18 Simple Ways to Infuse Each Day With Learning

Teaching your child to love learning offers them a lifetime of discovery, far outside the classroom.

Teaching your child about World War II or how to do double digit addition is important. But those are limited facts and skills. Teaching your child to love learning offers them a lifetime of discovery, far outside the classroom.
Here are 18 easy ways to foster a love of learning in the midst of everyday life.

Read to them

Reading not only has physical and emotional benefits. There is concrete evidence that it helps brain development and academic growth as well. With so much possibility, reading is the perfect way to help kids fall in love with learning.

Let them see you read

While reading to your children has many benefits, letting them see you read shows kids that reading is forever. It’s not just for babies. It’s not just for school. Read in front of them (and Facebook doesn’t count).

Be outdoors

Time outside provides opportunities for fine and gross motor development, risk-taking, and exploring, all of which prove beneficial to learning. There is also a direct correlation between time outside and reduction of stress, confidence building, and exposure to different stimuli.

Sing, play, and listen to music

The brain benefits of music are numerous. Plus, music has the ability to bring joy, relaxation, and express ideas.


True learning goes far beyond grades in a classroom. Show them you believe that by spending time with your kids doing nothing much in particular except enjoying each other’s company.

Embrace what they love

Give kids the opportunity to explore the things they love. If your child is into trains right now, find books about trains, build a train, draw a train, watch trains at the train station. Allow your child to guide their learning through their passions.

Talk about learning

Let them know when you discover something new. “Wow, I never knew that popcorn could burn so quickly. I wonder why?” Kids need to see that we are always learning, even in the ordinary.

Ask questions

I know it feels like all we do is answer questions. So start asking. “How did that bird know I just put birdseed out?” or “Why are there police officers guarding the construction workers?” Questions are the foundation of learning.

Give them money

I know it can be painfully slow, but letting them pay at the store and count change is real life learning. If you use plastic for all your payments, talk about how that works, too.


Encourage your children to think freely about things, without boundaries. Some of the best ideas started with wild wondering!


School keeps kids busy learning good things. But there is not a lot of room for play in a regular day. Giving kids the opportunity to play with no agenda allows them to be better thinkers.

Ask random math questions

Math facts are foundational for good mental math, but kids don’t always want more schoolwork. Make math facts fun by asking them when you’re doing something else, like driving, hiking, or making dinner. Make it easy, fun, and short.

Keep reading picture books

Even as kids get older, picture books can provide unique opportunities for learning. Increased connection with the text, vocabulary, and a more sensory approach to reading keeps the experience enjoyable and beneficial.

Go places

Visit the sea or a mountain. Spend time at the free art museum or check out the historical house in town. Experiences make learning part of life and create schema, a personal framework for learning.


Giving kids the chance to create through art, music, science, or any imaginative play helps them develop better thinking skills that translate far outside the classroom.

Enlist help

Helping with adult tasks gives kids new skills and shows them the need to learn throughout life. Cooking, taking pictures, changing the oil, and doing laundry all show kids that there is always something new they can do.


Often. Let them see that failure is part of learning. Recognizing failure as part of the learning process rather than an end to learning shows kids to keep going. Demonstrate that it’s okay, even good, to fail because it’s all part of the process.

Did I mention read?

It’s one of the simplest things you can do with endless possibilities. Read to learn, for fun, and for life.

Read These Favorite New Books After Your Kids Go to Sleep

If you’re looking for something to read, here are some favorite new books to put on your radar:

We may have lives that are chaotic and exhausting. The morning routine. Chasing kids. Working. Errands. Afterschool activities. The bedtime routine. Parenting never comes to an end.
Don’t let that stop you from sneaking in a little me-time. After the kids go to bed is the perfect time to crack open a book. If you’re looking for something to read, here are some favorite new books to put on your radar:


The Gypsy Moth Summer

by Julia Fierro

In the long, sweltering summer of 1992, a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island. Despite being an inescapable burden, the insects are hardly the topic of discussion. Leslie Day Marshall, the only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family, returns with her black husband and bi-racial children to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate.
Hidden truths, scandals, and racial prejudices soon emerge in this many-faceted story about love, family, escape, and revenge. “The writing is lovely, and the story is compelling. It’s set in the 90s so it’s fun nostalgia, too,” says Jen from New Jersey.


Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

After reading “Little Fires Everywhere”, Jessica from New York says, “The characters are so real. And I love the way that [Celeste Ng] explores issues of race, class, and privilege in a deep and meaningful way, without being heavy-handed or preachy.”
Picture-perfect Shaker Heights runs like a well-oiled machine. Elena Richardson embodies this progressive suburb’s image, playing by the rules and striving for the best. Things begin to unravel when she rents a house in the idyllic little bubble to single mother, Mia Warren, and her teenage daughter Pearl.
All four of Elena’s children are drawn to the rebellious mother-daughter pair, who ignore the status quo and threaten to upend the community. This instant New York Times bestseller explores motherhood, secrets, and the naivety of thinking that following the rules will keep you safe.


A Tangled Mercy

by Joy Jordan-Lake

“A Tangled Mercy” is an interweaving of two distinct, yet connected, narratives: the story of Harvard grad student Kate Drayton’s journey to Charleston, South Carolina, to find answers about her deceased mother’s troubled past, and the lost story of the Charleston slave uprising of 1822 – the subject of Kate’s mother’s research.
Inspired by true events, the book examines the depth of human suffering and brutality and our everlasting hope of forgiveness and redemption. “Joy Jordan-Lake’s ‘A Tangled Mercy’ is an incredibly compelling and meticulously researched historical novel that will have you thinking about it long after you turn the last page,” says Jane Healey, author of “The Saturday Evening Girls Club.”


The Golden House

by Salman Rushdie

The mysterious and eccentric newcomer, Nero Golden, and his three adult sons, each odd in their own way, take up residence at the Gardens, a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village, on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. Soon after moving to the neighborhood, Nero is charmed by Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, while their young neighbor, René, is captivated by their mystique and quietly intertwines with their lives.
“The Golden House” is set against the backdrop of current American politics and culture, while beaming with the realism of a timely story of love, loss, and deceit. “It’s really delicious reading. It’s like [Salman Rushdie] has the English language on his leash and can will it to do what he wants. It’s incredible,” says Olga of Zuid-Holland from the Netherlands.


The Designer

by Marius Gabriel

While Paris celebrates its liberation in 1944, Cooper Reilly’s life is falling apart. She’s stuck in an unhappy marriage riddled with infidelity. Unable to endure it any longer, she asks for a separation.
Suddenly alone, she finds a friend in a middle-aged clothing designer named Christian Dior. Hiding in a lackluster, decrepit fashion house seems counterproductive to the brilliance of his designs, so Copper urges him to take a risk while she takes one of her own – tipping her toes into the world of journalism.
“I was swept away by Marius Gabriel’s vivid descriptions of the Parisian fashion world – I could practically hear the rustle of silks. ‘The Designer’s’ evocation of Paris in the dying days of the war and the admirable spirit of the French people as they find their way again after years of occupation was simply enthralling,” says Sammia Hamer, Editor.


Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

Azra is trying to be a good daughter. And a good friend. And a good student. She’s trying to make good decisions, even as her thoughts spiral out of control. She never meant to become tangled in the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett.
With a hefty reward at stake, and her friends eager to crack the case, she has nothing to lose. Or does she? “It’s one of the most realistic depictions of living with mental illness that I’ve ever encountered without being super depressing about it,” says Stephanie from Maryland.
What new books would you add to this list? Please share!

Your Kid Wants a Tattoo or Piercing? Don’t Freak Out, Talk.

Tattoos and piercings are not new by any means, but studies show that more kids are getting them even at younger ages than in the past.

For the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics decided to review the incidence of youth tattoos and piercings in depth.
Led by Dr. David Levine, a general pediatrician and professor at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and Dr. Cora Breuner, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the new AAP report highlights the potential health risks and social/emotional consequences of tattooing and piercing in adolescents and young adults.
Tattoos and piercings are not new by any means, but studies show that more kids are getting them even at younger ages than in the past. According to the Harris Poll in 2015, about 30 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo, up from 20 percent just four years before.
Tattoos are especially popular among younger generations, with nearly half of all Millennials sporting one. According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of 18 to 29-year-olds have piercings in locations other than their earlobe.
This may not be a big deal for some parents, especially those who have their own tattoos and creative piercings. But for some parents, it becomes an issue to add to the long list of parenting dilemmas. Permanent body art may not even be on their radar if nobody else in the family enjoys that form of expression or if their cultural or religious beliefs consider the practice taboo.
We have two choices: forbid our kids to get tattooed or pierced and risk that they do it anyway behind our back (and possibly get hurt or regret it), or initiate an open dialogue and work with our kids to guide them to the best decision possible.

Identifying why your child wants it

The first step is to explore your kids’ goals and motives for wanting a tattoo or piercing. This conversation can lead to a simple answer, like they just want to show off their artistic flare. Alternatively, the conversation could open the door to issues you were not aware of.
According to the Harris Poll, people typically get tattoos because it makes them feel: sexy (33 percent), attractive (32 percent), rebellious (27 percent), spiritual (20 percent), intelligent (13 percent), employable (10 percent), and healthy (9 percent).
If your daughter wants a tattoo at age 15 to feel sexier, then a red flag may go up. You could broaden your conversation to her reasons for wanting to attract more attention, her current sexual activity, and the feelings she has about her own body.
If your son wants a tattoo to feel tougher or more rebellious, you may want to explore his level of anger and aggression. Is he having trouble making friends in school? Has he displayed signs of bullying?
If your child wants to ingrain the name of a significant other on their skin, you may need to talk to them about the level of commitment involved and the possibility of future heartbreak.
Finally, if they are doing it for spiritual reasons, what is the message they want to communicate, and why now? Should you be concerned about the influence a religious leader or spiritual mentor has on your child?
We need to take the time to listen to our children’s reasons so that we can help guide them. The answer may be very simple and positive, like they want the word “peace” on their body because they wish for world peace. It’s hard to argue with that.

Addressing your concerns

Talk to your children about exactly what getting a tattoo or piercing involves. They may be so set on it that they haven’t thought through some of the possible risks or downfalls.
For starters, the AAP report addresses the possible job market repercussions down the road. Some employers may frown upon visible tattoos in the workplace, which can limit your child’s job prospects and success. In a 2014 survey of nearly 2,700 people, 76 percent thought that tattoos and/or piercings had hurt their chances of getting a job, and 39 percent thought employees with tattoos and/or piercings reflect poorly on their employers.
While your child may be many years away from getting their first job, it’s important to talk to her about how a tattoo or piercing can impact her life in the future. Ask her to consider the risk involved, taking into account that life dreams should take precedence over a potentially rash, trendy decision in her teenage years.
Consider a compromise. Suggest that your child get a tattoo in a place that would not be visible on the job. Piercings are a bit more challenging. Clearly, a tongue ring could hinder one’s speech, and other piercings on the face in particular may motivate an employer to choose another candidate.
Tattoos, moreso than piercings, are pretty permanent. When you talk to your kids about getting a tattoo, be sure to bring up the fact that this commitment is not easily erased. Laser removal can also be costly – up to $300 per square inch of treatment area – and may only be partially effective.
Plenty of people have admitted regrets that you should bring to your child’s attention. According to a survey, nearly a quarter of people with tattoos say they regret getting them because they were too young, their personality changed, it no longer fits into their lifestyle, they chose someone’s name with whom they no longer associate, it was poorly done, or it’s simply not meaningful to them anymore.
Perhaps most important, weigh the health risks associated with tattoos with your child before he goes ahead with it. The most serious complication from any form of body modification is infection.
Other health concerns related to tattoos include inflammation, abnormal tissue growth like keloid scars, and vasculitis, a rare inflammation of the blood vessels. Body piercings have also been associated with pain, bleeding, cysts, allergic reaction, and scarring. Tongue rings, meanwhile, can cause tooth chipping.
Once you’ve openly discussed the pros and cons, give your kids some time to ponder their decision. Ask them whether they feel it’s really worth it, all things considered. How will the tattoo or piercing enhance their life? How will it hinder them? Are there alternative forms of expression they would be happy with, such as creative fashion choices or changing their hair color and style?
No matter their decision in the end, at least you sparked a mature conversation that will bolster their respect for you and remind them of your genuine, loving interest in their life. When something more serious comes about, they will know they can turn to you, which is, of course, more important and lasting than any tattoo or piercing.

8 Instructional Art Books for Your Aspiring Picasso

If your child loves to draw or paint, consider arming them with a supply of how-to books and take their early tinkering to a whole new level.

Between budget cuts and high-stakes testing, there is less room today for the arts in our educational system. Parents who value the arts or who want to support their child’s creative endeavors are often forced to seek out expensive after-school programs such as art classes and music lessons.
But there is a cheaper, and in some cases, better way. Books! If your child loves to draw or paint, consider arming them with a supply of how-to books. They’ll learn new techniques, feel inspired, and take their early tinkering to a whole new level.
Here are eight art books for your aspiring Picasso:


“Draw 500 Series”

by Quarry Books

Quarry Books’ “Draw 500” series for the little artist in the family is a winning collection of guidebooks. These pocket-sized gems are filled with 500 illustrations covering everything from faces and features to nature and animals.
These are not step-by-step books, but a reduction of the elements that make up each piece so that a child can take the “pieces” in the future and create their own, one-of-a-kind designs.


“20 Ways to Draw Series”

by Quarry Books

Also from Quarry Books, the “20 Ways” series features a wide variety of instructional sketchbooks. With illustrated examples on over a hundred themes – trees, flowers, sea creatures, cute little animals, and more – your eager artist will never have a shortage of inspiration.
No extra paper needed either. There’s room on the pages for your child to practice their creations. Each example is simplified, modernized, and reduced to the most basic elements, showing how abstract shapes and forms create the building blocks of any item your child wants to draw.


“Botanical Line Drawing”

by Peggy Dean

Line drawing is an easy art form that resembles doodles. The form is perfect for kids because there are no challenging techniques to learn. Line drawing looks amazing as a standalone piece, but also works well when incorporating watercolor, hand lettering, etc.
“This book has very clear instructions, and I love all the variety. An ‘artist’ at any level would be able to master the pictures with some practice,” says one Amazon reviewer.


“The Art of Drawing Dangles”

by Olivia A. Kniebler

Dangles are a new, fun art form for people who love to color. And kids love to color! Featuring 50 projects, “The Art of Drawing Dangles” teaches kids to add charms and pretty embellishments to letters and artwork to create a dangle.
Dangles can transform oopsies trash-bound pieces into unique works of art. Each project is easy to follow and includes simple instructions.


“If You Can Doodle, You Can Paint”

by Diane Culhane

Doodling is a first step toward drawing and painting bigger creations. Since doodling flows naturally from a person, “If You Can Doodle, You Can Paint” is the perfect primer for young artists.
The book is filled with easy-to-follow exercises, which lead up to the grand finale of how to transfer a doodle to something much, much bigger.


“Abstracts in Acrylic and Ink”

by Jodi Ohl

If your child is excelling in drawing or painting, it might be time to introduce them to a more complex area…abstract art. There are 22 fun-to-follow projects with insider tips on creating incredible abstracts in “Abstracts in Acrylic and Ink.”
Children can dabble with graffiti-style art, learn to add a stain, and achieve modern image transfers. “A wonderful book of clear instructions on step-by-step creative exploration of materials and abstract expressionist tips,” says one Amazon reviewer.


“Illustration School: Let’s Draw Cute Animals”

by Sachiko Umoto

Created by one of Japan’s most popular artists, this book provides detailed and complete instruction for illustrating fun and appealing characters and elements that celebrate life (back cover). Author and artist Sachiko
Author and artist Sachiko Umoto’s distinct style offers simple, fun, and playful designs that pop from a page. The method he uses is so simplistic that even young kids will quickly catch on. In this book, they’ll learn to draw cute animals using his whimsical style.


“Star, Branch, Spiral, Fan: Learn to Draw from Nature’s Perfect Design Structures”

by Yellena James

This gorgeous flexibound book makes it an ideal addition to your budding artist’s library. Inside, they’ll learn how to observe the structure of nature’s forms so they can draw the things they see outside.
Using a bit of math, natural objects come to life: “the radial star at the center of snowflakes, fruits, and flowers, and the arms of starfish; spirals at the heart of nautilus shells, unfurling plants, and swirling storm systems.”
Which books for the aspiring Picasso would you add to this list? Share in the comments below!

The Best Resources to Ignite a Creative Practice

If you keep a few fundamental strategies in mind, it will be easier to manage your time and create room in your schedule for using your imagination.

I remember working really hard on a sketch for art class in middle school. I sat for a long time examining every stripe on my sleeping cat trying to duplicate it just right in my drawing. I tried really hard and took my time, concentrating on the details and shading. I was pretty proud of how it turned out.
The teacher gave it a C. I’m sure many have similar stories that extinguished the creative spark.
Creativity as a means to make a living has often been viewed as a lesser valued contribution to society. But the millennial generation is beginning to revolutionize the workforce experience.
Courses immediately available at your fingertips will teach you how to do pretty much anything.
And yet, along the path to self-expression, working nine to five doing one thing and five to nine doing another, it can easily feel like you’re being stretched too thin. That’s when creative pursuits often get put on a back burner.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you keep a few fundamental strategies in mind, it will be easier to manage your time and create room in your schedule for using your imagination.
seeking freelance writers to submit work about families, parenting and kids

Reflect and evaluate

Evaluate your default patterns to discover what takes up your time. How can you change even just one thing in your daily routine to create more time for expression?

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

So, apparently, we humans do not get enough sleep. Shocking, right?
Really, though. We know this. We know we need at least eight hours of sleep a night, but we trick ourselves into thinking we will get more done if we use the hours we should be sleeping to do more stuff.
After collapsing on the job and injuring her face falling into her desk, Arianna Huffington is revolutionizing awareness of the importance of quality sleep. I, personally, was super motivated by her TED pep talk encouraging women to “sleep their way to the top.” When you’re done reading this, take a listen, then go take a nap.
Alright. So, you’ve tapped back into your brain power that once had you doodling on notebooks and singing in the shower. All the extra sleep you’re getting is fueling big dreams. Now what? Check Out These TED Talks for Inspiration:
The Beauty of Being a Misfit – Lidia Yuknavitch
The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers – Adam Grant
How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative – Tim Harford
A Musical Escape Into a World of Light and Color – Kaki King
Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating – Elizabeth Gilbert

Increase your efficiency with solid resources

BRIT+CO is driven to inspire women to embrace their own creativity. It’s basically everything you need to know to start a side hustle all in one place.
Take a 15-minute quiz on the Adam Grant Originals website to pinpoint your creative gifts and find direction.

Plan and organize to bring things together

I swear by Trello project boards. They’re free and easy to use which fuels my sense of accomplishment. Asana is another project management system with a really pretty user interface that gives the ability to collaborate with team members.
Other apps like Evernote and OneNote are also lifesavers when it comes to keeping all your brilliant ideas in one place.
Sounds easy enough, now. Right?
The paradox of the road to work/life balance is there are so many stumbling blocks and discouraging moments along the way. But, we have the impression that people who are wildly successful got to where they are by some mysterious good fortune. Be inspired by creative artists you admire by learning their stories and you’ll find that’s not the case.
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” – J.K. Rowling

Stay inspired

Print this list of ages famous people were when they “made it big.” Keep it in a place that inspires your creativity, say some affirmations, and get started.

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.At age 24, Stephen…

Posted by Ankati Day on Monday, April 25, 2016

Bringing Art Back

[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://youtu.be/2ROAfWxy6Rw” width=”760″ controls=”alt” autohide=”yes” showinfo=”no” rel=”no” modestbranding=”yes” theme=”light”]
Does your child’s school have arts education programs?  In New York City, over 420 public schools do not have arts programs.  Follow Parent Co. as we meet a group of students and artists working to change that.
This video is a part of Parent Co. Stories, a new video series sharing authentic stories for curious parents.  Subscibe to our channel to see the latest stories every week: http://bit.ly/2ryLtAn

Special Thanks to Thrive Collective, whose work in NYC and beyond is looking to bring art back to public schools and help students and schools thrive.  Learn more at thrivecollective.org

How to Make Art With Little Kids – Even if You Aren’t Arty

At a young age I decided art wasn’t for me. My coloring didn’t stay inside the lines. My pictures never looked the way I’d imagined. Then I became a parent.

At a very young age I decided that art was not my thing. My coloring did not stay inside the lines, my pictures never looked the way I’d imagined, and I couldn’t seem to imagine very much to begin with.

Generally speaking we like to do what we’re good at, and since I wasn’t good at art, I rarely drew or painted or crafted. So I became less and less skillful at it, until the subject was dropped in school and I stopped altogether.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. —Picasso [/su_pullquote]

This is a common story. I think most of us would say we are not artists. We might express our creativity in other ways, through writing, fashion, computer programming or cooking, but after a certain age we don’t draw.

And then, if we become parents, we see our kids begin to draw. Like most parents I understood that experimenting with art is essential for kids’ creative development, and that it’s an important pre-cursor to learning to write, but I wasn’t sure how best to introduce my young children to art. After all, I’m not arty.

Browsing online for ideas on art with toddlers was discouraging. There were so many beautiful images of crafts for kids, but my toddler didn’t want to create Easter baskets or snowflake ornaments. He was just too little.

Luckily I discovered a wonderful book, Young at Art by Susan Striker, which encourages keeping art with toddlers very simple and process-orientated. In other words, we should let children explore creative materials freely, without worrying about what is created. Art with my sons took on new and wonderful directions. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and are learning all the time.

I’d like to encourage any other non-arty parents out there: you definitely can get creative with your kids!

I’d like to encourage any other non-arty parents out there: you definitely can get creative with your kids! This is what I found works for us. I hope you will find something here that works for you too.

1. Experiment with different materials and media

Big paper, little paper, colorful paper, crayons, paints, printing… But don’t put out too much at once. For example, one type of paper and one or two colors is enough for a great art session.

I followed Susan Striker’s advice to introduce colors gradually, at first painting with just one primary color (red, blue, or yellow), then offering a pair of colors. This helps toddlers to discover new colors, and helps keep them from getting overwhelmed and creating a brown sludge every time they paint!

We painted with different colors in time with the seasons: blue and white in winter, introducing yellow to make green in spring, then discovering red and orange in summer, and purple in autumn.

2. Don’t worry about the outcome.

Little ones enjoy exploring art materials, but a toddler is not ready to produce ‘representational art’, i.e. to draw pictures that look like recognizable things. Children’s drawings develop according to a surprisingly predictable pattern. They start with scribbles, moving on to circles and enclosed shapes (around age 2 or 3), from there to very simple human figures (circles with lines for arms and legs around 3 or 4), and then to drawing more recognizable pictures.

Understanding this fascinating process definitely helped me to have appropriate expectations. For example, we often see coloring books targeted at young children, but giving these to toddlers is setting them up to fail. There are lots of better ways to have fun with art.

3. Simple creative time can be a relaxed, routine part of the day.

Go ahead and research ideas online, but don’t let the achievements you’ll find discourage you. There’s really no need to reinvent the wheel for toddler art.

Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy scribbling and letting rip with color, chalk, glue or play dough, then moving cheerfully on to something else, like being a dinosaur. Art might not last long. For a lot of set-up and a lot of cleanup, the actual art bit can be surprisingly brief, but if a toddler’s had enough, they’ve had enough.

4. Think about how you join in with your child’s art.

In Young at Art Susan Striker warns against drawing pictures for little children. Since toddlers are not developmentally ready to make deliberate images, she argues that drawing pictures for them can destroy their confidence. Janet Lansbury and Bev Bos have both also written on the importance of not showing our children how to draw, paint, sculpt and so on.

On the other hand, take a look around any preschool or Pinterest board on art with kids, and you’ll find adults do get involved. Perhaps we need to experiment to find what works best for our unique children. In my case, I find that when I draw my sons enjoy watching and talking with me about the pictures, but it rarely encourages them to draw themselves.

I’ve tried to find a compromise: our daily art time is first and foremost about encouraging my kids to create. I love to talk with them very simply about what they’re doing. And I do regularly draw simple pictures or symbols for them, but never press them to copy. Instead, I use the drawings to spark conversations and stories with my little ones.

5. Above all, we don’t have to tell our little kids we’re not arty. They won’t guess, and they don’t care!

As parents it is important to keep our language positive. If I draw a terrible elephant and say ‘Ugh, this is awful!’ I’m modeling this kind of response to art for my sons. Instead I could say, ‘His trunk is so skinny!’ Together we can learn to look out for what’s funny or interesting in a picture.

As we gently break into art together, and to my surprise I think I’m enjoying it now as much as my sons. I even bought a couple of Ed Emberley’s wonderful step-by-step drawing books to provide prompts, for me now and for the kids when they’re older if they choose. I wouldn’t say the experience is going to turn me ‘arty’, but it is certainly fun.

9 Ways Busy Parents Can Reignite A Creative Practice

Proven steps that help busy parents pursue their creative calling without sacrificing sanity or family.

“Me time” is a well-intentioned catch phrase that conjures in my mind a harried young mother whose weekly highlight is dishing with her parent crew at Chick-Fil-A while their kids run circles around the joint. I am not that parent, yet the sentiment behind the phrase persists in my life.

There’s nothing more infuriating than someone reminding me to “take time for myself.” I assume it means I look like I’m about to lose a grip on my life – that my bangs are sticking up and there’s grape jelly smeared on my jeans and my left eye is twitching. In other words: I look like my kids are kicking my ass and I’ve neglected my own needs.

While that may be an accurate summary of my appearance from time to time, it’s rarely because my kids have me stretched too thin and I’m in dire need of a champagne bubble bath with control + alt + delete potency. More likely, I’ve been entrenched in an intensely productive creative phase and have managed to emerge triumphant, albeit unshowered, despite the five-year-old who is learning to make his own sandwiches and the six-year-old who has been practicing braiding on my hair while I type at my computer.

Whether you miss your former, pre-kids creative self or you’re ready to retool your schedule to make room for a creative process, the following steps will help you make the most of your time and energy without sacrificing sanity or family.

Female writing some notes. (detail of female hand)

1 | Ignite yourself first

Identify activities or patterns of engaging with the world that ignite your inner creative energy. These may or may not be directly linked to your particular medium. For example, contemporary art, live music, walking in the woods, eavesdropping on my kids’ conversations in their bunk beds, and late nights out with interesting people stoke my creative writing fire.

Ask yourself: what makes you feel most alive? Cobble up a list, and then work those things into your life. Harness the energy they produce and ride whatever waves they give rise to.

Meanwhile, cut activities that drain you. For example, I cut meaningless playdates with kids who have helicopter parents. Two hours of small talk with these parents was an excruciating waste of time.

I also decided that I don’t believe in living a life whose weekend hours are dictated by a five-year-old’s social schedule. So they were cut.

Outcome: more time for other, more valuable activities for the whole family. This summer, we spent our weekends exploring new swimming holes, catching crawdads with our bare hands, and listening to nature’s music. Consequently, I was able to do something that energizes me creatively and share higher quality time with my kids, who, frankly, will have plenty of social opportunities in the years to come.

2 | Be already ready already

There’s a 90s Tropical Freeze commercial in which two women are sun-bathing poolside while a third woman goes to the kitchen to make frozen daiquiris. Frazzled, the hostess chops fruit wildly and stuffs ice into a blender while her friends grow impatient. Cut to a bag o’ daiquiri poured smoothly into a glass and the tagline voice over, “Tropical Freeze: it’s already ready already.”

Make this slogan your own. Ensure that the moment you have an hour at your disposal, or the minute inspiration strikes, all you have to do is show up to your workstation and execute your idea. If you have to clean, organize, locate tools, or think about where to begin each time you sit down, you won’t get anything done. If you paint, keep your workspace set up and your brushes ready to go. If you write music or short stories, keep an index card handy that lists projects in progress and ideas to explore. If you write and don’t know where to begin, keep your pens and paper near your laptop along with a few writing prompts close by.

3 | Show up during quiet time

Yes, you could watch the new episode of “Scandal” after your kids go to sleep and no one would be the wiser. You could also match socks or replace the filter on the furnace or look for a new job or balance your checkbook or…well, the list goes on as always.

You deserve all manner of indulgences, and at some point, the socks will need to be matched. But I promise you that choosing instead to write or paint or draw or strum your guitar – however you choose to direct your creative energy – will pay dividends in a way that empty tasks and television simply can’t.

No sugar coating here: creative work won’t make itself. You must work at it and work at it often. Take yourself seriously. If you don’t, who will? Try cutting your unwind-time routines or busy work in half and replacing what’s left over with creative work.

4 | Leave the house

Whether it’s for an hour or a weekend, regularly claim some space outside of the home. A change of scenery invites a shift in thought processes and perspective, making it a great way to get creativity flowing. It also cuts down on distractions, guilt, and anything else related to home that might stand in the way of your burgeoning process.

Claiming space can be as simple as bringing a notebook to a café or doing sketches in an urban area.

A favorite generative activity of mine is sitting alone in a restaurant with a pen and notebook. I listen for the most interesting conversation within earshot, then write down what I hear. Absent conversations, I might sketch a character from a man sitting at the bar. I might sketch a woman’s tattoo, then guess at what her life might be like.  Often, I’ll read a supposedly complete essay over coffee at a new café and I’ll find it’s not quite right, or that it needs a slight reshaping.

Drawing Original Artwork

5 | Find direction

So you’ve got all this creative energy, you’ve prepped your tools and workspace, and you’re ready to commit some time to developing a true practice. Now you’ll need direction.

At first, allow yourself to spend some time spinning your wheels and noticing your work habits, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and cycles. Writers can try working from prompts. Makers of all kinds can keep a visual or written record of observations or creative sparks, then look for patterns that can be developed further. Use of collage or found parts can help reveal connective tissues between disparate subjects.

The point is to first capture what grabs you, then allow it to grab you back. Once you get through this initial experimentation phase, identify a project for yourself that will take you a while to complete – say, three or four weeks. An actual commitment that will require you to optimize your time management and incorporate additional tips in this list.

This timeline is great because achievement is key. If you can’t push a creative practice into the end zone of completion, you risk feeling defeated and abandoning your work. So challenge yourself, but be realistic. Even if you don’t love the outcome, completion can establish the foundation of a life-long practice.

6 | Capture creativity on the go

Once you’ve got a project in mind, you’ll want to nurture it. But creativity, much as we might like it to be so, is not easily domesticated. It’s more like a feral cat you’ll start feeding and eventually grow used to, but that won’t stop it from revealing its wild nature from time to time.

This is to say, sometimes you’ll have epiphanies at inappropriate times and places. You’ll tell yourself you’ll remember them later, but trust me when I say you will not. Therefore, you’ll need coping strategies. I write notes to myself on my phone when I’m out and about. Over the years, I’ve learned that barebones notes often don’t make sense later, so I try to label or categorize them by topic or project. I also capture inspiring images or artwork on my phone and email those to myself.

I’ve learned I have three risk activities, or situations in which I’m both more likely to have a good idea and more likely to forget it if I don’t immediately preserve it. These situations are taking a shower, falling asleep, and driving. None of which are conducive to writing. These are times when my brain and body are most relaxed and open, which invites the mind to expand into areas it doesn’t occupy when, say, talking on the phone or working.

So I do what any logical person would do: I get out of the shower mid-shampoo to write down the fleeting thought; I scribble in the dark on a notebook I keep on my nightstand; and I speak my thoughts into an app I can access without risking my life on the road.

7 | Creative time for all

Make your creative practice a family thing. I keep several small plastic tubs filled with creative project materials for my kids and get them out when I need to write and solitude isn’t possible. (Examples: marshmallows and toothpicks for making sculptures.)

To encourage this separate-but-together-time’s success, give each person their own “space” to do their work. (And don’t call it work. Call it “maker time” or “creation time,” or something that sounds more fun than work.) Set a timer for a length of time your child can handle developmentally. When the timer goes off, invite each person to share or present their work.

This communal creative time allows you to develop your work, familiarizes your child with his or her own creative process, emphasizes completion, and encourages positive family bonding around the arts. It will also instill in them respect for creative time and space, especially if they can glimpse the final product during “share time.”

8 | Control screen time

Usually this parenting advice is offered with regard to children. But let’s be honest: the same rules apply to adults. You know the drill. Sign out of Facebook, turn off your phone. Remove any and all sources of distraction.

9 | Seek support

Keeping the momentum going once you’ve started is crucial. Just like with diets, accountability yields success. But how does accountability translate in a creative practice?

An Instagram feed documenting process and progress works for some, especially visual artists. For others, sharing work with peers in a workshop, critique, or discussion setting drives them on. For writers, even getting feedback and support from a single reader is enough. For still others, publication, presentation, and recognition provide the support and accolades needed to continue.

Find ways to hold yourself accountable to your process and projects outside of yourself. Whatever motivates you and helps push you to the next level, incorporate it into your process.

You may end up carving yourself a new career.

5 links to share with your curious kids (week of 7/17/15)

Share awesome, fun links with your kids curated by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational facts, videos, photos and jokes for curious kids, parents and educators.

View past Internet Field Trips here.

Week of July 17, 2015


Explore the acoustic sounds of one song filmed in 15 locations in this video posted to Today Box.

indoor beach

See how one museum turned an indoor location into a beach with a million plastic balls!


Observe the surface of Pluto like you’ve never seen before in this new footage released by NASA.


Watch cactus flowers bloom and explode in these colorful timelapse videos.


Learn about the art form of embroidered zoetrope and see mesmerizing animations.

View past Internet Field Trips here.

View over 1,100 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

5 links to share with your curious kids (week of 7/4/2015)

Share awesome, fun links with your kids curated by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational facts, videos, photos and jokes for curious kids, parents and educators.

View past Internet Field Trips here.

Week of July 4, 2015

tiny bbq

Celebrate the Fourth of July with tiny hamster and his friends in this video posted to Today Box.


Learn about the structural art of Ben Butler and his newest work of art called Unbounded.

Great Barrier Reef

Use Google Street View to dive underwater and tour Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


Learn why scientists are lighting up leaves in this video from Science Friday.


Watch a friendly beatboxing battle between a father and daughter that will blow you away!

View past Internet Field Trips here.

View over 1,100 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.