Common Sense Media
Kids iPhone App Review
Fun Educational Apps
Best Kids Apps

These sites will give you an idea of what's out there.  A lot of apps have a free or lite version that you can try before you buy.  Test them out for a few minutes before you buy the full version for your kids -- not only will it make you feel more comfortable knowing what they're playing, it will give you something to talk about with them!  Which apps are popular in your family?  Let us know!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

summer sailing camps

It's time to start thinking about summer camps!  Have you considered sailing camp for your kids?  Sailing is a special sport.  It's physical, mental, and for some, spiritual.  It fosters an understanding and respect for the elements of nature.  It encourages self-confidence and teamwork.  And on top of all that, it's FUN!

Many of the bay area yacht clubs run summer sailing camps that are open to non-members.   Prices range from around $200 to $400 for a 5-day session.  Although summer seems a long way off,  it might be worth registering now because a few clubs offer significant discounts for early registration.

If the cost still seems prohibitive, look into scholarships!  Some clubs offer need-based scholarships for families that don't have camp in the budget this year.  There is also a non-profit called Sailing Education Adventures, which raises money to provide sailing experiences to kids that otherwise could not afford them.

Minimum age for enrollment in sailing camp is generally 8, but it varies from program to program.  Here is a list of links to youth sailing programs at yacht clubs in the bay area:  

North Bay
Benicia Yacht Club
Marin Yacht Club
San Francisco Yacht Club
Sausalito Yacht Club
St. Francis Yacht Club

East Bay
Encinal Yacht Club
Richmond Yacht Club
Spinnaker Yacht Club 

South Bay
Coyote Point Yacht Club
Half Moon Bay Yacht Club
Sequoia Yacht Club
South Beach Yacht Club 

I hate to be cheesy, but...(no I don't, I love it!) is my slice of cheese for the day -- a quote from Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed
by the things you did not do than by the things you did do.
So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

lego poetry

This is so fun!  Lego Poetry is a blog featuring poems made out of legos...what a cool idea! You can adapt this idea to make literacy fun at home and in the classroom.  Here's how: make words with a label maker (using clear label tape) and stick them on legos.  Then let your kids go nuts building phrases, sentences, poems, and stories with their legos!  To make the activity extra enticing, I recommend including plenty of silly words such as stinky.  And to boost vocabulary, be sure to include some challenging words like preposterous!

You can use Duplos, too!

happy birthday dr. suess

Today is Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Suess' birthday.  Celebrate by reading to your kids!   And maybe swing by Suessville for some free online games and activities.  Happy reading :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

lake tahoe ski schools

I'm headed to Tahoe for a few days to play in the snow.  I'll try to interview some families on the slopes to get the scoop on the best ski schools and childcare while I'm there.  For now,  here's a list of links to ski schools in the area:

North Lake Tahoe: 
Alpine Meadows
Diamond Peak
Donner Ski Ranch
Mt. Rose
Soda Springs
Squaw Valley
Sugar Bowl
Tahoe Donner

South Lake Tahoe:

I realize I should have posted this one before ski week...oops! Luckily, most of these places are open well into the spring.  And they're close enough for weekend getaways.  It's worth looking into...skiing can get pricey for adults, but child lift tickets are generally quite reasonable.  And watching kids ski is too much fun -- they can be so fearless! 

Have you tried any of these ski schools?  Give us your feedback!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

it's yoga time

My favorite kids yoga song:  "Yoga Clock (Tick Tock)" from the Come Play Yoga album by Karma Kids Yoga.  It's a great way to warm up for a yoga session, or it can be used on it's own as a fun little stretching song.  Kids sit on their bottoms with their legs apart, stretch out their arms and "tick tock" (move their bodies from side to side, alternating touching their right foot with their right hand and their left foot with their left hand).  It's super simple, but fun for kids (and grown-ups) of all ages.  I apologize in advance if you spend the rest of your days with "tick, tock...little yoga clock" stuck in your head.  It's a pretty sticky little song :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

cartoon art museum

There's a special place in my heart for cartoon artists.  Working in animation I had the opportunity to meet some incredibly talented artists.  Their playful creativity brought joy to my daily work and inspired me to get back to my (deeply burried) artistic roots.

When I was in school,  I never thought of art as something I could turn into career.  I thought it was more important to focus on "practical" classes.  Who knew art could be practical?!  If your kids want to be artists, nurture their interest by showing them what they can do with art.  The Cartoon Art Museum celebrates artists who have built beautiful careers doing what they love.

The museum is just a little place, but definitely worth a visit if your kids love art and animation.  Check out the Looney Tunes exhibit to see original artwork and get a glimpse at how cartoons are created.  The exhibit runs through May 15th.   Admission to the museum is $7 for adults, $5 for students & seniors, $3 for kids 6-12, and free for kids 5 & under.

And...if your kids like the museum, you may consider having their next birthday party there.  CAM birthday parties include and tour of the museum and instruction on a topic of your choosing: cartooning, illustration, animation, character design, or comic book creation.  Check out their website for more info.

Cartoon Art Museum655 Mission StreetSan Francisco, CA(415) 227-8666 

celebrate storytime

March 9th is LitWorld's World Read Aloud Day.  I say LET'S CELEBRATE!

Yesterday I was in Mill Valley with one of my favorite 3 year-olds, and we happened upon a storytime at the Mill Valley Public Library.  The woman leading the storytime was Naima.  Although my 3 year-old friend was intent on reading his favorite dinosaur pop-up book in a quiet corner of the library, Naima's captivating voice kept drawing him in.  My little buddy parted from his beloved book to go see what was happening at storytime: "I'm just going to peek at them.  I'll be right back."  After a couple more "peeks" we ended up ditching the dinosaur book to join in the fun.

Have you checked out the storytimes and other events for kids at your local library?  I've compiled a list of links to storytime schedules in the bay area for your convenience:

San Francisco:
San Francisco Public Library (various branch locations)

San Mateo County Library (various branch locations) 
Burlingame Public Library
Daly City Public Library
Menlo Park Library 
Redwood City Public Library
San Bruno Library

Marin County Free Library (various branch locations)
San Rafael Public Library
Sausalito Public Library
San Anselmo Library
Belvedere-Tiburon Library
Mill Valley Public Library

East Bay:
Contra Costa County Library (various branch locations)

Library storytimes are great for inspiring budding readers and writers.  They're also a good way to make friends in the community.  Check out your local branch to see what's cookin.  And of course, remember to make time for reading aloud to kids in the home and classroom as well.  "Children of all ages love the intimacy of reading with an adult, either one-on-one or with only a few other children." (NAEYC)

Call me crazy, but maybe (just maybe) we can make EVERY day a read-aloud day...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

go green and get creative

Open-ended art projects encourage kids to put their imaginations to the test.  And using re-purposed materials to create art is an environmentally-friendly way to inspire creative thinking and problem solving!   Re-purposed materials can be things you find around the house...corks, old magazines, toilet paper rolls, cans, bottles, scraps of wrapping paper, bottle caps, golf tees, buttons, extra coat hangers, etc.  Working with these materials challenges kids to think outside the box.  How can I use corks to make eyes?  How can I make hair out of a coat hanger?  It's fun to see what kids come up with when they're given the freedom to create with non-traditional media.

If you're the anti-hoarder and don't have much to use around the house, you're in luck!  The bay area has several cool centers that sell used and re-purposed materials perfect for your child's next masterpiece.  These centers are great for parents looking to create a home art studio or teachers who want to introduce new(ish) materials to their students.  Some of them have educational programs, as well!  Check out their websites for more info:
RAFT  (Redwood City)
101 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, CA 94065
(650) 802-5505

RAFT  (San Jose)
1355 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 451-1420
4695 Telegraph Avenue (@ 47th Street)
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 547-6470

801 Toland at Newcomb 
San Francisco, CA 94124 
(415) 647-1746  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

kids for a cause

Working towards a charitable cause can be an empowering experience for kids, giving them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.  And helping others is the best way to develop empathy and build a sense of belonging in the community.  Charity work also helps to raise awareness and put things in perspective:  When kids realize there are people in the world without toys, they may be less inclined to complain if their parents won't get them that new ipod touch they've been asking for.  And when they see that people are sick, they may begin to appreciate their own health and the health of those around them.  When they help clean up a beach, they may be more aware of where they put their trash the next time they're out.  

One ultra-inspiring 12 year-old named Mary Margaret O'Neill founded an organization for kids looking to make a difference in the world.  It's called Kids Are Heroes.  Here's what they say about themselves:

"Kids Are Heroes® is a non-profit that empowers, encourages and inspires children to become leaders through volunteerism and community involvement. We do this by showcasing and supporting children who are changing the world through their selfless acts of giving."

Basically, kids come up with a cause, start their own charities, and Kids Are Heroes helps promote them.  There are already two kids in the bay area listed on the Kids Are Heroes website...props to Tyler Page in Contra Costa and Elizabeth DeRuvo in Marin for taking action to help those in need!

Tyler, age 13, started Kids Helping Kids, a charity dedicated to raising money for kids around the globe.  A couple years ago Tyler saw a segment on child labor trafficking in Ghana.  He started out with the goal of raising money to help rescue those kids.  His charity has grown from there...check out Kids Helping Kids for more info.

At age 6, Elizabeth DeRuvo wanted to help the homeless people in her community.  She started a coat drive in her town to help keep the homeless warm during the winter months.  Read about here efforts in the Marin Independent Journal.

Are you feeling inspired?  Talk to your kids about giving.  Tell them the stories of these local kids making an impact on the world.  Maybe your kids already know of a problem they'd like to help solve and just need a little guidance to get started.  Founding a charity with your children is a great way to spend time together working toward a common (and noble) goal. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

half-off at habitot

Living Social is selling 4-person family passes to Habitot for $18 (regular price is $36).  The deal lasts for 6 more days.  In case you aren't familiar with Habitot, it's a children's museum located in downtown Berkley.  Their current exhibits include:

  • Waterworks (an area for water play)
  • Drop-in art studio (where kids can engage in open-ended art projects)
  • Little Town Grocery and Cafe (a dramatic play center)
  • Infant and Toddler Garden (where the little ones can mix and mingle)
  • Wiggle Wall (a place for gross motor play)
  • The Medical Center (their latest exhibit -- encourages kids to learn about caring for people and animals through dramatic play-- a fun way to build empathy!)

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704 

no child left inside

I'm (finally) reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Have you read it?  Here are the Cliffs Notes:  Get your kids outside!  While Louv may seem like an extremist to some, there is no denying the benefits of being in nature.  We are so lucky to be surrounded by national and state parks in the bay area...let's take advantage of them!  These parks provide opportunities for exploration, education, and relaxation for you and your kids.  And being in nature with the ones you love can be a wonderful bonding experience.  Bring a pair of binoculars and look for birds and other wildlife.  You can research what you might expect to find in the park you are visiting, and then turn it into a scavenger hunt where you check off the plants and animals you find on your trip.  Check out the bay area parks on the California State Parks website.  The National Parks Services site also has a map of parks in our area.  Now go play with dirt.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

under the sea art

If you'd like to extend your child's learning after a visit to the aquarium, or just want a fun art project to work on, here is one of my favorites.  It can be done with kids of all ages (a two year-old's work will be less representational than a 10 year-old's, but just as beautiful!):

Materials: paper, crayons, water color paint

Step 1:  Ask your kids to draw their favorite underwater animal using crayons on paper.

Step 2:  Where does that animal like to be?  Near rocks?  Kelp? Coral?  Have your kids draw a background for the animal.  Note: they don't need to draw the water, that will be done with the paint  (unless of course they really want to draw the water with crayons.  Remember: it's their art!)

Step 3:  Ask your kids what color the water may look blue or green or gray or brown to them.  It may even look pink! There is no right answer here.  Have them paint over the drawing with water color paint.  

Step 4:  Look at that masterpiece! Let it dry and hang it somewhere your kids can see so they can revisit it and recall their learning.