Posted in In my humble opinion..., Keeping Kids Creative

Artists come from Copycats

There is much to be learned from children.

Thankfully, I have grandchildren who will “keep it fresh” when I retire from providing day care. I’ve watched kids for the better part of my life. One thing I have  attempted, is to reevaluate my preconceived notions of how they learn on a frequent basis. Remembering moments of inspiration, from my own childhood, have proven of extra value.

When I draw flowers, there’s my flashback moment to a time I had seen a fellow middle school student draw a lovely daisy. It was not face-front with even petals (the childhood normal) but “danced” on a crooked stem and drooped to one side. That moment changed my view of flower drawings forever. In fact, it was a moment of artistic maturing that improved how I would approach all future drawings.

The old saying, “Don’t be a copycat.” is total bunk in my modern approach. I’ve found this especially true from watching the children’s visual arts evolve. I spent many years with a policy that I should not draw around the kids. I believed that my skills might discourage them or take away the purity of being original. Luckily, I just couldn’t help joining in at “art time” because, gosh, it’s fun. It became clear to me that many of my kids became happier artists from following my lead.

My most recent example happened last week. I was tired of my blank dry erase board so I created a Springtime scene as I bopped around my kitchen cooking supper. The kids noticed it the next day and studied it often. My 7-year-old granddaughter asked if she might add to the board. I said sure and handed her the markers. When she asked me to see what she had done, I had expected my drawing to have been replaced with a messier version according to her skills. Below is  the amended piece.

Katherine added two flowers and one lady bug. I rest my case.


Posted in Keeping Kids Creative

Searching for Clues: Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories
The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (Photo credit: dalcrose)

A well-written short story is ripe with clues.

In one of my more recent blog posts, (In Defense of BIG kids…) I make a point about how often people can overlook keywords and how it can be responsible for misunderstandings.

Today, I added a blog post to my category Random Word Stories. These are short stories that I create using random words. The fun part is that I create the stories as an exercise. I limit my writing to “one sitting” which has never gone on for more than an hour. When I polish my ideas for posting, I find the adding of details, as clues, to be the deciding factor between just a story and a good story.

It occurred to me, shortly after my exercise, how valuable short stories are when training young readers to recognize clues. This would translate very well to the greater purpose of kids learning to discriminate among clues and keywords they deal with elsewhere.

I’ve provided a link, above, to my newest story.

There are poignant questions that could be asked about the story.

  • What may have clouded Mia’s judgement in selecting a roommate?
  • Did her occupation affect her judgement?
  • What might she have done differently?
  • What may have been warning signs of Holt’s problems?
  • The story ends on a humorous note…what may she have asked on the questionnaire?
  • What did bubblegum have to do with anything?

Certainly, there seems to be much material for discussion in such a short piece. Short stories make great homework assignments too. Their weight is not encumbering when it comes to time spent.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon a marketable use for my better stories? My new project will be to make them age and subject appropriate, of course.  🙂

Posted in Sideshows

Making Better Choices ?

sheepskin finally arrived
sheepskin finally arrived (Photo credit: G A R N E T)

There is an under tapped resource in our country. Hundreds of thousands of people are never considered for jobs due to the fact that they have no college degree.

Just because someone didn’t have the interest or funds for a college education, should not eliminate them automatically from high paying and creative job positions. Creative minds are often born in the world of society’s “underachievers”. After all, these folks have followed their own paths which, seems to me, one fine first creative step.

When will our country separate the concept of intelligence from that of formal education? They are not at all one in the same. There is a discrimination at a grand scale going on. Our country’s future, as an innovative force in the world, is falling victim to an over played devotion to titles and credentials.

It’s time that those doing the hiring do their job and LOOK for talent rather than expecting to find it in a file.

Posted in Sideshows

What to do? Give yourself a “noogy”.

The worst thing that we can tell ourselves is “I can’t”. My granddaughter was using the phrase so often that I began giving her a signal, in the form of a “noogy”, every time that it left her lips. Not sure about the proper spelling but a noogy is that irritating rub of the knuckles on top of someone’s head. It has become a ritual and I have been the recipient of a few noogies myself.

I am  constantly searching for projects. Being creative is a lifestyle and, once you “buy in”, there’s an appetite to satisfy. This appetite is for something new and exciting.

Well, I suggest when there is a lull in your projects to revisit those that you may have filed under the heading,”I can’t”.

Years ago I spent a short time sketching caricatures of my day care kids. It was a fling that I had not recalled until I browsed through some old photos. My “passion”, at that time, was to dabble in the art of illustrating children’s books.

I am going to give myself a noogy and try it again.

Here is what I had done and dismissed.

Posted in Keeping Kids Creative

Resisting Tidy Creates the Mighty

Over the weekend, I decided that my picnic table desperately needed a paint job . I invited Katherine ( my 7-year-old granddaughter) to help me give the table its “face lift”. We needed to take extra precautions and allow more time (all day) for the estimated completion but the value of this project , as a learning experience, soon became clear.

It would have been VERY much faster, and more tidy, to do it alone. I suspect that parents have a lot on their plate these days and easy/tidy options are a big temptation but, please consider, this list of the things that Katherine learned that day… Things that only doing can teach.

  • Supplying a project can be costly and must be planned.
  • Setting up is time-consuming but makes the job easier and better.
  • Our hardware store happens to have a candy counter!
  • Primer is a spray-on paint that makes the final paint last.
  • Dipping your brush in too far makes lots of drips.
  • Spreading the paint, too thinly, makes it start to dry and get sticky.
  • Waiting between coats, makes for a better cover.
  • Painting against the wood grain does not work, as well as, following it.
  • Painting is very tiring for your arms.
  • Always watch the edges for drips.
  • Work from the center outward or you’ll be leaning in wet paint.

People rarely are born with skills. They learn them.
Parents please resist that “tidy reflex”, as often as, possible. Include your kids in everyday tasks and you’ll take part in building mighty skilled people.

BTW-We both were scraping yellow from our ears, hair and arms for days after.


Grandma and Katherine's project completed.
Grandma and Katherine’s project completed.


Posted in Random Word Stories, Sideshows

Random Word Stories #13~Finding My Voice

Beaver pond on the Thur river between Pfyn and...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Random words were generated by

Let’s try 7 words this time.


Here’s my story:

The rented cabin stood beside an old mill-pond. As ramshackle as it was, the place seemed to open welcoming arms as I stepped inside. My novel would have no choice but to write itself here. The musty smell was not unpleasant…it reeked of peacefulness and solitude. Could it be that this was the odor of  introspect?

“Ah Thoreau, your secret’s safe with me, my friend.”

My own voice sounded unfamiliar. I realized that I could talk to myself, out loud, all that I desired here. No raised eyebrows could ground me now.

After my nose grew accustom to the new surroundings, my ears tuned in to the chorus of frogs outside my door. An opera that no single frog could create.

” One for all and all for one, huh guys? Hope you sing all night. I’d enjoy that serenade at bedtime.”

My novel had been on hold for, well, all of my adult life. It had poked me in the ribs, every so often in the middle of my personal “rat race” ,  finally becoming too annoying to ignore any longer. Gosh, suddenly the realization that I’d be writing it by hand, struck me like a hammer.

“Henry, what might you have accomplished with a computer and printer?”

Yes, I liked the spirit of my favorite author beside me. Talking to him would clear those cob webs for sure.

I straighten up the place and made it my own. Then sat beside the pond in the springtime sun. Something magical in the sunshine in Spring. It is welcomed and comforting. The summer sun was overbearing and cruel in comparison.

A rustling in the brush brought me back from my poetic musings. Whatever it was, it was coming closer. I studied the wooded bank and saw brown fur headed toward the water’s edge.

As I was cleaning the cabin, I had found an old rifle with one unspent cartridge still in the chamber. For a moment, I debated whether I just might need it after all. My “peaceful harmony” mood had dismissed its value, originally, but my survival instinct made me make a mental note of where I’d put it. I now figured, it would take 10 seconds to lay my hands on it.

“Henry, were YOU ever afraid?”

My utterance made the beast pause.

“Fight or flight.Yup, what’s it gonna be fella?”

As my heart rhythm made a dramatic spike, two beady black eyes glistened followed by a splash and a slap on the water. A head surfaced just before it ducked into a pile of sticks and brush at the pond’s entrance.

I laughed at the terror I’d experienced for naught.

“Henry? Meet Beaver Cleaver…I think we’ll be spending lots of time together.”

Posted in Keeping Kids Creative, Sideshows, Susan's Family Day Care

Calling all imaginations…
There is an alarming trend in kid toys in recent years. I’ve watched 2-year-old toddlers receive toys that made no noise, did not light up, and did not ask them to play. The kids are tossing them aside people. The same can be said for greeting cards that contain no money…junk, in the eyes of modern day youngsters.

Yes, some of those electronic toys are cool, but Lincoln Logs are really cool too. Play dough factories are insults to the imagination. Playing with just a few tools and your hands is a fascinating enterprise. A wondrous transformation from a 2 dimensional to 3 dimensional plane is waiting to be awakened in kids. A cardboard refrigerator box makes the grandest spaceship. Threading macaroni on yarn is the best jewelry maker. Just plain making bubbles with a wand allows so much room for creativity.

Greeting cards should NOT contain anything but a message. What ever happened to, “It’s the thought that counts.” ? We are creating the glitz and glam, that’s barren of imagination.
Fewer toys, no batteries, and more thoughts are needed desperately!
Don’t go crazy and throw all the “new” toys out. I suggest that you hide them and bring them out after the kids have had their share of pretend time.
Two tin cans on a string made for hours of fun when I was a kid. I really feel a pang of loss when I see kids with “real” cell phones as toys.

If I were to recommend one, over looked activity, that will bring back a sense of wonder to childhood, I’d choose puppet making. Anyone can make a puppet from a sock or wooden spoon. You’d be very surprised how little they have to resemble Kermit to evoke fun and imagination. Try drawing a face on the inside of your thumb. Making “Thumbkin” talk can make for discussions that will amaze you.
Try drawing in the dirt with a stick. Try using only one color when painting. Make any inanimate item have a voice. NOW, watch the fun and ideas flow!

Imagination is the strongest sense that we have. Don’t let the kids in your life let theirs die.