DIY of the Week: Make Your Own Cloud

No, we’re not pulling your leg. In this week’s DIY blog, we’re going to teach you how to make your own cloud in a jar! This one is easy enough to do over and over again. And trust us, you’ll want to.

Full disclosure: when we were deciding on what fun DIY to do next, we chose this one purely on the fact because “make your own cloud” sounded like the coolest title ever. I mean, haven’t you ever looked at a particularly fluffy cloud and wondered what it felt like? This cloud isn’t quite as fluffy as the big cumulus ones you see in the sky, but this is one you can actually touch and play with, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe even eat! Let us know if you can figure out how to manage that.

To get started, you’ll need:

DIY Items

  • Jar with a lid
  • Hot water (you just want it hot enough to steam a little)
  • Ice
  • Matches

Step 1: Pour the hot water into the jar. You don’t need a ton of hot water for this to work. We only used enough to fill the bottom third of our jar or so.

Cloud-Water

Step 2: Turn the lid upside down and fill it with ice. Cloud  Ice

Step 3: Have an adult light a match and put it into the jar, and put the upside-down lid full of ice back on top.

Cloud - Match

Step 4: See the air swirling and building up? That’s your cloud! Let it build for a few seconds, and then you can take off the lid to play with it.

Cloud - Form

See the cloud forming up near the top? It looks like it’s just smoke from the match, but trust us, it’s a cloud.

And voila! You have a cloud of your very own!

You take off the lid… And voila! You have a cloud of your very own!

So what’s happening in this experiment?  While making a cloud is super cool on its own, this DIY actually has some learning behind it, too! The steam from the hot water rises to the top of the jar and is cooled down by the ice. When the steam is cooled, it condenses to make little water droplets. The water droplets use the smoke from the lit match as a surface to form the cloud on (called cloud condensation nuclei, if you were wondering) and the droplets then form your cloud! Wondering about all that circular swirling when the cloud was forming? That’s from the warm air rising and the cold air sinking, a process called “convection,” and it’s happening all over the atmosphere, ocean, and even in your soup!

DIY of the Week: Bubble Fun

Have some fun with bubbles using items you have lying around the house! The bubbles and food coloring make this pretty messy, so you might want to try this one outside.

This project was originally supposed to be a bubble snake, but for some reason the bubbles didn’t want to stick together to make anything other than a glob. It was still a ton of fun, even if it didn’t quite go as planned. Brownie points to whoever can figure out how to make the bubbles stick!

All you need is:

DIY Items

  • An empty plastic bottle
  • Scissors
  • A sock that lost its mate (you might want to wash it first!)
  • Duct tape
  • A small bowl
  • Some dish soap
  • Some water
  • Food coloring (optional)

Step 1: Cut off the bottom of the plastic bottle with the scissors. You may need a parent to help!

Bubbles-Cut

Step 2: Slide the sock over the end of the bottle and use duct tape to secure it. We used this fancy gold tape for an extra snazzy bottle!

DIY-Tape

Step 3: Pour some dish soap and water into the small bowl. You can experiment with how much of each to use for the best bubbles, but you’ll want to use enough dish soap so the mixture will bubble up.

Bubbles-Water

Step 4: Dip the sock end of the bottle into the soapy mixture

Bubbles-Dip

Step 5 (Optional): Add food coloring for colorful bubbles! We recommend putting the food coloring straight onto the sock for the most vibrant bubbles. You can even use a bunch of different colors to make a bubble rainbow!

Bubbles-Coloring

Step 6: Blow bubbles using the top part of the bottle! Also, please don’t breathe in unless you want a mouth full of dish soap. It sounds like it’s common sense, but sometimes you forget. Not that we know from experience.

Note: If you get all the sides of the sock wet, bubbles will come out of the sides, too. Makes for even cooler bubble shapes! Show us your cool bubble creations by posting them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tagging #GoldieBlox.

Bubbles-Bubbles

Here is an example of a beautiful bubble glob. Proof that things don’t have to go exactly as planned to have fun!

Digging Earthworms in the Land of Barbie

Andrea Beaty with her book 'Rosie Revere, Engineer.'

Andrea Beaty with her book ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer.’

Andrea Beaty is the author of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect, among many others. She is an advocate for STEM education and Girls in STEM visits schools in the US and internationally to share her love of literacy and STEM. She was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries. Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and she is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store.  They have very good lighting. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and at her website.

I love earthworms and I always have. As a kid, I kept a cigar box loaded with dirt and decaying vegetables for the worms we found in the garden. I plucked them from the earth and chatted to them happily as I ran to the house and introduced them to their new home with the elegant picture of Prince Albert on their paper ceiling. I was thrilled and am pretty sure they were too. They were my pets.

My earthworms were not as chipper as our parakeets, or as good at fetching as our collie. They were aloof like the cat though less likely to shed or bring me dead mice. I imagined keeping them forever. Then one day I noticed that the cigar box was the perfect length for my toothbrush. At last, all my favorite things in one spot. I was thrilled. My mother, who generally supported her children’s pet choices and hobbies was less thrilled. I vaguely remember a talk straight from the script of Born Free and a tearful goodbye in the garden where the toothbrush became an excellent climbing post in my pets’ new “playground.”

Fast forward many years and I found myself once more digging for earthworms in the garden, this time as a parent. My young daughter helped reluctantly at first, but then eagerly. Nature is magnificent place to nurture a child’s curiosity and understanding of science. We didn’t keep the worms, but we observed them, marveled at them, and let them “play” in our mud pies until it was time for them and us to go to bed.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time—or at least I would not admit it—I had a secret agenda for my daughter. Perhaps agenda is too strong a word, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted her to be just like me. A tomboy. A kid who eschewed all things “girlie” for the rough and tumble world of Tonka trucks, tree climbing, and mud.

And yet, that was not my daughter’s style. She has never been a fussy person, but she loved pink even in the days before the “pink aisle” had taken over the universe. It was not an obnoxious obsession with her, but slowly, pink crept into our home and her wardrobe and her toys.

She preferred her favorite pink and purple dress to the overalls I laid out for her. She chose her Barbie dolls and the Barbie’s pink convertible over the building toys I nudged in her direction. (Though I took it as a good sign that one of her favorite games to play with her brother was Crash Test Barbie which involved high speed drives a la Thelma and Louise off the bed. I confess that for good or bad, it was not a game that I discouraged.)

At first, the pink worried me. I remember a neighbor commenting that my daughter was “all girl.” I did not know how to react to that. Was I raising a “girlie girl?” Gasp!

And then I realized that it did not matter. Who cares if a girl likes pink or blue or green or orange? Or all of them at once? Who cares if she plays with dolls or earthworms or trucks or glittery fairy houses or whatever? It is the beauty of being a girl that there is no single definition of what that means. Nor should there be.

I realized that it didn’t matter what color my kid was wearing. It mattered what she was doing. Was she curious? Yes. Was she playful? Yes. Was she exploring the world around her and learning from it? Yes!

When I finally got over myself (which is an enormous part of being a parent), we had much more fun together. I continued introducing her to the things I loved and she introduced me to the things she loved. My daughter dug for earthworms and made mud-pies and climbed trees. We had tea parties and played dolls. We built rockets from cardboard boxes so the dolls could travel to space and have tea parties with mud-pies.

As she did these things, she did so in her princess outfit. And once in a while, she cracked out the overalls and wore those —with some ribbons for good measure. Whatever she did, she did with her own style. A style that could change on a dime.

Being a kid is a process of constant reinvention. It takes only a second to think back at my own life to realize that. I think how my mother must have cringed inwardly at my own choices as a kid. (Hey, in my defense, it was the 70s and Elton John was cool.) The important thing is introducing kids to the world, allowing them to learn what it has to offer, and helping them understand what they have to offer in return through their talents and hard work.

My daughter is now twenty and she remembers our mud-pie adventures with great fondness. She has found her own path. She rolls her eyes at her peers who freak out about spiders, earthworms, or snakes.) She is a master with power tools and builds theater sets. She dresses up with the best of them, still loves a tea party, and is up for all kinds of adventure. In short, she is herself. Awesome. Beautiful. Powerful. Bold.

My neighbor was right.

My daughter is all girl.

If your kid loves Rosie Revere, we here at GoldieBlox are about 1000% sure they’ll also love our building kits. Check out our newest, GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank!

When A Little Sister Thinks Her Big Brother Is The “Smart One”

It was crawling around in the backseat. I was driving and couldn’t help her. My daughter hates bugs, but she was on her own to either live and let live or take care of it however else she saw fit.

I tried my best to reassure her. “It’s probably not even the kind of bug you have to worry about. You know who would be able to tell us what kind of bug that was if he was here? Your brother. He knows a lot about entomology, he was into it for a bit.”

“Axel knows everything. He’s the brain,” she replied. She didn’t say it resentfully. She even sounded a little proud of him, but she said it so assuredly, like it was just a fact.

Wait. What? Hold the phones. Is that the message she’s been taking away when her brother gets noted for his contributions to our collective knowledge-base? We needed to talk about this immediately.

“You know a lot about a lot of things, too,” I reminded her. “You’re just as much of a brain as he is.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same. Axel just knows everything. I’m smart but he’s just so far ahead of me.”

“Umm, he’s nearly five years older than you. That’s why he’s so far ahead of you. He’s accumulated a bigger quantity of knowledge, for now, because he’s been alive five years longer than you. But his ability to learn things isn’t any more enhanced than yours.” I could tell she was thinking on it. I didn’t want to press the issue, so we just changed the subject. But it worried me.

My son got a lot of the admiration and responsibility that older siblings often get, and my daughter has been by default the “baby” of the family, even though she’s a highly driven, Type-A achievement collector. I realized there may be a dynamic at play I’d never realized, that she was internalizing it, and potentially attributing it to gender.

Later that week, I was driving somewhere with her brother, and I mentioned it to him.

“So, this week in ‘Things That Are Ridiculous,’ Gigi thinks you’re smarter than she is.”

“What?” He had this look on his face like I’d just tried to tell him the Easter Bunny was real, or that climate change wasn’t.

“Seriously. Because you know more stuff right now, she’s assumed it’s because you’re just inherently the smart one.”

He shook his head. “That’s crazy. She was sitting with me yesterday, doing my algebra homework with me because she wanted to get the hang of it early. She tries so hard to keep up with where I’m at, because she thinks I’m ahead. But what she doesn’t realize is she’s actually outpacing me. There will be a point in time when I hit a learning plateau, and at her pace, she will not only catch up, but she’ll zoom right past me, probably.” He was very probably right.

“Well, you know how you sometimes do that big brother thing where you act like you just can’t believe she doesn’t know something that you take for granted people should know? Maybe that’s not a good thing to do anymore, even though you didn’t mean to be condescending. Maybe look at those teaching moments and think back to when you were her age and remember that you didn’t know a lot of those things yet, either.”

He looked genuinely regretful at how that kind of stuff probably seems in retrospect. Brothers and sisters antagonize each other with those little daily micro-aggressions. It’s a thing they will always do, even if they deeply love each other and get along great. But sometimes we don’t realize how our words or our attitudes about helping each other learn can come across to the person who’s feeling like a newb.

“Can you talk to her about it at your next opportunity? Tell her exactly what you just told me?” I already knew his answer. He thinks his sister hung the moon.

“Yes. I will take care of it.”

Between their talk and my concerted efforts to make sure that I was telling my son, in front of his sister, that he should check in with her on things she’s really strong at, her confidence was definitely bolstered. Her organization and time management skills are stronger than his. When she was asked to help him stay accountable for his due dates, she stepped up to the plate and it looked like she grew two inches instantly.

It’s crucial to realize we send little messages we aren’t even aware we’re sending every day, just by virtue of who we bestow authority on and who never gets tapped as an authority on anything within our families. By encouraging my kids to equally avail themselves of each others’ strengths, I think we avoided perpetuating stereotypes, and we certainly became much more aware of watching out for stereotypes creeping into anyone’s self-perceptions on our watch. It’s not a one-time fix. It’s an ongoing project. But we all get our turn to be the “smart one.”

1781851_10152263411694083_2104757514_o (2)

 

Angie Aker is a Buffy enthusiast, a virality mad scientist, a Poet Laureate, an up-and-coming author, and The World’s Okayest Mom. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter if you like ladies who push the envelope and sometimes their luck. 

 

 

How Adoption Opened My Eyes

“We’re all different, but different is good,” my son said. He’d taken a seat on the couch between my husband and me and held his arm against mine.

At 7 years old, he does that far less frequently than he used to, but occasionally, he reminds himself — out loud for extra reassurance — that differences are to be celebrated.

“The world would be boring if everyone looked the same!” my daughter chimed in from the table where she was drawing one of her unique, fantastical pictures. At 5 years old, she is extremely confident with her beautiful, dark skin and curly hair. She embraced her physical qualities at a young age and hasn’t ever wavered in her certainty that she is absolutely, positively fabulous the way she is. She’s equally confident about her intelligence and her capabilities.

My son has similar conviction in his appearance and his character. He takes pride in his generosity and care for others. He feels a need to remain strong, but not so much that he’ll sacrifice his gentle heart.

Before I became a mom, I lived a pretty comfortable existence. I assumed that my husband and I would raise our kids similar to the way my mom and dad raised me. I have great parents and aside from the minor “I’ll never do that when I’m mom” notes, I figured I had a good grasp on how to proceed.

That was before I began educating myself on race and how people of color navigate the world differently in many circumstances. I’m a sponge when it comes to information, so once I began to understand how my privilege as a white individual dictated my life experiences, I knew that I’d have to parent differently. While some of the troubling issues that students of color experience in schools may not affect my kids as severely because of the schools they attend, the important fact remains that statistically, children of color aren’t always treated the same as white children.

In addition to navigating race, my husband and I are both aware of how traditional education affects children by gender. Over time, girls tend to “shrink” in the classroom while boys are inadvertently taught that emotions and feelings aren’t to be expressed. We don’t want those really special qualities that make them who they are — my son’s kindness or my daughter’s confidence, for example — to lessen.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can talk all day long, and if we’re lucky our kids will retain a portion of what we say, but a lot of learning comes through our actions. So we choose our words carefully. We don’t single out descriptors for one child or the other. Both are strong, smart, funny, cute, interesting, loving, sweet, sensitive, kind, giving, serious…all of the things that people can be. Whether they’re expressing emotions and asserting themselves, they’re being who they are, not a “pushy girl” or a “sensitive boy.”

We buy books, toys and movies that features characters that reflect their appearances back to them. Hearing my son read a book and remark, “That boy has my eyes!” or my daughter happily point out, “Her hair is just like mine! I like it,” is significant.

Pink can be a boy’s favorite color and girls are just as strong as boys. Small, simple reminders go a long way. Today, my kids were playing Wii Bowling together.

“BOOM! You’re the lady!” my daughter exclaimed.

I looked up from my computer and smiled at her.

“What?” She asked. “I’m not going to say ‘you’re the man’ because ladies are just as good as men!”

After a brief, thoughtful pause, she added, “Maybe even better.”

So far, so good.

Me and my kids, Molley and Mattix.

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She’s a wife and an adoptive mom to kids who make her world go ’round. She’s an editor, writer, content curator, social media manager and sometimes blogger. She’s certain sarcasm is a language, so she’s totally bilingual. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Wake-Up Call

My son, Kai, will be 2 in August. A few nights ago, he woke up at 2:17 a.m. yelling “Momma! Momma!”

I stumbled into his room. Snatched him out of his crib. Pulled him close. “It’s okay,” I whispered. “It’s okay.”

He gave me a pat pat pat on my face. Then I felt his little arm stretch upwards and his little face push backwards. “Whoooosh!” he said. “I’m Su-per-man! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Super Kai!

Uh huh. You couldn’t wait until it was light out to tell me that, kid?

It quickly became evident that I would not be going back to sleep. This was Super Kai, after all. We were up humming the Superman theme song, reading books, eating blackberries, pretending to fly.

That night, despite being totally exhausted, the mission of GoldieBlox was as clear as day to me.

See, the thing is, when I was a little girl, I wasn’t into sleep either. There were too many other things to do. Adventures to go on! Stories to read. Stories to write. Quests to dream up. Cleveland Indians games to watch. Baseball cards to collect (yes, girls like baseball. Some of us even know what OBP and RBI stands for. Wild!)

Oh, and I wanted to be Superman, too.

It had nothing to do with gender and everything to do with character and story. Superman? That guy is amazing and he can do amazing, wonderful things. He has incredible adventures. He has a strong moral compass. He deeply wants to help humanity. Did I mention the cape? Why wouldn’t boys AND girls want to be him? Why wouldn’t anyone?

And the real question is: Why aren’t there more girl characters that stir up imaginations so much that their fans wake up at 2:17 a.m. desperate to declare their identities?

Why aren’t there more female heroes who have their own amazing stories, powers, and motives? Why are the girls so often the sidekicks, or over-sexualized, or just plain lame? Why do girls have to live with these characters?

Why do the boys?

Why does Kai?

A friend of mine has a little boy and recently welcomed a baby girl. While reading books to her kids, she realized how few of her books have female leads. And how most of the lead characters who ARE female tend to be…animals. Huh. Are we so uncomfortable with girls at the center of the story that we have to make them puppies or ponies or pigs?

Our girls definitely deserve characters and stories where girls are the heroes. And you know what? So do our boys.

That’s where Goldie comes in.

And that’s why I’m here.

My family and I

DIY of the Week: Catapult

Here’s something for the knights (looking at you, Brienne of Tarth) among us: a catapult. You can make this with your GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine kit, or some basic craft supplies. Warning: do not fling your siblings, even in the unlikely event they can fit on the catapult.

You’ll need:

Items Needed to Build Your GoldieBlox Catapult.

Items Needed to Build Your GoldieBlox Catapult.

  • GoldieBlox Pegboard
  • GoldieBlox Ribbon (or any wide, study ribbon will do)
  • 4 Axles
  • Blox (2 for construction, a handful for launching)

OR:

Optional Items to Make a Catapult.

Optional Items to Make a Catapult.

  • Cardboard or Poster Board
  • Wide Ribbon (2 inches thick or there abouts)
  • Two Drinking Straws
  • Duct Tape
  • Mod Podge
  • Crafting Pom Poms / Cotton Balls / something light and fling-able

 

To make the GoldieBlox catapult:

Step 1: Flip your pegboard over so the foam side is down and plug two axles into the underside of the board. Make sure they are all the way to one edge, and at opposite ends from each other. Turn the pegboard over — you’ve  just created an incline for your catapult!

Insert Axels on the Underside of the Pegboard.

Insert Axels on the Underside of the Pegboard.

You've Created an Incline!

You’ve Created an Incline!

 

Step 2:  Take 2 more axles and place them in pegs, on the front side of the pegboard, about halfway up. Make sure they are in the same row, so your catapult is even. Place one block on each of these axles.

Insert Axels and Blox on the Front of the Pegboard.

Insert Axels and Blox on the Front of the Pegboard.

 

Step 3:  Drape the ribbon around the blox so that it makes a “U” in between them.

Drape the Ribbon Through the Axels to Create a 'U" Shape.

Drape the Ribbon Through the Axels to Create a ‘U” Shape.

 

Step 4: Put one of your blox into the “U” of the ribbon.

Place Your Blox into the "U" Shape.

Place Your Blox into the “U” Shape.

 

Step 5: Grab ahold of the ribbon ends, on the outside of the “U.” Pull both ends at the same time really fast, and watch the blox go flying!

Grab the Outsides of the Ribbon and Pull!

Grab the Outsides of the Ribbon and Pull!

 

You can make a catapult without a GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine kit, too – here’s how!

 Step 1: Cut your piece of poster board into a large square, or have your parents help you. The size doesn’t matter – it’s up to you!

Catapult 14

Carefully Cut a Piece of Cardboard for Your Base.

Step 2: Cut your drinking straws in half, or have your parents help you. You should now have four smaller straws. Put two of them to the side – we’ll need them later.

Cut Your Straws in Half.

Cut Your Straws in Half.

 

Step 3: Using your duct tape, tape two straws to one side of your square, about an inch in from the corners. These are the legs of your base.

On the Backside of Your Board, Tape Down 2 Straws.

On the Backside of Your Board, Tape Down 2 Straws.

 

Step 4: Flip your square over. You’ve made an incline plane for your catapult!

Catapult 17

You’ve Created an Incline!

 

Step 5: Grab your other straws and your Mod Podge. Stick the straws about halfway up the square and four inches away from each other. (If you don’t have Mod Podge, you can mash some duct tape around the end of the straw and make an inelegant little duct tape platform, as we have).

Attach 2 Straws to the Front of your Board.

Attach 2 Straws to the Front of your Board.

 

Step 6: Drape your ribbon over the two straws so that it makes a “U” between them.

Make a "U" Shape with your Ribbon.

Make a U-Shape with your Ribbon.

 

Step 7: Put one of your pom poms/cotton balls into the “U” of the ribbon.

Place a Pom Pom or Cotton Ball in your Ribbon.

Place a Pom Pom or Cotton Ball in your Ribbon.

 

Step 8: Grab ahold of the ribbon ends, on the outside of the “U.” Pull both ends at the same time really fast, and watch the pom pom/cotton ball go flying!

Pull the Ends of your Ribbon to Launch your Pom Pom / Cotton Ball!

Pull the Ends of your Ribbon to Launch your Pom Pom / Cotton Ball!

 

 

Learning with Autism

Hi! I’m Anne, a Brand Director at GoldieBlox, I’m fortunate that my career is designing and engineering some pretty amazing products. At work, we often talk about being “Design Hackers” and finding new play patterns for kids. For today’s blog, I’m writing to talk about how I’ve learned to be a “Mommy Hacker,” to design and inspire the education of my children.

I have three children: Anya, age seven; Axel, age nine; and Ella, age thirteen. Our family looks like a lot of families around the world, not least because Axel is a child with Autism.

When we, as a culture, talk about Autism, we often talk about ways to cure, manage or alter the behaviors of Autism. We forget to mention the joys and the profound messages that this population of people brings to us. Among the many lessons motherhood has taught me, Axel’s Autism has transformed the way I think about learning, innovation, and education – honestly, I can’t think of anything, or anyone that has taught me as much as my son.

To keep it simple, for children on the Autism spectrum, behaviors that we find difficult or disruptive come from their systems being overwhelmed.

Often, the sensory input of a given situation is too much, and they act out. As the parent, we must  get creative and do whatever we need to do to help our kids calm down and feel at ease. I’ve learned to do this by joining my son where he’s at emotionally so that I may understand what is overwhelming him.

For example, Axel has a hard time in grocery stores – the lights, sounds, and the number of people combine to make the experience a sensory overload. If he indicates that the lights are too bright, we may try walking into the store backwards. In fact, we might go through the entire store backwards. Why not? Or if I pick up his clue that a smell is too much, we might hold a fragrant fruit like a peach close to our nose until we checkout.

These behaviors may look unusual to the average person, but we do it all with humor and laughter, hoping that onlookers understand there is a “Mommy Hacker” at work. Parenting a kid on the autism spectrum is full of this kind of ingenuity:

If the way we do things normally doesn’t work, how shall we do them instead?

I recently heard of a 2nd grade teacher who, upon finding that some of her students couldn’t concentrate while sitting still, set up a semi-circle of trampolines in the back of the room so kids could bounce while they learned. It helped the kids stay focused and they retained more of the lessons. And guess what? Science backs up this kind of ingenuity. It has been shown that some kids learn and retain information best while in motion.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon the “Horse Boy Method” while Axel was in a low point during the school year. In a nutshell, the method reduces stress and increases the learning potential of kids by creating positive connections through the engagement with animals, nature and movement. From this inspiration, my passion project is piloting a learning program called “Horse Boy Learning” at the Square Peg Foundation in Half Moon Bay, California.

For kids on the Autism spectrum, group educational lessons can be tough, especially ones with shared props or samples. They often want to touch, toss, or roll around in them. Although this kind of behavior is unacceptable by most “normal” standards, it’s their way of interacting with the world.

So what we have created at Square Peg is a living classroom and sensory teepee. The teepee is full of science related things that kids can manipulate, stick their hands in, and get up close and personal with. The teepee is full of things they can touch and toss and roll around in. I’m excited to see where it goes.

For all the struggles that come with having a kid on the Autism spectrum, I truly believe it’s a gift. Kids are here to teach us, just as we’re here to teach them. I never knew the kind of creativity, empathy, or ingenuity I was capable of before I had children. I am grateful to all my kids, but uniquely to my son for teaching me how to be a true “Mommy Hacker.”

Tell us your story, what are your “Parent Hacks”?

Living classroom at Square Peg Ranch. Axel is shown with his teacher, Ashley Morris.

Living classroom at Square Peg Ranch. Axel is shown with his teacher, Ashley Morris.

DIY of the Week: Color Changing Carnations

Here’s a simple, fun experiment you can do to teach your kids about how plants use water! All you need are some white carnations, a clear glass or vase, and some food dye, and you’ve got yourself a colorful at-home science lesson.

What You Will Need:

Items Needed for the Project.

Items Needed for the Project.

  • Fresh, White Carnations
  • Plastic or Glass, Cups, Vases or Jars
  • Food Coloring
  • Scissors

 

Step 1: Fill your cups with cold water.

Fill a Cup with Cold Water.

Fill a Cup with Cold Water.

 

Step 2: Place a few drops of the desired color into each cup  (you can experiment with the number of drops for a deeper color and more vibrant flowers).

Drop Food Coloring into the Glasses.

Drop Food Coloring into the Glasses.

 

Step 3: Trim the carnation stems, so you have a fresh cut. An angled cut is the best — this helps the flowers pick up water more quickly, so you can see results even sooner.

Trim the Carnations.

Trim the Carnations.

 

Step 4:  Set the carnation(s) into the cups. In a couple of hours, you’ll start to see some new colors appear in your white flowers. After a day, those colors should be vibrant!

NCM_2211

 

You can also experiment with splitting the stem of the carnations into two and placing each in a different colored cup.  The result is pretty fun!

“I’m Not An Engineer. How Do I Walk The Walk?”

At every event I attend, no matter how big or small, I get asked the same thing. It’s universal, and universally beautiful in its way; parent after parent, teacher after teacher, comes up to me and asks, “I’m not an engineer. How do I walk the walk?”

What they mean is, “How can I help my kid think about these things differently? How do I support them? How can I make a difference?”

Here’s a not-so-secret: I’m not an engineer either. I went to the school of hard knocks and got my degree in Rainmaking, but I could not have told you what an incline plane was a year ago. (It’s a ramp. Seriously).  I am here to tell you that walking the walk is not all that difficult. Most of the things we can do to support our kids are hidden in plain sight; they’re the kind of things that, when said out loud, feel so obvious.  In life and engineering, simplicity is king. So here we go:

A Very Important And Obvious List of Things You Can Do To “Walk The Walk”

1. Don’t default to male pronouns.

See what I mean? Obvious. Using a mix of pronouns in the way you talk about jobs and careers is the most basic thing you can do to support your kids in an understanding that anybody can do any dang thing they want. It’s a way of framing their thinking – by talking about engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, and whoever with female pronouns, you help undo the myth that women can’t or shouldn’t be these things.

Example:
Your kid: “I met a fire fighter at school today!”
You: “Great! What did she teach you?”

Tah-da!

2. Call it like you see it.

Parents basically become wallpaper, especially to our young kids. What we do is basic and ongoing background noise to their own inner lives, but we can and should totally use this as a way to describe the world to them in what might be the most influential way possible. So when you see a Female Police Officer, say, “Hey, check out that Female Police Officer! Isn’t her job cool?”

Sometimes people point out that by remarking on a woman doing a stereotypically male job, we as parents are making the fact that she’s doing that job an anomaly. I disagree. The world does enough of pointing out that women are supposed to be anomalies; by not saying anything, you’re letting the world do that work without correcting it. But by pointing out women doing cool and gender-role-defying things, and saying them as if it’s no big deal (“Isn’t her job cool?” instead of “Isn’t the fact that she’s doing that job cool?”) does the opposite.

 3. Seek out role models, and be one yourself

Out of necessity, my mother, a public school teacher and single mom, used to fix the roof, paint the house, replace the toilet, and snake the drain – she never said anything about it, but her doing these things provided an important role model for me. My mother could do these things herself; so could I.

And I do – but when there’s something I can’t manage (read: I already tried and made it worse), I do my best to find a woman to come in and do it for me. This is shockingly easy. The Internet is a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Female plumbers, electricians, painters… all at your fingertips (http://www.yelp.com/biz/womens-plumbing-repair-oakland).

We all know that our first exposure to anything or anyone sticks with us; these first impressions become our internal archetypes. The word “Pediatrician”, to me, will forever conjure up the image of Dr. Pulford; a sweet and wickedly funny man that soothed broken skin and hurt feelings with lollipops and knock-knock jokes.  To my kids, this word is connected to a hilarious and endlessly capable woman named Joy.  Similarly, though “engineer” always meant “pale, nerdy white guy” to me, my kids picture their Mama and her buddy, Debbie. Go figure

4. Let them own what they do and who they are.

For instance: when they hand you a drawing, say “you’re an amazing artist!”

When they build a bridge out of the random junk they find under their beds, say “You’re an engineer!”  Ask them to tell you about what they made, and why they made it. The words “tell me more about that” are surprisingly effective.

On top of this, watch your adjectives. Tell your daughters that they’re funny and smart, strong and courageous; tell your boys that they’re beautiful and kind, creative and loving. Arm yourself with a vocabulary that defies the things that the world will tell them about themselves, and they’ll understand that they can be all those things, and they’re all wonderful. After a recent lice-induced haircut (ugh), my 7 year old son started a sentence with the words “Now that my hair isn’t as silky and luxurious as it used to be…”

These things sink in, folks. They really do.

5. Don’t be afraid of overcorrecting.

You know how if you speak too softly, the wisdom around training your voice is to be much louder than you think is appropriate? It’s because there’s a gap between how you hear yourself and how the world hears you; what seems like an overcorrect to you won’t seem that way to the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is so full of messages around what girls and boys can and can’t be, what they are and aren’t.

Last Saturday night, I attended the closing ceremonies for my boys’ little league teams. After the raffles and ice cream, awards and trophies, the league erected a pop-up screen, and set up a projector. The sun went down, kids gathered on the lawn in the outfield, and they played a movie called “The Sand Lot.”

This is a movie about 5 boys that love baseball. Real Americana, right down to the scene where one boy hurls the worst insult possible to a member of the opposing team: “You throw like a girl.”

The kids sprawled around field around me giggled and moved on, but my blood boiled.  In the car on the way home, I pointed this injustice out to my boys..  I don’t want to be a kill joy, but COME ON.  They were one step ahead of me: “Yeah! That must have made Liliah feel mad, because she’s REALLY good!” Liliah, of course, is a hardcore slugger in the league, pink cleats and all.

So be vocal: call it like you see it.  The world will bring them back to center.