Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

15 Ways to Leave a Love Note

15 ways to leave a love note

Leave a love note!

Today’s task is to leave a love note for someone. Everyone in the family can participate. Help the ones who can’t transcribe their own thoughts (who don’t read or may not write, yet) to get in on the act. They can add little picto-graphs or stickers, if they like.

Leave the love notes in surprising locations and use unusual tools.

For instance:

  1. Write a note on the bathroom mirror with lipstick.
  2. Use Post-it notes and leave little notes all over the house for someone (or all over the inside of their car or all over their office or bedroom).
  3. Write a love note on the brown paper bag used to take a lunch to work or to a park day.
  4. Send a text!
  5. Post a status update on Facebook tagging the person you want to love up.
  6. Tuck love notes inside the book the person is reading, a few pages ahead of where they are.
  7. Write love notes on the edges of today’s newspaper for the newspaper reader.
  8. Put a love note (use a Post-it note) on the favorite beverage of your loved one that is lurking in the refrigerator.
  9. Sock drawers are a great place for love notes.
  10. Stick a love note on the left and right shoes of a favorite pair (maybe make a pun about left and right).
  11. Use shaving cream to squirt a note on the shower wall before your loved one showers.
  12. Stomp a note (maybe just a word) into the snow in the front yard. View from an upstairs window.
  13. Create a love note out of seashells and spell it on the kitchen table for a center piece.
  14. Write a love note on your palm. Close your hand into a fist. Approach the loved one. Tell them to tap three times for a surprise. When they do, open your hand and show your palm.
  15. Create a love coupon (in any form) and tuck it into your loved one’s purse or wallet.

Or think of your own!

Brave Writer Lifestyle

When kids are bored © |

Boredom does not automatically create the conditions for creativity. More often it creates conditions for poking, tickling, nagging, arguments about the TV and computer, and needless fuss-budgeting. Don’t be trapped by this myth that if you leave kids alone long enough, they’ll turn into mini-Steven Spielbergs producing films in your backyard!

Creativity is catalyzed by materials that inspire the imagination. Children are concrete thinkers. That means they need tactile involvement (not ideas to contemplate). They don’t create ideas from the thin air, up inside their brains. They create from a pile of Legos, or sticks, or watercolor paint brushes. If they can’t find the tools, if they are told to go get the tools, if they are asked to put in the effort to create the conditions for creativity, they will often give up before they start.

Perhaps you’ve noticed: If you tell a child, “How about painting? You love painting” and the paints are hidden in a cupboard, no painting is going to happen.

Rather, you might notice a bored child and wordlessly walk to the cupboard, remove the paints and brushes and blank white paper. Set them on a cleared table in the same room where you are. Fill a glass with water. Sit at the table and begin to paint. Say nothing. You only have to paint for 2-3 minutes. I promise. Within that time, someone in the bored cluster of children is going to join you. Once that happens, you are nearly there—boredom is about to wave the white flag. When you see the energy rise to take up this activity, you can then separate yourself by a short distance (stay in the room, ooh and ahh, offer suggestions, be enthusiastic about all attempts, add brownies or snacks). You may be able to resume the work you were doing once the engine of creativity gets rolling.

1. When in doubt, add water. © |

Painting is nearly always a winner because it involves one of the three secret boredom busting weapons: Water.

Water play changes everything. Toddlers can be tossed into a bath tub or a literal tub. When I lived in Morocco, we used to use wash tubs for play. You can do that with a small wading pool. Put it right in the middle of your kitchen floor. Fill it about 6-8 inches deep. Dump all your measuring spoons and cups into the middle. Add sponges, squirt bottles, squirt guns, rubber ducks, and if your kids are grimy, a little bubble bath liquid. Swish with your hands.

Indoor water play is magical—on a waterproof surface, under your watchful eye, you can be in the kitchen/family room space doing what you need to do while small ones are happy.

Older kids also love water play. Invest in Super Soakers or sprinklers. Pull your car into the driveway and supply your kids with all the tools to wash your car. The key to making this fun and not a chore is being sure there are cool products to use on the car that soap it up, that squeegee the windows, and so on. Loud music and friends make this activity more fun too. Reward with a trip to an ice cream shop.

Naturally, painting furniture/pictures/flower pots (rinsing brushes in water), writing on the driveway with water and paintbrushes, swimming in a pool, washing windows, Slip n Slides, wading in a creek, walking in the rain with umbrellas, splashing in puddles and curbside gutters… These are all magnetic experiences for kids.

The key, though, is being sure to start the activity wordlessly—you start it. You do it. Say NOTHING. No suggestions, no telling the kids to go outside and play with water. That doesn’t work with bored kids. They need to see the option in action and you are the person to do it! Get it started, then see what happens.

2. If water is not an option, creating hidey holes usually is.

Couch Cushion FortImage by willholmes (cc)

Blankets, sheets, towels, cardboard boxes, small pieces of movable furniture…

The second surefire boredom buster is creating forts! Think outside of your usual “sheet over a card table” idea. You might create one on your deck. Tack a blanket or sheet across the hand railing in a corner (the blanket will be triangular over the space). Put cushions underneath with soft throws and a little low side table. Include a basket with books to read. You might even create a private entrance based on how you arrange the top sheet.

Forts behind couches, in the corner in your kitchen, behind a big recliner in the living room, in the basement, in your master bedroom (feels special to be in there! Never forget that). Bring snacks once it’s created.

3. A treasure hunt!

Treasure HuntImage by Joe Green (cc)

The most overlooked surefire boredom buster creates more work for you. I suggest you prepare this one ahead of time and save it for the day when you are at wit’s end and need something that will absolutely change the tone of the home.

To get the cards in place is the trick because your kids can’t watch you. So you may need to distract them with food/TV/or sending them outside (you can say, “I need you to not come into the room where I am because of a top secret mission. I will tell you when it’s safe to return”).

Any use of the word “Secret” will yield you big time trust points with your kids.

The treasure hunt can be as lengthy and elaborate as you like, but easy clues and simple treats work just as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Put the clues on notecards. Keep a list of the clues and where you will hide them so that you can help kids who get stuck finding the next clue.
  • The clues can rhyme but don’t have to. For small children not yet reading, a sketch or photo is just fine! They can match the picture to the next location. Another idea is to use word scrambles for the clues. Another idea is that the clue is a task they must complete before you will give them the answer for where to look next. For instance, you might have a clue that says, “Hop on the left foot 10 times then I’ll release the next clue.” Or you might have one that says, “Get the mail from the letter box, bring it to me, then I’ll give you the next clue.”
  • Be careful not to use this activity as a disguised way to get chores done (kids are smart!). But you could include a mixture of silly activities (reciting tongue twisters, looking up a famous saying online, doing a back bend) with household benefitting activities (put away three pairs of shoes, brush your teeth, return the DVDs to their right cases).
  • You want more than 3-5 clues (ends too quickly). Kids do great with 8-10 clues. Too many gets wearying, especially if the clues are difficult to solve.
  • Consider treats midway through the treasure hunt. It’s fun to get partway there and then know that you have been rewarded for that. A plate of grapes, a pair of stickers, a pack of gum, a super ball or pick up sticks make good midway treats.
  • The final item to be found ought to be worth the hunt. I recommend a brand new board game—something no one has played yet. A new DVD works, as does any artsy-crafty activity. Maybe a new water gun (cycling back to the #1 boredom buster)!

To review: When kids are bored—

1. Water
2. Forts
3. Treasure Hunts

See how it goes! Remember—the secret to success is your involvement in the initial phase without ANY words. No words. No urgings, no suggestions, no lectures, no explanations, no hints.

Start the activity on your own and see who joins you. Even the treasure hunt—you can pull the first index card from a pocket and say, “Hmmm. I wonder what this means” and read it aloud. Then see who joins you to solve it.

Good luck!

Cross-posted on facebook.

Book Fair!

Book Fair

The creativity of Brave Writer families is amazing! Homeschool mom, Knelly, writes:

We started out last week with homeschool light on some of our core subjects – this week we are pulling out some stops:)

I couldn’t decide which Arrow books to do this year, and when my 3rd and 5th grader get the “same stuff” you know, there’s usually blowback.


Book FairSo this year [we had a Book Fair]! I filled the dining room with preselected, Julie Bogart Approved:), Bravewriter Arrow titles (I also put some fairy tales in there for Jot it Down!). Some I grabbed from around the house, a few at thrift stores, the library–and to round everything out, I just printed off a dust jacket and a paragraph from Amazon and called it good. [See above pic on the right]

The catch? They could ONLY pick 9. They can go through their Arrow issues with me in any order, and they can download on Kindle, hard copy or files!

The kids also spent time leading up making bookmarks for each other to choose. They could hardly wait for Book Fair Day to come. They waited in the stairwell with closed eyes and giggles.

Book Fair 4
Book Fair 2
Those cupcake-like things are actually hundreds of broken crayons found around our house that Fiona unwrapped, cut up and melted in muffin tins (use liners! melt for 15 min in a 200 degree oven and cool).   We now have NO MORE broken crayons anywhere and some cool wrong utensils. It also kept my kids busy for hours, over the course of several days.:)

Book Fair 5
The best part? I only had about an hour of prep time into this and EVERYONE is excited to start The Lemonade War!

Happy Winter Solstice!

DSCN9634.JPGFor years, I thought about celebrating Solstice with my kids.

It seemed like it would be a great way to take some of the commercialism out of the season and it would give us a chance, as the kids got older, to recapture some of the magic of our homeschooling journey.

In 2009, we decided to create our own holiday traditions for Solstice. Each year, they vary a bit (for instance, the first year we used hammers and nails to puncture tin cans in pretty patterns to create lanterns to line the driveway—much harder to hammer nails into tin cans than you might imagine! So we recycle them each year and haven’t had to make them again).

solstice tin cans



There are a few traditions we do every year.

For instance, we always light a fire (sometimes outside, sometimes inside). Then we take strips of paper (old Trader Joe’s grocery bags cut into long strips) and we write two things on them:

1) Regrets from the past year
I regret not working harder to help my team…

2) Wishes for the coming year
I wish that my sister and I would get along better this year.


These get read silently by the writer, then tossed into the flames. We usually play a little instrumental Celtic music in the background while we use magic markers to write. It’s proved to be one of our favorite traditions of the year. The kids now like to keep a record of their wishes so they can remember year to year what they wrote the previous year.


Another tradition we love is to make handmade gifts for each person. This means we can’t go to the store and buy someone a CD or scarf. Rather, whatever we give, it must be crafted in some way by the giver.



Some of the items of the last several years:

  • Origami cranes colored to look like famous people (based on the celebrity obsessions we each have—from Lady Gaga to Dumbledore to Dietrich Bonhoeffer!)
  • Book marks and popsicle stick picture frames
  • CD mixes (tailored for each person)
  • A lengthy rap, where each stanza addressed a specific family member and the whole thing was performed with accompaniment
  • Photos framed with selected passages from novels (remember the value of copywork?) that went with each person
  • Apple calendars with photos of the kids for each month of the year drawn from my lifetime supply
  • Harry Potter brooms (matching the houses each of my kids believe they would be in)
  • Haiku!
  • Personalized tree ornaments
  • Crowns
  • Art trading cards
  • Embroidered initials in small hoop frames


We also eat special foods (in our home, we eat a cashew pasta dish, homemade applesauce, and sliced oranges with sugar and cinnamon on them) and we drink a special wassail (though this year we are trying mulled wine).

The event ends when we make candles from a beeswax kit purchased from Hearthsong (a favorite toy and craft company we’ve loved for 20 years).

Solstice 2011

The most wonderful thing about celebrating Solstice is that I get to see the fruits of all those years of crafting, reading aloud, the celebration of family, and the care for each individual member all expressed in one evening celebration—at the darkest time of the year. For us, it’s been a most satisfying addition to our winter holiday celebrations.

I want to publicly thank Kimmy Certa (Brave Writer mom and online friend) who first put the thought into my head as I witnessed her version of Solstice celebrating.

Happy Winter Solstice to all of you!

State Slogans

My daughter (21) and I got into a little chat this morning about state slogans. Oh my gosh, how we laughed! If you’re looking for a great way to foster discussion around word play or if you want to expose your kids to the various cultural associations with each state, be sure to Google the list. Here are our favorite top ten:

10. TexasIt’s Like a Whole Other Country (Sometimes, it seems they wish they were!)

9. California: Find Yourself Here (If there were ever a state where finding yourself rose to the level of imperative, California would be it!)

8. Delaware: It’s Good Being First (If you say so…!)

7. Indiana: Restart Your Engines (Home of the Indy 500)

6. South Dakota: Great Faces. Great Places. (Can you name both?)

5. Illinois: Mile After Magnificent Mile (Look up Chicago’s shopping district to understand this one.)

4. Kansas: There’s No Place Like Home (Used to be “The Land of Ahhs” – can you identify the irony in this one?)

3. West Virginia: Wild and Wonderful (Awesome! I want to live where people are wild and wonderful!)

2. District of Columbia: Taxation without Representation (snort)

and finally, drum roll please…….

1. New Hampshire: Live Free or Die! (I ask you: who enforces that?!)

These slogans give you a great chance to discuss word play, the history of various states, their selling points and how advertising is a vital part of any state’s economic growth (is the state emphasizing travel? business? historical importance? shopping? buying a home and staying put?). Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page: State Slogans.