Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Play Dates That Explore Art & Music

By Catherine Pittman

For the rookie mom with preschool-aged or younger kids, play dates are not yet the “drop ‘em off and go” kind, where mama gets a well-deserved break.  At this stage, play dates are the kind where you and your child get together with a small group of other mothers and their kids at or near your own child’s age, to hang out and play. 

Play dates not only help your child’s social skills and circle of friends grow, but is an opportunity to discover and encourage learning using activities that explore the world, while providing adventures to delight the senses. It is time well spent connecting to your child and with other mothers.   When one can combine a play date with creativity that inspires your little ones to express themselves in a fun and exciting way that explores the world of art, then you have a number one hit! 

The world of art encompasses so many wonderful genres… theatre, music, painting, sculpting, dancing and in many different forms that can tickle all of the senses.  Here are three playful play date ideas to help your child explore the world of music and art.

Musical Poster Party
You’ve heard of musical chairs, how about musical drawing?  

This fun activity can be done indoors or outside. As each child arrives, take their picture.   Place a bunch of white or bright colored poster board sheets on the floor or around a table, placing a small picture of each toddler and their name at the top in big letters.  Start the fun with each toddler drawing with crayons or markers on their own sheet while some toe-tapping music is playing. Stop the music, and instruct each toddler to move to another friend’s sheet and color on it. Continue the game long enough for each toddler to draw on every sheet. Once they reach their sheet again, each child will have a poster board picture decorated by each friend to take home and hang in their room. 

To make it more interesting, you can instruct each toddler which color to use at each stop and teach them which side is their right (or left) side. Then at each stop as they rotate around the poster boards, ask them to move to the poster to the right (or left), and to switch to a new color.  This will help them learn their colors and to learn which is their right side and which is their left. 

Little Picasso Play Date
This one creates a mess and is best if held outdoors, but is really fun and children love to express themselves with painting. Be sure to ask mom to dress their child in old clothes that they don’t mind getting paint on for this activity. 

Purchase inexpensive watercolor paints, brushes and paper, and instruct them to make a picture of their favorite thing, such as a toy or pet, or have them draw themselves doing their favorite thing. To provide an even greater sensory activity, try using scratch ‘n’ sniff watercolor paints, and have them draw what it smells like. After each child has finished their picture, have them show their picture to the group and talk about their “favorite thing” that they painted. Then display their works of art on a wall, tree or fence while everyone enjoys a tasty treat. 

You can also use fingers instead of brushes with finger paints, and even make homemade finger paint.  Here’s a simple recipe for finger paint: 1/2 cup of corn starch, 1 quart of boiling water, 1/2 cup of talc, 1/2 cup of soap flakes and dry tempera. Moisten starch with cold water.  Add boiling water and cook, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and continue stirring vigorously.  Add talc and flakes, beating with egg beater. Cool and add the dry tempera for color. 

Toddler Band Jam
If there is one thing every kid enjoys, it is musical sounds and making music.  Research has shown that music helps children learn, socialize and inspire creativity.  So if your play date group has 6 toddlers or preschoolers, here is a great activity to not only make music but having fun making the instruments too, particularly in the summer months when it can be held outdoors.  There are six homemade instruments for this activity that your child can make for their “band to jam:” Tambourine, Rattle, Drum, Kazoo, rubber band instrument and bell stick.  To begin, place the name of each instrument on a piece of paper and have each child draw the name of the instrument they will make.

Once all the instruments are made find some fun kids music from your local library or download an MP3 and make a CD.  Have everyone march or dance while playing their instrument to the music.  Try to get the children to move and play in time with the songs they hear, which will help them learn rhythm and coordination. Turn off the music and have each child perform a solo with their instrument while everyone else listens, then applaud.  If you don’t want to make instruments, visit your local Dollar store and obtain kazoos, harmonicas, and any other musical sound.

Instructions to make instruments: For all instruments, you’ll need markers or crayons, bright colored curling ribbon and stickers to decorate. Tape and staplers are also needed, and for your child’s safety, mom should handle the stapler.
·       Tambourine:  you’ll need 2 colored or white paper plates, dry rice or beans and a stapler for mom to use.  Instruct the child to decorate the outside of two plates using the markers and stickers. One they are done decorating it, place the dry beans or rice inside, and have mom staple the two plates together so the beans or rice do not come out. Be sure to staple some curling ribbon too! 
·       Drum:  One empty oatmeal or coffee can with lid, chunky rhythm sticks (available at school supply houses) or wooden spoons for drum sticks, and butcher or construction paper cut long and wide enough to wrap around the container. Have the child decorate one side of the paper. Once decorated, wrap the paper around the container and tape with more stickers or tape.  Place lid on container. Tie colorful ribbons on sticks or wood spoons.  
·       Rattle:  One small plastic yogurt cup with a lid, dry beans or rice and construction paper cut to fit around the yogurt cup and a circle to fit on top of the lid.  Have the child decorate the construction paper. Place dried beans or rice inside the yogurt cup, put lid on and tie colorful curling ribbon around the cup. Shake to play.
·       Kazoo:  You’ll need a piece of colorful tissue paper and a long comb with a handle.  Have the child decorate the comb’s handle with stickers and markers. Wrap a piece of colorful tissue paper the length of the comb around the comb part. Paper should not be wrapped too many times or it will make the instrument hard to play. A strip long enough to wrap around once or twice is sufficient. Place a single piece of clear tape or sticker along the edge of the open end of the paper to keep it from coming off the comb. Tie colorful curling ribbon streamers to handle of comb.  To play: hold the comb against your lips, then keeping your lips open a little, hum into the comb.  Parents may need to demonstrate this one, but your child will quickly get the hang of it.
·       Rubber band instrument:  You need one kid’s shoe size shoe box (no lid), 3 - 6 long rubber bands and a stapler. Instruct the child to decorate the shoe box with stickers and markers. If the show box has a lot of markings on it, you may want to use butcher paper or construction paper around the sides of the box for ease in decorating. Stretch a rubber band so that it reaches the top of the shoe box to the bottom, like a guitar string, and have mom securely staple the rubber band to each end of the box. Repeat until you have at least 3 or 4 rubber bands. To play: strum/pick the “strings” of the box. 
·       Bell Stick:  Two extra long colored wood craft sticks and jingle bells. Decorate craft stick with markers and stickers. Glue 2 - 3 bells to each side of stick, leaving enough room for the child to grip the bottom of the stick. Tie curling ribbons to handle. Shake to play.

About the Author
Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. Living Green? The Dream Faerie, Sleepy Time Lullabies and Topsy Toddler Time albums are also available for download by the song or album at iTunes under artist Catherine Pittman, or available for download at our website at

Catherine is currently on dialysis due to kidney failure. Would you like to help with transplant costs? Visit:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Growing Green Families:
An Eco-Friendly Kid’s Birthday Bash

By: Catherine L Pittman ©September 2009

Families in every state are trying to grow “green” families, converting themselves to green living and teaching their children to live green.  So I ask, why not birthday parties too?

To see a safe tomorrow for our children, teaching today’s generation how to conserve the environment has become an important goal of today’s parents.  Throwing an eco-friendly birthday party for your child is another great tool to teach the new generation that going green can be fun.

You can start your green party by providing green invitations.  Instead of sending the usual traditional paper invitation to your child’s special event, save a few trees and send your invites via e-mail.  One great service available online is  This great website provides plenty of invitation options and themes for your invitation. It is a great way for older children to get creative using the computer.

A party isn’t complete without decorations!  Instead of latex balloons, opt for colorful paper lanterns made from recycled paper to decorate the party area.  You can make your own paper lanterns, making them in themed shapes, such as stars.  Make paper garlands, a piñata, flowers out of muslin or tissue paper, and make your own butterfly or other fun shaped confetti out of biodegradable paper. Make your own party hats, such as a crown for the birthday boy or a princess hat for the birthday girl out of biodegradable or recycled paper. Reuse party streamers by rolling them up from year-to-year. Directions to make your own paper lanterns and other décor ideas can be found on the web at sites, such as and  You can also find green party supplies at online eco-party supply stores.

If you plan on giving all the kids at the party a gift bag, use cloth or organza gift bags.  Families can reuse the bags for giving gifts at other parties or events, holding small toys in and similar uses.  Places like dollar stores can provide inexpensive things to place in the bags other than candy, such as a small box of crayons. Or make organic trail mix snacks for the bags.

One cannot have a birthday party without cake and ice cream.  Instead of buying your cake and ice cream, make them using organic ingredients to make it earth friendly.  Believe it or not you can make ice cream in a paper sack if you don’t have an ice cream maker---recipe available at:   If it’s fruit season, make batches of frozen treats with organic raspberries, blueberries or strawberries instead of ice cream.   Serve your birthday treats on real plates or biodegradable and forest friendly tableware.  You can find this type of paperware and decorations at

For younger children, setting up an arts and crafts table for them to create a project and using eco-friendly paints and supplies is a fun activity.  The kids get to take their project home and it’s a party favor too! 

Another way to go green is to remember gifts don’t make the party, the people do! Don’t be afraid to say “no gifts please” on your invitations or request re-gifting.  Re-gifting specifically asks guests to bring a gently used book, children’s movie DVD, game or toy for your child. This is particularly useful for a party for a toddler or preschooler who is more excited at receiving a gift than caring what it really is. It’s a great way to recycle, reuse, reduce and rethink! 

If you do want new toys, then another way to go green is to request eco-friendly toys only, such as soft toys, wood toys or toys made from recycled materials.  If you’re attending a party and want to keep it green, wrap your gift in inexpensive fabric with fabric ribbons, use the comics from the newspaper or make your own wrapping paper from biodegradable paper and paints.

No matter what type of party you are throwing for your child, whether it is a big or small event, make it a green party with green party supplies, eco-friendly toys and presents, eco-friendly goodie bags and décor.  Your party will be a great hit for your friends, family and kids, and you will be teaching your child a valuable lesson that living green can be fun too!

About the Author

Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Creating Beautiful Christmas Traditions that Last a Lifetime

By: Catherine L. Pittman © November 2009

Download Our FREE Holiday Music Sampler Album

Image courtesy of Dreamtime
by Usikova
Christmas is truly a magical and enchanting time of year, where holiday traditions never fade with time.

It is filled with beautiful sights and sounds: A candle glowing in a frosted window, hanging stockings on a festive mantle with care, hot chocolate, eggnog and hot buttered rums served after an evening of caroling, neighborhoods filled with colorful, twinkling lights.  The warm feeling of joy we feel when giving gifts, snowflakes dancing merrily in the air, romantic sleigh rides and sneaking a kiss beneath the mistletoe. These are just a few of the charming time-honored traditions families have to celebrate Christmas and break away from all the hype of the holiday.

Some of my most precious moments in time from my childhood are my memories of our year end holiday festivities.  We helped our friends celebrate Hanukkah, and they helped us celebrate Christmas.  My parents created our own custom traditions and I cherish the memories of to this day.  Some have been passed down to the next generation, and we have created a few of our own with our children along the way. 

Creating your own special memories will help make your holiday joyful, less stressful, and revive your family's festive spirit, bringing you closer together.  Here are some favorites that with a few tweaks can be adopted by your family to make them all your own.  They are sure to make your Christmas merry and bright, and chase old Scrooge away!

Deck the Halls
Decorating your home for the holidays doesn't need to fill you with the humbugs. Trimming your Christmas tree, mantle and windows can be a fun family tradition. When I was young, my parents gave their three daughters a pair of special ornaments each year, infusing a tradition that kicked off our holiday festivities, and were given to us when we left the nest. I still have many of the ornaments to this day. 

Back then, bazaars and craft shows were not the popular events they are today. You don't have to buy the standard glass globes each year at the local store. Make it a tradition to attend an annual holiday show and purchase unique ornaments, or if you are crafty yourself, have an ornament making party with your children and neighbors. As your children look at the tree from year-to-year, the ornaments of Christmases past will mean more to them and you'll find yourselves sharing stories of each ornament. Look for a holiday event that also supports a local school, charity or holds a food drive.  It will help teach your child the gift of giving to others. Change it up and select a theme for the ornaments.

As you deck your halls, don't forget to involve your children in helping with the windows, exterior lights and mantle.  While the kids can't hang the outdoor lights, they can help you decide on your "theme" and flip the switch when it's time to unveil this year's theme. Decorate your mantle with boughs of holly and your favorite manger scene, caroler characters, holiday village, snowmen, reindeer or other festive décor. My sister's family began collecting a Christmas village for their mantle, adding a new piece each year. I have a friend who collects train cars for his Christmas train set that they place around the base of their tree each year.  They take great pleasure making an annual trek to find unique train cars to add to their collection. My other sister collects nutcrackers that she places throughout her home.

Cookies for Santa & Friends
There's nothing like filling your home with the scent of Christmas cookies and baking.  This is a fun activity to involve your kids in, and makes great gifts for co-workers, neighbors, friends, and, of course, Santa!  Choose new recipes each year, and maybe select one that you traditionally prepare every year.  My mother use to make my dad's favorite icebox cookies every Christmas, as well as her pumpkin bread.

Host a yuletide or caroling party and invite your neighbors and their children. They will enjoy spending time with you and have a cup of eggnog, hot buttered rum or hot chocolate along with your handmade baked goods.  Take homemade cookies and bread to the local homeless shelter or nursing home, so they can share in a holiday treat along with their meal.

Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Gift Giving
It's important to teach children the great joy one receives when giving gifts, and not just focus on what Santa will bring.  One of the most magical things about Christmas is it is the one time of year mankind tries to put aside their differences and help those less fortunate.  With so many families loosing their home and job right now, it is vital we bring hope and joy to those in need.

One tradition I embarked on when I was a teenager, was participating in the Sub for Santa program.  Today, there are many local stores and charities that offer giving trees or other ways to help bring Christmas to those who have no home, have lost a parent or whose family is suffering from a loss of income.  Take your child shopping specifically for another child, or donate gently used toys, books and clothing that your child no longer uses.  Your little one will find it an uplifting tradition and benefit as much as the child your family will help.

Another tradition our family has done in more recent years:  drawing names for the annual holiday shopping. Some call it "Secret Santa." While we are not as large a family as some, it does make holiday gift giving fun to concentrate on one special family member.  For large families this is particularly beneficial, as it is far easier on the holiday budget to buy a few gifts for just one person than the entire family. It adds a touch of mystery all wrapped up in love, and colorful paper and bows.  You can add a touch of humor too, by creating a theme for one of the gifts that each person must shop for in addition to standard gifts.  One year we held a sock exchange along with our regular gifts, and found ourselves quite amused by the variety of funny, funky socks we found for our gift giving. Another year it was pajamas, which really produced a lot of laughter!

Our family always read a holiday story on Christmas Eve, and our parents had us open one special gift that night.  Typically, it was our holiday pajamas, though not always! I remember a Christmas teddy bear or two, as well as new holiday storybooks. On Christmas morning, each person opened one gift at a time by going around the room, and we each had to guess what was in the brightly wrapped package.  It was always fun to try to guess what the present was before ripping open the paper.

The Sounds of Christmas
Whatever traditions your family decides upon, don't forget the music of the season!  One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the songs and melodies.

Each year, our family would find and add a new holiday album to our collection of music.  Over the years, we've found some special songs, some funny, some that are so beautiful they bring tears to the eyes. We often create a compilation of our favorite songs and put them on a CD to

play whenever we have guests over during the holiday or give as a gift to friends. These days, you don't necessarily have to buy an entire album to create a great compilation, since you can now download single songs from web sites or full albums.

It seems Scrooge has done away with caroling! These days you don't often see caroling in the neighborhoods, which was one of our favorite holiday traditions. When I was young and involved in Job's Daughters, we often caroled at local nursing homes and hospitals, and in the case of nursing homes, we brought treats. Many folks in nursing homes have no family or their family is far away, and they truly love to have young people around to share the holidays.  Host a caroling party with your neighbors and family.  You'll find it a wonderful tradition! 

As you celebrate the birth of the Son of God this Christmas, add a little spice and magic to your holiday festivities.  Traditions all have to start some place, and there is nothing wrong with adding your own touches to time-honored traditions to bring magic into the holiday and make memories for your children that will last a lifetime.

Wishing you and your family a Christmas blessed with the magic of the season… 
Love, Joy and Peace. Always.


About the Author

Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for the family's business, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.