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Welcome to the December 2012
“News for Parents”
Dear Friends of Parenting Press:
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Looking for a conference speaker? Check our list of authors available for speeches and interviews, and the online media kits. Books, info sheets, teaching plans, kids’ activities: we’re always in a whirl at Parenting Press with dozens of ideas that we hope you’ll enjoy and find helpful. Many are described in this issue; others will be published in later issues (see Coming Attractions).
IN THIS ISSUE
- WHAT’S NEW?
- COMING ATTRACTIONS
- Preparing for Teacher Conferences
- Understanding Our Temperaments
- More Dirt Fun!
I. WHAT’S NEW?
Custom Gifts for Favorite Kids
Encourage kids’ creativity with craft kits you assemble yourself. Big plus: you can customize each one for the child’s interests. Just as good: the kits can be as elaborate (and expensive) or as simple (and economical) as you like. Even better: one day shopping hardware stores, craft outlets and thrift stores could provide everything you need for every preschool through middle-school gift!
For a preliminary shopping list, we turned to Homemade: The Heart and Science of Handcrafts by Carol Endler Sterbenz (Scribner), which suggests the following items for children 3–6:
Courtesy of MaryAnn F. Kohl, Art with Anything
- Drawing paper
- Construction paper
- Tissue paper
- Metallic foil
- Lunch-sized paper bags
- Chenille stems
- Stickers and labels
- Scraps of felt, yarn and fabric
- Large-particle glitter
- Metallic stars, moons and similar shapes
- Pine cones, seed pods, and leaves
- Oven-bake clay
- White craft glue
- Glue stick
Courtesy of MaryAnn F. Kohl, Art with Anything
- Masking tape
- Large diameter colored pencils
- Water-soluble markers
- Water color paints
- Poster paints
- Household paintbrushes, one- and two-inch widths
- Kitchen sponge
- Hand-pump and spray-mist bottles
- Cotton swabs
- Craft sticks
- Drinking straws
- Safety scissors
In addition, you’ll want to make sure the child has crayons, finger paint, a foam paint roller, large-hole shakers (like empty spice bottles), and a simple pencil/crayon sharpener. These can be packed up in a plastic bin with lid or a clear plastic tote bag that makes it easy to see what’s inside.
For older kids, add paper punches, metal hardware (nuts, bolts, springs, washers), crepe paper, decorative-edge scissors, foam sheets and advertising and mailing pieces that can be incorporated into projects: gift wrap scraps, calendar photos, greeting cards, bubble wrap, heavily textured papers and a brayer (probably the rubber style roller to complement the foam paint roller).
Dirt = joy for most kids, and you give a child a great reason for playing in the dirt if you put together a gardening kit.
Tuck a trowel and flower and garden seeds into a bucket with a plant mister and watering can, and wrap it all up with The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty, and Having Fun. New from Timber Press, it’s full of ideas to make gardening fun. Some have nothing to do with seeds, and would make wonderful parent-child projects: garden signs, sundial, rain gauge, wind sock, a teepee for beans or sweet peas.
Kids are 99 percent guaranteed to love some of author Whitney Cohen and John Fisher’s other suggestions: a moat or miniature river for floating tiny boats, outdoor seating areas for favorite dolls and stuffed toys, a crow’s nest-style perch for surveying the neighborhood, and a fairy garden.
Got snow? Even more fun than dirt!
Why buy a snowman decorating kit when sand toys and Jell-o molds work even better? With them, kids can create an igloo, castle and family of snow people.
Pack a dishpan (great for forming “bricks”) with toy shovels and plastic shapes from thrift stores and garage sales, a top hat from a party store, an old scarf, and, for your recipient, a new pair of waterproof mittens!
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Simple Pleasures for December
Amid the commercialism and hubbub of this month, take as much time as you can for the simple pleasures of winter and the holiday season.
Bundle up the kids when the first snow falls and run outside so you can all catch flakes on your cheeks, or set a timer for a 15-minute snowball fight between homework assignments.
When holiday lights go up, walk around the block at dusk.
Roll out cookie dough so everyone can use their favorite cutters and sprinkles.
Join a community carol sing or create your own, by inviting in friends and neighbors. When you’ve warmed up your voices, stroll down the street, singing outside homes and businesses.
Visit a farmers’ market, oohing and ahhing at the seasonal produce and wreaths, and stopping for hot chocolate.
Take a bag of dried bread to the park or beach so you can feed the feathered friends—whatever birds, ducks and gulls winter in your area.
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Great Gift Books for Crafters
You’ve got a kid who doodles everywhere, all the time? A potential artist, even if no Michelangelo? A welcome gift might be Drawing Comics Lab, new from Quarry Books.
This is an obvious fit for a child or teenager who wants to cartoon, either for fun or professionally: it’s subtitled “Characters, Panels, Storytelling, Publishing, and Professional Practices,” and author/illustrator Robyn Chapman starts out by describing the different ways cartoons are used.
Even if your family members don’t have cartooning as their goal, this book offers lots of ideas that can be used in any drawing assignment: for example, the easy-to-understand exercises for creating three-dimensional characters, and for using images of arms, legs and entire bodies from catalogs or photographs as guides.
Chapman also shows the value of such different perspectives as close-ups and profiles, and she discusses points like plot and pacing that will help even kids creating picture books or short stories. Lesson 25 shows how a personal experience—your own, or one described by a grandparent or someone else your child interviews—can be turned into an illustrated story. Lesson 29 shows how found objects—say, the message on a discarded postcard—can serve as the basis of a short tale.
For anyone who wants to make small books by hand, “Drawing Comics Lab” explains imposition, or how pages are folded or assembled so that they follow each other in logical sequence. Even for those who will eventually create their books with desktop publishing software, she recommends starting with this “cut-and-paste” method. Reproducing books on copy machines and binding them with a long-reach stapler are also described.
Got yarn? Knitting needles? Crochet hook? Loom? Then you, or someone on your gift list, will appreciate The Textile Artist’s Studio Handbook, also from Quarry.
Created by two textile artists and educators, Visnja Popovic and Owyn Ruck, this provides both an overview of such textile arts as spinning, felting, printing, weaving and dyeing, and detailed information on supplies, equipment, studio space and precautions. It includes how-to’s that older kids, even those without a textile arts bent, may find interesting: burn tests for fiber identifications, for example, screen printing, and extracting dyes from flowers, berries and plant roots. Many of the projects are ideal for introducing a child to embroidery (stitched note cards), sewing (a drawstring bag) or construction (a homemade light box). Overall, however, it’s a guide for teenagers and adults who want well-illustrated, step-by-step directions for projects that may take a few hours each.
For tweens, teens or younger children who love working together with teenagers or adults, pick up How to Make Stuffed Animals, which provides patterns and detailed instructions for 18 little critters.
Five cute toy dachshunds are lined up across the book’s cover; besides them, the News for Parents editor especially liked the sheep and pony patterns. She tried out the sheep in felt, so it looks shorn rather than shaggy with the loops of yarn “wool” that the pattern calls for; as a toy, these could easily be made by machine in the size intended. Some would also be charming tree ornaments if made about 75 percent of the intended size, although that might require more hand stitching and use of felt as the base fabric.
What we at News for Parents especially like about author Sian Keegan’s designs is the potential for customization: her blog shows how she’s used different fabrics and yarn pompons with some of the basic shapes, and how some patterns (the hounds, for example) are being used as tree ornaments. We can also visualize critters made in a patchwork of tightly woven fabrics or different colors of felt. Horses could have manes of variegated yarn or shredded fabric; sheep and dogs could be made with old all-wool sweaters that have been felted with a couple of trips through the washer and dryer.
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Tips for the month
Each Saturday, Parenting Press posts a new
parenting tip and the previous week’s tip is moved to the archive. If you’d like the tips e-mailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the e-mail to which the tips should be sent.
December 1 — What to Do When a Child Bites
December 8 — Why Do Toddlers Bite?
December 15 — When Kids Bite at Child Care
December 22 — Recognizing “Stop” Signals from Others
December 29 — The Kid Who Doesn’t Seem to Need Sleep
Family Fun Ideas — Messy Indoor Fun
Most students have a two-week vacation for the winter holidays, and if your weather means few outdoor activities, here’s an interesting project for older elementary, middle and high school kids: creating patterns on fabric. With an extra adult or two to help, you can include younger kids in this sometimes messy project, too!
Check your library and the Internet for how-to’s, and consider practicing on fabric remnants and old T-shirts with fabric paint and dye and stamps made with:
- fruits and vegetables such as lemons, carrots, bell peppers and potatoes
- craft foam
- modeling clay
- heavy string glued into shapes on wood blocks
- bubble wrap
- corrugated paper
With careful attention to instructions, you and the kids can also stencil on cloth, using sponges or foam brushes. With even more care, you all can use melted wax to outline shapes on fabric that will resist color when you submerge the cloth in dye.
Little kids can use fabric crayons and permanent markers with stencils you’ve purchased, or made with cookie cutters. Or the kids can color drawings that they’ve made with black ink and that you’ve transferred to fabric either with carbon paper or by photocopying the art onto a transparency and then using a warm iron to print the image on cloth.
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Community Service — Visit the Neighbors
Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. There are practical advantages to community service, too. Kids can use these projects to meet school or youth group requirements for community service and to start building resumes that they’ll use when applying for first jobs or college.
In December, given the number of other activities most families have, the News for Parents crew suggests a low-key project, visiting the neighbors, especially those new to the area, elderly or ailing. Spend a few hours making cookies or another treat (even “slice and bake” sugar cookies), bag ‘em up with a homemade card and then kids and a parent can make the rounds on your block. Remember that sitting down for a half-hour talk might be as much of a treat as the cookies for housebound acquaintances.
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Special of the month — Half-off Special
This special has expired.
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