Five Ways to Encourage Creativity in Kids

Wonder how to encourage children to be creative?

Do you find students are more and more dependent on adults and technology for inspiration and ideas?

Looking for ways to tap into every child’s creative spirit?

In the Success magazine article, Get Unstuck:  Seventeen Ways To Bring More Creativity into Your Daily Life and Work author, Keri Smith was asked if she had any good synonyms for the word ‘creative’ to which she replied, “Life, I try not to separate the two.”  Good advice!

Here are five ways to encourage creativity in  kids without breaking the bank:

  1. Play--Every kid (and adult) needs playtime.  Much of our modern day life tends to minimize free play with structured sports, classes and mindless television/videos. Free play is probably the number one way to nurture creativity.
  2. Thought experiments–Ask “What if questions… What if the sun were a ball of cheese? What if an arcade were made of boxes?”  Encourage children to ask themselves similar questions to develop imagination and the habit of invention.
  3. Try new things–read books on dramatically different topics, watch movies that are different from the norm, attend unique performances, try international food, travel somewhere new.  Teach children to expand their world and be inspired by the creativity of others.
  4. Do the opposite–change something about a routine, write/draw with the opposite hand, eat dinner for breakfast, consider a problem to be solved—what would be the opposite of success?  what creates failure?
  5. Pay attention to your dreams–some of history’s greatest innovations were products of dreams.  The search engine Google, came from a dream that Larry Page, co-founder had.  The book Frankenstein came originally from a dream of Mary Shelly. Discuss dreams and  challenge kids to write or draw out their dreams.

Stuff Parents Want to Know:  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

In twenty years of school counseling I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  This ebook is a compilation of some of the most common ones along with some effective strategies and books you can read with your child to address the problem. stuffparents   Click on the link below to purchase:

Stuff Parents Want to Know: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions



10 things joyful teachers do differently


Does Back to School Mean Back to Burnout?

It’s back to school time for many teachers with all the excitement and anticipation of a new class of students to know and love.

How can you keep the energy and enthusiasm going for the next nine months?

How can you maintain a positive focus in the midst of the negative press, a demanding schedule and ever-changing standards? It’s not easy but it’s possible.

Here are ten tips to prevent burnout and put the joy back in your teaching:

  • Know your why: It’s easy to get lost in the details and demands of the teaching profession but my guess is that you went into it because you love learning and you love sharing that joy and enthusiasm with students. Renew and review that basic why on a regular basis.
  • Set an intention for the year: It might be one word or a phrase that really excites you but create a focus for your teaching for the year. Maybe it’s leadership. Maybe it’s adventure. You decide, but pick a word or phrase to set the tone for the year. Share it with your students.  Review it regularly.  Post it in your classroom.
  • Create a time of quiet focus each morning: It may be something you do before you leave the house or once you get to work. You decide the best environment to make it happen. You could even sit in your car for a few minutes once you arrive at work if you have trouble finding a quiet environment. Review your goals for the day. Read something inspirational. Get centered. Breathe. Meditate. Pray.
  • Infuse your personality into your teaching: Although teaching methods may be getting more and more standardized and lacking in creativity, buck the system and be who you truly are at heart. Share your humor, your quirks, your story with your students. At the end of the year, what your students will remember is not the facts that you shared with them but the model, the example you set with your life.
  • Learn to set boundaries: Most teachers are good at setting boundaries with their students but learning to set boundaries with parents and yes even the system is necessary. I understand that there are many things that you must do as part of the job, but too many teachers I know feel that they must say yes to everything that is asked of them. Make it clear that you have a life outside of your work and set boundaries around the time that you reserve for yourself and your family.
  • Give up perfectionism: Some things don’t deserve the energy that you put into them to do them perfectly. Sometimes waiting to do something perfectly keeps us from doing it at all. You know where this tendency is holding you back and keeping you overworked and overwhelmed.
  • Create systems and routines: Take care of the mundane routine chores of running a classroom by setting up systems whenever possible. Students also thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.  You’ll both be happier and have energy for things that matter.
  • Take care of you: It is easy to neglect your personal care and health during the school year because you are so busy, then try to make up for it over the summer break.  To function at an optimum level you need to take good care of yourself all year.  Eat a healthy diet that provides the energy you need. Get active and exercise. All. year. long.
  • Build a positive support system: This is not the same as the teacher’s lounge where everyone complains and shares the latest gossip,  but a place to get real support and help with difficult issues and situations. If you find that you are in a negative environment where everyone complains but doesn’t work together to find solutions—find another environment. You are the sum of the five people you hang around with the most and if everyone around you is negative… it will eventually rub off.
  •  Keep learning: If you are a teacher then I bet you love learning as much as you love teaching. Look for and create learning opportunities that excite you. Not only will you be a good model for your students but your enthusiasm will be contagious.

New!!  Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.




three steps to managing anger in children

Have you ever been faced with calming down an angry child?

What is the best approach?

How can we teach children to manage strong emotions like anger?

Brain Chemistry 

Anger control is best understood through thinking about the brain chemistry involved. Adults and children often think of emotions such as anger as something that just “happens” to them.  In actuality we all have a great deal of control over our feelings.  Understanding how the brain works is important.

Here’s a visual to help…

Close your hand in a fist with the thumb hidden by the other four fingers.  The fist represents the brain and the wrist and and forearm are the spinal cord.

The thumb represents the midbrain where emotions and memories are created and processed.

The back of the hand and the fingernails represent the cerebral cortex.  It controls logical thinking and causes us to act with kindness and empathy.  Our reasoning and problem solving abilities reside here.

Communication travels from one section of the brain to another section.

Brain Chemistry and Anger

What happens when someone loses control of their emotions?

A good way to illustrate this is by suddenly opening up the fingers, leaving the thumb still crossed in the palm of the hand.  We might say this represents a time when someone has lost control.

Notice how far away the logical part of the brain (the part represented by the fingernails) is now from the emotions in the thumb?  Of course our brain doesn’t actually shift but our thinking does.

Our thinking becomes inflammatory.  We might think, “This is the worst day of my life!!! Wally  the meanest boy in the world has embarrassed me and I’ll never live it down.” Irrational thinking usually involves catastrophic thinking with lots of absolutes and exaggerations such as: “always”, “never”, “worst day of my life”, “I’ll never”.

The First Step to Regaining Control:  Belly Breathing

The first step in regaining control and getting the emotional part of the brain back in touch with the rational thinking part is to practice some controlled breathing. Here’s a great video of the Sesame Street Characters teaching belly breathing:

Breathing can help a child become calm enough to engage in some therapeutic talk that can change irrational thinking to rational thinking.  Focusing on breathing first is a great way to refocus both our physical and our mental bodies.

The Second Step: Changing Irrational Thinking

Once calm, the next step is to challenge the irrational thinking and replace it with rational problem solving thinking.

What really happened?

Is there a different perspective that would help to solve the problem?

What needs to happen next to resolve the issue?  These are some of the questions that can be asked to turn an angry situation into a calmer interaction.  It’s also important to rephrase or restate the situation in a way that is reasonable but more manageable and not so inflammatory.  For instance, ” Wally said something mean that hurt my feelings. Just because he said it, doesn’t mean that it is true or that I need to pay attention to it.

The Third Step:  Make a Plan

It’s always good to learn from past experience and I usually end by encouraging the child to make a plan for the future.

What if Wally continues to say mean things?  What are the options?  What can the child do or say?  For instance, ” Wally said something mean that hurt my feelings.  If he does that again, I will let him know that I don’t like him saying that.”

We often think of emotions as something that happens which is out of our control.  In actuality, we have a lot of control over our emotions if we can learn to breathe and harness our mental power and rational thinking.

What do you do to handle anger in children?  I’d love to hear your comments?

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 Grab Wyatt’s newest book  here!!

 Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max wants to build a fort and Callie wants to have a tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

New!!  Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Create lessons that develop cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.




Six Strategies for a Stellar School Year

teacher, mom childIt’s the beginning of the school year here in Georgia.  Teachers, parents and students alike are abuzz with anticipation and excitement.  Educators have been hard at work for days; setting up classrooms, planning lessons and getting everything ready for that big first day that sets the tone for the year.

First impressions, first days and first weeks are important. There are many things that can’t be controlled and often we focus on these things:  the students in the class, the curriculum, our co-workers, the administration at our school.

What can we control?

What can we do to get the year off to a great start and create the conditions necessary for a great school year?  There’s a lot!

Six Strategies for a Stellar School Year

  • Set an intention–Not to get all woo-woo on you here but this is a useful technique for whatever you are doing that is new.  Athletes, entertainers and CEO’s use this technique successfully to create optimum performance.  It can work equally well for educators.
    • Begin with the end in mind.  Picture or visualize how you want your classroom to be the first day of school.  The tendency is to be so busy doing (assigning textbooks, putting up bulletin boards, making lessons plans) that we expend all of our energy and don’t take the time to be.  Imagine how you want the room to feel;  excited, enthusiastic, focused, curious, etc.
  • Plan your teaching method–Look at your materials and curriculum with a renewed fresh look.  Imagine that you are seeing it for the first time.  How will you engage students, pique their curiosity, personalize the message?  Make sure the classroom environment reflects your new vision.
  • Get to know your students as individuals–learn names, histories and special needs.  Make advance arrangements for special needs or circumstances.
  • Stay positive–it is really easy to let the negative drag you down.  There are always too many things to do, too many students to adequately serve, too few resources, too many meetings to attend and not enough time.  Reserve judgement.  Expect the unexpected and see it as a learning experience.
  • Focus on and process the experience as much as the material.  It’s easy to  bemoan the fact that it’s hard to teach because of all the extenuating factors in students’ lives.  Instead view those circumstances as teachable moments.  Sometimes the biggest lesson you can teach is how to handle disappointment and adversity.
  • Take care of yourself–there will never be enough time to do it all.  One reason you became a teacher was because of your creative, heart-centered giving spirit.  Make sure sure that you direct that energy toward yourself as well as your students.  When you take care of yourself, you are modeling for students how they can take care of themselves and that is an invaluable lesson.

New!!  Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Create lessons that develop cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.





5 gifts to make your child feel loved

What are your best memories as a child?

What are the family times that you you’d love to go back and live over and over?

Bet it wasn’t the biggest, bestest birthday party on the block,

or the most expensive present you ever got.

More likely it was the heart to heart bedtime conversations or the family game night that everyone loved…

or the time your big brother actually defended you on the playground instead of pestering you to death.

Sometimes in our modern age we are so busy making an impact we forget to make memories.  Here are five ways you can make your child feel loved… every day.


1.  Take the time to be present– really present with your child.  Turn off your cell phone, stop watching t v and give your undivided attention for a designated period of time each afternoon or evening.  Have a real conversation.  Not just a litany of to do’s before they go to bed but a real discussion of what mattered to them during the day.  Oh, and you can share what mattered to you as well.

2. Share meals together at home around the table.  Turn off the t v and all gadgets.  Don’t take phone calls.  I know sometimes this can feel like the time when siblings pester each other with arguments and complaints and parents become the dinner police.  Set a different tone with rules and suggestions about what you will talk about.  Create an environment that everyone can look forward to.

3.  Make bedtime a special time.  Develop a routine.  Read stories and review the day. Discuss what you are grateful for.  Share how loved and precious they are.  Create a calm and quiet environment that encourages sleep.

4.  Recognize your child’s unique talents and strengths and nurture them.  Point them out to them and share your pride with others.  Encourage them to value their strengths as well.

5.  Involve your child in decision making and problem solving.  Whether it’s what to wear for the day or what to have for dinner, let them know that their opinion counts. Teach them to be discerning in the choices they make through experience.

What do you do let your child know he/she is loved everyday?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

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 Know someone starting kindergarten soon?

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten


3 ways you may accidentally fail to teach your kids leadership skills

Is your child a leader or a follower?

Do you worry that they will cave in to peer pressure? not be able to handle failure?

Are you frustrated by their reliance on others to make decisions and solve problems?

As parents and educators we all hope for a successful and creative lifestyle for our children.  Sometimes we wish for such a trouble free future that we unwittingly fail to help them develop the necessary traits for leadership.  Here are a three ways to help your child learn to be a leader and develop a leader’s mindset.

1. Develop Resilience

One of the most important qualities for kids to develop is the ability to endure hardship and failure.  Don’t we all have hardship in our lives no matter how we try to avoid it? How do children learn to be resilient?  Unfortunately not by reading about it or watching movies.

They learn to endure by doing just that… enduring the mistakes, failures and disappointments that occur in their lives.  Pain and failure are a part of everyone’s life. Shielding your kids from disappointing situations through manipulating the environment or refocusing their attention with rewards or busyness, is actually doing them a disservice.

How can you help your kids be more resilient? Teach them to recognize and express emotions rather than discounting them. Let them know that all feelings are okay.  Teach them constructive ways to understand and then move beyond negative emotions.  When children feel understood, negative emotions feel less overwhelming and they can focus again on positive outcomes.

2. Develop Problem solving skills

Teaching children to  tackle everyday problems is an empowering and vital skill.  Learning to ask questions and think critically is a key component. Instead of giving them the answer to difficult dilemmas and interpersonal problems, help them learn how to ask themselves leading questions to solve the problem before they bring the problem to you.

When we provide a quick fix to everyday problems, we teach dependence instead of independence.  Ask them first, “what have you already tried to solve the problem?” Then encourage them to think of two more possible ways they could address it.  Learning to solve problems is not only a skill that will serve them later in life, it also builds confidence in their ability to cope with what ever life throws their way.

3. Develop Personal Goals

Leaders lead by setting goals not by living haphazardly.  Goals are powerful and keep us moving forward toward things we really want in life. You can teach your kids to set goals by sharing your own.  Discuss how you came up with them and the action plan that you set in motion.

Then help them to create their own goals.  Work with them to create baby steps for achieving them.  Stephen Covey teaches that successful leaders begin with the end in mind and setting goals is one way to do this.

No only does setting goals help kids plan but it also teaches them confidence when they achieve their goals.  This proves to be a much more effective way to instill self-confidence than flooding them with “good job!” compliments in a random manner.  Finally, accomplishing goals teaches children that they are in control of their future.

Teach the leadership skill of Cooperation

Grab Wyatt’s newest book  here!!

 Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max wants to build a fort and Callie wants to have a tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.




Wyatt the Wonder Dog Wyatt the Wonder Dog
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