Continuing the series on quotes about play, this week’s quote comes from Stuart Brown, the founder of The National Institute for Play. Brown has written the book Play and worked extensively in various capacities to advocate for play and to warn of the serious consequences of neglecting play for our young children.

“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” I love the connection between play and opening up to new possibilities. Last week I wrote about 5 creative ways to open a world of possible for your little ones.

Play energizes us

He gave a TED talk called Play Is More Than Just Fun. Fascinating stuff!

What does your play look like today?

Continuing the fall theme from the candy corn activity last week, here’s a variation. Orange and green pony beads can be used to turn the loose leaf rings into pumpkins! And the only thing that screams fall louder than candy corn is a plump orange pumpkin. Check out our pumpkin fine motor skill activity and create your own invitation to play for your little one.

Pumpkin Fine Motor Skill Activity

Pumpkin Fine Motor Skill Activity

To create the pumpkin, place orange beads on both sides of the open ring. Then place one green bead and close up the ring. Sammi and I did our first ones together, each doing our own ring. After that, she quite happily made a few more pumpkins. I also set out black beads to create a Halloween feel to the activity.

Pumpkin fine motor skill activityLittle fingers are hard at work building muscle and gaining control as they hold the pony beads, position them correctly and thread them onto the rings. What I loved most about this pumpkin fine motor skill activity is that my kids were self-motivated to work on this project. I didn’t even need to show them what to do, I just set out the materials. I only showed them how to make a particular pattern. But they found their own reward in the actual activity. Because there was no coaching or encouraging from me, they stayed with this activity far longer than other activities I’ve presented where they did not take to the activity so readily.

For Your Listening Pleasure

Our craft and activity time is typically accompanied by music. We’re particularly fond of Kindie Music (Indie music for kids and families) and found Joanie Leeds song Falling to be a fun welcome to fall and fall activities. Check out our recent review of Joanie’s latest album, Good Egg.



Candy Corn Activity with pony beadsAh, fall is coming on here in upstate New York! But the real indicator that fall is approaching is the flood of candy corn anything on my Pinterest feed! Thanks to a messy craft room and a desperate need to make dinner, I had an original idea for a fine motor activity, a candy corn activity no less! It was like the heavens parted and creative energy poured in.

candy corn activity with pony beadsThis Candy Corn Activity with pony beads developed as the kids and I played around with the pony beads and the loose leaf rings. Their enthusiasm for threading the beads on the rings fueled that creative energy. As I put together an invitation to play the kids were dancing around me their little fingers reaching it to touch the beads and help arrange everything just so. That’s when I knew this was a golden activity!

Sammi (8) and Elli (6) helped me sort the beads into bowls, one each for orange, yellow, and white. I don’t think Scott (3) would have lasted very long at this task. They were all quite engaged in this candy corn activity which gave me just enough time to get dinner ready.

In fact, they were quite sad that it was time to put away the pony beads and loose leaf rings in order to set the table for dinner. I convinced them with promises that they could pull them back out after dinner. They finally conceded.

Materials Needed for Candy Corn Activity

candy corn activityCandy Corn Activity for Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are so important for little ones to develop. Strong, coordinated fingers can hold pencils, write letters, tie shoes, zip up sippers, do buttons and so many other little activities that will be expected of your child as they enter school.

candy corn activity fine motor skills


Music to play by

From our fun mail yesterday, we selected The Pop Ups new album Appetite for Construction to accompany our candy corn activity. The energetic, upbeat music was a perfect soundtrack for this fun work on fine motor skills.

The Pop Ups Appetite for Construction


On Monday I’ll be sharing a variation of this activity so please come back and check it out!

Play is such a vital part of childhood. Children learn about the world around them through play. They takes risks in a safe environment which helps them develop skills, both physical and mental. Because we love play so much, I’m starting a new series advocating for play to be a foundational part of every child’s day.

Our first quote comes from Thomas S. Henricks, a sociologist who focuses his attention on play. He is the author of Play Reconsidered which is now on my wish list. “To play is to create.”

To play is to create

5 creative ways to Open a World of Possible

Scholastic changed their cover photo on Facebook this week to begin their new initiative “Open a World of Possible” So this got me thinking, how do you open a world of possible for your little ones? As a creative family, we are always trying to show our children many possible ways to develop their creativity and pursue their dreams. We use these resources as a way to inspire our children’s creativity by experiencing others’ creativity in a variety of ways.

Open a World of Possible

Take a Look! It’s in a Book

In every room in our house you will find a bookshelf with a collection of books fitting that room. The girls room has a few picture books, but mostly beginner and young reader chapter books. Though, since this is Sammi’s room, there’s also a few nonfiction reads, too. She loves her National Geographic Kids First Big Book of Space and often writes reports from what she’s learned in this book. The boys room has lots of board books for Ben and longer picture books for Scott. The front room has library books, Brent’s medical books, more kids books and my collection of parenting, reading, and creative books. The craft room has idea books for crafts and play.

Reading opens the way for discussing new ideas or emotions. It’s often easier for young children to understand complex ideas or emotions when they see it in action in a story. These stories create a framework for helping kids navigate their experiences. One of our favorite reads for dealing with big emotions is Where the Wild Things Are. Books also provide great examples of problem solving, another complex skill for little ones to develop. The Paper Bag Princess and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel are great ones for thinking through a plan of action.

Reading also introduces little ones to ideas, places, creatures and cultures they haven’t experienced yet. We received My Grandma Lives in Florida the same time we went to Florida to visit Universal Studios in Orlando. The kids made such a connection with the book and with the state because we were able to pair the book with the trip. We also use stories to create shared memories. I’ve had fun reading my childhood fairytale books to our kids and Brent has had a ball reading Calvin and Hobbes to the kids.

Other Books We Love


To Live Would Be an Awfully Big Adventure

There are so many places to experience and things to try. Our aim is to expose our children to a wide variety arts, opportunities and experiences so they know what’s out there and can see what strikes their interest. In order to dream big I believe it’s necessary to see big. Seeing big is experiencing talented people showcasing their talent.

There are a few activities I think are foundational that every child should have the opportunity to experience. Seeing animals at the zoo or birds at an aviary or even visiting a local conservation center that rehabilitates wild animals help children develop compassion for animals and a desire to protect them and their environment.

One of our first trips whenever we move somewhere new is to the local children’s museum. These are usually full of science and real world activities for kids to explore. Children by nature are scientists and museums geared to maximize their inquisitive nature is another example of talented people inspiring kids through those talents.

We also love to visit museums that explore the arts. Our local museum, The Corning Museum of Glass, has amazing glass artworks as well as hands on booths for kids and adults to see the principles of glass making in action. Our favorite part of this museum, though, are the live demonstrations of glass blowing. Talented people sharing their talents!

Historical museums add value to understanding our human story. As we’ve visited local historical sites and listened to guides tell us about life and important events that happened there, we are inspired to carry on their legacy. We have moved a bit and learning the local history has helped us connect and feel at home in each new location.

Another way we connect with the land is through gardening. Our kids have loved watching plants grow and produce food. They have been willing to try new foods. I am not blessed with a green thumb and while we try, we have always gardened on a very small scale. This year we found local berry patches and an orchard where we have been able to see the bounty of hard work and talent. We’ve picked apples, raspberries and blueberries. Our freezer is full of berries! And we have made some cherished memories. We even were able to witness tree grafting first hand as a grandfather taught his grandsons who were learning the trade of apple tree growing.

Apple Picking in New York

Let’s Watch a YouTube Video on That!

There are so many cool things to see and learn, but I can’t personally show them all to my kids. So when we see something that sparks their interest, we usually follow up with some YouTube videos so we can really see how something works or what something is.

As we were walking home from school the other day a boy rode by on his bike. It had pegs for doing tricks and the kids asked me about them since his bike looked different from theirs. So we talked about how people do tricks on bikes. This was something that I am in no way capable of demonstrating for them so we turned to YouTube!

Some days we are faced with mounds of clean laundry to sort and fold. To help us tackle the task, we watch YouTube videos on cake decorating. Our favorite channel is Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio. Watching these videos inspires the kids to want to develop their artistic side and helps the work pass more enjoyably.

One of our all time favorite videos for seeing talented people in all their creative glory is What Does the Fox Say? I’m still so impressed with their creativity in the music, the lyrics, the costuming. Everything about it exudes talent!


Music is what feelings sound like

Music can open a world of possible for our children by helping them feel the emotions that come with life. We use music as a springboard for creative projects, for discussing emotions, and for learning. Some of our go-to choices are kid-specific musicians. But these artists know how to rock! We love Recess Monkey, a trio of teachers who are beyond talented and quite prolific. Their latest album, Wired, is super energetic. This album includes an ode to legos, the entrepreneur spirit, and experiences familiar to children.

When children feel loved, then they are in a safe place from which they can explore a world of possible. Raffi, yes THE Raffi of our childhood, released his first album in 12 years this summer. Love Bug explores the emotion of love, what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to young children. Our kids sings these songs while going about their play.

personalized bari-koral-apple-tree-honey-beeOur number one go-to kindie musician is Bari Koral. She most definitely knows how to open a world of possible for young children through music and movement. From her yoga videos to her newest album The Apple Tree and The Honey Bee our kids have discovered their strength, their humor and a way to express their experiences.

The Games People Play

The final way we open a world of possible for our children is through games. Games teach so much more than taking turns and sportsmanship. Kilter from SimplyFun teaches physics and problem solving. Even our 6 year old found this game engaging and fun. We also love playing Monopoly Jr and Catan Jr. Both of these games introduce complex game play in a manageable format while still being fun for the grown ups to play. These games get our kids thinking creatively about strategy, consequences, and keeping positive. Such amazing skills for little ones to take into the world as they explore and discover what they can make possible.

Kilter from SimplyFun

Open a World of Possible With Scholastic

This new initiative is designed to help young children become life long independent readers. And they have Usher hosting a webcast 11/6.


How do you open a world of possible with your little ones?

In Tennessee we passed a particular church everyday on the way to and from Sammi’s preschool. The one thing I distinctly remember from that church’s marquee is their Happy Grandparent’s Day sign each fall. And every fall I remember thinking we needed to get something put together for our grandparents so far away. And by the time we got home and unloaded out of the car, followed quickly by bathroom trips and pleas for snacks, making a card from Grandparent’s Day had completely fallen off my mental agenda.

Grandparent's Day poster with kids' hand and foot printsSo yesterday I saw something announcing that Grandparent’s Day was today. At first I was deflated, sad that I missed this chance again. But then I remembered that our parent’s don’t really keep track of this holiday so it probably won’t matter that we missed it again. After I felt better about myself, I had an aha moment in which I envisioned a cute poster spelling out LOVE using the kids prints. I pulled out the largest paper I had and got ready to bring the kids in when I had another aha moment. Our littles aren’t so little anymore! There was no way that even on this large paper I was going to squeeze in all their feet in the shape of letters.

Handprint heartIn the end, I did each kid’s letter on its own paper then scanned them on to the computer where I could resize and squeeze away. I did the handprint heart for the “O” from Ben’s hands. It took four tries to get something resembling a heart. But to really help it look like a heart I wanted to add a border. After thinking through a few options, I decided to outline all the letters by writing the name of that child repeatedly around their print.

I have to admit, I am quite pleased with the final print I put together. The best part, now that it is digital, I was able to email it to all the grandparents! Ah, now we will rest. Happy Sunday and Happy Grandparent’s Day!

The Kindie music world is picking up momentum on the ALS #IceBucketChallenge train and I couldn’t be happier! I love seeing the creativity of how these amazing musicians are taking the challenge and spreading the word.

The Not Its!

Visit their website and follow them on Facebook.

Recess Monkey

Visit their website and follow them on Facebook. Read more about Recess Monkey on BBGU!

Josh & the Jamtones

Visit their website and follow them on Facebook where you can watch their video. Read more about Josh & the Jamtones on BBGU!

The Harmonica Pocket

Visit their website and follow them on Facebook. Read more about The Harmonica Pocket on BBGU!

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Visit their website and follow them on Facebook.

The viral #IceBucketChallenge to raise awareness and funds for ALS has hit the Kindie world! I’m loving seeing these inspiring musicians add their support to a cause so dear to my heart. My grandma was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year and her health is declining rapidly. My heart is so heavy being so far from her. This challenge has really touched my life and is more meaningful to me than I anticipated it could be. So, here’s my shout out to all the Kindie Musicians taking the challenge!

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights

Check out their website and follow them on Facebook

Read our review of Good Egg, the latest album from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights!

The Okee Dokee Brothers

Check out their website and follow them on Facebook

The Diggity Dudes

Check out their website and follow them on Facebook


Moving has been tough on the little ones. The endless packing, cleaning and stacks of boxes really started to wear on us all toward the end. The disruption to our typical laid back schedule started to affect the kids’ ability to settle down and fall asleep. Enter Edie Carey and Sarah Sample’s Til the Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort. When this gem arrived in the mail I knew the timing couldn’t be more perfect. We all needed extra comfort during this transition.

Edie Cary and Sarah Sample 'Til the Morning I started playing Edie Carey & Sarah Sample’s new album, ‘Til The Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort’ during our bedtime routine. The soothing sounds of Edie and Sarah’s voices brought a sense of calm to an otherwise chaotic part of our day. I clung to the beauty of the music as much if not more than our kids did. As we became familiar with the music the words began to sink into my mind.

I have found that I am most drawn to children’s music that meets two criteria: 1) Songs that give me insight into my children’s perceptions of their experiences 2) Lyrics that inspire me to cherish my children, to embrace my role as their parent and be better starting that very moment for those precious children.

These two criteria meeting together in heart-touching lullabies has worked miracles for our bedtime. Edie Carey and Sarah Sample have a tender story of friendship and collaboration. From their press release: “In 2010, after releasing her third album and having her second child, Sarah Sample realized that most of her music-making at home involved singing to her children.  It felt only natural that her next record should embrace the lullabies that were at the core of her motherhood experience.  At this time, her friend Edie Carey was in the throes of a two-year struggle with infertiity following a near-fatal experience while on tour.  Sarah soon became one of Edie’s main sources of support, and their friendship deepened.

“Edie welcomed a son in 2012 (thanks to winning a $16K IVF cycle at a raffle!), and soon the two friends began hatching plans to make Sarah’s lullaby idea come true.  They wanted to not only honor the quiet moments between parent and child, but also to pay tribute to the struggles of infertility, recognizing the circuitous and painful journey many people must travel to become parents. ’Til The Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort carries a message of love, comfort, and solace for any listener.”

You can connect with Edie Carey on her website and Sarah Sample on her website. ‘Til the Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort is available on Amazon and on their websites.

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights new slbum Good Egg has been such a fun listen for our family. Good Egg is Joanie’s 6th album. It will be released tomorrow, June 24, accompanied by a concert at Madison Square Park! Then they are ending the week by participating in KindieComm where they will perform at the Industry Showcase Saturday night.

Joanie Leeds Good EggBack to Good Egg, Joanie Leeds nails the perfect combination of kid-centered lyrics, energy, and singable melodies. We sing along with all the songs on the album, but our faves are Good Egg, Hipster in the making, and Confusing Costumes. I love the message of Good Egg which is that while we’re not perfect, we aren’t defined my making mistakes, that we are good in our hearts and we can try again. This is a powerful message for children who are in an intense growth spurt pretty much nonstop. As parents we are trying to guide and refine our little ones’ knowledge, actions and ability to make choices. There seems to be a lot of correction and nagging as we try to help kids figure out how to navigate our culture and expectations. It’s important they know they are good, even though they are learning and make mistakes. Good Egg conveys that message powerfully in a way that is easy for kids to access.

Joanie Leeds Good EggSammi loves Confusing Costumes because she has turned into quite the science girl/book worm and so she loves the idea of dressing up as famous scientists/authors/etc. Brent’s fave song is Hipster in the Making. It’s just so spot on for this trend. It’s fun to sing and we all get a kick out of it.

New Music from Joanie Leeds, Good Egg is her 6th album for kids. She nails the lyrics, music and energy making this a fantastic addition to your kindie collection. Joanie Leeds and the Nighlights new album Good Egg is available on Joanie’s website, CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon.


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