Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Recommendation: Crafty Chloe

Here is a book recommendation for all of you with crafty kids. Crafty Chloe is a charming picture book about a little girl who uses her crafty creativity to solve a birthday gift dilemma.

So read the book! And check out the Crafty Chloe Make-Stuff Blog to find fun crafts for kids.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Mini Poetry Workshop!

Let's face it: poetry is hard.

But it can be fun to write, especially if you understand some of the things that make poetry so darn cool. Like imagery, alliteration, rhythm and, of course, rhyme! Once you (and your kiddos) understand more about how to use these devises in your writing, poetry can become less of a struggle, and more of an engaging challenge.


This is simply what you see put into words. When done well, imagery will transport a reader from one place to another, if only in their mind. It is what gives a poem, or any other piece of writing, a sense of place, and can greatly affect the mood.


Before me the grasses bend

in rhythm with the breeze,
and a cottonwood’s leaves shimmer and dance in the sunlight


Alliteration is a series of words that begin with the same sound, as is often done on tongue twisters. Using alliteration in poetry adds a layer of interest to the way a poem sounds when read aloud.


His blood is black and boiling hot.
He gurgles ghastly groans. 

(from "The Troll" by Jack Prelutsky)


All language has a natural rhythm. In poetry, especially rhyming poetry, the rhythm is often a predictable pattern of stressed and unstressed beats, like in a song. This rhythm is usually referred to as meter.


Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

These lines have a predictable patter of stressed and unstressed beats. The pattern is simple; every other syllable in each line is stressed. The trick to meter is working the right words into the poem in such a way that the words' natural rhythms will fit into the meter. You can see in the example below how I have fit other words into the same pattern:

Blizzard, blizzard, watch it blow
Whirling, swirling, ice and snow


This one is fairly straight-forward. It is good for budding poets to learn the difference between true rhyme (cat/fat) and near rhyme (rain/again).rhyme can be one of the trickiest parts of writing poetry because of the challenge it can be to find a word that 1) fits the meter, 2) makes sense with the rest of the poem, and 3) rhymes perfectly. A good rhyming dictionary, like the online one at is a handy tool.

Now, you try it!

1. Have your kids practice imagery by writing descriptive phrases of things they see around them.

2. Practice making up goofy alliterative phrases.

3. Try working on rhythm by writing new words for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Say the words aloud to hear how they fit in the meter.

4. Make lists of rhyming words.

5. Now you are ready to try writing your own poem!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fill Up the Art Box

Whether it is one big box or a few boxes and some dedicated shelf space, it's good to have all or most of your art supplies in one area when creating time comes around. In our house, we use a combination of shelf space and the art box. Here I've filled up our art box with some of our most used items to give you an idea of what kinds of things you might want to include in your collection of art supplies.

Having a box like this is handy for those times when you might want to bring your kids outside (on the deck, porch, to the park) to get them creating. Everything you need is there, with the exception of paper and water. Upon close inspection, you should see the following items:

  • two kinds of paint
  • paint brushes of varying sizes
  • sponge pieces
  • a container for rinsing brushes (we use repurposed lemonade mix containers)
  • scissors
  • a star-shaped hole puncher
  • two kinds of glue
  • pencils
  • a box of oil pastels
  • markers
  • paper towels
  • styrofoam for stamping/printing
  • repurposed lids and fruit cups for paint mixing
  • an eraser
  • fabric scraps for collage
  • old magazines (on the bottom) for collage 
Some other things you might want to add to your box could be crayons, colored pencils, lengths of yarn or string, and other little bits that could be fun to collage with.

What other things might you put in your box?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Celebrate Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, which is a great excuse for you share the wonders and joys of poetry with your children. Exploring various forms of poetry with your kids is a valuable way to get them talking and thinking about imagery, figurative language, rhyme, and meter. The cool thing is, you don't even have to mention those fancy, technical words when talking about poetry. Kids will often pick up on those things themselves without realizing it.

Here are some ways you can explore poetry with your children this month:

  • Read lots of poetry, in different forms. Pick up a poetry book or a rhyming picture book to read at bed time. Poetry anthologies are good resources because they often have a variety of poetic forms to choose from. Nonsense rhymes and limericks can be fun to start with, but don't be afraid to wade out a little deeper and read some haiku or free verse. 
  • Encourage your independent readers to read novels in verse, such as LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech or MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose. For teenagers, I recommend SHARK GIRL by Kelly Bingham and OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse.
  • Write poetry together. One thing I did with my children when they were younger was to change the words of children's songs, such as Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star or Jingle Bells. They might also enjoy writing list poems, like Shel Silverstein's Sick or Jack Prelutsky's It's Raining Pigs and Noodles
  • Make up tongue twisters. Doing this can not only be fun and hilarious, but also gets your kids practicing alliteration (puffy pandas paddle in puddles).
  • Have a poetry night at your house. Encourage your kids (and you and your spouse) to choose a poem (or poems) to read aloud or memorize a poem to recite. Make it a real celebration complete with party snacks. This could be a way to end poetry month with flair!
Later this month, I will talk specifically about different forms of poetry as well as some fun ways to blend poetry and art. Stay tuned!