Create summertime memories through writing

School Is All Over

School is all over

I’m in the next grade–

And it’s picnics and popsicles,

Pink lemonade,

Sunburns and sailing

And feet that are bare

T-shirts and sneakers

And sand in my hair,

Swimming and rowing

And fisherman’s fun.

It’s hard to believe it,

But summer’s begun.~Alice Low

Don’t you love summer? I think this poem by Alice Low perfectly sums up this special time!  I especially love the beginning of summer when it seems like an endless span of time stretching forever into the future. Kids and adults alike need unstructured days of carefree fun.

Summertime Memories

As a kid I remember roaming around with friends all day exploring, pretending, and playing. Summertime nowadays means working parents, summer camps, neighborhood pools, all-star all-summer sports teams, water-parks and theme parks and video games. I didn’t have any of that growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Family vacation was traveling to North Carolina to visit relatives.  It was days spent at the beach swimming and building sand castles. I’m not sure if children today aren’t missing those lazy  summertime days of yesteryear where we created our own fun rather than expected to be entertained.

Here’s what summertime meant to me:

·         Sleeping in until the sun was blazing in my bedroom window. No air conditioning back then and you had to finally get up to keep from drowning in a pool of sweat.

·         Fishing in the lake across the street. Snagging catfish and trying to figure out how to get them off the hook.

·         Riding our bikes until we found a new creek to explore, a new field to play in

·         Creating whole fantasy worlds, populating them with characters, conflicts, friendships. Acting out all the parts with my best friend and next door neighbor. We were drama queens before anyone had even thought of the stereotype.

·         Giving ourselves new names that we thought were more romantic and personality. Actually using them to talk to each other.

·         Writing my first novel but, never getting past the first chapter which I rewrote over and over

·         Playing games for hours; Monopoly, Canasta, Parcheesi

·        Creating forts wherever we went; in the woods, in the garage rafters, under the jungle gym covered with an old blanket

·         Going to the library and checking out stacks of books, then lying in bed reading them for hours until my body was stiff from the lack of movement

·         Neighborhood Fourth of July parties on the beach. Getting up early and arriving before the sun was even up. Cooking eggs in a skillet over the fire for breakfast, then playing all day long in the sand and the waves.

·         Playing tag and hide and go seek just as it was getting dark. Mom calling us inside when we wanted to stay outside forever and keep playing.

Creating Summertime Memories through Writing

Summertime is a great time to create family memories and to capture them in writing.  There are lots of ways to not only encourage writing throughout the summer but to create a legacy that you can look back on or build upon in years to come.  Here’s ten ways you can engage your child in writing throughout the summer. Don’t just give them as an assignment though. Do them with your child!

· Take your child on an artist date to purchase some things to make writing fun. This doesn’t have to be expensive. The dollar store works fine. Consider a special notebook, pen or pencil or some stickers.

· Write about summer time activities but from the perspective of someone or something else. What would the dog have to say about playing in the yard or a visit to the park? Write from the point of view of an object. Does the frisbee like being thrown around or is it tired?

· Keep a simple travel log–each day list the place, the best thing about the day and the worst thing about the day, draw pictures to illustrate both.  What if you aren’t traveling?  Make an “I Wish Travel Log”  and imagine where you’d like to go.

· Send Wish You Were Here postcards to friends and relatives who live far away–even if you aren’t traveling. Tell them what you miss about them.

· Make a summer newspaper. Have a special events section, a recipe section, sports or weather section, a whatever-topic-you-like section.

· Start a summer memoir. Start with the first summer your child remembers and record memories of each year. Find pictures that go with each summer and add them.

· Create a summertime collage with pictures and words cut out of magazines.

· At the end of each day, write one sentence or just one adjective that describes the day on a calendar.  Save the calendar every summer and you have instant history and memories!

· Start a gratitude journal. Each day write something you are grateful for. Focus on one person for a week or a month and write something each day about that person. Give them the journal when you finish.

· Keep a book-graphy or a videogame-graphy or a dessert-graphy. Record games played, scores and any additional pointers or notes for future players. Record favorite desserts. Describe what makes them so special. Include a recipe.

Enjoy your summer and create lasting family memories!!

What are your favorite summertime memories?  Let me know in the comment section below!

Want a great summertime book with an empowering message?  Check out what happens to Wyatt when he visits his grandparents at the beach:

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning

Helping children develop a servant heart

memorial day

With Memorial Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to teach children about the meaning of the holiday through acts of service.  Just as many men and women are remembered for their service to our country, children can develop a servant heart and a spirit of generosity through learning to serve others.

Schools Develop a Spirit of Service

Developing a servant heart is something that can be started early in small ways and then developed into bigger projects as the child grows.  Schools are perfect environments for this and in addition to teaching children to be helpful and correct injustice, schools can also initiate projects throughout the year.  Not only does this inspire generosity, but it also brings attention to the injustice and inequality in the world.  Everything from UNICEF collections at Halloween to collecting food and coats for homeless shelters can be a call to action for children.

Parents Develop a Spirit of Service

Parents too can encourage this mindset. Determining the child’s interests and concerns and then finding ways to serve in those areas is the best way to get cooperation.  One family I know went to a local shelter to serve lunch every year. Another child began volunteering at a local animal shelter and even writing a column for a neighborhood magazine because of his love of animals. Developing service projects as a family is a great way to not only serve but strengthen family ties at the same time.  Even young children can learn to give food, toys or clothing to those in need.

The best and most life changing service, is service that involves giving of more than our excess. It involves giving our time and energy. Spending a Saturday morning in a soup kitchen for the homeless, or volunteering in a nursing home to visit with residents who have no family are great ways that families can impact their community and ultimately the world. Service that moves us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make a difference develops children and ultimately adults, of compassion and character.

How does your family teach children to be generous and develop a servant heart?  I’d love to hear in the comment section!

Want to read more about developing children of character?  Check out my ebook:  ebook

What’s your stress level? Try Kitten Therapy

I was talking recently with someone in one of my groups about the fact that the opportunity for play is rapidly becoming extinct in the modern day world.  Every day in every way we are all about being productive and busy. Schools are increasingly  focused on academics and data collection (even in preschool!).

No one plays kick ball in the backyard or baseball on the corner lot anymore.  Team sports fill the “free time”  that isn’t spent in school.  Students are rushed from school to soccer practice to drama tryouts.  In between families squeeze in homework and drive through meals.  And then we wonder why so many children today are anxious, unmotivated and stressed out.

Let’s recapture the true art of play that has been lost.  There’s nothing like the playfulness of kittens chasing a ball to bring a smile to our lips and laughter to our hearts. Set aside some time to simply play today.  Your inner child and your family will both be the better for it!

When was the last time that you simply played?  What did you do?  I’d love to hear in the comments section.

What is the greatest gift you can give a teacher?

Photo of teacher and schoolboy sitting together at the desk and interacting during lesson

It’s teacher appreciation week and teachers are being lavished with gifts, flowers and no doubt dozens of Starbucks gift cards.  As I dropped off gifts for teachers at the schools in my area ( several Wyatt the Wonder Dog books to use in their classrooms),  I had to ask myself:  What is the greatest gift you could give a teacher?  

The Greatest Gift a Teacher can Give

I recently posted a blog on the greatest gift that teachers could give their students.  You can read it here:  The Greatest Gift.  In the post, I reviewed the classic Rosenthal study that identified the greatest gift a teacher could give as the positive expectation of success.  Children who tested as “average” became high achievers simply through the belief on the part of the teachers that they were extraordinary.  Children, like the rest of us, thrive in the glow of encouragement and empowerment.

The Greatest Gift to Give a Teacher

So in the midst of teacher appreciation week, I got to thinking, What if the greatest gift we could give our teachers, was the same positive expectation of extraordinary success?  What if we didn’t just send in a bouquet of flowers or a gift card but what if, year round, we shared with them the belief that they weren’t just doing a job but instead that we knew they were  transforming lives in an extraordinary way?  Because I know from personal experience that this is why most teachers went into the profession in the first place. I bet that just like those “average” children, the “average” teacher would turn out to be a high achiever as well.  Here’s an example of a recent article that illustrates what I’m talking about:  Georgia Teacher

The Rosenthal Study Applied

If you applied the results of the Rosenthal study to teachers, here’s what we would all do:

Create a positive encouraging warm environment where teachers feel valued and trusted not scrutinized for missteps or mistakes.

Create expanded opportunities for teachers to use their own creativity and innovation in the classroom rather than constraining them with endless standards, data tracking and preparation for testing.

Provide positive feedback: As with students, we would look for opportunities to praise and encourage.  We would expect and challenge teachers to be more, learn more and work in their strengths.  “I believe in you and your work” is such an affirming message to share.

Just knowing that there is a community that believes in you, can transform the life of a teacher.

What do you think is the greatest gift you can give a teacher?  I’d love to hear in the comments section.


Helping children overcome fear


The child in my office was in tears.  Here was her story:  She was selected to give the pledge to the flag on the morning news station at school.  This is a great honor and she was excited until the morning of the show, when  she suddenly became paralyzed with fear and begged her teacher not to have to go in front of the camera.  Her teacher reassured her, encouraged her and finally, selected another student to present the pledge.  The child’s initial relief turned to great disappointment and tears when her replacement returned to class wearing the special badge which announced to the world that she was a “Star Student” for the day.  Her fear and lack of action had resulted in a huge disappointment.

Fear and Giving Up

It was a hard lesson learned and one that many of us as adults have to learn as well.  Fear and lack of confidence can keep us from not only accomplishing our goals but also from experiencing exciting moments in lives.

I can remember a similar episode from my own elementary school days when my class was putting on a play and I begged my teacher not to play the part I was assigned.  I was so frightened that I was willing to brave the displeasure of my teacher in order to get out of what to me seemed a terrifying role.  Ironically, she gave me the part of announcer instead and I went from playing the part of a character with one line to an announcer with several lines.  I also soon learned that I missed out on the fun of being on stage with the other children practicing and acting out a story.  When we run from experiences that make us nervous instead of facing the challenge, we sometimes end up performing a job or role that is much less rewarding.

Courage is not the Absence of Fear

We can learn from the times we give in to our fear.  Rather than focusing on the regrets over a lost opportunity, we can learn to prepare for events in the future.  No doubt, just as I learned from my experience, this student too will remember to seize the opportunity, face the fear and do it anyway.  Courage is not the absence of fear but the choice to act despite our fears.  The rewards are often well worth it.

Have you faced a similar situation in your life where fear had to be faced?  What did you do?  What did you learn?

Check out my ebook for ways to develop children of character:


Seven Ways to Teach Children Empathy

When my youngest daughter was little she watched the movie, The Fox and The Hound and cried and cried at the end when Tod was attacked by the bear.  What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what others feel.  It is putting yourself in another’s shoes.

Here’s a lovely story about empathy:



Some children are just naturally more empathetic.  It may be due to their personality style or perhaps a life experience that has made them able to identify with how someone else is feeling, much like the boy in the video.  However, as parents and educators we can play a significant role in developing empathy in children.  Here are some tips:

  • Create an environment where their own emotional needs are being met.  The first order of business is for the adults in a child’s life to show empathy toward them.  Children need to feel safe both physically and emotionally.  When they experience disappointing and frustrating events, is there someone who understands and supports them?
  • Encourage children to explore how beliefs, emotions and desires impact relationships.  Rather than brushing off children’s experiences and feelings, parents can explore all aspects of a situation by asking questions;  how did that make you feel?  how do you think the other person felt?  how did that influence their behavior?  what are your choices in responding to the situation? Teach children to expand their perspective by taking on the perspective of others.
  • Be a role model for empathy.  Child learn more by what we do that what we say.  Make sure that you are showing empathy in your relationships.  If you collect food for a food bank or toys for a holiday service project make the experience more real by discussing where these things go and what life must be like for the people who benefit.  Better still, involve them in a way that helps them interact with real people not just collecting a box of food items or toys.
  • Look for teachable moments.  Use real life situations, books, movies and cartoons to point out ways that others show empathy as well as to help children identify with the feelings of others.  Ask: how would you feel if that happened to you?  What would you want someone else to do to show that they cared?  To go beyond talking and imagining what it must be like, act out situations with your child.  This not only helps them empathize with others but helps them experience the choices they have in how they respond.
  • Teach that even though we are all very different, we still have much in common.  Part of understanding and appreciating diversity is recognizing that we all have the same feelings.  Everyone has a  need for compassion and support.
  • Have children use facial expression to imagine how someone else is feeling.  Apparently there is a connection between our brain and our physical expression that results in an ability to feel and understand other’s feelings.  Just the act of making an angry face or a sad face, helps us tune in to one another’s emotions.
  • Help your child develop an internal sense of right and wrong.  Providing reasonable explanations and moral consequences that are not based on rewards and punishments will help your child internalize a moral code that will serve them well throughout life.

How have you taught children about empathy?  What is an example of empathy that you have experienced in a child?  I’d love to hear in the comment section.