Posts By: Guest Blogger

Why Should We Let Our Children Fly From the Nest?

By Marla Coleman

Think about your own best memories of childhood; did any of them involve your own parents?

Didn’t think so!  Turns out that there are some pivotal developmental skills that we cannot give our own children; try as we might, we can’t:

  • Make our children happy
  • Give our children high self-esteem
  • Make friends for our children or micromanage their relationships
  • Successfully be our children’s manager or coach
  • Compete with our children’s electronic world
  • Keep our children completely safe, but we can drive them crazy trying
  • Make our children independent

The psychologist and author Michael Thompson explains, “In order to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to take the lead, and usually away from us.”

Michael shares his strong argument for the loosening of ties. He explains how the camp environment, for example, creates a setting that invites children to learn the lifelong skills of resilience, responsibility, and resourcefulness, enabling them to have emotionally significant and character building experiences – out of the rescue-reach of their parents but within the guiding influence of their counselors.

What makes children resilient are the cumulative resources they acquire as they go through life. Camp and school are kind of the yin and yang of education. You might think of school as the “science” of learning, while camp is focused more on the “art” of attaining mastery through opportunities to practice in real-life situations.  Dr. Michael Unger, director of the Resilience Research Center, has identified these areas to expand a child’s psycho-social competencies exponentially:

  • Building new relationships
  • Finding a powerful identify
  • Feeling in control
  • Being treated fairly
  • Feeling like they belong
  • Identifying with a community

The professionals are telling us to do what is counter-intuitive to good parenting – when sending children to school or camp, where they have the guidance of professional adults other than their parents, let go a little and allow them to navigate on their own and build confidence in their own abilities to find solutions to their problems.  (Child therapist Dr. Wendy Mogul refers to the phenomenon as “the blessing of a skinned knee.”) It is then that our children can re-invent themselves because they come to believe in and rely upon their own abilities to achieve their goals and picture their successes:

  • To be happy and confident
  • To be safe
  • To have friends
  • To be successful in school and life
  • To be independent


About the Author:

Marla Coleman

Marla Coleman

Marla Coleman is a past president of the American Camp Association. She is a founding director of Coleman Country Day Camp on Long Island and former owner-director of Camp Echo in New York State. She also serves on the board of Roundup River Ranch in Colorado, a SeriousFun camp (formerly Hole-in-the-Wall) for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Beyond the Book: Exploring the World Together Through Literacy

By Taylor Myers, Gryphon House

Reading with a young child is important, but sometimes it helps to go beyond the book! The next time you sit down to read your child’s favorite story, why not take the learning and exploring a step further?

Reading Together

Stories are a powerful and fun way to investigate other important subject areas, like math and science. By taking the time to watch, wonder, ask questions, and talk about math and science concepts with your child, she will begin to make connections between these ideas and what’s happening in the world around her! Who knows? You may even strengthen your child’s passion for reading along the way!

Math and Science Are Everywhere, All the Time

Here are some helpful tips for deepening your child’s interest in reading and her understanding of important math and science concepts at the same time:

  • Talk about the things you see in the book and in your world, such as the weather, animal behaviors, plants, and clouds.
  • Make connections between shapes found in books and those same shapes found in the environment.
  • Talk about how characters in books solve their problems. What did they do? Why did they do that?
  • Wonder aloud and ask questions while reading the story.
  • Encourage your child to predict what will happen next, and then see if she is right!
  • Encourage your child to form a possible explanation (hypothesis) for why something is happening.
  • Ask questions about different objects and experiences while reading: How is this one different? How is it the same?

For more ways to bring math and science concepts to life, while also promoting early literacy skill development, check out How Many Ways Can You Make Five? and Where Does My Shadow Sleep? by Sally Anderson with the Vermont Center for the Book (Gryphon House, USA).

In celebration of Family Literacy Day, Gryphon House Books is joining Mabel’s Labels to host a giveaway on the Mabelhood blog (January 24- February . Ten giveaway winners will receive a free copy of both books. To find out how to enter and to view the official contest rules and regulations, please click here.

Save 20% on Books from Gryphon House

Gryphon House Books is also offering an exclusive discount for all Mabelhood readers. For a limited time, receive 20% off all orders over $25 placed at To take advantage of this offer, simply enter “PR-90025” at checkout.


Happy Family Literacy Day!

How To Make School Lunches Like A Boss

How To Make School Lunches Like a Boss

Cafeteria food hasn’t changed much since you once went to school. It’s much easier to guarantee your kids will eat all their lunch when you pack it, but what should you pack? How do you keep it from being boring? It isn’t nearly as big of an undertaking as you may think it is.

Admittedly, it can be hard to think outside the (lunch)box when it comes to what to prepare. Plus, if your mornings are anything like my mornings, there’s simply no time. And while it making the same lunch daily could make things simpler, I think we can both agree, adult or child, eating the same thing everyday is NOT fun.

Here are five easy-to-implement strategies to get you well on your way to kicking butt at lunch-making for your kids in no time.

1. Prepare the night before. You’re already in the kitchen cooking dinner, why not utilize that kitchen time to start preparing lunch? I cut carrots, celery, cucumbers, or prep other side-dishes while I’m busy cooking dinner, using my time more wisely. This comes in handy especially if I’m re-purposing ingredients for lunches the next day. Say I’m serving pizza for dinner, and then I decide to use pizza toppings and make pizzadillas or pizza grilled cheeses the next day.  I’d rather prepare the night before than rush to make the morning of.

2. Use leftovers creatively. There’s no law that says leftovers aren’t good for lunches. In fact, I think they make the BEST lunches. (Plus, they’re already prepared, what could be easier!? Why not, if you’re serving spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, prepare extra meatballs to serve meatball subs for the next day’s lunch? Or use that leftover spaghetti and serve with a breadstick instead? On taco night, why not use some of the soft taco shells and taco meat, roll-up the meat inside the shell, and bake in the oven to make some baked taquitos for lunch? The sky is the limit here, so long as you consider how well their lunches will keep out of the fridge until lunchtime. As some cafeterias do not allow microwaving, it’s best to send along already-cooked, easy to eat room-temperature meals for the kids.

3. Breakfast for lunch? Okay! This is my favorite trick! And I feel a little sneaky doing it! While you’re busy cooking dinner one night, batch cook a bunch of breakfast-type items for your kids all at once. This way, you’re saving time in the mornings for your family (because they can re-heat breakfasts during those hurry-up mornings) while simultaneously creating a fun and “different” lunch for them, too!  Try pouring whipped eggs, cheese, and some crumbled bacon into muffin pans for easy-to-eat mini quiches, or, while making regularly sized muffins, prepare a batch of fun-sized mini-muffins to add pizazz to any lunch.

4. Make it fun. You don’t have to be a skilled professional chef to make lunches fun for your kids. Some of our favorite ways to make it fun and give them something to look forward to include: wrapping string cheese in lunch meat, quartering it, and making “lunch meat sushi.” Also, cut up a hot dog lengthwise to make legs for an octopus! Or spread peanut butter on celery, topping it with raisins for “ants on a log.”

5. Go with what you know. Got a picky eater (like I do)? It’s okay to have to cater to a picky palate. But there are times you wonder, “Is this getting boring?” To help change-up the normal a little, do it slightly different each time. Does your child live and breathe grilled cheese? Make his favorite sandwich in cut-out shapes instead (like stars, circles, squares) or on different breads to spice things up! Does she love nutella? Make her a nutella uncrustable sandwich, or give her pretzel rods with nutella to dip it in!

I’m currently on a mission to make lunches for my children fun, exciting, and something they can look forward to. I’m calling it Operation Awesome School Lunch. I’d love it if you’d join me. You can follow our journey on our School Lunch Pinterest board, too.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask away!

About the Author:
Lisa Douglas is an Army wife and mother to S-E-V-E-N kids, and author of, a parenting blog that provides an often humorous take on parenting, and all the (hilarious) war-stories that go along with it, with family-friendly recipes, health & fitness, kids crafts, & other family-oriented topics.

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