Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Debrief of Book Expo America 2011


By Rana DiOrio, Founder of Little Pickle Press

We got a lot accomplished at BEA this year. We met with authors, printers, wholesalers, distributors, professional association executives, and technology partners. We won book awards, signed posters, and were interviewed. We got to know the people we work with on a regular basis via cyberspace and telephone better and more personally. We shared updates with our tribe via all the usual social media outlets. Now, I would like to share with you just a few of my observations of the event.

The State of the Industry
·     The book industry is alive and well. The children’s picture book is safe. The event was very well attended, although it was smaller than in years past I’m told.
·     The publishing cycle is shrinking because of the dynamism and efficiencies of other micro and small presses as well as technological advancements. For example, The Domino Project, founded by best-selling author and marketing genius Seth Godin and working in collaboration with Amazon and, is publishing a hardback book from start to finish in 14 weeks. They are also printing their desired Twitter hashtags on the dust jacket of this book.
·     The digital tsunami has hit. There are still the naysayers (such as Kevin Henkes, award-winning author of 42 children’s books), but the consensus is that digital will continue to thrive and peacefully co-exist  with traditionally-printed books.
·     Authors must help to build their tribes online as well as offline or else they will not be able to gain mind (or market) share. They need to overcome their fears. To do so, I think that publishers have to demystify cyberspace for authors, allay their anxieties, and help them to broaden their reach and impact with the power of social media.
·     Many publishers did not give out books. They gave out posters or T-shirts instead. The tide is visibly turning on this topic about which we feel strongly. (To read our position statement, please link to: http://bit.ly/lE38hl.)
Suggested Areas For Improvement
·     Next year, I hope to see more publishers taking a stand against giving away books to BEA attendees, many of whom take these autographed books and sell them on eBay. Books are precious. The book industry is a vital industry with many links in the supply chain, all of which are negatively impacted by unnecessarily giving away the finished product.
·     Javits is an inferior venue. It is tired, awkward, environmentally-unfriendly (no recycling, no LEED efficiencies, etc.), is not easy to get to/from, and offers inedible/unhealthy food options. I know that it is getting upgrades in certain sections. Perhaps it will be materially improved by next year, or perhaps there is another home for BEA . 
·     BEA is by far the most expensive industry trade show at which to exhibit and to attend. My friends at ForeWord Magazine told me that it is cheaper for them to exhibit at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, even with international travel involved, than it is for them to participate in BEA. As the industry shifts and embraces micro and small presses, perhaps the organizers of BEA will take that into consideration as they design and price the event.
 As always, we welcome your thoughts, so please share them with us.
We would like to remind you today is the last day to use the free shipping promotion on any of the Little Pickle Press products. Please use LPPPLAY in the coupon box at check-out and as always thank you for your support and patronage. Please click here to visit the website and shopping cart.

A Debrief of Book Expo America 2011


By Rana DiOrio, Founder of Little Pickle Press

We got a lot accomplished at BEA this year. We met with authors, printers, wholesalers, distributors, professional association executives, and technology partners. We won book awards, signed posters, and were interviewed. We got to know the people we work with on a regular basis via cyberspace and telephone better and more personally. We shared updates with our tribe via all the usual social media outlets. Now, I would like to share with you just a few of my observations of the event.

The State of the Industry
·     The book industry is alive and well. The children’s picture book is safe. The event was very well attended, although it was smaller than in years past I’m told.
·     The publishing cycle is shrinking because of the dynamism and efficiencies of other micro and small presses as well as technological advancements. For example, The Domino Project, founded by best-selling author and marketing genius Seth Godin and working in collaboration with Amazon and, is publishing a hardback book from start to finish in 14 weeks. They are also printing their desired Twitter hashtags on the dust jacket of this book.
·     The digital tsunami has hit. There are still the naysayers (such as Kevin Henkes, award-winning author of 42 children’s books), but the consensus is that digital will continue to thrive and peacefully co-exist  with traditionally-printed books.
·     Authors must help to build their tribes online as well as offline or else they will not be able to gain mind (or market) share. They need to overcome their fears. To do so, I think that publishers have to demystify cyberspace for authors, allay their anxieties, and help them to broaden their reach and impact with the power of social media.
·     Many publishers did not give out books. They gave out posters or T-shirts instead. The tide is visibly turning on this topic about which we feel strongly. (To read our position statement, please link to: http://bit.ly/lE38hl.)
Suggested Areas For Improvement
·     Next year, I hope to see more publishers taking a stand against giving away books to BEA attendees, many of whom take these autographed books and sell them on eBay. Books are precious. The book industry is a vital industry with many links in the supply chain, all of which are negatively impacted by unnecessarily giving away the finished product.
·     Javits is an inferior venue. It is tired, awkward, environmentally-unfriendly (no recycling, no LEED efficiencies, etc.), is not easy to get to/from, and offers inedible/unhealthy food options. I know that it is getting upgrades in certain sections. Perhaps it will be materially improved by next year, or perhaps there is another home for BEA . 
·     BEA is by far the most expensive industry trade show at which to exhibit and to attend. My friends at ForeWord Magazine told me that it is cheaper for them to exhibit at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, even with international travel involved, than it is for them to participate in BEA. As the industry shifts and embraces micro and small presses, perhaps the organizers of BEA will take that into consideration as they design and price the event.
 As always, we welcome your thoughts, so please share them with us.
We would like to remind you today is the last day to use the free shipping promotion on any of the Little Pickle Press products. Please use LPPPLAY in the coupon box at check-out and as always thank you for your support and patronage. Please click here to visit the website and shopping cart.

The Meaning of Memorial Day


by Xavier Muldrow

To many of us, Memorial Day is thought of as a day of celebration with barbecues and pool parties. But do we really understand why we are celebrating? This year, before you fire up the grill, you may want to take a moment to find out. The history of Memorial Day goes way back to 1868.

On May 5, 1868, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as a day of remembrance for those who had fallen during the civil war. The first official Memorial Day was on May 30, 1868, and was known as “Declaration Day”. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. By 1890, the holiday was being recognized by all the Northern states. However, the Southern states honored the fallen soldiers on a different day. This changed after World War I, when the holiday no longer honored only those who died fighting in the Civil War, but all Americans who lost their lives fighting in any war.

Today, Memorial Day is a national holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May. The tradition of laying flowers on the graves of soldiers who have given their lives for the good of our country remains to this day. The most formal ceremony is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. However, for many of us, the meaning of the Memorial Day has turned from one of remembrance to one of vacations and partying. May 30th was dedicated as a national holiday to honor and reflect on the memories of our veterans, not just for another three-day weekend.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the day with your family in fun ways! However, this Memorial Day weekend, I ask you and your family and friends to show your appreciation by taking part in at least one of the following traditions:

  • Visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • Visiting memorials.
  • Flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day.
  • Renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of fallen soldiers, and to aid the disabled veterans.
Before you put the burgers on the grill or drink your ice cold lemonade, make sure to also take a moment to remember the soldiers that made your barbecue possible.

The Meaning of Memorial Day

by Xavier Muldrow

To many of us, Memorial Day is thought of as a day of celebration with barbecues and pool parties. But do we really understand why we are celebrating? This year, before you fire up the grill, you may want to take a moment to find out. The history of Memorial Day goes way back to 1868.

On May 5, 1868, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as a day of remembrance for those who had fallen during the civil war. The first official Memorial Day was on May 30, 1868, and was known as “Declaration Day”. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. By 1890, the holiday was being recognized by all the Northern states. However, the Southern states honored the fallen soldiers on a different day. This changed after World War I, when the holiday no longer honored only those who died fighting in the Civil War, but all Americans who lost their lives fighting in any war.

Today, Memorial Day is a national holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May. The tradition of laying flowers on the graves of soldiers who have given their lives for the good of our country remains to this day. The most formal ceremony is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. However, for many of us, the meaning of the Memorial Day has turned from one of remembrance to one of vacations and partying. May 30th was dedicated as a national holiday to honor and reflect on the memories of our veterans, not just for another three-day weekend.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the day with your family in fun ways! However, this Memorial Day weekend, I ask you and your family and friends to show your appreciation by taking part in at least one of the following traditions:

  • Visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • Visiting memorials.
  • Flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day.
  • Renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of fallen soldiers, and to aid the disabled veterans.
Before you put the burgers on the grill or drink your ice cold lemonade, make sure to also take a moment to remember the soldiers that made your barbecue possible.

The Dress-up Box

By Cameron Crane


Throughout Unstructured Play month at Little Pickle Press, I’ve found myself reflecting back on my childhood — the messes, the games we played, and the adventures we went on — trying to uncover the importance it has held in my life. It all seems like one big blur, but what has become apparent to me in the past few weeks is that my happiest memories are from when I was between the ages four and six.

This may not seem unusual. But for me, these years hold a particular significance because it was during this time that my parents were going through a divorce, and my entire family was in a stage of uncertainty. Although I do remember an overwhelming sense of change, when I reflect on these years I mainly think of laughter. It wasn’t until I read an article in the New York Times about the importance of unstructured play and make-believe in child development that I realized that this sense of happiness can mostly be attributed to a dress-up box.

In reality, the dress-up box was an antique toy box full of pieces of costumes, hats, scarves, clip-on earrings and out-of-date dresses. But to my sisters and me, it was much more than that. To us it was a magical opportunity to be whoever we wanted — an opportunity that we took full advantage of.

It seems like each day we had new identities. We were explorers, spies, movie stars, and magicians. We spent hours playing these roles — running through the house making crimes to solve from a piece of string in the hallway, hiding behind couches to “spy” on the babysitter, or making up plays and magic shows that we practiced for hours. But our favorite thing about the dress-up box was that whenever there was a transition between houses, and we had that rare moment when Mom and Dad were together again, we would perform our shows to them and they would play along. We would tell them we were the greatest magicians alive, and they would sit on the couch together and “ooh” and “awe”. And when the show was over, and we parted ways, we still felt like one happy family.

Looking back, I believe that it was these hours of unstructured play that made life easier and happier for the entire family and I cannot be grateful enough to my parents for playing along. As grown-ups, it is not always easy to set our own lives aside and let ourselves truly play with our children. But it can certainly make all the difference.

The Dress-up Box

By Cameron Crane


Throughout Unstructured Play month at Little Pickle Press, I’ve found myself reflecting back on my childhood — the messes, the games we played, and the adventures we went on — trying to uncover the importance it has held in my life. It all seems like one big blur, but what has become apparent to me in the past few weeks is that my happiest memories are from when I was between the ages four and six.

This may not seem unusual. But for me, these years hold a particular significance because it was during this time that my parents were going through a divorce, and my entire family was in a stage of uncertainty. Although I do remember an overwhelming sense of change, when I reflect on these years I mainly think of laughter. It wasn’t until I read an article in the New York Times about the importance of unstructured play and make-believe in child development that I realized that this sense of happiness can mostly be attributed to a dress-up box.

In reality, the dress-up box was an antique toy box full of pieces of costumes, hats, scarves, clip-on earrings and out-of-date dresses. But to my sisters and me, it was much more than that. To us it was a magical opportunity to be whoever we wanted — an opportunity that we took full advantage of.

It seems like each day we had new identities. We were explorers, spies, movie stars, and magicians. We spent hours playing these roles — running through the house making crimes to solve from a piece of string in the hallway, hiding behind couches to “spy” on the babysitter, or making up plays and magic shows that we practiced for hours. But our favorite thing about the dress-up box was that whenever there was a transition between houses, and we had that rare moment when Mom and Dad were together again, we would perform our shows to them and they would play along. We would tell them we were the greatest magicians alive, and they would sit on the couch together and “ooh” and “awe”. And when the show was over, and we parted ways, we still felt like one happy family.

Looking back, I believe that it was these hours of unstructured play that made life easier and happier for the entire family and I cannot be grateful enough to my parents for playing along. As grown-ups, it is not always easy to set our own lives aside and let ourselves truly play with our children. But it can certainly make all the difference.

Gardening for Children and Their Grown-ups

By Dani Greer
“Did your parents ever tell you to go ahead and get dirty and have fun when you were a kid?” my husband recently asked me. We’d been out gardening after a rain and were muddied up good after a few hours of turning over dirt and planting seeds. It’s our form of unstructured play, getting into the garden and away from our desks.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “Quite the opposite.”  
Of course, it didn’t keep us from getting dirty anyway, and the moms spent a good deal of time cleaning up our messes. I sometimes think how much fun it might have been if our parents had gotten out there with us and helped us play. 
Others have mused along the same lines. In her perennial favorite gardening book, Carrots Love Tomatoes, Louise Riotte includes a chapter titled, A Child’s Garden, complete with a plan for all kinds of fun features. In a special see-through fenced area, she maps out a climbing tree, a child’s vegetable garden, a paved racing track around an ash tree, gym equipment, a wading pool, a sandbox, and a playhouse.

Now imagine if this special garden also had a magnificent sunflower house like the one Sharon Lovejoy writes about in her book. Other imaginative growers have added cornstalks as well as edible sweet-smelling herbs that calm children including chamomile, catnip, and peppermint. What a magical fairy house! Don’t forget to let them plant flowers they can pick anytime, too. Go ahead, bring Mom a pretty bouquet whenever you feel like it.

The climbing tree would have a tree house, of course, and did you know you could grow grapevines up the tree? What a treat in late summer to sit up in the tree snacking on your own homegrown grapes.
How about a purple pole bean teepee made of tree branches, covered with bean vines that you can harvest later? Add a blue corn forest for hide-and-go-seek games. If you have boys who aren’t too fond of their vegetables, helping them grow their own Big Red Warty Thing squash or Dinosaur kale might be just the way to get them interested in new tastes, especially if they’ve grown them in their own garden. Oh, and grow some pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns. 
Don’t forget the garden tools for little hands. Even Target sells them now, but we think the For Small Hands website has the coolest selection.
A special garden for the children will be so much endless fun, think about including solar lights so that outdoor play times can extend into dusk. You might even find you enjoy the time outdoors, too. When summer is over and the weather gets cold, bring the good times into your house with a project for next season’s garden – a worm farm! The kids will love their new pets and it’ll give parents all kinds of teaching opportunities as well as worm compost for the next spring garden.
What do you think of the worm farm idea? Leave us your vote in the comments – either yum or ewwww! We’ll have a random drawing for the award-winning book, What Does It Mean to Be Green? (which just won a Gold Benjamin Franklin Award).  

Even the ewwwws can play to win!

 

Visit our website for the complete selection of books. Don’t forget that we are offering free shipping during May with coupon code LPPPLAY at checkout.

Gardening for Children and Their Grown-ups

By Dani Greer
“Did your parents ever tell you to go ahead and get dirty and have fun when you were a kid?” my husband recently asked me. We’d been out gardening after a rain and were muddied up good after a few hours of turning over dirt and planting seeds. It’s our form of unstructured play, getting into the garden and away from our desks.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “Quite the opposite.”  
Of course, it didn’t keep us from getting dirty anyway, and the moms spent a good deal of time cleaning up our messes. I sometimes think how much fun it might have been if our parents had gotten out there with us and helped us play. 
Others have mused along the same lines. In her perennial favorite gardening book, Carrots Love Tomatoes, Louise Riotte includes a chapter titled, A Child’s Garden, complete with a plan for all kinds of fun features. In a special see-through fenced area, she maps out a climbing tree, a child’s vegetable garden, a paved racing track around an ash tree, gym equipment, a wading pool, a sandbox, and a playhouse.

Now imagine if this special garden also had a magnificent sunflower house like the one Sharon Lovejoy writes about in her book. Other imaginative growers have added cornstalks as well as edible sweet-smelling herbs that calm children including chamomile, catnip, and peppermint. What a magical fairy house! Don’t forget to let them plant flowers they can pick anytime, too. Go ahead, bring Mom a pretty bouquet whenever you feel like it.

The climbing tree would have a tree house, of course, and did you know you could grow grapevines up the tree? What a treat in late summer to sit up in the tree snacking on your own homegrown grapes.
How about a purple pole bean teepee made of tree branches, covered with bean vines that you can harvest later? Add a blue corn forest for hide-and-go-seek games. If you have boys who aren’t too fond of their vegetables, helping them grow their own Big Red Warty Thing squash or Dinosaur kale might be just the way to get them interested in new tastes, especially if they’ve grown them in their own garden. Oh, and grow some pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns. 
Don’t forget the garden tools for little hands. Even Target sells them now, but we think the For Small Hands website has the coolest selection.
A special garden for the children will be so much endless fun, think about including solar lights so that outdoor play times can extend into dusk. You might even find you enjoy the time outdoors, too. When summer is over and the weather gets cold, bring the good times into your house with a project for next season’s garden – a worm farm! The kids will love their new pets and it’ll give parents all kinds of teaching opportunities as well as worm compost for the next spring garden.
What do you think of the worm farm idea? Leave us your vote in the comments – either yum or ewwww! We’ll have a random drawing for the award-winning book, What Does It Mean to Be Green? (which just won a Gold Benjamin Franklin Award).  

Even the ewwwws can play to win!

 

Visit our website for the complete selection of books. Don’t forget that we are offering free shipping during May with coupon code LPPPLAY at checkout.

A Position Statement: Books vs. Posters

By Rana DiOrio, Founder

For the past three years, I have attended book events all over the world. Accordingly, I have a relatively fresh perspective on these events and on how they differ and how they are alike. BookExpo America is the largest industry event in North America on an annual basis. Last year, I wrote a post about how we all can take a leadership position by being more conscientious about the environment. This year, Little Pickle Press is practicing what we preached.

BEA vs. Bologna. What struck me most about BEA when I attended last year is the expectation of the attendees to receive copious amounts of free stuff, books included. Free bags abound on the floor of BEA, so attendees have a place to stash all of their loot. One giant portion of the Jacob Javits Center is devoted to author signings. Attendees line up in lengthy queues to receive their free copies of signed books. Publishers, book award organizations, and professional associations also host artists in their booths to sign and give away free copies of their books. Then, there is the collateral—pens, flash drives, umbrellas, T-shirts, pads, sewing kits, staplers . . . you get the idea. This exchange of “stuff” does not happen at, for example, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. No publisher gives away their books, and there is comparatively little marketing collateral exchanging hands. Instead, the focus is on the global business of creating, buying, and selling books and the rights to them. As it should be, right?
Books Are Precious. As a firm that is committed to producing only the highest quality media for children and has won awards for each title we have produced to date, I’d like to offer the informed position that books are precious. They take a great deal of time, talent, and capital to produce. They are to be respected and appreciated, and they are worth the price for which we buy them, online or offline. To give them away diminishes their value, figuratively and literally. There is an entire ecosystem that goes into producing a single title, and when we purchase a book we support the all the people who belong to that supply chain, from the artists, to the printers, to the delivery personnel, to the booksellers, and many more in between. To give a book away jeopardizes the livelihood of many, diminishes the importance of the product, and is tough on the environment (when the recipient does not respect it).

Posters vs. Books. This year we have the great fortune to be in a position to sign and give away product. Both JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., award-winning author of Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It, and I will be there to meet and greet attendees. [NOTE: For details on when and where to find us, please refer to: http://bit.ly/jPxbQr.] Instead of signing and giving away books, however, we will be signing and giving away posters made from either tree-free TerraSkin® or recycled paper and printed with soy inks. The posters have a smaller carbon footprint, and attendees who are genuinely interested in our products will have the opportunity to meet us, get a terrific poster for their library, school, business, or child’s room, and even a promo code to thank them for their interest.

We Welcome Your Feedback. Now and always, we welcome your feedback. We by no means have all the answers. Quite the contrary, we are on a quest to learn and to improve. We need your comments and suggestions to be the best we can be.

A Position Statement: Books vs. Posters

By Rana DiOrio, Founder

For the past three years, I have attended book events all over the world. Accordingly, I have a relatively fresh perspective on these events and on how they differ and how they are alike. BookExpo America is the largest industry event in North America on an annual basis. Last year, I wrote a post about how we all can take a leadership position by being more conscientious about the environment. This year, Little Pickle Press is practicing what we preached.

BEA vs. Bologna. What struck me most about BEA when I attended last year is the expectation of the attendees to receive copious amounts of free stuff, books included. Free bags abound on the floor of BEA, so attendees have a place to stash all of their loot. One giant portion of the Jacob Javits Center is devoted to author signings. Attendees line up in lengthy queues to receive their free copies of signed books. Publishers, book award organizations, and professional associations also host artists in their booths to sign and give away free copies of their books. Then, there is the collateral—pens, flash drives, umbrellas, T-shirts, pads, sewing kits, staplers . . . you get the idea. This exchange of “stuff” does not happen at, for example, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. No publisher gives away their books, and there is comparatively little marketing collateral exchanging hands. Instead, the focus is on the global business of creating, buying, and selling books and the rights to them. As it should be, right?
Books Are Precious. As a firm that is committed to producing only the highest quality media for children and has won awards for each title we have produced to date, I’d like to offer the informed position that books are precious. They take a great deal of time, talent, and capital to produce. They are to be respected and appreciated, and they are worth the price for which we buy them, online or offline. To give them away diminishes their value, figuratively and literally. There is an entire ecosystem that goes into producing a single title, and when we purchase a book we support the all the people who belong to that supply chain, from the artists, to the printers, to the delivery personnel, to the booksellers, and many more in between. To give a book away jeopardizes the livelihood of many, diminishes the importance of the product, and is tough on the environment (when the recipient does not respect it).

Posters vs. Books. This year we have the great fortune to be in a position to sign and give away product. Both JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., award-winning author of Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It, and I will be there to meet and greet attendees. [NOTE: For details on when and where to find us, please refer to: http://bit.ly/jPxbQr.] Instead of signing and giving away books, however, we will be signing and giving away posters made from either tree-free TerraSkin® or recycled paper and printed with soy inks. The posters have a smaller carbon footprint, and attendees who are genuinely interested in our products will have the opportunity to meet us, get a terrific poster for their library, school, business, or child’s room, and even a promo code to thank them for their interest.

We Welcome Your Feedback. Now and always, we welcome your feedback. We by no means have all the answers. Quite the contrary, we are on a quest to learn and to improve. We need your comments and suggestions to be the best we can be.

National Backyard Games Week

By Dani Greer
It’s the week before Memorial Day in the U.S. which unofficially marks the beginning of summer, barbecues, and outdoor activities. At my house, it’s also the celebration of my husband’s birthday, and tradition in my family dictates a visit from various friends and family over the weekend. My folks even make the annual trek to our out-of-the-way country cottage, so to say it’s a bit of an event is to understate the occasion. We give new meaning to food, fun, family, and friends!
The menu will include a mixed grill (which means anything good-sounding I feel like throwing on the barbecue) with beef shish kabobs, teriyaki chicken, burgers, assorted sausages, shrimp skewers, and whatever else grabs my culinary imagination. Side dishes must be low on simple carbohydrates as my Pop is diabetic, but that still leaves lots of options like bean salad and fresh gourmet greens from my garden. My mother always brings one of her fabulous German tortes for the birthday boy.
After eating, it’s time for games outside, starting with a competitive round of horseshoes. Four generations of my family play, and it’s a staple at family gathers. Those who don’t play, cheer on their favorite players. Even the littlest members of the family get to participate, so they can learn rules about safety and fair play. I’m here to tell you that my father is the man to beat, and even with an oxygen tank under his left arm, he can still toss a ringer with his right and put many a younger person to shame. (Guess who I cheer for.)
When we lived in Germany a common backyard game was bocce. Originally from Italy and akin to lawn bowling, it is now enjoyed throughout Europe. We also played badminton, another popular European outdoor sport. Later in the day, a game of marbles wasn’t unusual, and when dusk settled in (and after another round of food, of course), what better than a few rounds of outdoor hide-n-seek?
It’s National Backyard Games Week, so if you need to warm up for a few months of summer fun, think about enjoying some exercise and laughter this week the whole family can enjoy.The “holiday” starts today and ends on Memorial Day.
Do you have favorite outdoor games and traditions your family particularly enjoys during weekends and summer celebrations? Are there unusual games from foreign countries you play? How did you find out about them? Share with us some interesting new ideas or old memories about simple, backyard activities that many generations can enjoy.

National Backyard Games Week

By Dani Greer
It’s the week before Memorial Day in the U.S. which unofficially marks the beginning of summer, barbecues, and outdoor activities. At my house, it’s also the celebration of my husband’s birthday, and tradition in my family dictates a visit from various friends and family over the weekend. My folks even make the annual trek to our out-of-the-way country cottage, so to say it’s a bit of an event is to understate the occasion. We give new meaning to food, fun, family, and friends!
The menu will include a mixed grill (which means anything good-sounding I feel like throwing on the barbecue) with beef shish kabobs, teriyaki chicken, burgers, assorted sausages, shrimp skewers, and whatever else grabs my culinary imagination. Side dishes must be low on simple carbohydrates as my Pop is diabetic, but that still leaves lots of options like bean salad and fresh gourmet greens from my garden. My mother always brings one of her fabulous German tortes for the birthday boy.
After eating, it’s time for games outside, starting with a competitive round of horseshoes. Four generations of my family play, and it’s a staple at family gathers. Those who don’t play, cheer on their favorite players. Even the littlest members of the family get to participate, so they can learn rules about safety and fair play. I’m here to tell you that my father is the man to beat, and even with an oxygen tank under his left arm, he can still toss a ringer with his right and put many a younger person to shame. (Guess who I cheer for.)
When we lived in Germany a common backyard game was bocce. Originally from Italy and akin to lawn bowling, it is now enjoyed throughout Europe. We also played badminton, another popular European outdoor sport. Later in the day, a game of marbles wasn’t unusual, and when dusk settled in (and after another round of food, of course), what better than a few rounds of outdoor hide-n-seek?
It’s National Backyard Games Week, so if you need to warm up for a few months of summer fun, think about enjoying some exercise and laughter this week the whole family can enjoy.The “holiday” starts today and ends on Memorial Day.
Do you have favorite outdoor games and traditions your family particularly enjoys during weekends and summer celebrations? Are there unusual games from foreign countries you play? How did you find out about them? Share with us some interesting new ideas or old memories about simple, backyard activities that many generations can enjoy.

Cornerstone Cottage

Today we welcome Cornerstone Cottage (a dear customer with a funky little shop in downtown Hampton, Iowa) to the Little Pickle Press blog. Say hello to Keri Holmes and Judy Wrolson! They’re going to answer our many questions about their store.

Why did you decide to open the store?

Judy: I have always wanted to own a store, ever since I was a kid. My brother and I played ‘the Sears Store’ and filled out blank order forms for hours with the old catalog Mom would give us when the new one came. It was our favorite pretend on a rainy day. It’s kind of amazing that we’re celebrating our tenth anniversary this year.

What makes the store special?
Judy: We do! From our attitude to the merchandise we carry. If it’s not fun it’s not worth it.

Keri: I have the same answer: We do! You couldn’t find two more real people than Judy and me. We have more fun at Cornerstone Cottage than any other retailer in town. We sell a little bit of every style of home décor, and our 1+1+1=1 approach creates something unique for every customer.

In our children’s department we feature “learning” toys like Green Science kits, archeology kits, and Mensa recommended card games. I owned an independent bookstore, so I love books. I select the books we carry, and can personally recommend each title. That’s why finding Little Pickle Press was so exciting for us. Your books fit our merchandizing strategy perfectly, and I can give them a strong, authentic recommendation.


What is the most challenging part of your job?
Judy: Paperwork and finances.

Keri: Finding products not carried by the other shops in town, and finding new ways to merchandize our existing inventory to increase sell-through.

What is your favorite part of the job/the store?
Judy: Customer interaction and creating, for the customer and the store. 

Keri: I agree with Judy on this one, too. I look forward to helping our customers find the perfect gift or to create the perfect decorating item. I also design my own line of Completely Custom Invitations for weddings, showers, graduation, etc. I really love sitting down with a bride, getting a feel for her style and the things she likes, then creating wedding stationery that’s truly “her.”

What do you do to keep up with the industry?
Judy: I read blogs, trade magazines, and keep in touch with other retailers.

Keri: Judy is being modest. We don’t just try to “keep up”. We try to lead. This is why we recently attended the 140 Character Conference in Des Moines – to learn from others how they’re using social media to build relationships with their customers. We presented a short discussion on Thinking Big, Starting Small, and shared with the group our slow and steady progress toward full implementation of “now” technology. 

Since we’re discussing unstructured play on the blog this month:

What is your favorite children’s book?

Judy: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and The Foot Book.

Keri: Too many books, not enough time… but one of my favorites is Agate: What Good is a Moose? by Joy Morgan Dey & Nikki Johnson. Amazing watercolor illustrations, and an important message about being yourself and feeling good about that.

What is your favorite children’s game?
Judy: Skunk – a dice game we used to play with Grandma.

Keri: For playing with young children, I love the Ravensburger game The Amazing Labyrinth. For the whole family a card game called The Great Dalmuti. Unfortunately Wizard of the Coast let it go out of print, so when we wear out a deck, we have to buy a replacement on eBay.

What was your favorite outdoor game when you were a child?
Judy: Hide & Seek at dusk in the cool grass.
 
Keri: I can’t remember the name of it, but we used to play it with our cousins. You’d lob a ball over the roof of a shed or some other one-story building. If someone on the other side caught it, they ran around to your side and tried to tag someone on your team.

How do you stay young-at-heart?
Judy: By constantly learning; being creative and playing – every day.

Keri: It’s true that the environment at Cornerstone Cottage is fun and playful. We had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party when Alice in Wonderland came to town. I was the Mad Hatter. When we got sound-making animal masks in stock last fall, Judy ran around with the leopard one all the time and roared for every customer who came in the store. This is who we are. But I also try to follow my Aunt LaVena’s advice and continue to make new young friends. The last time I visited her she told me, “I got a new address book. Everyone in the old one was dead.” I think that says it all.


What do you think, readers? Any comments? We would like to add a couple of links so you can follow these fun ladies.

Cornerstone Cottage

Today we welcome Cornerstone Cottage (a dear customer with a funky little shop in downtown Hampton, Iowa) to the Little Pickle Press blog. Say hello to Keri Holmes and Judy Wrolson! They’re going to answer our many questions about their store.

Why did you decide to open the store?

Judy: I have always wanted to own a store, ever since I was a kid. My brother and I played ‘the Sears Store’ and filled out blank order forms for hours with the old catalog Mom would give us when the new one came. It was our favorite pretend on a rainy day. It’s kind of amazing that we’re celebrating our tenth anniversary this year.

What makes the store special?
Judy: We do! From our attitude to the merchandise we carry. If it’s not fun it’s not worth it.

Keri: I have the same answer: We do! You couldn’t find two more real people than Judy and me. We have more fun at Cornerstone Cottage than any other retailer in town. We sell a little bit of every style of home décor, and our 1+1+1=1 approach creates something unique for every customer.

In our children’s department we feature “learning” toys like Green Science kits, archeology kits, and Mensa recommended card games. I owned an independent bookstore, so I love books. I select the books we carry, and can personally recommend each title. That’s why finding Little Pickle Press was so exciting for us. Your books fit our merchandizing strategy perfectly, and I can give them a strong, authentic recommendation.


What is the most challenging part of your job?
Judy: Paperwork and finances.

Keri: Finding products not carried by the other shops in town, and finding new ways to merchandize our existing inventory to increase sell-through.

What is your favorite part of the job/the store?
Judy: Customer interaction and creating, for the customer and the store. 

Keri: I agree with Judy on this one, too. I look forward to helping our customers find the perfect gift or to create the perfect decorating item. I also design my own line of Completely Custom Invitations for weddings, showers, graduation, etc. I really love sitting down with a bride, getting a feel for her style and the things she likes, then creating wedding stationery that’s truly “her.”

What do you do to keep up with the industry?
Judy: I read blogs, trade magazines, and keep in touch with other retailers.

Keri: Judy is being modest. We don’t just try to “keep up”. We try to lead. This is why we recently attended the 140 Character Conference in Des Moines – to learn from others how they’re using social media to build relationships with their customers. We presented a short discussion on Thinking Big, Starting Small, and shared with the group our slow and steady progress toward full implementation of “now” technology. 

Since we’re discussing unstructured play on the blog this month:

What is your favorite children’s book?

Judy: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and The Foot Book.

Keri: Too many books, not enough time… but one of my favorites is Agate: What Good is a Moose? by Joy Morgan Dey & Nikki Johnson. Amazing watercolor illustrations, and an important message about being yourself and feeling good about that.

What is your favorite children’s game?
Judy: Skunk – a dice game we used to play with Grandma.

Keri: For playing with young children, I love the Ravensburger game The Amazing Labyrinth. For the whole family a card game called The Great Dalmuti. Unfortunately Wizard of the Coast let it go out of print, so when we wear out a deck, we have to buy a replacement on eBay.

What was your favorite outdoor game when you were a child?
Judy: Hide & Seek at dusk in the cool grass.
 
Keri: I can’t remember the name of it, but we used to play it with our cousins. You’d lob a ball over the roof of a shed or some other one-story building. If someone on the other side caught it, they ran around to your side and tried to tag someone on your team.

How do you stay young-at-heart?
Judy: By constantly learning; being creative and playing – every day.

Keri: It’s true that the environment at Cornerstone Cottage is fun and playful. We had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party when Alice in Wonderland came to town. I was the Mad Hatter. When we got sound-making animal masks in stock last fall, Judy ran around with the leopard one all the time and roared for every customer who came in the store. This is who we are. But I also try to follow my Aunt LaVena’s advice and continue to make new young friends. The last time I visited her she told me, “I got a new address book. Everyone in the old one was dead.” I think that says it all.


What do you think, readers? Any comments? We would like to add a couple of links so you can follow these fun ladies.

Strewing Bits of Summer

by Ginger Carlson, M.A. Ed.
Author of Child of Wonder
 

Strewing is the very fine art of placing items in seemingly random locations. It provides the opportunity for creativity by allowing a child to stumble upon materials in a natural way, thereby encouraging their exploration, without the child feeling watched, expected to perform, or otherwise pressured.   On their own timetable, at their own pace, in a completely unstructured kind of way.
Summertime is a wonderfully natural time of year for parents to practice the art of strewing.  With the weather, shall we say, cooperating, your creativity canvas instantly widens and everyone’s natural curiosities and unique ways of learning begin to show themselves in extraordinary ways.
High Traffic
The important thing to remember about strewing is that it is vital to place items in high traffic areas for your children to discover without you ever saying a word. This means tables near chairs they often sit in, in cracks of the couch, or even near the toilet. Outdoors in the summer that could also mean on your patio table, on porch steps they might linger on, under a shady tree, or near the front door where they might be waiting for others to get ready to go.

Interesting Items
Outdoors in the summer, there is great opportunity to place new and interesting items for kids to stumble upon.  Try placing seed packets, buckets, shovels, magnifying glasses, muffin tins, binoculars, chopsticks, bird books, plastic crates, harvested corn, collapsible telescopes, nets, baskets of sticks, recycled containers, small brushes, chalk, pieces of wire, boxes, a globe, and forgotten toys that can handle outdoor use.  If you have a patio table or some other workable space, try laying out art supplies, paper and staplers (always a favorite around here), a nice set of watercolor or sketching pencils, and even a few coffee table books that might spark some imagination.  Place a set of binoculars next to your collection of strewn items and see what happens. 

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
There is nothing like movement to cause little eyes to take notice, become interested again, or perhaps discover it for the first time. As the summer progresses, don’t forget to rotate your strewn items around the yard or throughout the house.  And with each rotation, add a few new items and take a few things away. You’ll soon find that a little bit of outdoor strewing can go a long way.
Enjoy those summertime discoveries!

Strewing Bits of Summer

by Ginger Carlson, M.A. Ed.
Author of Child of Wonder
 

Strewing is the very fine art of placing items in seemingly random locations. It provides the opportunity for creativity by allowing a child to stumble upon materials in a natural way, thereby encouraging their exploration, without the child feeling watched, expected to perform, or otherwise pressured.   On their own timetable, at their own pace, in a completely unstructured kind of way.
Summertime is a wonderfully natural time of year for parents to practice the art of strewing.  With the weather, shall we say, cooperating, your creativity canvas instantly widens and everyone’s natural curiosities and unique ways of learning begin to show themselves in extraordinary ways.

High Traffic
The important thing to remember about strewing is that it is vital to place items in high traffic areas for your children to discover without you ever saying a word. This means tables near chairs they often sit in, in cracks of the couch, or even near the toilet. Outdoors in the summer that could also mean on your patio table, on porch steps they might linger on, under a shady tree, or near the front door where they might be waiting for others to get ready to go.

Interesting Items
Outdoors in the summer, there is great opportunity to place new and interesting items for kids to stumble upon.  Try placing seed packets, buckets, shovels, magnifying glasses, muffin tins, binoculars, chopsticks, bird books, plastic crates, harvested corn, collapsible telescopes, nets, baskets of sticks, recycled containers, small brushes, chalk, pieces of wire, boxes, a globe, and forgotten toys that can handle outdoor use.  If you have a patio table or some other workable space, try laying out art supplies, paper and staplers (always a favorite around here), a nice set of watercolor or sketching pencils, and even a few coffee table books that might spark some imagination.  Place a set of binoculars next to your collection of strewn items and see what happens. 


Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
There is nothing like movement to cause little eyes to take notice, become interested again, or perhaps discover it for the first time. As the summer progresses, don’t forget to rotate your strewn items around the yard or throughout the house.  And with each rotation, add a few new items and take a few things away. You’ll soon find that a little bit of outdoor strewing can go a long way.
Enjoy those summertime discoveries!

Free Shipping in May!

Please use LPPPLAY at check-out to get free shipping on all our award-winning titles throughout the month of May. Here’s the Sofia’s Dream video for your entertainment. Visit our website to order the book.

BookExpo America 2011: What it’s all about

By Rana DiOrio, Founder

A few weeks ago our Chairman, Robbie Vann-Adibé, and I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Joseph J. Esposito, a seasoned industry veteran who primarily consults. He views his role as an “on-call brain trust.” We agree with his assessment of the value he provides. During our discussion, he told us that in his view BookExpo America (BEA) serves three functions:

1. As a forum for publishers to meet independent booksellers;
2. As a rights fair; and
3. As the gathering place for the annual technology conference that runs during BEA—the International Digital Publishing Forum.

With two members of our senior management team, two-award-winning authors, two technology partners, and one literary agent in attendance at BEA11, Little Pickle Press will be taking full advantage of these opportunities. Additionally, I’d add to Joe’s list a few other functions that BEA serves:

1. An opportunity to gain exposure in the marketplace;
2. The perfect place to meet with prospective authors, illustrators, employees, consultants, and technology partners; and
3. A great time to be featured guests at local customers.

Gaining exposure in the marketplace. Little Pickle Press will be exhibiting its award-winning titles in two places at BEA11:

• Mom’s Choice Awards® (Booth #2264-2265)
Honoring excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services.
757.410.9409 x712
725 Watch Island Reach
Chesapeake, VA 23320
[email protected]
MomsChoiceAwards.com
Read our Blog
Follow us on Twitter
Check us out on FaceBook
Connect with us on LinkedIn

In addition, to having our books on display, award-winning author JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. will be signing posters in the booth on Tuesday, May 24th at 10:30 am and will then be interviewed at 11:20 am. I will be interviewed in the booth thereafter at 11:40 am. I will be signing two different TerraSkin™ posters featuring themes introduced in multiple award-winning What Does It Mean To Be Global? in the Author Corral on Wednesday, May 25th at 10:30 am.

• Nautilus Book Awards (Booth #2037)
Changing the world one book at a time.
www.nautilusbookawards.com/

On Monday evening, our team will be attending the Benjamin Franklin Awards ceremony hosted by the Independent Book Award Association because What Does It Mean To Be Green? is a finalist for the eBooks category and Your Fantastic Elastic Brain is a finalist in the Interior Design, Children’s/Young Adult category. On Tuesday evening, our team will be attending the 2011 Next Generation Indie Awards reception because Your Fantastic Elastic Brain was named a finalist in the Children’s/Juvenile Non-Fiction category.

Meeting with folks that matter. Our team will be meeting with aspiring authors and illustrators, a prospective technology partner, two prospective team members, and the consultant we just engaged to help us to refine our financial model. We have also planned a celebratory luncheon with JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. and our fabulous book designer, Rose Audette of Squiggly Line Design.

Helping our booksellers to attract customers. We will be visiting our specialty retail and indy bookseller accounts while we are in Manhattan. We have offered our presence for signings at their stores during the week of BEA11. Stay tuned for details regarding where our award-winning authors will be and when.

Being connected. To stay connected to the event from the comfort of your home or office, please follow @BookExpoAmerica, @blogbooktours, and @LPP_Media at Twitter. We will be tweeting from the floor of the show using the #BEA11 hashtag. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

BookExpo America 2011: What it’s all about

By Rana DiOrio, Founder

A few weeks ago our Chairman, Robbie Vann-Adibé, and I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Joseph J. Esposito, a seasoned industry veteran who primarily consults. He views his role as an “on-call brain trust.” We agree with his assessment of the value he provides. During our discussion, he told us that in his view BookExpo America (BEA) serves three functions:

1. As a forum for publishers to meet independent booksellers;
2. As a rights fair; and
3. As the gathering place for the annual technology conference that runs during BEA—the International Digital Publishing Forum.

With two members of our senior management team, two-award-winning authors, two technology partners, and one literary agent in attendance at BEA11, Little Pickle Press will be taking full advantage of these opportunities. Additionally, I’d add to Joe’s list a few other functions that BEA serves:

1. An opportunity to gain exposure in the marketplace;
2. The perfect place to meet with prospective authors, illustrators, employees, consultants, and technology partners; and
3. A great time to be featured guests at local customers.

Gaining exposure in the marketplace. Little Pickle Press will be exhibiting its award-winning titles in two places at BEA11:

• Mom’s Choice Awards® (Booth #2264-2265)
Honoring excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services.
757.410.9409 x712
725 Watch Island Reach
Chesapeake, VA 23320
[email protected]
MomsChoiceAwards.com
Read our Blog
Follow us on Twitter
Check us out on FaceBook
Connect with us on LinkedIn

In addition, to having our books on display, award-winning author JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. will be signing posters in the booth on Tuesday, May 24th at 10:30 am and will then be interviewed at 11:20 am. I will be interviewed in the booth thereafter at 11:40 am. I will be signing two different TerraSkin™ posters featuring themes introduced in multiple award-winning What Does It Mean To Be Global? in the Author Corral on Wednesday, May 25th at 10:30 am.

• Nautilus Book Awards (Booth #2037)
Changing the world one book at a time.
www.nautilusbookawards.com/

On Monday evening, our team will be attending the Benjamin Franklin Awards ceremony hosted by the Independent Book Award Association because What Does It Mean To Be Green? is a finalist for the eBooks category and Your Fantastic Elastic Brain is a finalist in the Interior Design, Children’s/Young Adult category. On Tuesday evening, our team will be attending the 2011 Next Generation Indie Awards reception because Your Fantastic Elastic Brain was named a finalist in the Children’s/Juvenile Non-Fiction category.

Meeting with folks that matter. Our team will be meeting with aspiring authors and illustrators, a prospective technology partner, two prospective team members, and the consultant we just engaged to help us to refine our financial model. We have also planned a celebratory luncheon with JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. and our fabulous book designer, Rose Audette of Squiggly Line Design.

Helping our booksellers to attract customers. We will be visiting our specialty retail and indy bookseller accounts while we are in Manhattan. We have offered our presence for signings at their stores during the week of BEA11. Stay tuned for details regarding where our award-winning authors will be and when.

Being connected. To stay connected to the event from the comfort of your home or office, please follow @BookExpoAmerica, @blogbooktours, and @LPP_Media at Twitter. We will be tweeting from the floor of the show using the #BEA11 hashtag. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

Organized Sports

By Xavier Muldrow
The simple concept of children playing has become a complex problem in the eyes of parents; the idea of structured vs. unstructured play. Which one is better for my child? Which one will lead to my child developing more? These are the questions that parents have started to ask themselves. I read in an article that asking whether structured or unstructured play is better for a child is like asking whether fruits or vegetables are better for a person. Both are needed so the question of which one is better should be one less worry for a parent.
Unstructured play is extremely important to a child’s development. It allows the child to set their own objectives and rules on where, when, and how to play. This allows them to use their creativity and imagination. Structured play, on the other hand, provides the child with an opportunity to learn a different set of useful skills. One specific way to be involved through structured play is through organized sports. I have been involved in organized sports since I can remember. It has allowed me to develop skills I use in everyday life situations. There are many benefits to participating in organized sports, such as physical fitness, confidence, teamwork, and mentors.
PHYSICAL FITNESS
Childhood obesity is becoming a big problem for children especially in the United States. One way to overcome this is through physical activity. Playing sports helps children get the exercise they need and provides healthy habits that will most likely stay with the child throughout his/her life. It also allows children to increase their physical strength and become more flexible, agile, and coordinated. Studies have shown that children who play sports are more aware of their bodies and thus are less likely to harm their bodies with things such as smoking, drinking, or doing drugs.

CONFIDENCE
Practice is a key part of playing sports; with practice children improve their skill set at the particular sport they are playing. This improvement causes children to become more confident in their ability to perform tasks, which carries over into their personal lives. So playing sports allows children to be more confident with themselves in both sports and outside of sports. It also gives them a sense of identity. Growing up children are looking to fit in and feel they belong and organized sports provides them with a group to identify with. Being accepted and feeling you belong within a group is crucial to a child’s development both socially and mentally.
TEAMWORK
No matter what profession you work in, you have to interact with people at some point. Most jobs require its employees to work together to achieve a common goal. Organized sports give children the skills to be able to work in a team and be a good teammate at an early age. It provides them with a skill they will be using for the rest of their life.
MENTORS
Playing sports provides you with a mentor or role model. It gives you someone to look up to, someone who will help guide you through sports and your personal life. I am still friends with my coaches and I can proudly say that they are a big part of the reason why I am who I am today. Having multiple mentors have helped me to become a confident, hard working, passionate young man. Knowing the importance of mentors, I have joined a local program called Coaching Corps. It is a Team-Up for Youth program, connecting college students to children in low-income neighborhoods through after-school sports programs. It allows me to help children become better people through sports the same way my mentors did for me when I was a child.
So when parents ask whether structured or unstructured play is better, my opinion is that neither is better but they both are needed. Organized sports allowed me to develop life-long skills while having fun at the same time so I recommend they do the same for their children.

Organized Sports

By Xavier Muldrow
The simple concept of children playing has become a complex problem in the eyes of parents; the idea of structured vs. unstructured play. Which one is better for my child? Which one will lead to my child developing more? These are the questions that parents have started to ask themselves. I read in an article that asking whether structured or unstructured play is better for a child is like asking whether fruits or vegetables are better for a person. Both are needed so the question of which one is better should be one less worry for a parent.
Unstructured play is extremely important to a child’s development. It allows the child to set their own objectives and rules on where, when, and how to play. This allows them to use their creativity and imagination. Structured play, on the other hand, provides the child with an opportunity to learn a different set of useful skills. One specific way to be involved through structured play is through organized sports. I have been involved in organized sports since I can remember. It has allowed me to develop skills I use in everyday life situations. There are many benefits to participating in organized sports, such as physical fitness, confidence, teamwork, and mentors.
PHYSICAL FITNESS
Childhood obesity is becoming a big problem for children especially in the United States. One way to overcome this is through physical activity. Playing sports helps children get the exercise they need and provides healthy habits that will most likely stay with the child throughout his/her life. It also allows children to increase their physical strength and become more flexible, agile, and coordinated. Studies have shown that children who play sports are more aware of their bodies and thus are less likely to harm their bodies with things such as smoking, drinking, or doing drugs.

CONFIDENCE
Practice is a key part of playing sports; with practice children improve their skill set at the particular sport they are playing. This improvement causes children to become more confident in their ability to perform tasks, which carries over into their personal lives. So playing sports allows children to be more confident with themselves in both sports and outside of sports. It also gives them a sense of identity. Growing up children are looking to fit in and feel they belong and organized sports provides them with a group to identify with. Being accepted and feeling you belong within a group is crucial to a child’s development both socially and mentally.
TEAMWORK
No matter what profession you work in, you have to interact with people at some point. Most jobs require its employees to work together to achieve a common goal. Organized sports give children the skills to be able to work in a team and be a good teammate at an early age. It provides them with a skill they will be using for the rest of their life.
MENTORS
Playing sports provides you with a mentor or role model. It gives you someone to look up to, someone who will help guide you through sports and your personal life. I am still friends with my coaches and I can proudly say that they are a big part of the reason why I am who I am today. Having multiple mentors have helped me to become a confident, hard working, passionate young man. Knowing the importance of mentors, I have joined a local program called Coaching Corps. It is a Team-Up for Youth program, connecting college students to children in low-income neighborhoods through after-school sports programs. It allows me to help children become better people through sports the same way my mentors did for me when I was a child.
So when parents ask whether structured or unstructured play is better, my opinion is that neither is better but they both are needed. Organized sports allowed me to develop life-long skills while having fun at the same time so I recommend they do the same for their children.