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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Backyard Water Games and other game resources

Backyard Water Games

The pool ain’t the only place for wet summer magic. Put on your suits and stay poolside. More fun to come!

Water Limbo

This game can be played on the back lawn. What you’ll need is a hose with a nozzle that will allow for a straight, steady stream of water. You can either play the game as a limbo game or a hurdle game. Use the steady stream of water as the limbo stick. Kids must maneuver their bodies under the stream of water without getting soaked. The lower the stream is, the harder it is to go under it. The stream will be lowered when every kid makes it under the previous stream.

You cannot crawl on the ground to get past the stream???you have to walk???arching your back as you go! If the ground is too slippery for kids to arch their backs while walking under the stream, let them hunch forward instead???we don’t want anyone to get hurt!

If you decide to play the game as a hurdle, you might want to put some padding on the ground because kids could slip when they land on the ground. Try some rubber matting???something that might have a little traction for wet, slippery feet.

Water Gun Wars

Here’s a good way to enjoy a hot summer day without a swimming pool. For this game, you might want to invest in some of those supersoaker water guns. They don’t have to be the super-powered supersoakers because, again, the idea of water play is safety. But some of the super capacity but low-powered supersoakers are perfect. If you can’t get a supersoaker, a regular water pistol will do. To play the game, you can just fire at each other, or you can include a game of Tag in all the squirting!

The player who is ???It??? gets the water gun and must tag the other players by squirting them with the gun. The person who is tagged first gets to take over the gun and do the squirting.

Try playing this game as Freeze Tag. You must freeze in place when you are squirted by the water pistol. You can be unfrozen by having another player crawl (or swim) between your legs. If ???It??? manages to freeze everyone, he or she gets to squirt again.

You can also play that ???It??? has the pistol, but only until he or she is tagged by another player. If ???It??? cannot squirt the player before being tagged, he or she must relinquish the power of the pistol to the person who tagged him or her.

Three Strikes

Please only use the water pistols inside your yard and always make sure they are brightly colored. There are too many horror stories in the news these days about kids and realistic-looking toy guns. Be careful!

You can also play this game in the pool. It just makes it harder to get out of the way when you’re waist-deep in water.


Try this game on a really hot summer day in your backyard kiddie pool. Kids will love it, but believe me???if it’s hot enough adults will play, too.

Fill the kiddie pool with water and add ice cubes! Have each person try to remove the ice cubes with their feet. You’ll be cool before you know it! For a real challenge, have each person remove the ice cubes using only one foot. The person to remove the most ice cubes is the winner. With adults, don’t worry about who wins???just think ??? ???cold!???

More on: Games

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games ?? 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon’s web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

Mary Hartzell | Parenting from the inside out

If you are interested in learning more about relationship based parenting, you can go to Mary’s website at MaryHartzell.com, where you will find parent education CD’s on Parent/Child Relationships that help parents make positive, practical changes in their everyday life with their children. 

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to First Presbyterian School in Santa Monica.

Mary Hartzell:

A: “I went to graduate school in UCLA where I completed my master’s degree in Early Education and Psychology. While I was there I was invited to join the teaching staff of the Early Childhood Unit at the UCLA Elementary School. This wonderful opportunity gave me a very strong foundation of integrating theory and practice. Because the school is part of the UCLA Graduate School of Education, I was involved in research projects and mentoring student teachers. The aspects of visibility, team teaching, dialogue, research and innovation that I learned there have continued to inform my work as a teacher and a director of a school to this day.

I became the Director of First Pres 26 years ago and had the opportunity to work with the teachers to evolve the school in a way that supported children’s thinking and development in social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas. When I read an article in the journal of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, called “Beautiful Spaces, Caring Places,” I became very intrigued about what was going on in the schools in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and set out to learn more. It’s a philosophy that is constantly evolving. We never say we are a Reggio school—because we are not in that part of Italy—but we have been inspired by their philosophy.

*While I was at home with two young children, I organized a parent education class for a group of my friends that met with success. After starting at First Pres, I began an individual consulting program as well because I found that some parents wanted more personal support. I continue to teach parenting classes and consult with parents as well.”

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Reggio Emilia and how this approach to education works within a school?

A: “At First Pres, we have been inspired and working with the Reggio Approach for 13 years. We continue to consult with Amelia Gambetti, a liaison between Reggio Children and schools in the U.S and throughout the world. She encouraged us to embrace our identity within our own context and community.

The Reggio Approach sees the school as a system of interactions and relationships and the daily life of the school reflects and values children, teachers and parents as protagonists in the learning process. The system is about facilitating children’s own powers of thinking. In doing that, there’s a sense of the expressive and the communicative and cognitive capacities that each individual has. The environment is rich with many materials, which can give form to their ideas. They are learning through all their senses. It is a pedagogy based on listening. Teachers listen to children’s ideas, document and reflect with them as they formulate, test and revisit their theories while building knowledge and skills. When children come to school, they already have their own theories and ideas developed through their early experiences. We begin with a strong image of the child as capable and competent. Children are protagonists in the learning process and learning is co-constructed with the teacher and other children as they work together in small and large groups sharing their ideas and listening to others’ ideas.

There is a pedagogy of listening that gives respect to each individual’s ideas within the context of the community and a give and take between children as they talk and solve problems together. Most of the learning takes place in small groups, which promotes deepening levels of thinking. Children are provoked by others’ questions. Everyday there is engaged, dynamic learning!”

Q: You co-wrote Parenting from the Inside Out (which I would recommend as required reading to any parent) with neurobiologist Daniel Siegel, M.D, and if you had to sum up what this style of parenting is, how would you describe it?

A: ““Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Helps Us Raise Children Who Thrive,” is a parenting style based on relationships. Becoming a parent can trigger unresolved issues that we may unknowingly carry from our relationships with our own parents, and can interfere with us being the kind of parent we want to be. I work with many parents who are stuck in ineffective relationship patterns with their children. Because our book integrates both left and right brain processing, offering both narrative stories and neuroscience research on the brain and relationships, it offers a hopeful message to parents. The feedback I receive from parents often includes that their other relationships become more satisfying as well.

Learning to communicate is at the core of effective parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”

Q: What are some simple exercises we can think about as parents to help us overcome our own negative patterns and not hurt our children?

A: “I think we have to start by being self-aware and honest with ourselves. It helps if we check in with ourselves to see how we are feeling to help us slow down our reaction. We are then less likely to act in a way that we might regret later. If we don’t take care of our own feelings, they will most likely come out in indirect ways, which disconnect us from our children and family.

When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process. Here’s an example of how you might begin:

What do you think would help us get out of the house
on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.

Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.

I often advise parents who feel stuck in a negative pattern with their child, to stop doing what isn’t working, and observe and reflect on both their child’s behavior and their own before making any change.

This is a good time to journal. Journaling can be helpful as it gives witness to our thoughts and feelings. The very act of writing can begin movement towards calming and healing and we are able to become more compassionate to our children and ourselves. When we are angry at our child, we may also be angry at ourselves because our child’s behavior makes us feel like an incompetent parent.

Another good time to journal is when you become more aware of what triggers a negative, unsuccessful response. When you notice that your reactions are more intense and extreme than the situation might merit, this awareness gives you an opportunity to change. The disruptive issue may have more to do with leftover or unresolved issues from your own childhood than with your child’s behavior. Writing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful and begin to give us a deeper understanding of our child and ourselves.”


6 Ways to encourage a love of reading in preschoolers

How To Raise A Bookworm

It???s never too early to fall in love with reading. Help your little bookworms develop a lifelong love of reading with these simple tips.

mom reading chapter book with daughter

Read together every day

Encouraging a love of reading begins with making reading part of your everyday life. Children love to snuggle on the couch and listen to a good story. In fact, they may enjoy hearing their favorites over and over again. Don???t worry! This isn???t a waste of your time, even if you think your ears may bleed if you have to listen to The Cat in the Hat one more time. Repetition is a natural part of learning and helps reinforce your preschooler???s comprehension and vocabulary building. Choose a wide range of books to read to your child from nursery rhymes and timeless classics to lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel stories. The more you and your child interact with the book, the more everyone gains from the experience.

Play pre-reading games

Help your little ones get excited about reading by playing pre-reading games together. You can play some of the excellent store-bought games available like Cariboo, Zingo or Very Silly Sentences. Or make up your own games with alphabet puzzle cards, foam letters, lacing letters, alphabet magnets and more! Little children learn the most when they can get their whole bodies involved in the fun so try activities that keep them moving. Hide alphabet cards around the house and give your preschooler five minutes to find a group of letters. Draw your names in the sandbox. String necklaces with letter beads and name the letters as you go. Your kids will have so much fun, they won???t even realize how much they???re learning!

Write stories together

Spark your child???s creativity and encourage a lifelong love of reading by helping your little ones write their own storybooks. Children are the most creative storytellers, so grab the crayons and paper and let the fun begin. If your child is too young to write the story him or herself, have your child dictate the words while you write them down. Afterwards, let him or her illustrate each page with colorful drawings. Make sure to bind the story when you are finished (staples or ribbon will do the trick!) so that you can read it again and again.

Show your love of reading

Children learn best by example. At this age, they are like sponges absorbing the world around them. Want to teach a love of reading? Model the behavior yourself. Show your children how much fun reading can be by spending some of your free-time curled up with a good book or magazine.

Use your public library

Libraries have come a long way since our childhood. Nowadays, the children???s section in your public library is as entertaining as your local play area. With so many fun and educational toys, puzzles, books and games, your children will love coming to the library. Be sure to take advantage of storytime where your children will hear new stories, sing songs and do crafts. Afterwards, give your preschooler his or her own book bag to fill to the brim with new reading treasures for the week ahead.

Establish a family read-aloud

Bring the magic and power of literature into your home. Instead of turning on the boob tube at night, try establishing a family read-aloud. Little ones can play with Lego blocks or draw pictures while they listen, while older children may enjoy just focusing on the story. Consider picking longer chapter books so that your kids will look forward to a new installment each night. GoodReads has an excellent selection of fun family read-alouds that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Quick Tip

Do you have a high tech kid? Check out the fabulous selection of interactive children???s e-books on Kindle.

More ways to make reading fun

Free online reading games for kids
Make time to read to your kids
7 Reading games kids love


Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings | Kinship Center

“Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings”

One of the most important skills for a child’s emotional healing is the ability to identify and express emotion.  When a child can communicate their internal experience, he or she creates the foundation to alleviate past loss, abandonment, or trauma.  When the child connects to caregivers through sensitive sharing, the parent simultaneously becomes better equipped to understand the child’s joy, sorrow, fear, and frustration.

Some children easily share thoughts and feelings while others quietly leave the room or become “invisible” when anyone asks about feelings.  Whatever example describes your child, your response can either keep the conversation going or shut it down.   

There are times when every parent thinks, “What do I say back to my child?” or “How do I encourage my child to talk to me?” Use the following strategies to guide you: 

  1. Praise your child’s feeling comments- When your child tells you his or her emotions, express your appreciation to reinforce their behavior.  Say, “Thanks for sharing,” “I’m glad you told me,” or “I like it when you tell me how you feel.”  
  2. Mirror your child’s remarks– As you listen, summarize your child’s statement to ensure you heard the words correctly and to show the importance of his or her comments. Be careful not to simply repeat your child’s exact words as most kids consider this practice to be irritating!
  3. Help your child feel heard and understood– When a child feels heard and understood they are more likely to share and to feel connected to their caregivers. Convey that you are listening and understand your child’s point of view through sentence starters: “It makes sense to me . . .,” “I understand . . .,” and “It sounds like you’re saying . . .”
  4. “Is there more?” When you are listening to your child’s communicate about the situation and how they feel use this question, “Is there more you want to tell me?” You have heard everything they need to say when their answer is, “No.” 
  5. Check on your child’s needs or wants- After your child has explained his or her feelings, they may need further help or reassurance from you.  At this time ask, “Is there anything you need or want from me?”  “What can I do to make this situation better for you?” Your child may need you to intervene on their behalf, give them a hug, or spend time alone with you. 
  6.  Differentiate between thoughts and feelings– Help your child to visually delineate between thoughts and feelings through their location in the body.  Explain feelings reside in their heart while thoughts are located in their head. For example, “Can you tell me about the feelings in your heart?” or “What are the thoughts in your head?” 
  7. Do not jump in to fix the problem- Understandably, most parents can not stand to see their child in pain, and we want to fix it as soon as possible. But, by overlooking your child’s emotions leaves your child feeling alone and misunderstood. Before you work on fixing the difficulty, listen carefully with open ears!

One of our Kinship Center social workers recommended this interesting blog post by Kentucky therapist Carol Lozier…to follow her blog,  click here.


Ron Raves: A great company and great advice…yes, I am biased because I work here 🙂

5 Steps to Raising Optimistic Children

5 Steps to Raising Optimistic Children
by Dr. Tony Fiore


I had just completed a session with 17-year old Julie who suffered from severe depression. Julie believed she was a total failure and would never be able to change anything in her life. Julie also felt all her shortcomings were her own fault. Where, I ask myself, did such a young person acquire this negative and fatalistic thinking?


The answer soon became apparent when I invited her parents into the session. They began discussing numerous life events and explaining them in ways that their children were learning. The car, for example, got dented because you can’t trust anybody these days; Mom yelled at brother because she was in a bad mood; you can’t get ahead in this world unless you know somebody, etc.

As a parent, your own thinking style is always on display and your children are listening intently!

The Importance of Optimism


Why should you want your child to be an optimist?

Because, as Dr. Martin Seligman explains:

“Pessimism (the opposite of optimism) is an entrenched habit of mind that has sweeping and disastrous consequences: depressed mood, resignation, underachievement and even unexpectedly poor physical health.”

Children with optimistic thinking skills are better able to interpret failure, have a stronger sense of personal mastery and are better able to bounce back when things go wrong in their lives.


Because parents are a major contributors to the thinking styles of their children’s developing minds, it is important to adhere to the following five steps to ensure healthy mental habits in your children.

How Parents Can Help

Step 1: Learn to think optimistically yourself. What children see and hear indirectly from you as you lead your life and interact with others influences them much more than what you try to ‘teach’ them.

You can model optimism for your child by incorporating optimistic mental skills into your own way of thinking. This is not easy and does not occur over night. But with practice, almost everyone can learn to think differently about life’s events – even parents!

Step 2: Teach your child that there is a connection between how they think and how they feel. You can do this most easily by saying aloud how your own thoughts about adversity create negative feelings in you.

For example, if you are driving your child to school and a driver cuts you off, verbalize the link between your thoughts and feelings by saying something like “I wonder why I’m feeling so angry; I guess I was saying to myself: ‘Now I’m going to be late because the guy in front of me is going so darn slow. If he is going to drive like that he shouldn’t drive during rush hour. How rude.’”

Step 3: Create a game called ‘thought catching.’ This helps your child learn to identify the thoughts that flit across his or her mind at the times they feel worst. These thoughts, although barely noticeable, greatly affect mood and behavior.

For instance, if your child received a poor grade, ask:
“When you got your grade, what did you say to yourself?”

Step 4: Teach your child how to evaluate automatic thoughts. This means acknowledging that they things you say to yourself are not necessarily accurate.

For instance, after receiving the poor grade your child may be telling himself he is a failure, he is not as smart as other kids; he will never be able to succeed in school, etc. Many of these self-statements may not be accurate, but they are ‘automatic’ in that situation.

Step 5: Instruct your child on how to generate more accurate explanations (to themselves) when bad things happen and use them to challenge your child’s automatic but inaccurate thoughts. Part of this process involves looking for evidence to the contrary (good grades in the past, success in other life areas, etc).

Another skill to teach your child to help him or her think optimistically is to ‘decatastrophize’ the situation – that is – help your child see that the bad event may not be as bad or will not have the adverse consequences imagined. Few things in life are as devastating as we fear, yet we blow them up in our minds.

Parents can influence the thinking styles of their children by modeling the principals of optimistic thinking.


About the Author: Dr. Tony Fiore (http://www.angercoach.com) is a So. California licensed psychologist, and anger management trainer. His company, The Anger Coach, provides anger and stress management programs, training and products to individuals, couples, and the workplace.

For an easy step-by-step plan to build your relationship with your child and end your child’s difficult behavior forever, check out the “Complete Connection Parenting Community HERE.