Things to Read - 3 Great Articles on How Kids Learn

cherry blossoms (1 of 81)-Edit

*According to this Slate article, new research evidences that when teachers show children how a toy works the children are less likely to discover different things about the toy then when they explore the toy on their own. Apparently kids will often just mimmic the teacher's directions even when more novel uses exist. According to the article, "[d]irect instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions." Makes sense to me.

*According to this Newsweek article for the first time ever U.S. "creativity" is declining, with the fastest decline occurring in children aged kindergarten through 6th grade. This is not a good thing, especially since other countries (including China) are making creativity a focus of their educational systems.

*This Huffington Post article summarizes new research which "found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up." Why is this? According to the author, "Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their 'goodness.' When we do well in school, we are told that we are 'so smart,' 'so clever,' or 'such a good student.' This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't. Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., 'If you would just pay attention you could learn this,' 'If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.') The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't 'good' and 'smart,' and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder."

*For two more great articles on how best to educate kids (and the importance of "play"), click here and scroll down to the bottom of the post.

*And since my Nurture Shock post received quite a few hits, I thought I'd forward along this Snoburbia post on how race is addressed in the "snoburbs", which I found very interesting (and true).


Places to Go - The Cherry Blossom Festival (Washington D.C)



On Sunday afternoon, we drove the whole family to the Tidal Basin for the Cherry Blossom Festival. The early morning snow must have discouraged visitors because crowds were (oddly) lacking, despite the late-day sunshine and warm(ish) temps (low-50s). We even found parking in the B lot of the Jefferson Memorial and extra spots were available (usually during Cherry Blossom season I end up finding a spot towards the end of Hains Point and taking the free shuttle to the blossoms). Unfortunately, a super-fussy T made the short walk to the Jefferson Memorial trying at best (why when a baby screams in public do strangers feel the need to stare at you with evil eyes of disapproval? As if the unhappiness of your child wasn't enough punishment in itself). Luckily, across the street from the Jefferson Memorial parking lots the trees were in full bloom. So we sat and the kids ran. And we spent a beautiful afternoon this way. If you can make it, I highly suggest paying the blossoms a visit. And don't worry, we didn't pick any, P rebuked T for trying to touch them with a stick by yelling (loudly) "STOP! You're hurting them. Don't hurt them!" Apparently the National Park Service's anti-blossom-picking campaign was a success with the girls (the cute beaver mascot especially won their hearts).

For more info on the festival, Kid-Friendly DC has the scoop, click here. And if you don't feel like dealing with the tidal basin crowds, you can also see cherry blossoms in bloom at the National Arboretum (Washington D.C.) and Meadowlark Gardens (Vienna, VA), both of which are incredible places to visit.



Things to Make - Hand-Print Puppets


As I mentioned on Monday, a few weeks ago F tried finger and hand-painting with paint (sometimes they hide from mess and sometimes they embrace mess). After she made a few handprints, she remembered that in November her teacher taught her how to trace her hand to make a turkey. So we traced her hand, but she decided she'd rather make a hand flower (??) pictured above. While F colored the flower, she asked me "what else can we make when we trace our hands, mom?" I'm not very spontaneous, so questions like this can be tough for me. But luckily I remembered making siloutte puppets as a child and we started making different shapes with our hands then tracing them. Using this method we created - octopuses (octupi?) with the wrong number of legs, crocodiles, dinosaurs, whales, and more. Both girls started making up stories for all the animals, so we decided to add some popsicle sticks and turn our hand-print creatures into puppets. A totally spontaneous afternoon, with F's prompting of course, and so much fun.

Here's the scoop:

1. Trace the outline of your hand or your child's hand. Try making different shapes out of your hand then tracing. For example, separate your middle and pointer finger to make a "fish mouth."

2. Cut out the traced hands. Try to think of an animal that looks like the figure you cut out. The kids had a great time with this part.

3. Color

4. Add popsicle sticks with tape to the back of your new puppets.

5. Assemble a puppet show. Plot is optional.


*I love these tie-dyed coffee filter easter eggs at Chocolate Muffin Tree.

*Homemade puffy paint looks fun.

*I love this rainbow crayon resist painting project.

*As I'm obsessed with cardboard tubes lately, I think this toilet paper snake looks awesome (and fun).

*This paint chip easter garland is so pretty.



Things to Make - Potato Stamp Prints


A friend bought the girls Todd Oldham's book, Kid Made Modern, and F can't stop looking through the projects. So, a few weeks ago, we tried potato stamp printing. F really wanted to make a pattern, just like in the book. But after each of her attempts smeared, she became somewhat frustrated with the stamps and started finger and hand-painting instead, which lead to a whole new project (more on that tomorrow). On the upside, I really liked the whole stamping process and could see making my own crafts this way (Christine Schmidt's Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects has inspired me). I also think that as the kids age we'll come back to this technique again and again, especially for making patterns. Here's the scoop:

1. Carve a "stamp" out of an ordinary potato. I used an ordinary kitchen knife and found it tricky at best. (Perhaps an exacto knife would work better?) Thus, I stuck with basic shapes - a square and triangle.

2. We squeezed some Crayola Washable Kid's Paint Sets set of 10 into a shallow dish and then blotted it down with a paper towel to try and make it more even. Felt would have worked much better, but I didn't have any. Or we could have used Foam Brayer 4in to even it out (again, I didn't have one as this project was somewhat spontaneous).

3. Stamp away.




Things to Read & Do - How to Be an Explorer of the World


We only live a few blocks from the girls' preschool so in fall and summer we often walk to school. The kids and I used to look forward to checking out the gargoyle statues along the way, hiding in bushes, and/ or finding new flowers. But this year we've all lost some of our enthusiasm, as summarized by F, "it's just SO BORING. I've seen everything about a hundred times, wait, what's more than a hundred? Is a billion more? Then I've seen everything a billion times." And I have to agree, after three years, the walk bores all of us. Luckily, a few weeks ago, I bought Keri Smith's book:

How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum

I originally purchased it for myself to help with creativity and inspire new ways of thinking and I've enjoyed using it for these purposes. But it also has become a GREAT book for activities to do with children. The book contains 59 numbered explorations most of which are incredibly simple and all of which inspire you to look at the world through a slightly new perspective. For example, "study and document shapes made by water" (exploration #25) or "write down (or document) fifty things about . . . a trip to the grocery store" (exploration #12). If some of these activities seem silly, well, that's the point.

So back to our walk to school, I figured I'd start simple with exploration #8, "map out pavement cracks in your neighborhood." As we walked to school, we tried to "discover" all the cracks and P had a great time - she found cracks in brick walls, in the road (there are LOTS of cracks in our road), throughout the sidewalk, in corners of driveways. I know it sounds bizarre, but P LOVED this experiment. And it really is quite amazing how many cracks there are if you just take the time to notice them. We found one with a pink paperclip stuck in it and the girls were ecstatic. And a crack in the wall had a "gemstone" in it (pictured above) - how fun is that?

Based on the success of exploration #8, I tried a new "exploration" with the girls, this time we "collect[ed] multiples of one thing [in our case leaves]." (Exploration #11), we then laid them out on white paper and observed the differences and details. As an adult, I felt a little silly looking at 12 leaves and trying to talk about them, but the kids really enjoyed it. F focused on which leaves looked like doll canoes and which looked like lilly pads. T liked just feeling them and throwing them around. P noticed small things - like "wow, that one is sort of pointy."

So, in summary, I'm seriously loving this book lately. I highly recommend checking it out.



Places to Go - Riverbend Park (Great Falls, VA)


My husband likes to fish. A lot. Unfortunately, he also works a lot. So, a few weeks ago, we decided to combine family time and fishing time with an excursion to Riverbend Park. For the fisherperson, Riverbend park has a lovely pier next to the visitor's center and for the kids it also has picnic tables and sandy trails bordering the Potomac (unfortunately, the ground is sandy, so strollers don't move very well), plus a large field full of room to run and geese to chase. The girls love to walk the trails until they find a small hamlet where they can "play beach." Playing beach involves "pretending we're at a real beach but we don't want to go in the water. So let's look for sea shells instead." This can last four at least an hour. The park is rarely crowded and there's no entry fee, making it a nice alternative to either side of Great Falls, especially on warm weekends when the falls (both sides) tend to be rather crowded.

If the rain is causing you to search for something inside to do this week - Public Workshop is hosting a special event at the Building Museum all week that looks awesome, click here for the info (scoop courtesy of at KidFriendlyDC).

Finally, after two years, F decided (on her own accord) to wear jeans, making me a very happy mom (not that I don't enjoy buying a zillion pairs of tights each winter, but pants can be nice too).


Things to Make - Cardboard Tube Instruments (From the Recycling Bin)

(The photos above exemplify why we chose to buy our kitchen table at Ikea.)

Last week a friend came over with her daughters and I thought the kids would have fun making cardboard tube instruments (yes, I'm in love with the recycling bin lately). My hope was that they would all choose different instruments and we could have a band, but that didn't quite work out as all the kids wanted shakers (why no bass bogs or kazoos?). Unfortunately for the kids the shaker had the least chance of long-term success (i.e. it fell apart). Oh well, the shakers' early demise was probably a good thing as parents only want to hear instruments for a set amount of time. Plus, they lasted long enough for us all to parade around the block and, as a parent, that's about how long I wanted them to last.

Here's the scoop:

For the shakers you'll need: cardboard tubes (large or small), paints or markers, beans or popcorn, tinfoil, and rubber bands.

1. First decorate the tube (paint it, color it, glue things to it, etc.) - this is really the highlight of the project.

2. Let tubes dry.

3. Cover one end of the tube with aluminum foil (we rubber banded it on).

4. Pour popcorn seeds into tube (or beans or anything else noisy).

5. Cover other end of tube with aluminum foil.

6. SHAKE!!!

In retrospect, we probably could have used more sturdy tubes (maybe a pringles can? but then I'd have to buy pringles. any other ideas?) or enclosed the popcorn with something more sturdy than aluminum foil and rubber bands, I've seen other people use thick masking tape and construction paper, which seems to work well.

(For other instruments: Bass Bog - make cuts in each end of the tube and insert a rubber band, pluck; Kazoo - cover one end with wax paper either using glue or a rubber band, blow). All ideas came from this book - Look What You Can Make With Dozens of Household Items!: Over 500 Pictured Crafts and Dozens of More Ideas!).


*We built doll slides and castles. Click here to see.

*These pillow boxes are so pretty.

*Use them for seed planting - what a great spring project.

*Adorable mini-princess crowns from Lilla a.

*I love these marionette puppets and these mini-lanterns.

*Heart-shaped stamps seem easy enough.

*Or why not just paint and cut them and make a sculpture or collage?

*And for the truly motivated - add some boxes and craft a Tangled tower, this is seriously beautiful.

What about everyone else? Any great ideas for crafting with cardboard tubes?


The random cat in the window made F's day. She said, "I really hoped that after people heard our traveling band they'd come outside and listen. I'm so glad that cat likes our music."


Things to Do - Bubbles in the Backyard (Happy Spring)!!



If you ask me, nothing says spring like kids and bubbles. I bought the kids a large bubble wand (similar to this one - Tangent Mega Bubbles) and now after T wakes up he stands by the door saying "bubba! bubba! bubba!" Have a great Monday! I hope you had a chance to see the supermoon on Saturday, seriously breathtaking, check out some photos here.


*School kids in South America take a zip line to school, which is not as cool as it sounds. Check it out here.

*A tree-house bed - I know it's for kids, but I want to sleep here.

*If you're trying to make your kids' lunch more fun, check out this blog. The creations are seriously beautiful (and edible) (link courtesy of Modern Parents, Messy Kids).

*I love Sleep Time Gal's bare books idea, how wonderful (and cheap).

*This recipe looks so yummy and the website is the coolest cooking blog I've ever seen (link via Creature Comforts). This one looks good too (or maybe it's just the pretty illustrations).

*This post on print-making using contact paper has me inspired. Now if only I had a babysitter . . .

*I heart this painting, big time.

*The Cherry Blossom Festival is coming!! KidFriendly DC has the scoop here.



Things to Do - Make a Grateful List (February Edition)


As odd as it feels to make a grateful list for the month my father died I suppose this is probably the month that I needed the list the most. So here goes (for past lists click here):

Reading & Arts
1. The New Yorker article on Scientology (fascinating, simply fascinating)
2. New kids' books - City Dog, Country Frog, The Quiet Book, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, and Mary Had a Little Lamp
3. Nurture Shock
4. Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More) and the Decemberists' new album (The King Is Dead)
5. The New Yorker article on peanut allergies (which convinced me the American Academy of Pediatrics has no idea what it's doing. none)
6. The new, modern wing of the Art Institute

7. Hummus and belgium endive (I ditched the pita in my effort to be skinny)
8. Kale/apple/hazelnut/romano salad with rice wine vinegar

9. T carrying his stool everywhere (so he can get into all the stuff we try and hide from him)
10. F in the giant bubble at the Denver Children's museum
11. T digging for dinosaur bones at Denver's Natural History museum
12. P & F becoming best friends with my friends' children
13. The girls taking tae kwan do (cutest thing ever)
14. My first library card in years (for the new, frugal me)
15. 8 pm classes at Journey Yoga (I love this studio, but because of my husband's work schedule I can't make it to classes earlier than 8)
16. T and his play kitchen
17. Warm days in February
18. P asking "Why do they call it a triceratops?" And F replying "well, P, because you have to TRY to see its horns. OBVIOUSLY you're not trying hard enough, otherwise you'd see his horns and not ask that question."
19. The dead cockroach yoga pose
20. After my dad died my mom's best friend had us over most nights for wine and train dominoes. I can't explain how much this meant to us.
21. Finally meeting my cousins (long story)
22. The fact that my dad didn't suffer for a long period of time
23. Coming home from Chicago to a fully stocked wine rack (courtesy of my wonderful husband)
24. Grandma's old photo albums
25. Our rocking chair

(All pictures were taken in Denver, it snowed during our dinner party feast).


Things to Read - Nurture Shock & Talking to Kids About Race


I have a love/hate relationship with parenting books. Some of them just seem so gimmicky that I end up turned off by the whole genre, but then I have freak out moments when I realize I have no idea what I'm doing (I majored in Chemistry and went to law school, I have no siblings, I barely ever babysat, children are an enigma to me) and realize that expert advice may be needed. So goes the pendulum of my life. But a friend recommended NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and I figured I'd check it out. I really liked the book for many reasons, foremost among them the fact that the author isn't merely telling you his or her own views and experiences, instead it summarizes expert data and studies (on many different subjects) often with surprising results. I found it a fascinating read about how the brain works and how people learn, so even if you don't have kids, it's worth checking out.

One of the book's many points is that white people don't talk to their children about race [not a surprise here] and how troubling this is. According to the book, children are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism, hence if a child identifies someone as looking like him/her, the child is more likely to "like" that person. So if you don't talk about race, you may be unintentionally encouraging the biased choices that your child is making. I, probably like a lot of middle class white people, have completely avoided discussing race. I just didn't see a need to rock the boat. F goes to a preschool with minority kids - one of her best friends at preschool is black, her "love" is Hawaiian [if you find it problematic that a 5 year old refers to a boy as "my love", I'm right there with you], one of her favorite movies is Princess and the Frog. Everything seems to be going fine. But on Saturday, while P was at a playdate and F was home sick, I decided to broach the topic.

"So, F, have you ever noticed that some people are different colors than other people?"

"Of course, some of my friends are sort of brownish and my love [ugh, that term again] has this lovely goldish skin. [Apparently, the problem with not talking about race is that kids use the ENTIRELY WRONG vocabulary to describe people] And, you want to hear something sort of crazy, sometimes kids have totally different skin than their moms or dads? I saw a lady in the store who was my color and her daughter was sort of brown - isn't that crazy mom?"

Then, probably because I seemed curious about the salient features of her friends, F proceeded to show me a list, which I've seen before, on which she had printed the names of all her favorite friends when she was first learning to print her letters. What I hadn't notice before is that the colored markers she used to write her friends' names . . . yup, you guessed it . . . matched their skin color. So J (who is black) had her name written in brown, whereas E (who has red hair) had her name written in red, and F's "love" was written in orange - apparently as close she could get to his "lovely goldish" (F's words). It's sort of funny because I've been really impressed by how well F can recognize all her friends' names in writing when she struggles to read other long words, but now it makes sense - she color-coded them to help her remember. Apparently F is not only aware of race, she is hyper-aware of race, but what does this mean?

"So, F, do you think skin color matters? Would you ever pick a friend based on the color of their skin?

"Of course not, god made everyone different. This is how god planned it. Skin color is just another way that everyone can do their own thing." (yes, she literally said these words, all of a sudden all my doubts about religious preschool disappeared).

So now for the big question - "But is one skin color better than the others?" Totally holding my breath, now it would be decided, was my 5 year old a racist? No, please tell me no.

"Of course, mom" - I have failed. I have failed. I have failed - "brownish people are just prettier. They look nicer when they're old and they never get moles all over them like you have." Wait, what is going on here? my daughter wants to be black? Apparently. "So F, you like your skin color too right?" "Well, it's okay, but I wish it was um browner or more sort of goldish." All of a sudden, her whole childhood went by in a flash - we voted for Barack Obama (yeah, in case you haven't guessed, we're liberal like that), our favorite princess is Tiana (she is the only one who ever has a job after all), her best friend's parents are an inter-racial couple and they have the most perfect house in the neighborhood (F literally said upon arriving, "it's just beautiful, mom. everything in it is just beautiful.") And, then there are my moles (poor moles, loved by no one, including dermatologists and children). So where to go from here? I have no idea. She's 5, things will change, one day she'll like how she looks, then she'll hate it, then she'll like it again. Isn't this life? I guess the important thing is I opened the dialogue, and for that I can breathe a sigh of relief.

Of course, then I tried to have the same conversation with 4 year old P when she returned from her playdate. "So, P, have you ever noticed that some people are different colors than other people?" Complete blank. "No" (a somewhat surprising answer for a kid who won't go anywhere without a Tiana babydoll in her arms). So I labored on, "well, do some of your friends look different than other friends?" "All my friends are beautiful mom." Enough said.

What about everyone else? Have you talked to your kids about race? How did it go?

In case you're wondering, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children makes lot of interesting other points as well, including: praise isn't always good, IQ tests aren't accurate until at least third grade, parents shouldn't discourage tattling, and the importance of teaching self-control. I highly suggest it.


Places to Go - Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Washington DC)

(Second picture from bottom: F's sculpture is in the front, P's is in the back)

This upcoming Sunday marks the end of the National Gallery's FREE Stories in Art Program (for kids aged 4-7) and if you haven't attended yet, I highly suggest going. I took the girls two weeks ago (on a very rainy Sunday) for the program on the sculptor, David Smith, (the same program is scheduled for this Sunday) and they both loved it. The hour-long program consists of three parts - (1) a visit to the artist's work, where a museum guide leads a discussion on the artist, including process and materials (the guide asks the children lots of questions, so everyone stays engaged); (2)the guide then reads a children's book which highlights some of the themes from the art discussion (last week, the kids listened to Half of an Elephant by Gusti); and finally (3) kids undertake a craft project based on the artwork discussed (for Smith, the kids made sculptures out of wood and metal). As part of the program all the kids receive a "Secret Agent" guidebook, which includes several great discussion questions for talking to your children (or even curious, fun adults) about other works of modern art in the building. F (5 years old) seemed enchanted by the whole thing, she constantly had her hand up and loved the whole discussion. P's attention waivered more, but she still enjoyed the class (when we arrived home, she couldn't wait to tell her dad how she "made art in a museum."). A good day, raincoats and all.

The museum hosts the program on Sundays at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30. You cannot preregister, rather first-come, first-serve registration occurs in the east wing lobby. Show up any time after 11 and they'll sign you up for the next available slot. We arrived around 11:15 and though the 11:30 was full, plenty of slots remained for the three other times (the 12:30 eventually filled up, but the 1:30 and 2:30 did not). If you miss out on Sunday, the program will start again in the summer. In the summer, the program focuses on artworks in the west side of the museum.

For more info on my previous experience taking children to the National Gallery, click here . For museum-inspired art projects and books, click here. And for another post on kid-friendly national mall adventures, click here.

And one last thing, I made the Circle of Moms top 10 Creative Mom's List - THANK SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO VOTED! YOU MADE MY WEEK!!



Things to Make - Tissue Paper Flowers


So lately we've grown a little obsessed with tissue paper flowers. Maybe I've been living in kidville for too long (maybe???) but I find these flowers incredibly beautiful. I'd even consider giving them to my own friends as presents (sorry everyone, no more gift cards from me). What better way to make someone's day then to hand them a bouquet of hand-made flowers? Okay, so maybe I have been in kidville too long, but if you doubt me then check out this Martha Stewart version. Pretty classy, huh? (link courtesy of Bluebird Baby). I feel if I master the skill while my children are young, I have a real future ahead of me.

Here's the scoop, courtesy of the FrugalFamily Fun Blog (which I highly suggest checking out, tons of great ideas over there); you'll need: tissue paper (different colors), green pipe cleaners, and scissors.

1. Cut 3 or more sheets of tissue paper to a 5x10 size (I suggest starting here, then you can try out different sizes).

2. Stack the papers on top of each other, then fold them accordion style (about 1 inch) until you have one long, thick skinny rectangle. F did all the folding, which she was pretty good at.

3. Twist a pipe cleaner in the middle of the rectangle.

4. Cut the ends of the rectangle - either into diamonds or half circles depending on the look you want (we made diamonds)

5. Separate the layers of paper by hand and watch "the magic happen" - voila! A flower!

We started by giving away bouquets, then F thought it would be fun to plant some of the tissue paper flowers in the ground. Which was fun, until I realized that I don't really like to dig holes. So instead we hung some on our tree (to encourage spring along).

More Art Ideas from Around the Web:

*Click here to learn how to make your own non-toxic watercolors (using kitchen staples). For my posts on things to do with liquid watercolors, click here.

*These paper doll frames are simply gorgeous. I wish they were for sale.

*We've never tried finger knitting, but it sure looks like fun. Click here for the info.

*For St. Patrick's Day - these shamrock prints made from apples are so cute, as are these shamrock stamps made from paper towel rolls.

•Beautiful hand-print whales at MommyCoddle.

*This recycled cup sun catcher looks like something kids would have a great time making.

*I love these make-it-yourself window clings using puffy paint, we might have to try this soon.



Things to Do - Story Cards


Lately, our family has become rather infatuated with "Tell Me a Story" cards (we started with this set - Tell Me A Story - Mystery in the Forest and later tried this set - Tell Me A Story - Circus Animal's Adventure, we like both but we prefer the forest cards). The boxes (which costs about $10) include 36 cards, each of which contains a beautiful drawing and no words. When the girls play they usually pick five or so cards and create a story (F's stories often have a plot, whereas P's stories tend to meander somewhat). When the time comes for my turn I ask the girls to randomly pick cards for me and I make up the story while they surprise me with new cards. I love this game, as it forces me to be both creative and spontaneous (spontaneity is not one of my strong suits). Though he can't tell stories yet, T just loves to sort and look at the cards. So we can all "play" together. I love hearing all the different tales the girls create, especially when they're trying to work out how they feel about something (lots of death stories since my dad died). If you don't want to buy a set, you could probably make your own using magazines or old books and pictures (or, for the artistic mom, draw/paint a set yourself).


*A real-life "Up" house. This made me smile.

*I love Babble's list of ways to entertain toddlers while lying down.

*I have no idea where this is, but I want to go here. And here too.

*These dolls are just beautiful (and cuddly).

*This on-line toy store, has the best toys ever.

*I'm in love with these pictures (link via Folkloric, which I'm also in love with, especially the pictures in this post)

*A pop-up paper dollhouse (with furniture)? A paper ferris wheel? A midnight circus? How beautiful (along with everything else in this store). Link via Anthology.

*I love the idea of throwing your own Mad Men party, but I'm too lazy. I wish I could just have snagged an invite to this one.

*Haunting satellite images documenting the destruction caused by the tsunami in Japan. And more pictures here. Also, a great article on Japan's phenomenal response systems, especially for trains.

*Wow, this looks fun. Got to love the National Building Museum, you never know what you'll find there.



Things to Do - Visit Friends (Even When They Live Far Away)


See the girl above? The one in the pink princess dress? Last time we saw her she was about 1.5 years old and while the girls enjoyed her company she couldn't exactly play with them yet. But now, at the age of 3.5, she's P's new best friend. So this visit I relaxed with my friends while the girls played with their new friends. And life was good. Thank you, CARS, LSSS, and JAA for a wonderful visit! We can't wait to see you all again! And what about T? Well, he met a new best friend too, pictured below.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE! If you're looking for something to do this weekend, on Sunday night Friends of the Arlington Planetarium has organized a Kids' Night (activities and shows for ages 3 and up) - it looks fun. Click here for info.


*I found this Dad Life video pretty funny, check it out.

*These dinosaur planters are adorable. I wish I could keep plants alive.

*Poppytalk's Art & Home Lookbook is full of fun stuff that I want to buy.

*This may be my favorite etsy clothing find ever. The perfect spring dress. Perfect.

*Wonderful, haunting photos of a small town.

*This "English meal" looks incredible (and relatively simple to make). I can't wait to try it!

*The new Lonny is out, if you need some decorating porn.



Things to Read - Kids' Books (Recommendations from Friends)

(This picture has nothing to do with books. I just like it. And I took it in Denver.)

Since I've spent the past week talking about our trip to Denver, I thought I'd ask my friends who live there for recommendations on their favorite children's books. Here's what they said (click on the icon to enter Amazon):

For ages 3-7:
Mary Had a Little Lamp
This may have replaced Harold and the Purple Crayon 50th Anniversary Edition (Purple Crayon Books) as my favorite children's book as all time. This book has it all - well-written, short, funny, plus the story's protagonist, Mary, is an independent girl who doesn't care what people think. I purchased our own copy as soon as we returned home.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy
Mo Willems has become the new Dr. Seuss as far as children's literature goes (for other reviews of his books click here and here). The pigeon books are all quite good, the set is definitely worth it - Pigeon Pack (4 Book Set) (The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!; Don't Let Pigeon the Stay Up Late!; The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!; Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!).

Skippyjon Jones
Two of my friends recommended this one, kids love the fun phrases, like "rootin tootin kitten cabootin."
The Red Lemon (Deluxe Golden Book)

Little Blue Truck

Where the Wild Things Are
We love this one too, F always asks me to read it over and over.

Bark, George

Ladybug Girl
C recommends the whole series. We've never read these, but I've heard from several parents that they're all quite good.

For Ages 6 and Up (Read on Your Own Books):

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of Books
My friend's six-year old boy loves these books so much that he's walked into walls while reading them. Seriously.

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself

Junie B. Jones's First Boxed Set Ever! (Books 1-4)

What about everyone else? Any good book recommendations?


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