Family watching television, c. 1958

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Usually on Sundays, I review a movie that I feel others might find enjoyable.  But today, I’m devoting my post to informing you about Screen-Free Week.

From April 18 – April 24, thousands (or maybe hundreds of thousands) of families across the country will be pulling the plug of their TV sets and computers in honor of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s SCREEN-FREE WEEK.  Families can participate by turning off their TV’s and computers for entertainment and turning on to other activities.

What a fantastic idea!

Please don’t get me wrong…there definitely are some great programs on TV for adults and children…many of those can be found on your local PBS stations.

But no child should spend too much time in front of the television or computer screen, no matter how educational or valuable the show is.

How can your family benefit by taking part in this week-long event?

  • More family time together.  “To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.”  Sit down together and plan a family trip.  As a family, go through those photos that have been piling up and put together a family album.  Play board games or charades.
  • More time to go outside.  With the obesity rate climbing in this country, both adults and children will benefit from outdoor exercise such as walking, hiking or other outdoor activities.


  • More time for reading, crafting and cooking with your children.  If you need some ideas, please check out my book for parents of preschoolers which is an excellent resource.  It highlights 100 picture books every young child should hear and provides an eco-friendly craft project and a child-friendly healthful recipe for each recommended story.  And, if you have older children, how about having them participate by reading the story to their younger brothers and sisters and then assist with the craft and cooking activities.

For more information on this event and other family activities, you can go to the website of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:

They have lots of other ideas of what you can do when you turn off your screens.

Follow-Me-Fridays: Where’s Miss Vivian?

Hugo Oehmichen Im Kindergarten

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Yesterday I walked into Bristol Elementary School…the halls are brightly decorated with the artistic efforts of the students.  The two kindergartens where I was to do my presentation are separated by another room which serves as an office for the two teachers and their assistants…what a great set-up!

The children were eager to hear the story of Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed? by Barney Saltzberg.  The teacher had introduced me as ‘Miss Vivian, who used to teach kindergarten many years ago and now she wrote a book about books and she is going to read to us today’.  I opened the picture book to the inner title page and began, “This is a story about a little pig named Cornelius who does some very silly things…Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed?”  I have to tell you how amazed I was when one of the boys asked, “And who is the author?”  Usually I do say the author’s name after I tell them the title…this time I didn’t, and it was great to hear such a question from a 5-year old. 🙂  After I told them the name of the author, the same child piped up, “And who drew the pictures?”  We talked a minute about the fact that in this particular book, the author was also the illustrator and then we read the story about the little pig getting ready for bed.  When Cornelius brushes his teeth with soap and a body brush, the kindergarteners laughed.  And when the little pig chooses a pile of TWENTY books as his bedtime story, the children knew that his father would NEVER read so many books at one time.  But when Cornelius feeds his fish CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES, one girl raised her hand and said, “If you feed your fish cookies, they will die because cookies have sugar and fish can’t eat things with sugar.”  I agreed and added that it was a good thing that this was just a story and that many stories are just “made up” and those events didn’t really happen.  “That’s because it’s fiction!” exclaimed another child.


I guess that is one of the things that I love most about young children…they are sponges for knowledge…what an opportunity parents and teachers have!  It is so important to spend those precious moments with little ones…just 15 minutes is all it takes to read a picture book story or do a simple arts and crafts project or prepare something together in the kitchen.  Those 15 minutes (or more if you have it) of “quality” time, participating positively with a child, leaves an impression that builds self-esteem, develops pre-literacy skills and creates a life-long parent-child bond.

After the story, I showed the children the No Tick-Tock Clock craft project and explained how we would proceed to make it.  I loved the way the teacher wrote the steps on the board as I spoke…using a simple picture (like a bottle of glue) and then a word (like glue)…to give the children a reference to follow as they worked on their clocks.  The children really enjoyed working on the simple craft project and were excited to be able to bring it home to show their parents and use it to help them know when it was time to get ready for bed.

If you are interested in getting a copy of a great resource that provides story suggestions, simple craft projects and easy healthful recipes, I hope you will take advantage of a very special sale going on right now to celebrate The Week Of The Young Child and to help enable young families to purchase a copy of SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.  You can check it out by going to my website…if you pay by check or money order, you can get the book for $14.95 (plus postage…U.S. only)…only one copy per address, no dealers, please (April 10-April 16).  This is an amazing 66% off the cover price of $44.95.  The book is a great resource for parents with young children and I am trying to make it available to as many parents as possible.


For those of you who are interested in the Read with Max Book Blog tour, to find out more information about Leader Dogs for the Blind or to follow Max on the rest of his book blog tour:

Also, please don’t forget that I will be taking part in the EASTER EGGSTRAVAGANZA GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP from April 20 – April 25.  It will be the first time I will be giving away a copy of my book on my own blog, although it has been part of many reviews and several giveaways on other blog sites.  The other really cool thing is that there are over 200 bloggers taking part…you will be able to hop from one to another…read their posts and enter their giveaways. So keep your eye on my posts for more information.

Please stop by tomorrow for Saturday Ramblings: Preserve, Protect and Promote…Earth Day 2011

Great ideas for end-of-summer fun!

We just got back from a five-day vacation in the mountains of Colorado.  The weather was perfect.  The fishing was great.  The cabin was outfitted with everything you could need…even a flat-screen TV which we never turned on because we were too busy during the day having fun outdoors and too tired at night to even want to watch anything.  Cell phones don’t work there and we didn’t bring the computer.  And I began to realize how life was like in the days before TV and computers and phones.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the technology that allows each of us to know what is going on in the world the moment it happens.  But it made me more aware of how much closer a family could be if they were more isolated from all that is happening out there or if they made an effort to spend time together without the distractions that usually keep us going in different directions.

So here’s a list of a few great ideas for end-of-summer fun that might possibly bring your family closer together and won’t cost a fortune:

  • Go camping…even for the day…but overnight, if possible.  Rent equipment or borrow it from friends if you don’t already have what you would need.
  • Check out local parks, museums and art galleries.  Some are free and many have special deals for families.  You might even purchase a museum membership that entitles your family to special museum privileges during the year.
  • Have an end-of-summer get-together.  If your child is going to school (or nursery school or daycare) this year, see if you can find out who will be in his/her class or group.  Invite the children and their parents…what an awesome way to help your child start the year already knowing some of his classmates.  The get-together can be a pot-luck with everyone bringing something to eat so that the burden of food is not all on you.  Also, have each family bring a favorite game…there will certainly be plenty to do.  Take lots of pictures and have your child help you make a collage or album of this special day.  He/she can bring it to school for show-and-tell…great for a child who is anxious about the first day of school…something like BILLY AND THE BIG NEW SCHOOL by Laurence and Catherine Anholt.
  • Plan to have dinner together as a family, if possible.  And please, turn the TV off and don’t answer the phone if it rings 🙂

That’s it…just a few simple suggestions…hope they help you end the summer on a high note and begin the school year in a positive way.

Tips to keep your child healthy when school starts

The start of school usually brings hurried shopping trips to purchase needed school supplies and new outfits.  It also has generated lots of blogs and columns with advice about school anxieties.  But another big issue that arrives with the start of school is the increase of colds, sore throats, pink eye and other infectious diseases that sometimes run rampant through classrooms.

How can we help keep our children as healthy as possible?  Here are several simple tips:

  1. Provide your child with healthful balanced meals and snacks.
  2. Encourage your child to wash his hands frequently (or wash them for him if he is too young).
  3. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep – older children with cell phones, TV’s and computers in their own rooms can often stay up half the night while their parents think they are sleeping.
  4. If your child does get sick, please keep her home, even though this may be inconvenient (if you work) or she begs to go because she will “miss” something.  You will be doing your child no favors if you send her when she is ill, and the teacher and the other children will not be exposed to whatever she has – also, if she is sick, her resisitance will be lowered and she might catch something even worse from another child.

It is definitely difficult to keep preschoolers doing quiet activities indoors when they are sick, especially when they start to feel a little better.  We always had a special box which contained small toys and games, stickers, small boxes of crayons, small pads of paper – all brightly wrapped and beribboned.   When all else failed, out came the box and the sick child was able to choose something from the box.  The eager anticipation while unwrapping the package was beautifully distracting – make sure there is lots of wrapping and ribbon on each.  We also had a special, ornate spoon which was the medicine dispensing spoon.

Need some quiet activities to help pass the time?  My new book contains several picture story suggestions, with related craft and cooking projects, that focus on sick children.  Here is one of them.

For a story to help your young child feel he is not the only one who doesn’t like being sick – read JOHNNY LION’S BAD DAY by Edith Hurd. 

Then make paper plate lions: You will need: 1 paper plate, 1 piece of brown or yellow construction paper, markers or crayons, paste and scissors.

  • Cut the paper into one-inch wide strips and roll each strip around a marker or crayon to create the curl.
  • Paste one end of one strip to the edge of the plate.  Continue with the rest of the strips all around the edge of the plate to form the lion’s mane.
  • Using markers or crayons, draw the lion’s features.

For a yummy, healthful, child-friendly alphabet chicken soup (studies have shown it really DOES help make you feel better):  You will need: 1 quart chicken broth, 2 Tb diced onion, 1/4 cup alphabet noodles, 1 cup diced cooked chicken, 1/2 cup sliced carrots, 1/2 cup cut green beans, 1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh parsley (optional), and a large pot with a cover.

  1. In a large pot, mix broth, onion and noodles and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat to simmer and add the chicken, carrots, beans and corn.  Simmer with the cover on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Garnish each serving with parsley, if you like.
  4. Makes about 4 to 5 cups of soup – refrigerate or freeze what you don’t use.
  5. You can substitute other vegetables if you like – peas, lima beans, zucchini – use your imagination!

Something for nothing at Lowes

These days, you usually don’t get something for nothing.

Thanks to Lowes (the building supply store), you do!

The program is called Build and Grow, a clinic/workshop for children (ages 3 through 5th grade) and their parents (any age!).  At 10am every Saturday, at many local Lowes’ stores across the country, young builders and their families can work on a wooden project, receive a free carpenter’s apron and goggles, and leave with a project themed patch (similar to Boy Scout merit badges), certification of merit upon completion of the project, and their finished creation.  Upcoming projects include a wooden school bus and a wooden bug box.  The first 50 to sign up (online at and show up are admitted to each session.

If you are looking for a wonderful FREE activity to participate positively with your child, check this one out.  Lowes deserves kudos for providing such an awesome community resource that not only builds a child’s self-esteem, but also helps create a life-long parent-child bond.

Mastering tasks and skills

Building self-esteem is an ongoing life-long task.  But the foundations of it are laid in the first five years of a person’s life.  As parents, we need to start in the very beginning and try to ABP…always be positive…not easy to do, I know.

One of the most important components of developing high self-esteem is mastering tasks and skills.  When children are able to DO something themselves (lace up shoes, brush his own teeth, write her name, get dressed by himself, help set the table, etc.), they gain a sense of confidence and competence that encourages them to tackle new challenges.


A great picture book to read to your young child:

LEO THE LATE BLOOMER: written by Robert Kraus and illustrated y Jose Aruego

Story summary: A little lion named Leo is unable to do the things his animal friends can do, such as write his name, draw a picture, eat neatly and talk.  His father is very worried and questions Leo’s mother.  She reassures him that Leo will learn to do everything in his own time.  In the end, she is proved right and Leo masters all these skills with great finesse.

Positive Parental Participation Note: Parents are often tempted to compare one child in the family to another, or they read a book on child development and carefully note at what age their child should be walking or talking or mastering one skill or another.  Of course, it is important to be aware of the various stages of a child’s physical, intellectual and emotional development because the earlier a problem is detected, the faster help can be obtained.  However, it is also important to realize that each child matures at his or her own pace.


These healthful candies are out-of-this-world…and so easy to make.  Your child’s self-esteem will bloom right before your eyes as he helps to prepare this delicious treat.

You will need: 1/2 cup peanut (or other nut) butter, 1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup instant dry milk, 1 Tb honey, 1/2 cup finely chopped raisins, dates or other dried fruit, 1/2 cup cocoa (optional) and a large bowl.

  1. Blend together nut butter and ground sunflower seeds.
  2. Stir in dry milk, honey and dried fruit.  Mix well (with hands, if necessary).
  3. If the mixture is too dry, add some liquid milk; if too wet, add more dry milk.
  4. Form into teaspoon-sized balls.  Roll in cocoa powder, if desired.
  5. Makes about two-dozen balls.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Living in the moment

They say we should live in the moment.

I think this is true…but it is certainly hard to do.

Especially when you are raising children.

When your newborn baby is lying in his crib, you wonder…when will he start to smile at me?

As your baby girl kicks her feet in the air, you think…when will she turn over?

When will he crawl, stand up, walk on his own?

When will she talk, write her name, ride a bike?

Perhaps this is part of the human condition…this almost constant quest for the next stage of development.  Maybe this characteristic of ours is what drives civilization to newer technologies and what causes yesterday’s inventions to become obsolete.

Take a breath…look around you…this moment will never be experienced again. 

Be in this moment with your child…share a story and participate together in an activity…you will be creating a life-long bond.

Here’s a suggestion for a story to read to your preschooler (but any story will do):

I LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE YOU: written by Lisa Baker, illustrated by David McPhail: Story summary:

Mother Fox tells her son that she loves him when he is happy as well as when he is angry, when he is sick in bed as well as when he is running around, when he is shouting as well as when he is quiet.  Little Fox is very comforted by the fact that his mother loves him just as he is.

LOVE COLLAGE CRAFT PROJECT: You will need: A piece of construction paper, old magazines, scissors, paste and crayons.

  1. Talk to your child about the things she loves…her family, pets, playing ball, eating ice cream, the color blue, etc.
  2. Look through the magazines and help your child cut out pictures that illustrate what she loves.
  3. Paste the pictures onto the paper…let your child use the crayons to draw additional things (or people) she loves that she couldn’t find pictures of, such as herself and you!
  4. Hang the picture up in a place of honor in your home…what a boost to your child’s self-esteem!