Monthly Archives: October 2014


11 Witty Halloween Costumes for Brainy Families (with pictures)

Halloween is a time when we can lose ourselves in a world that is far outside of our own experience. We can become anyone or anything. We can also have a lot of fun doing something out of the box and super memorable. Costumes can make you think!

Especially when younger and younger kids are being sold costumes like these (seriously?!), with a little elbow grease parents can help kids come up with something clever.

Here are 10 fun and easy Halloween costumes for brainy families that will have everyone talking.

1. Plato (playdoh)

2. American gothic

3. Ceiling Fan

4. Girl with the Pearl Earring

5. Formal Apology

6. Frida Kahlo

7. Nancy Drew

8. Pig in a Blanket

9. Social Butterfly

10. Snakes on a Plane

11. Identity Thief

Have fun this Halloween!

“The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats. Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.”

― Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree


Balancing act: 4 ways to stay on the ball when schedules get crazy

Fall is a crazy time for most families schedules. The ease of summer breaks through to the frenzy of sports, schoolwork and holidays on the horizon. There’s Christmas everywhere and we haven’t gotten through Halloween yet. Add to that the start of cold and flu season and it makes even the most organized of us start to get unbalanced during this time of year.

Here are four tips to help you keep from falling off the ball…

  1. Let it go - As a wise woman named Adele Dazim once said… But seriously, there’s truth in it. When you’re looking for balance, the first thing you have to do is to really let go of your control of everything. If you miss a soccer practice the world will not end. And if your dry cleaning doesn’t get picked up today, then you will make it through tomorrow without going naked. When you find yourself heating up, then let go of the things that aren’t absolutely essential. It will all get done, even if it’s not exactly perfect.
  2. Write it down - Your brain holds information, and you’ve only go so much working memory to work off of. You can shove some extra in there, but that creates stress. When you write things down, you’re taking them out of your working memory. You’ll feel a LOT less off-balance if you’re not worrying about forgetting something.
  3. Vision - Create a vision for your life. What do you want your family life to look like? This isn’t something that a lot of people think about, but they should. How would your day look if you had a perfect day? Looking at your life from this perspective can really help you to understand what’s important and what’s just stressful. Kids can do this too, especially when they’re feeling overwhelmed. You and your children might both discover that there are stressful things on your plate that don’t need to be there. Then don’t be afraid to end those commitments.
  4. Live for yourself - The real truth is that you are modeling for your children. If you aren’t happy and fulfilled, then they are going to grow up thinking that it’s the norm to live that way too. So before the holidays sneak up on us, take some time to figure out ways to increase your fulfillment, and realize that you’re doing a great service to you kids by doing so. And if that means falling off the ball every once in a while, then by all means, do it!

And as we always tell our Thrively Parents, however you’re doing it, you’re doing great.



Teaching kids to respect differences

When we think about disability, we often think about wheelchairs and sign language, about people who can’t do things for themselves and for whom life is limited. Ask your child about disability and you’ll likely get an interesting answer, because children’s perception of disability is unique.


kanye image credit: Fox News

Kanye West famously halted his show last month when everyone in the audience didn’t stand up. Of course it turned out that the people who weren’t standing up were unable to do so because they had disabilities and were in wheelchairs. But he even went so far as to have his security team verify that those people who were in those wheelchairs were actually disabled. Yes, that actually happened. What does this incident and the media storm that followed say about what our culture thinks about disability? And how can parents use this as a teaching moment?

It’s important for parents not only to talk to their children about disability but also to seek out opportunities for them to engage with individuals who have disabilities. And not just children who are different – but to see and interact with adults with disabilities as well. You can do this by volunteering or engaging with people in your religious community. Schools afford great inclusion opportunities for children to engage with individuals with disabilities.

Not all people with disabilities “look different.” Disability can be hard to see, and so we make assumptions about what’s going on with a person or with a family who has struggles that aren’t obvious, as is sometimes the case with Autism or learning disabilities. Some kids don’t always see differences or limitations, they often just see people. And we adults can learn a lot from that perspective.

When a disability is visible, it’s might be hard for kids to process. They stare. And ask questions that can seem inappropriate, even if they are just genuinely curious and don’t know how else to ask. Kids should be able to ask their parents about something that they are not familiar with, and we can teach them kind ways to do so. If you don’t know the answers, then Google it together. Above all, teach kindness.

Fear is the biggest hurdle to including individuals with disabilities in our society. People are afraid of what’s different. And that fear leads us to pushing people who are different to the outside of our culture. Or publicly shaming them, like Kanye West did when he singled those individuals out in front of thousands of people. Talk to your kids about disability, and don’t be afraid of the questions that might come up, because in searching for those answers, you’ll foster understanding.

Every child has unique strengths, no matter who they are. Discover your child’s here.


Teachers: How do you respond to “but when are we ever gonna need to use this?”

Ugh. That ubiquitous line that all teachers find themselves facing from students is the question of when the information that’s being taught is going to be useful in the “real world.” You refrain from spinning around, smoke blowing out your ears, to answer with “when are you gonna use Minecraft? when are you gonna use paper footballs? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO USE A JACKET WITH A LETTER ON IT IN THE REAL WORLD, KID?!” Restraint, the #1 soft skill of teachers world wide.


The answer to the original question is simple:  every day.

What’s learned in the classroom isn’t always about the content, but it is always about exercising the muscles of the mind and expanding understanding. Learning content is a means to an end. And the ‘end’ isn’t the answer to the algebra problem – the ‘end’ is learning how to find the answers.

While the human brain is capable of holding large amounts of information, what it’s truly designed to do is to make connections and understand processes. In the classroom it can often seem as though the focus is on recalling and regurgitating facts, but learning happens when we work through processes. And those processes are most memorable when they are directly experienced.

Active learning is the method through which the most innovative and engaged educators are teaching their students today. This experiential model allows students to work through a problem in the same way we adults work through problems; trying and sometimes failing.

Neurological networks are built with every problem solved, every poem read and every history fact digested. Those networks don’t only apply to the math or the language arts or the history, the brain uses them for processing whatever information it comes across. And once those paths are there, they’re permanent. Classroom learning translates to real world understanding, even when they seem unrelated.

Life outside of the classroom involves learning a new skill and trying it out. That’s what the “real world” is all about. Students and even teachers have no idea about what kinds of specific skill sets might be needed in the future, but they do know that the universal skills of critical thinking and problem solving transcend any subject area or work environment. And should we forget that adult life isn’t just about work, its about navigating relationships and home, finances and family.

In the classroom, cooperative and problem solving learning gives students the opportunity to develop life skills and brain power that lasts a lifetime. It’s not about the lesson, it’s about the connections. So yes, student, nanana booboo, you will need to use it.

Find brain boosting apps for any grade level or subject by clicking here.


7 ways to empower your kids

Empowering your child is something that happens every day, in little ways. Kids need to feel supported and free to make mistakes in order to gain self esteem and embrace responsibility. Here are some quick things to start doing right now to empower your child.


  1. One-on-one time – EVERY DAY. This may sound impossible, but just ten or fifteen minutes each day of deliberate time is an incredible way to communicate that your child is a valued individual.
  2. Routine - Encouraging a set routine gives kids confidence to take chances because they know what’s coming day in and day out. This is the same reason that adults do well when our days are laid out. Minimizing surprises from the outside means that you can feel safe on the inside.
  3. Sleep - this may not sound like an empowerment tool, but getting enough sleep is essential for kids. Well rested kids are able to focus and retain information, not to mention the mood and emotional benefits. Don’t underestimate it!
  4. Problem Solving - Don’t jump in when your child has a problem. This one is really difficult, because we like to help our kids to make the right decisions. But empowerment means letting them make their own decisions – right or wrong. Let siblings solved their own disputes as far as you can, and don’t jump in when your child does a homework problem incorrectly.
  5. Training, Not Punishment - Time outs and taking away privileges are common ways to change behavior. But you can also use role-play and conversation after an incident to deconstruct it and help children learn how to make good decisions. Praising good behavior does more to ingrain that behavior than punishing negative behavior does.
  6. Pitch In - Helping out lets kids realize that they can do things for themselves, and for others. It’s a cliche – but doing for others really does make you feel good! Kids who help out around the house learn that they are capable and trusted members of the family.
  7. Just Say Yes - Parents often find themselves saying the word “no” a LOT. Try just saying yes for a change! Stop and think – would it really hurt anything to eat a picnic in the living room for dinner? Does stopping for ice cream really ruin your schedule? Saying yes empowers children to make decisions. That validation from parents is powerful and worth doing.

Empowering your kids will help them now and in the long run. By giving your kids the gift of self confidence and assurance, you’ll be able to give them a leg up for life.

Find activities to empower your kids by clicking here.

Brain lifting weights like a baller

Dinner time brain exercise for kids

Brain lifting weights like a baller

Riddles: nature’s brain aerobics, minus bad neon lycra. Scrunch socks optional.

Here’s a bit of fun to exercise your child’s brain (yours too!). And just like your regular workout, there’s a warm up, a high intensity exercise, and a cool down. Just enough distraction for them to finish their vegetables* (*no guarantees).

The number of “badum CHING!” ‘s you add is entirely up to your editorial discretion.

The warm ups:

  • What had to be broken before you can use it?

○      An egg.

  • Why did the boy bury his flashlight?

○      The batteries had died.

  • Why can’t a man be living in Paris and buried in Boston?

○      Because he’s still alive!

  • What’s more amazing than a talking dog?

○      A spelling bee.

  • What begins with a T, ends with a T, and has T in it?

○      A teapot.

  • What gets wetter as it dries?

○      A towel.

  • What five letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?

○      Short.

  • What has a face and two hands but no arms or legs?

○      A clock.

  • Which month has 28 days?

○      All of them!

  • What starts with a P, ends with an E and has thousands of letters?

○      The Post Office.


The high intensity section:

  • In a one story pink house, there was a pink girl, a pink dog, a pink cat, a pink tv, a pink chair, a pink table, a pink cell phone, a pink bathtub – everything was pink! What color were the stairs?

○      There weren’t any stairs, it was a one story house!

  • A father and his son were riding their bikes and crashed. Two ambulances came and took them to two different hospitals. The man’s son was on the operating table and the doctor said, “I can’t operate on you. You’re my son.” How is that possible?

○      The doctor is his mom.

  • You throw away the outside and cook the inside, then eat the outside and throw away the inside. What is it?

○      Corn on the cob – because you throw away the husk, cook and eat the kernels, and throw away the cob.

  • Take away my first letter, and I still sound the same. Take away my last letter, and I still sound the same. Even take away my letter in the middle, and I will still sound the same. I am a five letter word. What am I?

○      EMPTY.

  • What is so delicate that just saying its name breaks it?

○      Silence.


The cool down

  • I am tall when I’m young and I am short when I’m old. What am I?

○      A candle.

  • A man walks into a room with a match, a kerosene lamp, a candle, and a fireplace. Which should he light first?

○      The match.