Connecting through Protest: One Mom Shares Her Experience

by Christa Hines on September 27, 2016

Suffragists marching in New York City, 1913

When nearly 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House to demand the right to vote in 1913, they had objects thrown at them. They were spit on and they were physically assaulted. (Imagine how they would’ve been treated if social media had existed at the time.)

But the violence these courageous women endured worked in their favor, waking the sleeping giant and furthering their cause in the national conversation. That’s what protest movements can do.

Throughout the 20th century and now into the 21st century, we’ve seen women connect with each other by calling for equal rights, stricter gun control, healthcare rights and an end to the silent rape culture prevalent on many college campuses. From breastfeeding in public, maternity leave for working women and concerns about chemicals and dyes in foods, mothers are especially activist-minded, particularly when it comes to protecting the health and wellbeing of their children. 

Collectively, many women find satisfaction participating in a social movement that resonates with them. They find common ground with others and a sense of purpose. Kelly Daniels, a portrait photographer and mom of two grown sons, recently felt compelled to join the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Here’s what she shared about her experience on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota:

Kelly Daniels with her sons at the DAPL protest

Kelly Daniels with her sons at a DAPL protest.

“I’ve never in my life been to a protest, but my sweet sister Lori, who has Down Syndrome, put a fire in my heart when it has to do with people being bullied or mistreated, people that have no one to speak for them–especially people who don’t have the ability, physically, or financially. And the Native Americans have had nothing but tragedy given to them by our governments for 500 years since Columbus landed here. I believe it’s time to stand up for a people who have had no voice.

“The people I camped with in North Dakota were not ‘protestors’ as many people envision. They were families camping in tents and tipis; elders being acknowledged around the fire while inspiring people to be strong and peaceful; women cooking large vats of food over open fires; children playing on logs; young men and women moving through camp on horses. These were people… A struggling people… with a purpose beyond self. The purpose to keep the water clean for their children.”

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Photo courtesy Kelly Daniels; Daniels with a little girl at the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Protest is meant to make everyone from the policy makers to the voter more aware and a little uncomfortable. Peaceful protests and marches can work to advance civil rights and ultimately drive positive social change.

“Every little thing you do to make this world better makes a difference. Even good thought. Every good deed. It just takes showing up. And living your truth. Do whatever you can to make a change in this world for future generations.” ~ Kelly Daniels, in a speech at a DAPL protest.  

How we go about adding our voices to the conversation is up to each of us personally according to what we each have at stake. If you run a business, for example, do you risk alienating your customers? You have to decide where and how it’s appropriate to share your opinions.

Personal safety can also be a risk. Protest can cause tensions to rise and tempers to flare. Some people are happy with the status quo. Others fundamentally disagree with the message. And sometimes the wrong people hijack an otherwise peaceful movement to drive their own personal agendas of hate and violence, which can detract from the group’s core message.

Rallies around a cause can effectively advance change by breaking barriers and creating empathy. Those of us on the sidelines can, at the very least, do our part by listening to protesters’ stories and experiences with an open heart and an open mind, realizing that in general, people simply want what’s best for their families. 

Through listening and attempting to understand, we can lift up conversation and begin problem solving.

But before we can get to the table where productive, healing conversation can begin, sometimes we must first put one gentle step in front of the other. 

*Parts of this post were excerpted from my September newsletter. To subscribe to my monthly newsletter, head here.

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“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

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Kristin Fritchman and her baby girl have hiked over 150 miles together. 

We’ve heard time and again the benefits of spending time outside, both for own wellbeing and for our kids’ physical and emotional health. With its milder temperatures and gorgeous colors, autumn is truly one of the best seasons to get outside with our families.

But what are the best ways to truly enjoy all that nature has to offer if you’re the parent of a baby or toddler without the outing becoming a logistical headache?

Find out this Friday when my next guest host shares her knowledge and expertise in my Confidently Connected Moms Facebook Group!

Strap ‘em on and go! This Friday, September 23, mom and avid hiker Kristin Fritchman, co-leader of the Kansas City Branch of Hike It Baby, will spend the day with us. She’ll share tips and answer your questions about how to hit the trails and enjoy the great outdoors with our youngsters this fall and throughout the year, especially if you have a baby or toddler.  

Here’s what you’ll learn during the workshop:

* Benefits of getting outside

* Benefits of baby wearing

* Baby wearing resources – finding the right carrier

* Finding trails and groups

* Hiking with baby

* Toddler-led hikes and nature play

* Camping and micro-adventures

About Kristin:

Kristin Fritchman is a full-time working mom in the Kansas City area. After giving birth to her daughter in April 2015, she became involved in the Kansas City branch of Hike it Baby, and is now on the Branch Team that helps maintain and promote the group in Kansas City.  Kristin and her daughter, Emily, have logged over 150 miles together outside.

Kristin grew up in Southwest Missouri. Being outside in nature has always been an integral part of her life. As a child, she and her family spent most nice weather weekends enjoying camping, boating, and fishing trips to the lakes and rivers in the Ozarks. She also helped her grandparents out on their farm, and spent summers exploring the neighborhood with her brother.

Since graduating from University of Missouri – Columbia in 2009, she has worked as an environmental engineer at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Chicago Bridge & Iron. 

How do you join?  Learn how to integrate nature and hiking into your family’s life. Follow the link Confidently Connected Moms to join on Facebook. This is a closed group to protect the privacy of the conversations. Once I receive your request to join, I will add you. Once in, you can also invite your friends.

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The Power of Curiosity: A Book Review

by Christa Hines on September 14, 2016

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-35-41-amCuriosity has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe you’ve noticed.

The October issue of Parents magazine includes my article “Eager Learners: Encouraging Your Child’s Curiosity at Home Will Spill Over Into Class” in the School Age ages and stages section. And last week, I wrote a post titled “How Curiosity Helps Us Connect.”

I’m fascinated by how this one concept can create a positive reverberation across our relationships, personal and professional, both online and offline.

While doing the research for the Parents article, I had a chance to connect with Kirsten Siggins, who was one of the sources for my article. Kirsten is the co-author of the book The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations that Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding, which she wrote in collaboration with her mom Kathy Taberner.

The mother-daughter team are the founders of The Institute of Curiosity, a coaching and training organization that helps individuals learn and apply the skills of curiosity to their personal and professional relationships.

As a journalist, I’m constantly reading books in my research and many are excellent resources for parents. (You can check out the growing list of books I recommend in my resources section.) But The Power of Curiosity struck a particular chord with me because it parallels so much of my own thinking about building meaningful relationships in the digital age.

The book is an easy-to-read, comprehensive resource for anyone who wishes to enhance their communication IQ and maintain stronger relationships.

“Without curiosity, relationships fracture, and understanding and connection are lost. We live in a time where change is constant and our future depends on new possibilities and innovative outcomes.” ~ Taberner & Siggins, The Power of Curiosity

From a parenting perspective

The authors recommend active, curious listening. Engaged parents who listen carefully to their kids when they share their interests, problems and thoughts, build a deep sense of trust and help their kids appreciate the power of listening in their own relationships. As our kids get older and start pulling away from us, the connection we’ve nurtured from the beginning will matter all the more.

Furthermore, by role modeling our own spirit of curiosity and wonder in the world, we encourage our kids to grow into life-long learners, who are interested in engaging with the world around them (which I cover in my Parents article).

Helping us manage conflict

Taberner and Siggins also do an excellent job of explaining how curiosity can help us during challenging conversations, which many of us are facing right now during an incredibly tense and divisive political season.

“Curiosity is your most powerful tool—a tool you can use in any conversation to better understand what has been said, why it has been said, what is going on for the other person and what is going on for yourself. Curiosity is the key to resolving conflict so that relationships remain intact…” ~ Taberner & Siggins, The Power of Curiosity

The truth is, few of us were ever taught how to engage in conflict in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Conflict brings up powerful emotions. Online and off, many of us go into a confrontation with the goal of shutting the other person down. You know, what I mean—“I’m right. He’s wrong. And I’m gonna prove it.”

We’re all guilty of it at some point or another.

Other times, we dive head first into conflict without an understanding of what the outcome is that we’re even seeking. Meanwhile, in our quest for rightness, we forget that words can poison, and we look back with regret on the limping remains of a relationship that may not weather the tongue’s arrows.

Could curiosity solve all of our relationship troubles? Maybe not. But it could certainly help us make better sense of the world and of each other. I’m curious to find out. How about you?

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Check out the October 2016 issue of Parents magazine on news stands now!

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How Curiosity Helps Us Connect

by Christa Hines on September 6, 2016

I bet you have stories to tell.

Happy stories, sad stories, triumphant stories and tragic stories.

But did you know that none of it matters? At least not in the moment when you’re trying to get to know another person.

Let’s say you’re headed to a get-together where you won’t know a lot of people. As much as you may dislike it, you understand that a little bit of small talk gives you a chance to find common ground with someone else at the gathering.

But once your past initial introductions, there’s sometimes that awkward moment of silence… and a decision looms. Do I excuse myself to refill my drink? Do I tell that story about what happened on the way to work today or the funny thing my toddler said? Should I check my phone?

Try deepening the conversation by tapping your curiosity. What could you learn from this person?

When we’re curious, we’re most open to listening and learning. And, you’ll not only get to know people better, you’ll also come across as more likable.

An important part of asking questions is to actually be interested in the answers rather than trying to think about what you’re going to say next. This is hard for a lot of us because we may feel a little nervous entering a conversation with someone we don’t know. But allow yourself to be present in the moment and to just carefully follow their story. People typically love to talk about their kids, their pets, their passions and their hobbies.

Here are a few questions to try:

  • What are you most excited about right now?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • If you learn that they have children, ask what their children are like. What activities do they like to do? (Sometimes this is a clue about what the person you’re talking to is interested in as well. In fact, this could be your next question–“Oh, did you like playing tennis as a kid too?”)
  • How are you enjoying this age (in reference to what it’s like to parent a toddler/school-age child/middle schooler, etc.)? What do you think are the biggest challenges?
  • Where do you and your family like to vacation? What is it that you like about that part of the country?
  • What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
  • What would you have done with your life if you hadn’t gone into sales (or whatever it is they do for a living) or was that always your passion?
  • If they have an especially interesting career, ask how they made it happen. What was their big break?

Watch what happens in the conversation. Not only will you remember fascinating details about the person you just met, they’ll remember you too. Even if they don’t learn a lot about you, they’ll like you because you took time to listen. And very few people do that anymore.

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We Need You!The beginning of the school year is flush with opportunities to get involved in your child’s school. Managed well, volunteering can be personally rewarding. Most of us feel good helping others and investing in community causes or organizations that value our time.

When you take time to volunteer for your child’s school, your kids see that you care about their school community and that it’s an extension of their home life.

Through your involvement, you’ll also get to know other families, and teachers and staff. And if you’re family is new to the school, neighborhood or community, volunteering is a great way to begin connecting with other families and integrating into the community. 

Of course, since many of us have other priorities, including full-time jobs, younger children and multiple other commitments, we have to take a practical approach to how we share our time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Here’s how I balance volunteer work with my paid work and other responsibilities.

  • Take a realistic approach to your calendar. Proactively decide how much time you have for volunteer projects that interest you. Figure out how many hours or which days of the week you can contribute. With advance planning, you’ll avoid falling into a reactive guilt trap that inevitably leads to saying yes to whatever request comes your way.
  • Choose activities that interest you. For example, as a writer and author, I love books and supporting the school library so I usually sign up for the school book fair each year. Maybe you’re creative and can show the kids how to do a craft at the next classroom holiday party. Or, perhaps you’re good at landscaping and can help plant a flower bed on a Saturday morning.
  • Consider where the greatest needs are during the year. Schools typically have annual events that require a lot of parent power. Also, be aware of other needs that you can help with like stuffing envelopes or chaperoning field trips.
  • Decide what you won’t do. If seeking donations isn’t your thing, for example, decline these requests, knowing that plenty of other talented people love fundraising and are more than willing to step into these roles.
  • Look at each year differently. Schedules and commitments change. Maybe this year you’d prefer to dedicate your time leading a student extracurricular activity, which means you’ll pull back from other volunteer commitments.
  • Get creative about ways you can help. If your work schedule doesn’t allow you to volunteer up at the school during the day, ask teachers if there are things you can do to help them outside of normal business hours. Choose weekend/evening activities like leaf clean-up, painting projects, school beautification projects, or leadership committees. Some teachers also look for speakers to visit their classes and talk about their careers as a way to highlight to students a connection between something they’re learning in school and the real-world workplace. 

No job is too small and every helping hand creates a more vibrant community. For more ways to manage volunteering and the questions you should ask, check out my post “Before Your Volunteer Ask These Questions“. 

What are your favorite ways to volunteer for your child’s school?

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 Magalie René-Hayes will guest-host in the Confidently Connected Moms FB group on August 15.

Did you know that there are design tricks that can help you create a home environment that fosters your child’s creativity and ability to concentrate and learn? With legions of youngsters heading back into the classroom during the next few weeks, now is the time to learn new ways to get your home back-to-school ready.

“The spaces in which we engage shape us and help us shape the world,” says Magalie René-Hayes, founder and designer, Foundations Design Group. “Our environment informs what we create. That’s true for schools and also for homes.”

Magalie works with educators and parents across the United States in her mission to create environments that help our kids learn and thrive. And I’m thrilled to announce that on Monday, August 15, she’s planning to share some of her expertise as a special guest host in my Facebook group Confidently Connected Moms!

During her free workshop, Kid-Smart Spaces: Your Home Environment & Your Little Genius, you’ll learn:

  • How your home’s layout, design, and decor can impact wellness, focus, behavior, mood, problem-solving skills, creativity, and concentration. 
  • Tips & tricks for creating an optimal homework/study area.
  • The one area in your home that most supports your child’s academic success.

How do you join? Follow the link Confidently Connected Moms to join on Facebook. This is a closed group to protect the privacy of the conversations. Once I receive your request to join, I will add you. Once in, you can also invite your friends.

How can you participate? Throughout the day, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with Magalie, ask questions, participate in discussions and learn ways to create a home that will help support your young learner. The event will go on throughout the day. Pop in as your schedule allows.

About Magalie: In 2008, Magalie traded a 15-year career in project management and marketing for the non-profit world of philanthropic powerhouse, The Ford Foundation. The idea of design-meets-social-change took shape while working at their headquarters, one of New York City’s oldest green buildings designed by architect, Kevin Roche.

In 2012, she was offered an opportunity to redesign a Brooklyn Charter School in need of physical spaces that reflected its mission. Foundations Design Group has been helping school administrators and educators use interior design and organizing principles to transform their schools ever since. As a result, hundreds of students have gained nurturing, engaging, organized environments where they can discover the gifts they’ll use to make meaningful contributions to the world.

Magalie supports several non-profit organizations serving children and the arts including Haiti Cultural Exchange, The Hollywood Arts Council, Create for Kids, and Fleur De Vie. She has been featured in numerous magazines including Dr. Oz The Good Life, Good Housekeeping and Univision, and speaks on topics including interior design, personal growth, transitioning careers, and creating “Kid-Smart Spaces” for the classroom and home. Magalie works on a variety of residential, commercial, and institutional projects throughout the United States. 

Want to connect with Magalie? Follow her on:

Instagram: kidsmartspaces

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/KidSmartSpaces

Twitter: @kidsmartspaces

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/magalierenehayes

*Do you have a special expertise that you’d like to share with moms? To submit your idea or to learn more about the monthly guest-hosting opportunities in Confidently Connected Moms, please contact me.

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Managing Emotions in a Sea of Change

by Christa Hines on August 3, 2016

2016-06-13 06.36.44The end of summer brings out all kinds of feelings for moms, from nostalgia as another summer slips into the memory books to annoyance as we break up more and more sibling battles between our bored kids.

Maybe the words: “I’ve had it! It’s time to go back to school!” have crossed your lips as they have mine.

And then there are those contentious battles online. We’re in a season of upheaval and uncertainty as we wonder who our next president will be. One woman said she was looking for a political filter button on Facebook. I think there are number of folks looking for that button! 

Yes, emotions are brimming. How do you find peace of mind and a retain a sense of calm?

In my August newsletter, I tackle a variety of issues as we head into the end of summer and back to school season, including:

  • Taking time for a mini-retreat
  • Getting an unenthusiastic youngster excited for a new school year
  • Managing your emotional impulses in the midst of online political debate
  • Escaping for a star-struck date night
  • Creating a supportive community while parenting alone

From personal time to quality time with your family and friends and managing your reactions when it comes to hot-button issues, you can create an environment that feels positive and energizing as we move into the next season of the year. 

Want to see an example of my August newsletter? Click here

Subscribing is easy. Head here to get added to my list. My newsletter typically comes out every first Wednesday of the month. 

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On August 15,  in my Facebook group Confidently Connected Moms don’t miss guest host Magalie Rene-Hayes, a classroom and interior designer of Kid Smart Spaces. Magalie will share ways to create an inspiring home environment that will boost your kids’ concentration, focus and well-being.

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When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest (1)Feeling nervous as you head into an unknown social situation, interview or public speaking engagement? Jam to the right playlist before you head out, and you’ll not only enjoy a boost of energy, you could feel a surge of confidence too.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that the act of listening to an empowering tune can trigger unconscious feelings of power and strength. Surprisingly, the results had little to do with the lyrics. Rather, songs with a strong bass sound evoked an illusion of power in the listeners that carried over to the social situations they went into. That makes sense if you consider how we as a society tend to attribute individuals with deeper voices as having more power—consider Sam Elliott, Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones or Kathleen Turner (who trained her voice to go deeper by sticking erasers between her teeth).

We are also conditioned to associate certain songs with victory like those played at athletic events, for example, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (Rocky, anyone?), AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and Queen’s We Are the Champions.

So before you head into an interview or a social situation that has you feeling anxious and jittery, slide up that bass and rock out to one of your favorite tunes. You’ll walk in standing taller and feeling more self-assured. (Just beware of pumping up the volume at a traffic light unless you want to be the recipient of angry stares from drivers who aren’t sharing your confident new vibe.)

A few of my favorite confidence boosting songs are Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine, Extraordinary by Liz Phair and Roar by Katy Perry. 

What are your favorite songs that give you a shot of confidence?

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Dr. Jen Santa MariaLast month as a special Mother’s Day event, I hosted a group of ladies from the Mindful Mamas Circle of Kansas City in my Facebook group Confidently Connected Moms. We had so much fun learning from them about holistic nutrition and overall well-being for mom and the entire family that I wanted to invite another special guest host this month to share her knowledge.

Dr. Jen Santa Maria, a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor, will host a free workshop on Tuesday, June 21 all day on Facebook in my private group Confidently Connected Moms. If you’re a new or expectant mom interested in learning more about pediatric and prenatal chiropractic healing, this workshop is for you.

Here’s what Dr. Jen plans to present:

“This class will focus on both mom and baby. I will show research and reasons why certain things happen during pregnancy and how to help fix them by making sure the body is properly aligned and the nervous system is functioning.

We will walk through many common ailments that children have (colic, ear infections, digestive issues, etc) and explain why many of these things are happening and how chiropractic can help. We are taking a look through a different looking glass to realize chiropractic is not all about back and neck pain and why it is vital for kids to have chiropractic while growing and developing (both inside mom and out!)”

About Dr. Jen Santa Maria:

Dr. Jen is a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor in Overland Park, KS. She helps restore life in each person who gets adjusted. The body expresses life through their nervous system and any interference with this system can be detrimental. Dr. Jen knows that it is vital to check infants after birth to make sure they are able to grow and develop at 100% without any interference. This is vital for them. Dr. Jen also helps mamas have an easier birth by making sure she is kept in line with her ever changing body. As the weight shifts forward the pelvis can mis-align putting pressure on mom and baby. With chiropractic care during pregnancy the need for unexpected or unnecessary intervention at birth can be reduced. Dr. Jen is extremely passionate about helping moms in the area realize why it is important to get themselves checked and their little ones checked regularly so they can express life to the fullest.

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There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story.Every summer, my kids’ school sends home math workbooks and encourages students to read throughout the summer. This is great, but I also want them to work on their writing skills, which will help them in reading, math and in life. Here are some of my favorite ideas for making writing fun this summer.

Make your own journals. I love making journals, and while I’d love to fashion something clever and cute for my sons I know that a journal they decorate themselves will be more meaningful to them. (And frankly at 11 and 9, they are put off by anything “cute” these days.) I purchase a three pack of the slim moleskin cardboard cover journals available at big chain stores. (Also check out dollar stores.) You don’t even have to purchase anything. Staple paper together and have your child make a cover out of construction paper or poster board. Then give them stamps, markers, paints and other craft materials to decorate their summer journals. 

Evening journaling. Each night before bed have your child write three or four sentences about their day. Don’t correct spelling or grammar. Just let them write. This a good way to help them wind down and reflect on the day.

Magazine photo prompts. Write stories using a picture in a magazine as a prompt. This a fun exercise in fiction or creative nonfiction writing if the photo reminds them of a personal story. Encourage your child to use his imagination and descriptive words. Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Have your child choose and cut out an interesting photo or illustration from a magazine.
  2. Paste the picture to the top of a page or journal page.
  3. Set the timer for five minutes.
  4. Have your child write a story using the image as a prompt. (This is a fun exercise to do together, either interpreting the same picture or each choosing his/her own picture.)
  5. Preschoolers can draw pictures to tell their story about the image.
  6. After the timer goes off, take turns sharing your stories.
  7. Extra kudos for use of clever words, metaphors and correct sentence structure.

Illustrated letters. My kids love to send email to their grandparents and cousins, but old fashioned letter writing is extra special. Who doesn’t love getting mail that isn’t junk or a bill? My mother-in-law, who is an amazing artist used to send my boys illustrated letters when they were still learning to read. She’d draw pictures to replace words in sentences. There’s no reason why your child can’t do the same thing. If your youngster gets frustrated while writing, encourage her to write mixing words and pictures. Then mail the letter to a loved one.

Craft homemade cards. Another way to get your child writing letters is to have him make homemade cards that he can send to friends and family. Ask him to write two or three sentences in the card and sign his name.

Set up letter boxes. My oldest son likes creating mail boxes for each person in the house. This is a heartwarming way to exchange short notes with each other.

Publish a family newspaper. Have your kids publish their own weekly newspaper this summer. They can drop in photos, make captions, write stories about funny/interesting/sad/awkward/scary experiences during the week. They can create cartoons and crosswords and even design ads. Google docs has a variety of templates and so does Word. (Of course, this can be done as an unplugged activity too.)

Start a Blog. Kids who really love to write might enjoy starting a private blog that they can share with family members. They can publish their stories or short essays and enjoy feedback from their audience. Have them publish under a pen name.

Scrapbook. A crafty youngster might get a kick out of taking photos throughout the summer and creating a scrapbook of her activities and camps. She can practice writing captions, headlines and describing each activity for a fun memory book that they can hang onto for years to come.

Quotables. As kids get older, give them a quote from a book, famous author, spokesperson, pastor or executive. Have them write out the quote and then write a few sentences about what they think the quote means and how it applies or doesn’t apply in their life.

Book reviews. Each summer, we set a goal for book reading. But don’t stop there. After your child reads the book, have her write a short summary and review. How many stars would she give it? What was it about? What did she like about the book, the characters and the setting? What didn’t she like? This can be done with movies that your kids see too! Give your child an audience by having her read her book review aloud at dinner.

Mystery story bag. Include ten random objects from around the house in a paper bag. Ask your child to pull three items out of the bag without looking. Have her write a story that includes each of these objects. If you think your young writer is ready, ask her to include a setting, characters, a problem and a resolution in the story. 

Make a Top 10 List. List writing is a fun and simple way to practice writing skills. Have your child make a list of 10 of her favorite ___________. Or have her keep a list of her favorite phrases/interesting words from a book that she’s reading. Here’s a fun book I got my son with list writing prompt ideas. My Listograph: My Amazing Life in Lists by Lisa Nola. Other lists that your child can write: grocery lists, to-do lists, etc.

Write a story together. Together choose a clever title. Have your child begin the story by writing the first sentence. Then you write the next sentence. Take turns until the story is finished.

Persuade me. Is there something your child really wants? Have her write you a letter detailing all of the reasons why she should have the object of her desire, including how she plans to earn it and care for it once it’s in her possession.

Get opinionated. Is your child upset about something that has happened in your community? Maybe she should write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or to a local leader. When I was a kid, I sometimes wrote letters to people who I felt needed to hear my opinion. 🙂 The fact that I was “just a kid” never stopped me. When I was about 12-years-old, I wrote a letter to our local television station. I was upset by a bigoted remark that a TV host made about women. I wrote him a letter expressing my disgust. I never heard anything back, but I felt better, especially after the station moved my show to a different time slot that he didn’t host. I doubt I had any influence on the decision, but it was a proactive way to practice my writing skills–and who knows how many letters he received that day!

Pen a screenplay. Got a budding actor or director in your midst? Have her write a play. If she’s really ambitious maybe she’ll recruit a few friends and act out her story.

Illustrate a comic strip. If your child prefers to illustrate characters, have him add dialogue by giving each character a speech bubble and create a short three-frame comic strip. Check out comic strips in the newspaper for ideas.

Wax poetic. Check out this website for some fun ideas to play with poetry.

Write a new ending. Was your youngster unhappy with the way a book ended? Challenge her to re-write the ending according to how she would have liked it to go.

Make a collage. Give your kids a pile of old magazines, a glue stick, scissors and poster board. They can cut out photos, words and phrases that they like, putting them together to make new sayings or personally inspiring messages.

There are all kinds of entertaining ways to get kids writing, and I’m sure I’ll continue to think of new ideas to add to this list. What are your favorite ways to get your kids to put pen to paper?

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