Category Archives: Play

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Seven Ways to Make Summer Last Longer

While many of us are preparing our kids to go back to school, the calendar and weather still signal summer. The days are longer, our to-do lists are less crowded. Even if you never let go of frenzy for summer, or you’re feeling it now as you gear up for fall, there are a few small shifts that can really help you lighten up to match the remaining summer season, while also helping squeeze more true pleasure from this joyous time of year.

Make a Summer Bucket List

For many, summer conjures beach days, county fairs, gazing at the stars, planting flowers, playing flashlight tag, or making simple crafts. What else would you and your family really like to have done by the time Labor Day comes around? Make a summer bucket list of ideas and hang it where you can see it, or write each idea on a piece of paper or a popsicle stick and place those in a bucket. Have one family member choose an activity once or more per week for the rest of summer. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on the list – you can do many of your favorites another time.

Watch the Sun Rise or Set

The day naturally slows when we take the time to witness a dramatic and beautiful sunrise or sunset. Get comfortable, pay attention to the changing colors and light, and make a point to either greet or say goodbye to the day. This small act can be very grounding and gratifying to people of all ages, as it truly takes us out of the artificial time of clocks, calendars, emails and to-do lists, and into the rhythms of nature and the comforting, yet awe-inspiring, turning of the Earth.

Make Time for Down Time

Many of us are uncomfortable with empty spaces on the calendar. As difficult as it may be, and as enriching as many choices are, try to resist the urge to schedule every moment of summer. Kids actually need play time, down time and family time in order not only to recharge, but also to fully thrive. In addition, they don’t need to be constantly entertained. Free time, and even boredom, has produced wonderful innovations and insights. It is often during quiet time that many children make unique discoveries, including the directions of their own inner compasses. If down time doesn’t come naturally to you, schedule some into your calendar. This can be especially important as everyone gears up for a busier season.

Be Present and Do One Thing at a Time

Have you ever noticed that kids are usually not doing and thinking about multiple things at once? This is one area in which we can probably learn from them. Many of us parents would be surprised by how much our kids just want to be with us, and how our multitasking makes them feel. In studies of hundreds of kids over five years, Dr. Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, unearthed countless stories of children feeling neglected by their parents for media.

Try to compartmentalize your work and other tasks, so that they don’t invade precious time with your family. Because of the allure of electronics, we often have to turn our devices off as well, so that we can devote our attention to the people we’re with and the activities we’re doing without being distracted by alerts and the occasional itchy-fingered desire to check in with the electronic world.

Give Your Electronics the Day Off

Electronic media is so incredibly seductive for people of all ages that sometimes we need to take things a step further and formally unplug for a period of time in order to experience our families, selves and time. Follow the direction of most of the world’s religions and cultures and call a scheduled day of rest each week, for a day, a night, or a few hours. If you’re constantly plugged in, it can be very enlightening to see what happens when you get quiet, and also when you do get back to media. It is usually emergency-free and easier to get back into the flow of work and communication than we envision.

In addition, many TV shows contain anxiety-provoking images and messages. Try cutting out one or more TV shows per week and substituting them with a family walk or game.

Be a Tourist in Your Town

We often think we have to engage in awesome (read expensive) summer vacation travel, when sometimes the simplest experiences can prove the most delightful, especially for younger children. Get up early one day and watch the stores and businesses in your town receive their deliveries and come alive. Visit your nearest large city and partake in a true tourist activity that you’ve never done before. Walk or ride bikes as a family in a new neighborhood. You may be surprised by just how much fun everyone has, trying new things and seeing local surroundings with fresh eyes. If you have younger ones and do have time when others go back to school, that can be a great time to explore a city without the summer tourists.

Enjoy Your Family

Summer often means extended time with your family and with that inevitably comes some days that are more trying than others. Try to keep in mind that this phase will pass, summer only comes once a year, and the kids will only be this age once. If having other parents around helps, participate in group activities, either with a buddy or through a structured program. Relish the good times and the memories you’re forming now. Chances are that summer’s smallest moments will be the ones you regard with the most fondness later.

A version of this post originally appeared in Dot Complicated.

These tips were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ tips and fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer
Summer Family Fun: Make and Experiment with Giant Homemade Bubbles
Tidepooling with Kids: Explore Undersea Creatures
Stir Up Some Triple Berry Jam

Tech/Life Balance? It’s Dot Complicated!

For all the ease and wonder that technology has granted us, how many times have you lamented that it’s also made life more complicated? We deal with tremendous amounts of email clutter to rival our closet clutter. We wonder if our kids are experiencing too much technology too soon, and at what expense. We find ourselves bleary-eyed and twitchy-fingered as we check various online news outlets and events one more time, for fear of missing something important. We reveal a little too much to our co-workers and about ourselves and our significant others.

For fleeting moments, the life of a few decades ago appears so much simpler. People had time to compose long letters at writing desks; to visit with friends, make lovely meals, and play simple games by a lake or a hearth. Of course, it’s easy to romanticize such a life as well. When so much of the world is literally at our fingertips, it can be tricky to choose which aspects of technology and modernity to embrace and which to let go of to make room for that which is simple, personal, tactile and ultimately leads to a fulfilling and connected life.

This is the spirit with which Randi Zuckerberg launched Dot Complicated, an online community that aims to help us explore and untangle our modern, wired lives — together. I had the great fortune of meeting Randi and a few like-minded fellow bloggers at a lovely luncheon, and then I got to return to the Zuckerberg Media Studios, to chat with Randi, Beth Blecherman of TechMamas, video blogger Lizzie Bermudez and Veena Goel Crownholm of Tiaras to Babies, The conversation was wonderful and warm, ranging from our attempts to unclutter and manage our lives and households to the ways in which we find happiness and take care of ourselves.

Beth, Me, Randi, Lizzie, Veena

You can see our four video segments.

I also had a short session with Randi, in which I shared How to Make a Paper Boat, one of the 300+ projects in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World which are designed to give families ideas and instructions for simple activities, many of which can be done spontaneously and with little equipment on a free afternoon or during a low-key gathering. The paper boat was one of our favorite things to make as a family and sail, either in a local creek or a bathtub. I recently got to share origami boat making with a younger generation of boat-makers, which was delightful, and which I recounted for Randi.

Watch the video here:

Often us parents think we have to plan unusual, elaborate or expensive activities for our kids. Many of us would be surprised at the simple activities and small moments that instead become our children’s fondest memories. Sailing paper boats is one such example for us. Others include picking fruit on long summer days and coming home and making jam, mixing a bucket of bubble solution and enjoying giant bubbles for days, playing tag in the park, making and eating homemade soft pretzels, keeping a moon diary, and watching the night sky for meteors.

I believe that the more technological our lives become, the more we yearn for tactile activities like crafts and cooking, as well as activities that help us gather in families and communities to experience the wonder of the seasons and the natural world and to bond through important play time, down time and family time.

For more simple, fun and memorable things to do with your kids this summer (and a couple of attitudinal changes that might help make summer go more smoothly and joyfully) see my Dot Complicated blog, 7 Secrets to Make Summer Last Longer.

Looking for still more simple, even retro, family fun? See 8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer.

Thanks again to Randi and everyone at Dot Complicated for being such an important voice for simplifying our lives and for bringing together so many wise and passionate people who desire the same thing.

Beth Blecherman, Hillary Frank and Veena Crownholm on the set

Lovely fellow bloggers and Dot Complicated staff

 

 

Enter the OgoSport PlayRefuel Contest

Outdoor Play Equipment from OgoSport

Where do you and your family like to play and eat?  Share your tips and take part in OgoSport‘s PlayRefuel Summer Contest! The contest is designed to help families discover places to eat and play in cities and towns across the U.S.  Share your favorite playgrounds, parks and outdoor spaces (Play), and/or places to grab a bite with kids (Refuel). You’ll be entered in a drawing for a $250 OgoSport gift basket and other fun prizes. The contest runs through August 31. Winners will be announced in fall.

Here’s how to play:

1. Enter OgoSport’s Twitter or Facebook contest page: playrefuel.com/2013contest

2. Click on either Twitter or Facebook.

3. Submit the name and location of a favorite place to eat or play and two brief descriptions of what you like about it.  If on Twitter, use the hashtag #playrefuel; on Facebook enter the contest link for details.

You can also send submissions via a postcard or letter to:

OgoSport, LLC
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg. 3 Suite #408
63 Flushing Avenue, Unit 137
Brooklyn, NY 11205

4. Each submission – up to 10 – will enter your name in our raffle drawing for a chance to win a $250 OgoSport gift basket in addition to other prizes.

Get inspired by OgoSport’s disks, darts, bits, kits and other fun sports equipment for outdoor play.

I look forward to playing, refueling, and sharing my top spots for both.

The OgoSport Mini Disk FORA

 

This post is sponsored by OgoSport. The opinions expressed are my own.

Photos: OgoSport

 

 

Bubble Day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Bay Area Discovery Museum recently held a Bubble Day, the first of many special hands-on events at the museum this summer. As a longtime fan of the magic of bubbles, it was great fun for me to see a new generation of children discovering simple bubble wonder and fun.

You can make your own bubble mix at home with simple ingredients. (Recipe below.) A bucket of mix will last a couple weeks. Leave it out in a yard or on a porch for spontaneous summer play!

Recipe for Great Bubbles

There’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes. The best mixes come from ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

Learn lots more fun bubble experiments and activities.

Enjoy making your own bubbles!

This activity adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Enter the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest

If you are age 6-12 and you have an original idea for a backyard game, you could win a $10,ooo scholarship, or enter a game as a group and win a $15,000 donation to the non-profit of your choice. Now in its third year, the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest fosters creativity and outdoor play by encouraging innovative games that don’t require any special equipment, but rather sports and other items one would typically have around the house.

One of last year’s winning games, North Pole South Pole (pictured above), encourages players to be “persistent penguins” who gather fish from a fishing hole before depositing them at their North or South Pole. The equipment? Hula hoops, pillowcases and water balloons. Download instructions for North Pole South Pole and other winning games.

The entry deadline is June 17. The finalists will receive a trip to San Diego for the July 27 Backyard Game playoffs. Download a complete set of rules.

As a bonus, the 2013 judges include Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, co-authors of the fantastic Kids Outdoor Adventure Book, which I reviewed on this blog, and which also encourages outdoor play and discovery throughout the year.

So, what are you waiting for? Put your thinking cap on and get ready to innovate and play.

Photos: CLIF Kid

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Kids Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play
NFL Play 60 Invention Contest (and jump rope games)
American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids (with playground games)
8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer

Summer Family Fun: Make and Experiment with Giant Homemade Bubbles

The mere sight of a bubble floating by overhead can make even the most harried person stop and smile. Part science, part wonder, a bubble is simply a thin skin of liquid surrounding a gas. But you needn’t know any bubble science to enjoy this fun and inexpensive activity. Best of all, bubbles can be made using ingredients you have around the house. When the weather’s nice, I often make a bucket of bubble solution and leave it outside with wands and other fun equipment so my daughter and others can make bubbles whenever they like. It’s always fun and magical to create bubbles and run around to watch them trail behind you in the breeze.

Recipe for Great Bubbles

There’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes. The best mixes come from ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

How to Blow Big, Strong, Long-Lasting Bubbles

Choose good wands or materials.

Ensure that the bubble and bubble tool only touch wet surfaces.

If the day is too windy for big bubbles, seek a windbreak and form bubbles near that.

Make sure the bubble mix is inside the wand or tool.

Blow or wave the wand gently, just enough for the film inside to catch some air. Blowing too hard can cause a bubble to break, or can create many small bubbles instead of one big one.

Make Your Own Wand or Bubble Maker

There are wonderful commercial wands with very large openings in whimsical shapes, available at toy stores and fairs. You can also make your own large homemade wand.

You’ll need:

Two or more wire hangers

Bend a clothes hanger into the shape of a circle.

Unfold a second hanger as straight as you can and attach it to the first to form a handle.

 Create a Bubble Window Maker

You’ll need:

Cotton string with some absorbency

Plastic straws cut in pieces

Run a length of string through the straws in a continuous line.

Leave some string between each straw and knot the string ends together.

See what shapes you can make with the straws.

Try a “bubble window”. When making the window, lift the solution out of the bucket or pan in one plane and at an angle, which will help the film remain within the shape. Put two wet hands through a bubble window and shake hands!

 Slow Tip: Search around your house for other good bubble makers. Six-pack rings, plastic strawberry containers, funnels, cookie cutters, mason-jar rings, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, strainers, even fly swatters can all make fine bubbles. Often items with many small openings will produce masses of fun bubbles. Your hands are another wonderful bubblemaker — especially if they are wet.

More Bubble Fun

Bubble Clusters: Put a small amount of bubble solution on a pie tin or cookie sheet. Blow into it with straws to create multiple bubbles in clusters.

Bubble Within a Bubble: Blow a bubble with a straw. Remove the straw from the bubble. Making sure the straw is wet, gently insert it into the top of the bubble, so it enters at a 45 degree angle. Blow gently to form another bubble.

 

This activity is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains this and 300+ more fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

NFL Play 60 Encourages Kids to Be Active, Prizes Awarded for Original Games

The National Football League has announced a new campaign to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The NFL Play 60 Program encourages kids to be active for 60 minutes each day through school and community events. They are also sponsoring the NFL Play 60 Invention Contest, to inspire kids 6-13 to invent their own game, activity, piece of fitness equipment, football-themed innovation, or training device for a chance to win $5,000, a 3-day/2-night trip for two to the Grand Prize Event, and an NFL Prize Pack. Two finalists and 12 semi-finalists will also receive prizes. The contest site offers brainstorming tips and inspiration to get you started.

Many NFL players and other athletes utilize a simple and extremely inexpensive piece of fitness equipment to help them stay in shape – a jump rope. Jumping rope has gone in and out of fashion since ancient Egypt, when both men and women jumped over vines. It wasn’t until the 20th century that jumpers incorporated the sing-song games and rhymes that many of us associate with childhood and particularly girls.

As a fan of simple and inexpensive games and equipment, as well as the origin and continuation of playground games that are passed down through the generations through oral history, I love everything about jumping rope. As inspiration, here are three fitness benefits to jumping rope. It can be easy to fit jumping rope into your 60 minutes of daily fitness. Below are some fun jump rope games that will keep you singing and laughing as well as help keep you fit. They are games my mom taught me and I taught my daughter. Who knows, you might invent the next jump rope or other fun game.

You’ll need:

One regular jump rope for one person, or a longer jump rope for two turners to turn, while a jumper (or more) jumps.

The jumper jumps over the rope each time it hits the ground. Jumpers can jump in one jump each turn or one big jump followed by one smaller jump each turn. A turn ends when the jumper fails to jump over the turning rope. The following are classic, easy jump-rope games. They don’t have tunes, so much as chants, so they are especially easy to pick up.

A My Name is Alice

This is a fun add-on game that also calls for a little creativity and is different every time

The first jumper starts with the letter A, and fills in the blanks in this sentence, however he or she chooses:

A my name is ____ and my husband’s name is ____ and we live in ____ and we sell ____.

For example: A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al and we live in Albuquerque and we sell Apples.

If the jumper hasn’t tripped up, he or she moves on to the letter B, such as:

B my name is Betty and my husband’s name is Bob and we live in Boise and we sell Beans.

Jumpers move through the alphabet as long as their turns last. New jumpers usually start with A (that makes it easy to compare how far each gets) and choose new names.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

This jump-rope game is a little more advanced, as it requires player to pantomime the activity they are singing about (to the best of their abilities) as they are jumping.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, tie your shoe,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!

The following games involve counting as far as jumpers can get during each turn.

Mabel Mabel

Mabel, Mabel, set the table,

Do it as fast as you are able,

Don’t forget the Red. (pause) Hot. (pause) PEPPERS!
On “Peppers”, start turning the rope doubly-fast, counting a point for each turn. The jumper jumps until they miss and are out.

Cinderella

Cinderella, dressed in yella

went downstairs to kiss a ‘fella.

By mistake she kissed a snake.

How many doctors did it take?

1, 2, 3, ..  (Count each turn of the rope successfully jumped.)

 Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums

Apples, peaches, pears and plums.

Tell me when your birthday comes.

January, February, March, .. (Count one month for each turn of the rope successfully jumped.)

Have an idea for a NEW way to get active? Encourage your kids to enter the NFL Play60 Invention Contest! Enter today!

Want a free NFL Play60 poster? Email info@bkfk.com with your mailing address to request one!

These jump rope games were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains this and 300+ more fun family activities.

This post is sponsored by NFL Play 60. The views expressed are my own.

Jump rope photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play

“Nature is a destination,” write Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, the authors of The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up. “But you don’t have to travel anywhere to find it. Just open the door and step outside.” That idea of fun and adventure in “nearby nature” infuses their entire delightful new book. This is an especially important concept at a time when kids are spending much more time with electronics than they are in the natural world. The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book offers a perfect counter-balance to indoor time, with activities that are easy for even the busiest families to enjoy.

The book is wonderfully, and helpfully, arranged by seasons (each of which is declared “the best season”.) Each season features an array of fun outdoor activities, so that a reader might be inspired to tap a maple tree or find a turtle in spring, catch a firefly or find fossils in summer, go owling or conquer a corn maze in fall, or go ice fishing or whittle a branch in winter. In addition to all the activities, which are presented in a fun check-list fashion and have guidelines as to the “adventure scale” of each one, there are plenty of larger-scale projects, outdoor games, destinations, and foods to make, so that families and others can be kept very busy doing the book’s activities over many years.

The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book  is very rich. It features a range of activities, from those that are simple to do, but might have escaped notice, such as “Roll down a hill like a log” (something my daughter loved to do) to more exotic ideas like “Go spelunking” in a cave. Rachel Riordan’s extremely cute illustrations complement the breadth of ideas in this  jam-packed, fun-filled book. Tornio and Keffer, who are judges in the 3rd annual ClifKID Backyard Game of the Year Contest, have captured the joy of being alive and the rhythm of the seasons and the natural world. Readers of this book will surely be inspired to open the door to their own outdoor adventures.

Want to get your own autographed copy of the Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book? Enter to win the CLIFKid ZBar and book giveaway.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
8 Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids

Why Finland’s Education System is the Best in the World

No Child Left Behind, with its accelerated education practices and emphasis on standardized testing, seems to be leaving many American children behind much of the industrialized world, according to a new global table of education, produced for the Intelligence Unit of The Economist. The U.S. is ranked 17th in education, far below first-place Finland and many other countries. Read why Finland has the best education system in the world.

What are their secrets?

For one, Finnish children don’t start school until age 7. (Waldorf education advocates that children not read until 7.) Phenomenally, Finnish students only take one standardized test, and that is at the age of 16. By that age, a typical American child will have taken dozens of standardized tests, and will have spent much educational time preparing for them, at the expense of other learning and discovery. Finnish elementary school students receive 75 minutes of recess per day, as opposed to an average of 27 minutes in the U.S. There is very little homework.

Education in Finland is 100% state subsidized, as is teacher training. The results of all this attention to teacher support and developmentally appropriate learning, free time and play? 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school, a figure that is 17.5 percent higher than that in the U.S.

Some might point to Finland’s smaller size or relative homogeneity as possible reasons for their success, but their success is notably higher than other Scandinavian countries, which have similar demographics and diversity. 30 U.S. states have populations equal to or less than Finland’s, at 5.5 million.

This article from The Atlantic notes that Finland’s acclaimed education system owes much to the idea of economic equity.

Read more about why Finland’s education system is Number One.

So how does the U.S. educational system stack up against that of other countries? According to a 2011 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), American 15-year-olds scored at the international average of industrialized nations in science and reading, and below the international average in math.

The above article goes on to note that high-performing countries recruit and retain talented teachers. It noted some interesting cultural differences, as well. For instance, Japanese students are encouraged to struggle through problems more than American students are. According to UCLA psychology professor James Stigler, who studied the Japanese educational system:

American students “aren’t socialized to struggle hard. They’re socialized to put their hands up and say, ‘I don’t know.’ ” While Japanese parents would be inclined to tell a child’s teacher, “Thank you for helping my kid struggle,” American parents are more inclined to say, “Why are you torturing my kid?”

That’s a very interesting point that speaks to many parents’ well-meaning, but sometimes misguided, attempts to rush in and fix perceived problems, a habit that ultimately robs their children of essential problem-solving skills and the mastery and confidence that come with them.

The original Economist report quoted above makes some of the same key recommendations about economic success in its Five lessons for education policymakers:

  • There are no magic bullets
  • Respect teachers
  • Culture can be changed
  • Parents are neither impediments to nor saviors of education
  • Educate for the future, not just the present

And this comes from NYU Research Professor of Education and Former U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, in her review of Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? in the New York Review of Books:

U.S. policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.

The last word about our (relatively unsuccessful) competition-driven, test-obsessed educational model will have to go to Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience:

If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.

These are Top 20 Countries in the World, in Education, as ranked by the global table of education:

  • Finland
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Australia
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • USA
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia
  • Russia

More reading (some of these are referenced above):

Why Finland’s Unorthodox Education System is the Best in the World, Business Insider

The Pearson Report for the Economist

What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success, The Atlantic

Schools We Can Envy, New York Review of Books

From Finland, An Intriguing School Model, New York Times

Why are Finland’s Schools Successful, Smithsonian

UK Education Sixth in Global Ranking, BBC News

Great Ideas from Finnish Schools, Two in the Middle

American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids, Slow Family Online and Christian Science Monitor

How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let the Play, Slow Family Online

Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast, Slow Family Online and Christian Science Monitor

 

Photos: wstryder, edushyster

Host a Kid-Friendly Oscar Party

Updated for 2014.

Planning to watch the 86th annual Academy Awards? Turn your evening into a fun family event, or even an Oscar party, by serving easy finger foods, such as mini hot dogs; golden food, like easy yellow cupcakes, star-shaped sugar cookies with gold sprinkles, or chocolate coins; and sparkly drinks like champagne, sparkling wine (these are good budget sparkling wines ) or sparkling apple cider.

If you’re feeling ambitious, Epicurious offers some wonderful Oscar-themed menus based on this year’s movie nominations. (Although, I think having pie to denote Life of Pi would work just fine!) Make food and drinks extra special by digging out any gold or silver platters and champagne flutes (plastic versions of these are available at party stores), or serving food on doilies.

Make copies of this printable Oscar ballot and have everyone vote for their favorites. The winner can receive a big box of movie candy, a certificate for a local movie theater, or a homemade voucher for a movie excursion.

Before the show starts, have kids dress up and walk the red carpet (roll out a piece of red fabric or a vinyl or fabric tablecloth, or denote a section of floor with tape) and take pictures. Make a gold star out of yellow construction paper (or cardboard, spray painted gold) and tape it to a door or wall to create an instant star’s dressing room.

Everyone likes to make acceptance speeches. Make an Oscar statuette by spray painting an old Barbie or Ken-sized doll gold. The ones below come from Ellie and Blair, who set theirs on stands. (They have lots of other fun Oscar party ideas.) In a pinch, spray paint a paper-towel roll to denote the Oscar, or have  children hold a bouquet of flowers.

Be sure they thank all the little people who helped make their success possible!

Who me?

Enjoy the show!

Photos: USA Today, Ellie & Blair, Us Magazine

 

 

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