SK Showcase: FAQ

starkidsPhoto by D Sharon Pruitt

After I put out the call for new Showcase submissions in last week’s Showcase, and then reminded the SK community via Twitter and our Facebook group to get your submissions to me, I received several questions related to the Showcase.  This is a good opportunity to fill in some blanks about the weekly Simple Kids Showcase.

1. What kind of material will you feature in the Showcase?

This is the most-asked question.  Essentially, I am hoping to be able to feature photos and/or writings that show how the SK community is engaging in the idea of “uncomplicated parenting in a complex world.”  This can, of course, include crafting projects your family has done, but not all families are creative in that way.  If you read through the Simple Kids About Page, you’ll see that this is a community where parents and caregivers are encouraged to

  • seek to build positive character development in concrete and practical ways
  • engage in appreciation and exploration of nature with their children
  • discover new ways to prepare and experience food and nutrition
  • make a time and place for experiencing quality literature with their children every day
  • lighten up, embrace the mess, and play, play, play!

What does this look like in your family?  That is what I want to feature in the Showcase.

Here are some questions to spur your imagination:

* What does character development mean for your family?  Are you developing character through community service, activism, or volunteerism?

* What are some of your best and most creative solutions for the common issues of parenting?  For example, “Our best idea on encouraging our kids to share their toys,” or “Our no-fail tear-free, painless bedtime routine,” or “What we do when The Meanies attack our toddler”

* What does it look like to experience the outdoors where you live?  Do you have a treasured green spot in the midst of an urban environment?  Do acres of untouched woods back up to your property line? Are you campers?  Hikers? Bikers? Fishers? Bird watchers? Bug collectors?  Gardeners?  How do you engage with nature?  These would all make for wonderful Showcase features!

* Cooking, baking, and general kitchen creativity and exploration are all wonderful Showcase ideas.  What is your child’s favorite meal? Have you made up a new recipe that you think other families would enjoy?

* We have introduced our new weekly book review column, but there is more to promoting literacy than reading!  Do you encourage your kids to make up stories?  To create new books of their own?  Keep a calendar?

* What is on your “the kids love this!” playlist that you think other families might enjoy?

* What is the favorite game being played in your family?  Do you have a new spin on an old fave?  Have your kids made up an entirely new game that you find be rather clever?

* Of course, artwork, projects, made-up songs, inventions and all manner of creation are always welcome.  What has your child created lately?

These are just some ideas to get you started thinking about what you might share.

2. Do I have to be a blogger to contribute to the Showcase?

Absolutely not!  If you are a blogger and would like to have your blog link included in your Showcase submission, I’ll be happy to do so.  Many readers have either private family blogs or do not blog – having a blog is definitely NOT a requirement for submission!

3. What if I’ve already posted this idea on my blog?

That’s okay!  Some of our Showcase pieces that I’ve already featured are of how-tos and tutorials already posted on someone’s blog.  If you want to, you can send the relevant photographs and a short write-up of what you are submitting, and I’ll include a link to your full article/story from your blog.

4. Does each submission have to have a photo?

No!  While photos do help us have tangible access to your idea, they are certainly NOT a requirement for a Showcase submission!

5. Do I have to include our names?

No, you certainly don’t – particularly if you are including pictures of your children and would prefer to remain anonymous.

Hopefully this answers some of the questions you might have had about Showcase submissions.

One of my very favorite aspects of Simple Kids is the idea of coming together as a community of like-minded parents and caregivers to share our collective resources and knowledge.  The What We’re Reading Wednesdays book review team is an exciting example of passionate parents willing to contribute to the community.  I have a few other features in the works that have come from SK readers.  I hope we will be able to continue the Showcase as a regular feature because I truly believe it enhances the spirit of community here!

As a reminder, Showcase submissions can be emailed to me at simplekidsblog at gmail dot com

What did I leave out?  What other Showcase questions or suggestions do you have?

What We’re Reading Wednesdays: The Dot and Ish

Welcome back to What We’re Reading Wednesday!  Emily returns to share two more recent favorites in her home.

I love sharing books with people who get just as excited as I do.  My dream job is to be a children’s librarian.  My husband thinks that would be the world’s most boring job, but then again he flies airplanes upside down for a living.  I thought you all might appreciate my dream.

I had a tough time picking the next book I wanted to review because there are just so many good ones!  So I decided to pick two: The Dot and Ish are both written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds. It was impossible for me to choose which I liked better so I’m sharing both!

the-dotThe Dot is about a girl named Vashti who is frustrated in art class and cannot think of anything to draw.  Her teacher tells her to, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”  Through this simple encouragement, Vashti unleashes her creative juices and finds her love of drawing.  Along the way she discovers that she does have talent when she was sure she had none.  This lovely tale ends as Vashti encourages another boy who believes he can’t draw by passing along the same advice she was given.

ishIsh is another tale about a would-be artist, Ramon, who loves to draw, but gives way to doubt when his older brother makes fun of his drawings.  His epiphany comes when he finds all his crumpled up, self-rejected drawings have been rescued from the trash by his sister.  She has smoothed them out and lovingly taped them all to her bedroom walls.  Ramon learns that even though he drawings aren’t perfect, they’re still beautiful.

These books are both quick reads with beautifully simple illustrations.  Although they are about children’s frustrations with art, I think the lesson could be translated to any subject with which a child was struggling.

I will be adding The Dot and Ish to my list of favorites, and I’m just sure you will too!

Simple As That: Inviting Stillness


I had something else entirely planned for Simple As That today.  I changed that plan when I read Leo Babauta’s article Be Still this morning at Zen Habits.  Leo writes:

We are always on, always connected, always thinking, always talking. There is no time for stillness — and sitting in front of a frenetic computer all day, and then in front of the hyperactive television, doesn’t count as stillness.

This comes at a cost: we lose that time for contemplation, for observing and listening. We lose peace.

Summer means many things for family: camps and camping, swimming lessons and wading pools, exciting travel and quiet appreciation of home.  If we don’t actively invite stillness into the days of summer, even the lazy days of summer can become crowded with noise.

Today, take a moment to seek out stillness and invite reflective quiet into the day.  Model this for your children and encourage them to spend a moment or two of quiet, thoughtful stillness.  Do the same thing tomorrow and the day after.  Pursuing peace is a priority driven by intention, and the reward is always worth it.

How and when will you be still today?

photo courtesy of kevindooley

July 17th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

Well, the showcase pool has dried up, so I don’t have anyone’s fun to show off for you this week.  If your family has been up to some delightful, creative, joyful living, won’t you take a moment to share it with the Simple Kids community? You can email your submission to me at simplekidsblog at gmail dot com!

Did you know Simple Kids has a Flickr group?  It’s true, we do!  And I have been one lousy moderator of that group.  I originally had thoughts of organizing monthly creativity challenges and all kinds of other Flickr-y fun, but I just have not been able to carve out the time to attend to that.  I received such an overwhelming response last week when I asked for volunteers for the book review team, I thought I might seek out help from this awesome and supportive community once more.  Is there anyone who might like to volunteer to manage the Simple Kids Flickr group? If so, send me an email and we can talk about specifics.

And now, your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Simple Nest: Simple Shoe Organization for a Welcoming Entryway
The Creative Mama: Your Go-To Bag Revisited

Simply Delicious

maya*made: fairy berry pies
red bird crafts: lemonade for everyone!

Inspired Projects

Kids Craft Weekly: Cutting Crafts
ABC and 123: Blowing Bubbles: Recipes, Activities, Books
Playful Learning: There is Hope
Katherine Marie Photography: Pop Pop Pop {Theme of the Week}

Inspired Images

Mountain Mama: Simple pleasures of a summer weekend
elsewhere living: My favorite picture in the history of the world. Ever.
Living and Loving Every Minute of It: PJ Hopscotch Rocks!

Inspired Words

A Magical Childhood: 10 Ways to Make Your Kids Giggle
holy experience: Kindreds: How to Heal a Family

What were some of your favorites this week?

From the Archives: 8 Ways to Explore Geology with Kids!

We have added so many new readers to the Simple Kids community in the past few weeks.  If you are new to Simple Kids, welcome!  For those who have been here awhile, thanks for hanging around with me!

I thought I might go back in the Simple Kids archives to dig up some of the great articles Joan wrote when Simple Kids first launched earlier this year. With most of us spending more time in the outdoors this summer, I thought it would be appropriate to re-play Joan’s article on creating a connection between kids and geology.  Enjoy!

kids and rocks
Photo by Rick

Green living has come to the forefront of the world’s focus. What better way to introduce good environmental habits to my kids than starting with the dirt and the rocks and the true, beautiful grit the world is made of? Preschoolers most certainly understand rocks before recycling, dirt before biodegradable. I have dreamt up a starter kit of activities for those of you finding this approach appealing.

Geology Activity Ideas

1) If your yard is equipped with a sandbox, sneak some interesting earth-related toys into the depths, and give your kid a shovel & a collander. If you don’t have a sandbox, improvise- maybe a cardboard box full of oatmeal? I would have a hard time finding much more than playground pebbles to bury as artifacts in my neighborhood, so I would keep it light & fun with fake dinosaurs, play jewelry, bones from our Operation game… or anything that will grab my kids’ attention & keep them interested. Once the paleontologists have finished finding their materials, explain to them the realism of the occupation. Let them know that the ground itself is a timeline of all the life that ever tread upon it. It may be difficult in many cases with young children, but try & convey the essence of history… and how much time the earth has encapsulated just by existing. Paraphrased, perhaps.

2) The Green Link: As soon as your child understands the idea of the earth as a box of treasures from our past, then you can let them know that not everything is good for the earth. Recycling can ensue naturally from there, having already established a foundation for the concept that you can refer back to.

3) If you want to go a little further, re-do the paleontology activity in the sandbox, but bury things that are good or normal for the earth and also items that are damaging. Once the objects have been uncovered, you can categorize together, with you supplying the reasoning for each if necessary.

4) I love volcano-making fun. Geology rocks for sure. No matter your child’s age, this easy easy activity is great for explaining volcanoes, and the levels of the earth from the crust to the core. Some kids will be ready to dive into plate tectonics, so act as their springboard and use their learning style as a guide for how to approach illustrating the point. My learning style includes a little of everything, so I pretty much use whatever I have on-hand to make it work. I’d LOVE a cross-sectional model of Earth, but it’s low on the list so I draw these concepts with crayon to the best of my ability for now, and I learn more in the process.

5) I think it’d be fun to simulate an earthquake, too. I’ll take the box springs out from under our mattress, then rumble the bed from below with the kids on sitting on the mattress above. This activity is definitely a stretch, but I just want to introduce the concept of an earthquake while associating it with volcanoes and the way they both originate below the earth’s surface. Quaking a trampoline from underneath would do the exact same thing.

sedimentary rock

6) If you happen to have play dough in different, distinct colors that aren’t muddled & indistinguishable… I don’t… make pancakes out of the different colors and stack them, alternating colors. You don’t have to mix the colors, just stack them. Get a butter knife & cut out a section of the stack to illustrate sedimentary rock. Again, the earth’s age plays so many different roles in the version on Earth that we know. Showing your kids that even rock has age may make an impression, but if it doesn’t you’ve still taught them about a really cool part of Earth. I love driving through canyons & passing the “Watch for Falling Rock” signs. It makes me feel like Earth is alive even in its supposedly lifeless rock formations.

7) While you have the dough out make 4 pancakes (not necessarily round) about 1/4″ high out of one color (they will mix). It doesn’t matter if they’re the same size. You take two, and have your child take two. With one in each hand, spread your arms out, then slowly smash (gently) the two masses you’re holding together. You’ve just simulated mountain formation with your child. If you’re already introduced them to plate tectonics, you can continue the discussion and explain that the same force that causes volcanoes and earthquakes made the mountains. •

8 ) Make a pile of sugar about 2″ high in a medium mixing bowl, and have a cup of water nearby. Tilt the bowl toward you so that the sugar shifts closer to the side of the bowl rather than the middle. OVER THE SINK, slowly pour water from the far side of the bowl through the middle of the sugar mound. When the water has erroded a valley through the sugar, you have successfully simulated valley formation.

I hope my little ideas inspire some action in this sector of your teaching.  Here are some additional geology for kids resources.

When do you feel the most connected to the world around you? Can you tell when your kids are connected?