Not Just a Chair

imageThis is not just a chair, it was one of the most welcome sights in the Maryland Science Center. Tucked in a corner of the baby/toddler area it was comfortable, had a footstool and a “Boppy” pillow nearby.

I have nursed my babies in cafeterias, on benches, on the floor in an unobtrusive corner, in family bathrooms and in my car. It is do-able, but I wouldn’t call it fun. Being able to sit comfortably, in an area where I knew no one was going to glare at me for nursing in public just made the whole day easier.

Not every museum is able to have a dedicated baby-care area, but it is worth taking a look. Do you have space for a chair or bench? A clean place (meaning not the bathroom!) where you can offer privacy when requested? Moms have a right to nurse anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we would turn down a comfortable spot if one was available!

Small gestures like this go a long way to building good relationship with families. They will come back, they will spread the word to their friends that you are welcoming. These are repeat visitors (and future donors!) that you are cultivating.

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Snow Day Bingo

Snow day bingo helps kids think of fun activities to do an "earn" TV time

Snow Day Bingo

My 3.5 year old loves to watch TV. I don’t blame him, I like it too. But it can make things tricky when we are stuck inside.  “Can I watch TV? No? WHEN can I watch TV?” Put that on repeat and you end up with frustrated parents AND kids. Since there is a potential “historic snowstorm” coming this weekend, we are going to try something new…..Snow Day Bingo

We brainstormed a list of activities, including some that we don’t do all the time. Everything from building a fort to playing with the kinetic sand and reading books. I made sure there were plenty of active/moving choices (obstacle course, playing outside) and “helper” options (cleaning up the playroom, reading to his baby sister). I also tried to mix things that we could do together and things that would encourage him to play on his own (for our benefit as much as encouraging skills in that area).

On a large piece of paper I drew up a 6×6 grid and filled in all the options. To “earn” some TV time (or a chance to play on the IPad…a real treat) he will have to fill in a whole row of activities. By putting the active and helper choices down the diagonal it makes sure that every row has at least one from those categories.

I’ll be interested to see if I need to add a time requirement to the activities. I could see him picking his smallest puzzle, racing through it and saying “done.” I’m not going to start out with that, but might add it in if necessary.

This could be a total bust, but he has responded well to reward charts in the past and this is a twist on that. Wish us luck! I’ll update you after the snow……



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Nature Walk Made Simple

Getting children outside to experience and learn from nature doesn’t take a lot of tools or preparation…it doesn’t even take a lot of nature. It mostly takes time, questions and a willingness to get a little messy.

What shouldn’t stop you is not having the answers. If you can answer the questions they ask, that is great.  If not, that is more then ok too.  You can tell them you don’t know and observe together, make a guess and then think about where you could go to find the answer. Just getting them outside and looking and thinking about what they see lays a foundation of science knowledge that I would argue is as critical as having the “right” answer.

Below are images from around our very suburban neighborhood that my 3 year old, 5 month old and I explored the other day.  This nature walk can be adjusted/replicated anywhere you can find a patch of grass, or a tree or some clear sky.

If you want to brush up on types of questions you can ask, look for information about questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. I found one good link here but I’m sure there are many others!


Wow! Look at all the colors in the sky! What ones do you see? What do you notice about the trees? Do you see any animals? What kind of animal would you want to be? Where would you want to live?


Woah! What is that? What happened to it? Do you think something ate it? Is it starting to rot? What do you think it would look like if we came back in a month?


Look at all these lines! What do you think they are from? What happened to this branch, why is it off the tree? What do you think is under it? What is that next to it? Do you know what a pinecone’s job is? Why are some leaves green and some brown?


What is that! Did an animal make it? What is it used for? Does it look like someplace you might want to live? If you could design a house for an animal, what would you make?


Look at that, what shape is it? What does it look like it is made of? How is it clinging to the branch? What do you think lives there? Do you think that when we are out in nature we should touch/take things we find or just look? Why?


What do you think this is? How big is it? What color is it? What else can you describe about it? Where is it growing? Are there any other plants that are similar? What is that behind it? How could we find out what it is?

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New Years Resolution

SarahErdmanAsking for help is not my forte. When it comes to my job (both Cabinet of Curiosities and stay-at-home Mom) I feel like I shouldn’t inconvenience anyone or else, what? I don’t deserve to work? I shouldn’t have any of my own interests? Written out in black and white it is pretty ridiculous but that’s how I feel most days.

I was able to squeak by with that attitude when I just had one kiddo at home (especially once he started preschool). Once that baby came along that got unsustainable really fast. I was trying to workshop plan as I nursed, stack shaky Jenga towers of phone calls and appointments when they would (supposedly) be sleeping and staying up later then I intended to.

This morning, after my 7:30am dentist appointment (so no one was late for work/school) I was facing down the prospect of waking the baby so I could get the older one to preschool and wondering how I’d get anything done after canceling the rest of her morning nap.

“Call (our neighbor)” my husband insisted. “Ask if he can ride to school with her.” I instantly had a thousand reasons that would inconvenience her, or upset our son or…I don’t know…something. “They go to the same school, they live in our neighborhood. It isn’t even out of her way. Call her.” And he was right of course, this wonderful neighbor had already offered many times to drive our son to school, why hadn’t I already called her? Maybe I didn’t want to be a bother, maybe I was like a toddler and wanted to “do it MYSELF!”

But I did call her, and I kissed my son as he happily left for school and the baby was able to sleep and I was able to work. I hadn’t made a New Years resolution yet, but I think it just found me. It is to ask for help more and not be afraid of leaning on my “village.” For me, it may be harder then committing to the gym 3x a week, but I’m going for it.
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5 Minute Object Lesson: Secret Pizza Party


Of all the presents under the tree, the one that has brought the most giggles is the book “Secret Pizza Party” by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.

After just a few readings we were all craving pizza but we couldn’t just have a plain old pizza dinner… we needed a secret pizza party dinner!

Make-Your-Own-Pizza night is a staple for many families, adding in just a few elements turns it into a great math lesson.

* We created a simple graph with the names of everyone eating and available
toppings. The 3yr old took all the orders and plotted them on the graph


* Cooking is full of measuring! We also had to make sure we matched up the right toppings based on our graph and divided up the dough.

* Setting the table not only reinforces counting but also has one-to-one correspondence, since each chair gets one napkin and one set of silverware

Besides all the math built right in, you can also have fun literacy elements. We made a sign for our party and, of course, read the book together. You could do place cards or ingredient lists or anything else to make your party special.

Of course, the best part (besides finally satisfying that pizza craving) is how proud the little chef is as they announce that dinner is ready and they “cooked it themselves.”

Enjoy! Watch out for raccoon sniffing broom-bots (you’ll get it when you read the book!)


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Red- Michael Hall


Most education articles and books focus on how to help kids understand difficult concepts in concrete age appropriate ways.

Sometimes though, it is the adults who need that even more.

“Red” by Michael Hall is a clear reminder that every child is different and has different abilities, but endless potential when those abilities are tapped the right way. It is also spells out for us that the role a child is born into may not be who they truly are.

I first heard about the book through a Facebook post by Momastery (I am working to find the link). It inspired me to check out the book with my 3yr old and I was so impressed that he found a copy under the Christmas tree.

I think this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to work with young children. We need these reminders that if children aren’t living up to our expectations… then we should take a good hard look at what we are asking if them

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Just Ask

The holiday season is here, kids are off from school and a lot of us are going to holiday parties or traveling to see friends and family.  Packing up the kids is never easy, they just seem to come with a lot of stuff! Not only that, but there is a lot of planning based on where you are headed. Some you may guess (“Hm, safe bet they aren’t baby-proofed, better plan for that”) and some you might ask (“Do you guys have any pets?”)

When you are asking the host/hostess about pets, food allergies or other needs please add in one more question “Are there any unlocked guns where the children will be playing?”

The question doesn’t come naturally to me, it sticks in my throat every time I am setting up a playdate at a new friends house…but it is important. Many houses have guns, and many of those are unlocked and only “hidden” where the owners think children can’t find them.  The thing is, kids are curious and resourceful and it is better to assume they will find it.  Also, no matter how much you coach kids to leave guns alone, their brains just aren’t developed enough to trust that the lesson will stick in the right moment.

You aren’t asking to pass judgement on gun ownership….you are asking to make sure your kid is safe in their surrounding. If more of us asked, and it became as natural as asking if anyone has an allergy, think how much we could reduce unintentional shooting deaths of children.

For more information visit the “Keep Kids and Families Safe” page of the Brady Campaign.

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