Learning Through Play, Parenting

Budding Photographer

With my blog and Instagram account, the kids are used to me taking 5000 photos of them doing random things or of random objects. Because of this, Emma likes to use this pretend phone…


…to “take pictures” like mommy. Instead of pretending, I handed her my iPhone X (!) one night so she could actually take photos. Yes, I did trust my 4-year-old with my iPhone as long as she held it with both hands and used walking feet. 😉


I did not give her any directions or give her ideas on what to take pictures of. The only limit I set was she had to stay in our backyard and be done when it was dinner time.


I didn’t get a chance to look back through her photos until later that evening when both kids were in bed. I loved seeing the world through her eyes! I also had the chance to see what she valued as important or interesting as she kept taking photos of the same items as they changed or moved.


Her favorite portrait to take is her brother’s. Once she was given an ACTUAL camera, she was kind to give the toy one to Lee so he could join in if he wanted. He was more concerned that mommy left him in the grass with no shoes on (the horror!) than trying to follow his sister around.


She also loves this garden. Earlier this summer she helped us transform it from something out of Jurassic Park to the beautiful little corner it is now. She takes great pride in it and will weed it whenever she sees something growing that’s not supposed to be there.


Many beautiful summer nights have been spent sitting around this fire pit making s’mores and looking up at the stars. I thought her perspective of the fire pit was a perfect example of what life looks like when you’re only 3 1/2 feet tall!


Then she found the filters…


…and the ZOOM


But I think what I loved the most was seeing how many pictures there were of us, her family. Many were candid shots (that blurred or caught us super off-guard) but they were wonderful because it showed what everyday life looks like for our family.


I highly recommend letting your child have free reign of a camera sometime. Yes, you will end up with about 50 random photos on your phone, but getting that glimpse of what life is like through their eyes is totally worth it. I plan on having Emma select some of these to get printed and put into frames to be displayed. I’m hoping it will show her that we value her perspective and her work and that photography truly is an art. After all, who doesn’t want a photo of the sunset in their backyard like this?


Wishing you well,


*All photos posted were taken by my 4-year-old

Learning Through Play, Parenting

Easy Rainbow Rice

Easy Rainbow Rice

I’ve been seeing some awesome posts recently on Instagram about Rainbow Rice and how to make it. It had been a couple of years since I had made colored rice with my Pre-K class, so I figured it was time to try it out again! I had always used the Vinegar Method where rice is put into a baggie and mixed with vinegar and food coloring in the desired color. It works really well and is great if you have a little one that may try to eat it. The draw back I found was colors were not vibrant and the room would reek of vinegar for a few days. When some fellow learning-through-play moms were talking about using PAINT instead, Emma and I had to try it out!

It was also a perfect time to work with Emma on the order of the rainbow. We have two sets of these bowls from IKEA.  One set we use to eat with and the other is used for playtime! They’re cheap, dishwasher safe (!), and great for sorting. Emma poured some uncooked rice into each bowl and then squirted on some paint. We used tempera paint, but I’m under the assumption that just about anything would work fine.


We also have the matching spoons from IKEA.  Emma had fun mixing up each bowl and watching as the rice was covered in the paint! The tricky part was keeping the rice to stay inside the bowl! I did help out when she was done to make sure the rice was fully coated in paint.


Emma then dumped each bowl onto a drying tray and used the spoon to spread the rice out. She was careful not to mix the colors while they were wet!


It was a sunny summer’s day so we set the trays outside to dry in the sun. It was probably dry within an hour (super hot that day!), but it was also nap time so the trays stayed out for about 2.5 hours. When I went to check on the rice again, not only was it completely dry, it had not lost any vibrancy! It was slightly stuck together in places, so I gently ran it through my hands to break it up a bit.


Once it was all broken up, I was able to snap a couple of “Insta-worthy” pictures before I let the littles ones go!


Emma had a blast! I pulled out our Guidecraft Stacking Rainbow Pyramid for her to have something to transfer the rice into. “Look how beautiful it is all mixed up!” says the 4-year-old. 🙂




The smaller stacking blocks made for good scoops. The various sizes also had Emma working on measurement skills. Which block could hold the most rice? How many scoops did it take to fill the big block?


Even Lee got in on the fun! He couldn’t resist the bright colors and he loves doing whatever sissy is doing!


Being 16 months, he did try to eat it a couple of times. This is where the Vinegar Method would still be helpful for little ones. He found his own little block to transfer the rice into and chatted away with Emma.


It’s moments like this when they’re both working together that make my heart full! We spent the majority of the afternoon filling, dumping, spreading, and stacking the rice. It was a wonderful sensory play idea. We had all of the materials in our kitchen and my craft room which meant it was FREE! The paint method will definitely be my go-to recipe for Rainbow Rice from now on. You just can’t beat how easy it was and how beautiful the result is!


Wishing you well,


Family Outings, Parenting

Our First MLS Game

We took some time last week for a weeknight family outing! With Matt’s new job we actually have some time in the evenings to spend as a family of 4 and we’ve been taking advantage of every minute! Although Matt and I were both music majors, since we’ve been married we have followed Columbus sports (and sports in general) pretty closely. Soccer is a game that is easily played in the backyard and one both Emma and Lee love! Always trying to give our children real life experiences, we found a great deal on Columbus Crew tickets and decided to take the kids to their first game. To say Lee had fun is an understatement! We thoroughly enjoyed watching him and interacting with him all night!

(I do have to put a quick disclaimer in that Emma was running a fever for the entire game. She didn’t complain a bit even though we could tell she was miserable. Poor girly!)

Of course we picked up some new gear for the occasion from Homage. Matt and I have a shirt for just about every sports team in our state. We call them “Just In Case” shirts for that moment when we randomly pick up tickets and need something to wear!


We had amazing seats for $20! We ended up right above the tunnel where the players entered/exited but far enough way from the infamous Nordecke that the kids weren’t covering their ears the entire time. Here you can see Lee standing in front of our seats with a perfect view of the pitch and the players entering the field.


It was also Star Wars night, hence the Wookie and Darth Vader leading the team out! Emma did get a kick out of hearing John Williams music played over the speakers in the stadium. It was one of the few times she perked up.


You can tell from the video here that Lee wasn’t hindered by the chanting at all! In fact he LOVED it! He is so responsive to music and a strong beat; I’m interested to see if he has inherited any musical abilities from Matt or myself.

Not only did Lee have fun chanting and clapping along with the Hudson Street Hooligans, he loved the food! The following is a picture montage of my sweet 15-month old eating a giant pretzel.


Pure. Joy.


After all of the cheering, all of the clapping, all of the eating, and following the ball across the field, the little guy had to have a souvenir! He is now in love with his soccer ball and always tries to get us to play with him! “Ball” was one of his first words, so I think it’s pretty safe to assume he’s going to be a sports kid! Even though he’s not walking yet, he’ll push the soccer ball toward one of us and shout until we roll it back to him. We then rinse and repeat until someone gets too tired to play (usually the adult).


Needless to say, our family had an amazing time at the Columbus Crew game! It was a great family friendly event that both of our kids enjoyed. Although Emma was not feeling well, she got first-hand experience at what a professional soccer game looks like and witnessed some of the rules in action.

Professional sports and Columbus go hand-in-hand. Our family experience here is one many families enjoy throughout the season at a Crew SC game. The city of Columbus is fiercely loyal to its teams, and I would be extremely saddened if our MLS team was moved to another city. If you’re from the Columbus area, or just an avid MLS fan, take a look at the website and see how you can help #SaveTheCrew.


Wishing you well,



It’s Okay for Kids to Feel Disappointment

It's Okay for Kids to Feel Disappointment


This past weekend my little guy turned one. We are so lucky because he also shares a birthday with my sister, so it’s twice the fun! My sister and I are three years apart just like my kids, Emma and Lee. When birthdays come around in my family there has been a tradition that the other sibling would also receive a small present so they wouldn’t feel left out. The thought here was that it would be hard for a younger child to understand why their sibling was receiving gifts but they were not. This way no one was left out and everyone felt included.

So when Lee’s birthday came around, I’m not sure why I was surprised that every member of my family also bought Emma a present. While I know that my parents always meant well, I’m not sure I agree with the tradition when it comes to my own children. In this world of “everyone gets a trophy” there’s not much room for teaching children compassion and generosity for others.

Before Lee’s birthday, we spent time talking with Emma about how we were going to celebrate the day Lee was born with family, cake, and giving him and her Aunt presents. The day after Lee’s party, she asked my husband why she had also received presents from everyone. “It wasn’t my birthday, daddy,” she said. “When I went to my friend’s birthday party, I gave him a present, but I didn’t get one. It was his birthday.” Emma was genuinely confused. She was also 100% right.

As parents (and educators) our instinct is to try to save our children from any sort of discomfort. So in an effort to save Emma from feelings of sadness, she was actually robbed of the experience to work through those emotions and learn from the situation. Our ultimate goal is to teach her compassion and generosity for others, so why not give her as many opportunities to do so? If we were to wait until she were at an age to be able to “handle” being left out, what age would that be? When infants learn to walk do we not work with them several times each day until they finally master the skill? We also work with our children on learning letters, colors, and shapes until it is completely ingrained. Social-emotional skills are no different. The more opportunities we give our children to identify and work through their emotions the more adept they will become. Being able to function socially in everyday situations is an important life skill that definitely outweighs my need to “protect” my child from disappointment. Giving children the skills they need to cope with emotions can only result in more well-rounded, compassionate human beings for the future.

Our ultimate goal is to teach her compassion and generosity for others, so why not give her as many opportunities to do so? If we were to wait until she were at an age to be able to “handle” being left out, what age would that be? When infants learn to walk do we not work with them several times each day until they finally master the skill? We also work with our children on learning letters, colors, and shapes until it is completely ingrained. Social-emotional skills are no different. The more opportunities we give our children to identify and work through their emotions the more adept they will become. Being able to function socially in everyday situations is an important life skill that definitely outweighs my need to protect my child from disappointment. Giving children the tools they need to cope with emotions can only result in more well-rounded, compassionate human beings for the future.

Wishing you well,



More for our Boys

Below is a Facebook post I had published this past November. I have been asked to share that post again and welcome your feedback and discussion!

heart breaker

Lee has been growing recently and currently has very little clothing that fits him. So at the end of a very long work week, I took both kids to a clothing store before heading home. If you’re a momma or know kids at all you know this process must be done quickly otherwise impending meltdowns ensue. I picked up several things, but one was this sweater made by Carter’s. When we got home I showed off all of the new things to my husband, Matt, and cooed over this one saying, “It even says ‘handsome like daddy!’ It’ll be cute for Valentine’s day!”

Today I can’t believe I actually spent hard-earned money on this and I’ll tell you why.

When Emma was born I knew that I wanted her to be her own person. Yes, I know those things get influenced by Matt and I’s personal interests and tastes, but I didn’t want her to not do something because it wasn’t what “girls do.” She loves things like tea parties, unicorns, Sophia the First, and magic wands. But she also loves hockey, dragons, Dude Perfect, and swords. As a result, I have this amazing daughter who confuses pediatricians because “daddy uses the vacuum” and “I wasn’t a princess, I was a knight for Halloween.” We always try to encourage her so that she can complete any task she puts her mind to. Yes, she might need some help in the process, but ultimately the success is hers and I never want her to feel like she needs someone else to help her do it.

There are two other things that really influence our parenting style: The Golden Rule and Conscious Discipline. Treat others as you want to be treated, and remember that it’s ok to feel the way you do; it’s how we handle those emotions that not only make us stronger individuals, but better citizens. We teach her that her actions, both positive and negative, have an effect on others’ emotions. Through this, we try to teach her empathy, consequences, positive intent, assertiveness, and composure.

There’s been a big push recently in the education world and society in general to do a lot of these things for our young daughters that Matt and I have done with Emma. STEM education, #feminism, pictures of women CEO’s and clothing for girls saying things like “do all things with kindness,” “Love will light the way,” and “kind heart, fierce mind, brave soul.”

But what about our sons? The same major clothing retailer that’s selling those wonderful tees for girls also has these tees for our boys: “I’ve got game,” “heart throb,” “let the shenanigans begin,” and my personal fav, “boys will be boys.” Why is this ok? Why do we tell our daughters to be kind, brave, and gentle but our sons to party, hurt the feelings of others and you’re forgiven because you’re a boy?

I think what bothers me the most is that it’s so easy for us to gloss over these societal norms and not pay attention to the bigger message something like this sweater—for a baby—passes along to our boys. The only thing I was thinking when I bought this was how cute and sweet I think Lee is now and how handsome I believe he will be as he grows up. That does not give him an excuse to intentionally hurt another person. I know, I know, “Heather you’re being ridiculous, he’s only a baby. He doesn’t even understand that his clothing has letters on it.” But then that turns into “He’s only 4, he can’t read yet,” and before you know it he’s 8 and then 14 buying God only knows what at Hollister and Abercrombie that just perpetuates the issue and the cycle goes on and on and on.

I’ll keep this sweatshirt though. No, Lee will never wear it, but I’ll keep it as a reminder that I want more for my son. I want him to grow up the same way we are raising Emma—that he can be and do whatever he wants. Whether that’s an athlete, doctor, scientist, ballerina, secretary, or stay at home dad is completely up to him. We will teach him that his actions have an effect on others and The Golden Rule is applicable in all walks of life. These sayings and social norms will still continue around us and they will only stop if we actively make them. I can’t make another parent see things the way I see them or force retailers to stop producing merchandise like this. But I can teach Emma and Lee that it’s not ok. And they can teach their children. And maybe, just maybe, the cycle will stop.

Wishing you well,