Monday, September 21, 2009

What to do all that artwork?

Rainbows, parkscapes, abstract scribbles, detailed diagrams of Jedi Fighters, and the list goes on... With cleaning for the fall comes a time to address the question that any parent runs into the moment their wee one places a pen (or stickers) to a page...What to do with all that artwork? It's wonderful, colorful, imaginative and a new insight into the way their minds work. But, man, there's a lot of it!

And, it's pretty tough to keep it all. So, here are a few tips (some ideas complements of

1. Pass some along to the grandparents.
Grandparents love handmade creations from the grandkids. Set aside a collection for each set of your folks, and surprise them with a book of art for their coffee table or for their cubicle at work. What grandparent doesn’t love bragging about their grandkids? Give them a tangible way to do so. You can even place a little note at the beginning and make sure you kids sign it!

2. Use it as gift wrap or as cards.
Save money and declutter by using some art as gift wrap. Your kids will beam with pride, and you’ll pass along original art as part of the gift. You can also make cards with art and get the same results.

3. Rotate the best artwork in frames.
Assign a few frames throughout the house to displaying recent works of art. Have your kids pick out their favorite, and hang those in their bedroom or playroom. Select your favorites, and display them where you’ll enjoy them. Rotate the collection every few months. If you don't have frames, try hanging a string and use clothespins to hang them on the string. It's easy to rotate and makes a nice display

4. Keep clutter boundaries with a designated bulletin board.
If there’s still a ton of art you or your kids love after framing the best, designate a bulletin board in their room just for their art. They can hang as many well-loved pieces as can fit on the board, which keeps tangible boundaries on the quantity.

5. Keep storage boundaries with a designated box.
Many times, the real problem isn’t displaying the art, it’s storing the art. You want to save your kids’ art so they can look back as they grow, and so you can walk nostalgically down memory lane in a few years. That’s completely reasonable, in theory. The problem lies when you keep every. single. piece. of. art. created.

That’s just not possible. You can’t save it all, because mostly likely you’ll run out of room; if you don’t, then your head will spin with trying to organize and catalog it all so that it’s enjoyable. When you keep too much, it lessens the value of the artwork you truly do love. Your collection is watered down.

Assign a sturdy, acid-free art box for each child. Try this acid-free storage box because it’s inexpensive, sturdy, large, and has a space to label the contents. If you want to keep your child’s recent painting, write down the date or their age on the back (you think you’ll remember, but you won’t), and toss it into their box. At the end of each year, go through and select three or four of your favorites to keep for posterity. Get rid of the rest.

6. Take photos of the art.
If it breaks your heart at the thought of tossing the art and somehow losing its memory, take a digital photo of the piece before getting rid of it. It’s still clutter, for sure, but at least it’s not physical clutter. You can digitally store their work on a CD, and one day, you can look back at it via computer. Or, include it in an end-of-the year photo book using a photo site like

7. Toss it. Teach kids the value of decluttering.
When push comes to shove, a lot of your kids’ art is more for the process of creating than for the result. It’s okay to throw away some of their art. In fact, it’s fine to toss most of their art. When you save only the artwork you love, you’re increasing its value. And when you get your children involved in deciding which ones to keep and which ones to save, you’re teaching them the value of giving loved items a specific place of honor, and that it’s really good to not hoard. If you don’t want your kids riddled with a cluttered life as adults, start teaching the principle of living with boundaries now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is the big deal with blocks, really?

Ever wondered why blocks remain a staple of any kid's playtime? I mean, they're just blocks...right? How great can a cube (or cylinder, or cone) be?

Truth is, early childhood educators have known for a long time that block play (PDF) is a simple, effective, and therefore indispensable, tool in the development of our kids. Playing with blocks starts kids learning basic math and science concepts (abstract) -- sorting, counting, size, shape, weight, spatial relationships -- and the imaginative story-telling that it stimulates improves language and reading skills. When you add in other kids and parents into the equation, your child develops social skills like cooperation, negotiation, and responsibility.

Worried about having to pick up the blocks after your little one is done? Make that part of the process and putting toys away can be a sorting game all on it's own.

Here's some good guidelines used in play-based classrooms:
  • We build with blocks, not throw them.
  • You may knock down only the tower you build.
  • You may build as tall as you are.
  • We keep the blocks on the carpet.
  • We build away from shelves and other people and furniture.
  • We take out only what we will use.
We've got a great selection of blocks here at Urban Kids Play, too. Stop by to say hi and check them out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't wait til it rains...

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It may not seem like rain with this extra splash of beautiful weather, but with the fall comes rain and cold. And, digging holes in a muddy back yard may not be the most appealing activity on your list. So, why not try a garden inside. Made with recycled milk cartons, the Indoor Gardening Set by Green Toys, gets our giant green thumps up!

Your wee plant lovers can watch nature at work by growing a beautiful flower garden and fresh herbs, while helping the earth with the world’s most earth-happy gardening.

And, if you want to try a little experiment, pick out some plants that grow at different speeds and track their progress.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Little knit wits!

Knitting is big with the urban set these days, so who can blame it when our daughters and sons want to get into the action? Did you know that knitting is excellent for developing hand/eye coordination, math skills, and spacial and geometric senses? It can also be used to calm anxious children (and parents!) and is taught worldwide in Waldorf Schools. And, since it helps the right (intuitive, emotional) and left (cognitive, analytical) sides of our brain communicate, it can actually help your kids become better readers.

Think your kids are too young? Maybe not. When I was too small to handle needles, I learned how to finger knit, which is easy, fun, and a great introduction to the addictive world of fiber arts. Later on, my mother taught me to knit "continental-style" and crochet like my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother, and now my sister and I both carry on our family's warm tradition this way.

Try out these great online knitting resources:, easily the best known (and best!) free online knitting magazine, offering cool reviews, articles (like the one above on finger knitting), and patterns ranging from easy to super-duper hard., an online knit and crochet community, has more fun patterns and excellent message boards, plus an online stash* organizer. has videos and step-by-step instructions.

Of course, you can always come in to UKP for one of our knit sets, knitting books, or run over to our neighbor Hilltop Yarn for supplies!

*That's knit slang for "big pile of yarn".

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rainy day? Start a band!

Looking for something to do with the kids on a rainy afternoon? Try a musical interlude with this kazoo you can make out of stuff you can find at home!

What you will need:
cardboard paper towel or TP tubes
waxed paper
rubber bands

Step 1:
Have the kids decorate the tubes with markers. Remember, you'll be covering one end and cutting into the tubes.

Step 2:
Wrap a piece of waxed paper over one end of the tube. and secure it with a rubber band.

Step 3:
Carefully cut two parallel holes lengthwise in the tubes. They should be positioned as if on a flute, but mostly equal distance from each other and the ends.

That's it! Now they (and you!) can play their favorite songs on homemade kazoos by humming into the open end. You can experiment with different lengths, diameters, thicknesses and hole placements to see what kinds of sounds can be made!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Veggies for the ultra-picky crowd -- and a recipe to get you started!

Are you having a hard time getting your kid to eat anything grown on a tree or a vine? Try sneaking nutritious veggies into their favorite foods!

  • Got a little pasta lover? Puree broccoli or peppers (a great source of vitamin C) and carrots and spinach (full of vitamin A) and add it to a tomato-based pasta sauce for some surprise nutrients. It won’t change the flavor, and you can even use it as pizza sauce! If all they eat is mac’n’cheese, try some steamed cauliflower mushed up into the cheese sauce.
  • That cauliflower trick works for mashed potatoes, too: just substitute steamed cauliflower for part or all of the potatoes! Add a little garlic and cheese, and they’ll never notice.
  • Mmm…smoothies! Enjoy the rest of summer with fresh (or frozen, in winter) fruit like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, papaya, and bananas blended into a milk- or yogurt-based smoothie. It’s a perfect way to get them to eat their A, C, potassium, calcium, and folate! Experiment with different combinations of fruit (and maybe a spoonful of peanut or almond butter?) to find your kid’s favorites.
  • Chili and meatloaf are already chock full of protein, and there’s no reason why you can’t shred or chop some carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, or onions to add to those or other meat or casserole dishes. We bet they’ll never even notice the change!
This recipe for Crispy Kale has the crunch and salty tang of french fries, but less fat and way more vitamins. It's a good side dish or movie-watching snack.

Prep Time: 25 minutes


* 6-8 cups chopped fresh kale, hard stems removed
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
* 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt


1. Place a rack on the lowest shelf of your oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Spread kale out on a sturdy baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Toss to coat completely.

3. Place on the lowest rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and stir so that kale can get crispy all over.

5. Bake another 8 to 12 minutes or until kale is crispy. It should be just lightly browned and crispy to the touch. If kale still bends, rather than crackles, when you touch it, it isn't done yet. Return it to the oven. Turn down the heat if it is getting too brown. Continue cooking until crispy.

6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve immediately.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Free fun around Seattle!

Looking for inexpensive ways to have a little fun with the kidlings? Here's a few local suggestions...and best of all, they're completely free!

First Thursdays: Did you know that the Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Asian Art Museum are free for everyone on the first Thursday of every month? Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum are also free from 5pm-8pm on First Thursdays.

Game Night: Blue Highway Games on Queen Anne Avenue offers a free, all-ages game night on Saturdays from 7pm-11pm. Check out their website for other fun events!

Books, books, books: in addition to our great Thursday mornings with Moonpaper Tent and Fridays with Polly-Glot Tots, you can catch storytime at Queen Anne Books every third Sunday.

Sail away...: The Center for Wooden Boats has a free public sail and canoe carving every Sunday and their museum is free all the time!

Do The Write Thing: For kids 8 and up, local nonprofit 826Seattle offers free writing workshops. Encourage your little novelist, poet, or playwright -- and maybe get some writing time for yourself.

Hunt for Buried Treasure: If you have a GPS unit, give Geocaching a shot! Pretend to be pirates or explorers on the hunt for cursed treasure...see what you can find!

So Hot it's Cool: Down on 5th Avenue, Seattle Glassblowing Studio is open to the public every day. Bring your kids and watch glass artists create spectacular works of art with this beautiful (and super cool-looking!) technique.

Have (cheap) fun, and don't forget the next free Urban Kids event: Moon Paper Tent magical storytime which is Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

How to find us!