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Little Rock Family Blog

Events, activities, news, insight and opinion from the trenches of parenthood by Little Rock Family Magazine Editor Heather Bennett and her editorial staff. Share tips, news and feedback with Heather here.
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LR Christian Elementary Art Teacher Lisa Phillips on Kindling Creativity

Fostering creativity in your children not only helps entertain them and provides priceless family bonding time, but also has cognitive and emotional benefits they carry through school and on into adulthood. Here, Little Rock Family teams up with a couple of local artists and moms for advice on helping parents help their kiddos tap into their artsy sides.

Little Rock Christian Academy’s Elementary Art Teacher, Lisa Phillips set down her paint brush for a moment to answer a few questions.

LRF: What were your creative influences and inspirations as a child?

Lisa Phillips: My mom is very creative and both of my parents encouraged me to pursue my love for art from a very early age. I really struggled academically from kindergarten on, so art and horses were where I could thrive and find some confidence. My dad also had a learning disability so he knew how important it was to find your gift and passion. Having a learning disability created a very strong work ethic in us. He graduated number 1 in his law school; and I worked harder to get by in my main stream classes so I could pursue a major in art. I love teaching art because of how it helped me overcome those struggles. I see myself in so many of the students I teach. Also young children are so very creative and it never gets old seeing how this can come to life in their work!

What is your advice for parents who say “I’m not crafty or artsy?”

I would tell them the same thing I tell my students. We are all created in the image of God. And guess what? He is the ultimate Creator so it’s in there.

The older we get, the more self-conscious we become about our art work. Even students in 3rd and 4th grade start to become afraid of messing up or making a mistake. I tell them to just take a risk and try! There are no mistakes in art and sometimes what we think are mistakes, turn out to be our best masterpieces.

What are early ways to foster creativity with kids?

When my kids were young I almost always had some art project going on and they got to do their own next to me. They were exposed to pottery, painting, drawing, stringing beads, and anything I was doing from as early as they could hold a pencil. I also let them make mud pies in the yard and play outside as much as possible. There are so many wonderful things you can find to do on these cold winter days just walking the aisles at Hobby Lobby. Or call the Arkansas Arts Center and let them take some classes. I also know of several art teachers that will teach small groups of children or private lessons. Just start young, don’t worry about making a mess or the end result of the art pieces they are doing. Let them explore and enjoy the process. Have them help you clean up and set up as well. Always display their work!

What supplies should parents keep on hand?

I would keep Play-Doh, colored pencils, crayons, washable paints and markers, watercolor and oil pastels when they get around kindergarten. I love good tempera paint on craft paper. It is worth it to get watercolor paper in bulk for painting projects. My kids also had fun mixing food colors in clear glasses to discover how to create new colors. Make sure to display their art no matter what it looks like!

What are some things for parents to keep in mind when working with youngsters creatively?

Try not to micromanage too much other than teaching them how to hold the utensils, wash and dry brushes and such. Also teach them the difference between warm and cool colors and have them only mix “like colors” at first so things don’t get too muddy looking. With drawing you can start teaching them basic shapes and lines. Also cutting out simple shapes will really help with hand-eye coordination. Have fun with art and let them explore.

What are some safety guidelines or other things you think parents should keep in mind?

Just make sure the materials they are using are not toxic and keep an eye on them. One of my three could not be trusted with markers if I left the room. He would get a little too creative on the furniture or walls. If it is washable, it is probably safe.

What are some things you’ve actually done with your children?

At LRCA I try to expose my students to a lot of different medias. Pottery, watercolor, oil pastel, wire sculpture, collage, charcoal, tempera painting, copper foiling, block prints, etc. The overall favorite here at school is pottery. I use low fire white clay that is already “bubble free.” Students learn how to hand build, slip and score so they can attach pieces. After their masterpieces are fired they are finished off with bright colored wax (crayons) and topped with Mod-Podge that is stained with black tempera. This brings out the texture and adds shine and protection.

Creative Motivations

The next time you’re trying to inspire creativity at home, take this advice from local artist Delita Martin (this month’s cover mom), who also happens to be a former pre-school teacher and educator. She says, “I had the encouragement to nurture the impossible and it made all the difference in my life!” 

  • Pay attention to your children and be open to what they’re interested in.
  • Play and experiment with what they want to do.
  • Nurture the idea of the impossible and fantastic and developing it into reality and the realistic.
  • Nurture who they want to be.
  • Support your child to experiment artistically. Exploration and experience are priceless.

Registration Open for Tiny Trojan Dance Camp on Feb. 14

Take note, tiny dancers! Registration is now open for the Tiny Trojan Dance Camp, a one-day camp taught by the UALR dance team. Campers ages 5-12 will learn a dance at the Jack Stephens Center the morning of Feb. 14. Later in the afternoon, the young dancers will perform during halftime at the UALR women's basketball game against Georgia Southern.

Campers will also receive a pink camp t-shirt, snacks and drinks, and two tickets to the day's basketball game. Attendees are asked to wear pants, leggings or shorts that are easy to move in, as well as tennis shoes or jazz shoes.

Check-in is from 9:30-10 a.m. Feb. 14, and the camp is held from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Campers will return at 2 p.m. to rehearse prior to the 3 p.m. game where they will perform.

Cost is $30 per camper. To register, email UALR dance coach Sara Beth Wyatt at sbwyatt@yahoo.com, and include your child’s full name, age and t-shirt size. The deadline to register is Wednesday, Feb. 11.

Girls on the Run Takes to the Pavement in Central Arkansas

You could say Jenny Paul’s three young daughters pushed her into acting on a longstanding desire to help girls deal with the pressures of growing up. Watching her own girls a couple of years ago, Jenny wondered why girls begin to care more about the opinions of others than their own. Why do girls lose confidence in themselves?

When they’re 5 or 6 years old, “they aren’t measuring themselves by somebody else’s standards. Fast forward to when girls are in middle school and everything they think about themselves is based on what other people are going to think about it.”

More than a decade ago, Jenny became acquainted with the Girls on the Run program in Charleston, South Carolina. She clipped a short article out of a newspaper about how the program was helping girls there and around the country to recognize they have the power to overcome challenges and to embrace their uniqueness.

For years she’d had the desire to establish a council in Little Rock but put it on the back burner. She was incredibly busy focusing on being a wife and mother and practicing pediatrics. It wasn’t until she saw how her daughters each pursued their own interests without comparisons or seeking another’s approval that she wondered, why do girls turn down their inner voices and turn up the outside noise.

“They don’t have to internalize all of the messages that are given to them.” – Jenny Paul

“Girls on the Run so purposefully addresses all of that because girls pay attention to the louder messages… look this certain way, act this way. Girls on the Run wants girls to pay attention to the messages that tell them to be true to who they are, not what someone else tells them they should be.”

Over a 10-12 week period after school each fall and spring, girls in third through fifth grades learn skills to help build confidence and how to properly nurture their physical and emotional health. GOTR, as it’s also known, has three goals for each season: that girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them; that they understand the importance of team work and healthy relationships; and lastly, that the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world around them.

Despite “run” being a part of the name, Jenny says “we’re not breeding competitive runners. Every girl needs this. If I could communicate one thing, it would be that Girls on the Run is for every girl, because every girl really is at risk of succumbing to society’s pressures to be someone they’re not.”

Physical activity is incorporated into the season, and at the end of the three months, girls participate in a 5k run with a parent or a volunteer running buddy.

“We want the girls to push themselves, but that means different things for different girls. Each girl determines her own goals for the 5k.”

Girls love it. So do their parents. During its first season in the fall of 2013, Girls on the Run of Central Arkansas enrolled 19 girls at Pulaski Heights Elementary. Its third season last fall concluded with 70 girls having participated at Pulaski Heights and four new sites: Jefferson Elementary, Our Lady of the Holy Souls School, The Racquet Club and Meadowcliff Elementary. In February, the program expands to Forest Heights STEM Academy and into Saline County.

“One of the things that has helped us the most is girls telling their friends just how much they enjoyed the program. One mother told me her daughter wanted to enroll because she’d had a friend in GOTR last season.”

Jenny says she’d like to take the credit for that, but instead underscores the effectiveness of the program’s curriculum.

“It’s not one size fits all. I like to say it is one size fits each girl uniquely.”

Jenny points to GOTR’s online parent blog to back her up. It reads, “During the course of her two seasons with Girls on the Run last year, her mother and I observed our girl on the run become confident and secure… The program is not about running. Our girl on the run has not taken off to become an aspiring athlete. Competition may be something with which she is never fully comfortable, but she is comfortable with herself.”

Jenny affirms, “And that’s from a dad! How could I not want to be a part of that?”

Things to Remember about Girls on the Run

  • Check out GOTRCentralArk.org
  • Online registration begins Jan. 26
  • Season starts week of Feb. 16
  • Spring season 5k in May
  • 5k volunteer opportunities available!

“If you haven’t been a Girls on the Run graduation run buddy before, I highly recommend you sign up. It’s great to be reminded of the young heart and mind. To see these girls all encouraging one another is fantastic. Also volunteer to paint faces if you want to experience true innocence and non-judgmental appreciation of your ‘artistic talents.’ The kids were so sweet and complimentary of my sad attempts at an owl, cat, butterfly, and werewolf. I have to admit I was having an afternoon where I really wanted to curl up in bed and leave the day behind, but I’m so glad I didn’t. This was just what my heart and soul needed.” -Leah Thorvilson, Elite American Marathoner

Join the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program from CALS

Image by Shutterstock

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) recently announced a new, free program just for families: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. The program encourages families with young children to read--yep, you guessed it--1,000 books before they enter kindergarten.

CALS will provide parents with all of the tools they need to participate, including suggested reading lists and log sheets that parents use to keep track of the completed book titles. For every 100 books read and logged, children will receive a sticker. Parents can log books they've read at home, books teachers have read to children during preschool hours or even books read during a library storytime!

Once 10 stickers have been collected, the participating child will receive a free book to take home. The best part: Of course, you can find all of the 1,000 books for free at the library.

The official kick-off event for the program will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27 at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library and Learning Center. Parents are invited to attend and learn more about the program. You can also sign up at your neighborhood CALS library branch or get started at CALS.org/1000-Books.

Improve Your Child's Sleep with This 5-Minute Bedroom Makeover

Kids with sleep troubles aren’t alone—70 percent of children under ten experience a sleep problem several nights a week, according to a University of Houston study. If your family is stuck in the bleary haze of sleep deprivation, your child’s bedroom could be the source of the problem.

According to Roslinde Collins, M.D., medical director of Rutland Regional Medical’s Sleep Center in Vermont, and Lacie Petitto, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner under Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Pulminary Division of Sleep Medicine, sleeping in a space that’s too bright, too warm, or too stimulating can wreak havoc on healthy sleep patterns. Sleep science is pointing the way to a better bedroom that’s a sanctuary for sleep. These simple bedroom fixes could put your child’s sleep troubles to rest:

Bedroom Blunder: Too Much Light

The soft light streaming through your child’s bedroom window can seriously impact sleep quality. Exposure to artificial light has drastically increased over the last 100 years, and the negative effect on our health and wellbeing is powerful.

Why It’s Critical
Light exposure is one of the strongest regulators of the biological clock, says Patrick Wolcott, M.D., medical director of the Sleep Center of Southern California. Nighttime light—even the glow from your child’s monitor or alarm clock—suppresses melatonin and disrupts circadian rhythms. And, Lacie Petitto, APN at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, says “Excess light triggers the brain to stay wakeful.”

Quick Fixes
Make the house as dark as possible in the hours before bed by drawing curtains and limiting television and video games. Tiny beams of light can impact sleep, so black out the bedroom by installing light-blocking shades, shutting off electronics, and turning bright alarm clocks toward the wall.

All lights aren’t created equal. Blue lights (like those on many modern gadgets) are especially harmful. “Something about the blue light spectrum affects sleep-wake patterns more than regular white light,” says psychologist Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Bedroom Blunder: Too Warm

When people put up with a too-warm bedroom, sleep suffers. If summer sunlight is turning your child’s bedroom into a sauna, chilling out can improve his ability to fall asleep quickly at bedtime and sleep through the night.

Why It’s Critical
Bedroom temperature is about more than comfort; it’s an important physiological cue, says Harris. First, a drop in body temperature triggers sleep. Then the body naturally cools over the course of the night, reaching its lowest core temperature two hours before waking. Sleeping in a space that’s too warm is linked to nightmares, night waking, even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

While the ideal bedroom temperature is largely a matter of personal preference, experts say cool rules. “Between 68 to 70 degrees is the most comfortable average temperature,” says Lacie Petitto, APN.

Quick Fixes
If air conditioning is an option, use it to cool the bedroom before turning in. Otherwise, open windows and use fans to help move warm air out of the bedroom. Blackout shades are also helpful, because a room that stays darker will also stay cooler.

Bedroom Blunder: Too Stimulating

Modern kids’ bedrooms are often home to heaps of electronics, stacks of homework, jumbles of toys, and piles of books. It all adds up to a space that sends your child’s brain into overdrive, instead of into restful sleep.

Why It’s Critical
When it comes to sleep, kids’ bodies crave routine and repetition, says Wolcott. So watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet before bed program the brain to wake up when it should be settling down for sleep.

Quick Fixes
Make your child’s bedroom a haven for sleep by banning laptops, video games, and television. If reading in bed is a cherished habit, set a time limit on bedtime reading and provide light reading materials.

Bedroom Blunder: Too Messy

Turns out, moms are right—a messy bedroom can be hazardous to your child’s health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who make their beds daily are 19 percent more likely to sleep well every night. And 71 percent of Americans say they sleep better in a fresh-smelling bedroom.

Why It’s Critical
Climbing into a clean, fresh bed helps children relax and set aside their cares, while messy, unkempt rooms may provoke stress.

Quick Fixes
Daily bed-making should be a family habit. To invoke even more calm, adopt the feng shui-inspired habit of closing closet and bedroom doors before tuck-in. Creating a sense of order in the bedroom helps pave the way for sweeter dreams, starting tonight.

Take a few minutes to improve your child’s sleeping space with these quick fixes from sleep expert Shelby Harris, Psy.D.:

  • Make the bed and remove heavy, out-of-season blankets
  • Cover windows, bright electronics, and other light sources
  • Close closet doors, bathroom doors, and dresser drawers
  • Remove piles of laundry, stacks of paper, and unfinished homework
  • Leave the video games, laptop, cell phones, and electronics in another room
  • Plug in a fan or white noise machine

5 Events for Weekend Fun: Construction Workshops, Anastasia and Opera

Image by Shutterstock

Introduce your tots to opera, construction or the national bird this weekend! A handful of events will offer lots of family fun, from outdoor activities to indoor performances. And don't forget that the Clinton Center recently unveiled its new "Peanuts"-themed exhibits!

Here are our top five events this weekend, Jan. 23-25.

ASO Presents: Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at Albert Pike Memorial Temple: The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with Opera In The Rock, and sponsored by Landers FIAT, opens the 2014-2015 Intimate Neighborhood Concerts series with Mozart’s two-part opera, "The Magic Flute." The performance includes a full cast and exciting performances in an acoustically-unique venue. $25; students $10. Performances are 7 p.m. Jan. 22 & 23. For info: (501) 666-1761, ArkansasSymphony.org.

"Rumpelstiltskin" at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre: "Rumpelstiltskin," the newest musical to hit the stage at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre, will open this Friday, Jan. 23. Based on the German tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, the children's story is adapted for the stage by Keith Smith. Playgoers will recognize the familiar plot line about a sneaky dwarf and a girl who lies to the king about her ability to spin straw into gold. The magical dwarf promises to help the girl, but for a price. In the end, the girl must guess his strange name or else give the dwarf her first child. $12.50 for children and adults & $10 for AAC members; Pay What You Can Night is 7 p.m. Jan. 22. Showtimes are: 7 p.m. Fridays & 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Jan. 23-Feb. 8. For info: (501) 372-4000, ArkansasArtsCenter.org.

Construction Saturdays: Build It Lab at Museum of Discovery: For five consecutive Saturdays, construction and engineering professionals teach museum visitors about building! Each Saturday will cover a different phase of construction and with that, different activities. The construction schedule is: Framing (Jan. 24); Exterior Finish (Jan. 31); Wiring & Roofing (Feb. 7); Interior Finishing (Feb. 14); and Painting (Feb. 21). $10, children 1-12 are $8, under 1 & members are free. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays Jan. 24-Feb. 21. For info: (501) 396-7050, MuseumOfDiscovery.org.

"Anastasia" at CALS Ron Robinson Theater: In this 1997 animated film, a young girl heads from Russia to Paris, hoping to learn if she really is the long lost princess Anastasia. But unexpected love complicates matters of identity. $5. 2 p.m. Jan. 24. For info, click here.

Eagles Et Cetera at DeGray Lake Resort State Park: Eagle tours are offered in abundance to maximize your chances of spotting one of these majestic creatures in the wild. Expect an extensive lineup of guest speakers and live animal presentations as the group explores all things conservation! Many events are free; see website for full schedule and prices. Jan. 23-25. Info: (501) 865-5810, DeGray.com.

For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.

Hammer, Wire and Paint at Museum of Discovery Construction Workshops

Image by Shutterstock

Young Bob the Builder fans are in for a treat at the Museum of Discovery! Each Saturday, Jan. 24-Feb. 21, visitors can experience the world of construction in a series of Build it Lab workshops.

In partnership with AGC Arkansas, Home Depot and University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the workshop series will engage youngsters in activities related to home-building: framing, waterproofing, plumbing, wiring, roofing, soundproofing and painting. Activities will be facilitated by construction professionals, Home Depot employees and museum staff.

Plus, visitors can watch as students from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Construction Management program build a playhouse. Each Saturday will focus on a different phase of construction: Framing (Jan. 24); Exterior Finish (Jan. 31); Wiring & Roofing (Feb. 7); Interior Finishing (Feb. 14); and Painting (Feb. 21). The finished playhouse will be donated to a school playground. 

The workshops will be from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each Saturday, Jan. 24-Feb. 21. Activities are included with regular museum admission: $10, children ages 1-12 $8, children under 1 free.

For info: (501) 396-7050, MuseumOfDiscovery.org.

Family Chatter: Finding Balance In Family and Fitness

#asset

There was a time when I thought all of my athletic days were behind me. Somewhere along the way I realized my motivation to train and compete didn’t have to end just because I became a parent. In fact, I believe it has helped me become a better parent. My kids know I’m a runner. They know that if they wake up early any given morning, I will most likely be running. My youngest, who is three, thinks that whenever I’m gone, daddy’s home and “mama’s at runnin.”

As a competitive runner and a mother of four, I am often asked, “How do you have time to run with kids?” I’m sure other parents who exercise regularly are probably asked similar questions. Years ago when my oldest was a baby, I learned quickly that you cannot find the time to exercise. You have to make the time. Usually this means waking up early and getting it done before my job as a mom begins.

When I head out for a run in the early hours of the morning my house is unusually quiet. I have a few minutes to get ready and focus on what I have planned for the morning. Running helps me think clearly and is a huge stress relief. I feel much more energized and refreshed after a run. The competitive runner in me loves pushing myself to work harder, to get stronger, and to run faster.

When I return home, it is immediately time to switch gears and go into mom mode. There is breakfast to be made, kids to get ready and so much to do! I know that if I slept in and waited until a “more convenient time,” it would never happen. By making the time to take care of myself, I know I will be able to take care of those around me.

Our children learn so much from our example. My kids have each asked if they could run with me at different times. When I run with them around the block or in a race, I try to make the experience a positive one so they will want to do it again. On one occasion, I was heading out the door for a workout when my five-year-old daughter asked if we could run together. The competitive runner in me wanted to get my own workout in for the day, but the mom in me was so proud of my little girl for showing initiative and wanting to run. I decided my own workout could wait a few minutes. We started by running around the block together. She decided she wanted to keep going and make it a whole mile. I’d never run alongside someone in Dora pajamas before, but if anyone could pull it off she could. Halfway through the run she looked at me and said in all sincerity, “You do this every day?!” I couldn’t help but smile. Suddenly she had this new appreciation for me and how hard I trained. We finished holding hands and she felt so accomplished. She couldn’t wait to tell everyone at home what she did.

I want my children to see the value of health and fitness. I want my kids to learn that getting better at something takes time and a lot of practice. I love when they are able to come to one of my races. Hearing them cheer means more to me than they’ll ever know. They know I do not always win but I do my best. I want them to see a mom who sets high goals for herself and tries to achieve them. I want them to see the importance of hard work and dedication. More than anything I want them to know that they are loved. I want them to know they mean more to me than any job or hobby I could ever have. In balancing these two areas of my life, it helps to show my children that they can take care of the people they love while also taking care of themselves.

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About The Author
Jennifer Pyron is the Associate Publisher and Editor of Little Rock Family magazine. She is the go-to gal for family events, activities, news and opinion. She and husband Charles are the proud, exhausted, penniless parents of Charles Jr. and Emily. Plus, should you need a pop culture lifeline on "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," you may call her.
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