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5 Ways to Foster Creativity in Yourself (And Also Benefit Your Kids)

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In 2011, the little black book came in the mail. 80 blank white pages. My goal was to dream on these pages – to draw, to journal my life, to create. I had signed up for the Brooklyn Art Library, a unique project that offers anyone with an interest in creativity the aforementioned sketchbook.


Once I had turned the pages into art, I would mail the book back to the library. The staff would catalogue it and add it to their collection of thousands. I would be personally fulfilled – art and writing have always had a role in my life – and part of an international creative movement.

Beyond a scribble on the first page, I never drew a thing. As a full-time employee and mother of a teen and pre-teen, life butted in. I was busy. The little black book stared at me. The deadline to submit the book creeped up. Eventually I admitted defeat and tucked the book into a drawer.

At the time it was the necessary choice, but I have always tried to keep creativity in my life. A study has discovered that 75 percent of people don’t believe they’re living up to their creative potential. I can only imagine a huge portion of that would be parents. We produce meals, provide entertainment, chauffeur, clean up, and often work outside the home. Although 80 percent of people think “we all have the potential to create” and “creativity brings my imagination to life,” who has time for optional passions?

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Turns out we should find the time – and not only for internal satisfaction. Parents who are stressed, both by non-parental demands and by the pressing need to be great parents, have a greater chance of raising children with behavioral and emotional problems. These children may also not do as well at school. If being creative is your “me time,” it will help you de-stress.

You’ll also be setting an example for your children. Creativity in childhood fosters important life skills. Our children learn to analyze situations and problem-solve. They come up with new ways of thinking. They learn to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. They improve their self-confidence. (Ditto for us grown-ups.)

Plus if you’re taking “me time,” your children may be getting “me time” too. This unstructured time has been shown to boost focus, creativity, problem solving, and self-control. It may even predict success in school and later on in life itself.

So find a way to carve out the opportunity: before your kids wake up, after they go to bed, once they’re immersed in their finger paints or homework. Then get creatively cracking.

Too rusty to know where to begin? External motivation is a great, well, motivator. As for me, I’ve signed up for the sketchbook project again. The book is currently on its way in the mail. Being proactive, I have already drawn four pages, which I plan to glue in. This book, I’m determined, will not be filed in a drawer.

You too can take part in this project: see details below. Plus learn about four other kicks-in-the-butt that can restart you on your creative path. Now grab that pen/needle/whatever and get going!

1 | Put it to the page

You too could be the proud owner of a new blank sketchbook!

For a moderate fee, the Brooklyn Art Library will mail you a sketchbook (with optional drawing supplies), provide you with a choice of non-restrictive themes, give you a fill-that-book deadline, and set you on your way. No need to be a professional artist here. Even children can submit – so get your kids involved on their own sketchbooks too!

Once done, send the sketchbook back in to be added to the world’s largest collection of sketchbooks – over 36,000 from over 100 countries. Not only can people visit the library and browse the books at the Brooklyn location, but the library often goes on tour, bringing your creative efforts to people across the United States. Plus your book can be digitized and appear online. You even get a tracking number so you can see exactly where, when, and how often viewers enjoy your book.

Collage, doodle or document your vacation. Make people laugh, make people cry, or just make a mess. How you fill the book is up to you.

2 | Stitch it forward

Knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, bombing – crafts made with yarn abound and are celebrated each year on I Love Yarn Day. On October 14, 2017, dust off your own needles and paraphernalia to join this seventh annual effort to create and share the yarn-based love. Get free patterns and tips on the website, learn from expert designers and bloggers, and join the community on social media through the hashtags #stitchitforward and #iloveyarnday.

Put on by the Craft Yarn Council, the day is not only meant to motivate you, but to motivate those around you. With the theme “Stitch It Forward,” the day encourages you to share your skills by teaching them to at least one newbie. Not only can you get your parental quality time, but, if they’re old enough, you can head your children in this creative direction too.

You’ll get a tangible item and feel expansive. Plus research has shown that yarn-based crafts can help you reduce your stress, improve your mood, increase your memory, and more. One study even showed that knitting can reduce burnout amongst nurses – which is likely true for parents too!

3 | Be collectively silly

You tell your kids to dress respectably, but maybe it’s time for you to throw that rule out the window – or rather, into a subway car. Nourish the exhibitionist in you and learn how to deal with situations on the fly by taking part in the annual No Pants Subway Ride.

The event is put on by Improv Everywhere, whose tagline is “We cause scenes.” They invite you to join them for this annual prank, which takes place in dozens of cities in dozens of countries. (Join the mailing list to be notified of the next date.)

Here’s what you do: Take off your pants (but leave on your underwear). Get on a subway. Pretend nothing strange is going on – even as other pants-less people get on and off the train. The only requirements: a daring attitude, the desire to have fun, and the ability to keep a straight face.

The goal, says the founder, is to share an experience and bring people together through absurdity. Our kids get to play – with no rhyme or reasoning – so here’s a chance for you too!

4 | Add to your talents

The above suggestions assume you already have some creative skill (or at least the ability to strip). But what if you’re more inclined to add to your talents?

Learning in person is a great way to proceed, so check out the offerings at your local art studios, craft stores, colleges, etc. If you live in New York or can travel there or to select other locations, you could try a Creativity Workshop, specifically focused on writing, photography, drawing, mindfulness, and other activities that explore the power of the imagination.

If a book is more your style, take a look at Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” and accompanying journal. Here you’ll learn 10 tips about being creative – including how to steal ideas from others. If you’d rather shuffle than flip, the Art Sparks Creative Project Deck gives you a month’s worth of ideas.

There are also many opportunities to learn online. Search the options at The Great Courses or Udemy, or find classes specifically focused on creative pursuits at CreativeLive or Creativebug. Proceeding at your own pace is an ideal way to fit the learning in.

5 | Tune out

Then again, sometimes the best way to be creative is to not try to be creative. Research has shown that taking a walk – outside or on the treadmill – helps ideas flow and can generate novel concepts. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” This also extends to movements like running, dancing, and yoga.

Even if you have a child in tow, schedule the walk around nap time, tuck the smartphone away, and take advantage of zoning out with just you, the stroller, the passing world, and your thoughts. Not only may creative ideas come to you at the moment, but the effect extends to when you get back home too. You’ll be ready to tackle your creative projects with greater zest or, if nap time is over, immerse yourself in the imaginary world of Disney characters like you never have before!

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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Spring is one of the most fun times of the year to explore nature with your child. There are just so many fun changes, from baby animals, different birds migrating through, and all of the beautiful rainbows that come from spring showers.

Here are a few fun Montessori-inspired spring activities to try with your little one this year:

Learn about weather

In many parts of the country, spring brings rain clouds in addition to warmer weather. Embrace the rainy days as well as the sunshine by exploring the weather.

1. Cloud gazing

Find some pictures of different types of clouds (or use a book) and then enjoy searching for them in the sky. Take it a step further and use cotton balls to create representations of the different kinds of clouds if your child is interested.

2. Rainbows

Spring is a wonderful time to talk about rainbows. Spend time searching for rainbows after rainstorms, and consider getting a prism to let your child explore rainbows even on sunny days. Have fun noticing the order of the colors and provide the correct colors of paint or crayons for your child to create a picture of what he sees.

3. Daily weather report

Use these fun letter board ornaments to allow your child to create her own daily weather report. You could also simply create a booklet with some drawing paper and encourage your little one to draw or paint the weather each day and see how it changes over time.

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Observe animals

From baby animals to butterflies, spring is a wonderful time for children to learn about animals.

4. Bird watching

Spring migration makes it an exceptional time for bird watching. Try talking to your child about the different types of birds he might see this time of year. Have a bird watching adventure in your backyard or nearby park and see how many types you can spot together. Child-sized binoculars can make this even more fun.

5. Filling bird feeders

Filling bird feeders is something even young toddlers enjoy helping with. For older children, try providing several types of seeds and letting them mix or layer them together in the feeder.

6. Study butterflies

Children are understandably captivated by butterflies and spring is a great time to study them. You can simply read a book, or take it a step further and order a live butterfly kit to let your child see firsthand the transformation from caterpillar to a butterfly.

Explore nature

7. Create a nature table

Define a space such as a small table or even a tray or basket, and allow your child collect interesting things she finds in nature. Include a magnifying glass if you like.

8. Plant a garden

Young toddlers can help water a garden, slightly older children enjoy planting seeds and weeding, and older children can help design a garden and select the plants. Gardening provides an up-close look at how plants grow and is also great for independence and a sense of responsibility.

9. Collect flowers

Encourage your child to find and collect some of the little wildflowers growing everywhere this time of year. It can be especially fun to use a flower press to preserve his finds.

10. Celebrate Earth Day

Plant a tree, clean up a park, or join a community Earth Day event. These all provide a great opportunity to talk to children about their important role in taking care of our planet.

Practical life

Montessori teachers refer to the practice of real-life activities, like cooking and cleaning, as "practical life." These skills are practiced all year long, but there are some fun and different ways to focus on them in spring.

11. Peel hard-boiled eggs

Spring is a great time to talk about how some animals hatch from eggs. Letting your child peel hard-boiled eggs can be a fun extension of this, and is also a great way to build concentration, as it can take quite a long time and significant effort for a young child to remove all of the little pieces of eggshell.

Show your child how to crack the eggshell and provide a small bowl for her to put the shell in. Bonus: Ground up eggshells are great for the soil in your garden.

12. Hull strawberries

Spring produce provides a great opportunity for little ones to help clean and prepare different fruits and vegetables, including hulling strawberries.

Show your child how to rinse the strawberries and use a strawberry huller. He can also use a chopper to slice them.

13. Scrub outdoor toys

If you're anything like me, your child's water toys got a bit dusty in the long winter months. Get your child involved in cleaning them up for the warmer weather to come. All she'll need is a scrub brush, a bucket of water, and some soap if you wish. She'll have fun making the toys beautiful again, and you can check something off the to-do list—it's a win-win.

14. Scrub rain boots

In many areas, rain boots get a lot of use this time of year. At school, we sometimes put out a boot scrubbing activity for children to clean their muddy boots and this is something you can easily replicate at home. Set up a little cleaning station, perhaps on the back porch, with everything your child needs to clean his boots.

15. Flower arranging

Flower arranging is an activity enjoyed by children in Montessori classrooms all year long, but it is especially fun in the spring when your little one can help pick flowers in the backyard or visit a local market and see all of spring's beautiful flowers displayed.

Set up the activity so that your child can do it herself. In addition to fresh flowers, she'll need scissors to trim the stems, a few little vases to choose from, a small pitcher for water, and a funnel to pour water into each little vase. Your home will look beautiful, and your child will feel so proud knowing that she contributed.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy spring with your child is to simply get outside, splash in the puddles, and soak up the sunshine, but hopefully, these activities will give you a new way to spend time together and enjoy the season.

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