Magical Childhood Newsletter
Volume 48
October 16, 2002

Hi folks!  I hope you're enjoying the change of seasons & finding lots of fun things to do with your kiddos.  I'm finally done with my shots and the morning sickness is getting better.  The baby is doing well & we're doing lots of lazy mama crafts in the meantime.  :)

But enough yapping.  On with the newsletter......


Magical Mama Laurie sent in this suggestion and idea after the issue with goofy ways to clean with kids:

I hope to try some of those creative approaches to dreaded chores tomorrow, I thought the "making the bed with your eyes closed" sounded fun.  Maybe picking up toys at bedtime with the lights out and a flashlight would be cool.

Maybe some time you could ask your subscribers to ask their kids for more suggestions of fun ways to do chores sometime?  Have them send the ideas in to you and then compile a list for a future newsletter.  Kids are so incredibly creative!  One time a kid of mine made a huge mess around here (a whole box of cereal on the floor I think) and I was so exasperated I asked them if they could think of a fun way to clean it up.  They concocted a great story where we were pirates in search of gold and we all got "treasure chests" (containers) and goofy pirate names.  Then we went about greedily snatching up as much of the cereal as we could.

Good idea!  Any takers?


Lately I've had several readers write in about feeling alienated from their school-aged children.  My friend Sue is a single mom to a 9 year old daughter and they have a wonderful relationship.  They do such neat things I asked Sue if she'd write up some of her ideas for fun ways to connect (or reconnect) with kids.  Her child is 9 but most of these would work well into the teens, as well as for younger kids.

Connecting with your child:

10 Ways to help your child experience "The Good Life" for free
(or very little money)
by Susan Grove

1. Begin a weekly "Game Night". Most of us already have several board games we can use (this is an excellent Christmas or birthday present, BTW), however, you could play card games, or make up your own games that don't require any "equipment". My daughter loves Mancala, & can beat me at it more than half the time! and it can be played by digging small holes in the dirt & using found rocks. (They make nice wooden versions that you can buy, if you prefer) It's good to play games that are combine luck & strategy, where they can win without you having to "cheat".

Other good ones besides Mancala are "Sequence", "Trouble", "Aggravation", "Monopoly Jr." "Scrabble Jr." and "Jenga". For a special treat, and as a reward for good grades or good behavior, we hold "Game Night" at any one of many Coffee Shops or Bookstores that have games out for customers to play & we order fancy coffees & hot chocolates. No such business near you? Make your own treats, or host a Game Party at your home. This is my favorite idea: as it can be adapted for any age, including teens, by simply choosing age-appropriate games.

2. Have a family TV night!  You heard me right, turn ON the TV. I got this idea from my friend Teresa. Choose one TV show you all agree on (or a movie), pop some popcorn, and kick back together as a family to watch it. Afterwards, turn the TV off & TALK about what you watched. The key to making this a good activity is the discussion. Also, it helps to see TV as a treat, and not a "right". If you choose to turn the TV on, do it with purpose, try not to use it as a baby sitter, or a time-filler.

3. Let your kids get bored sometimes. We have the rule that if you complain of being bored, you have to help mom clean. (This is outside of regular cleaning duties like dusting, keeping your room clean, and bringing down your own dirty clothes.) This forces your children to do something we rarely make them do- come up with their own creative ideas, and make use of the toys they already have, and play with found objects.

4. Be silly, but not in public, unless your child is leading the silliness. By age 8 my daughter would get mortified by me acting silly in public, which of course, defeats the purpose. However if I turn on some music & start dancing in the living room, she loves to join in. It's fun to play a variety of music & dance to the "mood". Classical, Elvis, Disco, Rock- all emote different actions & it's fun to watch. One day, we decided together to dance up & down the street in a gentle rain & splash in the puddles. Even our 19 year old roommate decided to jump in & join the fun!

5. Make a meal together. Let your kids plan the entire menu, including a main dish, vegetable, and desert. Pick-up a children's cookbook from the library, or let them make their easy favorites, like Macaroni & Cheese. Be sensible about using appliances- know what your child is mature enough to handle. Don't fuss over the mess they make, just help them clean it up.

6. Library day! We go once every three weeks, (when the books are due), but you could make it a weekly trip. Each family member gets books; we've even started bringing some to my 91 year old Grandmother in her Assisted Living home.

7. Put puzzles together. I find 300 pieces are the best for my nine year old, as they aren't too easy or too difficult, but they can be hard to find in stores. (look for them at garage sales) 100 pieces are great for early grade schoolers; 500 pieces for middle schoolers; 1000 pieces for high schoolers.

8. Play together outside in all seasons and in all but the most inclement weather (Obviously avoid extreme temperatures, lightning, storms, blizzards- use common sense)- in snow, build forts; in autumn, leaf houses; in summer, spray water from old squirt bottles; or try out your raincoats on a walk in the spring rain.

9. Go camping together. Borrow a tent (many people have them, but rarely use them) & pitch it in your backyard. Better yet- head to a State or National Park. Many have conveniences like hot showers, flush toilets, walking and/or biking trails, playgrounds, swimming beaches and offer various Interpretive Programs. Nearly all offer some form of wildlife and scenic beauty. Don't forget to roast marshmallows for smores! (and bring plenty of sunscreen & bug spray.)

10. Pack a picnic lunch, some water, and a blanket, and head to a local park. My daughter can entertain herself for hours this way. I bring a book to read, but also am sure to join in  & play with on her on the playground, especially if there aren't other children around.

Thanks Sue!

For some wonderful, whimsical holiday presents that will help children of the world, try doing some shopping from catalogs from organizations like UNICEF.  The gifts are comparably priced to ones you find in other catalogs but they go towards wonderful causes-- plus you know that workers weren't taken advantage of to produce them.

Some examples of some great gifts from great organizations include:

10 darling, brightly colored nesting blocks with numbers and goofy animals on them for $15
pretty, floral scented, blank journal books for $8
a gorgeous advent calendar for $7
1-800-553-1200 (you can order the brochure from a link at the bottom as well)

Save the Children~
Many silk ties in all different child-like patterns for $28
A bright, sweet, laminated U.S. map with stickers (for where grandma lives, where they've visited, etc.) for $16.95
Painted fabric door banner with the "100 years from now...." message about being important to a child, with childlike illustrations for $19.95
1-800-600-8019 or

SERRV (a non-profit organization that sells goods made by folks in impoverished areas around the world and in the U.S. in order to help build communities)
Milk chocolate nativity advent calendar for $7.95
Ceramic Nepalese casserole dish with lid for $15.95
10 tiny, colorful dolls in a wood box for $2.50
5 bamboo slide whistles for $3.95
Plus organic coffees, teas, chocolates, soup mixes, bread mixes, candle holders, dishes, soaps, jewelry, wooden puzzles, kites, musical instruments, aprons, artwork, nativities, ornaments and more.
1-800-422-5915 or


Amazing Kids Contests
This site sponsors a variety of online contests in a number of curricular areas throughout the school year. This fall's contests will include a toy design contest. Check out the Web site to learn more.


Magical Mama Jackie shared this wonderful smelling recipe.  We made it last week and the kids loved it.  If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, just substitute cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  Note: this makes a lot!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe

5-1/2 cups flour
2 cups salt
8 teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 container (1-1/2 oz) of pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup oil
orange food coloring (2 parts yellow, 1 part red)
4 cups water

Mix all ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until all lumps disappear. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth. Store in a plastic bag.


Here's lots and lots of homemade or cheap Halloween costumes,
party ideas, etc.......


Thinking through discipline

Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, discipline is probably one of the most frustrating parts of your life with your child.  One thing that I've noticed when I look at how I react to my children is that when I am least effective as a parent, I've usually lost track of my goals with my girls.

When it comes to why parents discipline the way they do, the interesting thing is their reasons may be completely different from yours.  Why you are disciplining your child will affect how you are, and if you're not thinking it through, both you and your child will probably flounder.

If your teen comes home late and you're suspicious he's been drinking, do you ground him for breaking curfew or do you deal with the harder issue of how to teach him the dangers of drinking?

If you're out in public and your two year-old starts screaming because it's time to leave, do you discipline her because you want to help her feel better and learn to handle her emotions, or because of how she's making you look to the other parents?

If your pre-teen throws an embarrassing fit in front of grandma, do you discipline her out of sheer embarrassment?

Some forms of discipline will (sometimes) help stop behavior but they won't help teach the child any skills or alternatives.  Sometimes if we step back and really look, the only reason we're disciplining at all is because of habit or old rules that someone else thought up and we're completely forgetting the reasons behind the rules.

A lot of parents discipline because they want to look like good parents, because they want their lives to be easier, or just because "those are the rules."  They tend to use punishments and threats, and it may work and it may not.  The key is to look at what "work" means.

Kids (especially little ones) have a tough time with emotions.  That's just a fact of life.  When they get angry, sad or frustrated they don't have our tools for dealing with it.  We can break them like horses, punish them and make them even sadder or angrier, or shame them into ignoring their own needs and feelings in order to make us look like great parents.  Does it "work"?  Well, if your goal is to have a child who stands obediently by your feet in the checkout line, it might.  Some kids are broken easier than others.

However, if your goal is to have a happy, responsible, moral child who'll grow into a happy, responsible, moral adult.... um, probably not.  You'll get a kid who acts good when you're looking and then kicks his little sister, or a girl who grows up and marries a guy who treats her like dirt, or a guy who goes through life obediently doing what he's "supposed" to do with no idea how to feel real or happy.  Or perhaps you'll get a kid so used to spankings and yelling that he ignores everything you do.

Our job as parents isn't to train our kids on how to act or to control their every move.  Ultimately, it's to help teach them how to control themselves and make good decisions when we're not around.  We know that, but sometimes we get so caught up in the rules we forget why we have them.

It's also important to realize that the opposite of strict discipline is gentle discipline, not no discipline at all.  It is not okay to simply ignore awful behavior.  It doesn't do our kids any favors to reward them for throwing fits or doing dangerous things -- or to teach them that mom is a doormat either.

There are ways to make your life easier and make it easier on your child.  One of the easiest ways to avoid discipline hassles is to consciously work at being your child's ally. It's common sense but so often parents act like they are their children's opponents instead of their advocates.

You can do this by earning their trust that your rules are for good reasons, knowing what type of behavior is appropriate at each age, temporarily avoiding places that cause meltdowns, heading off crankiness by making sure kids are well rested and well fed, keeping them in situations that are reasonable for their age and maturity level, showing them the benefits of nice behavior, role playing through dilemmas that might come up, discussing the reasons things may be bad for them, and most importantly sometimes-- remembering that most phases are actually pretty short and this too shall pass.

This morning, Victoria took scissors and cut her little sister's hair.  It was the second time, which left me ranting to Daryl about how a smart 4 year old could not have learned better after all the drama the first time.

I put the scissors up, and I'll make sure Victoria is supervised when she has scissors from now on.  Do I think I need to impress some dire lesson about hair cutting on her?  Well, considering I'm not concerned that as an adult she'll attack strangers with shears, no.  She knows now she can't have scissors available without me until she's older and more responsible (a logical consequence to being irresponsible with scissors).  Yes, she heard a bit about what I thought of the ordeal but I let it go.  It's only a big deal if I choose to make it a big deal.  Anna's cute enough that she still looks darling with her odd curls, and Victoria's ordinarily such a mature, helpful, caring kid that I'm not gonna traumatize her over a bad judgment call.  She knows it upset us, but we dealt with it logically and moved on.

Maybe I can teach her an even bigger lesson by that.


Animal ID cards....

Daryl made up over a hundred animal, bird, fish and creature cards to do fun lessons with the girls and he put them up on the Magical Childhood site in case anybody else would enjoy them.  You can view them and print them out here:

Thanks Daryl!


Magical Mama Laurie shared this fun idea!

Speaking of stories, we also take turns sometimes, making up parts of a story.  One of us will start out like, "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess..." and then indicates the next person's turn, they say a few sentences and pass it on and so on.  With a 7, 5, and 3 year old,
the stories get pretty silly (somebody seems to always mention poop which gets the 5 year old rolling on the floor with giggles).

Tee hee!  Thanks Laurie!


A few good lines from a great lady:

“Be happy. Talk happiness.
Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others.
There is enough sadness in the world without yours....

Join the great company of those
who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness....

The great enduring realities are love and service....

Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you
shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

— Helen Keller, 20th-century American Nobel Prize-winning
social activist, public speaker and author


A few neat links.....

Here's all sorts of wonderful book plates in all sizes and styles to print and color.

This page has tons of types of crafts, from holiday to theme for all ages.

Judy and David's online songbook has the words to lots of fun, wonderful children's songs.

And Poverty Fighters donates 25 cents in their microloan program to help families in need when you click and see their sponsor page.

Plus, of course, there had to be something about pumpkins.  <G> (Thanks Susan!)
One hundred things to do with a pumpkin....


Y'all know I usually sign off with 10 ways to make the day magical but since Sue was kind enough to share her 10 neat ideas and I'm still fighting morning sickness, I'll sneak out of it this time.  <G>

Hope you and your kiddos have a wonderful week.  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.