Weekend Links: Valentine’s Day!

Many families are preparing for a sweet late winter holiday next weekend – Valentine’s Day!

Inspiration abounds, and I’ve chosen a few favorites for today’s weekend links:

red bird crafts: fabric heart necklaces
Playful Learning: Making Valentines
No Time For Flash Cards: Collage Heart
thelongthread: Salt Dough Hearts

And I couldn’t help but to include a few non-Valentine moments of inspiration:

holy experience: Nature Walk, Nature Table, and Free Nature Calendar
Gray Matters: SNOW
Steady Mom: Making Time for One on One Time
Made by Rae: CELEBRATE THE BOY MONTH

What did you read or do this week that you wuold like to share?

Healthy Outlets for Big Feelings

Last year, one of the most popular and most responded-to articles at Simple Kids was the one on 6 Peaceful Solutions for Hitting and Anger.  I think all parents and care givers realize that one of the biggest responsibilities we have as parents is teaching our children how to respond to their feelings in a healthy way.

A few weeks ago, my friend Nora, whose daughter is the same age as my oldest, posted this picture on Facebook:

Nora shared that Ainsley was not happy about an answer Nora had given her, and she retreated to her room for a while and came out with this drawing.  Isn’t this an incredible response for a newly five year old to be able to have when feeling very, very angry with her mother?

(Nora told me that Ainsley had learned a lot about emotions and all sorts of character development through the Al’s Pals program at her school.)

I’ve shared before that I think journaling is an excellent way to help children learn to express their big feelings.

Journaling works quite well with older children and for children who are comfortable with written expression.  But what about little ones?  What about children who don’t feel comfortable with writing or drawing their feelings?

Today, I would love to hear from the Simple Kids community.  You all have shown yourselves time and again to be a wealth of wisdom and guidance.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What have you found to be helpful, healthy outlets for the big feelings your children experience?

How To Make a Simple Child’s Tutu

In preparation for her daughter’s second birthday, Christie Burnett of Childhood 101 is making a dress up box full of homemade fun and today she shares a tutorial for making a simple child’s tutu with Simple Kids readers.

Before I begin, I should clarify that I am an amateur sewer, largely self taught and unusually impatient, so my sewing projects must be simple to make and quick to complete.  This cute tutu is certainly simple and quick, plus the finished piece looks very cute.

What you’ll need

Please note, the exact quantities of each of the following will depend upon the size of the child you are making the skirt for.

* 1 metre (40″) poly tulle or tulle in main colour (I prefer the poly tulle as it is softer than traditional tulle)
* 1/2 metre (20″) sparkly poly tulle that complements main colour
* 1 1/2 metres (60″) 5 cm wide (2″) ribbon

Let’s get started

1. I used an existing skirt of my daughters as a guide for the sizing of the tutu.  You will need both a length and waist measurement.

2. Cut four lengths of the main colour poly tulle.  I neatly folded the fabric to make cutting across the entire width of the tulle easier.  There is no need to be painfully exact as the completed skirt is quite full and forgiving.

3. Cut one length of the sparkly poly tulle.

4. Gathering: Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length and with a seam allowance of 1cm, sew along the top edge of each piece of poly tulle, including the sparkly fabric.  Do not backstitch.  Cut the thread.

Taking hold of one thread (see the picture below where I am holding the top thread only), gently pull the thread to gather the fabric.  Continue pulling, adjusting and evening out the gathers as you go, GENTLY!

Gather until the finished length is that of the waist measurement determined in step 1.  Tie the loose threads at each end and trim excess thread.

Repeat for each piece of tulle.

5.  To hold gathering in place, set your sewing machine back to a medium stitch length and sew over the top of the gathering stitch.  Repeat for each piece of tulle.

6. Pin the five pieces of tulle together with the poly tulle on the outside.  It is easiest to find the centre point of each piece and begin pinning from the centre out to each edge.

7.  Sew all five layers together by alongside the gathering stitch of the top piece of tulle.  As poly tulle is quite fine my basic sewing machine managed to stitch through the layers without difficulty.

8.  Fold your ribbon in half and iron on a low heat.

9.  Fold ribbon over the waistline of the tutu, it should cover your gathering stitches easily.  Again, I began with the centre of the ribbon and the centre of the skirt piece and pinned from the centre out.  Stitch along the bottom edge of the ribbon.  I stitched a second row alongside the first for reinforcement.

10.  Now your tutu is complete.  It is easily tied around your child’s waist with the excess ribbon.  Time to dance and enjoy!

You can see more of Christie’s fun ideas for homemade fun at Childhood 101.


What projects have you recently undertaken? Were you happy with the results?

Steady Days giveaway winner!

I’m excited to tell you that the winner of the signed copy of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie C. Martin is Betsy, who commented:

My favorite thing about being a mom? Hands down, hearing and watching the laughter of my three little girls.

Congrats to Betsy!

Again, I absolutely and highly recommend that you add Steady Days to your home library.  It is filled with so many real-life, practical tools to add to your parenting toolbox.  I know you will find it as encouraging and helpful as I have!

Don’t forget that you can keep up with the author on her blog Steady Mom.

Comments closed.  Enjoy your weekend!

Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers

Today’s focus on reading is a guest post from author Max Elliot Anderson who offers encouragement to parents of reluctant readers:

As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone today, I can anticipate the reaction.  Mouths drop open in disbelief, followed by a gasp. “You’re kidding!” often follows.  That’s probably because I’m also the author of a number of action-adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may be facing similar reading difficulties.  Even as an adult, reading for enjoyment continues to be a problem for me.  I do read in order to gather information, but not for pleasure.

My research into reading difficulties began about eight years ago.  I wanted to understand why it was that I grew up as a reluctant reader. Today, I’m sharing some of the conclusions I have reached.

To begin with, my work with reluctant readers often allows me to speak in schools. One of the first questions I like to ask is, “Is there anyone here who doesn’t like to read?” A few hands go up, and then others follow. There may be two or three girls who raise their hands, but predominately it’s the boys who respond.

Next I ask, “Why?”

“Books are boring,” one will say. Another suggests, “They’re too slow and nothing happens,” or, “I’d rather do other things.”

“Like what?” I’ll ask.

The answers always include watching television, playing video games, and spending time on the computer. Research by others often arrives at the same conclusions.

I found some interesting patterns in several of the books I selected for research.  In many cases, they defied a reluctant reader like me to get into them.  The style was boring, the dialog was sometimes sparse, or when it was used, it seemed too adult. As I looked around for books written especially for boys 8 – 13, I found only The Hardy Boys and a few others.  Finding stimulating reading material for boys is a challenge, indeed.

Based on my research, I have determined there are quite a few strategies parents and teachers can employ to support a struggling or reluctant reader:

  • Rule out visual or medical problems. These should be diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.  The transposing of letters or numbers may indicate a problem. You might notice that your child sees 14 when the actual number on the page is 41. The same can happen with small words. Does the child use a finger to keep his place on the page?  Does he have a short attention span, or hold the book too close to his eyes?  Does he have good posture while reading, or does he move his head from side to side during reading, rather than moving his eyes? This may indicate binocular trouble because both eyes aren’t working together.  I suffer from this. One of my eyes sees distant objects better, while the other sees closer items with more clarity. A child with this problem may slouch in the chair, or turn his head to one side in order to favor the eye that can see the book best.In addition to vision problems, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

    Children with visual or medical issues may be reluctant readers because reading is just too much work.

  • Parents, teachers, and librarians are reporting that they’ve found success by starting with audio books. In some cases, this is used while also holding a copy of the same book. A child is able to both see and hear the words at the same time, and practice following along.
  • Don’t be afraid to select a book that is below grade level. You may also want to experiment with comic books, or graphic novels. The most important objective is to find something he’s interested in and wants to read about. This could include the sports page in your local newspaper, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, Highlights, and others.
  • Some have found success by using electronic readers like Kindle. Your child is already comfortable with a computer, or video games. The e-reader allows him to change the font, make it larger, change colors, and even look up words in some cases.
  • Consider how you can influence your child’s choices. If your child avoids reading in every way possible – choosing video games or the computer over reading – you might set those activities aside as rewards. You can say, “After you’ve read for thirty minutes then you may spend time on the computer.”
  • Read aloud with your child, and make sure he sees you model that reading is important in your life. This has added influence if the dad is involved.
  • Get rid of distractions. Again, in my case, I find it difficult to concentrate if there are other noises around. This is compounded if there are lyrics in a song on the radio, stereo, voices coming from the TV, or from nearby conversations. Set up a quiet, comfortable reading place. Above all, make the reading environment enjoyable.
  • Have your child try reading to a dog, a cat, a doll, or some other stuffed animal. In this way, children aren’t intimidated or judged by an adult. At the same time, you can monitor their progress.
  • Keep an eye out for books written in order to be more user-friendly for struggling readers. These include books with lots of humor, dialog, and heart-pounding action and adventure, plus chapters ending with a cliffhanger.  Also look for high interest, low vocabulary books called Hi-Lo books.

Anytime I’m asked if reading is really all that important, I give several reasons why it is, and add that readers are the leaders others follow.

You can keep up with Max Anderson on his blog Books for Boys.  Keep an eye out for his newest release – Lost Island Smugglers – coming out in June!

Do you have experience with a struggling reader? What books or strategies proved to be most helpful for your reluctant reader?