Henry as a bat for Halloween

Henry as a bat for Halloween

My dog Henry is all dressed up as a bat and wants to wish you a Happy Halloween! 

When Henry was a puppy, I tried to to get him into a rather too small skeleton costume. It was the only time he growled at me. I wasn't present when he was muscled into this bat costume by someone much braver than myself. He does rather seem to be enjoying himself after all, but that is perhaps due to being a rather dapper bat!

My dog Henry has been the inspiration for countless children's picture books and Color and Write Stories. Please follow the links and check them out. Everything can be downloaded for free.

Black History Month Ideas for Your Family

How Is Your Family Honoring Black History Month - by Elizabeth B. Martin, Author and Illustrator
How Is Your Family Honoring Black History Month - by Elizabeth B. Martin, Author and Illustrator

Before the month ends, I need to sneak in this post about Black History Month and share with you some ideas on how you can commemorate this month with your kids with activities in the home.

First, let’s talk about the genesis of this tradition.

Do You Know the Story Behind Black History Month?

Did you know that it’s not only celebrated in the U.S. but Canada and the United Kingdom as well? Both the U.S and Canada celebrates it in February, but the U.K. honors this month-long recognition in October.

Some people believe that Black History Month – also known as African-American History Month in the U.S., is a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But that’s not true.

This month-long recognition of the Black culture was started in remembrance of the history of the African diaspora. The African diaspora refers to the communities that descended from African nations – primarily in West and Central Africa – who were enslaved and shipped to numerous countries as part of the Atlantic slave trade.

The enslavement of Africans was truly a sad and repulsive event in our history.

Black History Month Began with a Week of Recognition

While researching this post, I learned something new. In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History decided that the second week of February would be recognized as Negro History Week. I was also surprised to find out that Woodson and the Association chose the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Apparently, Black communities had been celebrating those birthdays since the late 1800s.

Woodson further supported the launch of Negro History Week with this reasoning:

If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. 

Books and Activities to Help Your Kids Honor Black History Month

Your toddler or kindergartener may be too young to take in the gravity of the history of Black History Month, but there are ways you can help them to commemorate this significant, month-long recognition of the Black culture and its numerous contributions to our nation.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Check out my brand new Black History Month Books for Kids pinboard on Pinterest. You’ll find plenty of books you can read with your children. 
  2. Bake sweet potato biscuits, a traditional soul food treat. Don’t they sound yummy? 
  3. Listen to the blues. Enjoy the music of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Ray Charles, and others.
  4. Teach your kids how to plan Mancala, an ancient African board game. 
  5. Teach your older kids about Jim Crow, a slang term for a Black man. Jim Crow also referred to states laws passed in the Southern states that established different rules for Blacks and whites. These laws were, of course, based on the theory of white supremacy. Jim Crow laws began in 1877 and continued into the mid-1960s.
  6. Search on the Internet for James Karales’sphotographs of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches  or look at these images from the New York Times.
  7. Watch movies in which famous Black actors are prominent, including Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, Forest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
  8. Watch movies featuring Black actresses, including Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Jada Pickett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, and Oprah Winfrey.
  9. Incorporate recipes, music, and movies in a way that flows for your family.

What are you doing to honor Black History Month with your children?

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free and download a Free coloring book here

Help Your Kids Make Their Resolutions Stick

Elizabeth B. Martin, Author & Illustrator
Elizabeth B. Martin, Author & Illustrator

Did you make any resolutions for 2016? If so, how are you doing?

As we all know, to make a resolution stick throughout the year and to achieve any modicum of success, we need to turn well-intentioned resolutions into goals, and those goals need action steps with deadlines.

Yes, deadlines.

Okay, that’s the grownup version of resolutions. But what can we expect of our children, especially the younger tykes?

Well, we can use some of the same measures, just scaled down a bit.

It’s Never Too Late to Set a Goal

We make such a fuss about deciding on resolutions at the start of the year, don’t we? But in our lives we actually set goals throughout the year at different intervals. Some are personal and some are work-related.

It’s not too late to sit your kids down and help them establish their own goals. They needn’t be for the entire year. Even if they decide on goals for the month – or even the week – that’s a start, don’t you think? I do.

So what types of goals can young children possibly set for themselves? Quite a few, actually.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Do your tykes spend too much time on their PlayStation 4? Don’t all kids these days? Well, that’s no reason your child can’t cut back. You’ll be saving their hands from future bouts of repetitive stress injury and helping them to take an interest in books – an interest that may very well last throughout their entire lives. Ask them if they would feel comfortable spending an hour less a day on their PlayStation or other device and instead play outdoors, spend time with the dog, and either read or thumb through picture books.
  2. Do your kids prefer soft drinks to either water or milk? Perhaps you can make a resolution together. You’ll stop buying the sugary drinks and instead purchase more wholesome beverages such as flavored carbonated water such as Crystal Geyser, milk, flavored milk, or Kefir.
  3. Do your children ignore you when you try to talk to them? All of your children can join in this resolution and resolve to look at each other when speaking. You can also resolve not to split your attention when they talk to you.
  4. Do you find yourself tripping over your kids’ clothes, toys, or school supplies? There’s no need for that. Maybe they need a toy chest, painted milk crates, plastic bins, a new bookcase, or a bench with storage space within the seat. A dash of color can make some of these items colorful and decorative while hiding a kid’s mess.
  5. Do you have trouble getting your kids to complete their homework? A new routine might be in order. Make sure that your children complete all of their homework as soon as they return from school and before they watch the television, talk on the phone, or play video games.
  6. Gossip is bad for the soul and can cost you a dear friendship. Set an example by resolving never to gossip again and encourage your children to follow your example.
  7. Does your child want to improve his or her grades? Explain that to attain this goal there are other steps they must take first, such as turning in all of their homework on time, allowing sufficient time to study for tests, and asking questions in class when the teacher covers a topic they don’t fully understand. You can query your child each night to see if he or she needs extra help with their homework. Support your child however you can to help your kid be successful.

What types of resolutions are your family making in 2016?

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free and download a Free coloring book here.

Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem with Chores

How often have you heard parents or teachers complain about all the chores that fall within their responsibility?

I'm not suggesting that we should expect our children to get a job when they are still toddlers or to contribute to the family's savings account.

But what about the toys strewn across the living room?

Or the stacks of dirty trousers and T-shirts?

Childhood Chores Linked to Better Self-Esteem

Is it selfish for a teacher to expect children to pick up after themselves? Certainly not. A classroom would be in constant chaos if children were allowed to roam and create messes without taking responsibility for cleaning them up.

Similarly, would parents be asking too much of their children if they expected them to clean up after playing with some Legos? No. Research now indicates that children who are assigned and complete chores have a higher sense of self-esteem, become more responsible children, and are better able to deal with frustration and delayed gratification.

[bctt tweet="Childhood chores are linked to better self-esteem in children via @ebmartin70"]

The Importance of Learning Delayed Gratification

You may recall hearing about the marshmallow experiment. The experiment was done at Stanford in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They studied delayed gratification among children by placing a marshmallow on a plate and telling the children that if they could withhold from eating the marshmallow during a short period (15 minutes), then upon the lab technician’s return the children could have additional marshmallows. The test was really about delayed gratification.

Studies have shown that people who are comfortable with delayed gratification go on to achieve greater success as adults.

Chores Help Children Learn About Delayed Gratification

That explains why teaching children about delayed gratification is so important and assigning chores to children is one way to achieve this result.

The Center for Parenting Education recently published a post on this very topic. According to the center,

Doing chores gives a child the opportunity to give back to their parents for all you do for them. Kids begin to see themselves as important contributors to the family. They feel a connection to the family. Holding them accountable for their chores can increase a sense of themselves as responsible and make them more responsible. Children will feel more capable of having met their obligations and completed their tasks.

So when you begin to discuss the types of chores you would like your children to complete, refrain from feeling guilty about it. You're helping the child in their development and sense of accomplishment in their young lives.

The center recommends that you answer these questions when contemplating chores for your children to complete:

  • What are the types of chores you would like your children to assist with?
  • Would the types of chores you are considering benefit the household?
  • Is your child mature enough to handle the chore you are about to assign him or her?
  • Will you be attaching an allowance to the household chore or will an allowance be introduced in your child's life later when your son or daughter can better manage money?

Examples of Chores for Your Children

Here are just a few ideas of chores around your house that your children might be able to complete by themselves or with your assistance:

  • Picking up all toys and storing them in a toy chest or closet.
  • Handling their laundry from washing to drying to putting their clothes away.
  • Wiping the front of a trash can or refrigerator.
  • Folding towels.
  • Sweeping floors.
  • Straightening books on a bookshelf.
  • Help with setting the table.
  • Keeping their bedroom neat.
  • Wiping down dirty walls – up to their height.

[bctt tweet="Check out my list of household chores your child can accomplish."]

What chores do you think your child is ready for?


Be sure to download my Free coloring book. Just click the image below and, voilà, you'll have a new coloring book for your child!

Bath Time for Max

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free and download a Free coloring book here.

Turn the Other Cheek: Lessons in Empathy

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about empathy so I thought I would return to the topic today.

People can often confuse the terms empathy and sympathy. How do they differ?

Let’s say that you have a friend whose husband just died. You could send a card and attend the service, and those acts would be expressions of sympathy.

What if you called or went to her home, sat with your friend and just listened to her? You might look into her eyes and tell her how sorry you were. Now you’re expressing empathy.

You’re empathetic when you are present to another person’s pain, hurt, or sorrow. Your actions show that you care, and you are available for support.

This is how UC Berkeley’s Greater Good: The Science of Meaningful Life describes empathy: 

… ‘empathy’ is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Learn about Emotional Literacy from Mary Gordon

Parents and teachers can do a lot to teach empathy, what Mary Gordon would call emotional literacy, in the U.S. Just listen to Mary Gordon in this short video. She will inspire you!

Lessons in Empathy for Kids and Adults

Here are reasons to practice empathy and teach children to mature into empathic adults.

  • Empathic adults are more likely to help others, especially those in need. This trait can lead children and adults to care about the environment as well.
  • A study suggests that empathy can reduce racism and prejudice. Learn more about the study at UC Berkeley
  • Empathy can lead to sustained marriages. How? Understanding your partner or spouse’s feelings can deepen intimacy. It’s also helpful in conflict resolution. To learn more, read this article
  • Mary Gordon’s Roots of Empathy Program shows how empathy can reduce bullying. 
  • The book, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, delves into the theory that empathy can lead to not just kind but heroic acts. 
  • When we are empathic, we are more likely to help others, such as the poor.

Practice Empathy Daily: It's Good for Your Health

Finally, according to UC Berkeley:

Empathy is good for your health. A large-scale study found that doctors high in empathy have patients who enjoy better health; other research suggests training doctors to be more empathic improves patient satisfaction and the doctors’ own emotional well-being.

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good project recommends these tips for anyone wanting to be more empathic in their lives.

  • Focus your attention outwards: Try to be mindful of your surroundings and the behaviors of others.
  • Get out of your head. You can increase your level of empathy by imagining what someone else might be experiencing.
  •  Don’t jump to conclusions about others.
  • Meditate: Research shows that a practice of loving-kindness meditation – the practice of sending healing and love to a friend or a community you’re your energy – will increase your capacity for empathy.
  • Reading fiction will help you to explore the emotions of others.
  • Music boosts empathy in children.
  • Learn how to communicate nonviolently.
  • Combat inequality.
  • Study facial expressions.

To learn more about developing lessons in empathy and how to teach empathy in the classroom, check out The Ashoka Foundation’s Start Empathy initiative, which tracks educators’ best practices for teaching empathy. 

9-9-15 Empathy -Elizabeth B. Martin


Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.