Monday, January 31, 2011

Heart Cake

This is a quick and easy recipe to make with your kids.  It's always a hit at Valentine's Day parties too.
Step 1: Bake a square cake and a round cake

Step 2: Cut round cake in half

Step 3: Add each half to the square using frosting to attach to make a heart shape

Step 4: Frost with pink frosting

Step 5: Enjoy!


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Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflective Listening

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. 
~Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the ways we feel valued as human beings is when we feel truly heard by others.  Now that doesn’t mean someone just hears what we say and agrees just to move on to the next thing.  It’s when someone really listens and understands what we have to say.  How often do you do that with your loved ones, especially your children?  How often do you sit down, look in their eyes, and have an actually conversation with them?  I know for me I spend a lot of time barking orders and if I do listen it’s about their day or how soccer practice went or how they did on a test.  I’ve decided to develop a different approach and actually get to know my son as a person, who he is not what he does.
One thing I’m going to do is practice reflective listening.  The main idea is to try to understand what the person is trying to communicate to you and then to “reflect” the idea back to the person to make sure it’s understood.  This is a great way to communicate with children because you can make them feel heard and figure out what they are really trying to say instead of trying to mold their ideas into what you feel they should be. 
First, sit still and listen.  If you interrupt or fidget it will indicate you’re not really interested in what they have to say.  Second, make eye contact and nod your head and say encouraging things to show you’re paying attention like “mmm,” “uh huh,” and “go on.”  When there’s a break in their speaking, try to sum up what they’ve said in your own words-this is the reflective part and is very important.  You will keep them opening up to you if you show you understand what they’re saying.  Don’t push or dig for information, give them space to confide in you.  Make sure you don’t criticize, that shows you’re judging not listening and understanding which will make them feel as if they can’t confide in you!   
Reflective listening goes a long way in satisfying your child’s need to be listened to and understood.  It will help you build a stronger bond with them and will teach them how to listen to others, including you!  I’ve decided to set aside 15 minutes a day after school to look in my son's eyes reflectively listen to him.  I can't think of anything more important on my to-do list than building a connection with my guy.
How much time will you set aside to try this with your kids?  Do you think this is a valuable idea?

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Four Active Indoor Activities

 "I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny."
~Dr. Seuss
One of the most trying times as a parent is when you’re stuck home with your kids all day,  the weather is too bad to go outside for any length of time and they have no outlet for their boisterous energy.  Usually a parent’s stress level directly correlates to a child’s energy level (this is a mathematical fact, I didn't just make that up).  Instead of constantly hushing them, or worse, losing your temper like we all do from time to time, try some of these activities.  The following activities allow children to use large muscles and be loud but in a regulated manner (think controlled chaos).   They involve minimal props, little clean up, and you can invest as little or as much time as you want to them.  If I really don’t feel like doing them I’ll set the timer for a time that will allow me to stay sane as well as assuage my guilt for not wanting to spend every waking second entertaining my child.  After doing one or two of these with your child they will have satisfied some of their need for exercise and will maybe sit and color for longer than a five second clip.  If you're really lucky they'll find something to do to entertain themselves.
       1.       Skater’s Waltz
      Use two paper plates as skates and skate around the house listening to the skater’s        
      You  can just look the song up on or even just Google it.  Here are a few links
      make it a little easier:

Just the music with a Christmas picture

        2.       Animal Noises
This one is great because it teaches your child a little self control.  First say to them in a loud, excited voice, “What noise does a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig dog make?”  Then bark with them in a loud voice.  Then whisper to them, “What sound does the liiiiiiiiiittle dog (puppy) make?”  Now bark in a very quiet voice.  Go through as many animals as you can think of.  This has kept my wild son as well as my entire classroom busy for as long as I’m willing to play.

       3.       Balloons
This one is so easy.  Just blow up a balloon and play keep it in the air.  Many times if you play for a couple of minutes then your child will continue to play on their own.  You may have a break for a few minutes (well one at least).  If you want to take it farther take out a box or basket and try to shoot it in.  Depending on your child’s age you can either toss it it or throw it up and hit the balloon in.

       4.       Puddle Jumping
Don’t worry, this doesn’t really involve muddy water.  What you do is pretend you’re out walking in the rain.  At first you whisper “Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe” and you pretend to tip toe through the puddles.  Then you jump as high as you can a yell, "SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH!" while pretending to jump in puddles.  Go back and forth between the two so your kids don't get completely out of control.  You can make this game more challenging by using a paper plate or a book as a rain hat and try to balance it on your head as you play.

Let me know how these work for you and your family!

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