Simple Steps to Creating a Montessori Toddler Room

Photo Credit: smonkyou.com

My two year old just started sleeping in his own room. Until now, he slept with us, which was very handy for breastfeeding and early potty training, but now that he’s transitioning into his own space, I’m on the hunt for the perfect room, and I do believe Montessori has the answer!

Order, simplicity, routine and beauty — the cornerstones of a Montessori-inspired toddler bedroom. Ahh! Just saying those four words together invokes a sense of inner peace, doesn’t it? And if anyone could use some inner peace, it’s the mom of a strong-willed two year old boy. You know what I’m saying?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Teen Party Dilemma

Party

How many birthday parties have you planned for your children? If you’re like me, it has added up to quite a few. When the kids are very small, it’s pretty easy: just friends and cake. Later on, you can take your pick of whatever Disney character, popular toy, or favorite activity your child is obsessed with to focus on as a theme.

What about when they’re a little older? Once your child hits the upper elementary grades, middle and then high school, all bets are off. They may deem all your creative ideas as “uncool.” You begin to think that you have to resort to pizza and a movie for the rest of the birthdays you’re responsible for.

I was stuck in the same boat. My daughter Ashley’s sixteenth birthday was rapidly approaching. I wanted to try something different, something to create long-lasting memories for my special girl. I asked Ashley if there was anything she wanted to do.

Cynthia Schrock

Cynthia Schrock is a housewife and homeschool mom who describes herself as a Domestic Engineer in charge of housing, transportation, education and some finances, who loves to celebrate any chance she gets. She grew up on the mission field in Quito, Ecuador with Wycliffe bible translators before moving to Florida. She and her husband Eric have been married for 24 years. They share a passion for teaching parenting and helping other parents find joy in parenting when there seems to not be any found. They have two children Ashley and Matthew, who give them a reason to celebrate every day. Cynthia loves life and wants to live it to the fullest. Being a kidney transplant recipient she knows how precious life is. She does not want to miss one moment of celebrating, living life, checking things off of her “bucket list” and bringing others along on her journey to help them celebrate each moment. Come Celebrate!

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Are You Raising Kids Who Will Do Hard Things?

Do Hard Things

Ever have this happen in your house: your kid is beaming with excitement over their new activity/hobby/idea, only to throw in the towel once they figure out they aren’t rock stars at it and that they actually have to practice to be any good?

Why does this happen? Because it’s not in most people’s nature (especially kids) to want to do hard things. But that places us, the parents, in a pickle. Do we make them stick out or do we let them quit? We want to teach them that you have to practice to become good at something, but we don’t want to force a square peg into a round hole and make them stick it out when it’s not their “thing?” It’s quite the conundrum, isn’t it?

Every family has a different way of dealing with this, but in the Hagaman and Stahlmann houses, we have a one semester minimum for a new activity because kids need to spend some time with a thing to figure out whether or not it’s a good fit.

At the root of many of the cries to quit is an unwillingness to work hard, and we need to fight against it. But we, the parents, need to first change our own mindset.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Inspired By Garbage

Garbage Band

When was the last time you took a good look at the possibilities in your garbage can?

Last week we talked about helping our kids find their passion and pursue it earnestly. This week, we’re turning our attention to kids who have done just that.

Here in Sarasota, there’s a group of five teens who have become local celebrities because of the treasure they found in their trash. They call themselves The Garbage Men, and they are a cover band who plays mostly classics from the 50s, 60s and 70s using instruments that they made entirely out of garbage!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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A College Prep Secret You’ve Probably Never Heard

telling a secret

Are SAT or ACT scores important for college admission?  Maybe.

Does my kid need to be in the top 10% of his class to get into a good school? Possibly.

What about extra curriculars and volunteer work; are they really important on a college resume?  It depends.

Ready for a juicy college prep secret? This is one that you might have never heard, but it could be the single most important thing you do to your child get accepted to the school of her choice.

First Make a List of Top Schools in Your Student’s Field of Interest

Okay, so before I divulge the secret, we have to back up a bit. You’ve got to start by knowing what your kid is passionate about. If you’re not quite sure, take a look at Monday’s post.

Once you know what they absolutely love and the general direction they’re headed in, do a Google search on potential careers in that field. Sit down with your child and talk about it. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few things, find people in those fields who love their work, and let your kid talk to them.

Then, when you’ve got a handle on a strong potential career path, do a search on “Top Schools for [your child’s potential career].” Look at the schools’ websites with your student and pick out the ones that are most appealing. While you’re on their sites, sign up to receive free information on the school. It’s great to be on their mailing lists.

When Should You Start This? The Answer Might Surprise You!

So what’s a good age to start this search? 11th Grade? 9th? Summer before high school?

Nope. The best time to start this search is right before your student starts middle school!

Why so early, you ask? Because the information you get when you do what I’m about to suggest will help you plan the middle school years to set your kid up for the best opportunities during high school, which will make her the ideal candidate for her school of choice.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading. There’s a testimony below that may surprise you.

The Big Secret Revealed

Once you have your list of top school choices, look up the phone numbers for their admissions departments. Then call them. Don’t email. You’ll only get a stock response if you email. You have to get a human being on the telephone for an actual conversation. I know this flies in the face of our culture’s impersonalized, convenient, texting comfort zone, but a live voice on the other end of a telephone is the key to this secret.

Call in the summer! I’m not sure if it’s because they’re bored in the summer or it’s because they’re just not knee deep in applications at that time of year, but I’ve found that college admissions officers are conveniently chatty in the summer months.

The Script

Here’s the gist of what to say when you call:

“My child is planning to pursue a career in [fill in the blank], and your school is one of her top choices. We’ve still got a lot of time to prepare, and we want to help her become an excellent candidate for your program. Can you tell me more about what kinds of things you look for in the ideal [insert school name] applicant?”

Have a pen and paper handy and write down everything they say.

Stay away from questions about SAT scores and GPA requirements. You can get that information easily with a quick online search. You’re looking for the juicy stuff that will cause your child’s application to bubble to the top.

Over the past few years, Jody and I have spoken with many college admissions officers at many different types of schools, and guess what we found out? Every school is looking for different things!

And you might be surprised to know that colleges are not at all reluctant to share this information. In fact, in our experiences (especially if you call in the summer months) they seem excited to talk about it. And why wouldn’t they be? Colleges are businesses. They have goals and ideals, and most of those hinge upon the kind of students they attract.  So why wouldn’t they want to help a student become the perfect candidate for their program?

What was VERY surprising to us was that even within the same major, different schools seem to be looking for very different things.

Example #1 — The Air Force Academy

I have a son who has dreamed of being in the military most of his life. Even as a toddler, he was always out in the yard fighting off pretend “bad guys.” It wasn’t ever our influence. We didn’t really have any close friends or family who were in the military when he was little, and certainly, as a protective momma hen, sending my kid into battle wasn’t my first choice.

But at the end of the day, we have follow the path that THEY were created for, not the one we create for them. I have a cousin who always wanted to fly jets in the Air Force. My aunt wanted no part of it and encouraged him to go to college and then to law school instead. He did, but that thing kept nagging inside him, and today he’s an FBI agent and is certainly NOT living the safe attorney’s life that his mom wanted for him.

So even though I wouldn’t pick the soldier’s life for my son, it’s the desire of his heart, and I am committed to do everything I can to help him reach his goals.

Just before entering 6th grade, we began looking into the military academies. We settled on Air Force because at the time, it had some of the science programs that interested him.

I called the admissions officer, who basically gave me a step-by-step plan to get Seth accepted. When the guy asked me how old my son was, I sheepishly said, “Oh, he’s still quite young.”

“How young?”

With a little nervous giggle I answered, “Well…he’s going into 6th grade.”

“Oh no mam. He’s not too young. He’s in the Class of 2020, and this is the right time to get him registered on our website.”

Since then, Seth has received packages from the Air Force Academy about twice a year with information to encourage him on his journey. Middle school is an important time of discovery and preparation. For example, the Air Force Academy requires at least pre-calculous, but prefers calculous. In order to achieve that level of math, we HAD to start pre-algebra in 6th grade.

Now, as we followed the Air Force Academy plan, Seth began to realize that his true love is film making. He’s even learned that there are filmmakers in the military, but none of the academies seem to have programs suited for this. So we’ve since switched gears. We did, however, find an excellent film school that also has an ROTC program. So that is where we are headed, but nothing that we’ve done to prepare for the Air Force Academy has gone to waste. It has all been a huge benefit academically and physically (they require a very high level of physical fitness).

The bottom line — preparing for your child’s top choice school is NEVER a waste, even if they switch gears in the process!

Example #2 — Music School

My older daughter wants to be vocal recording artist. She sings at the Sarasota Opera House and has appeared in seven operas and is cast in a lead role in this fall’s production of The Hobbit. She sings on our church worship team and at open mic nights around town. She studies music theory and plays three instruments. Music is clearly her passion.

Her first choice school is The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. When I spoke with them last summer, I found out that their audition process is the single most important admissions factor. But, I also learned that they offer an annual audition workshop to help applicants prepare for the best audition possible, and they encourage applicants to come every year through high school.

Had I waited until later in high school to make that call, or not even called at all, I would have never known about the one thing that could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Next summer, as a rising junior, she’ll also be able to attend a vocal intensive summer program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia (one her top five schools), where she’ll meet faculty, work with successful artists and gain experience that will dramatically boost her admission prospects at almost any school. Again, had I not spoken with an admissions officer there, I wouldn’t have known about this important opportunity.

 

This Saturday at 10:00AM, we’re going to talk a lot more about this, particularly about some of the unusual things we’ve heard that could dramatically boost a college applicant’s chances of being accepted. Don’t miss it!

Sarasota folks, tune in live on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else, head over to the WSRQ Radio website and listen live streaming or download their mobile app to listen on the go.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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HOMESCHOOLING MOM ON NATIONAL TV!

College Prep Genius 2013 Blue Ribbon Logo

Jean Burk, homeschooling veteran and creator of the award-winning College Prep Genius program will be on a national talk show tomorrow, July 18th (7:00 AM EDT & PDT, 6:00 AM CDT on the WE Channel -86 million viewers) with Forbes Riley -The Two Billion Dollar Woman!

Jean will share how she helped her own homeschooled kids received FREE College, FREE grad school and FREE law school as well as tens of thousands of other students over the last ten years!

“…one of the BEST options for SAT test preparation” –Cathy Duffy, Homeschool Curriculum Expert

“…VERY pleased with this program…used it with my son.” –Heidi St. John, The Busy Homeschool Mom

“…going to college, strongly recommend that you investigate College Prep Genius” –The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

“We tell everyone about your program”. -Mike Smith President of HSLDA

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Out-Of-The-Box U

Painted Hand

So, you’re starting to figure out what your kids are super interested in, maybe even passionate about. (If you’re not quite there yet, check out yesterday’s post for some inspiration.)

Now what? Where do you go with this information, and how do you help your kids dive deep into their interests without having to remortgage your house?

There are awesome opportunities tucked away in hidden places that you might not think about. You’ll have to be willing to do some research and log some miles on your car, but it’s totally worth it.

Hidden Treasures in Museums and Libraries

When I lived in NJ (Jenni speaking), we were members of the Newark Museum, and a few times a year, the museum offered inexpensive but awesome classes. One daughter, who was about eight at the time, took a jewelry making class.

The instructor would take the kids to a specific location in the museum where the kids would study a particular art form from a different time period and culture. Then they’d return to the classroom and make jewelry inspired by what they’d studied. The stuff they produced was way beyond anything she would have ever made at home. In fact, one of her pieces won second place at the county fair, and it was judged along with adult entries.

One of my sons took a digital photography class that trained his eye to look for art in the world around him. I remember one day in particular when the whole class went outside and spent the day photographing only shadows.

Another son, my resident scientist at the time, took a slime class. They spent the whole six week session making all kinds of polymers that they could play with.

Libraries can also have hidden opportunities. Some have teen knitting groups. Some offer master gardener classes or special guest speakers. Kids can learn all about bats or participate in an African music class or join a Lego club. Some libraries offer business help for young entrepreneurs or American Red Cross Babysitting Certification classes. One year, my daughter won a $50 gift certificate just for writing a winning book review through our local library.

Google Is Your Best Friend

You can find all sorts of treasures by simply making Google your best friend. So, let’s say you have a child interested in photography like I do (Jody speaking). Go to Google and search for local clubs, free workshops and photography studios that offer classes.

This summer one of my daughters is taking a few summer workshops at Ringling School of Art. What she has learned in these few weeks is irrefutably key to her future success as a photographer. She is also following bloggers who are experts in the field, mimicking their different styles and techniques and mastering her craft. This is one of the many ways to help your kids become experts in what they’re passionate about.

My other daughter was convinced she wanted to own a bakery. We found out that Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store offers cake decorating classes. So, for her birthday, the entire family bought her everything she needed to bake unique cakes and cupcake accessories and all the tools to create her own little bake shop, and my sister purchased the first round of classes for her.

It was one of the best things we ever did, and we all enjoyed her delectable desserts. Yes, I had to diet once she exhausted her passion for that field. But, what she learned was irreplaceable. She figured out that she loved to bake and make specialty desserts, but only for special occasions. This was NOT something she wanted to do for a living. Good thing we figured that out in middle school and not in business college!

Look for local stores that sell supplies for your child’s interest and see if they offer classes. My daughter (Jenni here) has her own henna tattoo business. She gets her supplies from a store in Orlando, which is about two hours from our house. Next month, we’re heading up there for a full day of henna classes to help her hone her skills. While she’s there, she plans to rub elbows with some other artists and find out new ways to get more business.

Oddly enough, Skyler’s whole henna business was birthed out of a desire to take an art class. She’s an artsy kid by nature, but she wasn’t satisfied with her drawing ability. That one class opened a whole new world for her. Check out her henna designs here

Hidden Treasures in Your City

Do you have any historic societies or science centers in your community? Get on their mailing lists and find out what they’re doing. You might unearth some great treasures.

Does your city offer opera, orchestra, dance, live theater or bazaars? How about art shows? Are there galleries? What about restaurants (sometimes restaurant owners will let your kids tour the kitchen and make their own food).

Mark your calendar for the county fair and any other fairs your town might offer.  Get people’s business cards, and see if they’ll let you visit their farm or work studio.

Experiences fuel passion, and the people who are living and breathing their craft are great resources for helping us give our kids specialized experiences. Which leads us to this…

Sailing on the Right Ships: Mentorships, Internships and Apprenticeships

Contact local zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and other specialized attractions in your area, and see if they offer official internship programs.

Find a professional in your child’s field of interest who will allow him to job shadow for a few days. If it goes well, talk to the person about possibly mentoring your child.

Travel Required

Jenni and I have done some pretty crazy things to get our kids to places so they can have an experience that will fuel their passion . . . but I think we’re called to do that.

When Chase, my oldest son, was in middle school, we knew he wanted to pursue a career in law and politics. Politics was not my specialty, but this boy couldn’t get enough of it. I knew I had to get him to places where he could learn first-hand what it was all about. So, with two little ones in tow, I drove ninety minutes each way for five days in a row to get him to our state capital in Springfield, IL so that he could participate in a week long camp that would teach him about our political system and allow him to network with representatives and senators in our home state.

Well, that laborsome effort definitely paid off. Out of that experience, Chase was given an opportunity to work for our senator during the summer (his office was only twenty minutes from us – whew!), page for him later at the capital and later campaign for a representative in Missouri. Well, that passion at 12 years old catapulted him into law school and has turned into a career placing him with a group of attorneys that bring awareness to the Federal Budget.

But these trips don’t have to be a total wash for mom and dad. When Jenni and I take her daughter Skyler up to Orlando next month for a day of henna boot camp, we’re going to spend the day at a nearby cafe with WiFi working on our keynote talks for a 2015 homeschool convention (and we’ll manage to squeeze in some fun too).

Summer Camps

Specialized summer camps can have a steep price tag, but they can be a great investment in your kid’s future. My daughter Skyler (Jenni speaking) wants to be a vocal recording artist. A number of top music schools offer intensive summer programs that will not only build skills and experience, but it will allow her to make valuable connections with working artists.

One of my sons wants to be a filmmaker in the military. The New York film academy offers middle and high schoolers camps with A-List producers, directors, screenwriters and actors.

There are excellent summer opportunities for nearly every interest.

We’re going to talk more about this and how to help your kids get into their first choice school this Saturday at 10:00AM on Parenting On Purpose With Jenni and Jody. We’ll be talking about how finding our kids’ passion is instrumental in preparing them for their future.

Sarasota locals can catch us on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM, but anyone can listen in on live streaming on WSRQ or get directions to download a mobile app and listen on the go.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Does Your Kid Have a “Thing?”

Hagaman Kids

A few years ago one of my children was celebrating a birthday. He had $50 to spend (a gift from a great grandparent), and he couldn’t figure out a way to spend more than $6 of it.

As he lapped the store, he would pick something up and carry it around for a while and then decide it wasn’t quite right and put it back. He asked me if I thought his G.G. (great-grandma) would be sad if he didn’t spend the money.

“Of course not, Sam,” I replied. “You can save it until you find something you really like. I think G.G. would be proud of you for making wise choices with your money.”

When we left the store, he was very sad, and when I asked what was wrong, he said, “I don’t have a ‘thing.’ Seth likes science, and Skyler likes horses, but I don’t have a special ‘thing’ that I like.”

After that day, we spent a lot of time and thought helping Sam find his “thing,” and he has! Sam loves to grow things. We call him Farmer Sam, and he’s even gearing up right now to invest his leftover birthday money in a worm farm (by the way, he’s still the kid who won’t spend money flippantly — his birthday was four months ago, and he still has quite a bit of money left over).

One of Sam's backyard growing projects

One of Sam’s backyard growing projects

Farmer Sam Canning Tomatoes

Farmer Sam Canning Tomatoes

Jody and I are consistently amazed at how many people we talk to who don’t know what their kids are passionate about (other than video games and social media, that is). We’re not necessarily surprised that they haven’t discovered it. We’re more surprised that so often people say that it never really occurred to the them to figure that out.

But just as my little Sam was so sad that he didn’t have a thing, other young souls are feeling the emptiness that grows inside when passion is missing.

Laziness is Not a Personality Trait

As we dig deeper with parents, encouraging them to help their kids find passion, we often hear many of them say, “My kid is just not motivated.” Or worse, “My kid is lazy.”

Lazy is not a personality trait; it’s a sign of a spirit crying out for purpose.

Understanding our child’s bent, knowing what sets their hearts on fire, gives kids energy and focus, and it gives us a kind of parenting compass: we can plan family activities and birthday parties and gifts and bedroom decor all around the things that our kids love most.

It’s Okay to Change Course

Often you will find that if you allow a child every opportunity to fully explore an interest (as time and money permit), they will often come to the end of it. And that’s okay.

When Skyler was younger, she was passionate about animals, especially horses. She read everything she could get her hands on about animals. When she had TV time, she watched Animal Planet. We got subscriptions to animal magazines, and she read animal fiction books.

She had many pets (snake, lizard, tree frog, bunny, bird, cat, dog, guinea pig). She loved to study an animal’s habitat and try to re-create it at home. We thought for a while, she might become a zoologist one day.

By about age nine, her focus was on horses. She read Equus magazine, worked hard every year selling Girl Scout cookies to pay for horse camp at the Girl Scout Campground, took horseback riding lessons (when we could afford it) and even studied a horse anatomy book in her spare time.

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But by the time she was twelve, she had pretty much come to the end of it. She’s 15 now, and although she still loves horses and hopes to one own a horse, she came to realize that her true passion (something she’d also been cultivating for a while even while she studied horses) was music and art.

She’s has an amazing voice and sings at the Sarasota Opera House. She studies music theory and has learned to play a number of different instruments. She also draws and paints and runs her own henna tattoo business.

In costume for her role in the opera Little Nemo in Slumberland

In costume for her role in the opera Little Nemo in Slumberland

Henna Art by Skyler

Henna Art by Skyler

As they grow and evolve, it’s okay to let go of old interests and develop new ones. Most people go through it, but isn’t it better to dive deeply into something at 10 or 12 and come to the end of it than it is to dive deeply into something at 20 or 25 and come to the end of it (especially after spending 10s of thousands of dollars on schooling for it)? We actually hear that story quite often — the one where people went to school to become a teacher (or something else), spent years studying and then figured out during student teaching that she doesn’t like it.

Sure, some people don’t find their passion and purpose until they’re in their 30s or 40s, but it’s usually because they were not guided to deeply explore interests when they were young.  We can absolutely shorten the learning curve for our kids. If we make it a focus, we can (and should) help our kids figure out what makes their hearts soar.

This Saturday on Parenting on Purpose radio show, we are going to talk about how finding our kid’s passion is a critical part of helping them prepare for college and career. We’ll also tell you what to do with that information, once you have it. So be sure to tune in live at 10:00AM on Saturday, July 19th.

Local folks can listen on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. And out-of-towners can listen live streaming on the WSRQ website. You can also get instructions there on how to download a mobile app to listen on the go.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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7 Ways that Toys Can Make Summer Fun AND Meaningful

Ugly Dolls

It’s like a game of tug-of-war: kids want the summer to be all about the fun, and parents want the summer to be productive (even if only slightly). But what if it could be both?

Toys can be powerful tools in the lives of our kids. Here are seven ideas for using toys to maximize this summer’s fun, while helping our kids to learn and grow.

1. Ugly Doll Films

Got techie kids who love video games and all things electronic? Here’s a fun idea that will put their techie chops to use while encouraging siblings to work together, get creative and learn some new skills.

Inspire kids to make movies or TV shows starring their favorite stuffed animals. In our house, Ugly Dolls are the cast in an ongoing YouTube series called “Ugly Survivor.” Two of my boys team up to write scripts, voice characters (sometimes they enlist the help of other siblings for this), film and edit episodes of their show.

Recently, they reached out to another YouTuber and invited him to voice one of the characters in a special episode. My kids were so stoked when he agreed to do it.

Here’s a link to that episode, in case you’re interested in digger deeper into this idea.

2. Needle Creations

Summer is a great time to either pick up a new hobby or nurture an old one. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, cross stitching, needlepointing or needle felting can make summer even more fun.

In some parts of the country, the summer sunshine lures kids outside for the whole day. But down here in Florida, there are times of day that are just too hot to be out. At those times, or when it rains, kids can work on needle projects.

Taking a summer road trip? A project can make travel time more fun.

And talk about productive! Kids can use the summer to get a head start on homemade Christmas presents.

Our favorite neighborhood toy store here in Sarasota sells awesome little kits like this one for making felted animals. Not a lot of people know about this fun little hobby. It’s easy, enjoyable, and kids can make some really cool things.

3. Books Are Toys Too

We’ve all heard it said that books can take you places you’ve only dreamed about. I could talk about the value of reading for weeks on end  (we’re actually working on putting together a series of information and resources about it), but let me just say this: the time kids use to read is not time spent — it’s invested!

Reading pays enormous dividends in child development — socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And if that’s not reason enough to devote a big chunk of summer to reading, the icing on the cake is that it can be tremendously fun!

When it comes to reading for pleasure, let kids abandon books they don’t like (after they’ve given them at least a 40 page try).

Spend some time this summer reading aloud to kids. Taking a long car drive? Listen to audio books together. Some libraries carry full cast audio books, which uses different voices for different characters.

Encourage kids to be inspired by a story and dive deeper. This summer I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM with my 8 year old. There’s a great owl in the story, and that gave me the idea to have her dissect an owl pellet. I gave her a bone chart to help her figure out what was inside the pellet, and she had a blast studying that thing. She spent hours on it. I was shocked at how interesting it was to her. Who knew owl puke could be so entertaining?

My middle and high schoolers really like to write fan fiction. In case you’re not familiar with it, fan fiction is basically writing an extension of a story in the voice of one of the characters (or narrator). My 12 year son just finished The Fault in Our Stars and was so moved by the story that he had to keep it going in his imagination.

4. Be a Klutz

If you’re not yet familiar with the Klutz product line, get ready to be inspired! They have something that every kid in your house will enjoy.

Basically, most Klutz products are kits with instruction books and the supplies need to do something awesome. Kids can learn magic tricks or become masters at cat’s cradle (remember that from when we were kids), they can make jewelry or flying paper dragons or learn fashion design … the possibilities are nearly endless!

5. Games

Traveling this summer? Head to your local neighbor toy store and ask them to show their best travel games. There are some awesome things available that will make car trips or long flights or even wait times at restaurants so much more enjoyable.

And for summer nights at home, games are super fun and can be really bonding. The Stahlmanns and Hagamans LOVE a game night, especially if we’re playing Settlers of Catan!

6. Science Kits

For his 10th birthday his year, my son got an amazing kit called Power House. The kit comes with 100 experiments that teach kids all about alternative energy and sustainable living. He’s learning how to use wind turbines and solar energy and even plants to power his little house. He’s having a blast, and he’s learning some amazing things.

Science kits like this one can be an awesome way to maximize the summer.

7. Craft Kits

There are some fabulous kits on the market that will totally inspire crafty kids. Remember Shrinky Dinks? I just saw a really cool kit in my neighborhood toy store that teaches kids how make the coolest looking jewelry using Shrinky Dinks. I wanted to get it for myself. I used to LOVE those things!

Kids can spend some time this summer becoming a paper airplane expert and wow their friends in the fall with their mad aerodynamic skills.

And how about this one? I just saw a kit that lets kids build glow-in-the-dark terrarium. How cool is that?

Exercise is good and absolutely necessary, but our kids can do so much more with the summer than simply lap the neighborhood on their bikes. Let’s find super fun ways to make the most of this precious time.

What are some things your kids are doing to make summer fun and productive?

If you’re local to Sarasota, stop in to Children’s World (4525 Bee Ridge Rd.) today, and meet us in person! We’re broadcasting live from their store this morning from 10:00 – 11:00AM.  We’d love to chat with you on air about your fun summer ideas, and you can pick up a few new ones while you’re there.

If you’re not in this area or you’re not available to join us, be sure to tune into today’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EST) on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Confessions of a Tea Party Hating Mom

Tea Party

“Mommy, want to have a tea party with me?”

Okay, here it is. It sounds ugly, but it’s the truth. My skin crawls at the sound of that question. I confess…I hate tea parties.

I also hate playing with Barbies or any dolls really. I don’t enjoy pretending to eat Play Doh creations. In fact, I pretty much despise most imaginary play.

And for a long time, it made me feel like a bad mom.

When my older kids were little, I would suffer through tortuous rounds of imaginary play, trying not to fidget, and endeavoring to stay focused on their little smiles and happiness. But really, I was silently scanning the room, looking for something to distract them so I could escape the ennui.

I know. It sounds just awful. But Jody and I are huge fans of transparency and vulnerability, so there it is. My name is Jenni Stahlmann, and I hate imaginary play.

Our Kids Can Read Us Like a Book

In hindsight, those years of forcing myself to sit through a tea party and pretend I was having fun weren’t fooling anyone. My kids knew what it looked like when I was really enjoying something. They’d seen it often enough to spot the counterfeit, and because they knew I wasn’t really into it, there was a subtle desperation in them, as they searched my face hoping for signs of a shift.

I’m not sure when the light bulb came on, but at some point in the last ten years or so, I realized my play time with the kids would be much better spent in other ways. I can really get into a craft project or a board game or a day out letterboxing or geocaching. I LOVE long walks and baking or cooking with the kids.

When we lived in New Jersey, we’d go on long outings in our little town. We’d pack the stroller full of water and snacks, walk to the library, read some books together and take some home for later. Then we’d head to the playground, and then to the little grocery store on Main Street where we’d get ingredients for a baking project.

We had all kinds of ways to make the walk more fun. Sometimes we’d take a listening walk and challenge ourselves to hear 20 different sounds. Sometimes I’d print out scavenger hunt sheets of things they might see along our walk (an airplane overhead, a frog, a red bicycle, an American flag, etc.), and whoever found the most things got a little prize.

Freedom

Once I acknowledged that I wasn’t the tea party type, and I began finding things that I can truly enjoy with the kids, I felt a whole new freedom.

Fortunately for my kids, their dad loves imaginary play. So they got their fix when he got home, but during the day with me, we made birdhouses and played board games and read books and drew pictures and went to the zoo and pet the puppies at the local pet store and planted cacti in mason jars filled with sand art and make lighting bug lanterns and had water balloon fights and painted the snow with spray bottles full of colored water.

And you know what? I didn’t feel the least bit guilty anymore about turning down the tea parties!

To learn about more play options, tune into this Saturday’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EST). We are broadcasting LIVE from our favorite neighborhood toy store. If you’re local to Sarasota, stop in and visit us at Children’s World (4525 Bee Ridge Rd.).  We’d love to chat with you on air about your open play experiences!

You can also listen live on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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