Discover here interesting children's books and fun activities that S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind. Explore great places for kids to visit. Write and share your own ideas, great books, or subjects you want to know more about with Jewel. Check out Jewel Sample's writing for kids adventures.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Octopus For Lunch, Anyone?

by Amy M. O'Quinn

How would you like to eat an octopus for lunch? No, not a real octopus! But you can make one from a hot dog for a special lunchtime treat! Here’s how:

With adult supervision, use a knife to split a hot dog in half lengthwise, stopping about halfway up. Then split each of those halves into fourths (again lengthwise), being careful not to cut off any of the pieces. You should now have eight ‘tentacles!’

Now, simply put the hot dog into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until done. Voila! Place your ‘octopus’ on a serving plate and enjoy! For more variety, you could use ketchup and mustard to create eyes and a smile. A fun twist on an old favorite!

Visit Amy M. O'Quinn

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Time for Spring Cleaning!

by Terri Forehand

As you spring clean this season, throwing out all that extra junk, here are a five things to add to your list. These will be great examples for your children and helpful to you as a parent as well.

1. Free your heart from hatred - throw out those old misconceptions and make a new
spring start by opening your heart. It will teach your children compassion and
understanding rather than hate and dislike.

2. Free your mind of worry. Most worries are things that you can't change anyway, so
break free from the worry and spring clean your mind.

3. Live simply and teach your children to do the same. For instance, a few favorite
toys and games that they enjoy are better than a room full of stuff no one uses. It
is simple to keep clean and easier for the kids to find and play with their
favorites. Less is More.

4. Give more - more time, more money, more clothing, more food, what ever you feel you
can give. It teaches children to think of others, appreciate what they have, and it
lightens the heart.

5. Expect less - don't lower your standards, just lower your expectations. It will
lessen your disappointments in life and increase your joy when your receive those
blessings you didn't expect.

Spring is a great time to do more than sweep out cobwebs and mop those floors. It is never too late to clear out your mind and open your heart too. It may freshen your outlook. Happy Spring!


Visit Terri's blog for kids!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paper Bunny Banner

by Amy M. O'Quinn

Spring has sprung and Easter is just around the corner! To celebrate the season, you can create a special ‘bunny banner’ that is easy and fun to make. The basic idea is just the same as folding and cutting out old-fashioned paper dolls, but this project uses a cute bunny design instead.

Here’s what you’ll need:

8.5 x 11 inch white paper or card stock
Bunny template (at bottom)- Copy the design on card stock for ease and durability, and cut out to use as a tracing guide.
Crayons or makers


1. Fold the paper or card stock in half lengthwise and crease, then cut.

2. Fold one of the strips of paper into fourths, then fold like an accordion. Each section will measure 2.75 in. x 4.25 in. I got equal parts by folding the strip of paper in half, then folding that in half again.

3. Position the bunny template so that the nose and back of bunny touches each side of the paper. Trace around the template.

4. Cut around the traced design, being careful not to cut where the outline touches the sides. This is what will hold the bunnies together.

5. Unfold the bunny should have four connected bunnies.

6. Give each bunny an eye and a pink nose.

7. You can tape more than one ‘litter’ of bunnies together to create a bunny garland. Hang from a mantel or spot of your choice to add a little seasonal interest and enjoy!

(Bunny Template)
Copy on cardstock and cut out to use as a tracing guide.


Visit Amy M O'Quinn

Monday, March 23, 2009

Helping Kids Deal with Stress

by Terri Forehand

Times are tough and the economy adds more stress to parents and kids too. Here are 3 tips to help your kids through the worry.

1. Remember that your kids really want more of your time than your money. Find cheap activities to enjoy together rather than expensive ones. Try board games, volunteering together to help someone with spring yard clean up, or plan and plant a garden. Be creative and allow time for your kids to express how they feel about what is going on in the world. Kids can be very talkative when their hands are busy.

2. Turn off the television, particularly news, during meal time. Family discussions can be stimulating when you ask your kids about politics, the economy, or the environment. It is a great time to share family values and solutions rather than dwell
on the negatives repeated over and over during the news. It makes for a much more pleasant meal.

3. Talk animals... all kinds of animals. Animals that can be pets, animals that are on the verge of extinction, and favorite animals. Kids love animals. It is a different kind of discussion, educational, and fun. It can even spark further research or suggest a family fieldtrip.

Parents who recognize that their children can become stressed over everyday news events can plan to include kids in more positive solutions and discussions if they give it some extra effort. Your kids will be happier knowing that you are there to help with any tough world issues they feel a part of, and your efforts will make them feel more secure in a very scary world.


Visit Terri Forehand, a pediatric critical care nurse, blog for kids.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Books You Download - The Trend of the Future or a Passing Craze?

by Margot Finke

E-Books, like hard copy books of all genres, vary in quality. As e-Books gain readership and popularity, more-and-more care is being taken to make sure the quality of the writing and art-work is really good. It has taken time for writers and e-Publishers to understand that standards of excellence DO matter, no matter what form the finished book takes.

There are now two e-Book Readers on the market that will show color illustrations (PANASONIC - FUJUTSU ). At the moment, their cost is way too high - but look at microwaves, TV and cell phones when they first came out! I am certain that as more readers go for downloads, the price of e-Book Readers will come down to a reasonable level. For now, we are stuck with the black and white version of e-readers, or our computer screens if we want color.

A HUGE PLUS is that children's e-BOOKS can be downloaded for as little as $3.00 each, whereas the same book in paper costs anywhere from $10.00 to $15.00. Adult genres a lot more. Buy GREEN and SAVE a TREE! You can also usually download picture books from the publisher, or online sites like Fictionwise, Readers Eden, and many more.

These days, many publishers, like Guardian Angel Publishing (G.A.P.), provide hard copy, e-Book Download, and CD versions of their books. Even some of the "Big Boys" are getting into the act. Soon there will be DVD versions of many picture books, with sound and music. Kids today, unlike many of their parents and grandparents, are computer savvy. We grew up taking the telephone and TV for granted. Kids today take reading on a screen the same way. They play games on a screen too, download their music, and watch movies as well. Kids today can't imagine life without computers and the magic they bring. I suspect it's the adults who need to catch up with the 21st century.

No one publishing venue is the RIGHT one. There is a time and place for e-Book reading, and a time and place for snuggling up in bed with a paper book. A new set of reading options.

e-Books are just beginning to take off, and become noticed as viable alternatives for reading fun and education. This is a new publishing arena, and it is still in that early shake-down period. Guttenberg didn't get it right the first few times around, either.

And in these tough times, and with environmental issues in mind, buying THRIFTY GREEN e-BOOKS makes total sense. And if some of those e-Books add a little voice, music, or action to the mix, why not? Think of all those boys out there who are reluctant readers. A little music and action could sweeten the deal, and make the bitter reading pill go down without a murmur - right?

Think of those long and boring family car trips. E-Books on a reader or DVD player can stop squabbles, and kids being brats in the back seat. And some stories are just MADE for reading and viewing as mini movies, with sound and action - as well as those wonderful illustrations. Did you know, that fun, educational computer games for the family, + others made for adults only, now haul in more money than movies - in the multiple Billions!!

We are already IN the electronic age. Our kids and grandkids will see and experience all electronic homes ( there are models out there already), and cars we don't need to drive - just type in a destination, then sit back and enjoy the ride - or a movie!! But hey, I don't want to throw you too far into "future scare."

However, you can bet the kids of today will embrace it all. The future
can't be stopped, and the past is already losing ground.


Visit Margot Finke

* Manuscript Critiques - Writing Help

* Rattlesnake Jam +7 Book PB Series

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ting-a-Ling – A Review

Reviewed by Christian F. ( 3 years old) and his grandmother Karen Cioffi

Title: Ting-a-Ling!
Written by: Siobhan Dodds

Grandma: What is Tilly doing?
Christian: She's talking on the telephone.

Grandma: Do you like the pictures?
Christian: I do. I do.

Grandma: Who is the cutest character?
Christian: The puppy. He's painting the duck yellow.

Grandma: Who is Tilly talking to?
Christian: She's talking to Mommy. It's time for a bath.

Grandma: Did you like the book?
Christian: Yeah, I did.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yummy Leprechaun Hats

by Amy M. O'Quinn


Top o’ the day! Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and time for a little more ‘green’ fun! So let’s make some ‘leprechaun hats’ out of vanilla wafers and marshmallows to create an unusual, yet tasty treat! Let’s get started.

You’ll need:

Vanilla Wafers
Large Marshmallows
Vanilla flavored Candy-Quik (also called almond bark)
Green Food Coloring
Green sprinkles and miniature candy decorating shapes
Spatula or knife for spreading

What To Do:

1. Gather your supplies and ingredients.


2. Put the Candy-Quik in a microwave safe dish and heat for about 90 seconds. Stir, then heat for an additional 15 seconds. Stir. Repeat until the coating is completed melted. Add green food coloring, until the desired green color is achieved.


3. Using a butter knife or spatula, begin spreading the melted candy coating onto the vanilla wafer.


4. Next, place a marshmallow on the ‘flat’ side of the vanilla wafer to form a ‘hat.’ Spread the candy coating all over the marshmallow, keeping it as smooth as possible. It helps to wipe the excess candy coating against the edge of the melting dish.


5. Place each ‘hat’ on a serving plate and put some green and white decorating candy shapes around the ‘rim’ of the hat to form a hat band of sorts.


6. Last of all, shake some of the green sprinkles on top of each marshmallow. The candy coating will firm up and harden as it cools, so work quickly. You can also store any unused candy coating in the refrigerator and reheat and stir as needed.


Yum! Enjoy your ‘leprechaun hats’...and enjoy Saint Patrick’s Day as well!


You can visit Amy at or

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Importance of Play

by Terri Forehand

The world can be a scary place for adults, so you can imagine what it appears to a child. In these uncertain times, play needs to be an important part of a child’s day. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.

* Play is a great stress reliever.
* Play allows the child the freedom of expression
* Play allows a child to act out his fears, concerns, or anxieties
* Play can be a diversion for painful procedures or separation anxiety
* Play can be a source of security and safety for a child
* Developmentally appropriate play helps a child with normal growth and motor skills
* Play should be incorporated with children who are hospitalized frequently
* Play puts the child in the driver’s seat allowing him to make choices and have a
sense of control

Safety during playtime must also be considered. Children of all ages need some sort of supervision depending on the age and development of the individual child. And that includes teens. All children are more secure when they know an adult is caring enough to check up on them and to be interested in what they are doing.

Now go play and enjoy!


Terri Forehand is a pediatric critical care nurse. Visit her blog, Heartfeltwords4kids.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Make a Leprechaun Egghead!

by Amy M. O'Quinn

Science is fun! St. Patrick’s Day is fun too! So let’s combine the two and enjoy a neat activity that is sure to garner a few chuckles. Making a ‘Leprechaun Egghead’ is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy an unusual craft, and even learn a little horticulture in the process. You may even discover that you, too, have a ‘green’ thumb when you make this charming St. Patty’s Day decoration. So gather your supplies and let’s get ‘growing.’

leprachaun egg 1

leprechaun egg 2

What You’ll Need:

An uncooked egg
Scissors or a knife (With adult supervision)
Crayons or Paint
Grass Seed
Potting soil
Green Construction Paper


1. Cut the top off the uncooked egg by gently cracking the shell around the narrow end
with the blade of a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors. (Ask an adult to help with
this part.) The shell should break away evenly at that point so you will have deep
shell perfect for planting. Rinse the shell, inside and out, and let it dry

2. Fill the clean, dry shell with fresh potting soil and sprinkle a small amount of
grass seed on the surface.

3. Keep the soil/grass seeds sprinkled or misted with water every day so the soil
stays moist as the grass grows. In about five days, there should be a nice growth
of green ‘hair’!

4. Now comes the fun part. Decorate the eggshell to look like a
coat, orange beard, twinkly eyes, happy grin, and a pipe (See photo.)

5. You can draw, decorate and cut out a leprechaun hat from green construction paper
to put atop the leprechaun’s head. You may even have to give your egghead a

Set your ‘Leprechaun’ on a table (a bottle cap is a great base), in a windowsill, or in some other special place and enjoy this perky little egghead on Saint Patrick’s Day...and beyond. He’s always good for a laugh!


Visit Amy M. O'Quinn at or

Monday, March 9, 2009

Five Important Symptoms to NOT Overlook When Your Kids Complain

by Terri Forehand


Kids sometimes just complain of minor aches and pains, tummy aches, and headaches. How do you know what is real and what isn't? Here are five things to take seriously when your child complains.

1. Pay attention when your child says he or she can't breath. Look for a change in
skin color, pulling in the chest or ribs when taking a breath or noisy breathing.
If you see or hear signs of difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately.

2. Fever of 104 degrees or above that does not come down with Tylenol should have a
look see by the family doctor. Children under the age of one cannot tolerate fever
so those who have a 100.4 degree fever, should be seen regardless.

3. Pain should be assessed carefully. Belly pain is a common complaint, and belly pain
with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea may be just the flu. However, parents must also
keep in mind that appendicitis is common in children. So is constipation. Know your
child and their personal bowel habits to best make a decision.

4. Changes in mental status or behaviors should always be evaluated. I am not talking
toddler tantrums here or a cranky episode that can be put up to no nap time. I am
talking about an obvious change in alertness or mood for no apparent reason or a
deep sleep or drowsiness that can not be explained. These symptoms need to be
checked by a physician immediately.

5. Lumps and bruises that are outside the normal occasional bump from the coffee table
need attention. If your child has unexplained bruises on extremities, sudden purple
or red-bloody looking blisters, or lumps or masses that are unexplained, have them
evaluated by the family doctor.

I would add one other tip. If vomiting and diarrhea last more than 48 hours and your child is keeping nothing down, including water, he or she should be seen. Even if it is a simple flu, there are medications available to stop the vomiting so dehydration doesn't become an issue.

The most important thing I can tell parents is this. You know your child better than anyone. If you feel your child's symptoms warrant a doctor visit, then by all means take them in. Never let a medical professional belittle you for being a concerned parent, and never avoid getting your child seen for fear someone may think you are over-reacting. Remember the old cliche' ....It is better safe than sorry... especially with little one's. Your family doctor or nurse is just a phone call away. Trust your instincts and you be the judge.

Terri Forehand is a pediatric critical care nurse. Read more health care tips and other articles at her blog - Heartfeltwords4kids

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brothers Are For Making Mud Pies - A Review

Reviewed by Christian Filagrossi (who is 3 years old) and his grandmother Karen Cioffi


Title: Brothers Are For Making Mud Pies
Written by: Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by: Chris Demarest

Grandma: Did you like the book?

Christian: Yes. (FYI: He uses Yes more often than Yeah)

Grandma: Did it show all the things you can do with a brother?

Christian: Lucas can’t eat cookies yet. (Lucas is his 3-month-old brother)

Grandma: Did you like the flaps that hid more of the things you can do with your brother?

Christian: Yeah. Under this one they’re jumping in a puddle.

Grandma: What was your favorite part of the book?

Christian: When the sister won the race. She jumped in the pool. Let’s read it again!


For more reviews, articles, and other information about children's books, visit Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Yummy Saint Patrick's Day Treat!

by Amy M. O'Quinn

It won’t be long until Saint Patrick’s Day, so have a little fun that’s “magically delicious!" Surely everyone has sampled cloverleaf cookies or cupcakes with green icing topped with a gold foil chocolate coin. But how about a new twist on an old favorite?

For a yummy (and easy) treat, why not make Lucky Charms Treat Bars and enjoy sweet marshmallow goodness combined with one of everyone’s favorite cereals? And remember, as Lucky the Leprechaun liked to proclaim, you’ll also get “pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers.” Or more accurately, as the marshmallows included today are—red balloons, blue moons, pink hearts, multi-colored rainbows, yellow and white shooting stars, Lucky's green hat with a green clover, an orange and yellow pot of gold, and purple horseshoes! Additionally, in 2008, a gold hourglass was added to the marshmallow collection.

Lucky Charms Treat Bars

Lucky Charms Treat Bars

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
25 large marshmallows or 2 ½ cups miniature marshmallows
5 cups Lucky Charms cereal

1. Grease a 9x9x2 inch pan.
2. Melt butter and marshmallows until smooth, either over medium heat or in the microwave.
3. Stir in Lucky Charms cereal until well coated. Press into pan with buttered hands.
4. Let cool until firm enough to cut, yet still pliable.
5. Cut into 8 equal bars.
6. Push a popsicle stick up into the bottom of each bar (about halfway), then press down slightly with your hands to mold the treat around the stick.
7. Place bars on wax paper and let cool completely.

-Dip one end of each Lucky Charm Treat Bar into melted vanilla Candi-Quik that has been tinted with green food coloring, then coat with multi-colored sprinkles.
-Add green food coloring to the marshmallow/butter mixture before adding the cereal.


Check back next Tuesday for a neat St. Patty's Day craft!


Visit Amy at or

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keeping Kids Healthy in an Unhealthy World

by Terri Forehand

This winter has been harsh weather- wise and health- wise. Kids have been exposed to RSV, cold viruses, flu viruses, and contamination from some of their favorite foods like peanut butter. Winter has been hard. How do you keep kids healthy in this kind of environment? Follow these tips to keep kids healthy:

* Rest, kids need rest. They might not think they do, but we know better. Kids
under 5 still need naps, and kids older than 5 and on up to late teens, still
need a reasonable bedtime. Most kids need 8-10 hours of good sleep every night to
keep healthy, alert, and active.

* Water, kids need 6-8 glasses of water per day. I am not talking soda, koolaid, or
juice. Good fresh water to hydrate cells and promote cell restoration.

* Vitamins, from a healthy diet and from supplements when kids don't eat right.
Vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies are the best source to keep skin,
organs, and the immune system healthy so think fruits and veggies when thinking

* Handwashing... the single most important form of prevention of the spread of
viruses and bacteria is good handwashing practices. Teach your children to wash
their hands frequently, especially after the bathroom, after being at the store
and touching carts, and after sneezing and coughing episodes.

Start with these tips and small changes to get kids on the road to health. Check back next Monday for more tips to keep kids healthy and active. And follow the same tips to improve how you feel too. Make it a family affair to get healthy and fit together.


For more tips for keeping kids healthy, visit Terri Forehand's blog, heartfeltwords4kids

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Buying Books for Boys - Especially Reluctant Readers!

by Margot Finke

Okay, you want to get that kid away from the computer or computer game, but he just won't read. Show him a book and he completely shuts down. His light goes out!

Remember the old rhyme, "Girls are made of sugar and spice, but boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails."

If you give him books that offer more snips and snails and puppy dog tails, he WILL read them. Boys love the YUCK of life. Look for titles and stories with plots that deal with the following - or worse:
Slimy frogs
Bathroom humor
Macho action and dialogue
Underarm music
Boys clubs
Dangerous wild animals
Trekking to far off places
Making a sister's life miserable
A garage band named "The Suicide Squad - or similar.
The hero hates bathing, soap, clean clothes
The hero has bad breath, similar attitude, and is puzzled why his parents don't understand him!
Wacky humor
The wimp who discovers he CAN stand up for himself if it means life or death - HIS!

Look for books that combine any three (or all of them) in a plot, for a sure-fire, macho reluctant reader winner. HOOK the boy in your life early.

And, if you need advice about actual books that will HOOK that boy on reading, go to:

Michael Sullivan's
Books for Boys

There you will find recommendations for boys of all ages, tips for parents, and even "Boy Meets BOOK" - and the rest is history!

You CAN get that boy reading - even if it kills you!


For more articles, tips, and other resources about children's books, visit