Four ways to make a change

Published by Lori Pickert on November 14, 2011 at 04:12 PM

Do you wish your family got outside more? Read more? Spent more time making instead of consuming? Spend less time being inspired and more time doing?

Four ways to make a change:

1. Build it into your routine.

Dedicate some time to it. “Every Saturday morning, we’ll take our breakfast to the park.” “Every morning after breakfast, we’ll draw together for ten minutes.” If you don’t make the effort to build it into your routine and commit some time to it, it probably won’t happen.

2. Set positive goals.

Focus on adding, not subtracting. Negative goals: “We need to watch less TV.” “We have to eat less junk food.” Positive goals: “On Friday nights, we’ll make pizza and play board games.” “I’m going to serve fruit for our afternoon snack at least three times a week.”

Negative goals are hard to measure. Are you watching less TV? Are you eating less junk food? Positive goals are much easier to measure. Yes, we went to the park every week this month. Yes, we ate fruit three times a week for snack.

3. Remind yourself.

Your brain is used to your routine, and it rewards you when you do the same thing at the same time (e.g., drinking a Diet Coke at 3:00 every afternoon, turning on your soap opera after lunch, crashing on the couch after dinner). It takes effort to build a new habit — conventional wisdom says at least 21 days. Make it easier by putting reminders everywhere you look — a bowl of fruit in the middle of the table, a pile of board games and art supplies on the coffee table, a handmade poster or inspiration board where you’ll see it every day.

4. Feed what you want to see more of.

Focus your attention and support on the part of your life that you want more of. Don’t worry about squelching what you don’t like — focus on what you value. If you value your children doing authentic artwork, focus on making them a beautiful, well-stocked studio. If you value reading, make your bookshelves and reading nooks beautiful and beckoning and make time to read together every day. If you value great meals together, make them a priority. Focus on aesthetics (making it beautiful) and routine (making it happen regularly).

The parts of your life that you value most deserve most of your attention and effort. When you direct your focus there, you may find that the things you didn’t like begin to fade into the background. Not only will they wither when they get less from you, but you will simply not see them as much — because you’re putting your focus where it belongs, on the things that matter most.

See also: The resolution series — It’s not all or nothing, Break it down, Take real baby steps, Use the upward spiral, and Quit.

Resolution 4 - Use the upward spiral

Published by Lori Pickert on January 7, 2011 at 02:51 PM

Many people are familiar with the downward spiral — make one bad decision or acquire one bad habit, and suddenly you find yourself on a negative slide.

Bad choices tend to exert influence on other choices until you’re in a downward spiral, with things going wrong everywhere.

People are less familiar with its positive twin, the upward spiral.

After you’ve unpacked your big resolution and broken it down into its component parts, after you’ve chosen one thing to concentrate on, you may find that success with just that one part starts slanting things in your favor with the other parts ... You may find yourself in an upward spiral.

Our example resolution: Lose 20 pounds.


— exercise more

— eat more healthy food

— eat less junk food

— drink more water


How the upward spiral works:

You start walking every day after lunch.

When you get back from your walk, you find that you want a glass of water. It’s easy to drink water, because your body is demanding it and it actually sounds good to you. You are drinking more water.

Because you have a glass of water, you don’t have a can of Diet Coke. You are consuming fewer junk calories.

Because you exercised — and you also drank one fewer can of soda, so had less caffeine — you sleep better that night.

Because you get more sleep, you feel great the next day. You have more energy than usual, and you find it easier to go on that walk.

And so on.

The upward spiral isn’t the domino effect — it doesn’t just knock over all your other goals for you. However, it does exert pressure on them, so you don’t have to do all the work.

One success makes your other tasks easier.

Not only does one success suddenly slant everything in your favor, but experiencing some success makes you feel more successful, makes you feel more confident about having future success. Your attitude changes. You realize things are more achievable than you thought, and you can create change in your life.

How this might help your goal to have your children do more self-directed learning:

You start using your project journal everyday. You observe your children at play and at conversation during meals, and you write it down. Your children ask what you're up to, and you explain you're interested in what they're doing. Because you're paying attention, they give their play/work more attention. They spend three days building a block bridge that they might have abandoned after one play session if you weren't so interested. They're working more deeply. They ask for their own journals. You photograph their bridge and ask them about it, writing more in your journal. You're on your way.

Note: There is no one magical thing that you must do first, no key first step. *Any* positive change is going to improve the outlook for your other goals. Just getting started is the key.

You can use the upward spiral to help yourself make headway on your own goals, but you can also use it to help your children meet their own goals. When their plans become overwhelmingly complex, help them break it down and choose one thing to concentrate on. Help them experience one small success and see how much it changes their outlook.


Resolution 1 — It’s not all or nothing.

Resolution 2 — Break it down.

Resolution 3 — Take real baby steps.

Resolution 4 — Use the upward spiral.

Resolution 5 — Quit.

Art lesson: Free exploration/ working purposefully

Published by Lori Pickert on February 24, 2008 at 07:41 PM


Imagine two children who are asked to paint a picture of their house. The first child hasn't used these paints before, or for a long time. The second child was given them to play with yesterday.

The first child is a bundle of frustration. The paint colors are running together! My house is beige, not brown, and I can't make the color I want! I used the black paint and now I've ruined the yellow paint. And now it's all dripping on the floor! I quit!

The second child learned a lot yesterday just by playing with the paints and painting several pictures. She waits for one area to dry before painting next to it with another color. She mixes new colors on a clean sheet of paper. She cleans her brush carefully between color changes. She is working intently. When she finishes her first painting, she talks about it and then asks for another piece of paper. She's ready to try another.

The child who was given time to play and explore can now work purposefully.

If you paint two big wet spots next to each other, the paint will run together. Imagine how interesting and fun this can be when you are just playing and experimenting — watching the yellow paint swirl with the blue, and then the center is turning green.

Imagine how disappointing and discouraging this same effect is when you really wanted a yellow dress covered in blue flowers.

The lessons we learn during play, we apply when we are working to create something important to us.

To work with a purpose is to choose deliberately, with a definite goal in mind.

Imagine two children sitting down to draw a bird with a collection of pencils. One child hasn't used these pencils before; one has. Who will be more successful? Even pencils have different personalities — hard and soft leads make different kinds of lines, we can apply too much pressure so they break or make a hole in the paper, color can be dragged across with the edge of our hand and spoil our work.

To work purposefully is to reach for a material or a tool confidently, choosing it because we know what it will do.

We cannot work purposefully until we have become familiar with the materials and tools.

Free exploration means we have no goal in mind, we're just seeing what this material can do and what we can do with it.

We learn through play, and what we learn, we can use when to create work that is important to us.

(W)ith a sense of certainty, play is almost always mindful. People take risks and involve themselves in their play. Imagine making play feel routine; it would not be playful. In play, there is no reason not to take some risks. In fact, without risk, the pleasures of mastery would disappear. … We tend to be more adventurous at play because it feels safe. — Roger Kelly, Leisure

(Did you figure out this was a lesson for you and not for the children? :^D)

Mirrored shelves

Published by Lori Pickert on August 25, 2007 at 08:48 PM


This week we’ll share some of our tips for making a beautiful learning space (at home or at school) without spending much money.

Our preschool classrooms, like many in America, were located in the basement of our building. Yet we still managed to have a very bright and open space, and we received a lot of compliments on its warm and welcoming feel.

One way we accomplished that goal was the right paint color — light, bright, but also warm. It was a very light yellow, and it even managed to warm up the overhead fluorescent lighting. If you can manage it, full-spectrum paint is the best (but it’s more expensive).

We bounced our available natural light around with several mirrors, making the most of our two small windows. In the picture above, you can see students choosing art materials from mirrored shelves. Mirrors not only bounce light and reflect views, but they give the illusion of extra space. Setting a mirror behind a plant gives you two plants, and so on.

These mirrored shelves were easily (and cheaply!) accomplished with inexpensive metal shelving hardware, wood planks, and five-dollar door mirrors (bought at this time of year, meant for dorm rooms) laid sideways and attached to the wall in-between the shelves.

Set out art materials in garage-sale wooden bowls and berry baskets, and you have a beautiful, affordable display.

Weave it to me

Published by Lori Pickert on August 24, 2007 at 01:38 AM


Karrie from Girl on the Rocks is starting a week of weaving information about looms, patterns, and more. Check out her blog for great ideas about palm-sized looms and weaving projects.

For young children, you can't go wrong with a classic plastic pot-holder loom and a bag of nylon loops. This is the type we use with kids age 3 and up in the classroom and art studio.

The loom pictured up above was a heddle loom we used in the classroom. It is useful for weaving belts, skinny scarves, bracelets, bookmarks, and headbands. You can make your own heddle with popsicle sticks; maybe we'll show you how in another post.

For large weaving projects, or shared projects on which several children can work together, you can purchase large classroom looms for about $215. Or you can do what we did — find a big, cheap wooden picture frame (thrift store, garage sale, junk shop, or clearance), drill holes along the top and bottom, and insert pieces of dowel rod you cut yourself. Total cost: approximately $4.00. We added a couple of pieces of wood at the bottom to serve as feet, strung it up, and we were good to go. (I can’t find a photo of our loom to share, unfortunately…)

Read about it elsewhere:

Purl Bee: The Lure of the Loom


eloominator blog

For a nice selection of plastic and wood looms, check out Dick Blick. Be careful: art supplies are just as enticing online as they are in person.

How to Build a clay table

Published by Lori Pickert on August 23, 2007 at 01:56 AM

If you work a lot with clay, you can build your own clay table.

First, find a cheap wooden table at a junk shop or garage sale. (Habitat for Humanity ReStores offer both used furniture and used building materials.) We paid $10 for our table.

Next, cut the legs down to size so the height is appropriate for your children. (Measure the first leg, then hold it up against the others to make sure they match exactly.)

Purchase enough plain canvas (about $2 to $4/yard from the fabric store) to cover the table top. Be sure your fabric is wide enough to wrap around each side. Before you go to the fabric store, take a look at the edges of your table to see how much extra material you'll need. Simple table tops will only require four inches or so; tables with elaborate skirting will require more.

At home, center fabric on the table top. (You don't have to cut the material to size -- just leave the extra and you can trim it off later. You just need to make sure it's wide enough and long enough to cover.)

Using a staple gun, put one stable in the center of one side of the table, wrapping the material around and stapling underneath the table top. Stretch material and continuing stapling, finishing first one side, then its opposite side, then the final two sides.

The finished canvas-covered table is perfect for working with clay. The canvas absorbs excess moisture, and clean up consists of just brushing away extra dried clay pieces the next day. If your clay starts to become too dry, give the canvas a spritz of water.

If you don't have room for a whole table, you can cover a piece of chipboard or plywood cut to your desired size, and bring it out when you're ready to pinch, poke, and roll. Just be sure you lay a towel or other protective layer between your clay board and table to prevent scratching.