Magical Childhood Newsletter
Volume 43
July 2, 2002

Hey folks!  Hope the weather is being good to you.  It's been hot here, which is why I've been poky getting this out.  We've spent lots of time digging in the shade garden, hanging out in the air conditioned living room, and gadding about.  I'm not exactly sure what gadding is but I'm fairly sure we've done and it's not illegal, and it sounds a bit fun to say.  :)

This week's newsletter has a little rant, some neat sites to pass on, fun ideas from other moms, ways to pass the time on planes & whatever else I find to toss in before I send it off.  Also, in the next few issues, I'm going to focus on simplifying life.  I've had some letters from readers who feel overwhelmed and we've been chatting about the subject on the Magical Childhood e-list.  In today's world, simplicity seems to be one of the biggest luxuries we can give our kids-- and ourselves.  If you have ideas or thoughts on the subject, send them in!

And now, a word about sponsors.....


Baby University? Bah!

Last week I got an e-mail ad that had me scowling indignantly at the computer.  I usually don't even look but it caught my eye because it said Baby University.  Oh please!  So I looked at the page and it's a certain popular manufacturer's toys you need to buy your infant to make him or her smarter, more creative, etc.


They have toys in each of these categories (see below), all with bright colors and plastic parts you need to buy to give your child the best. (Insert rolled eyes)  Oh yes, and you'll need batteries, since these all beep, flash & make lots and lots of noise. No imagination required.

Here's my take on much better ways to give your kids these opportunities!

Music Appreciation~

Pots and pans, lullabies, clapping to music, nursery rhymes, being exposed to lots of kind of music, making jingle bell anklets and dancing in them, making shakers out of plastic bottles sealed tight with popcorn kernels or dried beans inside, dancing with mama to the oldies station, real instruments like flutes, tambourines and daddy's old guitar, drums made of oatmeal boxes, making up songs, attending cultural events and concerts (especially featuring music and dance from other countries), singing silly songs in the car....

Sensory Stimulation~

Taking the time with babies to touch, smell and talk about everything you encounter, making smelling games with cotton balls soaked in scents like vanilla, stopping to touch brick walls and dandelion fluff on a walk, involving baby in daily activities with you by carrying her in a sling or carrier, giving him a pile of oatmeal to play with in the high chair, using scraps of ruined clothes to make up a book of textures like corduroy and satin, encouraging kids to taste a wide variety of foods, playing with water, snow, homemade dough, sand.....

Learning Fundamentals~

Reading to your kids, talking to them, taking the time to answer the millions of why's you hear all day, singing the abc's, using colors and shapes in conversation ("Can you bring me the yellow box with the diamond on it honey?  Ooh, look at the black and white kitty!"), pointing out letters & shapes encountered on signs and on walks, counting everything for fun....

Physical achievement~

Walking with them, rolling balls, getting down on the floor and playing with baby, stacking blocks or boxes and knocking them over, tossing rolled up socks into a laundry basket....

Language development~

Reading books, talking to your kids, describing what's going on to baby, using lots of new and varied words in conversation and taking the time to explain what they mean if asked, reading poetry, reciting nursery rhymes, life....

Architectural design~

(It turns out this is their term for most of those toys with things to spin or push and I'm not sure I see the design element in those at all so I'm offering up more real ones)

Building with plastic or wooden blocks (get them by the ton at thrift shops), dropping poker chips into a slot cut in a yogurt container and shaking and dumping, sculpting homemade clay and letting it dry, making snow creations, playing in the sand, making mud pies and stone structures, using scraps of wood to sand and make your own building set, stacking measuring cups, matching tupperware containers with the right size and shape of lids, building forts and tunnels with empty boxes.....


(All right, I had to look here too and it turns out this is where they sell fake fish bowls-- the answer to this one is obvious!)

Real aquariums or fish bowls, a trip to an aquarium, reading brightly colored underwater books, visiting the ocean and exploring tide pools, making sponge fish for the bath....

Creative Expression~

Life!  Drawing pictures, using homemade play dough, making shapes with straws in a restaurant, playing dress up, making up songs and stories, making toys out of rocks & sticks & found objects, and most importantly avoiding those annoying toys that blink and flash and gobble!  :)

Here's to all the plastic toys we don't buy our kids and the time we spend playing in the dirt with them instead!

Baby University indeed.


This quote always reminds me of little ones.....

"Hurry? I have no time to hurry."
-- Igor Stravinsky


Picture Recipes!
Here's some recipes made just for little ones,
with pictures outlining each step and ingredient.  Fun!


Magical Mama Jen added these popsicle ideas to the ones listed in the last newsletter...

I wanted to share a simple and delicious treat that I had been told about last summer, in that ridiculously dreadful heat.  I have no idea how I hadn't thought of this sooner...

Just take some plain yogurt (or flavored) and add fruit to it.... why I thought yogurt wouldn't freeze properly is a mystery.  Our favorite, here, is mashed up banana stirred into vanilla yogurt.  We plop it into the popsicle molds and soon we are chowing down on them. could use ice cube trays, with cling wrap or foil over the top, then poke holes in it, and place in toothpicks or popsicle sticks.

Another tasty one is pudding pops (another one I was unaware that would work, lol!)....i'm guessing that you could add soy or rice milk to the pudding mix instead of cow's milk.

Freezing fruits inside of ice cubes would be another fun and easy thing to do.  I find that in summer, when the need to drink fluids is the greatest, is when Sage is the least likely to want to drink... using the "fruity cubes" seems to make her want to drink more.  (It also gets her to eat more fruit!)  :o)

Thanks Jen!

I'll add an idea for mamas...

Lately I've been freezing lots of juice and chocolate soy milk for the girls.  On a whim, I bought a sweet, coffee flavored soy milk at the grocery store last time and really liked it.  I made two popsicles for myself with it and had a sweet coffee treat when the girls had theirs.  It was pretty good!  I'm vegan and I really miss ice cream so it was a neat discovery.  Since it's relatively low in calories, high in calcium, and good for me I can really enjoy them on a hot day along with the kids.  Remember, we need treats too!


Outdoor Fantasy Land Ideas....

I love the suggestions on this page for ways to make a yard into a children's paradise.  It's geared towards home day care providers but they're all ideas that any of us could use in our own yards.  Some could even be incorporated into apartment life.


My cousin Nancy (a magical mama herself) sent this neat poem...

(Author unknown)

Dust if you must but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed.
Ponder the difference between want and need.

Dust if you must but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go and go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Remember, a house becomes a home when
 you can write "I love you" on the furniture....


10 fun things to do when flying with little ones

(Many of these work for car trips, trains and just getting stuck for 3 hours in waiting rooms too!)

1.  Before the trip, take pictures of familiar people, pets and things around the house-- siblings, grandparents, the tree in the back yard, toys and even furniture.  Put the pictures in a small photo album. Give the tot the album and help her turn the pages of her book, naming the people and objects as you go.

2. When checking in and getting tickets, ask to be seated near other children (preferably in the back where it tends to be more roomy and noisier anyway so you don't have to feel as guilty if your kids are loud).

3.  Use your digital camera to take funny pictures and then view them.

4.  Bring a portable cassette player with headphones, some children's music and some books on tape.  Make sure the volume is low since children's ears are more sensitive than ours.

5.  Check out 52 Fun Things to do on a Plane, an inexpensive "book" of playing cards with an idea on each for how to pass the time.

6.  Bring spill-proof juice boxes, raisins and nuts for older tots, dried fruit, and relatively healthy but tasty treats.  The last thing you want is a kid on a sugar high with 5 hours to go.

7. Check out TravelTots Backpacks, loaded up with toys & such to entertain your kids-- or make up your own.  Here's a review:

8.  Make up a quiz and interview them.  Even little kids can answer fun questions like favorite animals, things mommy likes to do (you get funny answers) and what they want to be when they grow up.  Older kids can interview each other.  Make sure you date the finished products.

9.  Make a shared picture.  Have each child use a pen, pencil or crayon in a different color.  Take turns adding something to a blank page to make a piece of art created by all.  You could just do shapes and squiggles, faces (baby adds the mouth, sister adds the ears, you add eyes.....) or any kind of scene.

10. Just talk.  Talk about what you'll be doing when you get there, how great they're behaving on the plane, what (or who) they think is below them now, what it was like the day they were born, who their favorite singers are and why, anything.  With families on the run so much these days, maybe being strapped in next to your children for a few hours with nothing to do but talk is the best thing that could happen.  :)


Want to be inspired to choose a simpler life
or just really good advice on how to live more frugally?
Here are some fantastic sites to help you out!

This series of articles profiling women who chose to slow down, make less and live more is really motivating.  They're worth a read.

Here's the Dollar Stretcher's list of articles on Voluntary Simplicity.

This site has step by step guides to getting serious about simplifying.


10 Ways to Simplify Your Life.....

1.  Get rid of stuff!  Clutter robs you of time, money and energy.  Stop cleaning it and give it up!  Get some boxes and pack up everything you don't really love and donate it to someone who will.  Do a box or a bag at a time to make it manageable.

2.  For each person in the family, cut down activities to a couple of favorites.  Activities can be the worst kind of clutter!

3.  Start making regular treks to the library and borrow books instead of buying.  You'll save space and money, and the kids will love picking out new books each week or two.

4.  Drop some "gottas."  You know-- I gotta give the kids baths before bed, I gotta help out at the raffle, I gotta keep the house cleaner....  Let the kids go to bed dirty sometimes or just hose them off in the yard.  Find ways to volunteer that you enjoy.  Let the house be a mess when you feel like it!  If people don't like it, let them clean it.  :)

5.  Assume that weekends are for family and let people know.  Social events shouldn't be obligations.  You don't have to feel guilty or apologize for making your family your priority!  Jump off the birthday party go-round except for best buddies and make sure your obligation to others doesn't come before your obligation to your kids, your partner and yourself.

6.  Relax together.  Skip the zoo and the amusement park and just hang out in the back yard.  Blow bubbles, look at the clouds, make ice cream sandwiches, get dirty, play tag, giggle, hang up the wash while you talk about what life was like when you were a kid.  Without all the noise and distractions, just be together.

7.  Make schedules.  Sunday night, write down menus for the week & jot down what you need at the store.  Set up some loose guidelines about when you'll do chores, what days are for what jobs, etc.  I'm a very spontaneous person but I have to admit it's very freeing to have a plan.  It is such a relief to just look at a sheet and know what I need to do (and don't!) and what's for supper.

8. Avoid danger zones.  If you always spend money at the mall, stay away from the mall.  If certain people always end up talking you into doing a dozen things you don't want to do, avoid them.  Just as it helps to avoid situations that make you want to light up when you quit smoking, it helps to develop new routines when you're trying to make other life changes.  If people or places aren't healthy for you, stay away for a while.

9. Make time for peace.  Take leisurely baths while the kids are napping or occupied with crafts.  Rise before everybody else to sit in the back yard and watch the world.  Turn off the TV and radio as soon as people turn their backs.  Take one on one walks with your kids.  Start getting a weekly or bi-monthly massage.  Take a yoga class.  Supplement your life with sights, sounds, books and activities that relax you.  They don't have to be everybody else's choices either.  I feel totally lazy and happy while weeding but if you give me a bathtub without something to do or read I'll go stir crazy.  Find your own peace.

10. Rediscover the joy of the mundane. I love to hang the wash in the back yard while my girls play.  They love to help, and to carefully try to fold the dry clothes as we talk.  I have food processors, graters and a salad shooter but I stand and chop potatoes and onions for supper at the old cutting board while Victoria keeps me company. I'm getting rid of the gadgets.

In today's world we seem to fill our lives with action-packed, fun-filled things and we keep trying to get away from work.  Work is very rewarding, and all that chaos really isn't, is it?  Find ways to really enjoy the real stuff, and forget about the frantic filler.

And like they say in the exercise videos, don't forget to breathe.  :)


I was going to do another list of magical stuff but I keep adding to this thing and at this rate it'll be book length and sent sometime next May.  <G>  So I'm closing my eyes and hitting send!

For those in the states, have a happy and safe Independence Day.

Kiss your babies, count your blessings & don't forget to take care of you!



A Magical Childhood
Copyright 2002, Alicia Bayer

A Magical Childhood Newsletter is just something I throw together because I love children and those who love them.  To subscribe, send a message to  We do not use ads.  It's not about money.  :)

Feel free to pass this on.  Don't steal it, that would be rude.