Category: Time with Kids

Most Important Job Skill for Our Children’s Future? Resilience.


©Denali National Park and Preserve – click on image to view their Flickr feed

In days of old—even as recent as when our daughter was born—I think it was easier to dream of a child’s future.

They would learn a bunch of stuff, eventually get a diploma and/or degree, become something (scientist, musician, roofer, chef . . . ) and that would be it.

“Ah. Watch how she asks for the iPad! A lawyer in the making.”

“The future artist at work. He’s my little Jackson Pollock!”

I still do that.

There are days when our daughter shows signs of being a scientist. Other days? Inventor. Still others? That lawyer asking for the iPad. (She’s good, by the way.)

But something needs to be added: Resilience.

The ability to turn on a dime, if necessary

The wherewithal to continually up their game and learn new skills as things change

Most importantly, they must retain the ability to hold their heads high as they realize that—once again—it’s time to run a system update on themselves. It is not personal. It is just part of the process of progress.

My father retired recently.

The hardest part for him to swallow? The feeling that he had become out of date, that his skills were no longer in demand.

During his generation—for the most part—a person found a career and stayed with it, gaining expertise along the way. People with long histories were in demand. They commanded the meetings with their wealth of knowledge.

Fast forward to my generation’s career path.

I have had to update and change course at least three times. I have been outsourced and replaced by robots. My fields have shrunk due to the increased power of technology.

Example? I was prepress fanatic. I still am. I would be happy to take the next hour to explain trapping to you. Or how to work a metallic ink into your piece. Or the difference between “white” and “none.” Rich black vs. double strike black. Optimal steps within a gradient. Like poetry to my soul.

But the knowledge is less necessary. Many of these issues can be resolved directly with the pressman/woman. It is much easier to correct said “issues” directly in the workflow.

So? Buh-bye prepress. My prepress knowledge is held in the back of my brain like, say, the lyrics to Rapper’s Delight. Fun to know? Definitely. Essential to my future success? Maybe not.

I look at the generation growing up now.

How many times will they need to retrain or upgrade? If mine has been three (so far), will theirs be six? Or even more?

Maybe when I look at our daughter I should sub-vocalize:

“Ah, my little lawyer-slash-scientist-slash-inventor-slash-resiliant-person-who-never-stops-learning.”

I think the trick, though, will be to teach our children to be on the lookout for when it is time to update their skills.

Our local fence builder is carrying on the traditions of expert handwork. He also now has a Facebook page. He realized that flyers would work for some of their customer base, but that Facebook would reach another set. Brilliant. Facebook does not take away from his expertise. It adds to it.

My sister used to teach guitar lessons in her living room. Now? On Youtube and her website. Outstanding. The cozy afternoon session with one student has been transformed to a highly-technical recording session which will reach hundreds in the same amount of time.

So the fence builder and the guitar teacher had to take a step back and regroup. Pick up some new skills. Redefine themselves in the process. But, boy, was it worth it.

So, my hubby and I have started bringing the idea of resilience into our daughter’s expectations for her future.

For example, this week she wants to be a veterinarian again. It’s a cyclical thing.


© Jennifer C. – click on image to view her Flickr feed

So we brainstorm scenarios about how she could run the business. Can she use the iPhone to track her business like that doctor in the Intuit commercial? Could she also start a store for healthy animal treats? And what if that does not work?

I don’t know if there could be a class called Resilience 101. If there was, I’d be on board to teach it.

But perhaps resilience is best learned in the stream of life. The more we address it, the less a surprise it will be, pointing out examples from their own life along the way. And that means the children of today will be ever more prepared for the constantly-changing world.



Ten STEM/STEAM Books for Kids That I Really, Really Want

Click on images to view on Amazon.*

From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts:

How adding the arts enhances creative thinking in the STEM process

Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff (Make):

Great lessons using everyday stuff:

How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons: Learn how to design and code your very own computer game (Super Skills)

Open, and fun format. Humorous and colorful.

Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything

Getting the grownup in the house up to speed!

STEM to Story: Enthralling and Effective Lesson Plans for Grades 5-8

Lessons which blend STEM and creative writing

Math Art Fun: Teaching Kids to See the Magic and Multitude of Mathematics in Modern Art

Kids discover the math hidden in modern art pieces, and make projects

Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids: Family-Friendly Projects for Exploring and Teaching Math, Science, History, and Culture Through Creative Building

Using Minecraft to teach through certain quests (not released yet)

Make: Paper Inventions: Machines that Move, Drawings that Light Up, and Wearables and Structures You Can Cut, Fold, and Roll

Using paper to make creative, scientific projects

The LEGO Power Functions Idea Book, Vol. 1: Machines and Mechanisms

Instructions on how to build simple mechanisms

The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!

Projects and activities that focus on simple machines

*Note: This is not a sponsored post. I don’t even think I have my Amazon Affiliate program properly set up. But when I love something (or want something), I share it.

STEM/STEAM Field Trips

Lounging in front of classic Tom and Jerry while eating cereal from the box

That is a school holiday. And it’s really, really fun.

It is also necessary to have that kind of downtime. But what comes next? Boredom inevitably sets it. Facing 2 weeks of vacation, I am pulling together a list of ideas to be prepared.


Visit a power plant (check to see if they have a visitors center first):


© bobistraveling

We visited a local power plant. They had a science museum which covered the plant’s operation, plus experiments in energy/renewable energy and more.

Check out a science museum:


© Elliott Brown / Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum – Kids’ City

We have a playdate set up with a former classmate to a local science museum.


Trip to art-supply store to look at all the cool stuff:


© a loves dc

I posted about art supply stores a few weeks ago. Now that we have a little more time during a vacation, how about creating a specific project? There are many appealing projects hiding in the grownup supplies aisle:

Silkscreen kits: last year I picked up a full kit for about $19 on sale

Sculpey bakeable clay

Mod Podge

Pen and ink with nibbed pens

A visit to Home Depot©:


home depot

© Dean Hochman


Home Depot ideas:

Pick up some paint chips to plan a room makeover – even make believe

Buy some PVC or other cool STEM supplies

Try a piece of mosaic tile (I bought one that looked like bricks and snipped off the backing. It was better than blocks because it looked so “real.” Please be careful as some mosaic tiles have sharp edges.)


Local engineering sites of interest:


© Ben Harwood / Canal lock powerhouse

Visit nearby sites where engineering solutions can be seen: 

A hiking path under a soaring bridge. Look up and what do you see?

An old, hand-built stone fence

Abandoned (check for trains anyways please) train tracks

An old water mill


Stationery Something – either Staples, Wal-Mart, or arty local store (even Aisle 5 in the pharmacy will do)


© insatiablemunch


Pens. A fresh highlighter. A silly coloring book. Pieces of paper with clouds printed on them. A gold Sharpie®. Colored index cards. Then come home and get to work!


Bad weather? Feeling like a homebody? How about a field trip to the basement:

© Travis Wise

© Travis Wise

There it is. The box in the corner. The one marked “misc.” What could it be? Dig around and:

Wind up old baby toys.

Poke through great-grandma’s silverware

Examine useless kitchen gadgets bought on a whim, and try to re-purpose them into some kind of STEM machine

Wishing you a nice time with your kids.


STEM/STEAM Field Trips



Real Supplies for Real Creators


© John Morgan

Listen. I love crayons. This is not about crayons.

But crayons are everywhere:

  • Art class
  • Math class
  • Car trips
  • Holiday-themed homework (answer the problems then color in the pumpkins!)
  • Restaurant placemats

So when it comes time to do some artwork outside of school, I prefer to bring out some different kinds of art supplies.

In our house, we have amassed a collection of acrylic-covered paintbrushes, rich, chalky pastels, and, yes, a full set of Prismacolors.


© Celeste Lindell/Art Supplies Series

I have a firm rule in place for when we visit Michaels® or A.C. Moore®.

After we goof off in the foam cutout aisle
(where dd insists on wielding a massive foam sword while dressed in a foam cowboy hat),


after touching every pom-pom of every conceivable color,

we must visit the grown-up’s art supply aisle.

I want her to browse all of the tools of creation: T-Squares, silkscreen sets, mechanical pencils, charcoal. And I always buy one little thing.

Here are some recommendations for low-cost, genuine supplies.

Note: this is not a sponsored post. But when I love something I have to share it.

Kneaded rubber eraser: Fun to smush into interesting shapes, and it erases those little areas that are hard to reach.


© Rob Marquardt

Eraser pencil: Throw one in a box of colored pencils. Gets into those corners, and it is easy to spot.

Smudge stick: We use this to smudge areas on a pencil drawing. Great for experimenting.

Drafting triangle: Makes those diagrams your student creates feel so official

Chalk pastels: Chalky, rich and colorful, and fun to smudge

A metal pencil sharpener: No little plastic, falling-apart thingy that looks fun but only lasts, like, a week

Water-soluble pastels or crayons: This one is a little more expensive, but we have gotten a lot of good use out of it. It is also great for playdates, as it keeps children occupied for quite a while

A genuine sketch book: Again, a little more expensive. But I often see them on 2-for-1 deals

There are many, many, more I could list. But this is a start. I can’t think of a way to end this, so I’m just gonna stop. Wishing you a lovely day.

Note: if a product is designed for an adult user, please supervise your child during use. Wash up carefully after use and take all proper precautions. And keep out of the hands of the under-3 set. The small sizes and bright colors will be tempting. Practice safety first – and enjoy some creative time!

7 Wonderful Ways to Pass a Summer Afternoon

I am burning the midnight oil running this business. But that gives me the luxury of spending time with our daughter during the long, summer days. We spend our mornings doing projects, going on mini-trips to the local lake, and keeping the house rolling. But by about 3 pm, it all catches up with me. Nap time? Not really. So how can I keep it moving until I gain my second wind?

1. Library:

A restful but brainy break. I coo over books she likes, choose a fresh stack to take home, dig for change to pay of some of our fines, and everyone is happy.

2. Local park:


When we lived in Brooklyn, this was one of my favorites. Our daughter was still in her stroller, so I would pack a bag of goodies, and off we’d go. Now we can drive to a number of local parks. I find the closest “mom” bench, pop open an iced tea, and smile and wave as she plays to her heart’s content.

3. Movie time at home:

I lay out our Winnie the Pooh blanket on the living room floor and make fresh popcorn. Then we close the shades, crank the a/c or fans, and roll an old Disney or Studio Ghibli favorite.

4. Board game stations:


We bring a pile of favorites up from the basement: Monopoly, Life, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and set them at different locations around the living room. Then we play, or just goof around with the cards and spinners. Or make up stories about the little bus from Life with its peg people. Can they visit Monopoly? Will a Cherry-o cherry fit in the bus?

5. Playtime bath:

Toys, bubbles and no time limit. I wish a closed toilet seat were more comfortable to sit on. Something to invent.

6. Nature walk or urban hike:

We check out buttercups and odd caterpillars crossing the sidewalk. Duck under mailboxes, and balance along the curb with arms out like Nadia Comaneci. In the city, we would check out flowers poking over neighbors’ fences, jump off brick planters (sorry neighbors), and marvel at passing fire trucks.

7. Wander around the nearest dollar store.

I usually buy something at the end to thank the store owner for letting us kill time. Target is also good for this. Stop at the Starbucks and pick up something large. Then wander the toy aisle. Again, I usually buy something small to thank them for their hospitality.

However we spend these afternoons, I know they will only be a memory come September. That makes me appreciate them even more.


Our daughter has added a few new suggestions on how to pass a lazy afternoon:

1. playdate
2. reading
3. local pool and splash around with your family
4. smart computer games (like Discovery Kids)
5. drawing a picture


Article focus: 7 Wonderful Ways to Pass a Summer Afternoon


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations

I love the environment that surrounds a board game. Whether it’s a rainy day, a cozy, fire-lit evening, or just a long, summer’s afternoon, there is such excitement in running to the basement to grab a colorful box from the shelves.

I began amassing board games for our daughter as soon as she was old enough to safely grasp a board game marker in her fist. I think Candy Land was first, purchased at a Rite Aid on the walk home from Nursery School.

Board games are great rules teachers. They encourage turn taking, instruction following and how to be a good competitor. Great lesson of boardgames? How to act gracious to the loser – or to the winner.

And then there are those out-of-box boardgames that allow for a little more inventive thinking and creativity. These fall into a different category. These are the games that are fun to play with even after the game itself is finished. (Note: this is not a sponsor blog, but when I love something, I share it).

Here are my favorite 10, not in any order of preference, plus tips for imaginative play:


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Mousetrap

This is the same as when I was a kid. And just as amusing. I could set this trap up in my sleep. After the game is over, we move on to trapping other small toys. What will fit? Squinkies? Lego figurines? What happens if you change around the trap parts? What if the old guy does a backwards dive instead?

Monopolies of all kinds

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Monopoly

After a rousing game of trying to out-develop an opponent (I put on my Million Dollar Listing NY hat while playing this game, so watch out) the little houses and hotels are irresistible. Off-market deals can be negotiated with the candy-necklace-colored money (which is great for reinforcing math), and crazy little villages can be built. The electronic game sports a handheld ATM which is a great learning tool. It also makes great noises.


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Labyrinth

The game is fascinating in its medieval look and feel. After the game is done, new mazes can be built to be navigated by the little wizards (I am referring to the game markers, not your children, although they may fancy themselves a little wizard at times).

Surprise Slides series

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Surprise Slides

There are several of these. The game itself is a very soft and approachable. It is perfect for a sick day from school because it does not require too much mental energy. And the flippable-aroundable rooms keep it interesting – and pique curiosity. What happens if all of the rooms’ arrows face backwards? Or all forwards?

Bugs in the Kitchen

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Bugs in the Kitchen

This game features the delightful HEXABUG robot, which I am typing in all caps for some reason. It is an enlivening game. And when the game is over, it is amusing to build mazes for the HEXABUG to navigate, or to trap the bugs in a corner or so they buzz with frustration. We have even invited an additional HEXABUG to play at times. Pseudo races and battles can be set up.


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Hedbanz

This game is perfect for big imaginations. How exactly does one describe a hamburger? It can be taken a step further by acting the images out – actually being what your opponent’s card pictures. How does a hamburger act?

Chutes and Ladders

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Chutes and Ladders

Perfect simple game for little ones. The game is straightforward, so it is a great learning tool. And when it is over, it is soothing to climb those ladders and slide down – over and over again. Can you find the biggest slide? Or the longest ladder?


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Slamwich

This game encourages focus and quick thinking. Then, we play sandwich shop. We build sandwiches for figurines or stuffed animals. Some figurines are picky eaters. Some are verrrry hungry and want sandwiches with everything. Some are vegetarians. Some are grumpy.

Story Cubes

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: Story Cubes

Great purse game for a night at the restaurant. It requires enough imagination just as it is set up. But I had to add it.

Hi Ho Cherry-O without the rules

Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations: HiHo Cherry-O

We save this for when we have had a stressful week. I give our daughter the option to make up whatever rules she wants. Sometimes we switch game around so the players are putting the cherries back on the tree. Or the “dump bucket” spot on the spinner means only I have to dump my bucket. She gets to spin again if it lands on that one. Great stress reliever in its simplicity and familiarity.


Ten Board Games for Kids with Very Big Imaginations



Saturday Serenity – Tea with Me

Saturday Serenity - Tea with Me: Lego Time

Strange, small, clear Lego house

I am allergic to coffee.

I gave that its own paragraph so that it could truly sink in, for I want your pity.

I have taken to drinking green tea in a glass. I make it very strong, strong enough to destroy tooth enamel. And definitely no sugar. This is pure caffeine with no frills. It’s… OK.

But I still miss coffee.

Coffee aside, Saturday mornings are precious in our house. Breakfast for the little one is eggy in a basket. We bake Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free bread in our bread machine. So the slices are enormous. An egg nests comfortably inside.

After breakfast comes cleanup, maybe a little Looney Tune watching. Then comes Tea with Me.

Tea with me is Mommy-and-me time. The only requirements are a fresh cup of tea for me, and quiet playtime with our daughter. Building strange Lego structures. Coloring pages. Inventions. Stuffed animal dramas. Weird science experiments.

But what matters is that it is quiet, uninterrupted time together.

I don’t know when it started. But I do remember when Saturdays were a blur of Home Depot runs, laundry catchup, and mailbox duct-taping (more on that some other time). Saturdays still are just as crazy. But the crazy starts after that 45 minutes of quiet bonding time.

I have noticed a positive change to Saturdays. I do not try to get everything done while carrying around that nagging feeling that I should be spending more time with our daughter. And after tea with me, I disperse several other “drop everything and pay attention” moments throughout the day.

When our daughter has had some special dedicated time, she seems to feel satisfied. Her attention bucket is full. And I feel calmer overall.

And isn’t that what Saturdays are for?


Saturday Serenity – Tea with Me

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