Monday, 25 July 2011

friends invisible

Yesterday my 3 1/2 year old daughter met a new friend Bob. She and Bob played with her little ponies, dolls and even played dress up. Bob got sick, so she made him soup. They played for hours. Throughout the day my daughter would come up to me and tell me what she and Bob were doing. I never actually saw Bob- he is her new imaginary friend.

Rachel Simpson wrote a wonderful article, Imaginary Friends, Revealed, in which she discusses imaginary friends. She cites both Dr. Benjamin Spock and Professor Marjorie Taylor.

About 65% of children have or had imaginary friends. For many years, people believed Dr. Spock's idea that imaginary friends "raises the question of whether his real life is satisfying enough" Spock went as far as to say, " If a child is living largely in his imagination and not adjusting well with other children, especially by the age of 4, a psychiatrist should be able to find what he is lacking."

Thankfully, this isn't the belief today. Psychology professor Marjorie Taylor, of the University of Oregon debunks many negative beliefs of imaginary friends in her book, "Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them." She states that, "Very often adults think there is some deficit in a child's life that sparks the creation of imaginary friends, but that isn't necessarily true."

Playing with imaginary friends is just that, playtime. "For many children," Taylor reports, "creating imaginary others is just a fun thing to do."

Children with imaginary friends do not lack social skills. Taylor says these children "tend to be more sociable and to have more friends than other children."
I agree with Taylor. It is a healthy form of imaginative play. And is a positive stage in child development. I will continue to enjoy hearing about Bob's adventures with my daughter. It is an important part of her childhood, and it will strengthen her imagination.

For more on imagination, here is a Little Sapling Toys post about make believe: The Power of Make Believe
A few more articles on imaginary friends I enjoyed reading:

Monday, 18 July 2011

reading aloud

When you read aloud to a child, 3 major things happen:
1. You bond with that child and will create happy memories associated with reading.
This happens especially with young children. My 3 year old loves to snuggle up next to me with a book. When she is older and reflects on her childhood, one memory I want her to treasure is our moments reading together.
2. You are filling that child's brain with words, syntax, meaning and phrases they wouldn't get anywhere else.
Everyday language doesn't use the same words, syntax, or phrases you find in books. Reading aloud introduces a new unique vocabulary to children. Children will soak up that vocabulary and draw upon it later in life as they expand their education.
3. You are setting an example.
Children, no matter their age, look to adults for examples. They will justify actions based on an adults' actions. Reading is no different. When children see us read, we are giving them permission to also read. When we read for pleasure we are telling our children that reading is not just associated with drudging homework.
So go grab a book and read with your child! Explore the world of Hogwarts, woodworking, Greek myths, Alice's wonderland and the happily ever afters of fairy tales.

**Information obtained from "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease.

Monday, 11 July 2011


My 3 year old little girl loves to be around me. While it is wonderful to be loved so much, sometimes it can be a challenge when there are things that I need to accomplish by myself. If we are going anywhere, mom has to be the one who puts her in the car seat. Mom is the one who walks her down the stairs. If I go to get the mail, or take the garbage out, she wants to go with me. If I have to leave at night, I try to wait until after she is in bed. My husband says that once she realizes I am gone, she cries and cries. 
The only exception to this attachment is if she is playing with her friend. She has a friend who she often plays with, and could care less if I was around. It was perplexing to us that she would cry and throw a fit when I would leave her with my husband.
In looking for solutions, we were given some advice which has greatly helped. If you are in a similar situation, hopefully it will help you as well!
Special activities for Dad and Child around the house: We started small by him taking her outside to ride her bicycle in our driveway. In the beginning, I would look out from the window so she knew I was nearby.
Activities within short distances to home: After she became more comfortable with the bicycle riding, he took her for a walk around our block. He pointed out the different flowers and plants, which she loved.
Trips to places the child enjoys: After about a month of doing the previous 2 activities, they took a trip to McDonald's to get a happy meal. The trip lasted about 30 minutes, and she didn't cry for me once.
Start taking quick trips, leaving the child at home: I then started running 10-15 minute errands by myself. While I was gone they would read stories or he'd give her piggy-back rides.
All these little thing are building a stronger relationship between my daughter and husband. I am happy to say that it is getting easier to be separated from her. My husband enjoys the special times he has with her, she is getting closer to her dad and I am enjoying a little more freedom. I have a girl's night out coming up, and I am hopeful I will be able to leave before bedtime!

Monday, 6 June 2011


When Nick and I decided to get married, we each wrote a list of places we would consider living. There were no matches between our lists. Since we've been married, through jobs and road trips, we've lived and visited many, many areas in the States. After seven years, we still hadn't found the perfect place. Our home.

Now that we have two children and a thriving business, it's important for us to put down roots. After yet another "community shopping" road trip (this time around the Midwest), we decided to do a home search in the Twin Cities area. We found a beautiful home in Menomonie, WI and were so close to sealing the deal. When it fell through, we scheduled another trip to MN/WI and soon decided to drive straight over to eastern Wisconsin.

As we drove our rental car into Sheboygan, we felt like we were home. For the first time. A wonderful feeling we've waited so long to find.

Sheboygan is beautiful and friendly with great restaurants and travel time to nearby cities. Our house shopping trip quickly turned into meetings with the bank, chamber of commerce, city planning, lawyer, post office, other local business owners and quick new friends. Next week we will move our family to beautiful Sheboygan and become a part of this amazing city.

8th Street business district

8th Street business district

Bus station/depot

Community pride
8th Street business district

Parks, trails and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan.

Fog rolling into town from Lake Michigan.

Monday, 2 May 2011


I hated having to do chores as a child. I remember thinking that my mom had it so good- she never had to clean. How naive and blind I was! 1) I never saw the work she did after we were in bed. My dad says she used to stay up past midnight finishing laundry, or cleaning up random things around the house. 2) Mom also spent a lot of time reminding us to complete our chores. I bet 9 times out of 10 she could have completed the chore so much faster and easier if she did it herself. I would guess that there were many times she wanted to load the dishwasher for us because it would have been so much easier on her. But she didn't. Not because she was out to get us and wanted to use us as her personal little maids. It was because she was raising children. She was trying to teach us the value of work.
Now that I have a little girl who needs to learn the value of work, I am ever more grateful for my mom. When my daughter makes a mess with her toys, I have two options. I can pick up her toys for her in about 5 minutes or I can work with her and help her stay on task to pick them up herself- which can take between 15 and 30 minutes. While the latter is inconvenient and potentially stressful for myself, it is the better choice to make for my daughter.
It is important to start at an early age teaching our children how to work. Some type of chore or responsibility is vital to their development and accountability. It is also important to pick a chore that is age appropriate. And don't forget the praise. Praising our children for a job well done will build confidence and respect.
A very wise man by the name of Neal A Maxwell said, "Be careful. . . when you inordinately desire things to be better for your children than they were for you. Do not, however unintentionally, make things worse by removing the requirement for reasonable work as part of their experience, thereby insulating your children from the very things that helped make you what you are!"

Thursday, 21 April 2011

color coded eating

For a fun meal or snack, fill colored bowls with corresponding colored food.  Children can help you find and eat the matching food while you talk about colors, aspects of food, size, health, safety and so on.  Simple variety in the daily meal routine can be a beneficial addition to the time you spend and relationship with your children.

Here is a great succinct list from about kids and food:

  • Children eat at their own pace and some eat more than others do.
  • Avoid tying food together with behavior either as a reward or a punishment.
  • Eating should be a shared and cooperative experience with foods served family style. Meals should be a time to chat, enjoy and help each other.
  • Mealtimes are opportunities for children to be independent by making choices about foods.
  • Encourage children to taste everything but be careful not to force them to eat.
    ( from 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

games outside

In honor of the change of season, here are some classic outdoor games:
  • Duck Duck Goose
  • Simon Says
  • Red Rover
  • Races
  • Charades
  • Jump Rope
  • Freeze
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Red Light, Green Light
  • Hopscotch
  • Mother May I
  • Kick the Can
  • Capture the Flag
  • Follow the Leader
  • Hide-and-Seek
  • Leap Frog
  • London Bridge
  • Ring Around the Rosies
  • King of the Mountain
  • Tug-of-War
  • Hot Potato
  • Fruit Basket
  • Love Your Neighbor
  • Baby, If You Love Me
  • Dodge Ball
  • Musical Chairs
  • Keep Away
  • Sardines
  • Four Square
  • Tag (Freeze, Partner, Tunnel, TV Tag)

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Since 2009, Little Sapling Toys policy has been to plant a tree for every toy sold through Trees for the Future. In that time, our customers have helped us donate enough to plant over 20,000 trees in and for communities.  I would love to gush and gush about this organization, but nothing says it better than this video.  Invite your child(ren) onto your lap and enjoy.

Thursday, 31 March 2011


My mom's best parenting advice is "if they play with it longer than it takes to clean up, let 'em."  This statement has obvious implied limits, but I have found it an extremely helpful reminder.  So my kids finger paint with ketchup, cover the kitchen floor with flour and transfer water between pots and pans for hours.  Just not at the same time.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Elimination communication is the practice of helping your infant use the potty through listening and gentle encouragement. Babies want to be dry and comfortable and they are born with the ability to do so with their caregivers help.

I've read articles that refer to EC'ing as a way to push early potty training. In my experience, EC is another way to bond with your infant that has amazing benefits for both child and parent. The goal of EC is not for a child to be potty trained, but to give a child the opportunity to relate his/her needs and to respond to them. In most cases, families that practice EC do so part time and still use diapers, paper or cloth.

If you are interested in EC, but don't know where to start “The Diaper-Free Baby” (Christine Gross-Loh) is a fantastic book that helps in this process. My favorite part? She stresses the success in your effort, communication and patience. No counting hits and misses.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


you made us smile
you made us laugh
no one bought you
so you got the axe

Thursday, 24 February 2011

fort kit

  • SHEETS (thrifted and laundered)
  • SNACKS (pretzels and raisins)
  • STRING (yarn)
  • PLAN/MAP KIT (folder with graph paper, local city map and pencil)
  • FORT SECURING DEVICES (clothespins)
All packaged in a dinosaur backpack.
I wish I were turning six again.

Monday, 21 February 2011

free play

At 6:05pm last Tuesday night, my three year old became a kitten. For 30 minutes she crawled around the house meowing. Scampering between my husband and me, she nudged our legs and laid on our feet. She meowed and purred as we "pet" her head and scratched behind her ears. This brought back fond memories of second grade recess. My friends and I would pretend we were unicorns. We had grand adventures, eluding hunters and going on quests for treasures.
Not only is make-believe a fantastic childhood past time, it is vital to the development of children. Alix Spiegel wrote a wonderful article in which he discusses how make believe becomes a powerful device in building self-discipline. During make-believe, children engage in "private speech: They talk to themselves about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. " This speech later becomes a necessary tool in problem solving as adults. We often use it "to surmount obstacles, to master cognitive and social skills, and to manage our emotions." 
Unfortunately, too often children's play is structure. Whether it is through organized leagues, lessons, computer games, Wii's or school activities. When a child is told how to "play," his/her imagination is not challenged. Essentially, the child uses less and less private speech. 
The best thing we can do for children is give them time for free play. Encourage them to use their imagination and play along with them when they do. In doing so, we will not only help make wonderful childhood memories, we will allow our children to succeed as adults.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

newbery awards

I love the young adult genre; they are quick reads but usually contain some depth and humor. Something about the Newbery Award winner list hypnotizes me when I see it posted in used book stores. When I'm found scanning books in thrift stores, my hunt always includes these titles.

2011, Clare Vanderpool, Moon Over Manifest
2010, Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me
2009, Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
2008, Laura Amy Schlitz, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
2007, Susan Patron, The Higher Power of Lucky
2006, Lynne Rae Perkins, Criss Cross
 2005, Cynthia Kadohata, Kira-Kira
2004, Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
2003, Avi, Crispin: The Cross of Lead
2002, Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard
2001, Richard Peck, A Year Down Yonder
2000, Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy 
1999, Louis Sachar, Holes
1998, Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust
1997, E. L. Konigsburg, The View from Saturday
1996, Karen Cushman, The Midwife's Apprentice
1995, Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
1994, Lois Lowry, The Giver
1993, Cynthia Rylant, Missing May
1992, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Shiloh
1991, Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee

1990, Lois Lowry, Number the Stars
1989, Paul Fleischman, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
1988, Russell Freedman, Lincoln: A Photobiography
1987, Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy
1986, Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall
1985, Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown
1984, Beverly Cleary, Dear Mr. Henshaw
1983, Cynthia Voigt, Dicey's Song
1982, Nancy Willard, A Visit to William Blake's Inn
1981, Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved
1980, Joan Blos, A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal
1979, Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game
1978, Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

1977, Mildred Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
1976, Susan Cooper, The Grey King
1975, Virginia Hamilton, M. C. Higgins, the Great
1974, Paula Fox, The Slave Dancer
1973, Jean Craighead George, Julie of the Wolves
1972, Robert C. O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
1971, Betsy Byars, Summer of the Swans
1970, William H. Armstrong, Sounder
1969, Lloyd Alexander, The High King
1968, E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
1967, Irene Hunt, Up a Road Slowly
1966, Elizabeth Borton de Treviño, I, Juan de Pareja
1965, Maia Wojciechowska, Shadow of a Bull
1964, Emily Cheney Neville, It's Like This, Cat
1963, Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
1962, Elizabeth George Speare, The Bronze Bow
1961, Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
1960, Joseph Krumgold, Onion John
1959, Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond
1958, Harold Keith, Rifles for Watie
1957, Virginia Sorenson, Miracles on Maple Hill
1956, Jean Lee Latham, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
1955, Meindert DeJong, The Wheel on the School
1954, Joseph Krumgold, ...And Now Miguel
1953, Ann Nolan Clark, Secret of the Andes
1952, Eleanor Estes, Ginger Pye
1951, Elizabeth Yates, Amos Fortune, Free Man
1950, Marguerite de Angeli, The Door in the Wall
1949, Marguerite Henry, King of the Wind
1948, William Pène du Bois, The Twenty-One Balloons
1947, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, Miss Hickory
1946, Lois Lenski, Strawberry Girl
1945, Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill
1944, Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain
1943, Elizabeth Gray Vining, Adam of the Road
1942, Walter D. Edmonds, The Matchlock Gun
1941, Armstrong Sperry, Call It Courage
1940, James Daugherty, Daniel Boone
1939, Elizabeth Enright, Thimble Summer
1938, Kate Seredy, The White Stag
1937, Ruth Sawyer, Roller Skates
1936, Carol Ryrie Brink, Caddie Woodlawn
1935, Monica Shannon, Dobry
1934, Cornelia Meigs, Invincible Louisa
1933, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
1932, Laura Adams Armer, Waterless Mountain
1931, Elizabeth Coatsworth, The Cat Who Went to Heaven
1930, Rachel Field, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years
1929, Eric P. Kelly, The Trumpeter of Krakow
1928, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon
1927, Will James, Smoky the Cow Horse
1926, Arthur Bowie Chrisman, Shen of the Sea
1925, Charles Finger, Tales from Silver Lands
1924, Charles Hawes, The Dark Frigate
1923, Hugh Lofting, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
1922, Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Story of Mankind