Backyard Olympics

There are many wonderful ways to enjoy physical activity.  As we wind down the days of summer, let the kids – and adults – in the neighborhood have a BACKYARD OLYMPICS.

You can set up an area with an obstacle course and see who can complete it.  Crawling through  a “tunnel”,  jumping over ropes of various heights, rolling, running, and crab walking are all fun ways to compete in events. Walking like various animals is also fun (especially if accompanied by animal sounds). Endurance activities  might include who can jump rope or keep a hula hoop going the longest. A fun spin on ball games might be a water balloon toss, or raw egg toss.  

Finish up the day’s fun with Popsicle eating or watermelon seed spitting contests. Give all children a chance to feel special.  You can award ribbons for the Best Sport, Purplest Tongue, Coolest Crab Walker, Awesome Hula Hooper, etc.  You can even name your team and paint T-shirts for the big day.

It’s even more fun if adults “act like kids” by: wearing  a swimsuit all day, being barefoot all day,  digging in the dirt, eating a Popsicle for breakfast, running under a sprinkler.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer and get physical!


Make Ooblick For Summer Fun

Oobleck was the name given to a type of slime in a Dr. Seuss book that was capable of gumming up a whole kingdom. The oobleck the you can make for a science project isn’t gummy, but it does have interesting properties of both solids and liquids. It normally behaves like a liquid or jelly, but if you squeeze it in your hand, it will seem like a solid. This recipe and article were taken from:  How to Make Ooblick by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.


Difficulty Level:   Easy     Time Required: 10-15 minutes

You Will Need

water         corn starch       food coloring (optional)

1.     Mix 1 part water with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch. You may wish to start with one cup of water and one and a half cups of cornstarch, then work in more cornstarch if you want a more ‘solid’ oobleck. It will take about 10 minutes of mixing to get nice homogeneous oobleck.

  1. Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.


  1. Oobleck is a type of non-Newtonian fluid called a dilatant.
  2. If you slowly lower your hand into oobleck, it will sink, but it is difficult to quickly remove your hand (without taking all the oobleck and its container with you).
  3. If you squeeze or punch the oobleck, the starch particles will not move out of the way quickly, so the oobleck will feel solid.
  4. Oobleck can be molded in a container, but when the mold is removed, the oobleck will lose its shape.

If you want to learn more about cool chemistry projects check these links:

10 Writer Affirmations to Bolster Optimism

Everyone can use a positive boost now and then. These 10 affirmations apply to any field of endeavor.

Writers In The Storm Blog

Or… Turning Whine into Gold
by Kathryn Craft

I’d like to thank the team here at Writers in the Storm for letting me blow in with a series on attitude adjustment.

If you think this has nothing to do with becoming an author, you couldn’t be more wrong! From our first words tentatively pressed to the journal page all the way to our most recently published book, writing is an artistic endeavor fraught with anxiety that, if we let it, can have its ugly way with us.

This series seeks nothing less than alchemy: if we accept that negative feelings are part of the artistic process, we can learn to manage them to our advantage.

First, let’s drum up some optimism, shall we? Because optimism can help you get published.

Doubt it? More than thirty years of research in high-rejection endeavors, from athletic competition to life insurance sales, suggests the…

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Interview With Children’s Author Tara Lazar

I met TARA LAZAR at the annual NJSCBWI Conference in Princeton in 2011.  She greeted me – and everyone else with a warm smile and bubbly personality.  Her infectious enthusiasm for all things related to writing for children was evident from the first time she spoke.  I got to know Tara better through her wonderful blog :   where she posts about the craft of writing for children.  One of my favorite of these posts is 500 Things That Kids Like which is valuable information for anyone who wants to create authentic and believable characters.

Tara has just released her first Picture Book (PB) titled THE MONSTORE.  It’s about a boy named Zack who decides to buy a monster to scare his pesky little sister.  Only the monster doesn’t actually do what it is supposed to. When Zack tries to return it, he is told “No returns, No exchanges.”

Thanks for joining us Tara.

  1. The premise of your debut book THE MONSTORE is very clever. Where did the idea come from?   How long did it take from first draft to completion?

 The idea came from the title, when I smooshed two words together—monster and store—to make a new one. I love clever word play, puns, and all that silly stuff. But the story was just a lonely title for months. Maybe I was afraid to write the story for fear I’d ruin a perfectly good title! But once I did write it, I knew when Zack trudged back to return his monster, he’d have to be given a hard time. So I made the Monstore manager say, “Sorry, no returns, no exchanges” and the tale just spilled out from there. Of course, there were many revisions, including two with my editor at Aladdin, but the story remained about 90% the same from the first draft.

 2. What brought you to the field of writing for children?

It’s something I always wanted to do, from the time I could first read, but it took me a long time to find the time for it. Or rather, it took me a long time to realize I had to make the time for it. I finally did when I had children, and the timing was perfect. Every night I read my daughters tons of picture books and absorbed knowledge about story structure. I always suggest that new writers read at least 500 picture books before they begin writing them. That’s exactly what jump-started me.             

With Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE

With Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE

 3. Your blog has an amazing post titled “500 Things Kids Like”.  How did you go about compiling this list?

 It began with a list of 99 things that kids like from children’s sports writer Andy Gutelle, whom I credit on the page. When I first posted the list, I added 100 of my own things, and over the years I’ve just kept adding to it. Many people have commented and made suggestions. (And yet others have said, “I don’t like anything on this list! And I’m a kid!”) Today I added “Minecraft” to the list. One thing’s for certain, the things that kids like keep evolving! I recently began a visual companion to this list, a “Things Kids Like” board on Pinterest:

 4. What is the most amazing thing that’s happened since the book came out?

 Every time I read a review, it’s the most amazing thing ever. Earlier this week a mother boasted about how her two boys loved the book so much, they made their own monsters, booby-traps, and trap doors. She couldn’t recall the last time a book prompted such prolonged, creative play. That made my heart get all warm and squishy, to know that I’ve inspired children. That’s everything a kidlit author asks for.

5. Tell us about your annual PiBoIdMo contest?    What is it and how did it come about?

 Honestly it was borne of jealousy! The NaNoWriMo’ers were having all the fun in November. There was no November challenge for picture book writers. So I created one. I thought maybe 10 people would sign up. I thought it was a dumb idea! Boy, was I wrong. Now over 750 writers participate and this November marks its 5th anniversary!

 6. Complete this sentence: If I could be a kid for a day I’d_____.  never grow up.

 7. What is your typical writing day like?

 There is never a typical day. I try to mix it up. I find the diverse schedule—that is, no real set schedule—helps me stay creative.

 8. Who influences your writing?  Any PB writers you particularly admire?

 Roald Dahl has to be my #1 influence. I grew up on his books. I adore the hint of magic in all of them. I love Cressida Cowell’s “That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown” and Timothy Knappman’s “Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood.” What’s curious is that all these authors are from the UK. So maybe I have a British sense of humor? I do enjoy Fawlty Towers…

 9. I have to ask this.  If you had your own monster, what skills would it have?   What would it look like?

 My monster would have a microwave-like tummy that could whip up any food or beverage I desired at lightning speed. He’d have wheels for feet so he could zoom to me quickly, before my food got too cold (or too hot). And, of course, he’d be soft and fuzzy so I could get a nice comfy hug. Oh, and if he could trim my bangs, that would be a plus, too.

10. What’s next?  What projects are you working on?

 Ooh, I am so excited about two projects that are under consideration now. One is about an unusual animal—but I don’t even know what KIND of animal he is, that’s how quirky the story is. I’ve left it up to the illustrator. The other is a gumshoe spoof, the untold story behind a popular schoolyard joke. Wish I could say more, but I can’t. But I promise to spill details if they both get bought!

 I have several projects I’m revising right now. One is a longish (yes, over 500 words), magical picture book about another secret place that only special kids know about, which is similar in theme to “The Monstore” but yet totally different.

 And many more ideas are begging for my attention, but I’ve been so busy with “The Monstore” launch I haven’t written much lately. But I’ve got an itch that needs a good scratch! Time to get back to work!

 If you want to learn more about Tara and her books visit:

No-Bake Picnic Treats

What’s not to love about Rice Krispie Treats? They’re sweet, chewy and crunchy all rolled into one.  It’s hard for me to stop from eating a whole pan myself.  Here is a way to make them a bit more nutritious and guilt-free.

Add 2 T of peanut butter or almond butter to the melted marshmallow mixture until it is dissolved.

Along with the crispy rice cereal, mix a combination of some or all of the following to equal 6 C:  dry, uncooked oats, Cheerios, sunflower seeds, granola, crushed peanuts or almonds, a handful of mini chocolate morsels, coconut.

Stir the dry ingredients into the melted marshmallow mix until coated.  Press into a greased pan and when firm, cut into squares.  Enjoy. They are still a winner, with the  added nutritional bonus.

More Web Sites For Kids

There are so many websites that gear their content to children. Just like in the non-web world, some are better than others.  I’ve found these three to be good ones.  Check them out and let me know what you think.

1.  lists the top 65 parenting sites that include everything from how to deal with swimming fears, playground bullies, and mean high school girls.  It also provides information on where to buy  anything at the best price. Looking for a toddler bed?  Baby crib?  Vacation spot?  Check this site first.  The advice comes from parents.

2.  this site is geared toward a younger audience.  It allows kids to adopt a virtual pet, decorate it with clothing and accessories, and watch the pet grow in real time.  Players age 13 and up can chat on forums and collaborate on writing animal-themed stories.  Parents give the site high praise for safety.

3.  This site features an online writing community where budding writers can publish and share their stories and receive instant feedback.  With over 10 million readers, your budding Shakespeare will hone her writing skills with her peer group.

More Free Summer Fun and Games

There are some great websites with all kinds of activities for children of all ages.  Here are three that have a wealth of outdoor games, activities and recipes for fun all summer long.

1.  Water games, scavenger hunt, Tacos and Bridges (check it out!) and lots more .

2. Eleven water games and other activities for kids.  We all knew water was fun.  These activities will keep the kids cool on a hot day.

3.   has games such as driveway baseball, elbow tag, musical sprinklers and more.  These games are great for parties and get-togethers.

Kind of makes me wish I was a kid again.  It’s a great excuse to put on a swimsuit and join the fun!

Visions of Sugarplums…

All these years I’ve heard about the Sugarplum Fairy in the Nutcracker.  I’ve read about children dreaming of sugarplums in A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS.  Yet I never saw or tasted a real live sugar plum of my own.  Until today.

When I stopped at my local farmer’s market, there on the stand, next to sweet cherries and peaches were these little gems.  If you get a chance to sample these bite-sized bits of plum heaven, do so.  You won’t be sorry.

They are plum delicious!         Sorry…I couldn’t help myself.                       sugarplums

Summer Classes and More

Micheals Craft Stores are offering the PASSPORT TO IMAGINATION crafts program for kids 5 and up.  Children can explore all seven continents and learn about their landmarks.  The program runs from June 17 through August 2 and costs $@.00 per session.  For details go to:

While summer should be fun-filled and relaxing, some children get bored or lose skills when they are out of school.  Others just do better when there is some structure to the day. If you and your family are looking for FREE summer enrichment for kids, check out these websites:   is an interactive math site containing more than 7 million activities and quizzes created by math teachers.  There are problems from Pre-K through high school geometry and algebra.   was created fro children from preschool through grade eight.  It offers more than 100 interactive games fro math, reading and literacy.  There are also popular books and comics to read on the site, including “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “Amelia Writes Again” and “Brewster Rocket”.  contains high-quality cultural and educational media from all over the world.  Children can find free online classes on topics such as English Literature, biology, math and film.

So while you’re having summer fun, check out some fun-filled learning activities as well.