free play with color pasta

Free Play In The Kitchen

The benefits of free play can not be underestimated! In our busy lives we must remember to give children time to engage in free play everyday.


I was rummaging through my pantry for pasta to cook for my son’s lunch. Like most preschoolers he is very routine in what he eats, but today he reached in the pantry and asked for a different kind of pasta. He showed me the box and asked for Ditalini pasta (the small tube kind). I purchased that pasta a while ago to make colored pasta for him to play with. I explained to him that I had colored some of that pasta and he could play with as I cooked his lunch. He was excited! Luckily I prepared the play pasta months ago (recipe here), so it was all ready to go. It’s been sitting in my cabinet just waiting for the perfect play opportunity.


I simply got out the container of colored pasta and a cookie sheet. He played the entire time I cooked. He took handfuls of the pasta and dumped it on the cookie sheet. Shortly after that, he came over to me by the stove, opened the drawer by my side and took out the melon baller and small wooden tongs. He was getting tools to play with! He’s had many chances to explore the kitchen so he knew those items where in there. He must have thought of them as he was playing and wanted to use them with the pasta.

 Empowering Parents to Teach free play with pasta


First, he scooped the pasta out with the melon baller. Then, he started picking up the pasta one by one, putting them in the melon balller and pouring them out on the cookie sheet. He did this for a little while and then decided just to dump the whole container out on the cookie sheet.


Empowering Parents to Teach- free play

In motion using the tongs to put the pasta in the melon baller


That’s when my floor starting getting very messy, because his next idea was to raise the cookie sheet on one side, watch all the pasta slide to the bottom, then lift the other side making the pasta slide back the other way.


Empowering Parents to Teach- free play with pasta slide

Sliding the pasta back and forth



My floor looked like this at the end:


Empowering Parents to Teach- pasta floor

What he did he learn from all of this?

  • Independence and Competence: He was in charge of his own play. He governed how the play would proceed and he was successful in finding tools for himself.
  • Fine motor skills: Using the tongs to place the pasta in the melon baller, he was practicing fine motor skills.
  • Logical Reasoning: He wanted something to scoop the pasta with, so he figured out what he could use to fulfill that need.
  • Divergent Thinking: Since the melon baller was made for a specific purpose, he showed divergent thinking by using the object for a purpose other than what it was intended for.
  • Science: As he moved the cookie sheet, he was testing what would happen to the pasta as he raised the cookie sheet from side to side. He learned to experiment with ideas. He even got a little mini lesson in gravity.


My job this time was to stay out of his way and let him explore!


This particular activity is NOT appropriate for all kids as the pasta was hard and uncooked making it a choking hazard for babies and unsupervised toddlers.


Bonus– He wanted to cook the colored pasta to see what happens to it when cooked. Little did we know that it would take the color right off!

Empowering Parents to Teach- cooked color pasta

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian phoneme

Russian Cyrillic Alphabet

Did you watch the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics? We sure did! My son loves watching the parade of countries. He likes seeing how many Olympians each country has and listening to the names of countries you rarely hear about. But what sparked our curiosity this year, was seeing the Russian Cyrillic alphabet showcased in the introduction before the ceremony which highlighted the historic icons of the country. That is how this next activity came to life! I cannot take credit for this idea; it was my husband’s brainchild! But I did get witness how much fun my son had trying it out, and how much fun my husband had creating it.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian Phoneme

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian phoneme


Using Wikipedia to find the unique 33-letter Russian alphabet, my husband found the phonemes, or sounds, that each letter made too. From this, he created a way to demonstrate the sounds so he and my son can practice them. I had flashcards that show what we call blends and digraphs in the English language. Blends are two sounds that when you put them together you hear both sounds, such “st”. You clearly hear both the “S” and “T”. A digraph is when you have two letter sounds together that create a new sound, such as “ch”. You could easily make blend and digraph cards from index cards. He wrote the Russian letters on pages of a memo pad so that he could easily flip between letters of the alphabet.  As he turned to each letter he placed the blends or digraphs flash cards next to it. For example, the Russian letter that looks like a “Y” was placed next to the flash card that says “oo”, as in “boot”. A more advanced example is the Russian letter that looks like a “W” with a tail, which sounds like the combination of “sh” and “ch” as in “pushchair”.  It was fun trying to say that sound!  Together, he and my son practiced a couple and I loved overhearing my son ask all sorts of questions, such as, “How many letters do they have in the alphabet?” He was so interested, especially in discussing new sounds that Russians use that we do not, and noting what sounds we use that they do not, such as the “th” sound. After they were done having fun, my son came to me and asked, “Mom, does a backwards N say, ‘EE’?” He was excited to share what he learned with me.  That’s definitely a sign of a good lesson!

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian Phoneme

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian Phoneme

Empowering Parents to Teach- Russian Phoneme

2 great books

Teaching American Government With Humor

Your kids will want to learn about American Government. Why? Because two authors made it enjoyable!

For middle school or older elementary age:

Michael Townsend’s Where Do Presidents Come From may be one of the most genius ways to help kids understand a lot of American government and history. Written in comic book form, it has almost as much information as a textbook. With so many comedic breaks between information your child will want to keep reading.

Teaching Tip: Our brain remembers images and story lines better than a string of facts. This book is filled with pictures. If the brain remembers an image, it can also help recall information associated with the image. So unlike information dense textbooks with limited illustrations- the comic book style gives the brain more visual images to aid in understanding and recall of the information.

Not only is this book entertaining, it presents information in a way that our brain can makes sense of it. Although this book seems geared toward middle school kids, if a younger child seems interested and has the reading ability s/he may like this too. My son read this book in second grade and he has read it again several times- that’s how much he likes it! If you click on the picture of the book you can see some of the pages of the book and determine if the content is appropriate for your child. 

For younger elementary age:

Bad Kitty For President by Nick Bruel really surprised me. I was just expecting it to be a funny story, but it was also packed full of information on elections. Bad Kitty was bothered by all of the stray cats coming around.  Since Old Kitty was no longer going to be President of the Neighborhood Cat Club, the narrator suggests to Bad Kitty that he should run for office so that he can try to fix his neighborhood problem.  As Bad Kitty begins his quest for Presidency, he has to win the primary election, campaign, try to get an endorsement from Old Kitty, and win the election. Along the way he even finds unflattering news about himself in the paper and on “VueTube”.  I have to admit I was pretty impressed with how much election information was in this book. For older readers, there are sections that give more factual information. The funny nature of Bad Kitty and comedic illustrations hold the child’s interest while they also learn some basic ideas of an election. I can see this appealing to wide range of ages. Just like the previous book, the abundance of pictures is extremely helpful in the recall of information.




If you want to check out another other Micheal Townsend book, my son absolutely loved this one:

 Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders by Michael Townsend

Please Note:  If you are also interested in this book, you will definitely want to look through it first to make sure it is appropriate for your child.This book appears to be for middle school kids. My oldest read it in first grade, but it does have some cartoon violence and kissing since it is retelling Greek Myths. To help you determine if this book is appropriate for your family, I included a this link to goodreads. It will take you directly to the review of this book so you have more information 


Happy Reading!


Philosophy of Empowering Parents to Teach

There is one thing that binds all of us parents together. We have this crazy awesome love for our children that creates a strong to desire to be the best parents we can be.  We seek information on child development, education, nutrition, vaccines, and on and on.  It’s natural; we love our children and we want to do all we can for them.  We want to make EDUCATED DECISIONS for our families.

I designed Empowering Parents to Teach to help educate parents.  As a trained teacher and stay at home mom, I have immersed myself in the development of children.  Whether you are looking for ways to enrich your toddler’s day, gather home school ideas, supplement your child’s public or private education, support emotional development, or bond with your baby, you may find this website helpful.

It is important to understand the underlying philosophy of Empowering Parents to Teach.  I believe that as parents we can guide our children. Control is a fallacy. We cannot control our children. Our job is to lovingly guide them into independence.

Academic learning does not occur in a vacuum. There are numerous emotional and social aspects that go into it. First and foremost, we must nurture our emotional connection with our children.  It provides the security that all development will depend on- emotional, social, and academic. Through brain imaging you can clearly see abnormal brain development in children who have suffered extreme neglect. How we treat our children matters and it is fundamental to healthy brain development and learning.  We may not be able to control our children, but we have some control over certain environmental factors that impact our children’s development- such as nutrition, exposure to stress, parental treatment, etc.

Knowing this, it allows us to operate from a framework of love and respect. The essential bond with us allows our children to fully trust us as their guide in life. From this starting point, we can help nurture all kinds of learning. We teach our children so they can understand the world around them, formulate their own ideas, and make educated decisions. It’s not for grades or impressing others.  We teach and guide out of love, so they can develop into the individual that is uniquely them!

When you see posts on activities that you can do with your child, I will always explain the rationale behind them so that all parents can understand WHY I am doing what I do. That way, I’m not just sharing one activity, rather I am providing tools so that you can create your own too! I will help you train your eye to see learning in everything. It’s like the Chinese Proverb, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  I want to teach you how to fish.

We are guardrails and gardeners. Let them follow their path. Guard them from danger, plant the seeds of learning, water when necessary, and watch them flourish!


What Empowering Parents to Teach is all about

This is blog is meant to share fun ideas that nurture learning and the positive emotional connection between you and your child. 

As a stay at home mom and former teacher, I enjoy teaching children. Through my education and experience I have gathered knowledge about how children learn and have fine tuned my personal philosophy on education. Always willing to share what I know with other parents, this is my first attempt to share ideas with a large group of people. That would be all of you reading this. So if like many parents you are looking for ways to nurture your child’s development this blog may interest you. I intend to post ideas and resources to help with all kinds of learning needs.

There is no right way to parent or teach. I personally believe the most important thing we can do for our children is to spend time with them. Discovering the world together is not only a great way to bond, but it also gives your child a fundamental framework from which all of their scholarly learning will build upon. Everything we learn is related to concrete, real, hands on experiences we’ve had. Taking a walk in the woods, for example, may seem small but children are actually building necessary schema to understand things to come. They need these sensory experiences. The brain needs somewhere to connect new information and ideas. These real life experiences are that foundation. Whenever possible choose the most natural experience. If you want to extend their learning- read a book about the topic, create a craft, role play, make up a song. This blog will help you with extending a learning experience. I will share some of my ideas, but truly there are endless ways! By doing all of these wonderful things with you, you are also helping to connect with your child, creating the bond that will carry them through their lifetime.


For the at home activities- I highly recommend that if your child is not into the activity, do not force it! You really want to keep it fun and positive. Another important aspect of learning is emotion. The brain can not separate emotion from learning. Our brain biologically seeks pleasure and tries to avoid pain. If a learning experience becomes forceful or a negative experience, the brain will make emotional associations that shut down learning. Learning occurs easily when a child feels safe, good about themselves, and enjoys what they are doing. If you feel like the topic is important, try again another day when your child may be more receptive or change the way you go about teaching the topic. There is no one more qualified than a parent to nurture a child’s learning, because of the unique, innate, emotional bond we have with our children. Trust your instincts and teach with love and your child will learn from your guidance. Have faith in your own abilities and the abilities of your child. We are all a lot smarter and capable than we realize!


Enjoy the journey!





To learn more about some of the things I briefly talked about regarding how the brain learns, The Art of Changing the Brain by James E. Zull is an excellent book.