Habits of Heart and Mind (and a Playful Learning Giveaway, too!)

Hello readers!  I”m so excited about today”s post! Simple Kids contributor Mariah Bruehl has written an amazing book called .  I have been reading my copy and making notes likes crazy, getting so many new ideas and inspiration from her. I”ll admit that I”m a little biased because I think quite highly of Mariah, but I truly think this is one of those books that belongs on every parent”s bookshelf.

Mariah is also the genius behind the website and and the e-course . She”s got a fun post and a terrific giveaway for you today. Thanks Mariah! – Kara

This giveaway is now closed.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 30th.  Thanks!

Now that the book has made its way out into the world, many people have asked me what my goal was in writing the book. I must say, that is a hard question to answer, but if I had to choose one thing that I hope to accomplish, it is that children and families co-create habits of heart and mind.

Yes, it is important that children memorize their addition and multiplication facts and become proficient in important skills and drills. Yet, if they are not developed within a larger context of intellectual character then we are missing the mark.

Having written the book roughly two years ago, I have had the benefit of seeing how many of the learning experiences have had an impact on my daughters over time. Not only in the development of their skills, but also in their disposition towards fully utilizing and expressing their new-found abilities.

Thank You Notes

Simple projects like making handmade thank you notes can become a part of your family culture. You can start out when your children are very young by using stamps, stickers and simply having them sign their names.

As they get older they will be able to write complete messages. While concrete skills such as proper letter formation and spelling are being solidified, they are internalizing a bigger and more important lesson about writing—that it is a medium that can be used to reach out and touch the people who are important to them.

Blank Books to Inspire Writing

Keeping blank books out and accessible for budding authors is a great way to inspire spontaneous writing. As you acquire a large collection of your child”s writing, it is fun to see the development of both skills and self-expression over time.

You can start out with the youngest writers by encouraging picture drawing and writing down their words for them. As children grow older and have learned to incorporate writing into their daily routines, they will begin to utilize the same blank books in many different ways and for a variety of purposes.

While they will learn important skills like the fact that writing conveys a consistent message and that sentences start on the left side of the page and move towards the right (directionality), they will be experiencing first hand something even bigger—that writing is a powerful and effective means for sharing thoughts, recording ideas and expressing yourself to the world at large.


The family tradition of creating yearly self-portraits gives children the opportunity develop observational skills and learn about line, color and composition when it comes to creating art.

Yet the self-reflection involved and the meta-cognition that is developed when children observe and document their own development over time allows them to gain insight into themselves. They learn to embrace the parts of them that remain true over time as well as their ever-evolving interests and characteristics.

Four Big Picture Goals

Although there are many important things that children can learn from a variety of learning experiences, it is helpful to keep in mind four big picture goals:

  1. The strengthening of your relationship to your children
  2. The ability to sustain focus on any given activity or subject for longer and longer periods of time
  3. The development of long-term understanding
  4. To practice and encourage a positive disposition towards learning

The facts, figures, and specific skills will all follow from meaningful experiences in which children are able to act on their curiosity, reflect on their growth and development over time and creatively express themselves and their ideas.

These are the habits of heart and mind that will serve our children well for years to come.

The Giveaway

Mariah is offering a chance for one winner to win a copy of her book and a space in the , which starts Wednesday, September 14.

To enter leave a comment below.

This giveaway will be open until Midnight EST Sunday August 28, 2011. This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you!

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  1. Such great ideas! Thanks!
    Diane´s latest post: Molly!!!

  2. We are just starting our homeschool journey and love the idea of having certain projects that are done yearly (like the self-portraits) to be able to see the growth. I am glad to have that idea placed into my head now – typically it is one of those things that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own until the kids were probably nearly out on their own! I would love to have this book and e-course to help inspire us with more ideas and projects! Thanks for the opportunity!

  3. Sounds like an amazing book, can’t wait to read it!

  4. I want to teach, inspire and encourage my toddler so am excited about some of these ideas and would love to read the book and do the e-course.

  5. I really loved this post

  6. Thank You Notes, I really need to start these with my kids.
    Marci´s latest post: Trim – One Room Down!

  7. I just finished reading the book and it’s simply inspirational. Would love to get a spot in the e-course!

  8. Brenda Garner says:

    Love the idea of a HandWritten Thank You using stickers for younger children

  9. Sounds like a great book!

  10. Sounds like it would be a great book!

  11. I really am dying to get a look at this book, thanks for the interview and giveaway!
    Amy´s latest post: this moment

  12. We’re just beginning to put together ideas for a homeschool “preschool” for my son. I love these ideas, especially the blank books. We have paper accessible at all times, but the idea of a book to draw and write in instead seems more special somehow (and probably eliminates a lot of the scrap paper laying around that you’re never sure whether to keep or not!)
    Satakieli´s latest post: Blue Skies

  13. Cannot wait to read this book!!!

  14. What a fabulous giveaway! I love this!

  15. i would love to win this book!!

  16. I need this book! With two boys it’s sometimes hard to think of ways to engage them in creative play for more than 2 minutes. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. I love the self-portraits idea. I never would have thought of that on my own, because I consider myself a writer not an artist.

  18. I’d love this – thanks!

  19. the book sounds fantastic!

  20. What a great post! I would love to read her book 🙂

  21. Wonderful! I would love to win this book!

  22. Sounds like a wonderful book! I definitely would love to read through it. I love the ‘then’ and ‘now’ examples Mariah posted.

  23. Wow, that sounds like a great book. Count me in!

  24. Great giveaway!!

  25. As a former teacher (and lover of end-of-the-year portfolios and showing gratefulness), I LOVE your ideas of how to incorporate these things into my own daughters’ lives. They are great markers of milestones (drawings, writings) and the habit of showing gratitude will carry you so much further in life. Thank you for these simple reminders. Can’t wait to win/read the book!!!

  26. Thank you for the tips… I have been trying to have my daughter (2yo) do stickering, etc. for thank you cards already, but always struggle to find other ways of encouraging her imagination and wonder. I would love to receive a copy of the book, but I already put it on my Amazon wish list in case I don’t win it! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  27. I love this idea and the unity that it will continue to promote in families. I am a firm believer that our first ministry is to our home, and ideas like this will aid in helping our children excited about what we are doing within our home. I am currently starting a group for young children that are underpriviliged. I feel the ideas in this book will not only help my family, but can help give these children a chance at expressing themselves in a way that may not be present or encouraged in their home. My God’s blessings continue to be upon all of you that are blogging or writing books to help families like mine.

  28. Stephanie says:

    I am about to make a big transition in my life from working full time to working part time to help my 15 month old son on his learning journey. I know it won’t be easy, but having inspiration from others makes it seem possible. I’m excited to get started.

  29. I can’t wait to read Mariah’s book!
    ~ joey ~
    ~ joey ~´s latest post: a package from germany!

  30. Wow this has inspired me so much! I love he hand written thank you cards and self portraits! What great ideas. I’m sure the book is amazing!

  31. Great giveaway, that book looks wonderful!

  32. What wonderful ideas for kids and their parents. yes, I would love to have this book but I leave outside the US, could I be count in?

  33. Great giveaway, thanks!

  34. Thanks for sharing your tips! My little boy is still small but I would love to encourage these activities once he’s older.
    Anonymous´s latest post: Boy am I glad it’s 7:30

  35. Love the ideas so far. Thanks for sharing.

  36. I think I NEED this book! My daughter started 1st grade a couple of weeks ago and now she already thinks that the only important thing and the only place where learning happens is at school. This book would give me te tips I need to gently remind her that LIFE is learning.
    Jen´s latest post: "My mum won’t understand if I write it like that"

  37. virginia murello says:

    Wonderful to see others who share my passion. Thanks for the inspiration.

  38. I just picked the book up from the library and love it! I definitely need my own copy and I’m really enthusiastic about setting up more thoughtful playful learning spaces for my two kids. What an amazing resource.

  39. The Playful Learning e-course and book sound really interesting. I’d love to win.

  40. Thank you for these wonderful ideas and encouragement!

  41. Wonderful Giveaway! With 6 little ones I would love more inspiration!

  42. This sounds so creative and awesome!

  43. oh I love the traditions you are establishing and would love to see more to start with my son. thank you for the opportunity.

  44. nopinkhere says:

    Wow! This sounds really great! I loved the then/now slant.

  45. This looks like a wonderful program. I would love to win it.

  46. i love the playful spaces website so this book looks fantastic!

  47. This book sounds amazng! i would love to win a copy!

  48. love the self portrait idea

  49. Great ideas!

  50. I’m so glad to have this resource to explore! Thanks for posting this. Also, your daughter’s most recent self-portrait is especially wonderful and looks like something people would even pay money for, in my opinion.