Let’s F*cking Cook


Your food game is weak. We want to help you.

We’ve all been there: you have three condiments and an old zucchini in the fridge, and somehow you have to turn that into a viable meal. You want to try out a recipe that is Pinterest worthy, but you can’t find any of the bizarre ingredients listed and, frankly, the instructions are so confusing that you may as well give up before you even start.

You are in a codependent relationship with your delivery guy and it just isn’t healthy anymore.

If you saw this week’s post from editor Meredith Dees, you know that excitement levels for our new cookbook are at max. We’ve been cooking like crazy in the office, and it has been yummy and fun. Cooking at home shouldn’t be an endless struggle. It should be delicious, healthy, and easy. House of Anansi and Thug Kitchen want to give away four copies of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, so you can start eating like you give a f*ck.

You want to win this shit:

Each Friday for four weeks, we will release a new recipe from the cookbook. We want you to cook it, eat it, tweet or Instagram a picture of your sweet, delicious victory, and tag @HouseofAnansi and #ThugKitchen.

You have from now until Thursday at 5pm to enter. When the contest closes, we will draw a winner from that week’s entries. The winner will be announced on Friday along with the release of a new recipe (and a new chance to win!)

If you don’t win the first week, you’ve got three more chances, so keep checking the blog! The contest is open to Canadian residents with the exception of Quebec (sorry guys).

The Prize:

One copy of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, two decals sporting your new cooking manifesto, and one badass tote so you can grocery shop like a champ. We’re going to give one of these prize packs away every week for four weeks in a row.

The First Recipe:



Maple Berry Grits

“Grits don’t get enough love at breakfast. They are creamy, slightly sweet, and full of fiber. You’ve had enough oatmeal; it’s about damn time to try something new.”

Makes enough for 4, or a solid solo breakfast for 4 days

2 cups water

2 cups almond or other non dairy milk

1 cup stoneground grits (not that instant bullshit)

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup or your favourite liquid sweetener

Your favourite jam

Fresh Berries

1. Grab a medium saucepan and bring the water and milk to a boil over medium heat. Gently whisk in the grits and ¼ teaspoon salt. Don’t just dump it all in and spill water everywhere – show some fucking care, man. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce that heat to low. Cover the pot and then let that deliciousness simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the fucker on occasion while you sip your coffee and troll the Internet, ‘cause you don’t want anything sticking to the bottom.

2. When the grits have absorbed most of the liquid and are tender, turn that flame off and add 1 teaspoon of maple syrup. Taste and add the rest of the salt and syrup if you think it needs it. That’s on you. Serve with a small scoop of your favourite jam on top and some fresh berries so it looks all classy as fuck.

9781770894655Don’t be a chump and skip breakfast this week. Give this recipe a go. Tweet or instagram us a pic of your grits by Thursday, October 2nd at 5pm and you could win!

Acquiring Anansi’s First F*cking Cookbook


“The proposal is at the bottom of this f*cking email,” is one way for your boss to pique your interest in a book project. It’s not exactly everyday that swearing makes its way into emails, marketing material, and office banter, and is considered a fundamental feature and selling tool of a cookbook.

Just over a year ago, House of Anansi Press acquired the rights to publish Thug Kitchen in Canada. The cookbook had more than one hundred plant-based recipes that were bold and hilarious. For those of you familiar with the Press, this will seem like a logical first cookbook — it’s edgy, unpretentious, accessible, and the recipes are well written and inexpensive. As part of our assessment of the book, I cooked my way through many of the recipes, bringing them in for Sarah MacLachlan, the President and Publisher of House of Anansi Press, to taste. We made an offer shortly after trying the “Grilled Eggplant with Soba Noodles.”

photo 1

As someone who cooks regularly and edits books for a living, which includes acquiring them for Anansi, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to read a book proposal that made plant-based food funny.

How many of you bring lunch to work? (Hands up my entire office.) And how often do you find reading articles and recipes about healthy eating patronizing and dictatorial? (Hands up everyone on earth.) Fortunately, Thug Kitchen is here to save us all. The recipes are incredibly easy, use supermarket ingredients, and don’t push you to find something if the store or your cupboard is out. Tips like, “White, yellow, or sweet onions will do. Whatever is on sale” or “But for real, you can use whatever flour you use to bake — it won’t make a difference,” percolate throughout the book.

Mixing too much will make your pancakes tough, so just chill the f*ck out sir mix-a-lot.

Mixing too much will make your pancakes tough, so just chill the f*ck out sir mix-a-lot.

Our office is cuckoo for Thug Kitchen. To give you an idea, I walked by the microwave at lunch the other day, and was able to identify our Rights Assistant Jolise Beaton’s “Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos,” just by the scent. Allison Steele, Anansi’s International Digital and Print Sales Manager, brought “To-Go Breakfast Bars,” on Monday and naturally we snapped a couple of food porn pics. An honourable mention also goes out to the editorial department who made the “Roasted Potato Salad with Fresh Herbs” and the “Moroccan Spiced Couscous” for the company potluck, which roused a lot of surprised, “IT’S VEGAN — VE-GAN!”

Our desire for easy, healthy cooking drew us to Thug Kitchen. I mean, hey, if I had Gwyneth Paltrow’s budget and didn’t have a full-time job, you can bet I’d probably be 100-mile dieting all over the place and making my own everything. (My mom would certainly be happier if I DIY-ed more.) But let’s be real: it’s already hard enough to take care of the 2493834 other things you need to do in a week. Thug Kitchen takes into account that we’re all busy, living on some form of a budget, and just trying to eat a little bit healthier.

Now can someone just tell me why the f*ck Loblaws doesn’t sell tempeh?

Meredith Dees is the Canadian editor of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook.

Meredith Dees is the Canadian editor of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook. She tweets at @MeredithDees.

Kathleen Winter Reflects on the Discovery of a Lost Franklin Expedition Ship and Her Own Time Spent in the Northwest Passage

Our ship, twinkling with its flags and decks and portholes 300 dpi

A nationalistic fervor has been reignited after news broke of the discovery of one of the lost Franklin Expedition ships largely intact yesterday. The mysterious loss of the two ships, Sir John Franklin, and his 128 men during an exploration of the Northwest Passage has been an event that has captured the imagination of Canadians, explorers, writers, and musicians for well over a century, including bestselling author Kathleen Winter. In 2010 she embarked on her own northern odyssey as she journeyed the Northwest Passage with a team of scientists, geologists, historians, and Franklin Expedition enthusiasts. There she transcribed her experience into her first work of narrative nonfiction, Boundless, weaving her own childhood journey of emigrating from England to Canada through the challenges, politics, and emotional landscape of navigating the North.

Kathleen shares her reflections on the discovery of the lost ships, and several beautiful paintings that capture her time in the Northwest Passage:

Thoughts on the Partial Discovery of Franklin’s Lost Ships
Kathleen Winter

small file Arctic geese

I have mixed feelings on reading the Canadian government’s press release about finding remnants from one of Franklin’s lost ships. The impetus behind my book, Boundless, comes from a respect for the what the land is saying, not what governments are saying about it or trying to extract from it. The Franklin expedition has been, from its inception during Britain’s colonial expansion era, about patriotic, chest-thumping glory-seeking; and things are no different now. What I experienced on my voyage through the place we call The Northwest Passage, and what I tried to write, paint, and photograph, contains more questions than answers. The message the land gave me was not nationalistic but global. The words I encountered in the North were made not through patriotic symbols but by rock, sky and water—by people who live in the North, and by the profound animals who possess potent languages of their own.

small file Beechy Island polar bear moonlit

Historians call our expedition’s departure point, Greenland’s Disko Bay, the last place Franklin was seen by European eyes. Witnesses claimed they saw him with his ship moored to an ancestral cousin of the icebergs we encountered… had Franklin trusted the ice because of its mass and presence, though it was made of frozen water and insubstantial as a dream? Both ice and ship seemed destined for dissolution. Might Franklin have sensed this at the outset?

Arctic stars 1

Later I witnessed Canada’s military presence around Pond Inlet, Dundas Harbour, and other points on our route, and began to see it as inseparable from historical campaigns whose quiet motivations lay veiled behind stories with more public appeal. Canada set much store on publicizing its expensive search for the Franklin wrecks, while quietly using the same search technology to pursue soundings of the Arctic seafloor for data needed by oil consortiums, mineral concerns, and military interests. But the romance of the Franklin story is what has made news headlines.

On our journey, I began to question my own response to the North. Was the mysterious energy of the land real, or was my perception of it a romantic remnant from Franklin’s day? What right had I to hold on to a romance—a lie of old kings and new leaders—to justify centuries of raid masquerading as an eternal hero’s quest? My passage on the ship placed me inside this question. No matter how well-meaning we are as passengers, could we claim to stand apart from questions of invasion, privilege, and trespass?

Jane Franklin's corset and the lost ship Erebus 300 dpi

Yet I felt a thrill—we all felt it—at being among the few southerners who’d ever set foot in what we call the Far North. The notion of beyond, our Meta Incognita, was still part of our consciousness. We were not Bernadette Dean or Aaju Peter, the two Inuk women on our journey who lived in the North and whose people had done so longer than any British explorer with insufficient pantaloons, lost ships, or lonesome graves. How strange to be “beyond known limits” while realizing this very notion was a dream. Even the word “North” began to dissolve: once you were here, that territory became something unnamed, and real unto itself.

Arctic Campion Lantern 300dpi

We were a moving, borderless collection of our own dreams and imagination, and the territory we call the Northwest Passage acted on us with shifting meanings that altered with the hours. There was a mutability about our time in the tundra, rock, ice: solid forms colluded with each other to act more like thought and water.

Though ancient, the land spoke to us of its own immediate presence, an aliveness insistent and ongoing, until we became part of it. This Northern land, as Aaju Peter and Bernadette Dean tried to explain to me, did not judge people. It treated everyone with the same dignity, and it was up to us to show a reciprocal respect. The earth here in the North, as elsewhere in our world, depends on us to notice this.

9781770893993Kathleen Winter is a novelist, short-story writer and scriptwriter. She lives in Montreal, Quebec. Visit Kathleen Winter’s blog, or read a full summary of Boundless.



What our bodies, our relationships, and our best efforts have in common — a guest post about Chez l’arabe by Janice Zawerbny


In 2013 House of Anansi Press launched Astoria, a new imprint dedicated exclusively to publishing short story collections. That year, one of the first collections to be published under the imprint — Hellgoing by Lynn Coady — won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in Canada, beating out a longlist and shortlist dominated by novels.

I joined 9781770894693Anansi three months after the launch of the new imprint, and the first short story collection we acquired was Chez l’arabe by Mireille Silcoff. What first caught my attention was a set of interwoven autobiographical stories about a woman battling a rare neurological condition. The disease leaves the unnamed woman on bedrest for months; she is trapped in her house, in her body, and in her mind. These four first-person stories are a fascinating examination of physical and mental confinement. As a reader, you feel the claustrophobia of the character’s limited existence, the frustration of her complete dependence on others, and her longing for corporeal and psychological freedom
These four stories merge seamlessly into the rest of the collection, which includes the story published on Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, “Champ de Mars.” In this story, a woman named Ellen must contend with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in her once-successful husband and her own pent-up rage and resentment. Throughout their marriage, Ellen has lived in her husband’s shadow: he’s an internationally renowned architect and she is as invisible as the glass walls in her husband’s designs. Ellen feels like an outsider in her own body — eating and baking compulsively — and her own family. She has already lost a daughter, and she is rejected once again by her husband, who sits day after day in a subway station he designed, drawing intricately detailed hearts for strangers.

There is a recurring theme of failure in Chez l’arabe: of our bodies, our relationships, and our best efforts. But the stories are always tempered by sharp humour and shrewd emotional insights. Silcoff’s ability to articulate a deep appreciation of the beauty in the world around us is one of the hallmarks of this collection: from a meticulously set dinner table and luxurious old furniture to modernist subway stations and exotic California flowers.

Eudora Welty once wrote: “Some stories leave a train of light behind them, meteor-like, so that much later than they strike our eye we may see their meaning like an after-effect.” That describes the experience of reading Silcoff’s stories: they possess a distinct visual and psychological resonance that imprints itself upon the mind long after you’ve finished reading. As only the very best writing can.

Read “Champ de Mars” on Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading

photo 1Janice Zawerbny
Senior Editor, Canadian Fiction
House of Anansi Press



Controversies about Intelligence, IQ, and Children’s Education — Guest post by Dona Matthews, PhD, and Joanne Foster, EdD

Beyond Intelligence

Intelligence is a much more interesting, variable, and dynamic process than a lot of people realize. The more that’s being learned about the brain, the more cognitive scientists and neuropsychologists are emphasizing the active and evolving nature of intelligence, and the diversity of developmental pathways that can lead to higher levels of competence and achievement. Intelligence changes over time, and parents can help foster its development by ensuring that their children have plenty of opportunities to learn. Ability is spread much more diversely across the population than the demographic distribution of IQ scores would suggest, and is much more amenable to environmental influences like family life and day-to-day experiences.

IQ scores have little to do with working intelligence. They don’t begin to measure how effectively children adapt to different environments, how well they learn from experience, whether they’re likely to invest the hard work over time that’s necessary for success, or how they deal with obstacles. An intelligence test score can reflect how well a person understands complex ideas and is able to perform certain kinds of reasoning tasks on a given test on a given day, but it’s not a great measure of that person’s functional intelligence. Nor does it have much to do with whether or not someone needs advanced academic programming.

Although we have dedicated much of our professional lives to ensuring that kids with advanced academic abilities get the learning opportunities that match their abilities—aka, gifted education—we have to admit that sometimes identification and programming options are delivered on the basis of innate, elitist, and stable notions of intelligence. However, educational practice is changing for the better as more and more teachers and school administrators recognize the nature of intelligence, including how it develops, and various implications for those who have high-level abilities or other special education needs. Parents and educators are finding creative approaches and exciting strategies to ensure that all children’s learning needs are met—at home, in classrooms, and within the community.

For parents, the exciting news is that their children’s intelligence is more interesting and dynamic than IQ begins to measure, and that meaningful educational experiences can be found in all kinds of easily accessible and sometimes surprising places, without the complications of a ‘gifted’ or other label, or for that matter, costly financial burdens.

In Beyond Intelligence: Secrets of Raising Happily Productive Kids, we discuss exactly what that means in practice. We write about the nature of intelligence and creativity; review current evidence on how ability develops across the life span; describe the roles of mindsets, motivation, resilience, and effort; and discuss the ways schools and the social environment can be chosen and adapted to help children discover and follow their passions. Our emphasis is on practical recommendations for parents, from their baby’s birth, through to their young adult’s need for guidance and (respectfully detached!) support. It is empowering to realize that intelligence changes over time, and can be developed with nurturing, respect, and access to rich, variable, and challenging learning experiences.



Dona Matthews has taught at several Canadian universities and was associate professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she was the founding director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Education. Her previous books include The Development of Giftedness and Talent across the Life Span.

Joanne Foster teaches educational psychology courses at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Dr. Foster contributes to the journal Parenting for High Potential. She’s also the author of Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination.

Visit the authors’ website at beyondintelligence.net

A Goodbye Playlist from Publicity Director extraordinaire, Laura Repas

Today is my last day working at House of Anansi. I got the job here in Fall 2002, and barring two years of leave, I’ve been here since. I don’t know how to say goodbye to my friends here, to the memories, to the place that introduced me to my husband, some of my closest friends, and to many, many of my favourite books. So I’ve made a playlist to help me out!

1 – Hey Ya! – OutKast

In 2003, the year this song came out, our then-publisher Martha Sharpe started wearing a super-cute, bright Kelly green sweater. I immediately went out and bought a similar one, and she was cool enough to not mind me biting her look. We called our new favourite colour ‘André Green,’ after the cardigan André Benjamin wears in the video for “Hey Ya!”. Subsequent Anansi staffers started calling their Kelly green stuff ‘André Green’ too, because Andre is awesome, and none of could remember who the Kelly person was. Also, this is the best pop song ever recorded.

2 – French Navy – Camera Obscura

I met my husband, Ken Babstock, right here in the Anansi offices the first month I started work. Various work events kept bringing us together over the following months, as if Anansi was trying to make us fall in love. This song reminds me of him every time I hear it.

3 – Communist Daughter – Neutral Milk Hotel

My close friend Colleen Wormald was our very first intern in the newly-independent Anansi of 2002. That’s how we met. We sat across from each other for four months and discovered we shared a brain. Sure we were separated by an age gap, ethnicity, and some minor socioeconomic stuff, but other than that, it was like we were the SAME PERSON. Not only has Anansi employed me all these years, it also conveniently laid a few soulmates in my path. She introduced me to this beautiful Neutral Milk Hotel CD, and we liked to go to the tiny Dundas Street bar of the same name as this song, when we could fit inside.

4 – Everyday I’m Hustlin’ – Rick Ross

This song reminds me of Sarah MacLachlan, our president and publisher. SURE Ross has some unsavoury controversy around him, and sure we’re not in Miami, and certainly not dealing anything illicit (honest), but every day Sarah Mac is hustlin’. She has an inspirational amount of energy, a talent for seeing all the angles, swears like a thug, and has ALL THE HUSTLE.  Change one word and lyrics can even work:

I’m into distribution, I’m like Anansi
I got them motherf***ers flying across the Atlantic

5 – Have You Ever Had It Blue – The Style Council

Years ago I nicknamed my female colleagues at Anansi the Lifestyle Panel. I found that if I wanted to make a decision about where to eat, what to buy, what shoe looked best with what pants, and other such questions, I could put it out to the group here and get the best feedback. Once I bought two pairs of boots on sale and stomped around the whole office with a different boot on each foot and had everyone here vote on which one they liked better so I could decide which one to return. You don’t find that level of patience and taste just anywhere. I’ll miss my friends. There’s no song I know to describe our relationships, but the name Style Council sure fits.

6 – Dick in a Box – The Lonely Island featuring Justin Timberlake

Do you have a beloved Christmas song that puts you in the mood for the holidays? Is it “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – so sad yet hopeful, poignantly sung by Judy Garland? Is it “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” the duet by Crosby and Bowie, their surprising, cross-generational pairing feeling so moving, so right for the season? At House of Anansi we always get into the spirit of the season with a delicious potluck lunch, a staff gift exchange, and “Dick in a Box” on a loop in the boardroom.

7 – We All Lose One Another – Jason Collett

Once, at an IFOA event for our Broken Social Scene book, I tipsily promised the lovely Jason Collett that Anansi would publish anything he may want to write, ever. Novels, lyrics, recipes, pensées, anything. I really feel I should set the record straight… Offer still stands, Jason! Just call Sarah Mac.

8 – 1 2 3 4 – Feist

While we’re on a BSS tip, Sarah Mac introduced me to Leslie Feist when she was one of the judges of our BSS short story contest. Our conversation went like this:

Feist – Have we met before? You look really familiar.

Repas – I don’t think so, but maybe. I’ve been around.

Feist (knowingly, with a hint of ennui) – Yeah, I’ve been around too.

I swooned.

9 – Jenny and the Ess-Dog – Stephen Malkmus

When I first saw Patrick deWitt’s author photo I thought he looked like my long-time crush Steve Malkmus, from Pavement. Then I MET Steve Malkmus in a park in Berlin, and realized he looked nothing like Patrick deWitt. But he was still an indie-rock dreamboat, and genuinely friendly and cool, totally worthy of a two-decades-and-counting crush. And DeWitt’s not so bad either.

10 – Annabel – Goldfrapp

This song is based on Kathleen Winter’s gorgeous novel, Annabel. It was such a pleasure to work on that book, and to get to know Kathleen.

Also, there is an album called February by Joanna Barker, which was partly inspired by Lisa Moore’s novel of the same name. Joanna’s not on Grooveshark, so I couldn’t put her on the playlist, but I recommend her CD. And Lisa Moore is a great friend, and my absolute favourite person to take a drive with, hands down.

11 – To Sir With Love – Lulu

The time has come for closing books
And long last looks must end
And as I leave I know
That I am leaving my best friend

The lyrics say it all, I don’t know a more fitting farewell song.

So that’s my playlist for the end of my Anansi era. If you need me, I’ll be the one crying on the Queen streetcar.


The Anansi crew all put our cellphones together to gather up some of our favourite picture of Laura throughout the years. We’ll miss you, Laura! It’s the end of an era.

The Gifts of Summer: Boredom, Discovery, Creativity, and Engagement — Guest post by Dona Matthews, PhD, and Joanne Foster, EdD

 Beyond IntelligenceSome parents dread the approach of summer, envisioning that their kids will do nothing but stare at screens all day or complain of boredom. Others prepare ahead of time by signing children up for a full schedule of activities designed to keep their bodies moving and their brains engaged. Still other parents try to find a middle ground where their kids have enough activities so their muscles and minds continue to work and grow, with lots of free time mixed in. That happy middle ground is where kids learn that summertime can bring the joy of creative self-discovery.

Increasingly, caring parents are scheduling their children’s time tightly, hoping to give them an edge in a competitive world. But there’s strong evidence that the competitive edge over the long term goes to those who’ve had ample time to engage in imaginative play, exploration, collaboration, and invention. And although there’s a place for technology in children’s lives, too much time on computer games, television, smart phones, etc. can encourage lazy habits of mind, where a child comes to rely on entertainment and activities created by others, instead of creating his own fun and discovering his interests.

What happens when kids are given enough free time—without technology—to feel bored? As long as they’re also getting enough stimulation, care, and guidance, unscheduled time provides opportunities to find out what they enjoy doing, and what they want to know more about. It’s also a great way to learn to manage feelings, behaviour, time, and intellectual focus, all of which are important for achievement and fulfillment in the long run. Kids who spend time making secret hideouts, inventing stories of pirates, paupers, astronauts, and circus clowns, and thinking about what to do next, are much more likely to take ownership of their own learning. Summer can be a wonderful time to cultivate the self-discovery that precedes high achievement in all fields.

What to Do When a Child Says, “I’m Bored!”

Sometimes ‘I’m bored’ means ‘I’m up for some challenge and excitement’—but it can also mean ‘I need a bit of tender loving care.’ So if your child lets you know she’s bored, stop what you’re doing, look her in the eye, and give her a snuggle. Slow yourself down, and take enough time to find out if she wants to talk about anything. If she seems emotionally okay, here are some practical ideas and constructive responses to a child’s expression of boredom:

  1. Ask what needs doing. Sometimes just asking if there’s anything that needs doing is enough to get a child thinking creatively. If not, move on to one of the other items on this list, depending on whether you think he needs a job to do, or requires some help getting started on an activity.
  2. List some chores. Make a list of age-appropriate household chores the child can do when he’s bored. From the right perspective, chores can be fun, so in addition to emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the bathroom sink, the list might include sorting out the toybox, walking the dog, or making decorations for the next family gathering.
  3. Help her get started. Maybe she needs a hand getting out the art supplies or the sports equipment, someone to take her to the park or library, or some other physical support or materials in order to do something meaningful and productive.
  4. Make a Great Ideas jar. Brainstorm things he enjoys doing. Write each one down, and put it into a jar labelled ‘Great Ideas.’ Whenever he’s bored or looking for something to do, he can reach in and see what idea he gets, or he can poke through the entire jar until he finds something appealing.
  5. Tell her to go outside and play. Spending more time outdoors in the summer, preferably in natural settings, can be the healthiest boredom-solution of all, especially for children who spend a lot of time indoors during the school year. This may require attention to safety considerations, but it’s important to make it happen. Even the same-old neighbourhood park can have a new feel at different times of day—in the evening, during a drizzle, or when the sun rises.
  6. Create a summer calendar together. Mark in upcoming excursions, as well as daily and weekly schedules, so your child knows what’s happening day to day and what to look forward to. If there’s a trip ahead, a calendar can be a catalyst for planning and anticipation.
  7. Suggest she read a book. A trip to the public library can be an investment in happy reading hours during the week. You might also suggest starting a kids’ book club, scheduling family reading times, or writing book reviews for kids’ journals.
  8. Create a home science corner. You can find ideas for simple home science experiments at http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments.html
  9. Put together an artist’s activity box. Collect odds and ends for pictures, cards, collages and other works of art: glue, coloured paper, ribbon, cardboard, wool, popsicle sticks, paper clips, sprinkles, cotton balls, scraps of fabric, tinfoil. And here are some recipes for playdough: http://www.kiddinaround.com/pages/3-Easy-Recipes-for-Making-Homemade-Play-Dough.html
  10. Create a music-making centre. Your child can make musical instruments out of paper tubes, wax paper, and a rubber band, or with sticks, tiles, wood, plastic, or different sized pots. Put a kazoo, harmonica, or recorder in the box. Ask him what rattles, rings, or makes other interesting sounds, and throw those in, too. Encourage him to create and perform his own songs.
  11. Make a puppet show kit. Include old socks, buttons, felt, feather boas, and big picture frames.
  12. Assemble a drama box.  A carton for theatrical productions might include old hats, make-up, shoes, scarves, shirts, sheets, purses, gloves, and props.
  13. Create a writer’s activity box. Include here the essentials for creating a journal, newsletters, joke books, short stories, poetry, scripts, and letters.
  14. Make a section on your bookshelf for activity books. Include crossword puzzles, games, Sudoku, brain teasers, treasure hunts, and how-to basics on topics like drawing cartoons, building birdhouses, and decorating cupcakes

When Boredom is a Sign for Concern

We’ve focused here on healthy summer boredom that can open the door to self-discovery and creative productivity. Sometimes, however, boredom is a cause for concern. Here are some of the most common reasons a child might use ‘I’m bored’ to mask something more serious:

  1. Not enough intellectual, physical, or social stimulation. Make sure the activities your child is doing during the day while you’re at work are sufficiently challenging to keep her learning and growing in areas that interest her.
  2. Too much challenge. Is your child expected to do too much in one area or another? Is it time to pare down the expectations?
  3. Insufficient focus on affection or attention. When life gets busy, time for easy affection and attention can get lost in the shuffle. Make sure your child is getting enough warmth and connection-time.
  4. More serious psychological problems. If you have concerns about your child’s psychological well-being, consider seeing a professional.

Summer Downtime Can Bring Exciting Opportunities

After you’ve made sure your child’s physical, social, intellectual, and psychological needs are being met, the best summer parenting advice is this: help your child welcome his downtime as an exciting opportunity for discovery, creativity, and engagement. For more about these ideas—and many other topics as well—see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids. You’ll also find articles, blogs, and resources at www.beyondintelligence.net


Dona Matthews has taught at several Canadian universities and was associate professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she was the founding director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Education. Her previous books include The Development of Giftedness and Talent across the Life Span.

Joanne Foster teaches educational psychology courses at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Dr. Foster contributes to the journal Parenting for High Potential. She’s also the author of Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination.

Visit the authors’ website at beyondintelligence.net