These fun images are from my after school event at TelHi for 2nd through 5th graders. In spite of having a full day before, the children managed to rally. I had them color, write in the speech bubbles and doodle in the monster. Once they had finished, we made paper planes and flew them. Of course one ended in the radiator! It was all over in a jiffy and they ran off for their snack—such fun. Check out more images from TelHi here.


TelHi students working on my coloring pages!

TelHi students working on my coloring pages!

Here is an adorable gaggle of girls from TelHi working on my I LOVE MY CAT color story. Their enthusiasm is the ultimate reward! They also come to my Art and Craft events at the North Beach Public Library. My entire website has nothing but FREE downloadables, so please check it out!

How to Encourage Creativity in Toddlers

kids playing
kids playing

Creative play and imaginative arts experiences play a central role in toddlers’ learning and development. You can encourage your toddler and support her creativity with free-flowing creative activities. Here are some ideas. Source: Raising Children 

Polymath: someone who knows a lot about many different things. Source: Merriam-Webster

I read a post titled Why the 21st Century Economy Needs More Polymaths on the Fast Company blog and it got me thinking about kids.

What if you could raise the next Picasso? Picasso is considered the last Renaissance man. He was a painter, sculptor, and poet. Best known for his painting Guernica, he first learned the rules of painting and then had the confidence and creative urge to break every one of them.

Leonardo Da Vinci was another polymath. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, and inventor.

Emilie Wapnick and Multipotentialities

In a great Ted Talk, Emilie Wapnick also addresses this issue. But instead of using the little-known word polymath, she refers to this attribute as multipotentialities.

Now, I’m the first to agree that this is all heady stuff, isn’t it? By now you must be wondering how can all these highfalutin theories apply to your life with a toddler or kindergartner running around the house.

Well, it can. Just take baby steps.

Ideas You Can Start Using Today

Raising Children has these suggestions:

  1. Encourage creativity when your kids play. “For toddlers, creative play is about the process of creating. There’s no right and wrong in how toddlers create and respond to art.”
  2. Don’t criticize your kids’ efforts or misadventures in what they color or create. Instead, always offer praise and encouragement.

Here are some additional ideas from Becoming Mamas:

  1. Does your child want to wear mismatched socks or a striped top with plaid pants. Or, are their color combinations in the clothes they select for themselves a tad garish? Let them experiment. It’s okay.
  2. Visit art museums with your kids. Start with a children’s museum if you have one in your community. Take them to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Northern California where they can see the late cartoonist’s drawings and get involved in activities for kids. If those two activities aren’t available to you, visit any museum located in or near your city.
  3. Does your child play without using toys? This is wonderful for the development of their imagination and creative skills.
  4. As soon as it makes sense, based on your judgment, encourage your kids to solve their own problems.
  5. Suggest that your children play with random items and see how they connect them and create a unique play experience for themselves.

Activities to Promote Creativity in Your Kids

Looking for specific activities for your children? Here are some ideas.

Merriam-Webster defines creativity as “the ability to make new or think of new ideas.” What can you do to promote creativity in your kids’ lives?

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.

Forgo the Black Friday Frenzy - Give the Gift of an Experience

Black Friday is around the corner and you know what that means: It’s the start of the mad rush to purchase Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for friends, teachers, grandparents and kids.

What if you don’t celebrate a major holiday at this time of year? No problem. Keep reading because this post will apply to you as well.

Your kids may be busily writing letters to Santa Claus attesting to their good behavior and asking for the newest video game, bicycle, or jacket.

A child’s vision of a perfect holiday or Christmas can sometimes be a tree surrounded with large packages just for them -- or a Menorah with the promise of gifts.

But is that your ideal for the holiday season? Is it really spending Thanksgiving evening looking for Black Friday deals? Why not REI's lead this year and forgo the Black Friday frenzy.

[bctt tweet="Follow REI's lead; forgo the Black Friday frenzy via @ebmartin70"]

Whether you light 9 candles or a Christmas tree, and whether you celebrate both holidays or just one of them, you may want to rethink your gift giving strategy.

Am I suggesting that you forgo gifts entirely? No, because that prospect would disappoint your children. But I do have a solution to help you end the madness.

Give the Gift of an Experience

What if you could give a gift that your children would remember for the rest of their lives? This type of gift isn’t a tricycle or a game; I’m talking about the gift of an experience.

Book-of-the-Month Clubs for the Kids in Your Life

The parents of a friend of mine still recalls that as a child her parents subscribed to a book-of-the-month club.

Every four weeks on a Saturday, a biography would arrive of some legend in American history and she would crawl up in her mother’s rocker and spend the day reading.

She still recalls those Saturdays and the books that fueled a lifelong interest in reading biographies of leaders throughout history.

You can do the same thing for your children and boost your child's literacy and spelling prowess. In fact, here are some sources for book-of-the-month clubs for your children:

  1. Highlights – This well-recognized publisher offers stories and puzzles for children. Perhaps you’ve seen them in doctor’s offices. Well, now they can arrive at your doorstep.
  2. GiftLit – This is another wonderful source. And GiftLit offers books geared for children from the age of 2 to 14.
  3. Spellbound – On this website you’ll find books for babies and toddlers all the way to the young adult fiction lover in your house.
  4. Lollipop Book Club – This is another popular book club with books for the baby in your life or kids up to age 12. You can even find books by themes here.

[bctt tweet="This holiday, give your kids a book-of-the-month subscription #literacy "]

Gifts that Produce Wonder in Your Kids

There are gifts that provide more of an immediate experience as well. Yes, I’m talking about trips. These trips don’t need to cost a fortune. Here are some ideas.

  1. Instead of taking your kids to Disneyland and dealing with the long lines for the most popular rides, take them to a nearby zoo or aquarium. In Northern California, we have the San Francisco Zoo. In Central California, there’s the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and a lovely path along the bay that’s perfect for a family bike ride or walk.
  2. If you live near Santa Rosa or don’t mind spending the night in a nearby hotel, Safari West is a perfect Christmas or Hannukh gift. At Safari West, you’ll ride around in a safari jeep and have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of exotic animals. They even have a giraffe that likes to lick toes. If you are feeling flush or would like to really splurge, you could even spend an evening right on the grounds.
  3. What if you don’t live in Northern California? The San Diego Zoo is perhaps the best in the country. Traveling to the Zoo would definitely create a memory no child would ever forget.
  4. In the Midwest, Indianapolis has a Children’s Museum.
  5. Iowa is home to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
  6. If you have car enthusiasts in your family, Michigan is home to the Henry Ford Museum.
  7. Michigan has the Lake Superior Museum.
  8. Ohio has the Franklin Park Conservatory and the Jack Nicklaus Museum for your golf lovers in the family.
  9. Live in New York? Visit the American Museum of Natural History.
  10. If you live near Maryland, you can visit the National Children's Museum.
  11. In the south, you can take your kids to the EdVenture Children's Museum.

[bctt tweet="Instead of buying gifts, take your kids to museums, zoos and parks via @ebmartin70"]

Can’t Afford an Overnight Trip? Try These Ideas?

  1. Spend your holiday on a picnic and hike.
  2. If you live near the beach, spend the day running into the waves, checking out tide pools, and spooning up clam chowder.
  3. Are you kids too young to hike? Visit local amenities. Every town has some claim to fame.
  4. Spend a day walking neighborhoods that teach your kids about local landmarks or the history of your town.
  5. Invite your child to spend a day at work with you.

It might be an adjustment for your children not to receive large, gift-wrapped packages, but they will appreciate time spent with children and experiences that create memories they’ll never forget.

Forgo the Black Friday Frenzy and Give the Gift of an Experience and Literacy by 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.

Back to School Tips and Treats for Your Kids and Students

School has begun but do you still have some back-to-school errands on your list?

What you’ll find here is a directory of websites offering deals and tips for your family as you scoot your kids back to school in the coming days and weeks.

  • Amazon dedicates an entire page to school supplies you can buy for less than $5. How great is that? They have everything from hi-liters to erasers to clipboards.
  • The Back to School Twitter account, with 377,000 followers, provides do-it-yourself tips for students returning to school. You’ll find tips there every day.
  • Do you have a list of your back-to-school needs? Here’s a nifty spreadsheet from Super Moms you can download and fill out to make sure you get your kids everything they need.
  • Super Moms wrote another great post for parents. This one is 7 Tips & Tricks to Simplify Your Back-to-School Routine. I especially like No. 2: keep healthy snack bins in the fridge for easy access.
  • The National Education Association lists several back-to-school habits that are bad for your kids. Find the list in this Huffington Post article. One major concern is the weight of the backpacks kids carry these days. The Huffington Post wrote,

    A 2010 study using standing MRI with a small number of subjects revealed changes in the lumbar spine curve and disc height with increasing backpack weights. A larger survey of 3,500 students revealed that 64 percent admitted to having back pain at some time with backpacks, and 17 percent reported seeing a doctor for low back pain. Yet this is a problem for which, reportedly, very little has been done to effect change in actually removing the weight, rather than merely redistributing it.

    Make sure your child’s pack, according to Kids Health, is within 10% to 15% of your child’s weight. Before you purchase a rolling pack, check with your child’s school because they can cause tripping in crowded hallways.

  • Here is a fun story about how students can receive a free haircut courtesy of a barber, Courtney Holmes, of Iowa. Do you think you can get this tradition started in your community?
  • If you have children about to enter high school, you’ll want to see Newsweek’s ranking of America’s top high schools.
  • Has your elementary school-aged child been anxious about starting school? Here’s an article on this topic.
  • Edutopia suggests that if you want to get to know your child’s teacher, you might want to ask some or all of these 19 questions.
  • The U.S. government wants your kids to be and feel safe during an emergency. That’s they created a fun-looking, two-page form you can download, fill out, a tape to the refrigerator door and include in your kids’ lunchbox or backpack. It includes space for numbers for parents, neighbors and family members, and spaces for you to designate exits. 
  • The Tchers’ Voice Blog offers these tips for building relationships with students. I like tip No. 6: Designate a star student of the day. 
  • Edutopia offers tips on how to strengthen partnerships between students and parents. I like tip No. 2: get to know the values of the family. That’s so important.
  • Here’s a fun post from BuzzFeed: 16 Lies All Teachers Tell Themselves At The Start Of A New School Year. Enjoy reading it.
  • Finally, who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly? Here’s a recipe your children will be sure to love from Everyday Savvy: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars.


Back to School Tips and Treats for Your Kids and Students by Elizabeth B. Smith, Author & Illustrator

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