In Spite of the Media!

In the next few days, I'll be traveling to Boston to attend the 6th Annual Consuming Kids Summit! This important event begins Thursday and continues through Saturday evening. I'll be presenting "Nurturing Creative Thinkers in a Commercial World" on Friday and signing books for a short time on Saturday.

And here's a piece in great anticipation of the conference:

Nurturing Children Who Think, Wonder, and Love to Learn...In Spite of the Media!

“You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
- Sri Swami Satchidananda

Recent studies have shown that by the time the average American child is three years old, he or she will already recognize an average of one hundred brand logos. By the age of four a child can become brand loyal for life. By the age of five, the average American child will have spent more time watching television than she will spend speaking with her father for the rest of her life.

Media is a collective force that can be said to be the best and worst thing that has ever happened to us. Despite the best efforts of a few non-profit organizations dedicated to keeping our children safe, targeted marketing to children continues to be ever present in our 21st century lives. This all-out assault on our children's senses and values has escalated dramatically in the last decade. “Advertising to children is a massive, multi-million dollar project that's having an enormous impact on child development,” says psychologist Allen D. Kanner, PhD, "The sheer volume of advertising is growing rapidly and invading new areas of childhood, like our schools."

How does this effect a child’s ability to think, create, and express him or herself?

Over the course of any given year, the average American child spends 2,400 hours in front of media. While media and popular culture, its art and music, can be very creative, it can also be a creativity inhibitor for the simple reason that it means 2,400 hours less time telling stories, dressing up, taking walks, finding and making treasures, and testing their own theories about how things work. Instead, brands they know or toys bearing the likeness of certain characters from television and movies are primarily guiding children. This then limits thinking. Additionally, mounting research points to the detrimental effect too much media exposure has on children, including a link between adolescent male violence and the violent depictions of men and boys seen on television and female self esteem and body image.

What can we do about it?
One thing we know for sure is that media can be and is regularly used as a creativity tool, and many people express themselves through it. As we explore the ways in which we can engage present media tools to deepen creativity, we take a step towards nurturing critical thinkers who are able to negotiate these evolving technologies as adults.

Pop Respite
Removing TV from the lives of children could be an obvious choice. Take time away from the ads, character of the day, and other popular items. Doing so will provide you respite and mental space to think outside those pop items. Many parents report that once they come to agreement about using less television, amazing creative ventures begin to emerge in their children. They play more outside. They read more and their play becomes more imaginative. So, for creativity’s sake, it is worthwhile to reconsider the amount or use at all of television in the lives of young children.

Develop Limits Together
That all said, dictating to children what they can and cannot do does not contribute to the development of a creative, thinking, and conscious spirit. Explain your concerns about media in an honest, non-threatening way. Come up with a time that sounds reasonable for the family to view and use media together. Make a schedule. Keep a media log or diary that tracks how much media each family member is regularly using. Include television, computer use, and video games. Come up with a list of other activities to engage in instead and post it somewhere in your home as a reference. Whatever limits you come up with, develop them together. Once you do, you can then be free to further look at the content of the media by deconstructing it.

Deconstruct Media
Parents can help children rediscover themselves in the vast media sea by helping bring awareness to the messages that are being sent, breaking them down and analyzing them together. With the media you come in contact with, deconstruct it, take it apart and view it critically, together. While shopping, point out product placement and fancy packaging. When coming in contact with ads on television, billboards, other forms of print media or the radio, engage in conversation about who paid for it, what the advertisers are trying to get you to buy and why, and what strategies they are using, such as celebrities or appealing to certain emotions.

Change our Role
As media is such a massive force in our lives, it doesn’t necessarily make sense, nor is it entirely plausible, for us to remove it completely. But we can move from being passive viewers to active users. So instead of always just watching, get children involved in the creation aspect of media. Record newscasts or make your own film. Write family newspapers. Record stories and songs and host your own radio show. Create your own webpages or keep a family blog. While media has powerful potential to create apathy and dependence, it can also serve as an opportunity to enrich thought processes, personal expression, and ultimately a point of connection. So take advantage of the plentiful ways in which families can take personal control of media.

Finding Balance
Media is something we cannot ignore. It is all around us. It is part of our everyday lives. For better or worse, we are a society saturated in it. In the twenty-first century, we use media in almost all areas of our lives so we do need to bring awareness to how that may affect our children. With a balance of its use and a critical eye, the negative aspects of media can be avoided. With awareness, effort, and practice, we can learn to use them to our advantage for the further development of creativity and a child’s critical engagement with the world. Ultimately, we can learn to surf the media waves and stand up for the fact that our children’s minds and their ability to create and express themselves are absolutely not for sale.

OHEN on Friday/Saturday!

Just here to announce that I will be speaking and signing books at the Oregon Home Education Network Conference this Friday and Saturday. I will be presenting about creativity and homeschooling on Friday night and signing books throughout the morning on Saturday. If you are in the Beaverton, Oregon area, please come on out. I'd love to see you.

“Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!” Recycled News about Class Sizes

Yesterday, at a VHS closeout sale at a local video store, we scored the entire collection of Magic School Bus videos for just a few dollars. While at home watching the episode on sound, it occurred to me why it is that Ms. Frizzle is able to encourage her students to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” And then they actually do it.
There are only EIGHT students in Ms. Frizzle’s class!!!

Cut to this morning.
I am part of a network of educators who receive news briefs and such regarding education. In my inbox this morning, was this:

Studies: Smaller classes help keep students focused, engaged

Students behave differently in smaller classes, staying on task with greater frequency and interacting more with their teachers, according to an analysis of research gathered from various countries, including the U.S. "Small classes are more engaging places for students because they're able to have a more personal connection with teachers, simply by virtue of the fact that there are fewer kids in the classroom competing for that teacher's attention," says Adam Gamoran of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who examined the data.

Is this news?

In the mid nineties when I was teaching at an urban school in Los Angeles, my class size went from an average of 33 down to a startlingly amazing 17 when California passed its 20:1 law for the primary grades. While teaching overseas, I had anywhere from 8 to 20 students at any given time, and yes, not surprisingly, the classes in which the kids were REALLY thinking, could pursue their interests, and get excited about learning were the ones in which the class sizes were small. I’m sure that little fact is not news to anyone.

So what to do?

Herein lies the beginning of a series of hopefully weekly posts about working with the school environment to help nurture creativity! Please ponder the issue with me, and ask any questions you might have so I might be as specific as possible.
And in the meantime, bless the poor souls that must sit in a classroom with 30 other children vying for attention.

The Power of Little People

As many of you know, Zeal was born in India, and we lived there until he was almost two. We're missing it and making plans for a return visit, so of course when this video made its way to us, we were touched in a multitude of ways.

*edited to add that every time I see this it brings tears to my eyes*

Follow the ways of the little people; they will help you, guide you, inspire you to move your trees.

I've just come from an Easter evening viewing of the new children's movie Horton Hears a Who! (based on the book of the same name by Dr. Seuss) and media and especially children's media is weighing heavy on my mind. In many ways, I liked the movie, as did my seven year old, don't get me wrong. Visually it was a creative work of genius. Still, I question whether or not the adaptation was something Mr. Geisel himself would a) think represents his original work, b) think was intended for children who think, wonder, and love to learn, and c) even approve of.

The book, an amazing story of perseverance, was first published in 1954 as a little known social commentary about America's decision to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The story is that Horton hears a voice on a speck of dust (on a clover), and the whole Jungle of Nool thinks he is crazy and eventually threaten to boil the dust speck and clover in beezlenut oil, but it isn't until even the tiniest voice of the Who's joins in the cry for help that they are finally heard and Horton is believed. The message is that grassroots organizations, and little voices, when banded together can REALLY be heard, and maybe more importantly, actually make a difference.

And then came the movie. Here's a bit of what we see happening in the screen adaptation:
The villain, the kangaroo from the Jungle of Nool, is an overprotective homeschooling (or rather "pouch" schooling) mom. She is committed to the notion of absolute authority and is deeply disturbed by the questioning of authority. She recognizes the subversive potential of imagination and is very concerned about the lines of certainty being blurred. She plays up the idea that it is all "for the children" and harnesses support for her cause (destroying the dust speck) by saying such.

Our protagonist, the mayor (in the position of mayor because of lineage) is essentially in the place of king among the Who's. He has 99 daughters and 1 son. His daughters are primarily concerned with acquiring cell phones and hair brushing while his one son, Jojo, spends his time in a workshop of sorts creating interesting contraptions and brooding while his dad is trying to talk him into taking his rightful place as the next mayor of Whoville. The message about gender and expectations in that regard are subtle but clear.

Ultimately, Horton is caged, poked, prodded, and, along with his friends on the speck of dust, his life is threatened in a scary scene intended to be a climax. (The movie is rated G, by the way.) In the end, with all the confusion and intense imagery, I believe that the message of small voices being heard is lost.

Almost daily, even without television, I struggle with the evidence that my child is being marketed to, being molded by media, and the messages in his everyday movement through life are ones that tell him who to be, how to live, what he should be concerned with, what the roles of his gender are, and to be prepared for fast images that almost always place the person you are to identify with in danger.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

oUt oF OrdEr! ...or Kick the Boy and Make Him Cry

Here it is, the art project that had the potential to be groundbreaking in his fledgling art development. It’s a large, oversized piece, about the size of him. Notice the striking contrast of warm and cool colors. Notice the grounding black shapes that make your eye dance from one to the other and move over the page. Check out the balance of the composition. Take note of how it is all so really reminiscent of Matisse. In this photo, you can’t even see that some of it is three-dimensional and there is truly some real depth to this piece. The only problem? Nothing, in the final product, that is. It is wonderful to most who view it. Beyond his years, one woman noted. The problem lies not in what you see here, but in the creation of the piece, the process, which is the part I, as a parent and teacher, value the most. This piece, made in an “art class” in which the teacher espoused “children are allowed to express themselves however they wish”. It’s about process, not product, she said. Buzz words of the day, I suppose. And they are all well and good until the mouth who says them literally pulls the pieces out of his hand and tells him he has done it wrong. You see, in all his excitement to get started, he cut the pieces out before gluing down the background.

Oh my, he was


Amazing Mazes!

Excerpted from a sidebar in Child of Wonder:

Amazing Mazes!

Mazes can be traced back to as early as the 5th century B.C Egyptians, with early records placing the Egyptian Labyrinth as more fantastical than even the pyramids. We see mazes appear in literature as early as the story of the Greek myth of the Minotaur. Fortunately for us, our maze journeys will not end with a meeting with the half man / half bull creature. Instead, mazes and especially the creation of them, have the potential to lead us to a life of rich creative thought.

The benefits of making and doing mazes are wide reaching. They offer opportunities to practice planning ahead, trial and error, motor development, and critical thinking skills. They are engaging and fun for all levels of learners, from toddlers to grandparents, and can be a great point of connection to share ideas, work together, and challenge your thinking-outside-the-box skills.

Webster's tells us that a maze is a confusing, intricate network of winding pathways; specifically with one or more blind alleys. From commercially made mazes to the ones we make ourselves, the opportunity to practice first being confused then working our way through the pathways is a virtually unbeatable way to practice creative and critical thinking.

Maze Books
Maze books can be found in almost any grocery, dollar or book store. Keep maze books around (in the bathroom, car, or on the writing table) for your kids to stumble upon. The process of tracing a pencil or marker through the maze can be a wonderful prewriting exercise. For young children just learning to aMaze themselves, try My First Book Of Mazes and Amazing Mazes, both by Shinobu Akaishi and Eno Sarris. As children move beyond their first maze books, the selections become more plentiful. Check out A Super-Sneaky, Double-Crossing, Up, Down, Round & Round Maze Book by Larry Evans for seasoned mazers.

Maze Games

As far as board games go, there are several good options for all age ranges to have fun with mazes.
Labryinth (and Labryinth Jr.) by Ravensburger, is probably the best maze game available and has been around for decades in Europe. Rush Hour and River Cross, both by Think Fun, are wonderful maze type games that involve a good deal of strategy. Think Fun,, makes junior versions of most of their games but consider just investing in the regular version because they too are leveled and can grow with your kids.
Even the tired old Candy Land can be revived when you think of it as a maze.

Marble Mazes
Marbles, and their inherent movement, make for great maze travelers. Make your own by attaching pieces of recycled materials inside a tray or box lid or use pipe insulation to make marbles travel from atop bookshelves or other furniture and do loop de loops. TEDCO makes a particularly wonderful Marbles and Blocks game that offers endless possibilities for marble maze making.

Examples of Mazes
Like all aspects of creative development, provide opportunities to witness maze making. Point out mazes you see everyday in the places you happen to frequent such as the grocery story, your favorite park, a rose or botanical garden, or the local library. One great example of mazes occurring naturally is through up close viewing of an ant farm (available in almost any toy store).

Computer Games and Websites
Many software programs and websites offer interactive maze experiences. They can be fun and challenging, but don’t let this be the only mazing you do because computers have yet to offer all the motor skill development and tangible experience that many of the others listed here can.

Make a Maze
Mazes are a great time filler. While in restaurants, waiting for a bus, sitting in the doctor’s office. Whether on a the back of an old receipt, on a napkin, or in your sketch book, making your own mazes can meet all skill levels and engage all learners. Whether you are working on making them together or challenging each other to finish your creations, incorporate maze making into your waiting repertoire.

For very young children, you can introduce them to mazes by using a Maze Table, the kind with large pieces of wire connected to a table, where you can move a large bead through the maze. Unfortunately, these tables can run up to several hundred dollars. The up side is that a maze like this is not altogether difficult to make on your own. With sculpting wire (available at art supply and craft stores) and a few large beads, you can easily make an ever-changing maze or a more permanent one if attached to a table or large piece of wood.

But don’t stop there. Real life mazes are the ultimate in maze experiences. Use leaves, sand, snow, pillows, dominoes, blocks, chalk, hay bales, corn, and even mirrors to make mazes all year long. If you have a small section in your garden that is otherwise not being used, try sprinkling grass/rye seed or red clover in the shape of a small labyrinth.

Education and parenting itself is one big maze. We move through each experience trying new directions, sometimes hitting walls or other things that block our way, but eventually we find a way that works for our families. Along the journey, we pick up new techniques, strategies, and ways to think and approach the puzzles life brings. Eventually, we emerge at the finish with a sense of accomplishment and hopefully a few more problem solving skills that will aid us in the next maze we try to tackle.

Care Killed the Cat

Let's take a peek at where the saying "Curiosity killed the cat" comes from. The first written reference to this was from Ben Johnson in 1598. He wrote:

"Care will kill a cat."

A year later, in 1599, Shakespeare, in Much Ado About Nothing writes,
"What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care."

"Care" at the time meant worry or sorrow, and was not at all meant to reference the inquisitive.

At some point, we "evolved" and the saying become "curiosity killed the cat", meaning that being too inquisitive would lead you to trouble.

The explanation is that this "evolution" came about during the Industrial revolution when we needed to create factory workers, people who would do as they are told and not seek out answers, ask questions, or otherwise be curious.

Interesting how we as a people are actually scared of the creative, curious nature.
Sounds like it's time for a Creative Revolution!

Quote of the Day

While moving at the speed of light from one thing to the next, he stops long enough to say:

"Don't worry, I'm gonna take breathing breaks!"
~ Zeal, 3/15/08

Thank goodness for that, and thank you Thich Nhat Hanh.

Boxes, part 2

We're inspired by boxes today (see previous post title just "Boxes"). Here’s a quick idea list of what to do with a cardboard box:

Use it as a blank canvas.
Tear it apart and use it as a large canvas on a wall. Or, if your box is large enough, get inside of it to color.
Here’s a picture from the interior of Child of Wonder:

Crawl through it.
Boxes make terrific tunnels, whether for kid bodies or stuffed creatures. Heck, maybe your real live pet rat would like it as a tunnel too.

Make a game.
Boxes are great collectors of bean bags or stuffed animals for tossing games. Or try rolling balls or cars into them. Practice tally skills when each one makes it.

Make a special spot.
Fill it with pillows and just relax.

Make a play kitchen.
Or any other household prop such as a dishwasher, tool bench, clothes washer and dryer, or piano.

Make a bed for your animals.
Pamper your pet (either real, stuffed or imagined) with a comfy personalized bed.

Make costumes.
Try a robot, a car, a jack-in-the-box, a lego piece, or an x-ray machine.

Nesting supplies.
Try filling a box with strips of scrap material and paper, some twigs, grasses for the birds to nest with. Then hang it from a tree or balcony

Make a musical instrument.
Add holes and strings and experiment with sound.

Make an easel.
I like to make small cardboard easels to hold recipes when I cook with children, but depending on the size of child, box, and easel you desire, the possibilities are wide reaching for easels out of boxes.

Create a scene.
We enjoy making scenes from stories we’ve read out of boxes. Use ribbons, construction paper, cotton balls, pieces of material, wire, paint, markers, and natural materials to make the background for your stories.

Hold a show.
We love puppet shows, and with a cardboard box you can easily create a free standing one or unfold the box and hang the flat piece of card board from a doorway. Cut the whole for the puppets to do their magic, paint or add on some real curtains, and enjoy the show.

Make a car wash.
Make your box into a tunnel and add strips of material that hang down just far enough to scrub your trains, cars, and other vehicles as you are playing. You might not want to use real water with this one.

And if those ideas don’t work for you, you could always just use your box to hide which seems to be perpetually fun thing to do for little people waiting to be found.


Well, a box arrived at our house yesterday filled with books. When we opened the box, Zeal was super cute: he looked up at me and with sweet sincerity said, “I’m proud of you Mom.” Then he proceeded to empty the box as fast as he could.

He first tried to build a Book House, but that didn’t work (don’t worry, these ones accidentally all came individually shrink wrapped so they were extra durable).

Then he made a stunt set for his cars.

But really what it all boiled down to was that he wanted the box for his stuffed animal friends. They need a new house, he said.

Later he came to me and asked me to sign a book to him. So we sat together, he told me how he wanted it signed, and then we read the chapter on storytelling together. It renewed us, and brought back memories, so we spent the evening telling stories (yes, with the box as a prop).

Thank you to everyone who has preordered copies. If you have ordered a book already, here’s some more information:

Copies from me. If you have pre-ordered an autographed copy from me, your books will be arriving shortly.

Online. If you’ve ordered from online booksellers such as Amazon, Powell’s, or your books will be shipped in the next few weeks.

Bookstores. If you have placed an order through your local bookstore, they will be sent on or around April 1st.

Internationally. International orders will take a bit longer, but rest assured, you will have them soon.

What he has to show for it...

Every week, my son spends a few hours at the home/studio of an amazing professional potter. It's an experience I wouldn't give up or trade for the world. There, with expert instruction, gentle guidance, and intense freedom, they (my son and the few others kids in the group) create with clay. They sit around a table, handbuild, sometimes throw on a wheel, laugh, have momentary bouts of feistiness, and learn together. They sculpt and form and build what only children who still listen effortlessly to their creativity can. They bring imagination, care, problem solving skills, and creative abandon to their projects. They make vessels, masks, tiles, clocks, puzzles, games, abstract sculptures, and of late some of the most ingenious marble mazes ever created.

It's a funny thing. Because after all this time of so enjoying the experience of it, I've just realized (when asked by a friend to see some of the things he has made) that "what he has to show for it" is limited to the cute little spotted rhino (above) that fits so nicely in the palm of his hand and a few small other things still waiting to be fired and glazed. He has spent hours, weeks, months creating. He has brought thought, ingenuity, and passion to what he has made. And at the end of nearly every session, he takes his work and returns it to its original state, a hearty lump of clay. Or, he works a piece of clay until it has been pounded, sculpted, layered, or molded into oblivion, and he decides in the end that he's moved on from wanting it. On occasion, he asks to have it "saved" and the piece is wrapped to keep it moist, and he returns to it again and again, each week maybe adding another small detail. A few times, things he has made that he did want to fire fell apart before getting to the next step, or broke in the kiln during the bisque firing.

Just the other day we were invited into another potter's studio for his scouting group. The potter was set to do a lesson for the kids. She started to ask the kids questions. Where does clay come from? What is slip and why do we need it? How would you start to make a pot or cup? Why might a ball explode in the kiln? He had all the answers and brought a humble confidence to the class. He was praised for his knowledge. Yet, he left the experience saying that he didn't like this class, because (unlike his regular class) he didn't get to choose what he was going to make, and he had to glaze it even though it wasn't done yet. Kids need to be able to be freer than what adults let them be, he said. Why don't most grown-ups know that, Mommy?

So glazing day in his regular pottery class is coming up, and he has just a few pieces. And he couldn't be happier about it. He doesn't compare himself to others or take a tally of number of pieces. He stays in the moment and he is personally proud and introspective about his work. Just yesterday, he said to me out of the blue, "I'm pretty good at making pottery." And went away with a thoughtful look in his eyes.

So it seems, sometimes what you have to show for it, what you can physically hold in your hand, doesn't necessarily represent what all you really do have.

Solving Problems: Lupe Vargas and Her Super Best Friend

I am proud to feature this wonderful book, Lupe Vargas and Her Super Best Friend, on the Wondershop. Written by bilingual children's author and speaker Amy Costales and illustrated by Alexandra Artigas, this story, told in English and Spanish, is all about the power of friendship, imaginative play, and problem solving. Lupe Vargas and Her Super Best Friend was a Junior Library Guild Premier Selection in 2006 and is a powerful tale about sharing learning, exploring together, and eventually compromising when you have a spat with your co-creators.

Nature calls!

We got out of town and went on a discovery hike in the snow.
Look what we found:

Here's one of our favorite little poems:

It starts with an S
It ends with a T
We could call it "poop"
But we don't call it that
Because when you're a scientist
You call it....SCAT!

And here she is, not so far away...

It was a successful, wonder-filled day!

Assessing the Creative Home

Is your home creative?
We know that assessment (especially self-assessment) is a particularly powerful way for people to understand their own processes and make change. Of course, it is a wonderful time of year to assess how your own home and learning environments are serving the creative individuals who dwell in them. Below you will find 28 very short questions to ponder about your own living and learning environment. When answering these questions, think about how often each takes place. Everyday? Weekly? Occasionally? Seldom? Never?

Do the people (children and adults) living in your home have the opportunity to...

1. Dream?

2. Reflect?

3. Monitor their own progress?

4. Make choices?

5. Write?

6. Go outside?

7. Leave a project and come back to it hours, days, or even weeks later?

8. Play in a totally unstructured way? For great lengths of time?

9. Be alone?

10. Wonder without being told an answer?

11. Get messy?

12. Dress up?

13. See inspiring works of art?

14. Use different types of art supplies?

15. Use different types of math tools?

16. Use different types of building materials?

17. Use different types of science tools?

18. Question you?

19. Negotiate the rules?

20. Sing?

21. Listen to music?

22. Block out the music?

23. See themselves represented (gender, race, family structure, etc.) in works of art, the literature and/or media?

24. Hear language that is above their own writing and speaking level?

25. Remove themselves from any given situation?

26. Play cooperatively with other children and adults?

27. Solve their own problems?

28. See their work and projects displayed?

Once you have taken time to think about these creative activities and how often they show up in your home and learning environments, use your answers as an opportunity to make a few new springtime goals for your creative home.

A Wonder Celebration! Save the date... May 10, 2008, The Strand, Eugene, Oregon

We're celebrating the release of Child of Wonder on Saturday, May 10, 2008. Please save the date and join us if you can. Everyone is welcome to this free event featuring the high-energy, live music of The Sugar Beets! Please come and bring your Mommy because the next day is Mother's Day!

Puppet Fun!

We've been energized by puppets today. This morning we went to see Jim West's Aesop's Fables, a WONDERful puppet show made available through Theatreworks. They do touring shows throughout the nation, and are well worth attending when they do make it to town.

And... here's the video that has in the past and continues to inspire a lot of wonderful shadow play for us. For shadow puppetry, we turn on a projector on a large white wall (in a dark room) so that we can use our whole bodies if we want, but any light on a wall or sheet will work too.

Update on Child of Wonder!

I've just received word that my new book, Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children will come off the presses this week, and will be shipped on Friday!
If you are interested in ordering your autographed copy, you can do it through my website, (all pre-orders before March 15th, get free shipping!)

Wonder item of the week: TEDCO Marble Maze

This Marbles and Blocks marble maze set by TEDCO is by far THE BEST marble maze out there. Building a maze with this requires creativity, thinking, and problem solving, but even young children are able and fascinated by it. It's a bit spendy (especially if you are comparing it to the plastic alternative) but so worth the money.

This set has been sitting on our floor for the last week and children and adults have been having a wonderful time making different paths for the marbles to travel. Here's one creation by a child:

From the March Wonderwise: Paper Fun

**Want to receive Wonderwise? You can sign up for it here:

Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!

Dr. Suess would be 104 years old today. Celebrate with his very first story (inspired by the rhythm of the ship's engine's on a ocean voyage in 1937), To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street.
It's one of my favorites of his. Here's what Emilie Coulter had to say about it:

Marco is in a pickle. His father has instructed him to keep his eyes peeled for interesting sights on the way to and from school, but all Marco has seen is a boring old horse and wagon. Imagine if he had something more to report, say, a zebra pulling the wagon. Or better yet, the zebra could be pulling a blue and gold chariot. No, wait! Maybe it should be a reindeer in that harness. Marco's story grows ever more elaborate as he reasons that a reindeer would be happier pulling a sled, then that a really unusual sight would be an elephant with a ruby-bedecked rajah enthroned on top. "Say! That makes a story that no one can beat, / When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street." Time and again, Marco tops himself until he is positively wound up with excitement and bursts into his home to tell his dad what he saw on Mulberry Street.
Pulitzer-prize winning Dr. Seuss needs no introduction. His ode to the imagination of a child is as fresh and exquisitely outlandish today as it was when first published in 1937. This is a classic that will never fade with age. (Ages 3 to 8)

Found this in my jacket pocket...

Judging by the handwriting, it's been there a few months.

What a treat to stumble upon such a note. I often leave them for Zeal, but this might be the first hidden message I've received in return. aaaahhh!

and in other writing news...

This pan of salt sat on our counter for about week, and we made pictures and wrote notes back and forth. This is the only one I caught on film.

*Tip: Leave materials for writing around the house for them to be used when the spirit strikes. Writing materials might include: markers, crayons, a jar of pens, colored pencils, write and wipe boards, DoodlePro boards, LARGE pieces of paper, small pads of paper, stickie notes, trays of flour, salt, small pebbles, beans, or rice (anything a child can put their finger down into and make a line between). Try also a large Ziploc bag filled with tempera paint: seal it tightly and it will provide a nice paint canvas to draw on without all the mess of finger paints (but hey, those are great "writing" materials, too!)

What are your favorite "writing materials"?