A Quick and Easy Valentine

Wendy Lias, LSW

My attempts to do anything for Valentine’s Day this year are basically the harried parent equivalent of the scene from a movie where someone is running to catch a train that is already leaving the station. When my son mentioned this morning that he wanted to make something for my mother (if you’re reading this, Mom, please act surprised), I knew that I needed a project that would be quick, easy, and use only the materials that we have at home.

To recreate this Valentine, you need paper and something that makes marks on paper. Position your child’s hands on the paper so that thumbs and pointers are touching and the space between roughly resembles a heart shape. Trace and decorate. You can leave the paper flat or fold and turn into a greeting card.

The energy expenditure here is low and by the time my kids were finished, they were quite pleased with the final effect.

COVID-Era Nutcracker

If the Nutcracker is part of your family’s traditions during the most wonderful time of the year, you may be feeling like you’re missing out this time around. Well, San Francisco Ballet is trying out a fun, kid-friendly, and Fauci-approved alternative. This evening (6pm est) on the company’s social media one of their dancers, Tiit Helimets, will be retelling the classic story while he illustrates it live! It should be amazing to watch since this world class dancer also happens to be a gifted visual artist. You can follow along on the company’s Facebook live or on YouTube.


Paper Turkeys

Wendy Lias, LSW

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the kids are home from school (for a week? Indefinitely? Who even knows at this point?!). I’m looking for ways to fill the time.  I had the vague idea that I’d like to do some sort of Thanksgiving themed art with my kids BUT the project had to meet the following criteria for selection:

  1. Both my kids (ages 2 and 5 years) need to be able to participate
  2. There cannot be a single “correct” way to complete the project
  3. I’m not heading to the store and so the project must be feasible with supplies readily on hand
  4. No white-washed representations of the historical origins of Thanksgiving

My Googling left me very disappointed and I devised my own little Thanksgiving turkey craft that I’m now happy to share with you.  The only supplies that you absolutely need to complete the project are paper, scissors, and something that can make marks on paper. 

Step 1: Create your turkey tail: cut a large semi-circle out of paper and divide it into sections

Step 2: Decorate the sections of your turkey tail with any supplies you have on hand.  Paint sticks were a popular choice in my house, but markers and crayons also got some play.  If you look at the pictures of our final project, you’ll see that my 2 year old contented herself with going bananas with some gems and glue.

Step 3: Add a turkey body.  There are two ways to do this.  You can cut out a large turkey to create a standing turkey or a smaller, front-view turkey body to create a flat decoration.  In hindsight, I think flat would have been easier for everyone in my house; but I realized that once we were already most of the way finished with the project.  If you are aiming for a standing turkey, cut small slits in both the body and the tail and then fit the two pieces together.  For a 2-D craft, simply tape or glue the turkey’s body onto its decorated tail.


Flat turkey

If free-handing vaguely turkey shaped drawings is not on your agenda today, I’m including a template that you can print and use at your convenience.

Did you recreate these versatile turkeys on your own? We’d love to see what you came up with.  Share your results and tag Thoughtful Parenting on Facebook or Instagram.  Did you come up with an entirely different Thanksgiving activity to do with your kids? We’d love to see that too!

Holidays: 2020

Dr. Corinne Masur

This is Bear and Piggy, two Native American carved fetishes.  A creative woman I know sent them as a gift to a friend.  And as she packed them up in their box and thought about the trip they were about to make, she decided to write a story about this for the children in her family.  Because she could not actually be with the children this year due to Covid, she printed up a little board book with the story accompanied by photographs of Bear and Piggy emerging from their box.
This year we are all going to need to think outside of the box when it comes to the holidays.  Many of us are used to doing the same things each year – getting together with the same relatives at the same place, in the same way.  And these rituals are so comforting and so familiar that many of us are trying to figure out how we can continue them this year.
But, really, does this make any sense?
In many places Covid numbers are way up. They are higher than they were at the beginning of the pandemic; they are higher than they were during the summer.
This year calls for creativity.  And flexibility.
One mom I know has made her garage into a playroom for her children and the occasional friend who comes over and she is thinking of setting up a dining room table there for Thanksgiving dinner – with the garage door open!
Another parent I’ve talked to is going to forego eating Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family and is going to have a brief Thanksgiving get together with masks and social distancing – just long enough to give each family member a to-go turkey dinner in take out containers!
So this year, whether you decide to write a children’s book and send it to the kids in your family, or eat in the garage, try not to let the old traditions tempt you into taking risks you really don’t want to take. 
Be flexible, be creative, and get out of YOUR box!

How Will YOU Boo?

This is the first post by Wendy Lias, LSW. Wendy has a clinical background in child and adolescent mental health as well as the treatment of substance use disorders. Wendy lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband and her children, ages 5 and 2.

In light of the pandemic, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against traditional trick-or-treating this year.  It’s strange to think that during a year when mask-wearing is a topic on everyone’s mind that we’re putting the kibosh on our only mask-wearing holiday.  If you read Dr. Masur’s recent post on 2020, then you know that she reminded us that 2020 as year is not cancelled—and that includes Halloween.  Let’s talk about how to incorporate some spooky spirit into your Halloween, even if you won’t be making it out to trick-or-treat this year.


Whether you head to your local library or pull from your own book collection, there is plenty of fun Halloween-themed reading to be done with kids of all ages.  The littlest listeners may enjoy the Halloween tales from popular book series like The Berenstain Bears, Arthur, Little Critter, and Clifford.  There are no scares to be had on the pages of those books but they still manage to evoke the spirit of Halloween.

For those kids who would enjoy more of a spine-tingle, Tell Me a Scary StoryBut Not Too Scary by the late, great Carl Reiner certainly fits the bill.  The book is framed as the narrator telling a scary bedtime story.  The narrator frequently interrupts the story to make sure it’s not getting too scary.  This literary device provides the benefit of reminding the reader that the scares are only part of a story AND of reminding us the chills and thrills of the season are only fun as long as they’re fun for everyone.

If your young reader is ready for something in the chapter book variety, the Harry Potter series has some of popular culture’s favorite witches and wizards. The eponymous Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage also follows a young boy with extraordinary magical powers.  Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series finds two modern-era children thrust into a world populated with familiar fairy tale characters.  If you’re looking for an oldie but a goody, don’t discount Roald Dahl’s The Witches, as a source of spooky fun. 


There are plenty of Halloween treats that you can whip up in the kitchen.  My five-year-old son, for instance, really enjoys making what he calls “Boo-nana Bread.”  Spoiler alert: it’s just banana bread with a slightly spookier name.  Since it’s that time of year, anything pumpkin flavored would also fit the bill.  As for what I’ll be baking this year with my kids, it’s going to be sugar cookies.  It’s my personal belief that you cannot go wrong with a sugar cookie.  There are a million recipes—each as good as the next—and there is absolutely no wrong way to decorate them. An afternoon of cookie-ing is suited for the littlest hands (who doesn’t love to watch icing distributed in the manner of Jackson Pollock?!) all the way up through adulthood. 


If you’re looking to cuddle up on the couch for some Halloween viewing, again, there is simply no shortage of material.  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Room on the Broom both make for short, family-friendly viewing.  A slightly older crowd might enjoy Hocus Pocus or Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. To borrow a title from earlier in the post, the movie version of The Witches is just as good as the book.  Although not specifically for Halloween, Disney’s Coco is certainly of the season.  If somebody in your house is looking for some true blood-curdling thrills, the options are myriad; but not the fare that I’ll be listing on a Thoughtful Parenting blog. 😉


Finally, in the absence of our usual Halloween traditions, borrow some customs from other holidays. The gingerbread house is traditionally associated with the winter holidays, but who says you can’t build and decorate a spooky Halloween house? And—credit where credit is due—my mother came up with the brilliant idea of hiding little treats in glow-in-the-dark eggs and letting kids do an egg hunt on Halloween night.  I also happened to see some places are selling pre-filled plastic mini-pumpkins that you can send your little ones out to hunt for. 

If you try any of these suggestions, we’d love to see and hear about it.  Did you know that Thoughtful Parenting is on Facebook and Instagram? Feel free to hop on our social media and share either your thoughts on these suggestions or suggestions of your own.

Stay safe and happy haunting!

Thanksgiving Table Discussions


Dr. Corinne Masur

People are afraid this Thanksgiving– not of the usual dried out turkey, but of the discussions that are anticipated at the table. Some are even skipping Thanksgiving altogether, in order to avoid painful conversations and heightened tension at their usual holiday gathering places.

This year poses even greater challenges for families than in previous years. The interpersonal differences and conflicts that we expect to at the holidays are trumped by the election hangover. Families that have members who voted for both Clinton and Trump are grappling with what do do.

For those who have decided to meet anyway, and even for those who agree on the election results, there’s something else to consider: what will the children at the table hear and what does it mean to them? Continue reading

Is Video Killing the Family Vacation?

Dr. Corinne Masur


Yes it is, says Nick Confalone, the man who became famous for making funny Vine videos of his infant son.  In a New York Times article on the topic, Mr. Confalone said of his constant videotaping: “I’m pulling (my family) out of the moment to try to create a version of that moment.”  Rather than enjoying the time with his son, Mr. Confalone realized that he had been taken over by the desire to create something for others to watch and enjoy. And rather than actually being with his son, he was trying to create a visual document about his son for his family to watch later. “Video,” he said, “is such an exact record of a moment that it threatens to replace the memories you have of that moment.”

And then there are the risks involved. Continue reading