You are Viewing "The Improv Parent – Parenting Tips and Tricks"

Jan 1 2010

Cornstarch Packing Peanuts – The Guilt Free Art Project for Kids

Summary: Art projects often mean just creating more junk to throw away. Not the same day of course, but eventually. Here’s something you can feel good about tossing.

Our latest cornstarch packing poeanut  creations. Going from left to right: Two legged dinosaur eating man, big six legged creature, triceritops gouging man, somehting else, and gian tarantula attacking man

Our latest cornstarch packing peanut creations. Going clockwise from left to right: Two legged dinosaur eating man, big long neck dinosaur fighting man, triceratops gouging man, small tyrannosaurus rex, and giant tarantula attacking man.

Though my partner had experimented with them while she was a preschool teacher, my first introduction the art project potential of the cornstarch packaging peanut was at The Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. They have an art room upstairs for littler kids and that day’s project was making packing peanut sculptures. Continue reading


Jan 1 2010

Creative Toys – Forget Toys R Us, Go Toy Shopping at the Hardware Store

Summary: Kids have no idea of what a “proper” toy is. That’s an adult concept. If it’s fun, that’s all that matters.

Big washers and wooden drawer knobs make for great durable toys.

Big washers and wooden drawer knobs make for great durable toys.

From a very young age my daughter loved metal objects and gadgets. She would routinely ignore her fluffy stuffed animals and go for anything hard and shiny. So I figured, let’s go get some stuff at the hardware store, they have lots of hard, shiny things. Continue reading


Dec 2 2009

The Girl’s Gotta Chew – Dealing With a Super Oral Kid

Summary: She chewed her dolls, the furniture and anything she could get her hands on. You can’t stop her from chewing but you can stop her from chewing the good stuff.

My daughter at 18 months. Number one rule in the house. It can't fit in her mouth.

My daughter at 18 months. Number one rule in the house. It can't fit in her mouth.

How many water-filled toys have we tossed? All of them. Usually within a day or two of buying them. Balloons were popped by mouth long before they deflated naturally. Rocks were tossed back like they were pills. Anything that could be popped, punctured, gouged or crushed was soon destroyed by my daughter. While she was teething she chewed grooves into the bottom shelf of our entertainment center. Long after all her peers were playing with marbles, fake jewelery, and little toys, our daughter still had to be restricted to anything that couldn’t completely fit in her mouth. She was a 24/7 walking choking hazard. Continue reading


Dec 1 2009

Homemade Teething Rings

Summary: Unsatisfied with the teething rings on the market, I made my own with surgical tubing and exercise bands.

WARNING: Be very careful when making your own teethers and always supervise your baby when using a homemade teether. If they can fit something in their mouth, it’s too small. If they can break it apart it needs to be redesigned. Basically, don’t be stupid and negligent.

My daughter kicking it in the grass with her home made teething rings. The one on the right is smooth and the left one is ribbed (for her pleasure).

My daughter kicking it in the grass with her home made teething rings. The one on the right is smooth and the left one is ribbed (for her pleasure).

As I discussed in a previous post my daughter has an intense need to chew.  She’s six years old now, and though more selective on how she expresses her oral inclinations, she’s still a put-things-in-your-mouth type kid. But hey, both of her parents are very oral so it’s no surprise that she came out that way as well.

Like most parents we tried about every teether on the market. She use them all to varying degrees but was not totally satisfied with any of them. She didn’t care for the knobby plastic ones that you freeze. Many of the other rings and chains were just too hard for any extended use. Continue reading


Dec 1 2009

My Daughter Loves The Dead – When Your Child is Fascinated with the Macabre

Summary: My daughter loves blood, dead animals, scary movies and making homemade haunted houses. It’s in her blood, so to speak. So why not go with it?

Winnie the Pooh, with bug eye glasses shooting blood on his meal of skeleton parts, pieces of zombie, spiders and eyeballs. Yummy!

Winnie the Pooh, with bug eye glasses crying blood onto his meal of skeleton parts, pieces of zombie, spiders and eyeballs. Yummy!

It’s no secret that raising my daughter has not been easy. Early on there were some tough challenges around potty training, social anxieties and violent tantrums. But some parts of her are so unbelievably cool, that it kind of makes up for the rest. One of those things is her love of the dead.

No, not the band, I mean dead things.

Human corpses, bloody body parts, dead fish in the supermarket or floating in an aquarium, roadkill, that type of thing. And of course, haunted houses and Halloween. Which, at our house, is pretty much everyday. Continue reading


Nov 13 2009

Teaching Your Kid to Read Sucks! Thank God for Public Schools or I’d Shoot Myself

Summary: If your child is hella smart I suppose teaching him or her to read could theoretically be fun. For me, it’s straight up torture.

I don’t rely on schools or anyone else to teach my child anything that is important. But to be honest, without the support of public schooling, I think I’d go crazy. I just don’t have the patience to handle this all on my own. My partner will second that.

Though she’s now over the hump with many sight words, for several months this was our evening reading routine. It’s getting better every day, and she is clearly learning to read, but some days it feels like someone’s playing one  big practical joke on me.

And no, I’m not one of those overachieving parents forcing useless Baby Einstein videos down my kid’s throat and testing her with flash cards while she’s trying to eat snack . She’s six years old and in first grade. She loves books and we’ve been reading to her every night practically since she was born. She’s just taking what feels like an eternity to catch on to this whole reading thing . It’s mind numbing to experience this on a daily basis. Continue reading


Sep 9 2009

Feeding Picky Eaters – Try a Child’s Tasting Menu to Awaken Your Kid’s Taste Buds and Encourage Healthy Eating

Summary: Cut out the sweetened drinks and turn your kids on to a healthy “small plate with a bunch of little things on it”.

Guacamole and chips, sliced tofu dog, green beans and a yogurt desert with a border of sliced fuji apple with a mixed berry sauce drizzle topped with fresh blueberries.

Guacamole and chips, sliced tofu dog, green beans and a yogurt desert with a border of sliced fuji apple with a mixed berry sauce drizzle topped with fresh blueberries.

Most of us struggle with trying to get our kids to eat a well balanced, healthy diet. Unfortunately, we are genetically programmed to seek out salt and sugar.  In nature both of these items are very rare. Salt is a necessary component for proper electrolyte balance, and anything sweet is generally a simple carbohydrate that  provides instant energy.

The problem is that in an industrialized society, with a centralized food system that is heavily subsidized by the government to favor cheap calories, we now have extremely easy and affordable access to things that were once rare.

Normal everyday items such as spaghetti sauce and bread, that your grandmother would never even think of putting sugar in, are now laced with high fructose corn syrup. Normal foods are now sweet, and sweet foods are now super sweet. If you’re eating processed foods you can pretty much put them into one of two categories; sweet things and salty things. Continue reading


Nov 13 2007

Get Thee to a Potty! An Unorthodox Solution to a Child’s Persistent Pooping Problem and Toilet Training Issues.

Summary: The day I finally snapped and made my child beat years of constipation and overcome her anxiety around pooping.

It’s funny how children can be simultaneously advanced and behind at the same time. My daughter had such a split around toilet training. She was a kung-fu master in peeing but a lowly apprentice in pooping.

Physically my daughter has always been ahead of the curve. Crawling, walking, riding a bike, swimming, it really didn’t matter, if it involved gross motor skills she got really good, really fast. So it was not a surprise when she first taught herself how to pee on the toilet at about 20 months of age. Shortly after it was just not peeing in the toilet, but wiping herself, flushing, and then coming out in the living room to grab another diaper and putting it on herself while standing up. It was quite amusing actually. By age three she was in underwear 24/7. However popping was a separate issue.

Early on, at about 18 months old, my daughter had an unfortunate incident with constipation. When she finally pushed the poop out, it hurt. For someone who was only a year and a half old, the lesson was clear: pooping hurts, so next time don’t let the poop out.

Thus began the Great Pooping Wars of 2005-2007. To avoid the pain of pooping that my daughter felt was inevitable, she would hold in her poop, thus ensuring she would end up constipated. So when she finally pooped, it would definitely hurt. It was a self fulfilling prophecy. Continue reading


Oct 27 2007

Fun Things To Do Around The House That Make Little Kids Feel Like Big Kids

Summary: Mundane adult chores are really exciting for young children because it makes them feel like bigshots.

These activities are really fun for children between the ages of 2 and 5, or even older. Plus they enhance their motor skills, cognitive skills, self esteem, and sense of personal responsibility.

1. Let Your Kid Cut Up Some Food

Young children want to do everything that adults do. Especially the things we tell them they’re not old enough for. So getting to cut up some food with a knife is a huge thrill. Pull a chair up to the counter where the cutting board is and fill it with big wedges of watermelon that are about half an inch thick. Put all the real knives away and give them a butter knife. To a young child it’s a real knife and it cuts through the watermelon easily. They’ll hack it pieces and stuff themselves silly eating the little chunks they gleefully cut off. If you don’t have watermelon, thinly sliced cheese, hotdogs and deli slices can also work. Continue reading