Easing the Transition to Summer Vacation!

Girl with wildflowersWhen my kids were in elementary school, the first few days of summer vacation were always horrible: lots of bickering & obstinate behavior! It finally dawned on me: they were struggling with the transition from school to the unstructured days of summer! Transitions are tough for kids, especially those who have ADD/ADHD tendencies. Although they were totally stoked, getting into our summer groove was tough. Here are some ideas to ease the transition for you & your kids:Summer Schedule


  • Whether you’re home with kids or they’re with a caregiver, develop some kind of a structure, even if it is way more relaxed than during the school year. And, communicate the structure to the kids many times in different ways.
  • At the beginning of the summer, brainstorm fun things that everyone wants to do and put all viable suggestions in a jar on little pieces of paper. Then, when you are trying to come up with an activity, you can reach into the jar and pull out a slip! See what Pop Sugar calls the Ultimate Nostalgic Summer Bucket List. 
  • Sure, elementary age kids generally don’t take naps anymore, but it is okay to set aside quiet time. This keeps kids from becoming too overstimulated and tired and builds in a sanity break for you or a caregiver.
  • Limit electronics to encourage outdoor play and other activities that the kids don’t get enough of during the school year.
  • Seize the opportunity to take care of medical, dental, eye appointments & other things that can make your life extra stressful once school starts.
  • Designate kids’ shelves in the refrigerator and a cupboard. Stock with healthy snacks so kids can easily help themselves, as well as cups that can be used for water. This builds some self-reliance and keeps them from coming to you every 5 minutes saying “I’m hungry!”

Boys at the beach

Drawing IS a Learned Skill

Pencil Drawing
College Drawing

I remember being told in college “anyone can be pretty good at drawing because it is an actual learned skill. We may not all be Michelangelo, but that’s ok!” While it may take more practice and instruction for some of us than for others, I definitely agree. There are really two main components: accurately seeing what we are trying to draw and the mechanical techniques of drawing.

This month’s box is on shape & form using high quality drawing pencils and a kneaded eraser. The activity starts with a book on shapes because I believe that one of the goals of art instruction for kids (heck for any age,) is to get them to begin really seeing and noticing things around them. The idea behind using the book on shapes and card stock shapes that kids can manipulate is to help them understand that everything they see is composed of shapes and if they can begin to identify the shapes it is much easier to break complex images down into understandable bite sized chunks!

Pencil drawing of a simple ice cream cone.
An ice cream cone comprised of simple shapes.

One of the problems we can run into when trying to draw something, is that we are trying to draw what we think the image should look like instead of really seeing it! If you or your child are attempting to draw something from a photograph or other printed image, one easy way to trick your brain is to turn the image upside down. That way, instead of drawing what you think a horse should look like, your brain is forced to notice the lines, shapes and angles that you see because it isn’t registering the image as a horse.

Another way to train your brain is to do a blind contour drawing. Pick a point to begin  on the outside outline of the image you are going to draw. Put your pencil tip on your drawing paper at a correlating location. Keeping your eyes only on the image you are attempting to draw, move your pencil to create the outside outline of the object on your paper. Do NOT pick your pencil up off the paper or peek at your drawing! Contour drawings are one continuous line and are often a bit scribbly but I bet when you are finished and you look at your drawing, you will be amazed! Happy drawing! If you want more information about drawing as a learned skill, take a look at this article.

Blind Contour Drawing
Blind Contour Drawing

Indoor Icky Weather Fun

We’re in the final, seemingly interminable, stretch of winter weather. In Seattle, we have as many names for rain as Alaskans have for snow. Parents are all looking for engaging indoor activities right now. Frankly, I don’t even really want my dogs to go outside because they get all wet and dirty and leave a trail through the house when they come in!

What to do with the kids?

Well, (shameless plug,) the first thing to do is subscribe to Outside the Box Creation so that once per month you’ll receive an art box sure to captivate & stimulate your kids’ imaginations for hours! But what else can you do? Graffiti! Yep, graffiti.

Artistic graffiti photo

Have you and your kids ever seen graffiti while out in the car, walking or taking public transit? Graffiti is actually gaining some credibility as a legitimate art form. I’m referring to those simple tags, where someone just spray painted his/her name on a building. Rather, I’m talking about the more complex pieces of street art that often also convey a social or political message or value. Also, speaking of tags, of course you’ll want to explain to your kids the difference between creating art on a surface or building that you have permission to use versus vandalism, which is a crime. If you don’t have any good graffiti art near you, you can find a book about it at the library or look it up online. Just one word of caution here, I would recommend, depending on the ages of your children, looking it up yourself first because not all content is kid appropriate.

Now, the fun part….

Get a roll or some big sheets of newsprint or butcher paper. Both relatively easy to find and inexpensive. Tape several big sheets to a wall using painter’s tape to protect your wall. Make sure the sheets are really large so that kids have lots of room for creativity and a huge margin for error! The absolutely coolest art supplies to give your kids for this are blow-pens! They are markers that kids blow in. They create a wonderful airbrush/spray paint effect without the expense and toxicity. Make sure the markers you purchase are washable just in case. They are really bright and fun alone and also work well with stencils. You don’t need to purchase a kit with stencils though, encourage your kids to make their own out of cardboard or found objects. Have fun!

Graffiti Street art in Montreal
Graffiti Street-art Montréal Wall

3 Ways to Overcome fear of Creativity

Creativity Takes Courage graphic

Just engaging in the creative process is good for your brain and can actually make you happier! But, darn it, it can be scary! Next time you sit down to do something you deem creative, try to let go of the outcome and enjoy the process knowing it is never time wasted. Here are three strategies to help yu begin to move past that fear.

• Julia Cameron, author of the best-selling book, The Artist’s Way, advises people to go on an artist date once per week to spark imagination and whimsy! They don’t have to be strictly arty in nature. An artist date could be giving yourself permission to walk through a retail store that you find particularly visually stimulating, going on a walk in nature or looking through magazines for an hour. The idea is just to let things you see spark your imagination – even if you never do anything else with those sparks, you are still building your creative muscles!

• Next time you have a problem to solve try listing all of the conventional ways people solve it and then come up with 3 new ways (no wrong answers here.)Many of the technological innovations in our country have come from taking a solution from another situation or industry and applying it in unexpected ways. When you do this, in addition to solving a problem,  you are being creative and feeding your brain. The more you do this, the more confident you will become in your creativity!

We also recommend:
• Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
• Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius
• Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”