Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blizzard Buzz

It’s been quite a while since the people of Baltimore have seen snow the likes of which we’ve seen this week. How are you holding up so far?
Have you taken any great pictures of the snow outside your house? Have your kids had the chance to build an extra-special snowman you’d like the world to see? Send it to me, at—I’d love to post it on this blog. (That's the view from my own front door, on the left.)
And, finally, here are a few ideas that may be helpful if you’re homebound.
Best wishes for getting through these winter days,
Dianne R. McCann
Editor, Baltimore’s Child

Give Them a Hand
Years ago, when my son was 6 and still learning how to sit still for circle time, his first-grade teacher employed a wonderful technique to help keep his hands busy and out of trouble.
Rather than continually reprimanding him—as well as the other equally squirmy kids in his class—she passed out small balls of clay to hold. As long as they could quietly squeeze and roll the clay in their hands, they could hang onto it during circle time, resulting in fewer disruptions and less scolding.
Stuck in the house with cabin fever setting in, you might be looking for a calming activity for your children. But, if you’re all out of clay, how about mixing up a batch of home-made play dough? Many recipes call for cooking the dough. The one I have here, from the Instructables website,, is pretty easy and requires no cooking.
Easy, Affordable, Play Dough!
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
food dye (any color, be creative!)
newspaper to protect the cover the surface you're working on

Bake and Switch
Speaking of recipes and cooking, what is it about being snowbound that makes so many of us head to the kitchen? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been baking up a storm this week.
No matter how well stocked your kitchen was before the weather hit, you may now be running low on supplies. Are you missing an ingredient that you need for the recipe you’ve already started?
One of my favorite places to turn to is the Better Homes and Garden website, Here, you’ll find advice such as what to do if you’re baking and realize you’re fresh out of baking powder—for 1 teaspoon of baking powder, “substitute 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.”

More Good Advice…
Perhaps your children’s teachers planned ahead for these snow days and gave the kids some schoolwork or learning activities to do at home. If not—or, if you’re just looking for more ideas—Dr. Richard E. Bavaria, of Sylvan Learning, offers the following suggestions:

Snow Day Tips for Students and Families
Schools are closed. The snow is deep. You've made snowmen and snow angels, baked cookies, watched TV, played video games…
Now what? The snow continues, and schools are closed for several more days.
Here are a few snow-day tips to help students and families while at home. They won't exactly bring serenity to your house, but they might keep the kids busy for a while—and maybe even learning a little.
1. Read. Yes, of course. Everyone has his or her favorite book, so read to each other. It's fun for the older kids to read their favorite childhood books to their younger siblings. Also, have the kids act out their favorite scenes for the everyone’s enjoyment.
2. Tell stories. This is a great time to trot out the old family photo albums and tell stories of your happy memories. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, favorite friends, and neighbors—connect the kids to your past, and theirs.
3. Keep a snow journal. As a family, write a few sentences each every day about the snow. What time did it start to fall? What did it look like on the trees? How did it affect the traffic on your street? Did you feed the birds? Does your dog like the snow? The cat?
Describe what your family’s been doing—sledding, having snowball battles, and building snowmen and snow forts. Have the kids describe how they felt when they learned there'd be no school. And, how did you, as the parent, feel? Ask them what or who they miss most while away from the classroom.
4. Do some weather science. Measure the snow as it's falling. Keep an hourly log of the temperatures. How long does it take for the snow to melt on the south side of the house? On the north side? How do icicles form?
5. Play games as a family and, for some quiet time, as individuals. Some mind-engaging activities include board games, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, coloring, finger painting, water colors, and scrapbooking.
6. Keep up the lessons. Check those spelling words. If there aren't any from school, assign your own. Practice math facts. Read the next chapter in the social studies book.
7. Organize. Take this time to organize notebooks, planners, backpacks, and study areas at home. Make sure everyone's up-to-date on assignments that will be due when school starts again.
8. Try to keep up normal routines. Yes, the snow throws everything off, and that's okay. It's good to take a break (or have one thrust upon you) from time to time. But try to keep bedtimes, mealtimes, study times, and other important personal routines (medications, for example) as close to normal as possible.
9. Be a role model. Use your homebound time for catching up on some tasks you’ve put off. Enlist the kids' help in rearranging furniture, organizing closets, and sorting unused clothing to donate to the homeless shelter. Talk about how warm and cozy you are—not everyone is as lucky.
10. And stay positive. Spring will arrive. Promise. BC

Dr. Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., is the senior vice president for Education Outreach for Sylvan Learning, providing tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels. Visit to share your personal academic experiences and comment on educational trends. For more information about Sylvan Learning, call 800-31-SUCCESS, or visit the website

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