Planting Big Gardens With the Help of Small Hands

Kid Holding Flower
The weather is crazy right about now, and I’m reinforcing my knowledge for this year’s first gardening coup upon the backyard.  First I have to relocate to the opposite side of Texas, so I have several of my flower friends to dip in root hormone before down-sizing their living arrangement.  Being uprooted from Houston soil and then dumped into temporary potted housing can’t be fun, but it’s better than me leaving them behind… I hope the plants eventually agree.

Anyhoo, here’s a nice list of resources I’ve found to supplement my ideas for making the garden a family affair & raising green-thumbed kids.

The Real ‘Sporting Goods’

Mad Sport
Photo by Niklas Hellerstedt

Our Role as Parents

From the cradle forward, our kids look to us as their example of how to approach competitiveness & etiquette in sport. I’ve seen my kids compete in arenas as small as the speed at which they eat. My son enjoys “winning” even if it means that he has to reverse the rules to his advantage after the challenge is over. This behavior is natural, but it is childish & meant to be put into check by parents who proactively ensure an end to the trend. This isn’t always the case.

I began to playing softball & basketball at the end of elementary school, joining teams that had already been playing together for a long time. I moved into a new school & rattled a few cages by being the new girl. Unfortunately, this meant I was introduced to brutal competition & a down-right mean athletic mentality to which I had never been exposed. Even my coach was obviously in the tank for only a few in the group — not rooting for the collective efforts of the team he was “coaching”.

Choosing Our Battles

It’s impossible to anticipate or control such factors as a parent, but I had a hard time as a fifth grader not getting upset when my team had very little sportsmanship even within itself. Now as a parent I like to be an active spectator, but there are seriously classes teaching PARENTS etiquette before their 5-yr-old kids are allowed begin a season of organized community sports. I should have guessed that this could be the natural course of sportsmanship’s demise when over fifteen years ago, the coach of my softball team regularly got ejected from games.  I was unfortunately mistaken by believing my experience was an isolated circumstance.

What can we do now to change the downward momentum of sportsmanship?

Mad at Mom

If we focus on this basic element of good character, maybe it won’t take too long before we reverse its sinking effect. It seems like a lot of homes may need to begin with the parents realizing the fun in sport before the movement can effectively reach their kids. I recently saw a segment on the news highlighting an embarrassing display of parental sportsmanship, or the blatant lack thereof, at an elementary school level football game.

How do we maintain a superior ethical base from which we teach our kids if the wrong-doing we try to express contempt for is exemplified to our kids by our parental peers?

What We Do In This Case…

From there we are bombarded with, “Well, So-&-So’s dad curses/throws insults/flails/makes a scene at our Little League games!” I, however foolish, braced myself for that mom” when I signed up my 4-yr-old girl for ballet. I knew I would be the odd man out for not being the finger-pointing, over-bearing mom trying to perfect my BEGINNER ballerina. I am incredibly grateful that this was not the case, but then I wonder: How and why the heck has this behavior become a stereotype? Why are we no longer shocked that this kind of parental niche is so omnipresent and, even worse, accepted? The only reasoning I can fathom is still unacceptable. If anything, the hovering, you’re-never-doing-it-good-enough mentality is rooted in the parent living vicariously through their kid and thus stripping any chance for pure joy being experienced by their child.

My Point, Finally

I don’t have any answers.  I obviously have a lot of questions, and it breaks my heart to have to pose these inquiries. My hope here is to simply bring it up and cause a social re-evaluation of what to do with: it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. This basic assessment is still true, but HOW we’re playing now has become muddled by vanity and disconnect from what it means to be part of a team. If you want your kid to see a hero in the likes of Barry Bonds or, dang it, Alex Rodriguez at this point, I present a moot point.

Think about where we could be as a global community if our kids knew how to play nice in their own neighborhood.

Showcase Day!

This week I will not even attempt to describe the activity performed as well as Nicole from Burning Bushes does in her original submission of this craft.  She offers the following account of her sweet family’s experience:

My little girl is really into Veggie Tales these days.  We’ve seen a few of the short videos and we have several of their great Veggiecational series books.  So, on a cold day a few weeks back, we used a salt dough recipe, added food coloring to various portions and made the entire Veggie family.  Aside from hysteria when the veggies were placed in the oven, my little girl (2 in 2 weeks!) absolutely loved the veggies.  They were her buds that traveled everywhere with her..that is until they broke or fell apart.  It was a great and very inexpensive way to make believe for a few days and create tangible ‘friends’ that had previously only existed on the page or screen.  Oh, and my 9 month old loved chewing on them.  Non-toxic, right???

With this in mind, look at the awesome-ness with which Nicole executed the details of the Veggie Tales crew!  I will certainly try this project, but I can’t guarantee the same great quality of the veggies’ facial results…
Nicole's Awesome Veggie Craft

Thanks, Nicole and kiddos!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing this.

Public Service Announcements

Wireless Amber Alerts

This free text messaging service will send you an alert to your wireless phone whenever an Amber Alert has been initiated.  I have added my name to their list, because so many times I’ll see a roadside digital marquee several hours or days after the alert first went out.  Living in a huge metroplex, the likelihood of an Amber Alert here is higher, as disturbing as it may be.  With my name added to their subscription list, I can know immediately, and keep an eye out just as soon.   It takes about 10 seconds.  Please take a look.

Spark People – Free Fitness Assistance

When you’re looking to find a new workout routine to spice things up,  or you just want an outlet to record your progress and weight management, Spark People is where to go.  The service and support is completely free, and the resources available are both accurate and encouraging.  Get involved & be a healthy role model for your kids.

While you’re keeping track of your health and fitness, take a look at this site to find what your child can do with you.  The database is comprehensive, tracking a child’s health standards and recommendations from the prenatal stage through age 12.  I am thankful for the ability to have all of this useful information at my disposal… pretty incredible, I think. – Amazing Children’s Book Resource

Do your children blow through books with hurricane-force curiosity and enjoyment?  If so, I hope you appreciate this free book and poster downloading database.  You’ll find many different levels of reading skill involved, all with a high standard of creativity and execution.  Let me know what you think!

While you’re reading, playing or exercising with your kids, sometimes the same old playlist gets boring. If you’re looking for fresh musicians and plentiful legal downloads, Musical Squash is where it’s at.

Free Home Depot Kids Workshop (ages 5-12)

The first Saturday of each month offers a new interactive how-to craft for your kids.  They’ll learn the importance of tool safety and etiquette while participating in this generous resource.  

Frugal Fun

Photo by Tanya McCoy

Taking Mr. Potato Head to New Lengths

Pomme du terre is literally “apple of the earth” and serves as the term for potato in French.  I love potatoes and find that I always buy too many.  So, bear with me as I share with you my exploration of what the heck I can do with the extras to avoid being wasteful.  If you think about it, this little dirt veggie has a lot of education & entertainment potential.  But, if you don’t think about it… that’s what I’m here for.

From serving as a great visual for plant growth to acting as a conductor of electricity, there’s no real reason for potatoes to go to waste.  Check out these resources I’ve found as proof.

Spotlight on Spuds from NCSU’s Science Junction

  • Featuring: The Potato Clock, Floating Potato & Insulating Potatoes

Potato Power

  • An amazing intro to BASIC electrical engineering… with a potato battery

Potato Craft Dough

  • Edible craft dough.  You don’t have to say “Don’t Eat That!!” with this one.

Potato Maze | Fantastic Family Project

  • An activity featured on PBS Kids that will entertain and amaze.

Potato Chip Can Camera

Potato Chip Bag Bracelet

Potato Launcher

  • Attempt at Your Own Risk .. and at your own house.