Monday, December 15, 2008

Smart Girls Have More Fun

Comedian, actor Amy Poehler gets a Smart Girls Fun Award for developing her web series Smart Girls at the Party . She hosts the show with two of her real life friends. How novel for girls to be encouraged to make lasting friendships.

Here Amy celebrates and interviews preteen smart girls. The girls are allowed to just be themselves. They talk about their lives, their interests and their talents. They are the girls next door. They get to have a little dance party at the end of the show. How refreshing to see girls just being girls. They smile and giggle! They are confident! They are having fun! They are intelligent! They aren't chasing boys around!

Here is one of my favorite episodes. A young writer with a terrific personality.

Wonderful, playful, intelligent interviews Amy!!

I was a little worried when I saw the Barbie ads for Smart Girls at the Party. But seeing the latest marketing of Barbie (and considering Bratz dolls have probably and finally ended their reign) I am hopeful that Barbie is finally getting a wake up call. I hear rumours that the new Barbie (in all her marketing glory, including not only the traditional dolls, but also Barbie Girls virtual game world, the Barbie website and Barbie movies) is becoming more and more adventurous, independent, athletic and goal-oriented. I still see mostly fashion, decorating and gossip on these websites. I don't think a little fashion will hurt anyone, but I really want to see girlhood being mostly about creative fun and adventure. You know, like boyhood.

But maybe, just maybe I will take my dear five year old Barbie into a little Barbie Land. I would love to see dentist Barbie reintroduced wearing something other than just a lab coat. A pair of pants would be great. I think my daughter is smart enough to pick out the fun and adventure from Barbie. And she will definitely be watching the Smart Girl at the Party webisodes.

Hug Your Smart Girl Today!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Volcano Construction

Dear daughter got a Young Scientist Club science kit for her birthday. She made and exploded her very own volcano. Absolutely loved the entire project!! You actually can make your very own volcano from materials at home:


1- shoe box lid
1- ~16 oz. plastic bottle- empty (we used a Gatorade bottle)
2 pieces construction paper
mixing bowl
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
black paint and paintbrush
baking soda
red food coloring
liquid dish soap


1. Tape the plastic bottle upright in the center of the shoe box lid. Wrap a piece of the construction paper around half of the bottle so it is a cone shape. You may have to trim the bottom of the paper. You want the paper to meet evenly with the top of the bottle. Tape the other piece of construction paper on the other side of bottle so that the bottle is completely surrounded. Tape the paper down securely on the shoe box lid.

2. Cover your work area with newspaper. Tear one section of newspaper (or magazine paper) into one inch strips. Combine water and flour in mixing bowl. Use this flour paste right away by dragging a piece of newspaper strip through the paste and remove extra paste by running your fingers down the strip. Place coated strip on the volcano and repeat until volcano is completely covered in the paper mache'. You can make it as thick as you like. Once the volcano is covered, it will need to dry. This may take a day or two.

3. Once dry, paint the volcano with the black paint. It should be nice and sturdy and able to used for many eruptions.

4. Once the paint is dry, you can prepare the lava. Here is a starter recipe for the lava, but your young scientist can be a real chemist and experiment with different combinations and amounts. Just make sure to place all ingredients in the bottle except the vinegar- which should be added last. We mixed everything but the vinegar in a mixing bowl and then poured this into the bottle/volcano using a funnel. Then we poured in the vinegar.

Tell your young scientist that mixing vinegar and baking soda produces a gas and this causes the explosion. You can pour out the remaining lava after eruption and start again.

Happy Exploding!!


4 teaspoons of baking soda

1/4 cup of warm water

5 drops of liquid dish detergent

5 drops of red food coloring

1/4 cup vinegar

Friday, September 12, 2008

Photography for Kids

These pictures were taken by an amateur photographer. My then eight-year old son. All my kids are interested in photography. They love to capture images when we travel, or take goofy shots of themselves and their friends. What an easy and expressive way to be creative!!
I found a couple of great websites today. Big Learning Photography for Kids has much information and links. I think any beginning photographer (myself included) can learn a lot about photography from this site. is a fun site with lots of help to take better pictures. Fun photo assignments and tips too.
There are lots of cheap digital cameras today. My kid's photos help me appreciate their view of the world!! As we know, sometimes a photo is worth a thousand words. And it is much quieter too ;)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tea for Four

So my daughter picked two of her favorite friends and we all went to our local tea house for tea and lunch. Of course, two of her favorite friends (Jan and Hayley) are grown women and happen to be good friends of mine. This just gives you an idea of how my daughter rolls. Of course, I do believe she has excellent taste in friends ;)
This her expression just as our friends arrive:

And then we all get settled in for a nice lunch....

It was a lovely day! Dear daughter put on her tea best. She found some lace gloves in her dress up drawer and a cute dress up hat that was a little too small for her blossoming brain and head. She is still wearing her badge of honor- the bandaids the nurse put on her after her kindergarten shots.

Little tea sandwiches, some scones, fruit and treats. A pot of Raspberry Delight tea. Some sugar cubes and doilies. Little silver spoons. Over the top flowers everywhere. It was just the right amount of little girl fun for us all.

As one article puts it "Being Polite Makes Everyone Feel Good." It seems there is a resurgence of tea houses in America. We must desperately need quality time and a quiet place for enjoying each other's company. I hope a tea house is near you so you can enjoy a little tea with your little smart girl!

And for those of you visiting from Hayley's blog, the kids cooking website Hayley mentioned is Spatulatta. I don't think dear daughter got her recipe from there. I am not sure where she got her coconut bird feeder knowledge. I have trouble keeping up with her. But you can all make your wild birds a Christmas present by following the directions for this coconut bird feeder. I am sure your birds and your smart girls will love this project. Ribbons are optional!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Alice Project

As some of you may know, Randy Pausch (the professor from Carnegie Mellon who gave The Last Lecture) was an incredible soul who recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. If you have not seen his Last Lecture- I highly recommend it. He gave the lecture after he was diagnosed with his terminal illness. In every way, his presentation was beautiful, humorous, wonderful and inspiring. After seeing the video on You Tube, I had to know more. He mentioned his legacy- a computer program designed to teach computer programming skills to kids and college students called The Alice Project. The project is a program that uses a 3D modality to create animated stories. Check out the Alice Storytelling version. It is designed for middle school-aged kids. One of his grad students, Caitlin Kelleher, created this version. She did research and found the story-telling format was an especially good way for girls to learn basic computer programming. I am very appreciative of the fact that she investigated how best to teach our girls computer programming skills.

You can download the Alice program and/or the Storytelling Alice for free. My nine year-old son LOVED using the storytelling version. It is really a simple, yet impressive design with drag and drop components. If you make a wrong move, the pop up text will tell you how to proceed. Very creative and smart- just like the smart girls (and boys) I know!
Who knows how many people will be touched by this legacy? Both Professors Pausch and Kelleher get Smart Girls Fun Awards for Excellence!!
All images: Copyright © 1999-2008, Carnegie Mellon University. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sporty Girls and Sporty Moms

Most everyone understands that sports are great for a girl's health and self-esteem. You may not realize how much mothers influence their daughter's attitude about sports and their participation. There is a great website called Moms Team which has lots of great resources for youth sport parents. Currently they have a wonderful article posted:

Raising An Athletic Daughter: Moms Play Key Role
Helping Your Daughter Develop a Love For the Game
Brooke de Lench

Please see the link above for the actual article

She does a nice job pointing out all the little things a mom can do to encourage her girl athlete besides cheering her on during a game: participating in organized sports herself, talking about her own athletic past, going to see professional/college level women's teams play, encourage father's to "play rough", play catch, take girls' sports just as seriously as boys'. The author also encourages parents to talk to daughters about the term "tomboy" and how to overcome the label since it implies that girls who love sports are inappropriately masculine. I always preferred the term "sporty girl" to tomboy. But I really wish that girls were expected to be as athletic as boys so no special term for athletic girls was necessary.

I also wish our local girls' soccer league will stop making the girl teams play in baby pink, lavender or baby yellow jerseys. Why do boys get more colors???? Why do the girls have to have a different palette? I wonder if the rules are the same.......I surely hope so. My daughter is still playing coed under 6 soccer. I hope that soon the sports world will be gender blind as far as uniforms, playing fields, practice times, coaching experience and school support. If you find disparity in your daughter's sports team vs. the corresponding boy's team, don't be afraid to speak up about it.

I have the above design and more sporty girl designs up on my smart girls store. I hope to make many more soon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Adventures of Josie True

What a great find! A website designed to encourage smart girls to use their smarts for fun and adventure. I hope you can check out their website. Mary Flanagan is the creator and she proudly features multi-cultural characters and ignores the typical girly girl stereotypes. Very nice adventure game. I would think girls in grades 3-6 would really like the site. There is also a great resource section, experiments, math games and other activities on the site.

Here are some excerpts from their homepage and their FAQ section:

The Adventures of Josie True is a web-based historical adventure game for girls. The hero of the game is Chinese-American Josie True, a regular girl who becomes involved in intrigue across time and space as she tries to find her inventor-turned-teacher Ms. Trombone. She time travels with one of Ms. Trombone's inventions,the Intellicat .
During their travels, they meet a host of historical figures including women from history such as Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman pilot. At each stop in the journey, there are fun, rewarding activities to play in order to find Ms. Trombone, stop the artifact thieves, help Bessie Coleman at her airshow, and much more!

Q. Why are you giving the project away for free?

A. This is a conscious choice before we even started the project. This is a not-for-profit project funded by the NSF--it is designed so that girls will be able to get involved in the Internet and in science and math educational opportunities for free. We want to give real girls good content and provide real historical role models to girls in a science and math context. There is too much money at stake in the software industry for developers to take (what they perceive as) market risks; unfortunately, that means that we see less diversity in the products available to girls. In addition, software is too expensive for the average family or the average school, and since the project is funded, it should be in the hands of as many people as possible. So send friends and family our way!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Getting Buggy

My daughter received a Bugville Live Butterfly Treehouse as a gift at her birthday party. It is listed under $16 at Amazon. You are required to send in $6 for five painted lady caterpillars and their food. The directions seem pretty simple, and three weeks later you are releasing the painted butterflies in your yard!
We just ordered the caterpillars and we can't wait to start "growing" them. The manufacturer Insect Lore also has a website. Here they provide all kinds of buggy information and games. Looks like they also make products for raising ants, lady bugs and other buggy collections.
We are hoping for success in our butterfly enterprise!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Olympic Fun

We are so excited to be watching the Olympic Trials. Wish we had more than the limited coverage offered on our cable channels.....

We have a local phenom. A 16 year old girl who qualified for the 1500M finals. She was not expected to make the Olympic team, and she didn't. But what an inspiration she is! Her name is Jordan Hasay, so watch for her the next Olympic Games. Here is a video of her semi-final run.

I also found a great blog called sportsgirlsplay. The author blogs about female athletes and has done a very nice job of highlighting some strong Olympic trial performances by American women. Check it out to see some other great videos and a fabulous shot of 41 year old, first place finisher, swimmer Dara Torres holding her 2 year old daughter.

So many great women athletes. I am happy to see they seem to be covering the women's events as much as the men's. I hope you and your family can enjoy the upcoming Olympic Games!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No-Added Sugar Apple Tart anyone?

My friend Hayley got me thinking about how fun and educational it is to cook with your kids. She posted her grandmother's famous fruit leather recipe on her blog recently. How fun, easy and economical this home made version is! And no artificial anything. How wonderfully simple.

When you think about it- cooking involves math, science, a little bit of engineering, adventure, exploration, following directions and artistic presentation. Personally, I haven't had much luck with kid cookbooks. Recipes seem too complicated and unpredictable. Our skyscraper waffle city looked nothing like the photo! It didn't taste very good either.

So, I consulted my good friend Mr. Google. I was pleased to find a website called Spatulatta. Brilliant website that has over 200 videos of actual kids making actual, fantastically simple recipes. They also have some fun games, contests, art in the kitchen ideas, out takes, basic skills review and other food adventures.
The No-Sugar Added Apple Tart from their video collection sure looks good. Will try that out with the kids this week.....

If you know any good kids in the kitchen cooking resources or recipes, please leave a comment.
As always, this blog writer is not paid to endorse any product or website!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wave Machine

I thought I would occasionally post some Smart Girl Projects. Of course, these are fun for smart boys and parents too. These wave machines can last a long time and are endlessly fascinating for kids!


One empty, clear plastic soda bottle, or any large clear plastic bottle with screw on cap
Blue Food Coloring
Mineral oil


Fill the bottle 2/3 full with water.
Add blue food coloring, one drop at a time, until the water is
"ocean blue" in color.
Fill the rest of the jar with mineral oil.
Get rid of as any air bubbles as you can and secure lid tightly.
Hold the bottle gently sideways and gently tip it, creating
delightful wave actions.

Note: Sometimes after a lot of rough use, the liquids in the bottle become cloudy.
Set the wave machine aside for a few hours and the liquids will become
clear again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

America the Beautiful

I was going to wait until I saw this documentary film to blog about it. But I realize it may be sometime before I can, because the kids just got out of school. I would not have even heard of " America the Beautiful" if I had not checked out Roger Ebert's site recently. It is a film about a year in the life of a 12 year old girl turned fashion supermodel. It looks like a mostly bitter, bittersweet experience for this girl. So, if you are lucky enough to have this film come near you, consider seeing it. And if you see it, consider being so kind as to commenting on it here.

Here is a little blurb about the film's creator by Roger Ebert. Entire article here.

Following a young beauty down a short runway

June 9, 2008

by Roger Ebert

A man from Chicago named Darryl Roberts made "America the Beautiful," a documentary that nobody wanted. It was about our obsession with being thin and beautiful and... perfect. Every distributor in the country turned him down. They told him he was black, and the 12-year-old fashion model at the center of the film was black, and blacks don't go to documentaries. He finally talked it into the American Film Institute's festival in Dallas, where it sold out four shows, "and 99 percent of the audience was white. Not that it means anything."

And here is a blurb from his review of the film:

America the Beautiful

May 9, 2008

Cast & Credits Arenas Group presents a documentary written, directed and narrated by Darryl Roberts. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R (for some language). Opening today at Landmark Century.

By Roger Ebert

The documentary "America the Beautiful" is not shrill or alarmist, nor does it strain to shock us. Darryl Roberts, its director and narrator, speaks mostly in a pleasant, low-key voice. But the film is pulsing with barely suppressed rage, and by the end, I shared it. It's about a culture "saturated with the perfect," in which women are taught to seek an impossible physical ideal, and men to worship it.

I usually avoid this subject matter (child beauty pageants and some child modeling) because it angers me so. The closest I have gotten was"Little Miss Sunshine." A great film. In general the little girl "beauty queens" give me the creeps because they do not resemble little girls at all. They tend to look like miniature dolls, robotic and fake.
I think we can send much better messages to our girls than pile on the hairspray, makeup and inappropriate clothes and compete girl vs. girl. One child pageant's website had a photo of three or four year old girls standing there with their crowns. The pageant description: "Contestants are judged on 50% Facial Beauty, 25% Personality and 25% Stage Presence. Events include T-shirt, Interview, Casual Wear, Party Wear and Swimwear"
Sad to see facial beauty is twice as important as personality. And don't even get me started on swimsuit divisions for toddlers....................... I have seen claims that these pageants teach young girls "life skills." Huh? Facial beauty and stage presence (and let's not forget the "personality" they are looking for) will get you through life? Me thinks this is a recipe for an eating disorder, and/or insecurity and unhappiness. Girls are so much better than this.
I just don't understand how sexualizing children became so mainstream. Have we really been so blind? And the entire female body image industry- promoting insecurity and unattainable beauty for profit. It will be a hard fight with so much profit at stake.
I am happy that a man took the time to look closer at the beauty/fashion industry. The industry people speak for themselves and have oh so much to say. Check out their comments on Darryl Robert's website. They are funny in a sick kind of way.
So I give Darryl Roberts a Smart Girls Fun A+ Award for caring so much for our girls to make a film that will raise awareness about the attitudes of the fashion industry. Bravo!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Smart Girls Chess

I was thinking about chess the other day. I have to give my father credit. In the early 1970's, he taught all three of his young daughters how to play chess. I still enjoy the game. When I recently unearthed the chess board, put away during the baby is going to choke on little things stage, all three of our kids were immediately fascinated. We now keep the board in open sight and it is put to good use frequently. Our boys (age 9 and 6) are already building strategies and our daughter (just turned 5) almost has all of the pieces/moves memorized after just a week. You can really see the wheels turning in their little heads when they are playing.

Our kids' elementary school has an after school chess club starting in the fourth grade. I hope there are some girls taking advantage of this activity. And I hope our daughter will too.

Growing up, I only had my father and my sisters to enjoy the game with. None of my girl friends played. Until I met my husband, I hadn't played a game of chess outside of my family. Now I must say my husband and I haven't played since "the chess incident" in the Houston airport several years ago. Let's just say we played, I was losing big time, he wouldn't let me quit, I got mad and I came back and won. I think our egos have settled down and we can play again soon.

I am sure there still may not be enough awareness for girls' chess. I don't ask my current girl friends if they play. If any of you do- please speak up! And I will start to ask. I did not know of any professional women players either. I am happy to say, once I started looking, I found some.

A great program was put together by Susan Polgar, who became the first ever woman Grandmaster of Chess. Her SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) website has daily puzzles, a training guide and lots of good information for the girl chess player and her parents. I love her girls' chess camp. It is called Chess:It's a Girl Thing!

GoddessChess is another great website. They have links to essays that take on the "girls are too nice for chess" statements. Here is an excerpt from one:

From: "Chess - Are Girls too Nice to Excel in Chess?"
The Sale Lake City Tribune, February 2, 1997
by Shelby Lyman
It's an old scenario that continues to be replayed. As girls approach adolescence, they drop out of school chess programs in record numbers. They may keep an interest and later encourage their children to play, but they themselves shy away from chess activity and competition.
My guess is that the phenomenon has something to do with a special characteristic of the game. Chess is the only major sport where males and females encounter each other on equal terms -- where the usual advantage in size, weight and speed of the male is of no consequence.
Chess thus can be a unique head-to-head test of the intelligence, fighting spirit and endurance of the two genders. But it is not a test that many males past childhood relish or care to lose. Girls get the message -- often subliminal -- and too often back off from the confrontation with their male peers and friends.
The phenomenon reminds me of a study of college women in the 1940s who played dumb so their boyfriends (and future husbands) would be comfortable.
Women today are not as likely to downplay their intelligence, but there are still forces that discourage them from direct, aggressive competition with men. Nevertheless, they manage to compete with increasing success in many spheres. Chess remains a notable exception.
Although as a teen-ager I regretted the paucity of women on the chess scene, I was not unaware of the advantage it gave me. Half of my most talented and toughest potential adversaries had been effectively vanquished without my having to lift a finger at the chessboard.

I found out that many of the high school chess competitions award scholarships to the winners. So girls, dust off those chess boards and have some fun!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Scholastic Book Fair

scholastic (adjective): of or relating to schools

Both of the schools my children attend hold Scholastic Book Fairs at least once every year. A few months ago I volunteered to work at the Scholastic Book Fair booth for a couple of hours. Usually, I let my kids pick out one or two books each as I would steer them clear of the junk books. But during my volunteer time, I was able to really see the full Scholastic Book Fair selection available at this school. I must say I was a little disappointed to see so many junk books. My definition of junk books are books that are just cartoons or movies repackaged. Books are supposed to excite your imagination, not regurgitate already over hyped images. I was especially sad to see that a good portion of the non-commercial books targeting girls were of the Clique, Sealed with a Diss and Once Upon a Prom- 3 pack set variety.

I checked out the featured fair books on Scholastic's site. Thankfully the number of non-commercial vs. commercial books was at least 3 to 1 in each age category. I think if your company's name is Scholastic, then your first priority should be quality and not catering to what is in fashion.

Back to our book fair.........I didn't really comment much to the other parents at the time. I have since learned some of the parents also felt the same way. I found this article. I understand the schools hold these book fairs for two reasons: to encourage reading and to earn money. And I understand the need for more funding for the schools. But how much are we willing to sell out our kids? The article seems to imply that each school can tailor the book selection to some degree. I plan on talking to the organizers about the book selection before the book fairs next year.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Poetry is Fun

And kids don't have to stop at Dr. Seuss anymore. I was checking out poetry for kids on the web. I am continually impressed with the great resources the Internet provides us all today.

I found this excellent interview with Kenn Nesbitt where he explains just how good poetry is for young minds. If you like Shel Silverstein, you may enjoy Kenn Nesbitt's poetry and site. He has set up a rhyming dictionary, poetry writing contests, funny poetry pod casts and poetry discussion forums for kids on his site. You can even vote for your favorite funny poem.

And please, if you want a big fat smile on your face, check out Shel Silverstein's site. Our kids have lots of fun with the games and puzzles there. And so so I ;)

The poetry zone site has a great links list- for all kinds of kids' poetry, including the gross and grosser kind!

I hope you and your smart girls (and boys) can enjoy some fun poetry. Instead of a half hour of cartoons, try a little Suess or Silverstein instead.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beyonce's Clothing Line for Girls

I heard a lot of hub bub about her new ad for her company Dereon Girls. So I did some research. By the way, while doing this research I tried to download a video ad for her girl's line and my laptop got infected with a horrible virus. It took me all morning to fix the problem, my two anti-virus cleaners didn't so diddly squat. So $60 later (thank you Stopzilla- but I wish you were cheaper) it is finally removed. I hope the $20 rebate is for real.

Already I am not happy because I figure out Dereon is a play on the word derriere. So basically her company is called House of Booty. With a subdivision Booty Girls. Nice message for our girls. I checked out the clothes first. They carry girls size 7-14, some toddler and infant sizes. Clothes are not risque. Some are cute, most are not my taste. But there are no horrible text designs and nothing revealing or overtly sexual.

Next I check the ad. Hmmmmm...not showing any skin. But it is creepy to see toddlers pout suggestively, toddlers wearing more makeup than I did in the 80's, and toddlers not looking dressed up for fun, but instead dressed up for sex. I am all for women having healthy sex lives. But it is not appropriate, in my humble opinion, to flirt with your sexuality when you are 3 or 4 years old. Not even when you are 7-12 years old.

So Beyonce gets a thumbs down on her advertising campaign from Smart Girls Fun. Hopefully some of the bad press they are receiving will prompt them to rethink their girls' campaign.
If you have a Macy's store near you, they are carrying Dereon Girls. If you see any ad, in print or at the store, that you find offensive- consider speaking up about it to the manager. I complained (nicely of course!) to our local K-mart manager about their selection of girls' graphic tees here. He was considerate. Who knows? Maybe the more we complain, the more things will change.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Art of Art

A lot of smart girls (and boys) love to create. Whether it is finger paints, dried pasta and glue, watercolors or crayons, the possibilities are endless. The kids and I have always loved art projects. Every summer, I make sure to include one big project for us to do together. Last year we got some 2"x6"s and cut, sanded and painted them. Then we painted on "Captain's Jack's Treasures" etc. and nailed on some clips. The kids still love the art boards and clip up their artwork and awards from school. It is so easy, for me anyway, to get busy and forget to take the time to encourage art at home. The kids enjoy it so much, so I now literally put it on the calendar.

Of course now we have many online resources. Great art for kids site, an interactive kids art site and an online kids gallery are just a few. If you can, check all three sites- they are fabulous!

I also wanted to mention a great computer graphics program you can download. Paint is free, although they do appreciate donations.

You and your kids can use the program to draw and paint, edit photos, add text, make graphic compositions. I have used it regularly for a few months for my graphic design work. It took a little trial and error to become familiar with all the "tools" and get used to working in layers. Usually, I sketch out a design, scan it and enhance and paint it with the Paint program.

If your kids are younger, you may have to help them. My six year-old son drew this penguin. We scanned it and added a little color and the text with the Paint program.

You can email your child's art to relatives, print it on postcards, t-shirt transfers, photo paper, cards etc. I love today's computer possibilities! Just check out your office supply store to see what kinds of print stock you can use in your printer.

I hope you can find the time for art projects this summer. Summer time is a great art time because you can be inspired by the great outdoors and you can make the messes out there too!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bird Watching

Here is a photo of what we call "Fat Bird in a Little Tree" They are golden-crowned sparrows arriving with spring. The apple tree was still bare.

Birding is a great activity for kids. It is fun, educational and relatively low cost. As one of the following websites states, you can give your kids a "lifetime ticket to the theater of nature." From colors, songs, habitats, nests, feeding habits, migration, and personalities- birds have so much to offer. We love it when we get a bird surprise around town, or a new bird visitor at home. Our kids love the birds. I once overheard my daughter describe her pets as "three dogs, two cats and a whole lotta birds."

The kids helped put up our bluebird houses and they got a real kick out of looking at the used nests once nesting season was over. Lots of bird poop- LOL.

To get started you need a good bird field guide and a pair of binoculars. You can check your local library for bird watching books and field guides to see which ones work best for your family. Good binoculars can be expensive, but you can buy an inexpensive pair and do just fine. I found a few online birdwatching resources for kids and their parents:

We got into birds a few years ago. Put up some feeders, learned about the birds that frequent our yard. It is a whole new world out there when you can appreciate all the different birds. We hike in our neighborhood and see new birds regularly. We put in a small pond on our property and we get even more types of bird visitors. And when we got out of state on vacation, we are treated with new birds too.

I have a special love of bluebirds. They are in decline since finding a good nesting spot is so challenging for them. They are very beautiful bug-eating birds! Putting up a bluebird box can be a rewarding experience. Please check out the bluebird website as they have special requirements for nesting and the boxes should be monitored.
I hope you have or can find time for birds in your life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sporty Girls

A friend found this article. Heartwarming story. I think sports are so great for girls. For health, for sportsmanship, for leadership, for body image, for fun.
Our daughter is fairly active and played her first organized sport last fall. She played soccer. She was four years old and that sounds young. Both her brothers started playing at the same age and they loved it. We asked her and she wanted to play. She did spend some time following Cute Boy, good grief, on her team around and did almost score a goal or two.
This year, she wants to play football. Actually girls are allowed to play football in our town's youth football league. There have been some girls playing over the years. Unfortunately it only lasts a year or two, because the opposing teams are merciless. Our little girl will stick with soccer for now. You have to be in third grade to play football. We are very much hoping she finds another sport to try by then.

If you have a sporty girl or want to encourage your girl to participate in sports, check out the girl go girl website. And lace up your sneakers, cleats, hiking boots, golf shoes, fins, skis, or skates yourself. An active and adventurous parent is a fantastic role model.
I can't wait to show our kids all the world's great female athletes in the upcoming Olympics. I especially enjoy the women divers and gymnasts.
Think of all the active and not-so-active activities your girls will be doing this summer. Hopefully, there is a good balance. And I hope you all will be able to enjoy the Olympics!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Barbie Dolls

What is the deal with Barbie dolls today? My daughter has a few, but she has little interest in playing with them. When I was a kid, some 30 years ago cough, cough, Barbie was a big part of girlhood in my neighborhood. With my mother being a feminist of sorts, my two sisters and I were not allowed to have baby dolls or to play house. But we were allowed stuffed animals and Barbies. Mother was all about consistency wink, wink.

My girlfriends and sisters and I would play for hours with them. We made stuff out of shoe boxes if we didn't have the right Barbie furniture. We lost lots of little shoes. We ran over Ken in the Barbie Corvette because, well, we didn't see much point in having Ken around. We made a school, fashion show, pool and house- all sized for Barbie. We took the dolls to the beach, to the pool, on car trips, to grandma's house. We even had some of my aunt's Barbie stuff from when she was a kid. We traded Barbie stuff. We got each other Barbie birthday gifts. We tried to blow dry her hair and paint her nails. Never turned out well. We popped off Barbie's head and switched her body. We got a Cher doll and were disappointed we couldn't swap her clothes with Barbie- wrong size.

At the time, I didn't think much about the impossible body proportions she had. I just wished her shoes stayed on better. Finally at the age of 12, I decided I had outgrown Barbie and I sold all my Barbie stuff at our family garage sale.

Do girls still play with Barbies? Did Mattell ruin it by making specialized Barbies and cheap accessories to zap out any imaginative play? Read this interesting article. I did notice a change when I ran across Dentist Barbie. I don't see much Barbie action around my daughter's circle of friends. This may be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.
Barbie's website is awfully sparkly, but she does say "I love to play sports. It's a great way to get fit and have fun."
So in conclusion, I think the smart girl can have fun with Barbie and keep a healthy body image for themselves. It will be interesting to see where Barbie goes these next few years.