Throw the best party ever!

Happy Halloween!

What are some of your favorite things to do on this magical holiday? I love Halloween because it embraces three of my FAVORITE things:

1.) Treats involving apples and pumpkins (Yummy!)

2.) Lots of magical tales (Yippee!)

3.) PARTIES!

rainbow project

(Click the photo for a magical rainbow pumpkin project by Alexa Westerfield)

On this magical day, I thought I'd treat you to my top five tips on how to throw the best party ever!

Why listen to me? Nearly every week I plan and implement birthday and holiday parties for families. I've seen nearly every party theme and I often experience the perfect party scenario! This fun expertise has given me insight on which parties will work out fabulously and which parties will end up a stressful disaster. Here is my list of musts:

1.) KEEP IT SIMPLE.

I can't emphasize this enough. Children don't need bounce houses, pony rides or great-grandma Ann's famous 18 layer birthday cake. What they do need is for their family and friends to relax and have fun. The best way to have a stress free party is to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Checklist:

Snacks and drinks

Games (an art project and/or an activity)

Playground

Smiles, hugs and plenty of love

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Some sort of favor to remember the magical day

magical stones

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2.) Activity

When it comes to an activity or game, make sure that all developmental stages can participate and that all guests (even adults) feel included in some way.

But don't stress out about finding the perfect activity or game (refer to tip #1).  There are hundreds of indoor and outdoor variations of tag to fit your party's theme and a simple art project--even just providing a few coloring or painting pages-- is always a crowd pleaser!

If in doubt or stressed about the mere thought of entertaining a large group of children, hire a professional. Trust me, we do this all of the time and we will make sure everyone leaves your party smiling. It might surprise you just how inexpensive professional support can be. Here are pictures from my own birthday storytelling program:

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emmy storytelling

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hazel

emmy tale

dance

silly story

Emmy's rainbow dance

3.) Location

Make sure the location suits your plans and always have a back-up plan should poor weather occur. If you are on a tight budget and your home is not an option for a party, then there are still many inexpensive places to rent a room or a picnic shelter. Call your local community centers, parks departments as well as churches.

If your summer party is outdoors, make sure that the children have a cool, quiet place to escape the hot sunshine. Also, provide plenty of fresh cool water as well as clean bathroom facilities. Similarly, if your winter party is outdoors, make sure that the children have a dry place to get warm.

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4.) Let go and be a child again!

Choose a theme that excites you and that makes you feel childlike again!  Your own positive energy and childlike excitement will have an enormous impact on your child and your guests.

Make a list of the of the colors, decorations, foods and activities that sound fun to you and go for it!

Make sure that your party is easy enough where you do not have to remain the host or hostess, but you can also let go and play!

This is a picture of the birthday girl's mother, Rachel. Not only does she love rainbows, but she is filled with magic, so this party was fun for her:

Rachel and Emmy

5.) Play it out

Imagine the worst case scenario and play it out in your head. Then take a few breaths to release your fears and worries...LET THEM GO. See how dropping that custom-made cake really can be funny?!

Now, step away from Pinterest and imagine YOUR party. Visualize the party and feel the party! See how everyone is laughing and smiling? That's because you kept it simple and you are having fun.

cake

Hopefully everyone enjoys a holiday packed with sweet treats, magical tales and a party or two today! Lots of love and magical rainbow pumpkins! Xx

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P.S. Feel free to e-mail me with questions about parties or for more party advice! Or visit my Facebook page to keep in touch.

Bright and happy activities for children after tragedy strikes

A tragic event most commonly leaves us adults feeling confused, sad, angry and fearful.  And if we cannot make sense of a tragedy or if our fears have been triggered, then imagine how children feel.  If adults feel fearful after tragedy or its the aftermath, then how do we keep our children feeling safe?

With my background in the expressive arts and folklore, I've worked with traumatized children in a variety of settings. After receiving questions from a few parents and clients this past week, I decided to compile a quick list of the creative activities that I  most commonly utilize.  These activities have two main objectives:

1.) To make sure the child feels safe enough to open up and talk about anything with a parent or an adult

2.) To make sure the child knows that the parent or the adult will do everything possible to keep him or her safe in this world

While we may not always have the power to control what happens in the world around us, we do have the power to give children constructive tools to help them deal with the problems within the world as well as to show children that the world is still BRIGHT HAPPY and MAGICAL.

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Before I list my activities, I would like to mention the importance of not creating a fearful environment for children. Children are extremely sensitive to the news and to adult reactions. If adults are walking around saying "How could this happen?" or "What an absolute tragedy" or if adults are fixating on the television, then this is creating a fearful environment for children. Try limiting your own news intake and read this post about creating a positive environment. It's good to let children know that feeling scared or sad is perfectly acceptable as long as we offer some tools to cope with the feelings. Just make sure that our own fears are not creating a fearful environment and make sure that the environment is appropriate for a child's developmental stage.

Here is a list of creative activities to help children work through a tragedy:

1.) Creative Writing and Storytelling.  Telling and writing stories are not only excellent outlets for emotion, but they also help children process a tragedy, even when their creative story may not seem like it's related to the event.  For example, I often hear tales of superheros and children born with special powers after a tragedy occurs. Even if the characters aren't engaging with the tragedy itself, it is soothing for children to believe in the safety these legendary people offer the world and it is empowering for children to believe that they have special abilities in a world where they may feel powerless.

Let children create their own stories regardless of the themes that may arise--they are inserting their concerns and feelings into the story. If themes of violence or tragedy do occur, then play a mutual storytelling game where the child tells the story first, then you either tell, reenact or use puppets to retell a modified version of the story. Throw in fun and magical twists as well as positive tools or messages to address any issues that appeared in the first tale.  (Keep messages simple, "I love you," "I will do everything to keep you safe," "There is so much good in this world," etc.)

2.) Art. A variety of art materials should always be available to children. Sometimes children don't want to talk about what they have seen or heard about a tragedy. Chalk, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, finger paints and clay are all excellent tools to help your child express their conscious and unconscious thoughts. When your child is finished, ask questions about their artwork and really listen to their answers as well as acknowledge their feelings. Try not to push them into talking, just ask a few questions and let them lead the conversation.

Emmy's crayons

3.) Creative Play. Children often process the world around them by engaging in play. Encourage children to use their imaginations to explore situations and outcomes. Try not to correct them if violence or scary themes arise, just gently redirect them to more positive ideas and solutions for resolving their anger. (Remember, we want to encourage children to open up and talk, so if we scold them for violent thoughts, they are likely to keep their ideas to themselves.)

A sensory table can also be therapeutic for a child. Fill a container with brightly colored sand or Kool-aid dyed pasta shapes and allow your child to use his or her toys (miniature humans, animals, houses, trees) for creative play. Pay attention because the child most commonly will use the toys to represent their needs.

Emmy's sensory table

And finally, interacting with puppets or offering some stuffed animals for comfort and anger release are also great tools to inspire creative play. Here is a quick tutorial on how to make your own puppets:

4.) Go to an uplifting movie or to a storytelling event. After a tragedy (especially a tragedy that directly impacts a child), it may be difficult for children to believe that the world is a bright and happy place and that there is an infinite amount of positive experiences just waiting for them. Experiencing uplifting, inspiring or even just silly stories often shifts this negative outlook. I specifically write and perform my stories to not only make children smile and feel magical, but my stories also keep them feeling empowered, inspired and hopeful. Engaging in positive stories can be key to helping children cope with tragedy.

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5.) Focus on the good. Take a trip around town looking for all of the hardworking and caring people in this world. You can even design a scavenger hunt for younger children and include things like a police car, a police person, a fire truck, a fire person, a paramedic, an ambulance, healthcare workers, a teacher, a trained guide dog, a school, etc. By showing a child that there are lots and lots of positive people who care for this world, you are offering him or her hope and reassurance.

I do hope that this post offers you some ideas to help create a brighter and happier world for the children around you. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like me to address a specific issue in a blog post.

Lots of love and an extra magical hug,

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Throw a creative Sparkling Saturday!

Hello, everyone! This is post number two from our Sparkle Saturday blog party! Enjoy! Xx

We all need to practice being more positive every day! Thinking positive leads to feeling positive and feeling positive leads to being the sparkling people that we truly are!

The following bright and happy exercises are perfect for inspiring children and adults to sparkle! The exercises are perfect for adults because we need to express our imaginations and open ourselves up creatively in order to feel happy, grounded and more childlike.

The exercises are perfect for children because children need to establish positive habits that will help them be happy and healthy for their lifetimes. (Children are constantly acquiring tools from us to help them in their futures.) Also, it is essential that children see adults caring for ourselves by playing and being creative because it makes growing up a more positive and exciting experience.

And most importantly, these are perfect exercises to do together because everyone needs to work as a team in order to build a positive foundation for ourselves, our families and our communities!

Emmy's creative activities for feeling positively sparkling:

1.) Create positive affirmation bracelets as a family. These can easily be made with paper and crayons, but if you are feeling particularly crafty try making a collage, or use found objects, felt, beads, a cut-up old t-shirt...anything works, really! Let the bracelets serve as positive reminders throughout tough times or stressful days.

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2.) Blast your space with uplifting color! What colors make you feel sparkly? Let your child decorate your space (office, kitchen desk, a color shrine) with these colors. Then help your child decorate his or her space with their favorite colors. Surrounding yourself with your favorite colors is essential to feeling sparkly. If you aren't ready to make a permanent change, just hang colorful pictures on the wall using tape or sticky tack. You will be amazed at how positive you feel when surrounded by happy colors!

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3.) Draw, paint, color portraits. Sit down with a child and ask the child to draw a portrait of sparkling you! (Trust me, the child sees so much more sparkle in you than you can see). While he or she is drawing you, you make a sparkling portrait of the him or her! Don't think about it. Just let what makes them sparkle flow onto your page. And never ever judge your artwork, it is absolutely perfect!

Be sure to post your portraits somewhere visible so that you can be reminded to sparkle whenever you need to! Seeing your sparkling portraits will help you both feel more positive as well as help with building a better self-image. You are also teaching your child the important lesson of taking the time to love and care for himself or herself in a fun and creative way.

4.) Try out storytelling. Take turns telling one another about your most sparkliest memory ever. Perhaps it was your child's birth or the big Valentine's Day snowball fight with your brother. Relive the sparkly moment by acting it out with your voice and your body.

Storytelling is an exciting way to pass along family fun and personal history so that your child knows where he or she fits into the big family picture. This strengthens and secures a child's self-esteem and self-worth. Storytelling is also important because it shows everyone that their lives are valuable and worth sharing with others.

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5.) Create a sparkly snowflake out of paper. We are all unique and special just like magical snowflakes. What better way to honor our individual sparkly selves than to cover a window or to hang sparkly snowflakes in your home. You can even write what makes you brilliantly unique on the back of the snowflakes, so as they flutter around in the air, they spread your unique sparkling magic throughout your home.

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 Well, I have tales to tell and you have lots of creative fun ahead of you today! If you are in the giant snow storm, please stay snug and safe. Happy Sparkly Saturday! Xx

Lots of love,

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P.S. Follow the sparkling trail to more "I Sparkle" Sparkling Saturday blog posts written by my sparkletacular friends...

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In alphabetical order...

Yota Schneider: Seasons of Change Master Coach, writer, speaker, retreats facilitator , mindfulness meditation practitioner, mom, wife, friend, ever striving gardener and finder of beauty and peace in the little things. Blog Facebook Website

Lynda Shoup: School librarian, children's writer and poet with a sparkle in her eye and plenty of fairy dust to share.  Blog Facebook 

Kat Wynne-Brown: Creator of KatWB, an Online Holistic Arts Center! Enjoy her virtual classes, holistic coaching, a holistic blog, KatWB TV and resources for nutrition, sustainability & self-help.  Blog Facebook Website

Writing tales to tell

Hello friends of the forest! I hope everyone is having a magical day.

This past weekend a couple of parents asked me how I write stories for my storytelling programs and for my personalized stories. What an excellent opportunity to post another exercise to help free our creative spirits. (For the last week, I have been posting on freeing our expressive selves through creative play. So far, we've danced, danced, danced and played a  storytelling game.)

Try out my method for a little creative fun:

1.) Put yourself into a creative space.

Relax in a quiet and a private place for several minutes. Close your eyes and give yourself full permission to let go and dream. Sometimes, if it's difficult to focus, I dance, I release a scream or I shake out all of the noise in my head.

2.) With your eyes closed, imagine your storytelling audience.

Sometimes I imagine a group of wide-eyed children awaiting a story that sends them to a magical land. And sometimes I imagine a group of adults awaiting a story that reawakens the child within. If I'm writing a story for a particular audience, then I envision that audience. Your audience may vary with each story you write.

3.) Without thinking about plots or any details, watch yourself tell a story to that audience.

What do they need to hear? What do they need to see? What do they need to experience? Notice what images, thoughts, and feelings come to you. They might not make sense, but take note of everything. Sometimes I envision an entire story, but more often, I see images like scarves or I hear sounds like clapping or character voices. Incorporate these images, thoughts and feelings into the story.

3.) Pen-to-paper.

I handwrite most storytelling tales because I need to stay connected to the imagined audience. Sometimes I use a rainbow of vibrant markers and sometimes I use whatever writing I can find. The important thing is to write your ideas down without filtering. Your words will make sense in the end, I promise. At this stage, the story doesn't need a developed plot. Just let a quick story flow onto the paper.

4.)   Regardless of any gaps or holes in the plot, close your eyes and tell the story to your audience.

Note their reactions. They will gently inform you what works and what doesn't work. Incorporate their ideas and make any necessary changes. You may see more images or feel emotions that guide you to further develop your story. 

5.) Rehearse the story aloud.

Sometimes I need to practice a story hundreds of times before it feels finished, while other times I nail it on the third try. Just keep practicing until your story feels completed. And don't let your fear of performing the story determine if you are finished or not. Fear is natural and, sometimes, no matter how well you know your story, fear will trick you into thinking you aren't ready to perform it. You will never feel 100% prepared, so step through the fear and tell your story to a live audience. 

Smile as you tell your tale because you will be successful and you will have fun!

The most important thing to remember when writing a storytelling tale is to listen and trust yourself. Even if you do not think you are a writer or a storyteller yet, you have stories inside of you that need to be shared with others. Perhaps a story will help you start off a meeting at work or perhaps your children need a story to reiterate a lesson you've been teaching them. Don't think too much about it, just allow yourself to be free and to let the words flow!

Happy tales to you! Lots of love! Xx

Free your creative spirit with a storytelling game

Hello magical friends!

I hope everyone is dancing! Here is another great exercise to help free our creative selves. This post is directed towards those who expressed on the Creative Playtime post that they would like to try storytelling.

The following storytelling exercise can be done with two or more people. If you are fearful about performing in front of others, I recommend trying the game with children first. Let a child begin the activity and notice how he or she has no "sensors" or embarrassment when the story does not come out perfectly.  Children are good teachers because they simply and easily let ideas flow right out of their mouths. Learn from this and free yourself from the voices in your head!

Also, children make perfect creative mentors and playmates because they are supportive beings who love when adults drop their "guard." Children will not judge you and their magical smiles will boost your confidence!

1.) Have one person start telling a story (any story will do-- an imaginary tale, a favorite fairy tale, a memory). And don't just tell the story, act out the story by using exaggerated gestures and voices.

2.) At any point during the story, the other player(s) can yell "Freeze." When "Freeze" is called, the storyteller sits down. The player who called "Freeze" takes the storyteller's exact same physical position and either begins telling a completely different unrelated story, continues the story, or changes the outcome of the story.

3.) The new storyteller continues until someone else calls "Freeze" and so the story grows. Keep this activity going and going and going until you have a hilariously crazy story! 

Storytelling offers magical freedom once you let go of your fear! Be sure to laugh and play as you practice letting your mind, words and body run wild! Happy Storytelling!

Lots of love,

Psst...Here's an enchanted contest just for you!

Photos of Enchantment Contest 2011

Where do you go to be surrounded by magical enchantments? Perhaps you are like me and find the deep, dark woods filled with magic, danger, refuge and adventure! Or perhaps the urban forests are more your cup of tea. No matter your preference, throughout the magical month of October, I want you to share the enchantments in your neck of the woods! (And by sharing a bit of your own magic with the Emmy Blue storytelling community, you could win a personalized fairy tale as well as other magical prizes!)

To enter the Photos of Enchantment Contest you need to take a photograph or photographs of your very favourite enchanted location. (If you don't have a favourite location, then you have a whole month of exploration adventures ahead of you!) 

Once you have a photograph, either (1) Post the photo on your own blog, facebook page or google + page and then post the link in the comment section below; or (2) Post the photo on a free image hosting site such as yfrog, flickr or twitpic and then post the link in the comment section below.

Bits...

  • The enchanted photograph may be urban or rural. The photo may be taken in a land far, far away or right in your own backyard.
  • You may enter as many enchanted photographs as you would like for the entire month of October.
  • You may enter the contest as an individual or a family. If you are a teacher or leader of an organization, then you may enter your entire class or group. (**Please see note below**)

and Bobs...

  • The more the merrier! Feel free to copy the contest logo from above and paste it on your blog or Facebook page to encourage others to share their magic with us too!
  • The winners will be mentioned in a very special October 31st holiday blog post!

Grand Prize: Chosen by a random drawing, I will write the first place winner, and/or whomever else they choose, as the heroine(s) or hero(s) of my next original fairy tale or forest legend. He or she will receive a digital and hard copy of the one-of-a-kind story and illustration. This exclusive package would make a unique birthday present and a magical surprise for a loved one or even your school!

Second and Third Place Prizes: Chosen by a random drawing, the second and third place winners will receive limited edition Emmy Blue postcards and bookmarks featuring my magical characters and tales. If a class or organization wins, then you will receive a box of enchanted surprises for everyone.

What are you waiting for? Get your camera and start your exploration adventures immediately! And remember, don't worry about the quality or quantity of your photographs, just have fun finding a bit of magic in your own neck of the woods!

Happy October! Xx

**Note: If you are a teacher or organization, you can incorporate this contest into your literature or creative writing curriculum by adding reading or writing components to the photo contest. I would be happy to post links to your class blog or post links to student short stories and poetry. Just let me know how I can support your enchanted projects!