Nationally we talk with children an average of about 30 minutes a day. Fifteen of those minutes are spent on management and directions preparing to go somewhere. That leaves about 15 minutes of actual discussion.
Reading with children and discussing books add minutes, but having a quiet conversation is a challenge for most families. Grandparents who help with after school care can often add valuable minutes during a fun activity like playing cards or ball, drawing, or cooking.
When adults make time to do simple activities, the discussion can just sneak in there and flow along. The focus is on an activity and spending time together rather than seeming like a child interrogation session.
Anderegg, Macalady, Fox, Hetrick, Katers
Simple cooking together can be powerful. Good food gets children's attention and helps open conversations. While talking, have fun making these mice and pumpkins pizza rolls.
For more activities see grandparentsteachtoo.org or pod casts at wnmufm.org "Learning Through the Seasons", going live Tuesdays at 4:30 and Saturdays at 8:35 on wnmufm.
Muffin baking tin, refrigerated pizza dough, toothpicks, spaghetti sauce, jam, colored or chocolate frosting.
What to do
If you are cooking after school, ask children to tell you one good thing that happened today or have them bring a paper they made to the table and talk about it. Usually they will tell you more than one thing once they get going. Ask them if there was anything that made them sad or worry, too, especially if they seem to be very quiet or troubled.
Even very young children can help open a can of refrigerated pizza dough. The poof explosion is a great beginning to fun. One can makes about eight rolls.
Divide of the dough into 1-inch balls and place them into spray coated muffin tins. Pizza dough is handy because children don't need to let the dough rise before placing in the oven. Use the rest of the dough to make 16 - inch balls for mice ears or 8 balls for pumpkin stems. Children may come up with many creative ideas like flowers, suns, cat, teddy bear, or monster faces.
Bake at 400 degrees. Starting at about 8 minutes, check that the rolls are not too hard, or crunchy. Take the small balls out first since they cook quickly.
When the bread is cooled, poke a toothpick into each ear or stem and place at an angle. Use other toothpicks or a new watercolor paintbrush to make faces with spaghetti sauce, colored or chocolate frosting, or jam. Chocolate chips melted in a little hot water are a good chocolate frosting.
The recipe is fun for birthdays or family gatherings when cousins need something quick and easy to do. For safety, observe children taking out the toothpicks before eating. These rolls rarely make it to the dinner table.
Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.