Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Parent-Child Communication, Use Your Summer Wisely

Life Long Learners

As an adult, you know that learning never stops, despite what you may have thought as a child, such as, “When I grow up, I’m going to be an expert and know everything”. While that mindset is cute in a child and that desire is praiseworthy, we actually do not want our children to think that learning stops after school. If learning stops after school, how will they ever learn new skills and progress at work? If life becomes a bit monotonous, how will they start a new hobby without learning? How will they keep their brain active and alert as they age if they stop learning? How will they advance society if they think they already know everything?

Being a life long learner is clearly important. And we want to promote that in our learners.


To do so, show your learner that you are a life long learner.

  • Challenge your child to a game of Sudoku.
  • Learn how to play Pokemon Go and musical.ly (be careful on the privacy settings with both to make sure people you do not know are not “friending” you).
  • Learn a new skill together, like cooking, photography, or even floral design. 
  • Practice a new sports trick together.

Showing that learning new things is still important for you, an adult, will help your children realize that learning is a life long (and hopefully fun) endeavor!

Avoid the Summer Slide with Art
Easy Action Items, Use Your Summer Wisely

Avoid the Summer Slide with Art

Even though spring has just begun, summer is approaching quickly, which means it is time to start figuring out what kids will do this summer. How will you keep your child learning over the summer months? Reading lists provided by the school? Math packets? Boring. Not to mention insufficient.

While reading and math skills are important and you certainly do not want to lose any knowledge during a “summer slide”, there is more to your child’s education than pure academics. For instance, there is critical thinking, mental flexibility, grit, creative problem solving, and empathy, to name a few. While you can learn some of these skills from reading and math (for instance, reading nonfiction can improve your empathy [Chiaet, 2013]), art and play are great at teaching these skills that support academic success across disciplines.

Dr. Elliot Eisner, an education professor at Stanford University, says, “The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of the large lessons kids can learn from practicing the arts is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world” (Robertson, 2015). And ‘the arts’ teach children so much more than that even:

  • Conceptualization of possibilities
  • Creative self-expression
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Fine motor movement
  • Imagination
  • Innovation
  • Mental contrasting*
  • Mental flexibility
  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Practice and perseverance
  • Problem solving
  • Reflection
  • Resource recognition
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-empowerment
(*Mental Contrasting: “concentrating on a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles in the way” (Tough, 2012, 93); i.e., kids will work on setting goals and having big dreams as well as overcoming challenges they face in reaching those dreams. While working on art projects, kids figure out how to move past being stuck and how to be excited to test a new idea.)

Meanwhile, play helps us think of creative solutions. It allows us to explore possibilities as opposed to adults’ natural tendency to inhibit idea generation, which stops us from thinking original ideas. Play helps us overcome that inhibition. Play is essential to the brainstorming phase of problem solving (T. Browne, 2008).

While improved planning and mental contrasting skills may not directly impact math and reading like the packets do, the skills acquired through art and play contribute to overall long term academic success and intellectual curiosity.

Continue reading “Avoid the Summer Slide with Art”

Definitions, Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Special Phrase Language, Stress Management

The Absence of a Negative is Not a Good


The Goods:

  • One good thing you did. (“I shared my cookies with my brother.”)
  • One good thing someone else did. (“Cindy walked with me to the nurse’s office when I wasn’t feeling well.”)
  • One good thing. (“We played dodgeball in gym class today.”)

Going through The Goods once a day (with your kids) helps you (and your kids) maintain a positive outlook on life. It helps us consistently search out the good things in our lives instead of the negatives.

Happy family having fun on floor of in living room at home, laug

But sometimes what your child may think is a “Good” is actually not: the absence of a negative is not a good. Why? Because it keeps the focus on the negative and not the good. For instance:

  • “I don’t have homework tonight” is not a suitable “Good”.Classroom Under Control
  • “School was canceled today for a snow day!”
  • “My English teacher was sick so we had a substitute and did not do anything in class today!”
  • “My math teacher didn’t call on me.”
  • “I didn’t have a pop quiz like I thought I would.”
  • “I didn’t punch my sister.”

Goods look more like:

  • “I have a lot of free time tonight! I’m going to read a book” (in our dreams…).
  • “We had a snow day and I played outside with my siblings!”Kids Playing In The Snow
  • “And I made a snowman!”Funny kid boy in colorful clothes making a snowman, outdoors
  • “I did well on my math quiz!”
  • “I dominated my pop quiz.”
  • “My sister and I played cards when we got home from school and had a really fun time.”

Good luck finding The Real Goods!

Easy Action Items, Elementary School, Middle School, Motivating the Unmotivated, Use Your Summer Wisely

The 45 Minute Museum Max

Wish your children were more cultured? Wish they enjoyed museums more? Do you wish you enjoyed museums more? Does the thought of going to a museum exhaust you?

You are not alone. A trip to the museum tends to turn into a day long event of standing, staring, and listening, with breaks of more standing in line to get food as well as searches for seats to rest. These day long “adventures” turn into exhausting exercises in focus that many of us fail. Trips to the museum are no longer seen as exciting, but are rather daunting tasks that are necessary to raise a well-educated child!

The 45 Minute Museum Max

Museum Hack embraces this knowledge and gives short burst museum tours filled with energy and interactive games. However, you do not have to spend money on tours to enjoy your visit – just follow this simple principle:

Instead of making “a day” out of the trip to the museum, make the trip a 45 minute visit, at the most. 

Then, go back and back and back. That way it is still exciting to go each time.

(Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, as my sister likes to point out. If you have a baby Rembrandt who wants to stay at the museum forever, stay as long as you can stand it and still look forward to the next trip.)


Belden, S. (2015). Personal communication.

Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Parent-Child Communication, Social Life

Random Acts of Kindness

Starting random acts of kindness can be uncomfortable (It’s Weird, but You’ll Feel Good). Here are some suggestions to make it easier!

Random Acts of Kindness

To teach empathy…

  1. Tell a story for empathy development. Tell your child a story along the following lines, “Isabelle accidentally cut her finger in art class. What can you do to help?
  2. At the dinner table, ask your children to tell you one good thing they did for someone else that day.
  3. Volunteer together. (Senior centers are a great place to volunteer and play board games!) 

Some ideas you can give your children…

  1. Clean out your closet. Donate the clothes you no longer want or need.
  2. Write a kind letter to a friend to tell him how much you miss or appreciate him.
  3. Make flowers and give them to a friend. (Happy Heart Kid has an Empathy kit for just such an occasion!)
  4. Smile at people in the hallway at school. 
  5. Hold the door for someone else.
  6. Help your parents with chores. (Do the dishes, or at least put your dishes in the sink. Take the trash out without being asked. Fold your own laundry. Feed the dog…).
  7. Bestow surprise affection. Give your parent a hug. (I love doing this – my mom gives the best hugs).
  8. Collect your spare change for a charity.
  9. Talk with the shy person in class.
  10. Make cookies for a friend.

Saved the best for last.

My personal favorite random act of kindness. Give your friend:

“A Heart Attack”

We did this in high school. A few friends get together to “attack” another. Using construction paper, cut out lots of heart shapes. On some of the hearts, write nice things about your other friend. Then, tape all of the hearts to your friend’s front door.



Misner, J. (2014). 101 easy ideas for random acts of kindness. BuzzFeed.com


Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Stress Management

No One is Shooting at You

The scene: Psychology Department classroom at UNC. Me: a sophomore who somehow ended up in “Personality Psychology” for upperclassmen. 

We were playing a game: stand up if _______ describes you. I was the only student standing after the professor said, “You are of Scandinavian descent.” (Why were playing this game? To this day I do not know the answer. It was not a “getting to know the other students” activity because it was the middle of the semester. Plus, you do not really play those games in college courses.) I was about to sit down in accordance with the game’s guidelines, but I guess that since this was the first time in the game, which we played the entire class period, that only one person was standing, he asked me, “Where are your ancestors from?”

Remember how we lose IQ points when we are anxious (The Effective Break Adjustment)? I think I lost all of mine. I responded, “The Netherlands.” Blood rushed to my chest, neck, and face. I sat down in shame, head down hoping we would move on quickly because the Netherlands are not part of Scandinavia and also because none of my ancestors came from there. I did not pay attention the rest of class, instead I obsessed over my humiliating experience.


There were plenty of other times I got anxious at school and it negatively affected my performance. Here are a few examples:

  • I received a 60% on a vocabulary exam in 6th grade.
  • My best friend and I liked the same boy in 7th grade and got into a fight about it. (Do not worry, we are still close friends).
  • I earned a 54% on my AP US History exam Junior year of high school, made worse by the fact that my study-buddy got a B.
  • After giving my interpretation of a poem, my English teacher said, “No. And I have no clue how you ever came to that conclusion, but just no.”

Each experience felt as though it were a life or death situation – a very big deal. Looking back, none of them were. But I reacted as though they were.


Continue reading “No One is Shooting at You”