Austin Kids' Directory Blog

Creating Creativity

Creating Creativity

Creating Creativity
By Bernadette Noll

We want our kids to be creative and so we buy them all kinds of craft kits and maker kits. It’s true these kits are designed to help our kids create, but they are not designed to encourage our kids’ creativity. Usually the kits are designed to make one thing and one thing only, with implicit instructions on how to do so. This is fine if you want to make one thing and one thing only, but why teach our children to merely assemble a product when we can teach them to dream up something unique?

How then can we provide our kids a make/craft experience that will truly foster creativity? What if we’re not creative ourselves? How can we allow them to interpret the materials using their own ideas and ingenuity without getting in their way? It’s easy really. Way easier than trying to control it! And when we get out of their way we will be amazed at what they come up with.
To get you and your family started, here are four simple steps for fostering creativity in your house or classroom:

1.       Have simple tools handy. If we give them the tools, they will build stuff. To get them started on many projects have a small “maker” tool box handy. This can be kept in a cigar box or other small box that is easy to grab. The easier it is to grab the tools, the more likely it is they will be used and the easier it is to clean up! Some basic ideas: glue, decent scissors, a hole punch, a large-eye plastic sewing needle, and a glue gun if you are working with older kids.

2.       Provide the materials. Put an assortment of materials in a box and give it to a child. The container will make it feel like a kit, but the materials inside will get them pondering all the possibilities as seen through their own brilliant imaginations. It is said that childhood is the time our imaginations are the most vivid, and if we don’t use our imaginations then, we never will. We can foster imagination by staying away from instructions and instead providing open-ended materials that will allow their minds to wander. Some ideas for your creativity box: fabric sample book, wall-paper sample book, sheet protectors, colored cardstock or scrapbook paper, a ball of string or yarn, cut-up pieces of corrugated cardboard, burlap, buttons, chop sticks or kabob sticks, embroidery floss (I recommend the pearl style floss that can’t be separated and is easier for little hands to work with) and some type of simple fasteners such as brads. All of these things and more can be found at Austin Creative Reuse for less than $2.00 total! If you’d rather stay at home, search around for items you could use such as scraps of denim, magazines, the plastic coated postcard mailers, snaps cut from a discarded garment, old keys, or items pulled from the recycling bin.

3.       Let go of the outcome. If you have an outcome in mind, feel free to offer it as a serving suggestion but then step back and let your child go wild. If you really can’t let go of the outcome, sit down and make it yourself but stay away from dictating your child’s project. By sitting down next to them and working on your own stuff, your child will be inspired by both your ideas and your own desire to create.

4.       Have fun. If you can’t let go, walk away. If you’re not finding it fun, walk away. Creativity should be fun, not stressful so do whatever it takes to set yourselves up for success. Work outside if the mess makes you wiggy. Cover the table with a drop cloth if you can’t take your eyes off the glue dripping out of the bottle. Close the door if you feel triggered by the chaos. Whatever you do, keep it fun.

Make a field trip to the Austin Creative Reuse Center the first step in your family’s road to creativity! Come solo or bring the kids. You’ll be amazed at what you find. If you need ideas for projects or materials, just ask! Both the employees and customers at Austin Creative Reuse are happy to share ideas and inspiration. Check out the website for hours and project inspiration:

Bernadette Noll is a writer, maker, mother and the education outreach coordinator for Austin Creative Reuse. If you have questions about projects or ways to bring Austin Creative Reuse into your classroom or school, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Plan for College Early!

Plan for College Early!

Plan for college early and save yourself a headache later!

Too often families come into our office during their child’s senior year to discuss college admissions and the planning process. “Where do I start?” they ask. My answer, “Years ago.”

We all look at our little ones and imagine their bright futures; successful, happy, educated, and cultured. We all want the best for our children, and this typically includes obtaining a college education to serve as the backbone for their future success. There are several actions we can take now, when our students are young, to prepare for a smooth and successful transition into college. Actions that benefit both them and our wallets in the long run.

Build on your student’s strengths and aspirations. The core of college prep begins with guiding your student to explore their interests and think about their own strengths. Focusing their extracurricular activities on these areas encourages students to set the bar high for themselves and think abstractly about areas for improvement.

Start saving ASAP. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at four-year public institutions have increased by 51% in the last decade (adjusted for inflation).* What does this mean for you? Start saving yesterday. 529 plans in particular are operated on a state level and are specifically designed to assist families in setting aside money for college funds. These plans offer federal advantages and also may be eligible for state tax deductions. The best part is that grandparents or other contributing members can also gift to an existing account.

Talk about the big picture. As your youngsters begin to have the ability to select their own language, science, and math courses, make sure that they see the big picture. Have a discussion with them to explain how taking challenging courses now impacts their path through high school. When children see rigorous courses as opportunities rather than requirements, they become more engaged in their own learning and school in general.

College Nannies + Sitters + Tutors is the nation’s most respected, complete and professional resource helping busy families raise smart, confident, well-adjusted kids. We’ve been a part of the Austin community since 2007, and have helped hundreds of busy parents carve out time for themselves with a sitter, have help on hand with a part-time or full-time nanny, or get their college bound student the tutoring they need to succeed. For more information, check out our website or call us at 512-372-8385.

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Summer STEM Bucket List

Summer STEM Bucket List

Keep your little scientist engaged this summer with these exciting STEM challenges! They are hands-on, collaborative, and encourage your future engineer to think creatively to solve problems.

Challenge #1 Rock and Roll(ercoaster)

Overview: Individually or with some friends, summer scientists will design and build a rollercoaster!
Materials needed:

A cardboard box or a piece of cardboard for the base
A hot glue gun and glue sticks
Straws – solid color ones are fun!
A ping pong ball
A bowl to catch the ball at the bottom (optional)

Challenge #2 Wet and Wild Waterslide

Overview: Individually or with some friends, summer scientists will design and build a waterslide!

Materials needed:

Cardboard tubes & small cups
Masking Tape
Straws – solid color ones are fun!
Small toys to test out your slide
Pipe cleaners
Water of course!

Challenge #3 Blast-Off Boats!

Overview: Individually or with some friends, summer scientists will explore movement powered by science through designing and building boats!

Materials needed:

Electrical Tape
Bottle Cap
Your choice of recycled materials (cardboard, plastic, foam, etc. )
Baking Soda
Water of course!

Science IS Sweet Extra Challenge!

Overview: Individually or with some friends, summer scientists will explore states of matter as they make their own ice cream in a bag!

Materials needed:

One gallon sized baggie
One quart or sandwich sized baggie
½ cup rock salt
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
Flavor: a few drops of vanilla or chocolate sauce (optional)

The goal of STEM education is to create confidence while building perseverance through experimentation and investigation. To best prepare future leaders for our ever changing global world, International School of Texas is proud to provide our students, Early Childhood-Grade 5, with a fully equipped STEM/Inquiry Lab. The lab serves as an inquiry driven classroom that encourages collaboration between students to creatively solve problems. Do you have a little scientist eager for more STEM education? Visit our website to learn more or call (512) 351-3403 to schedule a tour.

-Bethani Emery, Director of Admissions, International School of Texas

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Austin Kid’s Directory 20th Anniversary Skate Party on July 23rd!

Austin Kid’s Directory 20th Anniversary Skate Party on July 23rd!

The Austin Kid's Directory is celebrating their 20th Anniversary with a Skate Party & Fundraiser for the The Junior League of Austin's FIT Program (Food in Tummies). Everyone is invited to this family friendly event on July 23rd from 6-9pm! Bring your friends and family and come celebrate 20 years with us! Kiwi the Clown ( will be there with face painting & balloon twisting! The concession stand will be open for purchases of snacks and of course there will be birthday cake:)

Admission cost is a minimum $5 donation per person to the FIT Program and includes skates (roller blades can be rented from Playland for an additional $3) and use of indoor playscape for kids under the height of 52".

Guests will receive 1 raffle ticket for every $5 donated and can choose which prizes they would like to have a chance to win. The more you donate the more chances you have to win AND the more money raised to support FIT. They provide weekend meals for economically disadvantaged students. With a donation of just $5 FIT can provide a child with a backpack of weekend nutrition. Help us help them make a difference for these kids in our community!

Raffle for GREAT prizes donated by:

Ashley's Playhouse Drop-in Childcare
British Swim School Austin
Catch Air
Austin Zoo
Mt. Playmore
Bullock Texas State History Museum
Slavin Nadal School of Ballet
Playland Skate Center
Austin Yard Cards
Main Event
KAOS Children's Hair Salon
The Golf School
Round Rock Express
Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
and MORE!

Raffles will be drawn at 8pm...must be present to win.

Limited tickets to this event are available so mark your calendar and get your tickets early by visiting Eventbrite.

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5 Minutes and 10 Simple Things That COULD SAVE YOUR CHILD’S LIFE!

5 Minutes and 10 Simple Things That COULD SAVE YOUR CHILD’S LIFE!

Would you do something for 5 minutes if it meant that you might save your child’s life?

If you say YES, then keep reading. Your 5 minutes has already begun.

Summer is here and the water is calling to you and your family as you look for fun places to beat the heat. I ask you to please take water seriously and helping to prevent your children from drowning. Last year, Texas lost 107 children to fatal drownings while 6-7X more survived a non-fatal drowning incident. This year, our numbers are already up to 40! We must change our behaviors to keep our children (and ourselves) safe around water.

My name is Alissa Magrum and I am the Executive Director of the local drowning prevention nonprofit, Colin’s Hope, and a mom to 3 pre-teen girls, all who are strong swimmers. 9 years ago, I didn’t think drowning was something I needed to worry about at all.

Then Colin drowned.
And Connor drowned.
And Averie drowned.
And Tristan and Elise and Paxton and Emma Grace and Brandon and Xander and so many other children drowned.
And Clay and Jack and Brady and Mason so many more children survived drowning incidents.

These children have changed my mind. Drowning is something I do NEED to worry about. And so do YOU! I love water and so does my family-but water is NOT safe. Water will never be completely safe BUT I am going to tell you a few simple things and few small behavior changes you can make that can help keep you and your family to be safeR around water.

Are you in yet? Think about it---we take 20 seconds every time we get in the car to buckle our babies into car seats to keep them safeR. We spend countless minutes reminding our kiddos to put a helmet on before they pedal off to keep them safeR on bikes and scooters. We do these small behaviors over and over because we know they can help prevent tragedies.

I ask you to please take 3 minutes and take the Colin’s Hope water safety quiz here. Then read on and you can quickly add water safety tools to your parenting toolbox (our your pool bag).

10 simple things YOU can do NOW to help prevent drowning:

* Talk to your kids about water safety and tell them to NEVER get in water without an adult Water Guardian (that’s YOU or another adult).

* Understand that drowning is FAST and SILENT.

* Keep Kids in Arm’s Reach when near, in and around water.

* Enroll in formal swim lessons and learn to swim.

* Ensure that your pool and your neighbors pools are fenced and have self latching/ locking gates.

* Weak and non-swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved and properly fitted life jacket NOT water wings or floats.

* Teach kids to stay away from pool drains to avoid entrapment.

* Learn CPR

* Visit and learn more, volunteer or donate.

* Share this information with your friends and family- it could save a life!

Colin’s Hope has a vision of a world where children do not drown. I hope that you will share this vision and this important water safety information as we endure another long, hot Texas summer.

In the words of Colin Holst--Have the Best Day Ever!
-Alissa Magrum,
Mom, Colin’s Hope Executive Director, Swimmer

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