Watch Them Play

It is vitally important to support and encourage self-directed activities by the infant and young child.  Even if those activities appear meaningless to us , they can have great purpose and significance for the child.

–The Power of Play (David Elkind, Ph.D.)

“It’s stuck in the hill,” my three-year old said.  He had buried a small ball with rocks and could not believe it was gone.  He was enthused with himself about how it could disappear and how he could have hidden it.  Liam wanted me to realize it was now gone.  I watched Liam as I was sitting, I had just previously read the above passage in the book The Power of Play.  So, as Liam self-directed his play, I watched to see where he was going with it.  What was going on in his three-year old mind? Why hide the ball and what was his point of burying it with rocks?  What was he trying to figure out.  Before reading the above passage, the thought of the organized process a child goes through when they are playing never occurred to me. A simple belief that a child  is entertained, they are enjoying something was all that was needed to satisfy a reasoning for play.  Much of the time as an adult, as a parent, I see my kids playing.  I know they are playing, they seem to be having fun.  I know that play is an important part of growth though I never realized the great power and purpose it has for a child.

As the passage continued in The Power of Play, Dr. Elkind further suggests that:

1)These activities are not random and have a pattern and organization

2)Allowing time and freedom to complete these activities to her personal satisfaction nourishes that child’s powers of concentration and attention

3)An infant or young child can spend a long time on an activity in which she is deeply immersed

4) Run the risk of impairing these  powers if we don’t respect and value the young child’s self-initiated activity

As I read this, I thought back to my childhood and what processes I might have been thinking about while being engaged in play.  I thought of the world that I imagined existed for those who were older than me.  My play was a way to understand the unknown.  I hadn’t come to that conclusion before.

As a child, what was Liam doing with the buried ball and pile of rocks? He was creating! He was creating a game and he wanted me to participate in a game that he created.  He was happy, proud and excited to share it with me.  He had taken initiative and he had met his goal.

Break the Monotony: Summertime Activities for the Kids

Originally posted on My Humorous Mommy Life! And, the Many Inbetweens...:

It’s summertime again! I can hardly believe this year has passed so quickly.  The kids will be or are already home and there is bound to be some downtime at some point or another.  Looking through websites and ideas, I collected a list of things that could be interesting to entertain the kids with this summer.

Join a summer movie clubhouse:

Homemade Slime:

Yo Yo Balloons:

Chalk Paint:

Homemade Playdough:

Tape a paper towel roll to the wall to keep toddlers busy:

Pencil erasers home bowling game:

Bar of soap in the microwave to make soap clouds:

Popcorn Olympics:

Balloon Ping-Pong:

Play-Doh Filled Ballons:

Pool noodle marble track:

Chalk bull’s-eye target game:

Throwing tarp:

Paper towel roll drop:

Summer bingo:

Shaving cream slip and slide:

Get creative with science:;


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December Theme: Meeting Challenges

Playing BallEach month as a family we rotate through a theme that helps us focus on the internal (intrinsic) values that reside within each of us.  The set up is a game format which helps  us remember what we are working on during the month.  Quote, Theme, Game Board, Game Pieces, Mini Lesson & Our Puppet are the components of this game.

Goal: To help children remember the internal values the reside within them

Purpose: To engage in self-motivation by remember the great feelings that come from doing something good or working toward the accomplishment of something.

December Quote: “The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” -Aristotle

December Theme: Challenges

Game Board and Pieces: Game Board: Pictures depicting Caring, Communication, Getting Along and Problem Solving.  Game Pieces:  Sun.  The idea is to place a sun on the game board each time a child does something related to the theme.  This is to help them visually see the good that they are doing.  Statistically we learn better with visual aids.

Mini Lesson: Talk about what challenges are.  Ask questions about the challenges your children encounter each day.  Help children to recognize the good that can come from challenges and explain that we have tools to help conquer these challenges (caring, communication, getting along and problem solving)

Puppet:  I use a Puppet with the kids for added entertainment.  They like a visit from a friend to explain how the game works or congratulate them on a job well done!

Results:  As I have worked with my children on the monthly themes, I have seen improved behavior and a increase in positive reflection in themselves.

My Role as the Parent:  Help remind them of when they have done something related to the theme and encourage them to stick a game piece on the game board.  And, sometimes they even remind me of the times I have met the theme and then I get to put up a game piece.  I must admit, it does do something to be reminded of the good thing(s) that I have accomplished.

Materials Needed to Organize a Monthly Theme with Visuals:

Images that represent the positive ways (caring, communication, getting along, problem solving) to overcome challenges (game board) and an image that represents the game piece.  For my theme, I used a sun. You can select images from Microsoft clip art or create your own images.

Prepared Materials

Organized materials for the December theme challenges can be found at the Build ME Blocks store.

A Chance to Give

I had a neat experience a few days ago when I saw the reaction from my kids after they gave to someone who was asking for money.  I shared my experience on my blog Looking Through Windows and wanted to share it here on my Build ME Blocks blog as well.  I saw my children enjoy giving and that great feeling that goes along with it.

The Kindness Bag and The Gift of Giving

“Do you have some change you can spare? ” A question coming from the young man sitting on the sidewalk outside of Walgreens.  William and Bella went into the store with me to pick up some medicine for Liam who was not feeling well.  We ran out forgetting about the young man sitting outside the door.  Rushed, it had been a long day, out the door we passed the same young man: “do you have some change to spare?”  I looked into my purse as my kids watched me. I gave him what I had.  William went to the car where my Mom had been waiting. My Mom and I had been to an activity recently where we put together some kindness bags for those who we might pass on the street who are asking for money or help.  I had seen the bags in the car on several occasions and had forgotten about them.  Mom had remembered them and asked William if he would like to give one.  William with Bella beaming walked to this young man and gave him the bag of kindness.  Chocolate Bar, granola bar, toothpaste, Kleenex among the contents.  The Young Man was surprised! I will not forget the look on his face.  He did not expect that.  What was even more unexpected was the emotion expressed by William and Bella as we drove away waving good-bye.  “That feels so good!”  William said with an expression of happiness on his face and in his voice.  This month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the kindness bag and to see my son and daughter delight in the gift of giving.

In case you would like to put together a kindness bag or a few this holiday season here are some ideas! Keep them in your car.

1) Grab a Gallon Zip lock bag or any type of bag you would like

2) Fill it up with:

*Apple Sauce

*Fun Treat (Chocolate)



*Granola Bars


*Toothbrush and Toothpaste




*Personalized Note



*Anything you can think of!

Give Them Guidelines

Family MeterDaily activities can be challenging and draining for parents and kids alike.  Recalling a difficult day, I really wanted something to turn to, something that was familiar to my kids and to myself.  This is when I knew I needed something concrete.  The “Basics,” something simple and something fun for the kids.  Something to help them remember and keep the guidelines in their minds. In my research and reading, I frequently come across ideas on how to help children stop and think about what they are doing, prevent or stop a negative physical behavior or verbal behavior and to help them (children) realize why they need to work on these things. A saying that we use in our family is: The Beginning Starts with Little Reminders.   A year ago, we began using the following guidelines in our family and they have helped establish clear rules to the behaviors we look for in our children and in our home.

1. Pause Button: help children stop and think about the actions they are taking before taking them.

The next two are reminders of children’s verbal and physical actions:

2. Bulldozer: physical (hitting, kicking, biting, etc.).

3. Taboo Words: verbal (yelling, screaming, name calling, etc.).

4. Family Meter: when children work to reduce their bulldozer actions and taboo words they help to keep their family meter full rather than empty.

Having these reminders, even though we don’t talk about them all the time, my children see them posted on the wall and are reminded of the goals we have as a family.

Build Them Up

Tips for Building Motivation in Children

1) Give Them Guidelines.  Guidelines are so important.  I found this out when I was working with my kids and nothing seemed to stick.  Sometimes they say you don’t need a plan and I agree with sometimes.  With my kids, I needed a plan. Once in place things started to flow better. I needed to know and they needed to know what was expected of them.  We started with some simple guidelines that we call The Basics.  With the basics they will always know what is expected of them.  And, I as the parent know that they know.  We also decided to put together a family mission statement for our family.

2) Build Them Up. “No,” it was my most frequent used word for a while.  Or, when the kids were complaining or loud or out of sorts, I would use those exact terms.  In reading a couple of books, Happiest Toddler on the Block and Raising Your Spirited Child, I found that I could transform those “negative” phrases into more positive ones.  For example instead of loud, I would replace it with zestful, full of life.  The beginning was very hard though I did notice the change in myself and my children as I worked on this area. This idea reduced the use of the word “no” quite a bit.

3)Make It Fun. Kids like games and having fun.  They like to  learn too, even though they might try to disguise this one.  Combining a game and learning has to be a recipe for success!  Find something that your kids like to do that flows easily into your life.  Make your plan into a game.

4) Consistency.  This is the hardest one!  If anything is going to work, it needs to be done on a regular basis.  Consistency can be found in doing something at the same time everyday, referring to your plan everyday, once a week, monthly, etc. Whatever you choose it will need to be done to see results.

Building Blocks: Motivation and Education

building blocksOne of my favorite toy activities as a child was building blocks.  Growing up in a family of five kids, myself being the oldest, I would wait for my brothers and sisters to be done with our one set of blocks to take a turn.  I would help them with their projects though mostly they would like to work at it on their own.  Understandable.  When my turn arrived, I too did not mind working alone.  I was able to create whatever I wanted and the creation could turn out to be whatever I wanted.  Am I an Architect?  By no means!  Though, I enjoyed the time I had to build something.  Becoming a parent of three children, I realize that each of their milestones is similar to a building block.  Though it is good to let something (an idea) or someone grow on their own for their own learning experience it is also nice to have other resources available helping the growth process form a stronger foundation.  I realized when I worked with my brothers and sisters on a building project we were able to share different ideas and help our blocks to “grow” more solid. 

My oldest son has opened the opportunity for my new learning experiences as a parent and the opportunity to see the different areas of growth that happen in children.  He has also encouraged me that sometimes (well maybe many times) I need to think outside of the box or a little bit more like him.  That is, to think of the fun in life.  As I have progressed into adulthood, there are times I have found some of that fun deflated with all the adult things I have running through my mind.  He has helped me to realize the importance of fun things in helping to grow and “build” through his many changing developing stages as a child.  I love that he and his brother and sister, along with other children enjoy having fun.  I also love and find it fascinating when my children along with others get a thrill out of learning.  So, as a combination of fun and learning, to help my children grow,  the idea of Build ME Blocks was created to help me as a parent find an organized way to help my children learn to  enjoy responsibility, establish values and yet enjoy the fun of learning in life.

When I was thinking about the idea of Building and Blocks, two things came to mind in helping my children:  Motivation and Education. 

1) Motivation:  Encouraging children that it is fun to do good, be responsible and enjoy the value of work. 

2) Education:  Encouraging the love of reading and also using creative thinking by engaging in projects such as building, art and drawing.  And, you might be thinking to yourself   “I am not good at art or drawing how can I encourage that in my child?  Art is not my strength!” I will be the first to admit, art is not my strength, though I love to see what my children come up with.

The phrase Build ME Blocks comes from the idea that Children are continually being built “growing” and as they grow they are learning.  As they grow they need the expertise of the great people around them, us, their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers and teachers.

Combining motivation and education with some home rules and guidelines has helped give my children added structure, learning opportunities about themselves and the world around them.  Mostly it has given them opportunity to be responsible for themselves and build their self-leadership skills.