March 28: This Week in Gardening Club – Outer garden clean-up!

Dear Garden Club!

Rain BarrelI hope this week brings you joy and a little bit of rain.  As you know, California is facing one of the most severe droughts this year, and LA continues to offer rebates on rain barrels ($75/barrel!).  You can find the website at:

Almost 50% of the water in a regular household is used to water outside plants, mostly lawns.  Harvesting rainwater reduces the amount of runoff into local rivers and creeks, and also saves you a bit on your water bill.  A quietly kept secret is that plants thrive better with rain water than city water.  Whether the reason is the chloramines (an antibacterial to keep our drinking water safe–but kills the good bacteria in the soil), or the lower pH (to balance out our high pH soil), plants show more vigor with rainwater.

If you do get a rain barrel (and the bragging rights with it), remember to cover the top with a screen to prevent mosquitos from enjoying your harvest.

This week in gardening club, we’re going to clean up the outer garden. 

It’s important to clear out the weeds and generally spruce up the garden before the summer heat makes us all hide inside, with infrequent trips outside to grab tomatoes and melons.

Stanford AlumniAs an aside, there will be a Stanford service day on May 17th at CDI at 10AM.  If you are a Stanford alumni, come volunteer beyond the farm and meet up with other Stanford alums in the area.  If you are not a Stanford alumni but part of garden club, you should come and show them how service is really done.  🙂

I also encourage you to have playdates outside CDI, since it helps your child become comfortable through familiarity.  It also gives you a network of parents who are going through almost the same situation, and you may gain a lot of useful tips on where to go and how to navigate the LA area.  We also try to have lunch at CDI afterwards, so please join us if you see us.

See you this Friday at 9:30AM in the OUTER garden!  Help sprinkle some herb seeds into our hanging garden, scrape up some weeds, and plant some succulents into our terra cotta pots!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


This (next two) weeks in gardening club: Getting our garden in shape for summer!


Dear Garden Club,

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men happens and we are recovering from colds in our household.  The great thing about being sick is that you get to stay home and get some creative projects accomplished.  Keep your eyes open to what’s new in the garden (it will be obvious).

sproutingSo due to my schedule for the rest of March, our gardening club activity this week (and next) will be to getting our garden into tip top shape to give us lots of summer vegetables!  I have tomatoes, eggplants, and Tom’s sweet potatoes, as well as some sunflower and bean seeds for the children to sow.  Who is Tom?  Tom is just like everyone here, except that he has sweet potatoes and he gave clippings some to me that I spent the last 2 weeks rooting.  (It’s fun!  You should do it with your kids sometimes–roots grow out of stems and if you are motivated enough, you can talk about stem cells in all its pun-filled glory.)

If you have some extra seedlings, by all means, bring it.  The only criteria is that 1) there is no visible disease or insect infestation and 2) you aren’t using insecticides or pesticides on or near the plant.  I’m also setting out a seed-share box, with some seed packets for you to look through.  I will try to keep the seeds appropriate for immediate planting, and you should always take time to read online about the vegetable before committing to it. Vegetables are pets!  Luckily, they are usually very quiet and only need infrequent watering (even less care if you install a drip line.)

 For those of you that have missed classes, or missed writing in your journals, this is a good time to fill up the journals or to start one if you haven’t yet started one.

 See you tomorrow at 9:30!  Bring clothes you are ok with getting some dirt on!



March 14: This Week in Gardening Club – Worms!

Dear Gardening Club!

I hope this email finds you in peaceful enjoyment of spring and that your flower seed “bombs” have dried on your porch in the hot afternoons.  I wanted to remind you that flower bombs should only be used in an urban setting and not in national or state parks.  So a dead sidewalk or empty lot is great–toss it in, hope for rain and sit back and wait.

WormsThis upcoming week, we have some live visitors!  Most of you may have enjoyed the ladybugs last week, but this week we have something which is even more exciting in gardening: worms!  If you ask any veteran gardener, high earthworm counts are the sign of a healthy garden. 

Earthworms, through their small but continuous actions, can move twenty tons of soil per acre every year.  How is that for power through numbers!

Some of you may even keep worm bins and be better versed in worm husbandry than I.  Worm composting (or vermicomposting) is one of the most fun and child-friendly activities you can do for a healthier garden.  The redworm (which is different than the orangish-brown worms you find in your dirt) can consume a third of its body weight per day in organic matter.  Initially, much like your baby, you have to help your worms settle in with small chopped scraps and even a puree, but once they’ve taken off, a three-tiered system can easily accommodate all your vegetable scraps without too much fuss.

There are a few tricks to keeping them cool during the summer (keep them in shade, paint the box mostly white, take them inside if you can handle it), but they’re also easy to dump and start anew the following winter when the heat dies down.

And, because we all have kids with developing immune systems (and curious fingers), there will be hand sanitizer for after you are done. 

However, for the safety of the worms, please don’t go back into the worm bin *after* you have hand-sanitized.  🙂


On a non-gardening note, since I have a captive audience…I wanted to share with some of the newer parents what CDI is about.

CDI is a nonprofit organization, unlike Kidspace or Gymboree and you know this because you aren’t paying $200+ for a membership here. Most of CDI is run by volunteers, with a very lucky collaboration with Tierra del Sol and LAUSD’s Miller Career and Transition Center, who help adults with developmental disablities obtain work experience. The volunteers are also from all walks of life, and many are still in high school, so be kind to them.  I wanted to mention this because not all developmental disabilities are visible and to exercise patience when asking a volunteer for help.

So what is CDI other than a free indoor playground with museum-quality toys?  It’s a place where parents can play with their children while getting information or assistance about child development, nutrition, or other topics should they need it.  CDI offers free developmental screenings (anyone can go) and if there are any concerns, they can help you get the support you need.  If you think there’s something developmentally strange with your child, you can go to a free screening.  If another parent wonders about their child’s delays and is unsure where to go for help, you can tell them that CDI offers free screenings.

CDI is one of the rare gems of the valley, and even though it is free does not mean that it is cheap or easy to do.  It’s free because of the very hard work and aggressive fund-raising that has to happen to keep this Center open.

So if you see a weed and don’t mind pulling it, do so.  If your kid makes a mess (it’s ok), guide him/her to clean it up before moving onto the next play area.  If other parents ask you what CDI is, now you know and can explain.  You can all be parent ambassadors in-training.  🙂


See you Friday!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


March 7: This Week in Gardening Club – Kids Can Compost with Wen Chia Parker

Dear Garden Club,

Learning GardenIf you were with us last week for the downpour, we had a great time painting with potatoes, but haven’t set them into the ground.  Which is all right, as potato planting season continues all through April!  We’ll wait for the ground to dry out a bit before trying our hand at container gardening.

This week, we have a wonderful book called “Kids Can Compost” by Wen Chia Parker.  Wen Chia is a personal friend and a UC Master gardener who  works in the Venice Learning Garden (

Kids Can CompostThe first lucky 15 will receive her book free, everyone else can have to buy the book.

We’ll have a brown/green sorting activity, and we will have finished compost available for you to feel and take home.  Also, having participated in what is colloquially known as a “plug mob,” I have many seedlings of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and purple cabbage for you, if you didn’t take one home last time.

We still need volunteers to help with clean-up and just talking to other moms during the activity.  Don’t be shy!  I know at least 2 of you who are well versed in compost and other aspects of gardening!

See you this Friday 9:30 at CDI!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


Brain Awareness Week & Your Child’s Healthy Growth

Brain Awareness Week & Your Child’s Healthy Growth 

Serve & ReturnThe first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development – especially the brain. By age 3, 85% of the brain has been developed by developing trillions of connections (synapses) between billions of brain cells. March 10 – 16 is Brain Awareness Week. With a focus on the healthy growth young children and supporting the relationships that help their brains develop, we want to take this time to celebrate the wonderful gift of our brain and in particular, early brain development!

At CDI, in all areas of supporting children, parents and families, we focus on the 3’Rs of early development: Relationships, Regulation and Resilience.

Relationships – Consistent, sensitive parents and caregivers who understand that children need safe, supportive and loving relationships provide the context for learning to love and loving to learn. Through these relationships, children learn that they matter and that others are vital to their existence. The capacity to experience sensations and emotions and then bring thoughts to evaluate and plan develops through these consistent relationships.

Check out this great video about how children’s brains develop through relationships:

Regulation – When a parent/caregiver responds to their child’s needs with meaningful attention, they are helping their child learn how to recognize feelings, needs and desires. Millions of these serve and return experiences helps the child’s brain to develop the capacity to recognize emotions and needs, what to do to regulate and act on the constant input of sensory, emotional and social stimuli occurring throughout the day. When the child is back in a calm state, he/she is ready to learn and explore their world!

What is Serve & Return?

Resilience – Not surprisingly, sometimes parents and caregivers miss the mark and don’t respond to the child in the right way. However, parents will be relieved to know that this is exactly what the brain expects! These misses offer the parent opportunities to recover and realign their intentions with the child to restore calm alert attention. Working through disappointment and frustration helps to build resilience in both parent and child.

At CDI, we also bring nature into the learning environment to provide opportunities for excitement and wonder that prime the brain for active and lasting learning. Interacting with the sensations of nature including sounds, smells and touch stimulate multiple areas in the brain that integrate complex systems. Nature offers many problem solving activities such as how to make a sand castle stand, how seeds are planted in dirt, and what makes them grow. These types of activities require focus (calm alert attention) and imagination. By learning about the natural environment, children expand their vocabulary, math skills, planning and creativity.

Our mission is to help every child reach their full potential by supporting the relationships and environments that shape early development. We know that when we invest in high quality care giving and early education experiences, children’s relationships and their environments will be equipped with the knowledge and tools to focus on what every child needs to learn and thrive.

Join us in this work by sharing this knowledge with a parent or caregiver you know and partnering with CDI to provide children what they children need to succeed!

 Joan Maltese, PhD

CDI Executive Director 


February 28: This Week in Gardening Club – Potato Power!

Dear Garden Club,

I hope this week finds you well and hydrated.  It looks like rain is coming to Southern California!


Baking Soda Animals

Click here for the handout from last week’s baking soda animals

 – The baking soda animals can be stored up to 2 weeks in a dry container in the refrigerator. 

 – You can use the animals as a garbage disposal cleaner. 

 – Just pop 1 or two into the garbage disposal, run the hot water, and turn on the disposal for 10-20 seconds. 

 – Baking soda is also a proven mild fungal preventative for the garden!  You can dissolve one animal overnight inside a clean spray bottle filled with water, and then use it to spray your plants.  Once dissolved, the spray is only good for 1-2 days. 

 – Best of all, baking soda is nontoxic for your animals and kids.  However, as with all chemicals/foods/nouns, dose matters!  Just as you would not add an entire box of baking soda to your cake mix, plants can only tolerate 1-2 tablespoons/quart before ill effects happen. 

 – Also, as with all mild nontoxic remedies, constant vigilance is required.  Your chances of success are best if you catch the fungus early on, and are able to prevent the infection from spreading. 

This is an excellent activity for your toddler, as using a spray bottle not only develops finger strength (for that future pencil grip), but I have yet to meet a toddler who does not like spraying plants (and bugs and walls and other people).  However, if powdery mildew is covering over half of your plant, it is best to remove it and start over.

This Week in Gardening Club – Potato Power!

This week, if the weather is forgiving, we want to put our seedling potatoes into the outer garden.  Potatoes need an acidic, loamy soil, and take 2-4 months to mature once the daytime soil reaches over 50F or higher.

If the weather is too wet, we may move our potato painting (not planting) inside and examine the ladybugs under a dry roof!  Much like parenting, having a back-up plan for inclement weather is a key to success!

Speaking of parenting, I also have my (sometimes demanding) son during the class–and if everyone signs up for one or two dates to be an extra pair of hands, that would be fantastic!  You can help as little or as much as you want, but mostly I need help with manning the art table for late-comers, and cleaning up afterwards.  Just let me know a few dates that you might want to help and I’ll get a list out.  Of course, if you want center stage for a topic you are an expert in, by all means let me know!  If you develop a taste for this sort of volunteering (and gardening), this is a good time to buff up your volunteer resume to apply for the UC Master Gardener’s program next year. 

Garden club is a two-way street, and there are many different routes which will lead to a satisfying harvest.  So talk to the mom or dad next to you–he/she may know where to find the latest tomato plant or how to worm compost.  I took a gardening class a few months ago and learned more from my peers than the teacher!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


February 21: This week in Garden Club

little-boy-gardenerDear Garden Club,

We finally get down to some planting and getting our hands dirty! This week we’ll be pulling our peas, fertilizing, and making room for a few new seedlings.  You are welcome to take home any leftover plants for your own gardens.  February is the last chance for planting winter crops for Southern California–our warm weather tends to ruin peas and make lettuce bolt (go to seed and become bitter) starting as early as April/May!

February is also a good season to clean around your garden (if you have one) and to add some fertilizer as well as worm castings.  Worm castings are a slow-acting pest control, and spreading it now will help prevent the explosion of pests as dirtthe weather warms up.  For those of you scratching your heads (how does worm poop tell the bugs to get packing?), the current hypothesis is that worm castings contain chitinase, an enzyme that can break down chitin.  Chitin is the major component of insect exoskeleton, so the insects which don’t want to have their armor dissolved tend to avoid your plants.

So come join us this Friday at 9:30 to do some dirty work in the garden.  Please, please don’t dress your children in the finest fresh-pressed white shirts/dresses.  I’ve always wondered why brochures feature children in gardens with bright clean clothes…perhaps they Photoshop them in.

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


February 14th: This Week in Garden Club

Dear Gardening Club!

May this email find you well and enjoying the cleaner air from this weekend’s rain.  Unfortunately we need lots more rain to get out of our drought, but every little bit helps.

Garden Club JournalsThis week’s activity has a goal for gaining a long-term view of the growing season, and the growth of all CDI’s gardeners!  We’ll be making a journal to record major events during the year, such as planting, growing, and harvesting.  Since the process from seed to harvest is over several months, a journal links the pea planted in November to the towering vines in February.  We’d like to keep the journals at CDI, so that they’ll be ready to use for our activities, so don’t forget to put your first name and last initial (and your child’s name and last initial) on the inside cover.

If you garden at home, having a journal will help you keep track of what works (and what doesn’t) in your garden.  Many times, we’ve forgotten the pitfalls of last year as we gaze upon the shiny new garden catalogs of 2014.  A journal will remind us that while the local birds ruthlessly attack spinach, they avoid chard like the plague.  It can be as simple as post-it notes on your seed packets to a dated picture-filled scrapbook.

If you don’t garden at home, but would like to garden, you can request a small plot at CDI to try your hand!  I can section off the area with string or you can choose a pocket on our hanging garden in the outer zoo garden play area.  If you are interested, please email me or Allie and we’ll give you all the info needed.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s week and as Joan (CDI’s CEO) mentioned, there is not just the love between couples, but also the love between friends and community which we should celebrate this week!

See you this Friday 9:30 in the garden!

ELC Mom, Master Gardener, Parent Ambassador & Garden Club Coordinator


Keeping Your Kid’s Mouth Healthy


The American Dental Association has incredible resources for parents that are fun and informative about keeping your kid’s teeth clean! In fact, they have partners with Sesame Workshop, Sam’s Club and MetLife Foundation to develop – Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me, a bilingual (English/Spanish), multimedia program!

With the power of Sesame Street, kids 2 through 5 and their parents and caregivers can watch how to keep their mouth healthy – together!

Check out the videos below! There are also loads of activities, coloring sheets and games that you can do at home, check out the ADA website here.



23 Ways to Show Your Child Love

23 Ways to Show Your Child Love
Megan Lange, MA, ED, CDI Theraputic Group Specialist

  1.  parents-kissing-babyTurn off the television.
  2. Take a walk after dinner.
  3. Write them a note or draw them a picture and put it in their lunch.
  4. Go for a slow walk in nature and let them to explore for as long as they want.  Get down and look at what they are looking at.  Wonder about how and why they world works with them.
  5. Make them laugh each day.
  6. Get down to their level and make eye contact to talk with them when you are telling them something important.
  7. Have a picnic on the living room floor.
  8. Holding-Kids-Back-in-School-RM-articleHave a day where they can eat whatever they want for dinner.
  9. Watch their favorite movie with them.  Make popcorn and let them add flavors- parmesan cheese, butter and brown sugar etc. 
  10. Let them name their creation.
  11. Let them pour extra bubbles in the bath.
  12. Put on silly clothes and have a dance party.
  13. Make up a little game-just between you and them Ex: Alternate telling each other how much you love each other.  “I love you as much as the tallest mountain”, “I love you as much as candy is sweet”
  14. Make up a hand sign that means “I love you” so they can see it when you can’t say it.
  15. Make cookies together and bring them to a local senior center.
  16. Let them help you with a task or activity they ask to be a part of on the days you have extra time. 
  17. When you ask about their day, carve out a few minutes when you are not doing anything else and really listen.
  18. Make them breakfast in bed and climb in and eat it with them.
  19. parentsHoldingKids1Do log rolls down a grassy hill.
  20. Let them help in the kitchen.
  21. Read them an extra book before bed.
  22. Answer all of their “why?” questions to the best of your ability with a smile on your face– and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” and help them find the answer if feasible.
  23. Go for a walk on the beach together.  Sit or lay down together and close your eyes.  Talk about how the sand feels between your toes, how the air smells salty, how the waves sound coming and going…

Fill your time with moments you want to remember.  They will become the memories of your life.

Do you have great tips about how to show love to your child? Shar your tips and stories with is by emailing or on our Facebook page!

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