Saturday, August 11, 2018

Training Little Sous Chefs

Make Cooking Delicious, Educational and Fun!
How can we help our children become foodies with a broad palate? How can we teach them to make their own food by themselves when they are a bit older instead of complaining, “There is nothing to eat around here!”  According to professional cooks and nutritionists, hands-on family cooking lessons in the family kitchen make the difference. 
  You can teach some easy old favorite recipes or try other resources to make cooking delicious, educational, and practical for busy families. Cooking helps with math, especially fractions, measuring, doubling, and halving. Reading directions teaches careful reading, questioning, and problem solving. Cooking also teaches perseverance because a lot can go wrong and cooks need brain power and creativity to make it right. While cooking, read out loud and go over directions to check for understanding. Very young children can get equipment out of the cupboards, do stirring, and learn to use equipment under supervision. 
Looking for Help
  If you want to get a little help and share expense with friends, there are cooking kits for kids. Little Sous Kitchen Academy is a subscription service designed specifically to educate and empower children in their process of learning how to cook. 
  The subscription service sends children ages 5-12 a box each month, and aims to "change the way kids learn how to cook." The boxes come with easy-to-follow cooking lessons, collectible recipe cards, activities, posters, stickers, and high-quality kitchen tools that are safe for children to use. Their website has a few archived selections to get started.
 Other sites are Foodstirs Baker’s Club and Raddish. They all also include special utensils, nutrition information, general cooking instructions, and recipes for a monthly fee. Check out and Families can take a look at the sample kits on their sites, too. 
 Families can also use the sites as guides for their own 
Try  Making Slushes in the Summer
simple cooking classes based on family favorites. Then add a little family culture, ingredient geography with a map, and be ready for fun in the kitchen. Older children can be great teachers.
Watermelon and Strawberries
 Here is one recipe to try: Watermelon and Strawberry Slush. Ingredients: 9 cups seedless watermelon pieces without rind, 12 ounces of frozen or 1 ½ cups hulled fresh strawberries. Either strawberries or watermelon must be frozen for slush. Place whatever is not frozen in a blender. Add the other fruit. Blend again.  If desired add a little fresh lemon or lime juice and/or honey to taste and blend again.Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day. Slushes may be frozen as popsicles.  Serve with some family  adventure stories. With training, older children can use a blender themselves. Encourage yogurt smoothies, too.  For more see and Through the Seasons. 

Photos: Fran Darling, darling fotos

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Teaching Kids Nature is Full of Sounds

“The song of earth has many different chords”—Amy Lowell
Explore Nature by a Stream
Children can become good listeners while walking in fields, along a shore, in the mountains and forest or their own backyard. The trick is to get them to be very quiet. Juliet Robertson and Chris Hall both expert teachers and naturalists have some suggestions. 
Deer Ears
  Ms. Robertson uses owl ears and Mr. Hall uses deer ears, but the idea is the same. Children cup their hands like scooping up water and place the hands behind their ears to collect sounds like satellite dishes.  Children may have  observed animals moving their cupped shaped ears around when they are on high alert gathering sounds. The cupped ear triples the size of the outer ear.
Look for Beaver-Chew
 Children can find a pleasant spot, cup their ears, and be very, very still. Some naturalists ask children to blink very hard or wink when they hear a new sound. This distraction keeps them quiet for a time.  They will will let you know when it is time to stop. 
  Another interesting activity is to find a snail or slug. Do not handle it. Leave it on the ground and experiment with different pitches of sound.  When someone reaches the correct pitch, the animal will uncurl, stretch its antennae and start moving.
Walking quietly
  Children can also learn to walk quietly based on Native American teachings.  Place the heel of the foot on the path ahead. Carefully place the foot down on the outer edge first and roll the rest of the sole down until it touches the ground. Stop if you make a sound, pause, and slowly continue.  Crouch low and bend the knees.  Walk slowly and carefully with the body balanced low over the center of gravity. 
See Beaver Teeth Marks
The foot is never totally flat. Soft sole running type shoes or bare foot work well. Children can practice bare foot or with socks walking on newspaper. They can also practice walking with shoes on gravel.  Children find quiet walking a lot of fun and will learn to how sneak up on the rest of the family once they learn the technique. 
  The “cat walk” like a cat stalking prey. This is done for a very short time, straining to move very slowly.  To do this walk lift your foot and point your toes at the ground. When you put your foot on the around again touch the out edge first. Next roll the rest of the foot down until the sole touches the ground and repeat with the next foot. 
  Inhale and exhale very quietly through the nose with the mouth shut. When walking with others, match one person’s pace and feet exactly. For more see Through the Seasons, Facebook and Pinterest.

Photos: Fran Darling, fdarling fotos

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kids Love Cheap Easy Activities

Playing in Water is Fun & Teaching Time
Playing with water is a great way to have fun, increase vocabulary and teach.  Young children who read and do fun hands-on learning activities while talking to adults start school with about ten times as many words than children who don’t have these opportunities. 
Math and Science
  When the family heads to the beach for fun there can be  a little teaching, too. Take along different sized containers , a bucket, shovels, and plastic toys.  How many cups will fill a bucket?  How many buckets does it take to fill a hole in the sand? Where is the water going if  there is no exit stream? 
  Families can gather flat rocks on the beach and teach older children to skip them in the water.  Little children can throw a few stones in the water close to them.  Do bigger rocks make bigger splashes?  Why?
   Place some water in a container and start adding a few stones. Guess and count how many stones it takes before a container overflows. Gather natural items found on the beach and find out what floats and sinks.  Children also like to fill a small plastic boat- like container with rocks and estimate how many are needed to sink it.  You are teaching water displacement and volume which is a measure of the amount of space an object takes up.
  Children can make an outlet stream from their hole back to the lake. Now can they make a dam with sticks, stones, and mud?
  Speaking of mud, who can make the highest castle tower by drizzling mud through their fists?  This is a good technique for sugar sand that doesn’t pack well.
Water is Cheap Paint!
Paint and Wash with Water
  Water is a cheap paint, too. Young children love to paint with water and a small brush on colored paper or concrete. Provide a bucket and different kinds of paintbrushes. Together make the ABC’s, numbers, shapes, and draw pictures on the driveway. You can explain that the water molecules evaporate into the air.
 Children love to help clean bikes. They can use a hose or a thoroughly rinsed spray bottle filled with water.  Teach children how to spray and wipe with hand towels. They can also rinse off soap from your car and themselves on a hot day.
Indoor Water Fun
Water is Great Anywhere!!
  Water play is easy indoors, too.  Fill a dishpan or tub with water. Use plastic measuring cups to fill different containers.  Dolls, trucks and other toys can be washed with a little dish soap and a brush if you don’t plan to use the water for plants later. Give children straws to blow bubbles in the water or on their cupped hand. Estimate how many small toys are required to sink a container.
For more see and Through the Seasons live and podcasts.
 Photos: Fran Darling, fdarling fotos

Sunday, July 1, 2018

When Grandparents Must Step In

First, Swing Into Protective Mode
When because of a variety of serious family problems, grandparents feel they must take over, even adopt grandkids, there are a number of issues to address and places to go for help.
  First, what all experts agree is grandparents must swing into protective mode.  Protect your grandchildren and protect yourself—your physical and mental health, safety, legal status, and financial status. Check with an attorney for a variety of custody arrangements in your state before going any further.
  Grandparents taking on the task of raising grandchildren are very courageous. That said, here is what can help with the day to day care.  Although every family is slightly different, there are protective factors to help the new grandfamily prosper. Grandparents can borrow the knowledge based on many years of study by Drs. David Hawkins and Richard Catalano of risk factors and protective factors for preventing problems.
  Grandparents can find out more about the Botvin Life Skills Training, an evidence-based prevention program for schools, families, communities, and places of faith. The information  about life training skills  is at
   In your own grandfamily experts suggest finding prosocial involvement in the community like Scouts, organized sports, Y, 4-H, faith based clubs, other youth groups, and volunteer to help. Grandkids need recognition for prosocial involvement and behavior. Prosocial means having a positive helpful view toward other people in general.
Look to Training and Research
  Grandparents can develop a strong family unit with reasonable rules, duties, organization, and responsibility.  Provide opportunities for prosocial involvement like helping with the work load around the house, playing, volunteering, discussing together. Provide recognition for prosocial involvement like praise and hugs. Control technology use.
  In school, grandparents can participate, volunteer, check homework and school notes and communicate with the teachers. Be a part of school organizations. Be alert.  Insure children have opportunities for participation in prosocial learning, volunteering, working hard, studying, helping others, and being involved in many activities that nurture their talents and potential.  Find ways for children to receive recognition.
Structure and Social Skills are a Start
Are grandkids learning and using social skills? Establish a moral order of right and wrong in the family. Teach grandkids your faith. Join faith groups and be active as a grandfamily. Search for a school that teaches self- control, self -discipline, responsibility, respect, and helping others. 
  Do the grandkids interact with prosocial peers?  Some grandparents are taking parenting classes, switching schools, and even moving to a different area. However, the change must come from within or grandkids will seek out the same problem peers.
The problem is such an epidemic that there are many sites and places for help. Search for articles about financial help for grandparents on-line:
GrandparentsRaisingGrandchildren at has many helpful articles especially at “Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.”  
See activities for all age groups at and Learning Through the Seasons.
Photos, Fran Darling, fdarling fotos