Fisher Price 4x Digital Zoom Digital Camera

Fisher Price 4x Zoom Digital Camera

Now that the holidays are over and everything is getting back to normal after all the crazed present opening, it’s interesting to see which items hold the tot’s interest. She still loves all the plastic animals and dinosaurs, and playing the matching game in her own special way, but the one thing that she’s still reaching for is her new camera. A few months ago I did a post for LilSugar sharing cameras fit for little hands and had focused on suggestions from friends and good reviews when I put the collection together. So when I decided to get one for the tot as a special birthday gift (her special day is right after the holidays), I already had one in mind.

And then I went with something totally different.

The Fisher Price 4x digital zoom digital camera.

It was pink, I liked the square shape, and although it didn’t get great reviews on image quality, the camera sounded like it was indestructible. Hey, I’m not looking for museum-quality prints, I want a camera that isn’t going to break the first time it gets dropped.

And it was on sale.

Today I wrangled the camera out of my daughter’s hands and downloaded the pictures (SIDE NOTE – the camera does NOT come with a USB cable, but does work with a standard siz. If you’re not PC (like me) you can’t download the funky photo editing stuff, but, hey, my tot wouldn’t have a clue how to use it.) and was surprised and impressed with what she’d taken pictures of and the quality of the camera. My daughter loved seeing her pictures and helped me select a few favorites:

Here’s a picture of the hubs and I,

Fisher Price 1

her new tent,

Fisher Price 2

the decorations from her birthday party,

Fisher Price 3

Sid the Science Kid,

Fisher Price 4

our cat by the fire,

Fisher Price 6

her spot on the couch,

Fisher Price 7

and a self portrait.

Fisher Price 5

So, yeah, she’s not great on standing still while snapping, but she’s dropped the camera, bashed it into walls, been walking while taking a picture and fallen down with it, and I think it even took a tumble down the stairs the other day.

Still works wonderfully.

The picture files aren’t big (640 by 480 pixels), but prints good quality 4 by 6-inch pictures. The camera also makes slightly annoying noises when in use but does turn off on it’s own so you don’t burn through batteries. Equipped with an easy to use zoom (which my daughter totally doesn’t get) my husband enjoys taking pictures with it too.

I love that she is still excited about taking pictures and is learning to look at things in a new and interesting way. I’m planning on printing out her favorites and creating a gallery wall in her room. I’ll keep you posted…



Sun, sun, sun with Suntan Stan

The last couple of days the sun has been a wonderfully vibrant thing up high in the sky. We have totally enjoyed ourselves gardening, playing in the wee kiddie pool, and soaking up the sun. I grew up in the baby-oil-for-sun block generation and am starting to see the wear and tear it’s left on my skin, so am making sure to do a bit extra to keep things as good as they can be by wearing sunscreen. But I do think it’s okay to let the skin soak-up about 15-minutes of that healthy vitamin D before slathering up.  After having a bit of fun in the sun, we get out the lotion and coat our bodies.

Sunscreen is an amazing thing – especially when you have kiddies that love being outside. My talented friend agrees, so he wrote a book about it with the intention of educating kids (and adults) on the importance of sunscreen. It’s a sweet little book full of cute and adorable – and helpful tips on sunscreen use.

Suntan Stan enjoys tons of fun outdoors while remembering the importance of keeping on the sunscreen. This book is a great way to introduce the concept of wearing sunscreen to kids – and how they can be part of staying safe while outdoors and in the sun. My friend Larry Cheifetz is seriously hilarious (and the parent of three lovely girls himself) and this book shares his personality and passion for keeping kids safe – and healthy.

And, along with writing the book (with his co-writer Jennifer Horn and illustrator Mike Ferrin), Larry self-published it. Check out Suntan Stan’s Facebook page for more information about the book and how to pick up your own copy!

*Just so you know, I was not paid for this post or compensated in any way. I wrote this review strictly because Suntan Stan is darn cool – and so is my friend Larry.

Crispy chocolate treats

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

We’ve been diligently working on potty training at our house, and some days are definitely better than others. So when we had a pretty good day yesterday I figured the tot and I could toss together a tasty treat as a reward for her hard work. I made some no-bake cookies not so long ago and thought I’d do a little experiment.

Crispy chocolate treats.

Instead of using oats, I wanted some snap-crackle-and pop. With a few simple ingredients and some adjustments on the original no-bake cookie recipe, we made something really yummy to reward us both.

This is a great recipe to make with your kids – it’s so simple!


1/2 c butter

1 c sugar

3/4 c cocoa

1/4 c milk

1 c peanut butter

1/2 t vanilla

3 1/2 c puffed rice cereal

1/2 c powdered sugar

How to make them

Place the butter, peanut butter, milk, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a sauce pan and begin melting the ingredients together. While things are warming up, measure the puffed rice cereal and powdered sugar into a big bowl. Give things a good toss ensuring all those itty-bitty cereals are coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Give the cocoa mixture a stir and continue to let things get happy over low heat. While you’re waiting for the butter to melt and come together with the rest of the stuff, cover two sheet pans with a couple of lengths of tinfoil for putting your scooped goodies.

Now add a bit of heat to the cocoa coating and stir until things come to a low boil. Let the mixture simmer for about a minute and then take off the heat.

Pour the hot cocoa goo over the puffed rice and stir until everything is coated. This part is best left to the adults because melted stuff is hot! Once things have cooled down for a minute or two, invite the kiddies to help scoop using a melon baller, spoon, or ice cream scoop onto the tin foil covered sheet pans. Keep scooping until there’s none left and then make some major room in the fridge for the treats to firm up.

After a few hours of chilling, pop half of those treats into a zip top plastic bag and keep happy in the freezer. The other half can stay in the fridge, also in a zip top plastic bag, in easy reach for treat time.

*Good luck eating only one.


How many hours should a toddler sleep? (because mine isn’t)

It seems the nights are getting shorter and shorter at my house instead of the opposite. Our lovely daughter has decided sleeping is for the cats and she would rather ramble for hours and hours like some crazed coffee drinker in an all night cafe than peacefully slumber. This means the hubs and I are both starting to slowly go insane.


Sure, we had the no-sleep thing when she was really young, but that was different. She was small and cute and sweet and fresh and new. Sure, she’s still cute, but she can talk now. She can say NO. She can say things like HELP ME, HEEEEAAAALP MEEEEEEE! after being tucked in tight for the night, which causes me to go crashing down the stairs in a split second imagining broken limbs and swallowed pennies.

Nope. She needs her blanket just right.

And now there’s the whining. And the repeating. Whining and repeating, repeating and whining.

No one is having a great time at my house right now. This makes me feel like a horrible parent and doesn’t encourage those lovey-dovey mommy and tot moments I know everyone else is having.

There’s no definite declaration for amounts of slumbering time for kids, but there are a few suggestions. KidsHealth finds most tots sleep around 10-12 hours a night. That’s just a crazy dreamy amount of time for my house. On a good night my daughter averages 8 hours of sleep.

Nope. She’s not napping all hours of the day. She’ll maybe doze for about 90 minutes in the afternoon.

Nope. We’re not keeping her up late or changing up her nighty-night routine. Every evening about 7:45 I trot her downstairs, read her a bedtime story, and tuck her in. The husband and I are lulled into a false reality that she’s snoring away, but usually by 8:30 we hear a little giggle. I ignore the noise and it progresses. Eventually she rolls out the big guns and I go down (I don’t make eye contact or conversation), tuck her back in, and walk away.

Maybe by 10 she’s asleep.

She’s awake by 6.

Let’s just say no one’s real cheery at our house lately.

Maybe tonight she’ll sleep.



Self-reliant preschoolers

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

“NO, I do it.”

Whether it’s walking up the stairs without holding someone’s hand, putting on (and selecting) her own clothes, or carrying the way-too-heavy grocery bags, my child has a case of the “no, I do-its.”

I’m so glad she’s excited about exploring her abilities and finds cleaning up her messes and putting her own clean and freshly folded laundry away. But that laundry ends up as a big clumpy pile in a corner of her room and the mess turns a bit messier from her cleaning efforts. While resisting my urge to do these things for my tot (and wondering why this I Can Do It attitude magically disappears on the potty-training front) I remembered an article I created for Funderstanding about self-reliant preschoolers.

I figured the article deserved a good re-read, especially because we are heading back to preschool in a couple of weeks. And, if you’ve got a toddler at home returning or starting preschool for the first time, you might find these ideas and insights helpful, too!

Self-reliant preschoolers

As parents, we want to encourage our kids to think for themselves and make smart, positive decisions. But sometimes we get stuck on wanting things to be done to our own expectations and a helping hand is offered before the child can think or do something or themselves. And then there are those moments we become “helicopter parents,” where more time is spent focusing on directing the child’s behavior than nurturing it. The toddler’s developing brain is an amazing thing, and all these aspects play a role on how it advances.


Self-reliant behavior is the concept of encouraging one to feel confident, able to make decisions, and do things for themselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson spent some time contemplating the understanding of self and the importance of trusting one’s self-being. For parents of toddlers, this can be a challenging concept – especially when preparing for preschool. Taking the time to nurture the child’s growing abilities and interests can be overwhelming and exhausting. But it is an important step for creating self-reliance in toddlers and preparing them for what is to come in preschool.

Most preschoolers are expected to accomplish simple tasks throughout the day.  From putting on their own jackets to knowing their numbers and letters, a preschooler is inherently interested and excited with new tasks and concepts. Sometimes the simplest mission an adult might take for granted, such as selecting a spot to sit for lunch, can be a big challenge to a child. As adults, offering children the opportunity to build their self-confidence and self-reliance makes those moments a bit easier for the child, and often with wonderful results.

Helping your toddler

Before heading to preschool there are a few simple ways you can help your child build his self-reliance. Understand that this may be a frustrating time for everyone involved, but with some dedication, and a lot of patience, the outcomes speak loud and clear.

Encourage your child to do simple tasks on his own. As much as you might want to hurry things along and put those shoes on for your toddler, it is a good idea to let him do it himself – and the way he wants to. This means if he gets them on, but those shoes are on the wrong feet, do not correct him. While he is working through the task, offer lots of encouraging words as well as giving him some space. Instead of offering praise such as, “you are doing a good job, “ use direct words such as, “I am pleased you are spending so much time concentrating.”

Let your child make decisions. This does not mean letting your child be the decision- maker on big things, but encourage him to pick out his own clothes in the morning (even if things do not match) or select dinner one night a week. When your child feels he makes decisions that are respected and taken seriously, he is building his self-confidence encouraging his self-reliance. As the child ages, he will continue making smart decisions, helping to build a well-rounded adult.

Stand back. When your child is about to take a risk, stand back and watch what happens. Obviously, if your child’s well-being is in danger, step in and redirect his behavior. But if he is making the decision to try his bike without training wheels, maybe it is time to see if he really can do it. Preschoolers are daredevils and learning everyday what their bodies can and cannot do. By allowing your child to healthfully explore his abilities without hearing a constant, “NO,” he is learning you trust him and his decisions.

Give your preschooler responsibilities. Even young kids are capable of doing small tasks. Allow your child to be in charge of doing something he can do regularly, like wiping the table after the family meal. Kids like to feel they are contributing successfully to day-to-day living. His sense of accomplishment is his reward, and the more he understands this, the more smart decisions he will make, along with wanting to take on more responsibilities.

Be confident and model positive behavior. The first day of preschool is often hard on parent and child. Expect to endure separation anxiety at some point from your child. As an adult, model positive behavior and stay confident, even when feeling overwhelmed. Your child will be encouraged to do the same. Talk through concerns with your child before the first day including time for your child to share his worries, thoughts, and questions. By answering his concerns and talking out all his reservations, he is learning his thoughts are respected and heard, building his own self-confidence and understanding of what the preschool experience will be.

Trust others. Remember, the preschool teachers are there for help as well as others in your community. Encouraging your child to trust others builds his understanding of community and his role within it. When he sees adults sharing and communicating, he understands he should, too. This will build his ability to make friends, continue making positive decisions, and build relationships he will have for the rest of his life.

As a parent, and a preschool teacher, I have experienced the ups and downs of both sides of this topic. I am no expert, but have had wondrous results encouraging self-reliant skills in my own child, and many others. Take the time to spend some time with your preschooler encouraging his self-reliant skills and you, too, will see positive results both at school and at home.



Separation anxiety: Just when you thought it was safe to go back to school…

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I was amazed to hear some mamas chatting the other day about how their kids are heading back to school in just a few weeks. What? Didn’t summer just start? The tot and I are planning on attending preschool in a month or so – her to have a fabulous time interacting with other two-year-olds, and me to squish and squash clay with all her wonderful friends. But, lurking in the corner is our ornery friend – separation anxiety. I’ve seen the beast up-close when the first weeks of school roll around and those kiddies sure aren’t excited about heading back to the classroom after that lovely long stretch of time at home with the family.

Not fun.

I wrote this article for Funderstanding awhile ago with some of my insights and ideas for easing those separation anxiety woes and figured it could use a good sprucing. Separation anxiety is a real challenge for kids and adults, but with persistence and patience, everyone can work through the tricky patch.

Separation Anxiety

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to school, your child decides differently. Upon arrival, he screams, wails, clutches your clothes with a grip of steel, and refuses to be dropped-off. Many parents dread returning to school after the long summer break knowing full well they will be dealing with child separation anxiety issues.

Along with understanding what separation anxiety is, there are several simple ways to save the morning from separation anxiety meltdowns and ensure you and your child both have a wonderful day.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a healthy and normal way children express attachment. Babies often begin showing signs of separation anxiety around 4-7 months as they develop a sense of object permanence and understanding that items still exist when they leave the room. Children may show no sign of separation anxiety or difficulty playing or staying with others until hitting the preschool scene, and the permanence of the transition takes hold. And, the true understanding that mom or dad really leave the room for longer than a couple of minutes.

As children get older, their understanding of being “left” heightens and separation anxiety can become an ongoing frustration for parents and children. About 4% – 5% of kids suffer from separation anxiety disorder with a heightened sense of anxiety along with repeated refusal of attending daycare or school, concern of being kidnapped or lost, and difficulties sleeping. Luckily, most parents dealing with child separation anxiety issues are dealing with mild cases. But, even a mild case of separation anxiety can be a challenging situation.

Separation anxiety usually runs its course and children begin feeling comfortable and confident about transitioning to a school or daycare within a couple of weeks. The highest peaks for separation anxiety is often seen in children from 6 months until they are able to fully communicate but then can become an issue during later transitions, such as starting kindergarten, moving to a new home, or a family transition.

Dealing with Child Separation Anxiety

Instead of pulling that resistant child out of daycare or losing sleep thinking of solutions to elementary school drop-off, there are simple ways for dealing with child separation anxiety. Understanding that you aren’t the only parent dealing with these issues and realizing that others are ready and willing to help is the first step. Discussing separation anxiety issues with the child’s caregivers and teachers gets everyone on board for finding a solution to easing a child’s anxiety issues.

Along with sharing separation anxiety concerns with your school, there are several tricks that may help your anxious child. All children develop and behave differently, so understanding that there is no sure fix, or overnight solution for separation anxiety, is really important.

Stay calm. This can be challenging while listening to your child whine and scream during drop-off, but understand that, as an adult, your consistency and calm will help the situation. Give your child a kiss and hug and quickly depart. Keeping your school information up to date ensures caregivers will be able to contact you if your child doesn’t eventually ease into his day. And, trust that they will contact you. Avoid calling every 5-minutes to double-check the screaming has stopped. Not only are you being overly concerned, you are taking caregivers away from what they should be doing – spending time with your child.

Get your child to help. Ask the child what would help make drop-off easier and see what he suggests. You might be amazed when your child says that if he were able to wear his favorite outfit or bring a special item with him that it would help make things better. Double check with teachers to make sure this special item is acceptable and welcome at school, along with cueing them in with what is happening. Inviting your child to help solve the problem gives him ownership over the situation, helping to encourage positive decision-making and boosting self-esteem.

Create a special parent-child good-bye moment. Some children benefit from having a special moment or routine that they fulfill each morning before drop off. That could be a quick handshake or a silly song – but something that is done between parent and child before every drop off.  Accomplishing the routine creates security for the child and eases anxiety. When creating your special drop-off moment, make sure it is something that can realistically be accomplished each morning, and stick with the routine until the child has worked through separation anxiety issues.

Pack some bubbles for the blues. Place a small container of bubbles in your child’s backpack and when his anxiety begins, encourage him to blow some bubbles. Not only does breathing (and blowing bubbles) help regulate stress and ease tension, it is a distraction from the issue at hand. He might even attract a couple of friends that want to blow bubbles, too, helping him move and transition into the school.

Offer a reward. Bribery doesn’t hurt the situation, and most children understand that good behavior will reap benefits. Discuss rewards and expectations for the child before heading to school and when they are accomplished, provide the reward upon pick-up. This way, when he walks into the school with a brave face and gets through the day successfully, he has something exciting to look forward to.

Have a cup of tea. Create a special time with your child to sit and have a cup of tea. Chamomile tea is safe for children and also has wonderful stress-soothing qualities. Along with sipping some warm tea, you can engage in conversation, allowing your child to comfortably express himself and talk about his worries and concerns. Talking things out always makes everyone feel better.

Soothe with some lavender love. Giving your child a soothing lavender bath at night helps calm the nerves and relieves tension. It also helps set your child up for a good night’s sleep, so they are fresh and ready for a new day, potentially easing separation anxiety. Also, a nice long soak offers the opportunity for conversation, encouraging your child to talk about what scares him about drop off. Make sure to lend a positive listening ear along with lots of love and support. Lavender based lotions applied in the morning are also an option, giving him a chance to catch a soothing whiff throughout the day.

When Nothing Seems to Work

After seeming to try everything and the separation anxiety hasn’t waned, everyone might be ready for something different. It may be time to take a look at other potential issues that could be causing the child to have difficulty transitioning to school.

-Set up a conference with caregivers or teachers to learn more about the child’s day and if there is a conflict with another child or other issues within the school. Also, consider if there have been any changes at home that could be affecting the child’s transition to school, such as a big move, parental difficulties, or the addition of a new baby brother or sister.

-If a child is loosing sleep, repeatedly showing stress over being left, and is also showing other symptoms such as stomach and digestive issues, it might be time to make an appointment with your pediatrician.

-Take a look at how you are dealing with the separation anxiety. Children respond to their loved-one’s behavior, so setting a good example is imperative. Take care of yourself by getting a good night’s sleep, staying fit, and talking about your concerns with others.

Separation anxiety is a normal stage of child development, and no matter how bad things may seem now – this too shall pass.





Kinetic kids

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Last week we once again attempted story time at the library. All the young kiddies were sitting perfectly quiet while listening to the nice lady read various stories about animals. My child politely attempted listening, but couldn’t contain herself. She jumped up every time the librarian turned a page, moved her body like each animal, and loudly made all those animal noises.

While enduring some of the “quiet your child” looks from the other mamas, I attempted some quiet shushing, and then just let it go. Why should my tot sit staring silently like the other kids? What’s so wrong with an active child?

After an extremely rousing rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” I scooped up my child and we headed home. Along the walk, I was reminded of an article I was invited to write for  Funderstanding and figured it could benefit from a re-visit.

Kinetic learners are active learners and being active is important. Teaching kids to sit quietly and stay put is part of learning, but it is often forgotten that movement is an essential part of emotional and developmental growth, as well as being healthy, for kids of all ages.

Kinesthetic Learning  Style and the Young Child

Kids are active, some more than others. And, occasionally, those active kids are labeled as difficult students or challenged learners. This is not always the case. Those wiggly kids might need a bit more attention due to being kinesthetic learners, or children that best understand new information when learned in a physical way or by working things out tactilely. Kinetic learners are also considered tactile learners, which means the act of touching and using the hands and body is additionally beneficial to learning.

There are three different types of learning – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners learn through visual activities, auditory best through listening, and kinesthetic through movement and activity. Characteristics of a kinesthetic learner include enjoying participating in sports and physical activities, having good coordination skills, using hands to gesture often, and enjoying spending time outdoors. These are wonderful characteristics for a child along with a motivating force to keep active with a child. But, along with having positive attributes, being a kinesthetic learner also has some aspects that can be demanding

Kinesthetic learners are often easily distracted by others, have difficulty sitting or staying in one place long, and find moving while learning to be beneficial and even necessary in some cases. Educators and parents may tag these traits as problematic when in actuality the child’s learning style has not been taken into consideration. Once it is understood that the child is a tactile/kinesthetic learner, there are easy ways parents and educators can adapt teaching and parenting moments to aid in learning and development.

Kinesthetic Learning in School or Home

According to, most school-aged children benefit from kinesthetic learning activities where touching, feeling, and experiencing is allowed, especially at the preschool and kindergarten level. As the child develops, her personality and learning style evolves, and parents and educators can specify through observation and interactions what type of learning style best fits the child.  But, even if a child is a visual or auditory learner, tactile and kinesthetic learning experiences are still beneficial just as visual and auditory activities also benefit kinesthetic learners.

When teaching and learning with a kinesthetic child there are simple ways parents and educators can tap into the child’s inner need to move and touch. Try tactics such as:

Take Five: Kinesthetic learners can easily be lead off track by what is happening around them. Within the classroom, create a spot where kinesthetic learners can go to take a break when they are feeling overwhelmed or distracted. They can count and do ten jumping jacks, set a timer for one minute and see how many times they can hop in place, or rock in a rocking chair for an allotted amount of time. Allow for breaks during the day or moments when transitioning for kids to sneak off for a quick movement break. Or, if at home, take short study breaks often with your child and do a quick dance party or game of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Take Notes: Either at home or in the classroom, offer a pencil and paper to the kinesthetic learner to take notes or draw while learning. This offers the child the opportunity to stay active but in a contained and controlled way. Also, the act of writing encourages the child to remember learning facts and stay motivated. Along with a paper and pencil, offer a colored marker for the child to underline facts they find most important or interesting while writing. This way when she goes back to take another look at her notes, she’ll focus on the items that she highlighted.  When in the classroom, take into consideration that the doodling child may not be daydreaming, but finding ways to encourage her concentration. It may not seem that she is actively listening when in actuality, she truly is.

Stay Active: Integrate movement activities or hands-on opportunities while introducing information to the kinesthetic child. Playing physical games are a wonderful way to learn math concepts. Try throwing and catching a ball while counting, or adding and subtracting the amount of baskets a child can make. Within the classroom, integrate clapping while singing the A,B,C’s or saying the multiplication tables. At home the child can head outdoors and jump rope while being quizzed on spelling words for an upcoming test. It’s all about staying active and tying in learning.

Kinesthetic children are tactile, vivacious, energetic, and enthusiastic. They just need a helping hand to lead them in learning and offer opportunities to move their bodies within the environment.



Outside summer toddler fun

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Finding ways to keep a toddler entertained is a constant battle. If you are caught up in the throes of two-year-old-palooza, you know what I’m talking about. The attention span is maybe two-minutes, once something has been explored it’s not exciting anymore, and anytime you are in one place, over there is better.

I’m tired.

And, I know my tot is a bit frustrated and overwhelmed with it all, too. She’s starting to talk more, but there are times she’s still not able to get things out, which then causes more of a meltdown and the occasional on-the-ground-fist-and-leg-pumping extra dramatic stuff. I’ve been putting a lot of time into making our outdoor area more exciting because during the summer, things sure get hot in the house. The problem is, everything we try isn’t keeping the babe interested.

I made a teepee (really, I did), picked up cute pool toys, and allowed the tot to do some gardening, making our yard look like a cross between a garage sale and a really messy room.


After finding some fun ideas on how to put a spin on getting outdoors with the kiddies, I figured we could adjust them to be more appropriate for the wee tot – and get us adults off our keisters, too.

Here’s what we came up with:

Water balloon toss: Turn the pool into a water balloon target! Your tot can explore her gross motor skills as well as get everyone wet in the process. Just fill a few small balloons with water and then place your little toddler pool in a spot on your lawn. You can fill the pool, or leave it empty; either way is still exciting and fun. Now see how far your child can stand from the pool and successfully land a water balloon in the pool!

Flower walk: The younger set aren’t ready to delicately look at or carefully investigate anything. But, going on a flower walk is a great way to explore the yard – or neighborhood, and gather something she can later tear apart, scrutinize, or organize by color or shape. The one rule is she can only pick a single flower from each plant she finds interesting. Along with learning more about plants, she’s figuring out how to listen and follow simple directions.

Marking with chalk: Get out the sidewalk chalk and invite your child to see what things she can make marks on. Will sidewalk chalk write on trees, plant leaves, or the fence? What’s great about exploring with sidewalk chalk is that it washes off – there’s no staining, scrubbing, or long-term damage from your child going to town with those chalks! Our daughter loves using her adorable little bucket of sidewalk chalk to draw all over the pavers in our yard.

What are your family’s favorite things to do outdoors? Do share!


Meditation and Memory Development of the Young Child


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The mind is an amazing thing and doesn’t seem to ever get a rest – even during sleep.  The body gets recharged during those dark and quiet hours of the night, but young minds could use a bit of focus and concentration to help improve memory and understanding. That is where meditation comes in. And, meditation is not just for Buddhist monks and health gurus – it is starting to be recognized by educators and parents as a way to improve brain function and the young developing mind.

Meditation has been around for quite some time, with the first references as far back as 5000 years ago. Buddhists and Hindus are considered the original groups that tapped into the power of meditation and helped spread its popularity across cultures and continents. Many think of chanting, swaying, and odd behaviors when imagining meditating, but do not understand that even sitting quietly for a short amount of time helps focus the mind and encourage memory. Even The Beatles spent some time with the holistic healing concepts of meditation, helping to bring the idea of meditation into the mainstream of modern America.

Benefits of Meditation

Research has proven that meditation aids the brain in multiple ways. Not only does meditation promote self-discipline and inner awareness, it also affects the brain. The University of Wisconsin discovered mental experiences achieved during meditation creates brain activity in the left-prefrontal cortex, creating inner coordination and concentration in the brain. The prefrontal cortex takes information from all the five senses to help make decisions and create strong memories. Through mediation, the brain builds better memory, understanding and comprehension. And, just like playing golf or practicing the piano, you get better the more you do it.

A recent study found meditation encouraged blood flow to the brain, improving memory in adults with specific memory problems. Participants spent 12 minutes daily for eight weeks practicing Kirtan Kriya mediation, a form of meditation that involves sitting and chanting. Results found participants had improved memory abilities and that mild memory problems were deterred from progressing to a more severe state.  And it is not just older folks benefiting from meditation.

The active child benefits from meditating to calm the mind so it can focus and build memory. Schools are getting involved in using meditation for better success in the classroom and resolving conflict. Private schools, such as Yoga Works in Laguna Beach, California, offer classes to youngsters on how to meditate positively and use meditation to assist with stress relief and thrive in academics. According to ParentingOC, studies published in the Journal of Applied School Psychology find meditating beneficial to students as young as first grade. Meditation before school or at the end of the day helps the child focus and concentrate on concepts and situations he may be working through or wanting to remember. Being taught meditation concepts early in life offer the child the ability to have a life-long skill to build brain function and retention.

Not only does meditation encourage memory and healthy brain function, but also traditional meditation concepts encourage mindfulness. Children in inner-city schools in Oakland started their days with the striking of a Tibetan singing bowl to encourage mindful awareness. During an eight-week classroom experiment, children were lead through meditation practices to induce inner-awareness, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Kids were less stressed and more open minded when dealing with frustrating situations. The children found they had knowledge of how to solve problems within themselves, leading to better self-esteem and understanding of others.

Practicing Meditation with Kids

Whether in the classroom or at home, a meditation routine can easily be started that will encourage learning, relaxation, focus and clarity. Children as young as three can practice meditation, but expect sessions to last only a couple of minutes. Finding a quiet spot is the first step and set a schedule so that the child knows when meditation time takes place. Once everyone is ready, try:

-Ringing bell meditation: Have the child sit in a crossed-leg position with his eyes closed. Ask the child to focus on using his sense of hearing to listen for a bell and the whole sound it creates. Then, gently ring a bell and, once the sound of the bell has finished, invite the child to open his eyes and discuss the sound the bell made, encouraging active listening. After practicing listening to the bell for several meditation sessions, lead the child through active listening for sounds he hears around him while sitting in silence.

-Breathing to the beat: Deep breathing helps relax the body and circulate blood and energy. Select music that is calm and has a slow regular beat and invite the child to sit in a crossed-leg position with eyes closed. Now, invite him to slowly breathe deeply to the beat while concentrating on the movements his body makes while inhaling and exhaling. Once the song is over, discuss with the child how his body feels. He can use the technique to calm or focus his body without the music by closing his eyes and counting five deep breaths in a quiet corner.

-Directed imagination: Use directed discussion to help lead the child through imagining working through issues or situations – or for general relaxation. Invite the child to find a comfortable spot sitting with his eyes closed. After he has taken a minute to breathe deeply and relax, guide him through directed imagination by asking him to imagine walking on the beach or sitting in the sun. Then, once the child is calm, he can be lead through imagining dealing with challenging situations, like memorizing skills for an upcoming test or dealing with a bully at school.

Meditation not only builds the brain and aides in relaxation, but also encourages the young child’s imagination and development. Spending time focusing on meditation is an opportunity to help a child learn to focus and build memory skills as well as to enjoy some quality time together.

*My wee tot is a bit young yet for meditating, but we do have lots of fun running, laughing, and attempting yoga together. This is an article I originally wrote for, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!


Marker wash with Morris Louis

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Morris Louis isn’t an artist you’ve probably heard of. You probably haven’t seen any of his artworks either – but maybe you have and didn’t realize it. His paintings are so soothing that your eyes just glide around them while leaving a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy. If Louis Morris’ paintings were blankets, I’d envelope myself in as many as possible and feel complete on so many levels. The color, the blending, the softness, the movement and line….

There’s not much to know about Morris Louis. He was a Washington D.C. native who lived a short life, painted sporadically, and now has artworks in famous museums all over the world. He kept to himself, but rubbed elbows with some of the other Color Field painters in the 1960’s, such as Helen Frankenthaler. Basically, Louis covered an un-primed canvas with lines and spots of watered down paints creating bold and vibrant areas of color, along with dark and moody abstractions. What’s not to love?

Morris Louis was on my mind the other afternoon while the wee tot was drawing and drawing with her markers. She’s all about making long lines with her marking implement, creating these lengthy scribbles of color. So, Louis got me motivated to turn those scribbles into something more.

Just about everyone has a set of markers, paper, and water, so there’s no excuse not to do this fine art activity. And, what’s even better is that a two-year-old can do it. Really. Because mine sure did!

Start by taking a look at examples of Morris Louis’ work. Our inspiration was Untitled A, 1960. The lines of color that blend and bleed into each other really create something special. And, those markers with a little help of some water will do the same thing.

Invite your child to coat a piece of white drawing paper with water under the faucet. You’ve got to use drawing paper – construction paper breaks down and printer paper tears too easily.

Now she can place that dripping-wet paper on a work space that’s good-to-go for an art project. Markers can stain, so either put a piece of cardboard under the paper, or a plastic or paper bag.

Go ahead and offer your child those markers and encourage her to create long lines of colors. The markers will hit that watery paper and blend together just like a Morris Louis painting!

Your child can keep making long lean lines or create areas of color – whatever she prefers. Once the paper is covered, let the creation dry for an hour or so before moving it. This way you won’t tear that really cool artwork.

I happily posted our dry, finished Morris Louis marker wash on the fridge. It sure helps brighten my day!