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Monsters and Voting

May 27th, 2016

On the Bookshelf: ‘Monster’ shows politics isn’t so scary

Editor’s note: On the Bookshelf is an occasional feature about books of interest to politically minded readers.

Paul Czajak

With the 2016 election campaign in full swing — and arguably one of the more contentious — who better to teach young kids about voting and politics than a big, blue, playful monster in a new picture book called “Monster Needs Your Vote”?

Written by Paul Czajak and published by Minneapolis-based independent publisher Mighty Media Press, it’s the fifth book in the “Monster & Me” series.

“It’s a whimsical, nonpartisan story about voting and democracy, but it also talks about the values that make America great and kind of brings us back to our roots,” said Nancy Tuminelly, publisher of Mighty Media, which approached Czajak about writing the book. The book, aimed at 2- to 6-year-olds, is scheduled for release in paperback June 14, with a price of $6.99. The hardcover edition is available now for $16.95.

“Mighty Media really cares about kids and their future and we dutifully understand the weight that politics holds on that future,” Tuminelly continued. “In anticipation of our rabid extremism during this tense election cycle, we thought our social-conscious “Monster & Me” series seemed like the perfect venue to inject some good old-fashioned messages of democracy and standing up for what you believe in back into the hearts of Americans.”

Finding a cause

“Monster Needs Your Vote,” aimed at 2- to 6-year-olds, is scheduled for release in paperback June 14. The hardcover edition is available now. (Image courtesy of Mighty Media Press)

When Czajak was approached about writing the book, he struggled to find an issue that kids could relate to — it certainly couldn’t be taxes, health care or gun control. One day, however, his young son asked him why he couldn’t vote, and the idea for “Monster Needs Your Vote” was born.

As the story goes, election season is here and Monster is ready to vote but discovers he’s too young. He decides, “Why not run for president?” He attempts to run on frivolous platforms — like more desserts and longer summers — but people aren’t relating to his causes.

Monster becomes frustrated and almost drops out of the race until he discovers a cause worth supporting — saving libraries. (Of course, he eventually realizes that he’s too young to run for president but sticks with his goal of saving the local library). Written in humorous, read-aloud verse, the book encourages kids to take a stand and fight for what they believe in. Tuminelly also believes that Czajak got across the message that politics too often ends up being about what a party wants; not what the people need.

“Paul brilliantly delivered a classic tale that has turned out to be a timely and greatly needed lesson in civics and social studies on this lower level and also that appeals to adults,” Tuminelly said.

The book is drawing positive reactions nationally. Czajak has received letters from a former U.S. president, a former first lady, a current presidential candidate, a secretary of state, and congressional representatives from around the country — both Republicans and Democrats.

Making a difference by engaging kids

The “Monster & Me” series represents Mighty Media’s commitment to deliver books that foster children’s curiosity, imagination, social awareness, and sense of adventure. The series has sold 100,000 copies to date, and the publisher has more than 20 more Monster books in the pipeline.

“We’re nationally distributed with books available at Barnes & Noble,” Tuminelly said. “That’s a big thing for an indie publisher. We call ourselves the ‘little publisher that could,’ because we’re going up against many large publishers with a lot larger budgets.”

Of the series’ books so far, “Monster Needs Your Vote” is the timeliest, and Mighty Media is reaching out to kids and families. The publisher is offering a supplement to the book for parents and teachers.

Mighty Media is also partnering with Kids Voting Minneapolis, a community-based, nonpartisan affiliate of the national Kids Voting USA, to teach kids that their voices matter.

“Kids Voting Minneapolis has a theme, which we just love,” Tuminelly said. “It’s ‘Vote Young, Vote Forever.’ We feel if kids can get involved at a younger age, they will stay engaged and listen and be part of their community … and country as they go forward.”

Mighty Media also sponsored Minnesota Public Radio’s recent “Rock the Cradle” event at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which drew 10,000 people. The publisher sponsored a story time and provided a voting activity for kids to learn about “needs and wants” and have their photo taken with Monster. The publisher plans to hold more events throughout the year.

“Our biggest dream would be to have this book in every kid’s hand in America,” Tuminelly said. “Of course, we don’t quite have that deep of pockets. And we know the political season is going to come and end, but we don’t feel that’s the end of this book because of the values and messages that it has. It will go farther.”

What inspires the author?

Czajak, who lives in New Jersey with his young family, never planned to be a writer. In fact, he got an “F” on his first college-writing paper with the words “Get a tutor” scribbled across the top. He became a chemist and worked in that field for 20 years.

After having kids, however, they inspired him with all kinds of ideas for picture books. “My wife finally just got sick of me saying, ‘Hey, you know what, that’s a picture book [idea] and that’s a picture book,’” he said.  “She told me, ‘Stop talking about it and just write it down,’ so I did and the rest is history.”

Mighty Media connected Czajak with Los Angeles illustrator and animation storyboard artist Wendy Grieb to do the illustrations. She has worked for Disney, Nickelodeon and Sony and worked on Disney Channel’s “Phineas and Ferb” TV show.

So what does Czajak hope to accomplish with his “voting” book?

“I hope kids start to get involved and understand elections at an earlier age,” he said. “It’s one thing to start voting at 18, but it’s another thing to really understand what it’s all about. And I feel that we take kids for granted and they’re much smarter than what we give them credit for at an early age. They understand that they want to be heard.”


Read more:

The Universality of Play

May 25th, 2016

One of our partners in our research on play and its power is the Humphrey Fellowship Program at Vanderbilt. It includes a group of educators who come to Vanderbilt for a one-year program from around the world. Every year we are part of an exchange with this group – teaching and learning new games from each other.

One of the games we learned from them made it into our latest product, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®. Known as the Rooster Game, it is definitely a game that works on balance and endurance thus fitting into our “movement” brain booster category. For us in America, it may very well feed into or since of “novelty” as well.

Enjoy this game that we learned from our friend in Russia.

Rooster mime. Hold one foot to make the rooster’s tail. Fan the other hand above the head as the rooster’s comb. Pairs compete, gently tapping elbows. Who can hold this pose the longest without letting their foot down?*

 roosterjar2Click to order:

* Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; All rights reserved.

Creating Matters: Reflections on Art, Business, and Life (so far)

May 23rd, 2016

I met Anderson Williams years ago when Ann and I partnered with him to offer leadership development training to the youth group he was working with at the time. Over the years, Anderson and I have managed to work together, have coffee together, gripe about the world and still dream about what can be.

I consider Anderson one of my best “go-to” thought partners. We have similar dreams and goals, but when it comes to thinking about how to get there . . . we are very different in how we think about the world. I love nothing better than sitting down to have a conversation with Anderson and give him permission to push and ask questions (Er . . . if any of you know Anderson, you know that he needs no permission to push OR ask questions – they are naturally part of his charm!). Every time, I – and by association – a few of the books I’ve co-authored – have all the better for talking to Anderson. He simply makes people think more deeply and from many angles.

I am thrilled to introduce Anderson Williams in this blog post to our followers and let him share a little about his new book, Creating Matters: Reflections on Art, Business, and Life (so far). I’ll start with a question and he’ll take it where he will.

SR: HI, friend! I’m so excited about your new book. Let’s start with the idea. Where did it come from?

AW: I actually started thinking about this book over a dozen years ago. I had just finished my MFA in visual art and had begun doing youth organizing and advocacy work. I also happened to be reading a business book about systems thinking at the time. I realized that the creative ways of thinking I employed as an artist were also my biggest assets as an organizer, and as a mentor to young people. I also realized that a lot of what I was reading as “groundbreaking” business thinking didn’t feel all that groundbreaking. In fact, I used to do workshops with my youth reading passages from that same business book and applying them to our work. 10 years later, after finishing business school, being an artist continued to be my biggest asset as an entrepreneur. Then, finally, I wrote it!

anderson bookSR: Why did you write THIS book? What’s it about?

AW: My upbringing was different…well, we can say bizarre in many ways. I see the world differently because I experienced different worlds at every turn as I was growing up. The people and places of 1980’s East Nashville made me who I am. They, with the guidance of caring, thoughtful, and passionate parents, instilled a sense of justice, an understanding of privilege, and a relentless need to ask questions first – to seek to understand. It would have been easy to judge those on the streets in East Nashville; it was far more valuable to learn from them and with them, to build community.

I guess that’s what this book is about really. It’s about an approach to life that has carried me through art school, business school, nonprofit and education work, not to mention a range of other life experiences including the birth of two daughters and the suicide of my father. It all sort of maps against how the book is organized: Who am I becoming? How do I see the world? What am I here to create?

SR: Who will benefit the most from reading it?

AW: Of course, I want to say everyone! I think anyone who is thoughtful and reflective about why they were put on the Earth can find reflections and experiences here that will resonate. I have quoted generously from others who have helped my thinking and reflecting along the way. So, anyone looking for some new additions to their reading list will definitely like it!

SR: Is this a book that youth workers will want on their shelf? How might it benefit their work with youth?

AW: Well, certainly, I learned a lot from working with youth and I share a number of experiences with youth to illuminate this. And, the fact of the matter is that everything in this book was part of my youth work, and the seeds of the thinking were planted there. Vision. Power. Reflection. Aspiration. Survival. Critique. I have just taken those fruits into other arenas and learned that there is universality to creating and the relationships that support and sustain that kind of work. Youth work is about relationships. So is this book.

SR: Last question. Where should people go to get their very own copy?

AW: You can buy it at Parnassus Books online or in their store if you are in Nashville. You can also get it on



The Power of Play: Why Having Fun Cures All Ails!

May 20th, 2016

By: Ann Saylor

originally published at

We all like to have fun, but did you know there is scientific research proving the power of play? There is truth to the Life is Good Foundation’sslogan, “Life can hurt, play can heal”. Here are some of the many ways science says that play leads to healing in children and youth.

I’ve been using play as a teaching method for 15 years, and these are the growth areas that I notice on a consistent basis.

Play keeps the doctor away. Play keeps us moving and active, which helps children maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity, on the other hand, contributes to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol, and heart disease.

Play can help to heal broken relationships. Building positive memories together during playtime, whether playing soccer, Wii, or “Phase 10” is a powerful way to strengthen relationships. Over time, playing together builds trust and acts as a glue to bind people together in healthy ways.

Play bolsters emotional health by helping children overcome insecurities and gain confidence. When children take risks and overcome challenges in their pretend worlds (dolls, LEGOs, games, role plays), they learn skills to overcome real world challenges.

Play reduces strains on a child’s mental health. Laughter and play are healthy ways to minimize stress, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and illness. Children and teens with healthy outlets for active play also learn to manage their energy and emotions more effectively.

Play prevents brain drain, and it actually helps the brain grow. The more experiences a child has, the more connections (synapses) the brain cells will make. The more connections, the more effectively the brain works.

Play reduces violence by helping children practice and refine social skills. As children learn to resolve conflicts, persuade teammates, and play fair in their game-time, they are learning valuable skills to reduce violence in schools, sports, and families.

Search Institute’s scientific research on Developmental Assets also strongly supports the importance of play.

  • Games help build an environment of support with peers and caring adults.
  • Youth are empowered to learn and grow in new ways – trying new leadership roles, practicing new ways of problem-solving, and using critical thinking skills.
  • Group games help youth set high expectations for themselves – climbing beyond challenges that stump them, and excelling at new adventures.
  • Challenges help children learn about their skills and abilities. Games highlight sparks, strengths, and talents that aren’t usually recognized in the classroom.
  • Games help students make healthy life choices, as they practice decision-making in life-like scenarios that offer a safe place to experiment with values and ethics.
  • Working together sharpens social skills and respect for all people, as diverse people work together to achieve a goal.
  • Games can promote positive identity and life purpose. Games help children learn who they are and what they are good at. This can help prepare them for future leadership roles, service opportunities, and career paths.

For more information on the benefits of play, check out the following resources:

So laugh and be silly – and you may discover a whole new realm of health for your family!

Humor + Novelty = 2 Brain Boosters in 1 Activity

May 18th, 2016

Boosters for Groups in a Jar® has 101 activities that educators, youth workers and youth pastors alike can use to add low prop, low prep, easy, quick energy to any group setting. Pull out an activity and GO. Youth can lead or the adult leader can. It’s all up to you.

Field-testing games has to be my favorite part of active research. What better way to see if a game works in different settings than to try it out yourself?

The game included here takes a little humor, adds in novelty and imagination and voila! you have a breath of goodness going straight to the brains and right into your group dynamics. Ah! Brain Boosters for Groups! Build the group.  Build the brain.

The Game: Divide into pairs. In 20 seconds, draw a hybrid of two animals. Team up with another pair: take 20 more seconds to guess which 2 animals were combined for each picture.*

Can you guess the hybrid below?


Answer: a Cheetrus – a cheetah + a walrus

jar infoClick to order:


*Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; All rights reserved.

Mid-Summer Pop Quiz! 10 Fun Activities to Boost Your Brain

May 16th, 2016

By: Tricia Cornell

originally published at

It’s summer, so there’s no time limit and there’s no class schedule, which means you can dig into new subjects as much as your heart desires. If something catches your interest, keep looking and learning!

Go ahead and use the Internet — or maybe even the library — to do your research. But you might want to set a timer to remind you to refocus if you start surfing mindlessly.

1. In what country do people build a lõke to celebrate Jaanipäev? What other traditions surrounding this holiday can you find? What is this holiday called in three other countries? Using what you learn, organize a fun Jaanipäev party for your family and friends.

2. Who holds the record for the fastest mile hopped on one leg? How fast did she hop? How far can you hop one leg? Can you work up to a whole mile?

3. What is a surya namaskar? Have you ever tried something like this? Learn how and teach your friends to do it with you. Can you challenge yourself to do this every day?

4. How many teaspoons in a gallon? Before you Google, think about the steps you could take to figure it out on your own, e.g., teaspoons in a tablespoon, tablespoons in a cup, etc.

5. Could you win the Bocuse d’Or? Learn about this prestigious event and organize something similar with your friends. Invite your families to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

6. Where is 19.4167° N, 155.2833° W? According to legend, who lives there? If you can borrow a smart phone or GPS device, use latitude and longitude to organize a scavenger hunt for your friends.

7. What is Taraxacum officinale? Can you find one in your neighborhood? I bet you can. Then look for: Acer rubrum, Bellis perennis, Cichorium intybus, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, Myosotis sylvatica, Ranunculus sardous, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago virgaurea virgaurea. Which of these are edible? Can you find some good recipes?

8. What is the mathematical word that describes repeated shapes that fit together infinitely with no spaces in between? What artist is most closely associated with this phenomenon? Check out his work and see if you can make your own examples.

9. Do you know what ga-ga is (Hint: It’s not a pop singer)? Do you eat it? Grow it? Play it? Find out, learn more about it, and make it a fun part of your summer.

10. Where would someone greet you with “Su Prabhat”? What else can you learn about this place? Can you learn a song, a game, or a dish from this place to share with your family?

Bonus: Come up with quiz questions of your own to stump your family and friends. Maybe you can organize a day where you all share some of the projects and activities that you come up with.


Download Printable Quiz >>________________________________________________________________________Answers:

1. Jaanipäev is St. John’s Day, or Midsummer Day, in Estonia. A lõke is a bonfire. This holiday is celebrated around the world, particularly as Juhannus in Finland, Jāņi in Latvia, and Joninės in Lithuania.

2. According to the Guinness Book of World Records: “The fastest time to hop one mile on one leg is 27 minutes and 51 seconds by Ashrita Furman (USA) on 1 February 2006 at the Penang Bird Park in Penang, Malaysia.”

3. Surya namaskar is a sun salutation, a combination of yoga poses.

4. There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, 16 tablespoons in a cup, two cups in a pint, two pints in a quart, and four quarts in a gallon. So, there are 768 teaspoons in a gallon.

5. The Bocuse d’Or is an international cooking competition held every other year in France.

6. This is the latitude and longitude of Mt. Kilauea, a volcano in Hawaii and the legendary home of Pele, the volcano goddess.

7. Taraxacum officinale is a dandelion, Acer rubrum is a red maple, Bellis perennis is a daisy, Cichorium intybus is chicory, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus is a daylily, Myosotis sylvatica is a forget-me-not, Ranunculus sardous is a buttercup, Rudbeckia hirta is a black-eyed Susan, Solidago virgaurea virgaurea is goldenrod.

8. This is called “tessellation” and many examples are found in the work of M.C. Escher.

9. Ga-ga is a form of dodgeball that originated in Israel.

10. Su Prabhat is Gujarati for “Good morning.” Gujarat is a state in India.

goLEAD is headed to the Motor City!

May 13th, 2016

The goLEAD Facilitator Training will be in Detroit preceding the Conference on Volunteering and Service!!
goLEAD is a proven youth leadership development and service-learning model with nearly two decades of success delivered by hundreds of dedicated adults who provide leadership training to youth in their local communities.

We invite you to join this network of caring adults today by becoming a certified goLEAD facilitator.  Certification as a goLEAD facilitator will allow you to provide youth in your organizations and communities with a fantastic program opportunity to improve their leadership skills and learn how to engage other youth in service.

Participants will receive;

  • Two days of experiential training in how to deliver the goLEAD program to youth
  • A hard copy of the goLEAD curriculum
  • Access to an electronic copy of the goLEAD middle school supplement
  • Access to an electronic copy of the goLEAD program curriculum
  • Access to a closed Facebook group of fellow Facilitators sharing best practices
  • goLEAD Facilitator certification

This isn’t any normal training; get ready for blind trust walks, hands-on learning, and LOTS of fun.

Space is limited so register today!

Registration numbers must meet a minimum threshold in order for the training to be held.  In support of timely travel planning, registered participants will be notified by May 31st if the minimum registration number has not been met.

Training Dates:

  • Saturday, June 25, 2016: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26, 2016: 9:00 am-3:00 pm

Training Location: TBD (downtown Detroit facility)

Cost: Thanks to local partnerships we able to offer this training at a reduced rate of $650.

Space is limited so register today!

We’ll see you in Detroit!

Emily Rios| Senior Manager Youth Leadership


Helping a Mind Want to Learn: A Tip Can Be Found In What You Praise

May 11th, 2016

In this video, we learn about a “fixed” mindset (you have a certain amount of talents or whatnot and that’s all you have) versus a “growth” mindset (you can grow, develop and put in the effort to become and learn more).

One of the triggers for which mindset is developed can be found in how we praise our youth.  When we praise success (“you’re so smart”), we can feed into a fixed mindset – “I’m smart so I don’t need to try. I’ve got it.”  When we praise process (“I like the strategy you used.”), we can feed into a growth mindset – “I keep trying and am put in the effort and I learn so much!”

Effort can actually activate their abilities and desire to learn.  Check out this video with Educationalist Carol Dweck to learn more about how this works and how to bring out the best in youth.


Get it On: The Dance Challenge

May 8th, 2016

In our dance series of moves we’ve learned from teens, we’ve highlighted several dance moves. Did you take the time to demonstrate the moves you know and that your youth know?

Not only is dancing (movement) good as a brain booster, it’s also good as an inter-generational activity and a cultural activity where we exchange things we know and love about music AND share stories.

One last clip . . . just because – watch and see who knows what, who does what and what other epic moves it brings to mind.  Let the fun begin!  Enjoy!


National Service Dates in May

May 4th, 2016

Senior Corps Week (May 16 – 20)

This is a great time to recognize older adults who have made significant volunteer contributions to your community!

Boost Your Brain: The Final 3 Dance Moves

May 2nd, 2016

On our journey to learn new dance steps from youth, we leave you with these three.  Are they still the latest?

Ask your teens to teach you the newest moves.  Ask the to share dance stories – the flopped moves, the great moves, maybe even the embarrassing moves.  It’s fun what you’ll learn as you move, laugh and dance together . . . which brings us back to the point of this series: boost the brain, boost the relationships.


for this next one, it takes about 30 seconds in to get to it.  :-)

Break Out of Breakfast in Bed! Fresh Traditions for Mother’s Day

May 1st, 2016

By: Tricia Cornell

originally published at

Can I share a secret? Don’t tell my kids. On my list of places I like to eat breakfast, “my bed” ranks near the bottom of the list, right above “underwater.” Who wants to eat surrounded by pillows and blankets, with your legs straight in front of you, a tray barely balanced on your lap? Who wants to clean up the inevitable crumbs and spills? More importantly, who decided that this should be the iconic way to show Mom you love her?

But twice a year, on the night before my birthday and the night before Mother’s Day, I get a cue from my husband: “By the way, don’t get up early tomorrow. You know why.” So I lie in bed wide awake, listening to a happy clatter downstairs. I try not to think about the mess. I try not to count the minutes until I can get up and make myself a real cup of coffee. And when two happy faces burst through the door with dry eggs and clumsy slices of fruit, I light up. “Were you surprised, Mama? Did we surprise you?” “Of course, I was surprised. What a perfect breakfast!”

And it is a perfect breakfast. One I’m glad I only get to enjoy twice a year.

Whether or not your day begins with breakfast in bed, here are some ideas for making Mother’s Day memorable this year. Better yet, why not make one of these ideas a tradition, every year?

1. Volunteer. Thanksgiving and Christmas are so popular with volunteers that shelters and soup kitchens sometimes have to turn willing helpers away. Why not mark Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) by helping other families?

2. Plant something. It may just be coincidence that we mark Mother’s Day just as spring flowers bloom. Cut flowers are lovely, but a row of annuals will remind your family of this special day all summer long. And a perennial plant will speak to you for years to come.

3. Write Mother’s Day letters. Take time to reflect, separately or together, on the past year or the year to come. Share your letters now or put them away to read next year.

4. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Fresh air plus physical activity plus time together is a recipe for a refreshing, energizing day that could make the rest of the week to come even better.

5. Get intergenerational. Grandmothers are mothers, too! Invite the grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, neighbors, and favorite friends into your day. We can all learn something from those older and younger than us.

6. Tell family stories. What stories do you remember about your mother? Your mother’s mother? Or other women in your family tree? Celebrate mothers going as far back as you can find.

7. Take a picture or draw a picture. Save it for next year in a box or an album and add to it year after year. This could become a treasured keepsake.

8. Add to a family recipe book. An annual record of special meals you make together will be a great gift to pass along to your children someday.

9. Avoid the crowds at brunch. For some families, brunch at a restaurant is a treasured tradition. For others, it’s an obligation that just feels crowded and stressful. If that’s your family, give yourselves permission to break that tradition and enjoy something simple at home — together — instead.

10. Brainstorm with your kids. Sure, it’s Mother’s Day. But kids have interesting and fun ideas about how to spend family time. Ask your kids what would make the day special for them and be open to their suggestions. Maybe it’s as simple as playing a game. Maybe it will be something you never thought of.

Tell Us:–> How do you break out of breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day?

Camp, Vacation, or Staycation? Figuring Out a Summer Game Plan for Your Kids

April 29th, 2016

By: Susan Ragsdale

originally published at

A clear sign of the impending summer season usually happens inside households across America, right about now. It involves you (mom or dad), sitting at a table with your checkbook and calculator in one hand while the other hand hovers back and forth between the search engines on the computer and the scattered camp brochures before you. You have just realized that SUMMER is almost here, and your kids need a fun, safe place to spend their time.

Why Camp?

The idea of summer camp evokes a certain nostalgia filled with images of an ideal childhood—one where our kids are making new friends, learning new skills, bringing home crafts, and sporting the requisite skinned knees and sunburned noses—a good indication of a full summer spent out-of-doors and in the sun. The echoes of camp songs that have been passed on from generation to generation, such as “The Bear Song” or “Boom Chicka Boom”, continue to fill your home weeks after camp has ended, a happy reminder of days spent exploring, enjoying, learning, and just being a kid!

But summer camp isn’t always within a family’s means or priorities. When considering a summer gameplan for your family, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it best for your child (and is it part of the family plan) to have a summer full of family fun time instead of looking into camps? – You might consider taking advantage of all the options that your own town and nearby cities offer for exploring, learning and having fun (swimming at the Y, taking a painting class together, joining a summer family soccer league, etc.).

Get more staycation ideas >

As you think about whether or not camp is the right choice, consider this: A camp experience puts your child in a social setting where he interacts and engages with others and learns to develop relationships and a sense of community, independent of relying on you. He also has a “practice grounds” where he can further develop and refine his own sense of independence and confidence as he tries new things and stretches his wings.

Additionally, camp takes your child out of cyber world and puts him in “real time” with real people in real situations and real engagement – and he may very well discover that he likes games, the goofy songs, the fun, AND being with others even more than he likes video games!

If you’re seriously considering summer camp…

There’s a lot of planning that goes into selecting the right camp for your child. Which camp? How many camps? Is it a quality camp? Is my child old enough? Is my child too old? What if my child HATES it? Consider these guidelines if you’re seriously considering sending your kids to camp.

1. Talk with your child and create a list of his or her interests. Is there a skill or talent he would like to further explore and develop? Has she been thinking a lot about trying that martial arts class down the street and is curious to see if she would like it? Has he noticed how much he likes to doodle and heard about an art camp that explores various art mediums?

As you talk with your child, watch her face as she talks. Does she light up over a particular idea? Does he become more animated as he talks about his interest? Think about the times when your child has been fully engaged in something and has lost all sense of time because she wasso into whatever it was that she was doing? (Tinkering with cars, writing a song, playing the drums or putting together a weathervane.)

Knowing your child’s sparks (what he is interested in doing or pursuing) can help narrow the list down and make the decision of what to do that much easier (and it also helps chunk out all the opportunities that hold no interest for your kid whatsoever).

And if your child hasn’t figured out his particular spark, don’t worry. Camps and summer opportunities are a perfect time to explore a variety of things and see what “clicks”. As you look through the various camp options, watch your child’s reactions for signs of possible interest – “that sounds like it might be fun.” Revisit the idea again later to see if your child has the same reaction. The visual or verbal clue might be the beginning of a spark.

2. Consider the developmental aspects of your child. What does she want/need? Are there any special considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing a camp? Does your child need special accommodations of some sort (handicap accessible, diet, nurse on staff, etc.)? Does your child need something really structured, like a martial arts camp? Or, could he benefit from a more free-flowing and relaxed atmosphere, like an art camp?

3. Figure out the summer experience that’s right for your child and your family. What works for your family and your crazy schedules and financial situation? Day camp? Overnight camp? Out of town camp? Specialty camp? Or, should it be a summer of family fun offerings: amusement parks, museums, art centers, zoos?

Get ideas for planning family fun >

  • If sending your child to a sleep away camp is on the table, keep in mind that there are local sleep away camps and out-of-state camps. If an out-of-state camp option crops up, discuss together: how comfortable are you both with your child being far away? Don’t forget to consider transportation costs and the possible scheduling requirements of your time to get her there.

Related: 3 Tricks to Try in the Event of a Tween Sleepover >

  • Ask yourself how much time you want your child to spend at camp. One week? Two? Five? All summer? As you consider the best option, talk too about your ideas and plans for being together as a family during the summer. Keep it balanced.

Related: 10 Minutes Together: Fun Family Activities >4. Picking the right camp. Once you’ve determined the camp type based on your child’s interests, ask around. Ask other parents or ask other youth who’ve gone to camp about which ones they recommend. Quiz them about their experience and about the camp itself (food, sleeping areas, showers, a typical day in camp, pace of the schedule, activities offered, etc.).

Then call the camp. Any quality camp worth its salt won’t mind parents asking questions. They expect it. Ask:

  • Do they have financial assistance?
  • What is their counselor:camper ratio?
  • What is their philosophy for camp? What is the experience they want to create? What will they emphasize?
  • How do they handle arguments and conflict? What is their safety plan?
  • How close is the closest hospital?
  • Is the camp accredited by the American Camping Association?
  • Is it okay for you to drop by to visit – now or during camp?

Tell Us: –>What other factors help you make a wise choice about how your kids will spend their summer?

a new series of funshops!

April 27th, 2016

Playing Through the Seasons

This series of funshops is available for youth, adults, or a combination of age groups.  It’s guaranteed fun as participants laugh, explore, relax, create, challenge and play together.  Players will have opportunities to build relationships and grow stronger as a team – and they will be equipped with games to share with other groups.  Each workshop lasts 1-2 hours and consists of 5-10 games related to one holiday or season.


Available funshops:

  • Winter
  • Christmas
  • New Years
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Spring
  • Patrick’s Day
  • Easter
  • Summer
  • 4thof July
  • Fall
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving


Contact Ragsdale and Saylor at 615-262-9676 or to tell us about your group’s needs and timeframe, and we’ll let you know about prices and availability.

Boost Your Brain: The Dancing Goes On

April 25th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, these three steps are easy (supposedly) beginner moves that anyone can do – even those of us with two left feet!  Poll your teens – do these moves still make the cool list? Or do they help them get away with “looking” cool?