Marbled fall leaf prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The first full weekend of fall brought some cooler nights causing our yard to be covered with lots and lots of fallen leaves. While outside the other day the tot and I collected some of our favorites, which she painted with watercolor paints, smushed, and then tore to bits.

Hey, she’s 2. That’s what toddlers do.

But, it did inspire me to get out the paints and do a fun art activity perfect for kids 6 and up – and adults too.

Marbled fall leaf prints.

The finished prints can be used to create beautiful hand-made cards, for wrapping a special fall gift, or just as a nice decoration for the family fridge. Marbling paper has been an art technique since the early 1100’s in Japan and then started gaining more attention in the 1500’s in Turkey. This specialized art form was used as backgrounds for special documents and manuscripts. Eventually making its way to European artisans and bookmakers, marbled paper became widely recognized as a true craft that is respected and admired even today.

Usually accomplished with harsh chemicals and magic potions (no, not really – but yes, toxic), your child can explore the concept of marbling with the help of some ingredients from the kitchen and a bit of inspiration from those fall leaves.

Invite your child to head outdoors and gather some of her favorite fallen leaves in different shapes and colors. Once she’s happy with her collection, she can head indoors and brainstorm color combinations. She can also do a bit of research and take a look at examples of traditional marbled paper.

The warm colors – red, yellow, and orange – are usually associated with fall and are a perfect color set for creating vibrant marbled paper. But, if your child has her heart set on using other colors, encourage her creativity and let her see what her colors look like when they mix.

Start by getting out a 9×12 baking pan or tray and filling it with enough water so the bottom is just barely covered. Not only is this an exciting art activity – it’s encouraging science concepts, too! You see, oil and water don’t mix (they are insoluble), creating an interesting surface tension, which results in the marbling design. Oil has a lower density than water causing it to float happily on the top of the water.

Now invite your child to get out three paper cups and put a big squirt each color of tempera paint she selected in its own cup. She can then add a couple of drops of water to each cup and then mix to create slightly watered-down paints.

Next she can add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the water in the pan and drip, drop, drip the yellow, red, and orange paint into tray. Offer her a chopstick to gently stir and move the oily paint water around.

Now she can float her paper on top of the water, lift, and then place flat on a sheet of newspaper. Your child can continue dripping and stirring the oily paint to create more marbled paper.

After the marbled paper has dried overnight, your child can create leaf prints on top of the paper by painting over her collection of leaves from outside with watercolor paint and then pressing and lifting from the marbled paper.

The finished marbled fall leaf prints are just beautiful!

Learning styles: How does your child’s brain (and your own) love to learn?

© Dean Lipoff 2011

Part of what makes an individual unique is how he learns and discovers new things. We use our senses to understand the world around us and usually have one sense that is a bit stronger in that assessment than another. Different learning styles are all about the way learning is approached and optimized individually.

If you are a parent to a young child, you may have heard the term ” learning style” tossed about.

But, what does that mean?

It’s actually not as crazy as you might think.

A learning style can be defined as an individual’s unique approach to learning based on strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Once a person connects with a certain style of learning, it provides the opportunity to tap into the brain and the expansion of learning.

Auditory Learning Style

Auditory learners connect with listening and hearing when learning. Lectures provide a wealth of information and auditory learners enjoy listening and paying attention. According to, auditory learners benefit from traditional teaching techniques in the classroom. Teachers and parents can aid in learning by adding extra auditory interest by using voice fluctuations during lectures or reading directions, and using verbal clues often.

Visual Learning Style

Visual learners find seeing information demonstrated, observing charts and visual aids, or watching a movie or video to be beneficial to learning. Learning often takes place in large visual chunks for visual learners. And within the classroom or home, including charts, diagrams, and other visual aids to help the visual learner see the big-picture and understand new concepts is very beneficial.

Kinetic Learning Style

Kinetic learners are doers and learning takes place through movement and action. Touching, feeling, exploring and experimenting trough the sense of touch is essential for the kinetic learner. Kinetic learners are active, which is sometimes misunderstood within the classroom or at home. Offer hands-on activities within the educational and learning environment to provide the kinetic learner the opportunity to retain information while doing.

How to Determine Your Learning Style

There are several simple questionnaire tests you can take to help determine what learning style is dominant in you or your child. Some can figure it out by paying attention to how they learn or by observing a child in the classroom or home environment. But, for others, it can be a bit more challenging.

Consider how you enjoy learning. Visualize yourself in an educational situation. Which do you prefer – lectures, visuals, or activities? If you prefer listening to a lecture on a topic you are interested in, you are probably an auditory learner. Those that enjoy watching a demonstrative video can be considered visual learners. And if you’d rather be doing a hands-on activity, like a dissection, you probably connect best with kinetic learning style.

The same goes for your child – how does he like learning about new things? Does he talk and talk and talk (auditory) about his new favorite subject or does he prefer drawing pictures or making real-life models (visual)? While exploring new concepts, would he prefer to act out scenarios and conduct experiments (kinetic)?

Understanding Your Learning Style

Now that you have an idea what style of learning best fits you or your child, you can begin using it to your advantage. While learning, or offering a helping hand while doing homework, use this knowledge to advance how you, or your child, gather and retain information. A visual learner can observe, look at pictures about a new subject matter, and create charts and graphs. Auditory learners can search out lectures and discussions about topics they find interesting. And kinetic learners can engage in activities and hands-on projects or conducting experiments.

Within the classroom, when an educator understands the different learning styles of students, learning can be created to accommodate students with some simple adjustments, which is called the meshing hypothesis. When individual learning style preferences are accommodated through instructional teaching, academic achievement and individual attitudes towards learning improve.

Auditory, visual, and kinetic learning styles are essential concepts to aid in the educational process. Understanding that the concept of learning styles is a theory that assists with the learning process is key and that tapping into that knowledge is beneficial to the individual as well as the educator.

Sunday spectacular: Anniversary

It just so happens it was our anniversary this week. And when there’s some sort of special occasion, we jump in the car and head to one of our most-favorite-fancy-smancy-celebration restaurants.


We headed off with tot in tow and hoped for the best.

Amazingly the babe was fairly well behaved and enjoyed her fabulous macaroni gratin while the hubs and I stuffed our faces.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Spring roll sushi

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day I was really lazy and didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. The tot was whining for something tasty and she wasn’t excited about pasta, yogurt, and peas – her usual favorite. So I opened the fridge and figured we could do a bit of an experiment.

I had some random things that might not seem like they would go together but, hey, you never know…

Some leftover rice, half a carrot, and a really ripe avocado wrapped up tight would make a fun and kid-friendly sushi!

Hiding in the back of my pantry was a container of rice paper wrappers and a package of nori. No need to be afraid of either ingredient – and they are both pretty inexpensive. Nori is dried sea weed and a traditional ingredient in sushi. Using a spring roll as a final wrapper instead of trying to get all that rice to stick and stay together would make things fun for the tot, too.

I also don’t have the patience to cook sushi rice.

So, I let a rice paper wrapper soak in some water while I got things ready for assembly. That carrot got slivered thin and the avocado sliced into strips. Once the wrapper was soft, I coated it with a bit of that rice, a section of nori, some carrot and avocado, and then wrapped it tight just like a burrito.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

After slicing into bite-sized pieces, I cozyed the roll up with a dipping sauce made from equal parts soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. YUM!

And, the tot ate it all up.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Friday fabulous

Have you ever had one of those weeks that makes you totally crazy but is amazingly awesome at the same time? Yeah, I’m working on one of those…

I’ve got something fantastic brewing and am really excited to share some fun news!

Over the next couple of months I’ll be bringing you fabulous finds and some of my favorite things via Shine from Yahoo! as a Get-it-Guide Guru. What’s in it for you? A real mom’s take on stuff like fashion, food, crafty stuff, food, toys, housewares, food, and food. I’ll tell it like it is and share with you where to get the goods after I’ve spent some time taking the cool stuff for a trial run. Along with 9 other awesome ladies, we’ll be tackling some of the biggest trends from finding jeans that actually fit to picking up the perfect last-minute gift.

Heck, you might even get some free stuff, too.

So stay tuned….

How was your week? Anyone else have some Friday fabulous news they want to share?



Fine art for kids: Collaging with Peter Clark

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Memories of putting together “About Me” creations come to mind when I think of collaging. All those hours spent flipping through magazines searching out images defining who you are followed by attempts at an artful arrangement, which always ended up looked like a big, cheap, shiny mess, seemed like such a waste. And the finished collage didn’t really tell anyone anything about you at all – other than you are handy with a pair of scissors.

But collaging can be fun (really) – and exciting (YES!), and also a wonderful learning opportunity that hones skills.

There are several famous artists that have turned collaging into an art form and Peter Clark is one of them. Clark transforms bits of torn paper into whimsical and imaginative creations that attract everyone’s attention. Sure, he might not be a household name, but your kids (and you) will totally love his artworks and inventiveness. Born in 1929 in South Africa, Clark has explored creating woodcuts and creative writing, but is mostly known for his recent adventures with collage.

Take a closer look at Clark’s collages and discuss with your child the different types of papers he used to create his artworks. Some are constructed from torn up maps, others from pages from phone books, and even others from magazines. Invite your child to brainstorm an idea for his torn paper collage. For younger kids, offer a bit of assistance coming up with a plan, but older kids can really get creative by selecting a challenging subject, such as a unique vehicle, animal, or article of clothing – just like Clark. The focus can be as simple as a star or as challenging as a self-portrait!

Offer your child a sheet of white drawing paper and encourage him to lightly draw an outline for his collage creation. With the younger set, offer some help creating lines for your child to use as guidelines while creating. Once he’s satisfied with his sketch, he can go on a scavenger hunt around the house for papers to use for his collage. Phone books, old maps, torn pages from books and magazines, or bits of wrapping paper and construction paper all are wonderful paper options.

Now he can tear, tear, tear bits of paper and start gluing things together. Remind your child to arrange the paper bits in a way to show definition of areas by grouping colors together and using contrast, such as a bright color next to a dull one, to show different sections of his creation. Tearing paper also hones fine-motor skills benefitting handwriting skills.

Encourage your child to continue tearing and gluing his Peter Clark inspired collage until his whole paper is covered. He can even create a background by tearing bits of paper to create a solid color background or be more ambitious by setting his object in a scene, such as a landscape.

Once the finished collage is dry, find the perfect spot to display for friends and family to enjoy!

The preschool “sick”

It doesn’t matter if your kid is starting preschool for the first time or a repeater, they are apt to get that preschool “sick” after the first couple of days – or weeks. Some take longer than others to succumb to those germs, but, there’s no avoiding it. Preschool “sick” is the wost.

Sure, the common cold is everywhere, and unless you are a total clean freak, germs are all around us. Add a slew of snot-nosed kids that love to shove stuff in their mouths and don’t understand “personal space” and you’ve got a wonderful muck-ridden germ pool ready to cause catastrophic never-ending results.

I stand a few feet above the whole mess at the school I hang out at with my tot, but I see it all unfolding. The child that gives a piece of pretend food a bit more attention than the others and then tosses it to the ground only to be picked up (tasted) and played with by another. The markers/crayons grabbed, mauled, used, and tossed to the floor then used by others. Food left for only a moment unattended snatched up and gobbled by an extra grabby (and hungry) tot.

Really, you have to be an amazing octopus teacher to have enough hands to grab things just in time.

No matter how often we (and I) wash our hands, and I spray everything down with Lysol or bleach those toys, the preschool “sick” is lurking and once one wee tot gets it, the others are soon to follow.

But, as a parent, there are a few things you can do to help prevent that icky-sick from bringing your family down. You can’t spend your whole life hovering over you child or expecting others to do the same things that you are in your home to prevent snotty-nose, but you can create a happy-healthy toddler, which can help keep the preschool sick away.

-Learn and RESPECT your preschool’s sick policy: All reputable schools should have a realistic and understandable sick policy in place. And, you, as a parent, should take the time to familiarize yourself with it and respect it. That means don’t skip steps. If your child had a fever the night before his regularly scheduled day and your school has a 24-no fever policy, don’t bring your kid the next day. Really. Make plans that night to stay home with your child or schedule someone who can. Yes, I know this throws a wrench into things, but your child (and your preschool) will thank you.

-Eat healthy: Instead of juice or milk, offer water and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s lunch. Try to avoid sending your toddler to school with processed or packaged foods. This way he’s getting as much fresh and healthy nutrients into his system as possible, which helps fight off all that preschool sick. And, he may just turn into to a food inspiration for other kids and families to start sending – and eating – healthy, too!

-Wash everyone’s hands before leaving the school: Sure, your preschool teacher may think you’re a bit of a neat freak for slathering the tot’s hands, but really, giving his hands a good wash before heading home is a great way to introduce good hygiene and to leave all those preschool germs down the drain. You’ll get your hands all scrub-a-dubbed, too. Who knows what’s hanging out on your steering wheel.

– Get a good night’s sleep (The entire family): HAHAHAHhahaha. Yes, as a mother of a toddler, this is one step that sometimes seems totally unattainable, especially when;

A: Someone is snoring (partner)

B: A child toy is making a noise somewhere in the house

C: The sick toddler is hacking

D: A toilet is running all night long.

A good night’s sleep is the best way to start fresh and full of shiny happiness the next day (can’t you hear the birdies chirping and see the rays of sunshine?). This means creating a bed time routine with the tot and sticking with it. And, the adults could do the same thing, too.

-Get used to it: Your kid is going to get sick. It doesn’t matter if you invest in humidifiers, medications, special soaps, or herbal remedies, the day is going to come when your child sports the “green nose.” Don’t fight it – embrace it. Cuddle up and spend some cozy time with your tot while watching some great movies, eating vitamin C packed fruits and veggies, and tossing back some honey-lemon hot water during a pretend tea party (boys enjoy a nice tea party, too). Kids get sick. Adults get sick. Let the body rest and recuperate and you’ll all be happier in the long run.

Looking for more remedies for the preschool sick? Here are some other suggestions:

Eleven safe home remedies to soothe your child’s cold and flu symptoms – BabyCenter 

Cold Relief: Helping your child cope – What To Expect

Cold and cough remedies for children: What works? WEbMD

Cold & cough medication guide – Dr. Sears


Right brain/left brain creativity

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Most young children are excited about doing a creative activity while others rush through the project or are quick to complain, “I can’t draw.” The child that doodles while listening to directions instead of attentively keeping eye contact frustrates many a teacher. Some adults might struggle to understand their child’s quirky obsession with wearing matching clothing at all times. This actually has more to do with the brain than one might think. A young child’s brain is simply letting her dominant side take over, and not blending with the other in order to reach its full potential.

The brain and creativity

The brain is divided into two hemispheres – the right and left. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, with the left side dominant over the right. The right side of the brain is in charge of creative, social, visual skills and intuition. The left sides takes over with sequencing, language, math, and rational thoughts. Deep within the brain lies the visual cortex, which is stimulated through viewing and creating visual arts. Semir Zeki writes that, “visual arts contributes to our understanding of the visual brain because it explores and reveals the brain’s perceptual capabilities.”

With most kids more comfortable using their right hand, they begin their journey as left-brain dominant not tapping into their right-brain potential. Celeste Carneiro finds that if we spent more time stimulating the right side of the brain we would “search out the integration of the two hemispheres, balancing the use of our potentials.” This is something that many adults forget, as they are left-brain dominant themselves, potentially causing a lack of creative stimulation for budding children.

Right brain/left brain

To understand which side of the brain is dominant in a child, adults can observe how the child responds to various situations. Diane Connell, Ed.D, finds children whom prefer to work alone, and find researching and analyzing facts interesting are left-brain dominant. Children whom are right-brain dominant enjoy art projects and hands on activities over writing papers and doing research.

Along with the right side of the brain having a significant role in creativity, the Neuro Psychiatry Reviews finds the “frontal lobe to be the part of the cortex that is most important for creativity, being critical for divergent thinking,” and that the ways family and friends encourage the development of the frontal lobe encourages independent and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking stimulates kids to look at things differently, use creative thought processes for decision-making, and motivates them to ask lots and lots of questions.

Encouraging whole brain creativity

So, how to encourage right-brain thinking in children? Betty Edwards, an art teacher known for her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, developed ways to encourage others to tap into their hidden creativity and stop the “I can’t draw” stigma. Through various exercises, Edward’s desire was to help others train their brains to draw in different ways.

Encouraging kids brains to be more right-brain dependent can be as easy as doing some creative activities that don’t overwhelm or frustrate left-brain learners. Right-brain dominant kids might also need some assistance in getting excited about researching that essay or finding ways to organize their room. Just as Carneiro stated, finding ways to encourage the use of both sides of the brain creates a complete human, resulting in harmony and the use of its full potential. And spending time creating with your child encourages healthy bonding.

Activities for kids

Right brain (Ages 7-10)

-Find a picture in a magazine your child finds interesting. Use a ruler to section off a 3 by 3-inch part of the image and then cut away the rest.

-Encourage a child’s right-brain to take over and make creative decisions through recreating the small section of the picture. When children are not sure of what they are drawing Carneiro finds the left-brain is tricked into thinking the activity is not worth its time, and allows the right brain to take charge.

-Instead of using a pencil to sketch out the drawing first, offer your child oil pastels for drawing along with a 9 by 9-inch piece of drawing paper. Play music while she is working and offer support in creating the artwork as needed.

Left brain (Ages 7-10)

-Use various colors of construction paper to create a cut paper pattern collage, which boosts fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

-Before beginning a creative project, Connell finds that spending time discussing the activity helps the child think about the big picture. Talk about what a pattern is and how they can be quite simple or challenging to create. Having your child work quietly also boosts her left-brain thinking.

-Offer your child scissors, rulers, pencils and erasers to use while creating her pattern collage appealing to the left-brain’s desire for order and linear creation.

Joining the two (Ages 4-10)

-Provide your child with finger paint paper along with a variety of colors of finger paint. Play music while she explores the finger paint and encourage her to make lines and shapes along to the music.

-Once the finger paint is dry, your child can use a black marker to create a drawing over the finger paint. Invite her to find shapes and lines to connect together creating a realistic finished drawing. Allow her to work in silence while she’s concentrating.

-After your child has completed her artwork, discuss the finished piece giving her frontal love and visual cortex a boost.

No matter the age of a child, spend time together looking at, discussing, and creating art. This will stimulate the frontal lobe, visual cortex, and help train the right and left-brain to work together.

Naturally dyed tri-color cheesy crackers (you know, like those fish ones)

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While at the market the other day the child just about had a conniption fit when we walked by a big display of those itty-bitty fishy crackers. She’s never really been wooed by packaged items so I was intrigued to see what this was all about. I let her pick a box (she happily grabbed the rainbow ones) and we opened it on the ride home.

It got quiet real fast.

As I pulled up to the house I snuck a quick look and saw she had removed all the green crackers leaving the other colors behind. She was happily shoving those green bits in her mouth smacking her lips together and licking her fingers.

Of course the next day all she wanted was to go to the store for more of those multi-colored crackers. I really wasn’t excited about running out to the store every time she had a whim for green cheesy crackers, so I figured we could make some of our own. Sure, I could go to all that work of cutting out tons and tons of small fishes, but I decided small squares would work out just fine.

And they did.

My tot still favored the green ones, but she nibbled a few of the regular orange ones and the red crackers, too.

This is a simple recipe to create and you can create colorful ones or just go simple with the regular orange cheddar ones. But, instead of just squeezing in a bit of food coloring, do it the natural way! To create the green ones, use a spinach puree. Red? Blend up some beets!


1/2 c cold butter

1 c flour (you can use whole wheat if you’d like)

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 tsp salt

Dash of pepper, paprika, and dry mustard

1-2 Tbsp water (*or this is where you substitute your beet or spinach puree for your tri-color creations)

Extra flour as needed

How to make them

If you are wanting to create the total tri-fecta of colored crackers, simply divide the recipe by three. Or, make up three batches for lots and lots of tri-color cheesy crackers! It’s as simple as placing the ingredients in a food processor and pulsing until things come together. Just pop in the same amount of spinach or beet puree in place of the water. And, if things get a bit too watery, just sprinkle in more flour.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Once the dough comes together in the food processor, wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough as tin as possible. Use a pizza cutter to cut small squares – or rectangles or triangles – of dough and then place on a lightly oiled sheet pan.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Pop your crackers into a hot 350F oven for about 12-15 minutes. Let cool before snacking.

*How do you make spinach or beet puree? Simple.

For the spinach: Place 1 c fresh spinach leaves in the blender and add 1/4 c hot water. If you’ve got a hand blender, you could use it to create the puree, too. Blend the water and spinach together until there are no big chunks. And, yeah, you could use frozen spinach if fresh isn’t available.

For the beet: Place 1/4 c diced cooked beets in the blender along with 1/4 c water and puree. This could be done with a hand blender, too, just like the spinach. And, if you don’t have any fresh roasted beets on hand, canned will do – but make sure they aren’t marinated! Blend until nice and smooth.



Fine art for kids: Washing with O’Keeffe

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Most of use recognize the name of Georgia O’Keeffe, the American artist known for painting large-scale up-close flowers in all their glory. Alongside Louise Nevelson, O’Keeffe is one of my all time favorite artists. Sure, I love her paintings and the colors and sweeping lines and designs she created, but, honestly, I love Georgia O’Keeffe because she was an amazing woman. From what I’ve read, and the hundreds of amazing pictures her husband (Alfred Stieglitz) took of her, she’s at the top of my “If I Could Have Them Over For Dinner, Dead or Alive” list.

Most of Georgia’s artworks were focused on nature and the beauty she saw around her. Cow skulls she found on walks, dessert flowers, trees… They dominated her larger than life creations that caused the viewer to stop and smell the flowers more than they might have. But, I think some of her lesser-known creations also pack a punch.

Her sunrise paintings are organic and simple watercolor paintings vibrating with color. Using a wash technique, the colors blend and run together, making it seem like the sun really is rising right in front of you.

Your child can explore the technique of creating a watercolor wash with some influence from Georgia O’Keeffe. Take a closer look at her painting Sunrise, 1916 discussing the color palette O’Keeffe used. This art activity is geared for kids eight and up, but the younger set can have fun making a colorful mess with a little adult assistance, too.

A wash is the technique of layering paint and water to create a diluted blend of color. A graduated wash is often assigned in color theory as a way to explore how paint and water work together to create different levels of intensity of a color – like creating a sky background for a painting. Invite your child to pick a color to work with for her sunrise creation. She can focus on yellow, orange, or red – or any color combination she likes.

Offer your child a sheet of paper and a white crayon. Along with exploring creating a watercolor wash, she’s learning about resist, too. Crayons have wax in them, which repels water. She can use the white crayon to draw a horizon line as well as a sun rising above it. She can also add a few half circles radiating from her sun as an outline for her sunrise wash.

Now invite your child to get out the watercolors, a big brush, and a small container with some water. She can cover the paper with water and then fill her brush with watercolor and paint a strong, even coat of paint either along her horizon line or her sun, watching as the white crayon pops through.

She can keep filling her brush with paint and creating long lines of color until her sunrise watercolor wash is full of vibrance. Once her O’Keeffe inspired watercolor wash is dry, find a spot to display the painting reminding everyone that the sun will always rise on a new day.