Monthly Archives: June 2012

Play Is the Work of Children

We all know that children need lots of free time to play, but sometimes it’s nice to hear it again.  Here’s a compilation of quotes through the centuries about the importance of play…

“You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again.”

~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”

~Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Play is not only our creative drive; it’s a fundamental mode of learning.”

~David Elkind

“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.”

~Jerome Singer

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”


“Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that our future needs.”

~James L. Hymes Jr.

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”


Children need the freedom and time to play.  Play is not a luxury.  Play is a necessity. 

~Kay Redfield Jamison

Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky, stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant, sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside – children have their own agendas and timescales.  As they find out more about their world and their place in it, they work hard not to let adults hurry them.  We need to hear their voices. 

~Cathy Nutbrown

“Play is the highest form of research.”

~Albert Einstein

Happy Tuesday!



Filed under quotes

100 Ways to Make Today Magical

I’ve been lax in posting here while we’ve been dealing with Victoria’s health struggles, so I thought I’d make up for it with an extra special “ways to make the day magical” post!  Here’s 100 ways to make the day magical that have been featured in past posts…

1.  During the night, decorate the living room with streamers and a big sign that says “Happy _____ Day!” (marmot day, random day, I love you day, blueberry day…)  Make up traditions for the day together– you must wear purple, it’s traditional to eat ice cream for breakfast, whatever.

2.  Teach the kids to whistle with blades of grass and stage your own backyard grass concert together.

3.  Play with water balloons.  Get creative with how to throw them.  For instance, we like to throw them straight up and try to be as close as possible to where they land.  We also like to make targets and try to catch them without breaking them.

4.  Make a love box.  Find a fun, small box and put a treat inside.  Leave it on someone’s pillow, at their seat at the dinner table or in a lunch box.  The person has to put something in it and pass it on to another family member.  Ideas for treats– a chocolate, a tiny toy, a poem, a drawing, a love letter, a fresh flower, a list of things you love about the person, a coupon for a back rub… 

5.  Make squirt gun art.  Give the kids each a piece of poster board and some washable markers and ask them to use lots of colors and make a design all over the posterboard.  They can do lines, colored circles, patterns, whatever.  The more color the better!  Hang them on the clothes line or prop them up in the back yard and give each child a squirt gun filled with water.  Have them squirt their pictures to make the ink run and make new designs, colors and patterns.

6.  Visit a museum together.

 7.  Let the kids camp out in the back yard or living room.  Better yet, join them.  Don’t forget the campfire songs!

8.  Fade some clothes.  Let each child pick a dark or bright colored T-shirt and gather an assortment or rocks or other small, heavy shapes.  Have the kids arrange their shapes on the T-shirts in a sunny place where they can remain undisturbed for a few days.  Have them check their shirts every few days until they have faded enough to make the pattern really visible. 

9.  Throw a theme potluck– everyone must bring a dish that starts with A, has exactly 3 ingredients or is a certain color, for example.  If you don’t want to have to clean first, stage it at a park.

10.  Buy a pack of toilet paper for the sole purpose of goofy fun.  Wrap your kids up into mummies, make toilet paper streamers and run through the yard, toss it and see how long you can get the tail as you throw, experiment with getting it wet and having “snowball” fights with it… If you can, compost it when you’re finished.

11.  Take a field trip to someplace you’ve never been in your community– a factory, museum, or even an old graveyard.  Really explore it and talk about what you find.

12.  Play detective.  Take the kids to a “scene of the crime” like an empty lot or quiet park.  Give them notebooks and have them really look at the surroundings, then have them make up a story of what happened there based on the evidence.  There are two tire tracks but only one set of footprints, so one person never got out of the car…. have them come up with their own stories.

13.  Make a canopy out of fabric, sheets or lace curtains over your child’s bed.  You can make something for the night or something more permanent.  Kids love the privacy and the fun of canopies!

14.  Sit down and paint, sketch or sculpt with your kids.  Sure, you give them crafts to do but how often do you sit down for an hour and join in?  They’ll love the extra attention and you might not realize how much fun you’ll have!

15.  Look at old videos of your children as babies, and even of the times before they were born.  Talk about how you felt during those times and retell the stories that go along with them.

16.  Do three sweet things today for each family member.  They can be tiny little things, just something to show you love them that you know will make them happy.  Buy your honey a big bag of his favorite treats and bring it to him after supper.  Leave the dishes and go read a story to your toddler.  Give extra monkey hugs (in our family, we dip kids upside down and holler “monkey hug!” and swing them back up– then repeat until exhaustion), and so on.

17.  Have the kids put on a show for the family.  They can dance, sing, act, you name it.  Ask them to spend the day preparing it, then offer to charge admission after supper (to you, older relatives, whoever).  It can be a talent show, variety show, or whatever they like.  Help them put together costumes, music, and the works.  For little ones, you can do the same thing but scale down the preparation.  Let them wear tutus and spin around with scarves, then sing “I’m a little teapot” for doting onlookers.

18. Find a park that offers something different like paddle boats, horseback riding, or even horseshoes.  Spend a lazy day connecting and having fun.

19.  Chase fireflies.

20.  Make puppets and put on a puppet show.

21. Gather sticks in the back yard and some fun art supplies (paint, glitter, baubles…) and make magic wands.

22.  Bake cookies.  The more decadent, the better.

23.  Walk around town adding food coloring to puddles.  Magical Mama Tiffany says, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go walking and find all different colors of puddles?!”.

24.  Use clean sand castle molds to make ice cream castles.  Decorate wildly and eat!

25.  Play the sock game.  Everybody puts on socks and sits in a circle, then tries to pull everybody else’s socks off while keeping their own on.  Whoever is last to have a sock on wins!

26.  Blow raspberries on everybody’s bellies.

27. Leave a candy bar and a note for the mailman.

28.  Have the kids play dress up in their most fanciful clothes and then go on an evening walk around the neighborhood.

29.  Start a snail habitat.  Magical Mama Jen shared this sweet idea years ago for the Magical Childhood newsletter…

I have always loved snails, and while out with Sage a month or so ago, we were looking at snails and how they have 2 sets of antennae, etc…and I thought…why not bring them IN?  Soooo….I searched on the internet to see what snails need to be able ot survive indoors.  All you need is a large container with air holes (of course, lol)  In the bottom, place about an inch of gravel…then a couple inches of soil on top of that.  Place some “greenery” from outside in there…it will root and grow very well….also, give them a rock to play on, lol, and lean a stick in there…..a good idea is to place some moss on some of the soil to help retain moisture for them.  They eat fruit and veggie scraps…..ours love carrot and cucumber, but do NOT like cantaloupe or celery.  It’s been quite educational for us to have them…as well and fun…you can see their mouths open up, they have a row of teeth called a Radula that they rub on food to eat it..very neat to see their open mouths as they stick to the container.  :o )

You should mist their habitat every day or so, keeping their home moist, but not overly so.  Also…the chlorine in water is bad for them, so either leave a container of water open outside for a couple days to let the chlorine evaporate, or boil water for about 10 minutes. (lid off)

You should also clean out their home every week or so…and a tip that I saw on one web site was to put their food on a little piece of wood, or something to that effect, so once it starts to get a little “icky”, you can just take the wood out and rinse it off….much easier than digging around in there with your hands to remove the left overs.

Hope that helps some…if you need more info, try typing “snail habitat” in a search engine….

30.  Go for a walk in the rain with your child.  Umbrellas optional.

31.  Have a bubble relay outside– players blow or carry their bubbles from person to person and start over if they pop.  Alternately, blow a bubble and see if you can work as a team to blow it across a finish line.

32.  Help the kids make these pretty pens from strips of their art or favorite scrapbooking papers.  Chocolate on my Cranium has the super easy instructions.

33.  Make up a miniature golf course in the backyard or living room.

34.  Throw a fairy party.

35.  Find a patch of clover and find four leaf clovers.  My kids find dozens.  To preserve them, press them between a small, folded piece of waxed paper in a heavy book.

36.  Find some whimsical stickers and help the kids scatter them around the house in half-secret places.  We once used a sheet of dragonfly rub-ons this way and it was so fun to happen upon them.  You can put them inside a dresser drawer or cabinet drawer, on baseboards or mirrors, anywhere.  Make sure they’re removable if you don’t want permanent whimsy!

37.  Make tissue paper resist prints.  The Frugal Family Fun Blog tells you how.

38.  Start an “I love you” journal together on the inside of your cupboard doors.  Cover them with contact paper for easy removal (and for keepsakes).  Take turns leaving notes to each other, artwork, recording special moments, etc.  Make sure little ones understand which places are okay for this special graffiti.

39. Make a blanket fort on the clothesline.

40. Make paper boats and sail them in puddles or the kiddie pool.

41.  Or fill the kiddie pool with something else like bubble solution for giant bubbles, oobleck or water and colored oil.

42.  Meet some friends at a science museum.

43.  Mail your child a postcard telling her how much you love her.

44.  Write a song together and record it yourselves singing it.

45.  Make homemade lemonade.  Find a way to make it unique to your family.  For instance, we put a handful of mint leaves in when making a sugar syrup for ours (one cup sugar, one cup water, simmer till the sugar dissolves and the mint is fragrant, then combine with 4 cups of water and 1 to 1 1/2 cups lemon juice, to taste) and garnished with mint.  Also consider using frozen berries for ice cubes, adding a couple of scoops of a bright juice concentrate or serving with ice cubes that have edible flowers (without pesticides!) inside.

46.  Sketch your child as he sleeps.  Let go of any criticism about your artistic abilities and just enjoy the process of really studying your child and capturing a moment.

47. Go rock hunting for smooth stones and use paint or permanent markers to write inspirational words like “courage,” “strength,” “love” or “laugh” on them — or even just silly faces and symbols.  Put one in your pocket on days you need it, and let the kids do the same.

48. Have a glow-in-the-dark treasure hunt after dark.

49.  Take a horse drawn carriage ride.  We went two weekends in a row because we happened upon them, once at a winery and once at a historic event.  At $5 and $3 each, it was worth the cost for a really wonderful experience.

50.  Record a new wacky or sweet greeting on the answering machine together.  Keep it short but fun!

51. Make nature pendants.  (Jack made a billion of these plus bookmarks the other day and loved it, though you can’t tell by this look on his face!)

52.  Call some local museums and find out when they have free days to visit (many are free all the time!). Spend an afternoon just dawdling and enjoying yourself there.

53.  After dark, head outside together and howl at the moon.

54.  Make fresh fruit sorbets in the ice cream maker.  No ice cream maker?  Make it in a bag!

55.  Make some toad houses.

56.   Have a breakfast picnic in the park.

57. Run in the sprinkler together.  Yes, you too!

58.  Make up some fizzing sidewalk chalk.  Quirky Momma has all the details on how to take homemade sidewalk chalk paint to the next level.  This is definitely on our to-do list this week!

59.  Put birthday candles in each child’s dinner tonight.  It doesn’t matter if dinner is sandwiches and it’s 9 months from their birthdays, kids just love blowing out candles and feeling special.  :)

60.  Go someplace beautiful together.  Is there a hill outside of the city where you can park and watch the lights below?  A Japanese garden with peaceful spots to relax?  Find someplace beautiful and just sit and talk.  Bring a treat like a bag of fresh chocolate chip cookies or old fashioned root beer in bottles, and just unwind together.

61.  Try painting on salt.  Tot School has the simple directions.

62. That idea was inspired by one on A Bit of This and a Bit of That.  For another of their whimsical projects, try salt chalk painting.

63.  Have a jam session.  Gather up instruments and make your own by filling tins with pennies and getting pots to bang on.  Find as many different types as you can, and then sit everybody down on the floor.  Have someone start with a back beat and then one by one join in.  We started a retreat with this when I was on the board of a state organization, and it was a hoot even for a room full of us old folks.  ;)   Be as loud a you want!

64.  Make homemade popsicles.  We use fruit juice and sometimes freeze different flavors and colors in layers to make them especially fun.

65.  Do some spring window art.  Fingerpaint & Superheroes shows you how.

66.  Pick out some older clothes and let the kids decorate them with markers.  You can use washable markers (keep in mind that not all might wash out) and let kids make new designs each time, or you can use permanent ones.  Fabric markers can add special highlights too.  Here’s my girls years ago in some home-designed patterns.  :)

67. Make mud art!  Find a good place to dig in the dirt and provide some water, spoons, platters and pretties to decorate with (we used dried flower petals, dried beans and pasta, and beads).  Let the kids mix up mud andmake whatever designs they like and leave them to dry.  Take pictures and then just rinse and reuse the special stuff later.

68.  Let the kids arrange some 2×4 boards on the lawn in a funky pattern or their initials.  Wait a few days and let the sun “brand” your lawn.  The covered area will be brown in the shape the kids made.  Don’t worry, it’s temporary.  The grass will green up again soon after.

69.  Make a celebration cake “just because.”  Add candles and too much icing.  If you want, go all out and eat it with your hands.

70.  Give your kids facials.  Include a slow, circular face massage with cleansing lotion followed by a warm washcloth soak.  Follow that with a masque (there are great recipes online) while you sit and talk.  Finish with a light moisturizer in a delicious scent.

71.  Make up a family dance line routine.

72.  Have a sidewalk parade with neighborhood kids.

73.  Visit thrift shops for an old piece of furniture and repaint it together.  Make it as whimsical, funky or dramatic as they like.

74. Dedicate a song to your child on the radio.

75.  Have a watermelon seed spitting contest outside.

76. Take apart a cheap wall clock and let the kids decorate the face before putting it back up.  For little ones, do painted hand prints.

77. Put bubbles in the kiddie pool!  Just add a generous squirt of bubble bath or good quality dish soap and then spray fresh water into the pool.  We used Dawn dish soap and had bubbles for over an hour! 

78. Invent a recipe together.  Make up a standard cookie, cake or pancake recipe and then brainstorm on things to add.  Write it all down in a family cookbook as you go (with measurements) & afterwards write suggestions on improvements for next time.  One of the most fun parts is you get to come up with your own name for your recipe– that and getting to eat it all up.  :)

79.  Make snow cones!  You can make up your own syrup for on top (here’s an easy recipe using kool-aid powder) but it’s even easier (and loads healthier) to just use fruit juice concentrate (undiluted).  Crush your ice in the blender or let the kids pound it in a big ziplock baggie covered with a dish towel.  Then scoop it into cups or dishes and just drizzle your syrup of choice and serve!

80.  Go see a pageant (a historic play) or other outdoor show.

81.  Better yet, sign up to be part of one!

82.  Have a puzzle marathon.  Pick out a big, challenging puzzle and clear a spot at the table.   Get some snacks, arrange a great soundtrack and sit and chat and eat and work on it together as a family until it’s done.

83.  Help the kids run a popsicle or lemonade stand.  Decide on a great goal for the earnings, whether it will be donated to charity like a local animal shelter, used for some fabulous family fun or applied towards a treat the kids have been yearning for.

84.  Find an outdoor concert to attend together.

85.  Make a date with one of the kids for a daybreak breakfast together.  Get some tasty treats for the occasion like a thermos of chocolate milk and some blueberry muffins and wake your child just in time to find a cozy spot to watch the sunrise and enjoy your special breakfast.  Then, if you get so lucky, you can go back to bed!

86.  Scatter wildflower seeds in dull places.

87.  Make up a bunch of wonderful pictures and bring them to decorate doors and walls at a retirement home.  Go door to door offering them to residents and make people’s day (and let your kids get delightfully fawned over!).

88.  Make moth paint!  From a very old issue of the Magical Childhood newsletter:

Did you know there are more than 10,000 species of moths?  For an interesting nocturnal adventure, mix up a batch of this goo and trek outside after dark to see how many you can spot.  Mix two over-ripe bananas, 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 cup of apple juice and paint it onto several tree trunks.  After dark, head out with the kiddos and a flashlight to see if any moths have come to dine.  Their eyes will reflect the light and they will often stay and munch despite you, so you get a chance to identify different kinds and get an up-close look at the little creatures.  Some people mix up very elaborate concoctions, often involving beer and molasses, while others say that just smearing a mashed watermelon will do the job.  Still, warm, moist nights are supposed to work best.  Happy hunting!

89. Look for shooting stars.  This time of the year the sky is filled with them. 


90. Make art for lunch.  Spread a tortilla with cream cheese or almond butter and then give kids an assortment of colorful fruits, veggies and other healthy foods to make their own mosaic picture.  You can cut things like green and red peppers into strips, halve cherry tomatoes and grapes, slice olives and cheese, etc.  Take a picture before they eat their creations!

91.  Visit a farmers’ market.  Pick out some fresh, local foods and take the time to chat with the vendors.  You’ll find good deals, get good food and help the community.  You can often find fabulous other finds too, from homemade soaps to fresh cookies to jewelry.

92.  Take up a new sport.  We picked up some badminton rackets and birdies at a garage sale last week and our whole family has been having a blast playing badminton every day since then.  We rigged up a net using a hammock and bamboo stakes in the back yard.  Whether it’s tennis or t-ball, find a new way to play outside.

93.  Find a children’s book that’s set in your area and read it together.  If you don’t know of any, ask your local librarian or do a google search.  We’re in the area of On the Banks of Plum Creek here and we have friends who recently discovered that their cabin is near the fictional site of My Side of the Mountain.  Do a little sleuthing and find some story to visit where you can feel that added kinship to the characters.

94.  Explore a local historic site.  Jesse James and the Younger Brothers were in a big shoot-out just up the highway from us and the kids love visiting the site and imagining the battle.  At another site we find Native American artifacts and imagine how different life was here just a couple of hundred years ago.

95.  Extend the fireworks season by sprinkling pop rocks on cupcakes.  Okay, it’s quite junky but the kids will delight at geting a popping surprise with every bite!

96. Find a good hill and roll down it!

97.  Doll the kids up and do a photo shoot.  Make it as glamorous, funny or theatrical as they like, complete with props.  Help them pose and take a billion pictures.  Or if they prefer, let them doll you up and play fashion photographer for YOU.

98. Make your own puzzle.  Have the kids assemble an old puzzle and when it’s all together, take it outside and spray paint it white.  When it’s dry, give them paints or markers and have them create a new picture for it.  Remind them to try to cover as many of the pieces with the picture as possible to make it easier to assemble.

99. Hand out permanent markers and plain white socks, and let the kids make some fun feet!  Check out these cuties that Victoria made for Alex!

100. Try to conduct your entire family dinner conversation in song.

And with that, chickadees, I’m off to wrestle the laundry and plan some sort of marvelously messy art project.  Have a wonderful week!


Filed under Ways to make today magical

Download 50 whimsical journal pages for free!

(Photo courtesy Evan-Amos, Public Domain)

I’m not much of a journal keeper, but I think I could be if I got to use these delightful pages from Grace is Overrated

Blog owner and artist Christie Zimmer says:

These pages were created out of a sense of delightful (and occasionally insightful) personal exploration.  They combine fill-in-the-blank journal prompts with off-kilter to-do lists with game-show-inspired lightning rounds with whatever else comes to mind.  I’ve had a great time creating them and I hope you’ll have just as much fun filling them in.  Collect them all in a binder or envelope and look back every once in a while to see all that you’ve accomplished!

The pages are absolutely delightful and could be used by moms or kids (or anybody else!) alike.  (Christie asks that her images not be reprinted elsewhere so you have to head over there to see the pages.)

Click on each page to view it and download it via Google docs.  If you have trouble printing, check out her FAQ section for troubleshooting ideas.

I think I’m going to need more ink…

Leave a comment

Filed under neat stuff elsewhere, printables

You’re (Still) a Fabulous Mother

Photo by Victoria Bayer

(One of the nice things about having written A Magical Childhood for so many years is that I have lots of archives to dig up and share again every once in a while!  Here’s a favorite of mine from May 2010 that I thought deserved to be said again.)

I’ve been hearing lately from mothers who say how stressed they are and what terrible mothers they think they are.

What?  Oh pah.

If you’re thinking along the same lines, I’m  here to tell you to stop it.

You rock.  You’re a fabulous mother.

How do I know this?  Well, first off because you’re beating yourself up and only people who care feel guilt, which means you’re a caring mother.  So that right there tells me a lot about you.

Second of all, you’re the sort of mother who reads books about making lives magical for her children.  That sort of says a lot about you too!

Third of all, most mothers are more fabulous than they give themselves credit for.  It’s a mother thing.  We also tend to think other mothers are exponentially better than we are at absolutely everything.

And fourth of all, no matter what sort of beastly mother you think you are, I’m willing to bet that your child still thinks you’re the best mom in the world.  Even if said child won’t admit it.

You’re a fabulous mother.  You’re loving.  You care.  You  have things you rock at.  Many of them.

Do you sometimes screw up?  Yep.  So do I.  Do you sometimes yell or throw shoes at the wall?  Maybe.  I have.  Do you have times when you lose it a lot and feel like a troll? It happens.  But it gets better.  And you’re still a fabulous mother.

Here’s the wonderful thing about being a mother.  Every second is a fresh start.  If you screw up you can not screw up the next minute and it goes an awfully long way.

Hug your kids.  Say you’re sorry.  Be silly.  Let things go.  Try again.  It’s all part of the crazy ride of motherhood.  None of us is perfect at it.  But most of us are far more fabulous than we give ourselves credit for.

And while you’ve been reading this, another fresh start has begun.  Go do something good.  Not just for the kids, but for you too.

Now, go off and be fabulous.  You can do it.  You do it again and again.  You’re raising people who will make the world a little better, in part because of your mothering.

Thanks for that.


Filed under This and that

10 Things That Make Me Happy

I have a lot to feel happy about right now.  I’m happy to be back to blogging and yapping with you lovely people!  I’m also happy that Victoria is doing so much better right now.  She’s recovered from the latest surgery very well and the pain has been much more manageable during the recovery.  Lovely people from all over have sent heartwarming little cards, letters, craft projects and pick-me-ups.  The rest of us are finally over our various illnesses and it really seems the clouds have lifted.  Victoria will have another round of tests in 3 months to check on the cancer but we’re optimistic, and we’re doing what we can to keep her super healthy in the meantime.

Here’s a few other things that are making me happy lately…

  1. Baby feet. 
  2. Siblings who still like to play together.  
  3.  New herb gardens even though I didn’t get a chance to plant a veggie garden (yet) this year. 
  4. Puppy kisses. 
  5. Glamour photo shoots in the back yard. 
  6. My bulletproof roses
  7. Kombucha mother shared from a friend so we can start a new round of flavored concoctions. 
  8. Kids who love nature and photography. 
  9. New parks and places to explore together.        
  10. You.  Thanks for all of the comments, well wishes, prayers and encouragement this month.  It really means a lot, and every bit was appreciated.

I’m hoping to be back in the swing of things soon. 

Now, who’s up for some fabulous messy fun?  I hear international Play in the Mud Day is coming soon……  😉



Filed under happy stuff