Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad talks about babies and boarding

By Kirsten Flournoy, Editor of San Diego Family Magazine.

Mention the name Tony Hawk and one thing comes to mind: skateboards. But the man who transformed skateboarding from a rogue street sport to a lucrative competitive industry is also a devoted dad to Riley, Spencer, Keegan, and Kadence.

A San Diego native, Hawk attended Torrey Pines High School. Since turning pro at age 14, he’s traveled extensively and inspired kids around the globe. An astute businessman, Tony is an entrepreneur, designer and philanthropist on top of the world. He’s made more than 130 appearances in fi lm and on TV, and won six gold medals at the ESPN X-Games.

Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam was a sold-out success. The punk- and rock-driven touring showcase featured the world’s best skateboarders, BMX and Motocross riders. Hawk shares his expertise in books, DVDs and a series of highly rated videogames, and he designs skateboards and a kid’s clothing line for Kohl’s. The Tony Hawk Foundation has given more than 2 million dollars to help build 390 skate parks in lowincome areas across the United States. Despite the celebrities, awards and accolades, what’s most important to Tony? The answer isn’t surprising. It’s family.

Tony’s wife Lhotse Merriam is a skier, former publicist and boutique owner, and the former Vice President of the International Free Skiers Association. She met Tony in Colorado, where she promoted extreme skiing events.

Married in 2006 to live music by the band Rancid, Lhotse and Tony spent a year and a half year trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization. IVF can be a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.

“It’s a pretty rough road,” Lhotse says. “I really admire everyone who goes through it and goes the distance. We were pretty lucky on our fourth try.”

Their daughter Kadence Clover was born in July 2008. Lhotse and Kadence now accompany Tony on his travels. When we spoke to the Hawks, they’d returned from visiting four countries in just three weeks—business as usual for this dynamic family.

“There is no typical day in our household at all. If we’re not on the road, we are at home,” says Lhotse. “Tony’s usually in the office or an interview. [He] tries to get in skating three to four times a week at the warehouse or at home because we have a skate park in the back yard.”

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Water Play

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Water will always hold a fascination for children. Whether they are physically in it or just watching it, children find equal parts excitement and relaxation from being around water.

Here are some suggestions for summertime play that include water:

  • Sit by a fountain. We were at the park last week and my kids were so excited by the loud spurt of the fountain and the subsequent mist sprinkling down on them.
  • Purchase a water table that can be used outside. I bought an inexpensive one a few summers ago, and on hot days my kids play with it in their bathing suits. Floating toy boats occupies them for hours.
  • Take your children out on a small row boat on the lake or a speedboat in the ocean and let the water spray hit their faces! Don’t forget the lifejackets.
  • Learn to swim. Our project for this summer is to teach my youngest son how to swim. In the past, he’s been hesitant about getting his face wet so we haven’t pressed the issue, but after some recent water safety lessons, he’s looking forward to getting back into the pool.
  • Don’t have a pool at your house? Neither do we, but we do have a plastic kiddie-pool that the kids like to sit and splash in to cool off during hot summer afternoons (I’ve been known to soak my feet in there too!). Splash parks are another fun way to stay cool and children don’t need to know how to swim. Wear waterproof swim shoes to prevent slippage on wet surfaces.
  • Turn on the sprinklers for a few minutes and let the kids run around on the lawn (Bonus: You’ll water the grass at the same time!). Throw in a few sponges to toss around and play splash tag.
  • Fill watering cans and let the kids water your garden.
  • Paint with water on the sidewalk. All you need is a bucket of water and a paint brush to create temporary art on the concrete.
  • Hit the beach. The smell of the ocean, the sound and force of the waves, and the feel of wet sand underfoot is an experience like no other.
  • My kids could spend all day at an aquarium, watching the fish in the tanks, getting hands-on in the tide pools, and learning about undersea creatures.
  • Give the kids a surprise and spray them with the water hose unexpectedly while they are playing outside! Or pull out a bucket of soapy water and some sponges to give the car a wash.
  • There probably isn’t an easier way for kids to connect with water than in a bath. A few cups, maybe a sieve and a spoon, and kids will happily play and pour water. Give them a few drops of liquid soap in a cup and have them stir up their own bubbles.

ZOO POPS: Animal Shape Frozen Treat Molds

Delicious. Healthful. Economical. Fun. For mere pennies a pop, your freezer will soon be turning out some of the coolest treats in town. Pour fruit juice, milk, gelatin, or any other liquid into the four individual plastic molds, insert the cool penguin handles, and six hours later you’ve got detailed, sculpted popsicles featuring either a lion, monkey, elephant, or polar bear. Each mold will take up 4.5 x 4 x 2.5 inches of freezer space. Includes 8 tasty recipes.

The Joy of Discovery

Monday, May 11th, 2009

This past weekend my son and I visited a science center. One of the more popular exhibits with the smaller children was a fan that faced the ceiling with a clear plastic tube sitting over the top. There was space underneath the tube to place items and then see which ones the fan would carry up through the tube and subsequently out the top and back down to the ground. There was a plethora of experimental bits and pieces lying on the carpet: scraps of paper, little strings, ribbon, Styrofoam packing peanuts, tiny paper airplanes, etc.

My son was absolutely fascinated with the fan. For about ten minutes he placed items inside the tube, jumping up and down with excitement as he watched the pieces shoot up to the ceiling, some slower than others depending on the weight. Then he discovered a small plastic tray, the kind that would hold about three pieces of chocolate candy in a box. He set the tray inside the tube and the air from the fan shot it up and out quickly. He then placed little scraps of Styrofoam inside the tray, watching the tray rise a little slower out of the tube. He finally found a happy medium by adding and removing enough of the pieces in the tray so that when he put it on the fan, the air caused the tray to levitate about midway in a mystifying way in the center of the tube.

I stood back, watching his mind work as he tested his experiments and I was reminded that as parents we sometimes need to take a “hands-off” approach. It’s difficult at times to bite our tongue and let our children experience the World at their own pace and in their own way. If I’d offered suggestions or taken the pieces and shown him myself, his course of learning wouldn’t have been the same as when I’d left him to discover it on his own. It’s our nature as parents to want to jump in and attempt to “teach the lesson” instead of letting children discover and study the cause-and-effect on their own. It’s tough watching our children struggle as they learn, but it’s necessary in teaching them independence. And isn’t that what raising children is all about, to guide them toward full independence and autonomy? I reminded myself of this again yesterday as I watched my son wriggle teeny-tiny buttons through buttonholes on his shirt. I sat quietly and watched, ready to help if asked, but not offering. He didn’t ask for my help.

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

Create a “science center” in your own home with the ideas from 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials.

Chinaberry Interviews Susan McKinley Ross

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Susan McKinley Ross creates fun: games, toys, crafts – anything involving fun for children. She licensed her first toy in early 2003, and she’s been busy ever since with her growing business, Idea Duck. I had the great pleasure of meeting Susan in 2004 when she was helping us select toys for the Chinaberry catalog. Today, we carry her award-winning board game, Qwirkle. When we had lunch together at Toy Fair last January, I could have listened to Susan for hours! Since we ran out of time, I thought I’d continue our conversation here and share it with you all!

Janet: When you were a child, immersed in toys and games, did you ever one day dream that you would become an award-winning game maker?  What DID you see yourself doing?  In other words, what were your aspirations?

Susan: Growing up, I had no idea there was such a thing as a toy designer. Or a game designer. I thought these products just magically appeared. The whole concept of product design was outside my realm of experience. We’re aware of authors, directors, fashion designers, but as a culture, we’re not very clued in to the people who design things like toys or silverware. Every single product was designed by someone and I’m fascinated by that. It’s a career I stumbled into, but if I had known it existed, I would have sought it out.

As a child, I spent hours making mud pies, playing with my dollhouse and inventing imaginary worlds for my miniature toy animals. I think that’s why I’m drawn to low-tech toys. I want to design toys that I would have enjoyed myself.

In elementary school, I planned to be a lawyer and do good things for the world. When I graduated from college, I was blessed to get a job working at Hospice. I still sing the praises of the amazing people who do Hospice work. Working at Hospice taught me how important it is to do the things you love to do. I realized I wanted to be doing something creative in my work life. It turns out I wanted to be designing toys and games, even though I didn’t know that was what I was headed for.

Janet: What were your favorite games growing up?

Susan: I’m lucky. My family played games often. They never thought that I was too young to play. They taught me whist (a simplified version of bridge) when I was six years old because they needed a fourth player. We played a lot of cribbage and a lot of gin rummy. We played Scrabble, Monopoly, Password, Pay Day, Rummikub and Mille Bournes. When I was in high school, I played a lot of card games with my friends - hearts, spades, canasta and pinochle. We also played Trivia Pursuit and Pictionary. These are all very popular games that anyone my age would have had access to. I was just lucky to grow up with people who liked to play games.

Janet: Could you tell us a little about the monthly game night you and your husband host in your home? What is your favorite game now?

Susan: My husband, Chris, introduced me to a much wider variety of games than I knew about. Since we both love games, we’ve hosted a monthly Game Night for 12 years. It’s similar to a book club. Ten to fifteen people come over and we break into a few groups and play games. Game Night gives us a regular opportunity to play lots of games with lots of different people. It’s a fun way to spend an evening with our friends, and it’s a huge help to me as a game designer.

My favorite game is Puerto Rico. I also love Dominion and Agricola. These are complex games that offer many routes to victory. I like games that offer choices, so that if your first plan is blocked, you can still puzzle out a good back-up plan. One of the things I like about Qwirkle is that as you play, the board grows and so does the decision tree. Late in the game, there are lots more choices about where to play. You get to search the board to find the best possible place to play.

Janet: You’re such a creative idea person!  What inspires you?

Susan: When I started doing this work, I was mostly inspired by looking at all the amazing products out there and trying to figure out what made them interesting. I’m a huge fan of HABA toys. They’re so beautiful! When I see their toys, it makes me dream of designing something just as wonderful.

It’s always inspiring to see something beautiful, be it a toy or a greeting card or a children’s book. Toy Fair is a wonderful event and it makes my head spin with new ideas. I love it. But my absolute favorite part of going to New York for Toy Fair is my yearly pilgrimage to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Going there inspires me for weeks.

The best part of my job is when I’m in the throes of inspiration. Sometimes I wake up with a great idea and I’m blessed that it’s my job to hold onto that idea and develop it. It is completely compelling. I really let myself indulge in the joy of inspiration because it helps sustain me when I hit the difficult stages of product development.

Janet: If you could have only one item in the Chinaberry catalog, what would it be?

Susan: I love the Chinaberry catalog! When I read your catalog, it’s like having a conversation with a good friend. I’m always trying to find new things I enjoy, and Chinaberry is a great way to do that.

The thing that I’ve been meaning to order from Chinaberry is the new Himalayan Salt Inhaler. I’ve always been fascinated by the Neti Pot, but this looks even better. Leave it to Chinaberry to find a useful new version of a classic item.

Janet: And, lastly, tell us about your May Day ritual.  I know I’ve been getting your May Day flowers for the past five years, and I’ve saved every single photo.  Tell us how it started and how many pictures you send.

Susan: When I was growing up, my Mom and my grandparents taught me about May Day. They taught me to make a bouquet of flowers, leave it on our neighbor’s porch, ring the doorbell and hide in the bushes. Of course, the neighbors always knew it was us! But it was fun to do anyway. In high school, my cousin Stephanie and I would get up very early and drive around town delivering May Day flowers. And candy. We didn’t have enough flowers for everyone, so we gave some people candy. The best part was that we’d pick a few completely random houses to leave flowers.

Eventually I figured out a sneaky way to deliver hundreds of May Day bouquets. I make one beautiful bouquet, take a picture of it and email it. A few years ago I decided to turn the photo into a card so my favorite people would get a love note on May Day. I send out between 200 and 250 cards.

It gives me great pleasure to keep this May Day tradition alive. In general, I’m holiday crazy. But I especially adore celebrating May Day because it’s entirely my decision to celebrate it. It’s not a commercial holiday. There’s no apparatus to support May Day. It’s just a great excuse to remind people that I’m thinking of them. I usually deliver 5-10 actual bouquets on May Day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see people and let them know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

Janet: Be sure to check our blog May 1 for Susan’s 2009 May Day bouquet!

Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

710 Games and Activities for Ages 12 Months to 10 Years
by Bobbi Conner

You will never hear the words ”I’m bored” again from your children if you own this extraordinary book. It would take years for anyone to play all the games and do all the activities within its pages, so there’s the grand feeling of always having something new and marvelous to play, learn, or create. It is set up so you can begin when your child is a year old and keep going for ten years, adding more and more ways to imagine and create, run, jump, skip and exercise, be outside with nature, laugh and be silly, and share good times with others. All this instead of watching TV, surfing the Net, or playing video games that aren’t really about being connected, happy, and alive.

What a gift this book is. There are great pages with information about what children need at every stage of growing — how creative play helps children develop healthily and with joy. Each age range has sections: Solo Play, for the times you need children to play on their own; Play Ideas for Parent and Child to do together; Playing with Others, and Birthday Party and Group Play. The appendixes support family game nights and creating a well-stocked toy cupboard to be ready for fun at any time. I can’t imagine a childhood without this book now, so I am giving one to every child I know and love.

TV-Turnoff Week: Take the Challenge!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Take the challenge—keep your TVs turned off this week. After you go through that initial media-withdrawal, you just might see a glimpse of the possible rewards of a TV-free lifestyle, most notably having more time to really connect as a family.

Continue in the spirit of TV-Turnoff Week by scheduling one unplugged day or evening a week when the only things you’re tuned into are each other. Chinaberry can help you to unplug from electronics and tune into family and community. Check out our wide selection of games, crafts, activity books, puzzles, and outdoor/active play toys and free yourself from TV for at least one day a week.

Crafting - Coloring Easter Eggs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Decorated Easter Eggs

Decorated Easter Eggs

Last year around this time of year, I gathered all of our Easter egg supplies and took the activity outside where we could decorate without fear of spilled dye on the carpet or dripping fingers touching the furniture. I know that not everyone has the luxury of warm weather in the spring, but if you are able to get outside to decorate your eggs, it really is the best option. I have a little play table that is a good height for the kids so they can stand over the dye cups and not risk tipping the cups over like they might at a dining room table or kitchen counter.

I have my boys dress in old clothes and then let them go at it. I buy an inexpensive egg decorating kit that includes the dye pellets, a wire holder (though a tablespoon is generally easier to maneuver), and sometimes a few stickers, which I usually put into their Easter baskets. I’ve never gone for those complicated dye kits that add glitter or wrap plastic casings around the eggs. I think they take away from the creativity and imagination of making your own designs. My boys like to draw on their eggs with a crayon before dipping them to create patterns or personalize them with their names. The half-and-half egg is a popular one at our house but requires a steady hand to hold the egg only halfway into the dye before flipping it on the spoon and dipping the opposite side into another color. My eldest likes to use an old eye dropper to deposit small drips and make a swirl effect with a rainbow of colors.

Using dye is the perfect opportunity to learn about color mixing (last year we ended up with lots of purple eggs, the result of my littlest trying to make a brown egg!). My boys usually abandon their spoons and holders halfway through the proceedings and end up dipping their fingers into the dye to retrieve their eggs. I don’t mind a little mess as I think it encourages the imagination, but if you want the kids fresh and clean for Easter Sunday, the dye does stain fingers and nails so have them wear rubber gloves!

This weekend I will be setting up our egg coloring station in the front yard. I hope you will share your own family Easter egg coloring traditions with us!

Time to decorate those eggs!

Time to decorate those eggs!

A Home for Cats

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

If you’re a cat-lover like I am, you just have to check out this video of a great cats’ house, created by home owner Bob Walker.

You can also “visit” The Cats’ House own website: www.thecatshouse.com.

Words of Wisdom from Gandhi

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
- Gandhi

I just love this quote from Gandhi. I now have the bumper sticker on my car–mostly to remind myself of the responsibility we all share to “be the change we wish to see” in our families, communities, counties, states, countries, and the world.

A new arrival, ‘Be the Change’ Pendant, is now available at our sister site, IsabellaCatalog.com.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with graffiti artist Will Kasso:
Question: One of your latest portraits is Gandhi. Why?

Kasso: Well, Gandhi was a great human being. His contribution to society, the world for that matter, is undeniable. He directly influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of others for positive change. So when I decided to do the wall, I wanted to paint someone that ignited change, since aerosol artists are the most misunderstood and stereotyped artists on this planet.

Building Character While Playing Characters

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

My 11-year-old son was in a play last week. For years, friends had been telling me what a great experience this theater program was and how much their kids enjoyed participating in it. I’m not sure why, but in my mind I pictured spoiled child stars, overly-doting parents, and cramming rehearsals into an already packed schedule. In short, I could not see much positive coming from the whole experience.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself talking with the program’s director at a neighborhood park one day. He explained that the emphasis in the productions was not on the singing and dancing or who was the star of the show, but on responsibility, character, and leadership. Now I started getting interested! Not that I don’t value singing and dancing, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s the real life lessons that I value most.

So Ben auditioned for the play and made it. The weeks just flew by until it was time for the scheduled performances. The kids were busy, and the parents were even busier since it was an all-volunteer production. On the final night before the last performance, I found myself sitting in a room with all of the performers while the director gave them suggestions. After having seen the play from lots of different angles—as a parent, from backstage, from the audience —I expected to hear him tell them not to miss a certain cue, to sing out more during this scene, or something of this sort.

Instead, what he said has stayed with me a long time, and in fact, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. (more…)