Why is Art Important?

Isn’t art just something fun that we let our kids do to keep themselves busy and ward off the dreaded boredom?

Not so much.

Life Lesson: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

In my own life I have struggled with allowing myself to make mistakes. Often times, I was afraid to begin a DIY project for fear I would mess it up. I could feel the struggle inside. “Just go ahead and try your idea – Oh, you’d better not, you’ll mess the whole thing up and waste all your time and materials.”

But my daughter, on the other hand, has no problem trying something new, mainly because of her art training. During high school she attended a local visual and performing arts program. One day, she came home and told me how her beautiful 3D creation had plummeted to the floor. Her instructor demanded that she, “make it work.” He told her that mistakes and accidents happened to make art more interesting and it could very well be the best 3D art she’d ever create. Well, as it ended up, her project turned out amazing. He was right!

That experience taught her that it’s okay to step out and make mistakes (and not just in art). She also learned that there’s more than one answer to every problem. And to be honest, I learned through her lesson too.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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The Absorbent Mind

Do you have a little person in your house between the ages of birth and six years old? Do you know someone who does? Then, you need to know about the Absorbent Mind period because there are some very specific things parents can do to make the most of these very important years.

This week we’ve been talking about the Montessori education method and philosophy, and in our post on creating a Montessori Toddler Room, we touched on the Montessori concept of Sensitive Periods — the developmental stages in a child’s life.

From birth to about age six, Dr. Maria Montessori identified a crucial period in a child’s development that she called The Absorbent Mind, and she believed that what happens during this period lays the foundation for all future intellectual and psychological growth.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Should We Consider Montessori When We Homeschool?

Once I saw passion brimming from my son, I knew politics was going to be in his life forever. It was then that I was compelled to tailor his education around his goal of becoming a lawyer. I got some assistance on helping him set his goal by calling these family lawyers. Little did I know that I was following a basic tenant of The Montessori Method. As the years have gone by, and the more I’ve read, I am even more astounded by the genius of this philosophy. He is into sports so I could send him into the stafford sports college.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Are You Raising Kids Who Will Do Hard Things?

Ever have this happen in your house: your kid is beaming with excitement over their new activity/hobby/idea, only to throw in the towel once they figure out they aren’t rock stars at it and that they actually have to practice to be any good?

Why does this happen? Because it’s not in most people’s nature (especially kids) to want to do hard things. But that places us, the parents, in a pickle. Do we make them stick out or do we let them quit? We want to teach them that you have to practice to become good at something, but we don’t want to force a square peg into a round hole and make them stick it out when it’s not their “thing?” It’s quite the conundrum, isn’t it?

Every family has a different way of dealing with this, but in the Hagaman and Stahlmann houses, we have a one semester minimum for a new activity because kids need to spend some time with a thing to figure out whether or not it’s a good fit.

At the root of many of the cries to quit is an unwillingness to work hard, and we need to fight against it. But we, the parents, need to first change our own mindset.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Out-Of-The-Box U

So, you’re starting to figure out what your kids are super interested in, maybe even passionate about. (If you’re not quite there yet, check out yesterday’s post for some inspiration.)

Now what? Where do you go with this information, and how do you help your kids dive deep into their interests without having to remortgage your house?

There are awesome opportunities tucked away in hidden places that you might not think about. You’ll have to be willing to do some research and log some miles on your car, but it’s totally worth it.

Hidden Treasures in Museums and Libraries

When I lived in NJ (Jenni speaking), we were members of the Newark Museum, and a few times a year, the museum offered inexpensive but awesome classes. One daughter, who was about eight at the time, took a jewelry making class.

The instructor would take the kids to a specific location in the museum where the kids would study a particular art form from a different time period and culture. Then they’d return to the classroom and make jewelry inspired by what they’d studied. The stuff they produced was way beyond anything she would have ever made at home. In fact, one of her pieces won second place at the county fair, and it was judged along with adult entries.

One of my sons took a profile picture that trained his eye to look for art in the world around him. I remember one day in particular when the whole class went outside and spent the day photographing only shadows.

Another son, my resident scientist at the time, took a slime class. They spent the whole six week session making all kinds of polymers that they could play with.

Libraries can also have hidden opportunities. Some have teen knitting groups. Some offer master gardener classes or special guest speakers. Kids can learn all about bats or participate in an African music class or join a Lego club. Some libraries offer business help for young entrepreneurs or American Red Cross Babysitting Certification classes. One year, my daughter won a $50 gift certificate just for writing a winning book review through our local library.

Google Is Your Best Friend

You can find all sorts of treasures by simply making Google your best friend. So, let’s say you have a child interested in photography like I do (Jody speaking). Go to Google and search for local clubs, free workshops and photography studios that offer classes.

This summer one of my daughters is taking a few summer workshops at Ringling School of Art. What she has learned in these few weeks is irrefutably key to her future success as a photographer. She is also following bloggers who are experts in the field, mimicking their different styles and techniques and mastering her craft. This is one of the many ways to help your kids become experts in what they’re passionate about.

My other daughter was convinced she wanted to own a bakery. We found out that Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store offers cake decorating classes. So, for her birthday, the entire family bought her everything she needed to bake unique cakes and cupcake accessories and all the tools to create her own little bake shop, and my sister purchased the first round of classes for her.

It was one of the best things we ever did, and we all enjoyed her delectable desserts. Yes, I had to diet once she exhausted her passion for that field. But, what she learned was irreplaceable. She figured out that she loved to bake and make specialty desserts, but only for special occasions. This was NOT something she wanted to do for a living. Good thing we figured that out in middle school and not in business college!

Look for local stores that sell supplies for your child’s interest and see if they offer classes. My daughter (Jenni here) has her own henna tattoo business. She gets her supplies from a store in Orlando, which is about two hours from our house. Next month, we’re heading up there for a full day of henna classes to help her hone her skills. While she’s there, she plans to rub elbows with some other artists and find out new ways to get more business.

Oddly enough, Skyler’s whole henna business was birthed out of a desire to take an art class. She’s an artsy kid by nature, but she wasn’t satisfied with her drawing ability. That one class opened a whole new world for her. Check out her henna designs here

Hidden Treasures in Your City

Do you have any historic societies or science centers in your community? Get on their mailing lists and find out what they’re doing. You might unearth some great treasures.

Does your city offer opera, orchestra, dance, live theater or bazaars? How about art shows? Are there galleries? What about restaurants (sometimes restaurant owners will let your kids tour the kitchen and make their own food).

Mark your calendar for the county fair and any other fairs your town might offer.  Get people’s business cards, and see if they’ll let you visit their farm or work studio.

Experiences fuel passion, and the people who are living and breathing their craft are great resources for helping us give our kids specialized experiences. Which leads us to this…

Sailing on the Right Ships: Mentorships, Internships and Apprenticeships

Contact local zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and other specialized attractions in your area, and see if they offer official internship programs.

Find a professional in your child’s field of interest who will allow him to job shadow for a few days. If it goes well, talk to the person about possibly mentoring your child.

Travel Required

Jenni and I have done some pretty crazy things to get our kids to places so they can have an experience that will fuel their passion . . . but I think we’re called to do that.

When Chase, my oldest son, was in middle school, we knew he wanted to pursue a career in law and politics. Politics was not my specialty, but this boy couldn’t get enough of it. I knew I had to get him to places where he could learn first-hand what it was all about. So, with two little ones in tow, I drove ninety minutes each way for five days in a row to get him to our state capital in Springfield, IL so that he could participate in a week long camp that would teach him about our political system and allow him to network with representatives and senators in our home state.

Well, that laborsome effort definitely paid off. Out of that experience, Chase was given an opportunity to work for our senator during the summer (his office was only twenty minutes from us – whew!), page for him later at the capital and later campaign for a representative in Missouri. Well, that passion at 12 years old catapulted him into law school and has turned into a career placing him with a group of attorneys that bring awareness to the Federal Budget.

But these trips don’t have to be a total wash for mom and dad. When Jenni and I take her daughter Skyler up to Orlando next month for a day of henna boot camp, we’re going to spend the day at a nearby cafe with WiFi working on our keynote talks for a 2015 homeschool convention (and we’ll manage to squeeze in some fun too). But if you want to work at home, just make sure you have this Wi-Fi Router to get the best speeds.

Summer Camps

Specialized summer camps can have a steep price tag, but they can be a great investment in your kid’s future. My daughter Skyler (Jenni speaking) wants to be a vocal recording artist. A number of top music schools offer intensive summer programs that will not only build skills and experience, but it will allow her to make valuable connections with working artists.

One of my sons wants to be a filmmaker in the military. The New York film academy offers middle and high schoolers camps with A-List producers, directors, screenwriters and actors.

There are excellent summer opportunities for nearly every interest.

We’re going to talk more about this and how to help your kids get into their first choice school this Saturday at 10:00AM on Parenting On Purpose With Jenni and Jody. We’ll be talking about how finding our kids’ passion is instrumental in preparing them for their future.

Sarasota locals can catch us on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM, but anyone can listen in on live streaming on WSRQ or get directions to download a mobile app and listen on the go.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Not All Play Is Created Equal

When we were kids, most of our play was “open play” — a form of play which is primarily directed by the players. But for the most part, today’s play looks different than ours did, and our kids are worse off for it.

According to Tim Holliday, owner of Children’s World neighborhood toy store here in our hometown of Sarasota, open play means, “You take [a toy] out of the box, and it’s up to the child to figure out what to do with it.”  

Isn’t that what you did you when you were a kid? You probably had some kind of dolls or action figures, and you made up all kinds of crazy situations for them to act out. Or maybe you lined up your stuffed animals and played “school.” Or maybe you had a play kitchen that you turned into a diner and served gourmet playdough creations to all of your friends.

That’s open play, and it requires that you bring your personality and your creativity to the table. But it seems that nowadays, play isn’t so much about discovery and imagination as it used to be. A lot of it’s just amusement, and for the most part, the “player” is passive.

But what if instead of amusing our kids, we allowed them to become bored? What if we actually encouraged them to become bored? And then, from that place of boredom, where no one and nothing is offering to amuse them, we introduced our kids to some open play toys?

Play Is a Big Deal

So what’s the big deal? What’s so important about how our kids play?

It turns out, a lot of their development hinges on the kind of play kids engage in.

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) shared the official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics on the importance of play: “Free and unstructured play is healthy—in fact, essential—for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient,” stated the Academy in a press release.

Child development specialists agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Jerome Singer, Ph.D., Professor of Child Studies Emeritus at Yale University and a leading play researcher says, “Play can miniaturize a part of the complex world children experience, reduce it to understandable dimensions, manipulate it and help them understand how it works.”

Singer goes on to say,  “The activities that are the easiest, cheapest and most fun to do, such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling and just talking and listening are also the best for child development.”  

That’s open play!

We are big proponents of academic success and striving for excellence in extracurricular activities, but at the end of the day,  if your future adult lacks self-confidence, resiliency, coping mechanisms, stress management and self-regulation, what good will his high grades and Football MVP awards do?

Our kids need to be confident in themselves and know what they stand for. These character traits are learned, in part, through experiences like open play.

Imaginative vs. Passive Play

Imaginative play helps develop creativity and problem solving skills. Kids have to create their own characters, scenarios, use social skills, props, think through their actions, work through problems and figure out end results. They are practicing for adulthood while at play.

It is during these open play opportunities that our kids are learning important skills, such as sharing, taking turns, negotiating, following rules, solving conflicts, empathy, compassion, self-control, working with others and even how to host guests. Bottom line, imaginative play builds social skills and helps develops emotional health, something a video game and TV cannot do.

On the flip side, passive play hinders creativity by dictating how the toy is to be used. It leaves no room for thinking outside of the box or problem solving. Passive play usually says, “Check your brain at the door. It’s not needed here.”

So when you’re looking for a toy for your kid, ask “What will this allow my child to do?” and not “What can this toy do?”

Not only is an open play toy more likely to stimulate your child’s development, but it can spare your wallet too! Have you ever spent big bucks for the trendy toy you thought your child would fall in love with (or maybe the one he had relentlessly begged for), only to find it abandoned a few days later when the hype wore off? Or how about a Christmas or birthday where your little one had more fun with the packaging than with the toy itself?

Older Kids

Play may seem childish to older kids, but truth be told, we all want to play to some degree. So, for our kiddos that seem to think that play is beneath them, here are some things to encourage them to do:

  • Cooking or baking

  • Real carpentry or parts of the process with adult supervision

  • Going to a second hand store, buying a small appliance, taking it apart and putting it back together

  • Sports that require team work or learning a new skill

  • Learning a new outdoor activity

  • Bicycling, roller skating, swimming, climbing, skateboarding

  • Gardening and landscaping

  • Learning a new musical instrument

  • Writing and illustrating books

  • Collecting objects

  • Card games and board games

  • All kinds of games with rules

Not only will they be getting a health benefit from doing some of these activities, but they will be learning new skills and feel a sense of accomplishment, which in turn builds self confidence. And who doesn’t want more of that for our kids?

In our world of screen overload, parents have a responsibility to be purposeful and create an environment that cultivates open play.  So, give your child the freedom, space, materials and time to be bored and get creative.

Come Visit Us

If you’re interested in learning more about open play and how to choose great toys for your kids, tune into this Saturday’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EST). We are broadcasting LIVE from our favorite neighborhood toy store. If you’re local to Sarasota, stop in and visit us at Children’s World (4525 Bee Ridge Rd.).  We’d love to chat with you on air about your open play experiences!

You can also listen live on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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THE Best Potty Training Method

After having potty trained my first five kids, I had decided that potty training was surely the armpit of parenting. But all that changed with my sixth.

My oldest is autistic. That, coupled with no prior experience, made for potty training hell.

My second was born shortly after my first, and I spent so much time trying to figure out what my firstborn needed and become an expert in his disability and keep him from hurting her that potty training was not on my radar. She wasn’t trained until she was three.

When I used the 3 day potty training method to have my third potty trained before 2 1/2, I thought I was superwoman, but the whole experience was still tenuous, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull if off again. Of course, I did. Our fourth and fifth were also potty trained around 2 1/2, and each time, it felt like we were playing a guessing a game and that at some elusive point in the game, we’d guessed right and they began to put their pee and poop in the potty.

However, what was successful by day didn’t always translate to night. A few of those first five were longterm bed wetters.

With our sixth child, we learned about Elimination Communication, and I began following one blog in particular. It was written by Andrea Olson of GoDiaperFree.com (formerly of EC Simplified). When my son was a year and a half, Andrea wrote about her son’s transition to full-time potty training, and she linked to the method she was using.

Who knew that clicking on that link would change my life? Well…at least this part of my life. That day I downloaded Oh Crap! Potty Training, and since then my whole outlook on potty training has radically changed.

Now, for those of you who are planning to do as I did, and promptly download this game changing book, let me warn you…the author Jamie Glowacki is a straight shooter, no-nonsense (albeit hilarious) writer with a great fondness for 4-letter words. If that offends you, I strongly urge you to push past it and make bleeping sounds in your mind when your eyes fall upon one of them. Her perspective on this topic is so profound and her method is so effective, that is well worth overlooking some bad words. And it’s is a quick read. So keep the good; toss the bad words, and be enlightened.

I used the Oh Crap! method with our sixth child, and not only was he potty trained at 21 months (and in a just a few days!), but her method taught me how to prevent the whole bed wetting thing. So now, as Matty Jay nears the 2 1/2 year mark, he’s a potty champion who sleeps in his own little bed, in his own room and wakes up dry in the morning (on most days)!

I kept a potty training blog diary, so you can see how it all worked. Have a look, and be sure to tune in to our radio show TODAY at 10:00AM on WSRQ Radio. We’re going to interview Jamie Glowacki and talk more about the Oh Crap! Potty Training method.

Local listeners can find us on 1220AM or 106.9Fm or 98.9FM. Out of town listeners can go to the WSRQ Website and listen live, streaming or get instructions on how to download the mobile app and listen on the go.

And if, by chance you miss it, we will post the podcast here on our website sometime after Monday night.

Potty Training Diaries

Potty Training Diaries — Day 1-ish

Potty Training Diaries — Day 2

Potty Training Diaries — Day 3

Potty Training Diaries — Day 4

Potty Training Diaries — Days 5-7

Potty Training Diaries Update — Have Potty Will Travel

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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How are You Preparing Your Child For the Real World?

Facebook users, we have an AWESOME new group that’s all about preparing our kids for the real world. We want your voice and opinions and ideas, and we’d love for you to ask questions of the community and brainstorm with them.

This community is growing so quickly! We’ve added almost 500 people in the first few hours of it’s existence. Log into Facebook, join the group and invite your friends!

Here’s some info about the group:

This is a community for people who want to share ideas, ask questions and offer information that will help build the kind of skills kids need to succeed in the real world.

The goal of this community is simply to work together in raising kids who have REAL WORLD life skills — the stuff they probably won’t get in school (how to balance a checkbook, buy a house, grow a garden, learn about alternative energy, patent a product and bring it to market, harness social media for a purpose, etc.).

We’re here to talk about HOW and WHY to raise:

  • entrepreneurs
  • good communicators
  • civic-minded people
  • effective activists
  • debt-free, financially wise stewards of our planet
  • world changers
  • people who can manage their own thoughts, emotions and choices well
  • emotionally healthy people

We’re here to brainstorm together, offer ideas, ask questions and share information about:

  • how to help our kids start a business
  • how to teach our kids about our free market system
  • how to raise kids who will know how to cast an informed vote
  • how to help find their passion
  • how to nurture their passion
  • how to teach our kids to advocate effectively for what they believe in
  • how help kids negotiate well
  • how to teach kids good conflict management
  • you get the idea!

Did you join yet? Do it now, and share this post. See you on Facebook!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Party Thank You Notes

Every party in our house starts and ends with thank you notes. As we’re planning, we decide how we’re going to handle the thank you’s. Then, as the guests arrive, we have someone stationed at the front door to write out name tags, talk to parents about any issues such as food allergies and have the parents fill out an envelope with their child’s name and address. This helps us make sure we don’t overlook thanking anyone, and it makes thank you note writing a breeze!

I like to keep the thank you cards in my bag the week following the party, and have the birthday boy/girl write work on them during short moments of waiting (standing on a long line in the store, waiting for the dentist, on a commercial break, etc.)

When it comes time for presents, we assign one person the job of recording the gifts. Give the person a pen and pad, and after each gift is opened, hand the card to this person so he/she can describe the gift on the back of the card. The pad is handy for any gifts that don’t come with a card. Keep all cards in one gift bag, and after the party, take our your party planning notebook, and write the gifts next to the names of participants.

Not only is important for our kids to get in the habit of sending handwritten thank you notes, but it’s also a good educational tool. I give my kids a small spiral notebook with a photocopy of the guest/gift list clipped to the front. Then I have them write rough drafts of each note in the notebook. When they’re done, either my husband or myself or an older sibling proofreads the drafts, and then the kid copies their notes into the actual thank you cards.

 

Stop by tomorrow — we’re going to wrap up this series on birthday party planning with a look at the photographs!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Kid Party Food

Good food is an American birthright, and we are the land of plenty! But party food can mean different things to different people.

There are three basic aspects to planning food for kids’ birthday parties:

  • The Cake
  • Snacks or Meal
  • Beverages

I’m not a huge fan of cooking. My darling husband is the chef and baker in our house. He’s been known to make some fun cakes (a treasure chest, a fire engine, a dinosaur, a spider, and a giant baby block, to name a few). But because I’m not the big cook, I typically schedule all of our parties between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. That way, guests have lunch before they come and dinner when they leave. We choose to provide snacks, drinks, cake and coffee and tea.

The Cake

The cake serves a few purposes. It’s a great way to emphasize the theme, adds to the decorations and feeds the people. If you’re industrious and like to bake (like the dad in our house), you can find all kinds of ideas online. Choose something that will highlight your theme and then start searching. Check out Pinterest, Family Fun, Martha Stewart and iVillage.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the cake pan. For our daughter’s American Girl party, we served beautiful petit fours in honor of Samantha. Cup cakes baked in wafer ice cream cones are another big hit. Cake pops are also really popular right now, and they can help keep minimize portions of the high fat and sugary fare.

Snacks and Meals

When planning other foods, you can either keep it simple, or tie it into the theme. One year we had a Community Super Hero party. For snacks, we made each child a fire truck. The cab of the truck was a juice box wrapped in red paper. The back of the truck was made from a small cereal box (the individual serving kind) with the top cut off. It was also wrapped in red paper, and we cut sandwiches into quarters and lined up the pieces in the cut cereal box. We draw on wheels and ladders, and voila! We had little fire engines.

During our Cooking Party one year, the activities WERE the food! The kids made individual pizzas and chicken cordon bleu, decorated their own cupcakes and had a donut eating contest.

But as I said earlier, we don’t typically get too elaborate. Usually, I like to make a fruit platter and crudite (veggie platter) with dip. If you go that route, I have few tips. Grapes work well, but grab your kitchen scissors and cut off small bunches. Quartered oranges, pineapple, and strawberries also work well. Stay away from apples and pears because they tend to brown quickly, and blueberries are another no no. Inevitably some will fall and be squished, staining whatever they touch.

For veggies, we’ve found that broccoli and cauliflower are not a big hit with everyone. When we did include them, they were always the last to go. Sliced bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber (cut in lengths) are popular choices.

If cooking is your thing, then you might opt to serve a meal. Buffet style food is always great at a kid’s party, since the last thing kids usually want to do is sit down for a formal meal. Make-your-own sandwiches with a cold cut platter, rolls and condiments are often a big hit. Taco bars are another popular choice, and similar to that (but a little more unique) is a mashed potato bar. Offer plastic parfait cups with delicious mashed potatoes and a choice of toppings such as salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, chives, nacho cheese and bacon bits.

Speaking of cheese, you can do a psuedo-fondue by keeping a warm ninja crockpot with melted cheese and put out toothpicks and a wide range of dippable foods such as mini hot dogs, meatballs and cut veggies.

Drinks

At the beverage table, leave a permanent marker next to the cups with a little sign asking people to label their drinks. It will save on wasted cups. We like to offer water and ice tea and avoid sugary drinks.

During cake, we put out coffee and a carafe of hot water with a basket of tea bags, along with a gallon of milk for kids to wash down their sweets.

 

What are some of your kid party food favorites?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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