How to Encourage More Imaginative Play

How to Encourage More Imaginative Play | Pablo Picasso famously pointed out that an artist is simply a child that's never grown up. But how do we keep our kids from losing their creative edge? Click through to read more...If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown in any of his TV cooking shows (or read his books/social media/blog), you may probably have heard Alton Brown discuss his love of multi-taskers (and his distaste for “unitaskers”) in cooking implements.

For example (one I harassed my husband about the other day, ha!) those bear claw meat shredders. They’re big, bulky, and do the same thing you could do with 2 forks or a KitchenAid.

A KitchenAid on the other hand is a multi-tasker. It has a beater attachment, whisk attachment, juicer attachment, food processor attachment, various pasta making attachments, and much more.

When it comes to toys I’m a big fan of toys that encourage imaginative play. These are the multi-taskers of the toy world. Imagine for a moment, the humble cardboard box of so many parenting jokes. And in truth, there’s more reality to it than we want to admit. On Christmas morning, half the fun comes from playing with the wrapping paper all over the floor. Mom & Dad may get a new washing machine, but Junior just got a new space ship, a jail for his misbehaving teddy bear, a boat to explore the piratey sea, and fort to hideout from his stinky sisters. At least until his stinky sisters try to take over the box for their own nefarious purposes.


So what kind of toys do I look for to encourage imaginative play?

Toys that encourage physical development (including hand-eye coordination)

  • Gardening tools
  • Wagons/Bikes/Scooters
  • Jump ropes
  • Swings
  • Jungle gym
  • See-saw
  • Jacks
  • Pick-up sticks

Toys that encourage creative/imaginative development

  • Scarves
  • Puppets
  • Musical instruments
  • Dress-up clothes/accessories
  • Play dough
  • Art supplies
  • Stuffed animals/dolls
  • Cars/trucks/animals
  • Marble runs
  • Blocks/Legos/Lincoln logs

Toys that encourage sensory development

  • Sandbox
  • Bubbles
  • Play dough
  • Musical instruments
  • Tangle Jr
  • Finger paints
  • Koosh balls


Toys that encourage intellectual development

  • Puzzles
  • K’nex
  • Pattern blocks
  • Books (okay not technically a toy, but still important!)
  • Bop It/Simon Says
  • Peg board game (like at Cracker Barrel)
  • Blokus board game
  • Just about anything GeoSafari
  • Etch a Sketch

You may have noticed that there’s some definite cross over between some of these. For example, many of the playground equipment items fall under sensory development, as well as physical. Several of the intellectual can also be under creative. And this list is far from comprehensive… you can find a range of ideas by searching for STEM/STEAM toys (Science/Tech/Engineering/(Art)/Math), Melissa & Doug toys, Montessori toys, Waldorf toys, etc.

When I was a kid, humble sheets were turned into forts, castles, pirate ships, clothing, and tepees. Anything was possible! My boys regularly come ask me to turn their blankets into capes, so they can be pirates or superheroes (I’m noticing a generational pirate obsession… arrrrgggh!), and the girls love to be princess or superheroes as well.


What was your favorite creative toy when you were a kid? Share it in the comments below!

Don’t Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams

Don't Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams | I get it, you've got big dreams for your kids... but there's a possibility they don't share those dreams... what to do?

On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! This is the 3rd post, based on the 3rd item on the list (creating an art box). Click here to see all of them!

It happens to the best of us, but this one is huge. It starts with a dream you had as a child, or young adult… a dream that never came to fruition. And maybe it’s legitimately too late for you to pursue it (can’t be a child prodigy past a certain age), or maybe society has told you that you shouldn’t pursue it (guess how many artists have been told that?!)… but either way, you’ve given up.

But then you had a kid (or 5!)…

And suddenly a spark of hope returns. You couldn’t be a world class athlete/child prodigy/famous singer/dancer in the New York City Ballet… but your kid could! Right?


But if they do, it should be their choice right? 

Lest you think I’m just picking on you, I’m so guilty of this too… I sing. A lot. I’ve sang for charity functions, I’ve sang on the radio, I’ve sang for my church… I even tried to record a demo once, but as it turns out singing with wood dust in the air vents isn’t easy. Note to self: Don’t record when the studio has been under the construction…

Anyway… I sing. So naturally, I assumed that all of my offspring would not only be musically inclined, but incredibly gifted (because your kids are supposed to be even better than you!). Not so much. At least at the moment. While there’s plenty of time for something to develop, one of my children is frequently so off-key I wonder if she’s heard the same song we did. And that may change later… or it may never change. And that’s okay.

But it took time for me to come to that realization… I was super aggravated that I couldn’t get her to sing the tune correctly, or clap on beat, or anything. But the fact is, if that’s not her gifting, her gifting lies elsewhere, and by focusing on that skill set, I’m potentially robbing her of her true greatness, and I don’t want that to be my legacy.

So hang in there… your kids may not be doing the things you wanted to do when you were a kid, but that just means they have their own special place in the world. And you, yes you have the very special honor of helping them find out what that is.

13 Reasons to Clean Out Your Inbox

Confession time… I unsubscribed from 49 newsletters this week. Yeah. 49. Not all of them were my fault (more on that later), but still… it was clogging up my inbox! I was spending 20 minutes a day deleting emails, and I finally decided it would be easier to see what all was actually coming in.

1. You don’t enjoy the emails anymore

It’s okay! You signed up for that really cool webinar, but now you just don’t jive with that speaker anymore. It happens, and it’s okay. Unsubscribe.

2. You didn’t mean to sign up for them specifically

You signed up for a giveaway, thinking you’d be put on 1 person’s newsletter…. but you got added to 17 people’s newsletters. Booooo. Unsubscribe from everyone you don’t care about.

3. You sign up for that many newsletters

You signed up for that one guy’s newsletter, but wow… you got added to 4 of his lists. Unsubscribe from the one’s you didn’t care about… it’s totally okay!

4. You didn’t sign up for that many emails

When you signed up, it was once a week, but now she blogs daily (and doesn’t have a digest option). If you love her, set aside time to read it with a cup of coffee, and make it a treat rather than a chore.

5. You need to get  more stuff done

Whoa. No one can keep up with that much email, and you’ve got that new project you’re excited about. Purrrrrrrrrrge!

6. You moved (and it was a local biz)

Yeah. It happens. I’m moving in March, and I didn’t think that would be happening anytime soon.

7. Your niche (or theirs) changed

Yup. This happens too. I’ve recently shifted from doing VA work, so not everyone wants to be on my list anymore, and that’s okay!

8. You need room for more emails

Okay, I’m joking… maybe. It depends on how you have your email set up. If it’s all on the server, and you’re just reading… it’s just visual clutter. If you’re downloading them from the server… yikes!

9. You scare your type-A friends

Okay, I’m only half joking on this one. I have been known to have a figurative heart attack upon seeing an inbox with over 10K emails in it. Unread. With dust on them. And mold. Poor, sad, lonely, graveyard of abandoned emails.

10. You might be overlooking important emails in the chaos

Truth. My Mom has even mentioned accidentally overlooking something she needed, because there was too much going on in her inbox. And if you run a business, sometimes that equals loss of money, or a missed opportunity. Don’t become a cautionary tale for future entrepreneurs. Don’t do it!

11. “She doesn’t even go here!”

Okay, sorry… Mean Girls reference… seriously though, if you haven’t worked with that client in 2 years… probably safe to get rid of most of those emails. If you handle work like photography, or graphics, perhaps keep their work + contracts in a Dropbox folder, and then delete the emails.

12. It’s not Christmas anymore

Seriously. If it’s a sale from even 2 weeks ago, probably safe to assume those items are no longer on sale…. and may not even be available at all!

13. You don’t want to miss that fab sale from DSW!

Okay insert your store of choice here. I happen to adore boots, so I get excited when the fall sales at DSW start hitting my inbox. I also get excited for Sephora emails, ELF emails, and thanks to my friend April… Anthropologie emails. My friends are bad influences. 😀

Did you know I wrote a sanity-saving guide to cleaning up your inbox? 


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Create An Art Box


On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! This is the 2nd post, based on the 2nd item on the list (creating an art box). Click here to see all of them!

When I was a kid, my Mom made it super easy to create a variety of art projects at almost a moment’s notice. It wasn’t fancy, and sometimes you had to dig for a moment to find what you were looking for, but that was half the fun because it was a treasure hunt! In the process, you might find something you forgot was in there, that would be a really cool addition to the project.

The secret? A box full of supplies… it’s been many years, but here are a few of the items I remember…

  • Construction paper (we could always grab white copy paper from the box under the printer too)
  • Tempera paint (a few rather large bottles, if I recall)
  • Glue (stick, liquid, glitter)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pom poms (in a variety of colors and sizes)
  • Glitter (larger cylinders in a few colors)
  • Scissors (regular, and with fun edges)

I’m sure there were more things, and it changed a bit from time to time. In addition we always had crayons, and colored pencils… for many years, I could always tell what one of my gifts was… several of us would have the same box, that had a tell-tale thumpy-rattle when shaken ever so slightly.

I very firmly feel like this was a strong foundation for my life of creative pursuits. Not only was I surrounded by innately creative people, but I was given room to pursue my own ideas… and the art box gave me a range of mediums to play with.

If you don’t have time to put one together yourself, or you want a variety coming in, you can sign up for a subscription box (and I’ll include a list of some of the ones I know about at the end… although I’ve not tested any of them myself).

But you can easily make one yourself filled with supplies from Oriental Trading, Amazon, or your favorite craft store. Sometimes you can find supplies at flea markets, thrift stores, or Craigslist. But you can also get a pretty decent head start from your local dollar store.

Here are some great ideas for your box (in addition to what I mentioned up there)… of course your mileage will vary depending on the age of your child (but limit things for safety reasons, not necessarily by what their skill level is…)

  •  Tape – Scotch tape was kept on my Mom’s desk, and washi wasn’t even a “thing” back then. But it is nooooow.
  • Sequins, buttons, etc. – I’d put these in individual containers or baggies… something so they’re not loose all over the box
  • Stickers – If your kids are like mine, the trick will be keeping them away from your kids long enough to be put in the box.
  • Stamps/stamp pads
  • Yarn – I crochet, and I’m picky about what yarn I use, so if I’m gifted yarn and it’s not anything I’d hook with, it goes here.
  • Hole punch – Craft stores have all sorts of fun punches these days (and paper edge punches too!)
  • Aprons/oversized t-shirts for use as smocks
  • Googly eyes – these make everything awesome right? 😀

Of course there are many more things you can pop in these boxes… you’re only limited by your imagination (and your budget). If you’re more interested in subscription boxes, here’s that list for you:

Toucan Box (ages 3-8)

Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8)

Darby Girl (tweens)

Darby Smart (teens/adults)

Creative Art Box (teens/adults)


What are your must-haves for an art box? Have you done this for your kids yet?

13 Things I Love About August

1. American Indian Heritage Month

A great number of people can claim Native heritage in the US, but we actually have very specific information on ours. My great-grandfather was full-blood Cherokee… again, a good many people have Cherokee heritage. The one that I geek out over is on my Mom’s side. Our family back a few generations were Parkers. 1836 in Texas, there was a Comanche raid on Fort Parker and a young Cynthia Ann-Parker was taken. Cynthia was later married to a chieftain, and they gave birth to a boy named Quanah. Quanah was one of the last Comanche chiefs, and has a town in Texas named for him as well.

2. National Breastfeeding Month

I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding your child, if possible. I could go on about the virtues of it, but I feel like they’re pretty well established, so I’ll just say this. As much as I stand for breastfeeding, I’m also very much against the mom-guilt-trips that people go on. Sometimes, breastfeeding comes with complications. I’ve watched a friend of mine go to the hospital 2-3 times now, for severe mastitis. I’ve dealt with plugged ducts… I managed to get past/through it, but it wasn’t pleasant. Some people struggle to establish a supply, and if it gets to that point, it’s better to find an alternate than to deprive your child for the sake of pride.

Me in my Air Force blues
Me in my Air Force blues


3. US Air Force Day

August 1st many moons ago, I left Dallas for San Antonio and began my military experience. Unbeknownst to me, my first day was acutally the Air Force’s anniversary. The Air Force as we know it was created in the month of September, but the Aeronautic division of the Army Signal Corps was started August 1st.

4. National Chocolate Chip Day

August 4th – Not cookies, not ice cream… no specifics… just chocolate chip. Go crazy my friend!

5. National Root Beer Float Day

August 6th – What’s your favorite brand of  root beer?

6. Dalek Day

August 8th – The birthday of Terry Nation, creator of Daleks. If you don’t know what these are, we can’t be friends. Just kidding. Maybe.

7. Lefthander’s Day

August 13th – I’ve always been fascinated by the number of extremely creative people that are left handed… quite a number of them are multipassionates too.

  • Lady Gaga
  • Oprah
  • Tina Fey
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Michelangelo
  • David Bowie
  • Mark Twain
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Beethoven
  • Mozart



8. Bowling Day

August 13th (left-handed bowling, anyone?)I love going bowling… it’s not anything I’ve ever done very often, and not often enough to warrant buying a custom ball… but I have dreamed about it. My kids really enjoy bowling too, and last year we got to discover the joy of cosmic bowling!

9. Bad Poetry

August 18th – This is one of my favorites!

10. International Tongue Twisters Day

August 20th – I found a website full of twisters… in multiple languages! Warning… the background is dreadfully bright.

11. According to Hoyle Day

August 29th – I see so many kids these days stuck on their tablets, phones, and laptops… or planted in front of video games. When I was growing up, my Mom had According to Hoyle and I wanted to learn to play every single one of them… and it’s not a small book. It contains many card games, as well as their variations. I want my kids to grow with a love for card games too… not just Old Maid, or Slapjack, but classics like Canasta, Pinochle, etc.

12. & 13.  My brother & I share a birthday this month! I won’t tell you when his is, but mine is the 18th! 😉 


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Don’t Put Unnecessary Limitations On Your Children


On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! So this is the 1st post, based on the first item on the list (not placing unnecessary limitations on your children)… next will be the 2nd item, and so on. Enjoy!

Recently I saw a post about a sustainable plastic wrap alternative, made from beeswax… cool huh? Having never run into this sort of product, I started reading the comments to see if anyone had used it/liked it (they had!)… but then I found a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

People were posting their non-traditional uses for this Bee’s Wrap, and one lady said that her 6 year old son (who has some kind of condition that affects his coordination) uses the wrap to stabilize his knife when he’s helping her cut vegetables for dinner.

Most of the responses were encouraging, but there was one lady who replied in horror that this woman would allow her son to use a knife, because children shouldn’t be in the kitchen helping at that age.

Stop right there. (Generalizations ahead, not applying to all persons… just a very, very, large number.)

Did you know that we have an entire generation that doesn’t know how to balance their own budget, because no one’s ever taught them to manage money?

We have a generation that doesn’t know how to cook, because they’ve grown up on pre-packaged, microwaved, or fast food.

We have a generation that doesn’t know how to make a bed, do laundry, or even hold a civil conversation. 

We have adults, who are ill-prepared for being adults, to the point that books are being written to teach someone how to be an adult. And why? Because we’ve created a culture that enables this mentality. No one loses games…. everyone gets a trophy! Children can’t play in their backyard, without nasty neighbors calling social services to claim neglect. No one’s precious little angels are held accountable in school… blame the teachers! And it goes on and on.

Let’s travel back in time about 200 years…

Children had chores… and they didn’t even get an allowance. Shockingly, they were expected to do chores as a member of the family.

They collected eggs.

They milked cows (or goats).

They helped in the garden.

They sewed. (Psssst… they weren’t using “safety needles”)

Children as young as 6 were learning to knit, and those too young to knit were carding wool.

And you don’t even have to go back 200 years to see this… click here to see a picture of Shirley Temple knitting as a young girl… I have friends who have farms, and children still collect eggs, and milk cows, and such.

So you may be curious what this has to do with creativity…

This woman was shocked that someone would allow their less-able child to learn to cook, when she wouldn’t allow her fully-able children to help her in the kitchen. But that’s not a limitation of the child’s skill… it’s a limitation that she arbitrarily placed on them. 

Can every child help at that age? No… Should they cook unsupervised at that age? No…

But is it true that no child can help at that age? Certainly not. The very best training happens at a young age, and it starts with attitude. Teach them that the worst boundaries they ever encounter, will be the ones they allow to be placed on them.