Ten tips to help your child learn to love reading


  1. Sing, play, and talk with your child. Children love to hear your voice. It doesn’t matter if you sing on or off key. Interaction is what children crave.

momWith BabyReading

  1. Read aloud to your child every day. Reading to your child is the next best thing to a hug. Bring books along to the dentist, doctor, or on other errands where there will be some wait time. Read to children as part of a bedtime ritual. Routines are reassuring.



  1. Have a variety of reading material that is easily available. Place books in baskets in different parts of the home, including in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and TV areas. This allows children to choose books on their own and makes cleaning up after themselves easy. Consider putting together a backpack prefilled with books to grab and go for short or long distance travel.


  1. Read many types of books. Children love learning about their world, how things work, and all kinds of animals. Reading for information is important for childrens’ future. They love books with rhyme, silly words, and fairy tales. Start bringing your children to the library when they are young, and visit regularly.

dadReading With Son


  1. Pace the reading. Read with expression! Change the quality and volume of sound while reading to make listening to stories fun. Take your time, don’t rush. Stop now and then during reading time to let your child think about the story. Ask questions to encourage thinking.


  1. Repeat. Children enjoy reading favorite stories over and over again, even after they are able to repeat all the words by heart. Encourage them to read their favorite lines with you. Point to the words as you read them together. Talk about your child’s favorite characters in different contexts, like “What do you think The Cat in the Hat would do if he was in our kitchen right now?”


  1. Find words and letters everywhere. As early as age two, children may identify logos they see often at home and other places they travel. This important milestone is the beginning of the knowledge that print has meaning. Cereal boxes are great to use for finding letters and logos, as are menus, calendars and occupant mail. Take turns finding the same letter with your child. Write to do and grocery lists together. Have him make words with magnetic letters on the refrigerator.


  1. Help your child learn about letter sounds. Show her how to write her name. A child’s name is her first “stamp” on the world. Say the sounds of each letter as you print them. Sing an alphabet song and include the sounds of the letter in the song, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BELlZKpi1Zs . Encourage your child to write but try not to correct him. Beginning writing should be playful.



  1. Limit tube time. Select TV programs with your child in advance. Watch TV and talk about the programs together. Monitor time on other electronic devices. Video games are good fun and many of them are educational, but balance is needed. Too much close work does not give the eyes enough exercise.


  1. Get involved with your child’s school. You are your child’s first and best advocate. Get to know your child’s teacher. Find out how you can support your child in her academic goals. If at all possible, volunteer time in the classroom. Work schedules make this difficult, but advance planning can help make this happen.

You are your children’s first teacher. Reading to them is a great start in preparation for life in school and beyond.

Thankful Feathers – A Lesson on Caring


One of my favorite activities for young students is

Thankful Feathers.

*                      *                      *

“What are you thankful for?” asked the teacher sitting in a circle on the floor with a group of 20 four- and five-year-old children.

A student blurted out, “What’s thankful?”

“Please raise your hand, Romell.”

His hand rose up like a shot as he repeated himself. “What is tankful? I mean thankful?”

The other students giggled. Romell, known for his short temper, gave his fellow students some serious mean-eye.

“Class, is it okay to make fun of people when they say a word the wrong way?”

“No, teacher,” chimed most of the 20 students.

“All right then. What do you say to your friend?”

“Sorry, Romell,” stated all but the loudest laughers.

“Now think about what you can do to make your friend feel better.”

Romell seemed appeased.

The word sorry in itself is not enough. In the classroom an act of kindness toward the offended party to make up for the offense was required. The question “What can you do to make your friend feel better?” made it easier for the young students to come up with a way to mend the hurt they caused.

“Does anyone else know what it means to be thankful?”

Another student raised her hand.

“Yes, Lara, what does it mean to be thankful?”

“Well, my brother didn’t eat all his dinner yesterday. I saw him give it to our dog, Ninja, when no one was looking.”

The teacher looked perplexed. “Lara, did you want to tell us what thankful means?”

“No teacher. I don’t know what that is.”

Four and five-year olds, given an opportunity to speak, will talk about anything—not necessarily on topic. The teacher opted to answer as group time was almost over.

“Being thankful is like being happy. What makes you thankful also makes you feel happy. So, think about what makes you happy.”

Ten students raised their hands, stretching as if it pained them to sit in one place.

“Please, don’t tell me now. See me after group time and let me know one at a time.”

Each child chose a different colored piece of construction paper in the shape of a very large feather. A featherless construction paper turkey had been stapled to a classroom wall.

The children were asked to choose a feather and draw a picture on the feather of what makes them happy/thankful. Extra traced feathers were available for students to cut by themselves if they wished.

What makes me feel happy?

  • Bruce: “My daddy. He cooks good pizza.”
  • Angelica: “Toys make me happy.”
  • Maverick: “My Auntie Jo. She’s nice to me.”
  • Lara: “My mom. She makes me happy.”
  • April: “My dad. He makes funny faces.”
  • Diego: “My mom. Her goes to the store and buys me things.”
  • Julius: “My grandma. She makes me food.”
  • Abijah: “My daddy. He tells me funny jokes and he always laughs and dances.”
  • Romell: “My dad. He gives me cereal. He makes me happy when he cooks.”
  • Alberto: “Papi. He plays with me.”
  • Chris: “Mommy. She plays cars with me.”
  • Sam: “My dad. He lets me play PX.”
  • Valerie: “My sister. She smile and fix my hair.”
  • Rene: “Dad. My dad plays X-Box with me.”
  • Jake: “My mom. She cooks good food.”
  • Hailey: “My brother. He always makes me laugh and he does funny stuff.”
  • Deja: “My mama. She cooks dinner for me.”
  • Denise: “Mom. She gives me a big hug.”
  • Sebastian: “My dad. He plays wrestling with me and baseball with me.”
  • Delilah: “My mama. She plays with me and tickles me. That makes me laugh.”

This activity is also a favorite of the families.

I’ve used the “thankful feathers project” to assess children’s language and fine motor skills for many years in all socioeconomic strata, in four different states. I have found children to be universally thankful for the affection and attention found within their families. The little things we do for our children make the biggest impact. Playful interaction with family members ranks considerably higher than toys.


Bickering in the Backseat



It is the rare child who does not fight and argue in the car every now and then.

There are many ways of dealing with bickering children while in route to somewhere. Handing the most responsible child five pounds of candy to dole out for the purpose of keeping everyone in the back seat quiet is not the wisest move. Neither is turning around in the front seat and slapping each child in a long horizontal wap.

Safety must come first. Children accustomed to wearing seat-belts from infancy are unlikely to fuss over the need to wear them. Just make sure that it is a carved-in-stone rule. If anyone in the car is acting in such a way that he may hurt himself or others, pull over and stop the car. Decide whether to continue after all is settled down or turn around and go back home. If a parent says, “I mean it. If you don’t stop we’re going back home.” and the children continue to raise a ruckus, the parent must turn around and return home. Otherwise the children will learn they do not have to pay attention to the parents’ requests. Follow through is a must, so if you are on a long distance trip to see family or are on vacation the “go back home” statement will not work and you’ll have to change tactics—perhaps find a place to park the car and not start driving again until all are quiet.


The best way to prevent backseat bickering is to keep the children happily occupied. Consider putting them to work. If a child is one who always asks, “Are we there yet?” give that child the job of navigator. Before the trip begins, bring out the road atlas and check Yahoo® and Google® maps. Not only are you keeping the child busy, you are providing fantastic, practical life skills in math and geography. If more than one child is interested in being the navigator, give each a section of road to help keep the family going in the correct direction.

No one likes being in the middle seat the whole way for a long trip. Try rotating seats on a schedule. Flip a coin to see who gets to sit in the front seat with the driver first. Fairness is an enormous issue with children. There is less arguing if the rules are the same for everyone.

Have the children help decide potential punishment for poor car behavior. Children are more likely to follow the rules they have helped make.

Reward good car behavior with something non-food related. If your family has a movie night, the children may choose a movie out of several previously chosen by the parents.

A little autonomy goes a long way.

Research from:


Lansky, V. (2004). Trouble-Free Travel with Children. Minnetonka, MN: Book Peddlers

Beta review of chapter one


The following beta review for chapter one of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: New Beginnings was dictated by a second grade student to her mom and sent to me via email. I thank her parents for giving me permission to post her very first book review. It made me smile.

Hi, Ms. Ellen. I liked your story a lot. It was very nice. I liked Tamika because she is a turtle, and I like turtles. I also want to say Tamika’s mom is crazy for putting on the headband and stuff. :> I thought Charlie was very cute because of the way I imagined him. But your way [in the illustrations] was nothing like what I imagined, and that’s a good thing. I really wish that I got to know more about Frankie, though. And I want to know more about Charlie’s life and when he’s moving. So next time could you send more stuff about Frankie? And could you send the next chapter? Pleeeeease? As I said, great story. Thanks for sending it.

Kindergarten and the Common Core

Miss Linda's AM preschool class 2015

The idea behind Common Core State Standards is a good one: creating one set of challenging academic expectations for all students to improve achievement and college readiness. A major problem with the draft K-12 common standards is that they went from the top down—from college and career readiness and worked backward, not thinking about how and what the youngest children need to learn, and building from there.

Expectations for Kindergarten: “Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.”

How does this help very young students grasp mathematics? I can say that it frustrates the parents.

When the standards were first brought to light in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were astounded. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based learn by doing that we know children need. Research from many years in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience show this to be true. The Kindergarten teachers I have worked with no longer keep play areas such as kitchen sets in the classrooms anymore because there is no time left to do imaginary play – effectively contributing to the stunting their social skills development.

The Common Core State Standards call for kindergartners to learn how to read, but early childhood experts says that forcing some kids to read before they are ready may be harmful. There is no evidence to support the widespread belief that children must be early readers in order to become strong readers and achieve academic success.

There are children, excited to begin school, who find their feeling of joy replaced by stomachaches induced by stress and are not willing to go to school. Kindergarten should not cause anxiety other than the common anxiety due to separation from family, but it does with increasing frequency.

There is no evidence that “throwing stuff at kids when they’re young” at a time when their brains are not sufficiently wired to do the work is an intelligent thought. This is not sink or swim. Let the children begin academics later in school—at age six or seven like the students in the better performing countries.

Research from:








Standardized Testing: What else can we do?


IMG_20150924_152224_181-1Photo from Janice G. Toland’s Teaching My Way To Insanity: 35 years in an institution . . . of learning

The beatings will continue until moral improves.

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has admitted that the current amount of standardized testing is causing too much stress. Unfortunately, the policymakers aren’t listening.

Teachers are pressed to increase test scores. With their job performances tied to students’ scores, anxiety and the temptation to teach-to-the-test increase. This severely dilutes teacher’s creativity, making educating less interesting for all involved.

Standardized testing takes up an enormous amount of time that could be better spent. The average teacher now reports spending about 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring, and reviewing results of testing.

Students are tired of being tested. After a while, they don’t care anymore and give up. I’ve seen students overwhelmed by questions they have not yet covered in class that are included on the tests. A child should not suffer from stress-induced headaches and stomach pains.

Eventually, what may happen to our over-tested children is learned helplessness—what happens when people come to believe they have no control over their situation and that whatever they do is useless. This condition may be a root cause of students giving up.

The only ones benefiting from standardized testing are the test makers.

Test making is big business. Test sales in 1955 were $7 million (adjusted to 1998 dollars), that figure was $263 million in 1997, an increase of more than 3,000 percent. The business of test making and creating instructional support materials aligned to the Common Core Exams has become a 1.7 billion dollar business with the two largest vendors being Pearson Education based in New York and McGraw-Hill Education, also in New York, (A., Ujifusa, Education Week, November 2012).

Schools need to be held accountable, but other methods are available:

  • Give the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades.
  • Use the Gallup student poll, a 20-question survey that seeks to measure levels of hope, engagement and well-being. How a student feels about school relates directly to persistence.
  • Try video-game type assessments.
  • Use performance based assessment, projects, individual and group presentations, reports and papers and portfolios of work collected over time.
  • Presentations, performances and reports may be used in lieu of standardized tests. These are designed to measure higher-order skills like creativity, students’ well-being and technological literacy as well as traditional academics.

A world without bubble tests would be bliss.

Research provided by:

Learned Helplessness: Why Bother http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/helpless.htm

The Testing Industries Big Four http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/companies.html

Misguided Direction: Will Students Turn Their Backs on Education http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2015/02/misguided_direction_will_students_turn_their_backs_on_education.html

NEA Survey: Nearly Half of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing http://neatoday.org/2014/11/02/nea-survey-nearly-half-of-teachers-consider-leaving-profession-due-to-standardized-testing-2/

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/01/06/371659141/what-schools-could-use-instead-of-standardized-tests

Book News!


Book one of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon series is written and will be ready for the final edits this coming Friday, September 25th. The book is divided into four chapters; Our New Home, Moving Day, A New Friend, and Charlie Starts a New School.

Charlie lives with his mama and papa and his rather naughty pet fish, Frankie. The first book in the series is all about change—New Beginnings. Charlie finds out his family is moving due to a job change. He has to say goodbye to his best friend and soccer buddy, Tamika Turtle. After moving, Charlie makes a new friend, encounters the neighborhood bully, and starts school in New Town. There are lots of changes in Charlie’s life in this first book.

A segment from one of the stories to be within book 2 is on the Excerpt page of the website.

Take a look and tell me what you think!

Baby Formula


Formula is very big business. There are only a few manufacturers in the United States, all of whom must meet the same well-defined standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. The three largest are Abbott Laboratories®, Mead Johnson Nutrition®, and Nestle Corporation®.

Standardization was a long time coming.

Artificial feedings have been used since ancient times. Clay feeding vessels dating from 2000 BC were found in graves of newborn infants. Thought to be containers for filling oil lamps, the chemical analysis of residue in the containers revealed casein from animal’s milk.

The type of animal’s milk used was dependent on the kind of animal that was available—goats, sheep, donkeys, camels, pigs, or horses. Most often, milk for artificial feeding was cow’s milk.

Many different devices were used to feed animal’s milk to infants. Some of the devices were made from wood, ceramics, and cows’ horns. A perforated cow’s horn was the typical feeding bottle used during the Middle Ages. By the 1700s, many infant-feeding devices were made from pewter and silver. The pewter bubby-pot, invented in 1770 by Dr. Hugh Smith of Middlesex Hospital in London, was similar to a small coffeepot except the neck arose from the bottom of the pot. The end of the spout formed a knob in the shape of a small heart, with three to four small holes punched into it. A small rag was tied over the holes for the infant to play with and suck milk through.

Another feeding device used from the 16th to 18th centuries in Europe was a pap boat. The device was used to feed infants pap—bread soaked in water or milk, and panada—cereals cooked in broth. Both were used as a supplement to animal’s milk, particularly for infants who showed a failure to thrive. The pap boat included a spoon with a hollow stem so that the pap or panada could be blown down the infant’s throat. The pap boat allowed infants to receive food faster and in greater quantity than would have been possible with breastfeeding.

Feeding bottles, pap boats, and teats during the 16th to18th centuries were difficult to clean. The build-up of bacteria made the devices hazardous to the infant’s health. In the early 19th century, the use of dirty feeding devices, combined with the lack of proper milk storage and sterilization, led to the death of one third of all artificially fed infants during their first year of life.

In the mid-19th century, researchers began to analyze breast milk in an attempt to create a substitute. The first, a liquid containing wheat and malt flour was mixed with cow’s milk, and cooked with bicarbonate of potash (a form of salt). It was said to be the “perfect infant food.” By the late 1800s, the ground floor of modern-day formula had been laid and marketing begun.

In the 1950s the developed world embraced infant formula, making it the feeding method of choice. Aggressive marketing of formulas in developing countries contributed to a global decline in breastfeeding, until the 1970s with the boycott against Nestle Corporation.

A Very Brief History of Formula as We Know it. L.A. Jana and J.S. Shu, American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Brief-History-of-Formula.aspx

Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)

A History of Infant Feeding. E.E. Stevens et al, Journal of Perinatal Education http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684040/

Sock Puppet Tim Speaks About Imaginary Friends

Tim sings – Your My Best Friend

Tim, why are you singing about Friends?

  • Friends are important.
  • Friends are fun, most of the time.
  • You know what?

What, Tim?

  • Sometimes kids have friends that no one else can see.

Are you talking about imaginary friends, Tim?

  • Tim had imaginary friend named Charlie Bones a long time ago.
  • Charlie went away when Tim started First Grade.

What did you and Charlie do?

  • We played together. Charlie was Tim’s friend.
  • Not many kids lived in Tim’s neighborhood. Tim was lonely till Charlie came to visit.

Do you miss Charlie?

  • Tim has other friends for playtime now.

Tim, do many children have imaginary friends?

  • Oh! Yes. Oldest kids in family, and kids with no brothers or sisters sometimes have imaginary friends.
  • You know what?

What, Tim?

  • Mom was worried about Charlie Bones, but doctor said it was normal. Tim still not know what normal is. HA HA HA.
  • Doctor said many smart kids have imaginary friends.

Wow, Tim, you know your stuff. How did you get so smart?

  • Well, I may just be a sock puppet, but I pay attention. More about friends and imaginary friends are in Ellen’s book. See, this one here. Good stuff in here. Gotta go.
  • If anyone has questions for Tim, go to ellenbuikema.com Ask Ellen, she answers. Tim just spokes puppet. HA HA HA .
  • Bye Bye.
  • I love YouTube!

Ten Tips for Better Restaurant Experiences with Children

mom and child in restaurant-p19s29fh074d31h8i8101rm7c4f


Ten Tips for Better Restaurant Experiences with Children:

  1. Make sure no one is “starving” by the time you arrive at the restaurant. That makes for cranky people of all sizes.
  2. Bring a baggie of low sugar snacks. Sometimes the wait is much longer than anticipated.
  3. If a child is screaming at the table, take them outside to have a talk. Trying to calm a child within the restaurant only prolongs the agony of everyone, parent included.
  4. Bring paper or small coloring book and crayons. Not all restaurants have them available.
  5. Do not bring markers, especially the smelly ones, or any toys on wheels. Markers end up on everything. Smelly markers tend to end up in children’s mouths. Toys on wheels are easy to lose and are a tripping hazard after they fall on the floor.
  6. Expect children to need to get up and walk around. Small children are physically unable to stay in one place for an extended time. It is uncomfortable for them. If you see that your child is wiggling around, ask them to stand up and walk over to you even if it just to put an arm around him to say how patient he is being to wait for his food.
  7. Show your child how to treat the restaurant staff. Children notice everything parents do and say. If you smile and use polite language, so will the kids.
  8. Converse with everyone at the table. Conversation held during mealtime is becoming a lost art. Too many adults and children lavish time on their electronics instead of giving quality time to the people they love.
  9. If you are lost and have no idea what to talk about, ask your child, “Who got in trouble in school this week (or today).” You will be amazed at what you’ll learn.
  10. Listen to your children when they are speaking. If you listen to them, they will listen to you—an important point for when they become teenagers.

When children misbehave in restaurants, other patrons may give the “hairy eyeball” to the children’s parents. Much of the time, parents are aware of their children’s behavior and feel badly enough as it is. A great strategy to encourage good behavior in restaurants can come from these same patrons. Complement those parents whose children are behaving well. Parents and children need to know when they are being awesome.

Most people enjoy going out to eat. Someone else makes the food, pours the coffee, and asks if there is anything they can bring to the table. If adult time is needed, have a date night without the kids. Don’t feel guilty. Parents should remember that they need a break. Parenting is a difficult job.

When going out as a family, do just that. One of the reasons children get up and run around in a public place is for attention. It’s better to give positive attention, letting your children know how proud you are of them when they’re behaving well, than to use negative attention by yelling at them for running around. Catch them being good and reward them with praise.

A child wants what a child wants. A two-year-old will not understand about lack of funds, but will learn what his or her parents expect through the seemingly endless testing of parental limits.

Consistency is important. Children need to know their parents’ rules. Parents should decide what kind of  behavior they want from their kids and let them know the rules before arriving at the restaurant or any other public places.

Children will rise to their parents’ expectations.

Sock Puppet Tim Speaks About Potty Training

Tim sings –Potty Time (Ellen Buikema.)

It’s potty time, yes it’s potty time.

Oh, it’s potty, potty, potty time, very good time of day.

It’s potty time, yes it’s potty time and when potty time comes can poopy be far away?

Bring on the potty chair. Turn on the lights.

Bring out the potty book. Bring on the wipes.

‘Cause it’s potty, potty, potty time.

Tim, why are you singing about Potty Time?

  • Tim thinking about something waitress at Village Inn said.
  • Her child is getting ready to use the potty and she asked for Tim’s thoughts.

Do you have some suggestions about potty training?

  • Yes, first parents should know if their kids are ready to use the potty.

How would they know that, Tim?

  • If kids like potty chair, want to wear “big boy or big girl” underwear and can follow directions, they might be ready.

What else, Tim?

  • If kids don’t like messy diapers, let parents know when they are ready to go potty and can stay dry for two hours during the day they might be ready.

Tim, is there anything parents should not do?

  • Oh! Yes. Do not pressure kids when they are learning to use the potty. That will make them say NO to potty. Kid’s clothes must be easy to take off, too. Belts are cute, but hard for kids to get off.
  • You know what?

What, Tim?

  • Not all kids are ready at the same age. Some are ready at two, some not ready until time for preschool.

Can you think of anything else, Tim?

  • Any change in family can cause stress to everyone, parents and kids. If big changes are coming, start potty training later. If parents are relaxed, kids will be relaxed, too.
  • You know what?

No, what, Tim.

  • When kids use the potty, parents can give them treats, like extra reading at bedtime or maybe choice of new “big kid” underwear. Sometimes bribe with little cookie or candy treats is okay.

Tim, what about when the family is out driving in the car?

  • It’s a good idea to keep extra clothes is a plastic bag in the car. You never know when extra clothes are needed.

Wow, Tim, you know your stuff. How did you get so smart?

  • Well, I may just be a sock puppet, but I pay attention. More about potty training is in Ellen’s book. See, this one here. Good stuff in here. Gotta go.
  • If anyone has questions for Tim, go to ellenbuikema.com Ask Ellen, she answers. Tim just spokes puppet. HA HA HA .
  • Bye Bye.
  • I love YouTube!

Preview of Snippet—Cookies on a Snowy Day

snowy pic

As Sock Puppet Tim is still recuperating from his trip to New Mexico, I have decided to include some information about the children’s chapter books that I’ve been working on. Tim will be back in two weeks.

The characters in the stories are all animals. Each story, geared for second grade students but fun for all, covers situations children typically encounter like getting lost, moving, starting a new school, making friends, family vacations, working together, and dealing with bullies. The end of each chapter has an activity for the children to do; some require adult supervision. Many of the chapters are written, but the artwork is in its infancy.

To those of you who have been after me to “get them finished already,” I thank you for your patience. The first of three chapter books should be completed this year.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter, Cookies on a Snowy Day, to be included in the second chapter book.


Charlie looked out the front window, watching snowflakes stick to the glass. He thought about cookies. “Mom, can Gary Gecko and Boris Bunny come over?”

“Sure, if their parents say they can,” said Mama Chameleon from her comfy living room chair.

Charlie ran down the hallway towards his bedroom. CRASH! He bumped into the hallway table. Mama yelled, “CHARLIE! Use walking feet in the house.”

“Sorry Mom!” Charlie called. He was excited to have Gary and Boris over.

In the bedroom, Frankie swam fast circles in his fishbowl. “Charlie, are you sure you want Boris Bunny to come over? He always causes trouble.” Frankie remembered Boris reaching into his fishbowl to squish him.

Charlie sent a text to Gary and Boris asking them to come over.

“Frankie, don’t worry about Boris. I’ll keep him busy.”

“Maybe you can lock me in your room. Then he can’t come in and try to squash me again! Fish don’t like hugs,” said Frankie.

“We’re only gonna be in the kitchen. No one is going upstairs. You don’t have to worry about Boris or Gary.”

Frankie poked his head out of the fishbowl and squirted water at Charlie.

“Hey, cut that out. Be a good fish.”

“Carry my bowl to the hallway table. I wanna hear what’s going on.”

“Say please, Frankie. Your manners are bad.”

“Oh, fine. Please,” said Frankie crossing his fins.

“Better. Was that so hard?” Charlie smiled at his cranky pet fish.


“Okay Frankie,” said Charlie. “I’ll bring you a cookie after Boris and Gary go home.”

“Yummy! No onions in the cookies this time, okay?” said Frankie. He remembered the time Charlie put onion flakes in the cookie dough when he should have used dried coconut.

Behavior in Public: Stores

Behavior in Stores2

Children need guidance to know how to behave. They learn what to do where, and with whom while observing the people around them and by direct instruction. Children learn that grandma expects better manners than cousin does. They adjust behavior accordingly.


Children learn at an early age what they can get away with in public.

A father walked through a Toys R Us® store with his three-year-old daughter. He planned to purchase diapers for his newborn son. He brought his daughter shopping to give Mom a much needed break. The daughter sat in the cart and looked at all the colorful toys. She wanted a My Little Pony® in the worst way.

The daughter reached her hands toward the ponies on a shelf. Her father told her “no” and pushed the cart farther down the aisle, still looking for diapers.

She screamed at her father, “I want pony. I want pony.” His face reddened while other shoppers stared at him and his daughter. She continued screaming.

Dad, embarrassed and unable to deal with screaming, turned the cart around, grabbed a My Little Pony®, and gave it to his daughter. “Here, is that better? Now be quiet.”

Daughter, happy with the pony, was quiet for the rest of the trip.

I had a similar experience with one of my children in a Sears® store.

With a limited budget I could afford only what I needed. My two-year-old daughter sat in the shopping cart and looked at the toys as we passed them.

“Winnie Poo, Winnie Poo,” she yelled as we passed the bright yellow bear.

“Sorry, we can’t buy Winnie the Pooh. Mommy doesn’t have enough money.”

“Winnie Poo, Winnie Poo,” she screamed, arms reaching toward the bear.

People all over the store stared at us. I chose to ignore them, but it was not easy. Seeing that she was not going to stop yelling for Pooh bear I had to decide whether to let her have the bear or pick her up and leave the store. I opted to leave without purchasing anything.

My daughter cried while I lifted her out of the cart. She flailed her arms and legs. It became necessary to hold her at my side encircled by my arm, the football hold. Her arms and legs hit the air instead of me or anyone that may have come near. No one came close.

“We’re going home,” I told her.

Shoppers stared after us. It didn’t matter.

I worried that, if I’d given in and bought the bear, it would be the beginning of a bad trend. If I gave in, anytime she wanted something and didn’t get it, she’d scream knowing from experience screaming gets what you want.

It was her only tantrum out in public.

Before my children were old enough to enjoy shopping I devised a method to ensure good shopping behavior. If they were patient while shopping, we might go to the Cinnabon ® in the mall. I didn’t want them to think they would always get a treat, which is why I used the word “might.” Around every third shopping trip we stopped at Cinnabon® and get a small treat. To make sure it worked, the first time they were good at the mall we went for a treat to reinforce good behavior.

Some children are easily sensory overloaded, making long shopping trips seem perilous to them and a tantrum risk. Too many people. Too much emotion. They feel stuck in a whirlwind of sights and sounds, yelling to get out.

Consider the following:

  1. Make the trips short.
  2. Give a 5 or 10 minute warning before leaving home.
  3. Inform the child in advance of the plan for the outing.
  4. Have the child use the bathroom before leaving the house.
  5. Bring a snack.

These suggestions are helpful for all children, but are particularly important for children who are learning social skills or have sensory issues.

Next week there will be a performance by Sock Puppet Tim. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/c/EllenLBuikema. Come and cheer him on! Let Tim know how he’s doing in the comment section of YouTube.


Join me the following week for Behavior in Public: Restaurants. Learn how to have happier family outings.

Sock Puppet Tim Speaks About Fun With Boxes


Tim sings –Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds.)

Tim, why are you singing about boxes?

  • Tim thinking about boxes left over from moving.
  • Is fun to play with boxes.

How do you play with a box?

  • Well, sometimes Tim likes to crawl into boxes like kitty. They like boxes too.
  • You know what?

What Tim?

  • I’m gonna tell you my favorite box games.

What box games do you like best, Tim?

  • Tim likes to open up two big boxes and tape them together. I ask Ellen to cut holes in them for window so Tim can have play house. Tim decorate inside house-box with markers.

That sounds like fun, Tim. What else do you like to do with boxes?

  • Oh, Tim love science, so Tim does experiments with boxes.

What kind of science can you do with a box, Tim?

  • Ooh! Tim takes two boxes, one tall and one short. Then Ellen tapes a flat bridge between them so Tim has a ramp.

Why do you need a ramp, Tim?

  • So Tim can roll different things down. See how fast or slow things go.
  • You know what?

No, what, Tim.

  • Once Tim put apple and banana on ramp. Apple rolled but banana stayed. Made Tim sad.

What did you do, Tim?

  • Tim put the banana on a toy truck. HA Ha Ha. Then it rolled.

Wow, Tim, you know your stuff. How did you get so smart?

  • Well, I may just be a sock puppet, but I pay attention. More about play is in Ellen’s book. See, this one here. Good stuff in here. Gotta go.
  • If anyone has questions for Tim, go to ellenbuikema.com Ask Ellen, she answers. Tim just spokes puppet. HA HA HA .
  • Bye Bye.
  • I love YouTube!

Naturalistic Intelligence “Nature Smart”



Naturalistic Intelligence is associated with sensing patterns in and making connections to elements in nature.

People talented in this area have highly-developed levels of sensory perception, and may be very interested in human behaviors, or the behaviors, habits, or habitats of other species.

Parents can influence their children’s “Nature smarts” by using the following eleven home activities (not in order of importance).

  1. While cooking and baking, ask the child to set out the ingredients in the order of the recipe.
  2. When cleaning a room, ask the child to organize his room by area—all books in the same place, all toys together in a box.
  3. Read stories with the child. Ask her to retell the story in order. Read her stories about her favorite animals or places. Talk about where the animals in the story live.
  4. At bedtime have the child talk about what he saw on the way home from school, or what he observed while playing outside.
  5. When grocery shopping, have the child make up the grocery list, organized by food types. Ask her about the color, shape, texture, and smell of different foods.
  6. During family game time, play animal charades.
  7. While traveling, encourage the child to help organize items to bring. Have him look at a map of the route to be traveled. Ask him to help navigate.
  8. During homework, have the child use graphic organizers. Help her make a connection between homework and the “real world.”
  9. For the news, find the areas discussed on a globe, map, or atlas. Look up the locations together on the computer, or smart phone.
  10. For family: take time to go on a picnic; watch the night sky; go hiking; play in the dirt—garden; watch incoming storms.
  11. To get out of the house on time, discuss who is the fastest to the slowest to get ready to go out. Brainstorm ways to help the slowest to speed up.



Adults who have strong naturalistic intelligences may find success as: botanist, astronomer, wildlife illustrator, meteorologist, chef, geologist, agriculturalist, horticulturalist, archeologist, volcanologist, ornithologist, oceanographer, biologist, ecologist, zoologist, paleontologist, forensic scientist or landscape architect.

To spark this intelligence in adults:

  • Visit museums of natural history and astronomy. See the night stars or meteor showers.
  • Take photographs of things in nature that interest you. Organize them in categories.
  • Go on an Eco vacation. Learn about different cultures and environments.
  • Sit outside, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds of nature: the wind in the trees; buzzing insects; birds singing. Pay attention to the sights and smells of nature. Feel the change in the air when a storm blows in.








Next week there will be a performance by Sock Puppet Tim. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/c/EllenLBuikema. Come and cheer him on! Let Tim know how he’s doing in the comment section of YouTube.


Join me the following week for Behavior in Public. Learn about how to have happier family outings.

On Meditation’s Benefits for Creativity and Health


And now for something completely different!

During my university years, I signed up for a yoga course to offset the physics and calculus required as part of the core curriculum for engineering. I had to balance the heavy academics with some physical activity that included relaxation to survive with my mind intact. Yoga appeared to be a good fit.

Along with the traditional poses, the instructor taught us how to do basic massage—for which my family is eternally grateful—and yogic meditation. A few years later I included Transcendental Meditation (TM) into the mix. TM helped me through many trying years.

Recently I joined a class that includes yoga and pilates, populated with people of varying abilities. It’s easy to identify the newbies by their comments:

“You want me to do what?”

Sure, I can do that.”

“Are you freakin’ kidding me?”

At the end of class, the instructor asks everyone to sit cross-legged with eyes closed, arms resting on the thighs, middle finger and thumb touching, breathing slowly. Gentle music plays in the background. My mind floats with the music.

Then BAM, I slip out of the relaxed state of concentrating on my breathing. I remember something I need to do. This never fails. I file away the information in my mind and return to meditation.

These days, when my mind drifts, it invariably settles on a writing issue. The brief meditation sessions have given me possible book titles, character’s personality changes, new characters, scene changes, and new ideas for blog themes. I am waiting for lottery numbers to filter through, but perhaps that’s asking too much.

In sleep, our bodies grow and heal. Our minds sift through the happenings of the day, filing away information to retrieve at a later time. We solve problems while sleeping.

Meditation has a similar effect on the mind. The meditative mini-vacation, lasting a fraction of our waking day, relaxes the mind long enough to dissipate stress-induced blockages and allow the creativity within to flow.

It is possible to meditate anywhere: on a bus, train, airplane, in a library, places of worship, or home.

Meditation lowers blood pressure; reduces insulin resistance; boosts the immune system; reduces stress; improves concentration, mood, and metabolism; and physically alters brain structures allowing increased memory and decreased anxiety.

There is much to gain.


The Benefits of Meditation


47 Meditation Experts Reveal the #1 Benefits of Meditation They Receive Personally!





Sock Puppet Tim Will return soon, as will the continuation of the regular blog.

Have a happy week!


Intrapersonal Intelligence “Self Smart”



Intrapersonal Intelligence is associated with inner states of being and self-reflection, as well as an awareness of spiritual realities.

People talented in this area know themselves well—understanding personal strengths and weaknesses. They tend to have strong powers of concentration and awareness of different levels of being.

Parents can influence their children’s “Self smarts” by using the following eleven home activities (not in order of importance), developed by Connie Hine and Margaret Lewis Crosby, experts in child development.

  1. While cooking and baking, ask the child about his favorite recipes, and flavors. Ask him how he makes his favorite foods.
  2. When cleaning a room, ask the child to choose what he wants to clean next. Let him take the lead.
  3. Read stories with the child, ask how she feels about the story. Have her retell the tale.
  4. At bedtime have the child dictate, write or draw—depending on the age—thoughts about the day. Have her set goals for tomorrow.
  5. When grocery shopping, decide upon good shopping behavior prior to leaving for the store. Let him add to the grocery list—one healthy, one not so healthy.
  6. During family game time, play games that involve focusing skills, like Concentration card games or online games.
  7. While traveling, encourage the child to describe what he is seeing and feeling in a journal using words, pictures, or both.
  8. During homework, have the child make up her own study questions. Talk to her about her questions. Listen.
  9. For the news, ask the child about his feelings about the news stories. If he could change what was occurring, what would he do?
  10. For family, talk about family times; happy, sad, and funny.
  11. To get out of the house on time, ask the child what he needs to do to get ready to leave. Co-solve any issues.

Adults who have strong intrapersonal intelligences may find success as: psychologist, therapist, counselor, theologian, program planner, or entrepreneur.

To spark this intelligence in adults:

  • When working on a routine activity, be aware of your surroundings, your physical movements, and how you feel.
  • Practice “seeing” yourself from the outside as if you were detached. The “I” watches the “me.”
  • Evaluate the way you think—your problem solving strategies.
  • Write, in 25 words or less, an answer to the question, “Who am I?” Look at the answer each day for a week and reevaluate until you are satisfied.






Next week there will be a performance by Sock Puppet Tim. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/c/EllenLBuikema. Come and cheer him on! Let Tim know how he’s doing in the comment section of YouTube.


Join me the following week for Naturalistic Intelligence, how to increase it in children and spark it in adults.

Sock Puppet Tim Speaks About Traveling with Children


Tim sings – “On the road again.”

Tim, are you going somewhere?

  • Oh, not now. I sing about traveling with friends, just like Willie Nelson.
  • He likes to wear hats, like Tim.
  • Maybe later I go on car trip with Ellen.

Do you like to go for rides in the car?

  • Yes, but sometimes Tim gets bored in car. Kids get bored in car too! Nothing to do.
  • You know what?

What Tim?

  • I talked to Ellen about games for the car. She likes my ideas.

What kind of ideas for car games do you have, Tim?

  • One is eye spy with my little eye. Use color, shape, size, or rhymes so people guess what you see.
  • Another one is to make up a story. Just tell a little part and then everyone else tells their part.

Tim, do you mean story in the round?

  • Yes! That’s right. You’re pretty smart.

Thanks, Tim.

  • You know what?

No, what, Tim.

  • My favorite car game is the license plate game. You guess what the letters are for.
  • IDWB could mean “I dance with broccoli.” Ha Ha Ha. That’s goofy.

Wow, Tim, you know your stuff. How did you get so smart?

  • Well, I may just be a sock puppet, but I pay attention. More about traveling is in Ellen’s book. See, this one here. Good stuff in here. New book will have more about traveling with kids.
  • Gotta go.
  • If anyone has questions for Tim, go to ellenbuikema.com Ask Ellen, she answers. Tim just spokes puppet. HA HA HA
  • Bye Bye. I love YouTube!

Interpersonal Intelligence “People Smart”


Interpersonal Intelligence is associated with the ability to work cooperatively in a group, and communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people. Interpersonal intelligence relies on all other forms of intelligences.

People talented in this area are good at person-to-person encounters and working with others towards a common goal. They see differences in people as necessary and important.

Parents can influence their children’s “people smarts” by using the following eleven home activities (not in order of importance), developed by Connie Hine and Margaret Lewis Crosby, experts in child development.

  1. While cooking and baking, have the child cook with another person.
  2. When cleaning a room, do so cooperatively. Siblings can help each other with their rooms or a parent can help the child with a chore, taking time to talk as both work.
  3. Read stories with the child, stop now and again to ask how a character is feeling. Encourage imaginary conversations with story characters. Model if necessary.
  4. At bedtime talk about: favorite things, what happened at school (who got in trouble), friends, activities, and dreams.
  5. When grocery shopping, ask the child to tell about the different people that work in the store and shop there. What might the people at the store be thinking? Determine this by looking at their faces and how they hold their bodies.
  6. During family game time, play games that involve role playing, like dress-up, charades, and guess how I’m feeling.
  7. While traveling, encourage the child to talk to other children they meet along the way and make friends. Speak with the child about how other people feel and how to recognize the feelings of others.
  8. During homework, work nearby, be a study buddy for the child, help by quizzing.
  9. For the news, discuss issues and listen to each others’ thoughts.
  10. For family, ask the child who he likes to play, cook, read, and fix things with in the family.
  11. To get out of the house on time, have family meetings on the subject. Persuade others to cooperate while modeling cooperation for the child.



Adults who have strong interpersonal intelligences may find success as: counselor, psychologist, politician, sociologist, anthropologist, religious leader, or teacher.

To spark this intelligence in adults:

  • Volunteer for committee work or team activity inside or outside of the daily job.
  • Cut off “the inner voice” and listen fully when someone is speaking.
  • Try to guess what someone else is thinking based on visual cues, and check accuracy with that person.
  • Practice non-verbal communication: facial expressions, body posture, and gestures.






Next week there will be a performance by Sock Puppet Tim. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/c/EllenLBuikema. Come and cheer him on! Let Tim know how he’s doing in the comment section of YouTube.


Join me the following week for the next installment of Multiple Intelligences, a closer look at Intrapersonal Intelligence; how to help strengthen it in children and spark it in adults.

Sock Puppet Tim Speaks About Summer Safety

(Tim sings – Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime.)

Tim, why are you singing about Summertime?

  • I love summertime. There’s more time to play. No homework for Tim.
  • You know what?

No what, Tim?

  • In summertime the weather gets hot. Kids need to be careful.

Why should they be careful, Tim?

  • It’s easy to get too hot. Kids need to drink water to help body keep cool. Playing in water is a fun way to stay cool too.

Tim, is it safe for kids to play in the water when they are alone?

  • Oh, no! Kids should never play in water alone. They could get hurt. That makes Tim sad. Kids should only play or swim in water when adults are with them.

What about being outside in the sun, Tim?

  • Kids need sunscreen! Anyone can get sunburn and it is very ouchie!! Tim no like sunburn.
  • You know what?

What Tim?

  • In summertime there are 4th of July parties! Parties are fun. Fireworks are awesome, but not good for kids to play with.

Not even the sparklers?

  • Aye Chihuahua! No! Sparklers are pretty but the sparkles burn hot. Can be very ouchie and burn kids.
  • One more thing. When kids go outside, they should tell an adult where they are going so no one gets worried about where kids are. That’s really important.

Wow, Tim, you know your stuff. How did you get so smart?

  • Well, I may just be a sock puppet, but I pay attention. More about play and safety is in Ellen’s book. See, this one here. Good stuff in here.
  • Gotta go.
  • If anyone has questions for Tim, go to ellenbuikema.com Find me there and ask me questions. I answer. Ellen types. I have no hands or feet!! Typing with nose hurts too much.
  • Bye Bye. I love YouTube!