Children’s Activities…A Hands on Experience!

At a recent training, our Program Directors and Transportation Coordinators had the opportunity to learn more about life span development  and how to assist in children’s activities. Part of the training was a hands on experience with an activity in one of the different age groups. Check out this month’s activities as performed by the staff!

Infants: Texture Box


  1. Cardboard box
  2. Different textures such as carpet, fabric, sandpaper, cotton balls, etc
  3. Glue


  1. Glue textures to the outside of the box
  2. Place box on ground level for infants to access or hold it in your lap and explore the textures together


Infants learn about the world by seeing, touching, tasting, and hearing. A texture box is an opportunity for touch sensory and language development. While your baby touches, describe what she is feeling!

Toddlers: Home Made Bubbles


  1. See here


  1. Mix materials as described above


Who doesn’t love bubbles? Toddlers love to explore their world and learn about cause and effect.

Preschoolers: Shape Shake


  1. String
  2. Cardboard
  3. Scissors


  1. Cut shapes from cardboard; cut a hole in the center of each shape
  2. Put shapes on string
  3. Tie string to a doorknob or have a friend hold the other end
  4. Try to shake the shape from one end to the other!


Preschoolers gain large and small motor skills, social skills (if done with a friend), and cause/effect skills by experimenting with center holes of different sizes, how fast/hard they shake the string, and how the incline of the string changes how fast the shape travels.

Middle Childhood: The Gift of Community


  1. The Gift (free, downloadable book)


  1. Activities can be found here


The Gift (and the matching activities) teach children the importance of a diverse community and respect for all interests.

Tweens and Teens: Healthy Body Image


  1. Teen magazines
  2. Scissors


  1. See activities here(we focused on Living in a Supersized World)


By analyzing media, teens will recognize the messages sent and how they effect self image and self worth.




The Prison Law Office recently updated the manual designed for noncitizen prisoners in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Information covered includes immigration detainers, grounds and relief for deportation, deportation proceedings, removal orders, and resources available.

You can view the manual here. Inmates can access the manual in their prison’s law library.

Happy Heart Health Month!

February is American Heart Month, which is meant to bring awareness to heart disease, the leading cause of death.

Our Children’s Program Coordinators will complete heart healthy activities with children (and their caregivers!) at the Visitor Centers. If you’d like to see these activities plus many more, check out the education resource section of

The American Heart Association website,, has information and resources for people of all ages. We encourage you to check it out and share with others.


Research shows that physical and emotional activities directly correlate. When you exercise, endorphins are released and you feel better emotionally. The opposite is also true! When you have a rough day, your body feels tired and broken down. Both affect heart health; for the most part, happier, more physically active people live longer!

How California is cracking down on contraband in state prisons

Contraband: (n)  1. illegal or prohibited traffic in goods (smuggling) 2. goods or merchandise whose importation, exportation, or possession is forbidden

$5000. 6 months. A misdemeanor/felony charge. Three of the more obvious consequences for those who choose to bring contraband into a correctional facility. But what about the chain reaction effects…Children who watch their caregiver’s arrest, more familial impact, denial of future visits. 

If you’ve visited a correctional facility, you’ve likely seen the large signs at the gate entrance about illegal items. Bringing contraband to a correctional facility is an illegal activity with many consequences to the person who brings it, the inmate who is caught with it, and other staff, inmates, and visitors, including children who are with the person bringing in the contraband.

For the person who bring contraband in: A fine, jail time, loss of future visits, and a misdemeanor/felony charge

For inmates caught with contraband: Days lost of good time credit and loss of privileges

For other inmates, officers, visitors, and children: Disruption of their visit, the trauma of seeing their caregiver arrested, and safety concerns. Children may be taken into CPS custody if their caregivers are arrested.

In Fall 2011, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 26 (SB26), which makes it a misdemeanor to those try to take a cell phone into a prison or own an unauthorized cell phone in prison.

If you want more information about SB 26 and illegal cell phone usage in prison, check out the video above or click here. If you would like more information on receiving phone calls from inmates, check out the bilingual information sheets here.

The Visiting a Friend or Loved One in Prison guide lists all items allowed in the visiting room along with other visiting regulations.  Visitor Centers can help clarify any questions you have about approved items. If you would like to send money to an inmate, you can find more information here. Information on approved inmate package vendors can be found here.

Lastly, if you feel threatened or intimidated by the person you visit to bring contraband, resources are available here or by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Unapproved items…Contraband…are a safety and security risk. Let’s keep our loved ones inside and out of prison safe by keeping unapproved items out.

Information for Those Who Work with Children of Incarcerated Parents

I’ve been a social worker for a long time and it’s heartbreaking when I see our kids grow up in foster care and go from group home, to juvenile hall, to jail and then to prison. And then, I see their children come into the foster care system, and the generational cycle starts again. The corrections and child welfare system are two complicated bureaucracies, often serving the same families, but each operating on different timelines, different rules, different funding. If corrections and child welfare could put our collective resources together, perhaps we can stop this cruel, vicious cycle.”  —Susan Arding, founding member of the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative and supervising social worker for the San Francisco Human Services Agency

We know that children of incarcerated parents face unique challenges and sometimes the work can feel overwhelming.

When a Parent is Incarcerated, a primer for social workers by Friends Outside board member Yali Lincroft, provides statistics and basic information about corrections and child welfare. The guide addresses visiting, immigration issues, and other issues social workers may be faced with.

The primer also includes Ten Tips for Kinship Caregivers of Children of Incarcerated Parents by Dee Ann Newell, Director and Founder of Arkansas Voices. This tips sheet is similar to the Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights.

December’s Activities!

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

Infants/Toddlers: Torn Paper Snowscape

Goals addressed

Goal #5: To learn about moving and doing (fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination)

Goal #6: To acquire thinking skills (gain understanding of basic concepts and relationships)


  1. Black or blue construction paper
  2. White tissue paper (other colors optional)
  3. Glue


  1. Have child tear the white tissue paper
  2. Help child glue tissue paper to the black/blue paper
  3. More advanced children can use other colors to build houses, trees, snowmen, etc in the background

Preschool: Snowball Fun

Goals addressed

Goal #10: Plays well with other children

Goal #18: Demonstrates throwing skills


  1. Sheets of white paper
  2. Laundry basket/hoola hoop


  1. Make snowballs by crumpling paper
  2. See how many you can throw inside the basket or hoop!

Middle Childhood: Winter Magazine Scavenger Hunt

Goals addressed

1. Industry: Competence and self confidence


  1. Magazines
  2. Glue
  3. Construction paper


  1. If you have enough children, divide them into two or more teams
  2. Have the children/teams go through magazines and find items associated with winter (gloves, scarves, snowmen, etc)
  3. Glue them to the paper
  4. The team with the most, wins!

Teens: Ice Sculptures

Goals addressed

1. Identity


  1. Food coloring
  2. Water
  3. Ice Trays
  4. Molds/Muffin tins/Other containers


  1. Freeze colored water into ice trays and other containers
  2. Using water to fuse different parts together, have children create sculptures!

All Ages: Snowflakes!


  1. Paper
  2. Scissors


  1. Have children fold paper 2-4 times
  2. Cut lines and shapes into the folded parts of the paper
  3. Open!


Children’s Activities: November 2011

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

Preschoolers: Exploring My Pyramid for Kids

 Purpose: To expose children to healthy habits, including a balanced diet and exercise


  1. My Pyramid sheet
  2. Butcher or Construction Paper in various colors
  3. Magazines
  4. Glue


  1. Create a wall sized My Pyramid. Be sure to proportion and label each section
  2. Converse with children about My Pyramid. Ask them what they see!
    1. What types of food go with each group?
    2. What are your favorite foods?
    3. What do the stairs represent?
    4. Why are some portions of My Pyramid larger than others? (MATH CONCEPT!)
  3. Give magazines to children to cut out food items and types of exercise (on-going project…does not have to be completed in one day)
  4. Give children their own My Pyramid to take with them

***Note: if a wall sized My Pyramid is not possible, refer to empty My Pyramid sheet


Preschoolers love bright colors and group participation. With an on-going project, they can see what their peers before them have charted. They gain an understanding about healthy body habits such as a balanced diet and exercise.

Aside from the nutrition aspect, this is an opportunity for math skills. They will analyze information presented on a chart, conceptualize a complex item as a whole and then as parts, understand symbols, and use thinking skills to categorize.

Teens: Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic

Purpose: To create an Emergency Plan in case of Zombie Apocalypse (or a hurricane, earthquake, etc)


  1. Zombie Preparedness Comic
  2. Emergency Preparedness Checklist
  3. Pencils/Pens


  1. Refer teens to the Zombie Pandemic Comic
  2. Ask teens what their household’s Emergency Plan is
    1. If they have one, help them analyze it against the FEMA Checklist
  3. Give them an Emergency Preparedness Checklist sheet


The CDC created this campaign to raise awareness through a popular concept. The point is that ANY sort of emergency situation could arise and each household should have a plan on hand (just as each VC does). The goal is for a family to create and practice the plan together.

All Ages: Listening to Communicate and Barriers to Communication

Purpose: To discuss active listening techniques such as Open vs Closed Ended Questions and Paraphrasing


  1. None


  1. Ask children:
    1. How do you know someone is listening to you?
    2. How does it make you feel when you feel listened to?
    3. How do you know when someone isn’t listening to you?
    4. How does it make you feel when you aren’t listened to?
  2. For younger children, try:
    1. Put on Your Listening Ears – Say dramatically “I have something important to tell you. Can anyone tell me what type of ears we need to wear in the museum?” When the  preschooler says “Listening ears” say “OK, let’s put on our listening ears. I think that mine are in my shoe (or some other funny place).” Then dramatically pretend to pull them out of your shoe and put them on. Have the preschooler find their listening ears and pretend to put them on. You can also do this with walking feet or inside voice. The trick is to be as silly and dramatic as possible. If your child forgets their manners during the situation whisper to them “You must have put your listening ears back in your belly button when I wasn’t looking. Let’s find them again and put them back on.”


Children will recognize active listening skills, which will improve communication skills with others.

October’s Activities!

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

Toddlers: Emotion Recognition

 Purpose: Engage parents and toddlers in recognizing and responding to expressions

MaterialsEmotion Flashcards


  1. Create a set of flashcards for each family (so they can take them home)
  2. Parents show the cards to the toddler and ask:
    1. Can you show me a “happy” face?
    2. Which face do you like best?
    3. How are you feeling right now?


One of the main toddler goals is to recognize and appropriately communicate/express emotions. Toddlers are just learning to express themselves with words and still use many facial expressions to communicate their feelings and needs. Flashcards and parental engagement can assist them in learning the words that go with emotions and expressions.

Tweens: Cyberbullying: Who, Me? Why Should I Care


  • Analyze online behaviors that could be considered cyberbullying.
  • Generate multiple solutions and actions that bystanders can take to improve a cyberbullying situation.
  • Practice peer mentoring for cyberbullying prevention.


  1. Worksheets
  2. Writing Materials
  3. Construction Paper


Part 1: What’s the Problem?

  • Distribute the activity sheets. Have participants read the scenario about Kevin, José, and the video-sharing Web site.
  • Have participants write their answers to the two questions under What’s the Problem? Look for responses that indicate students’ understanding that both events are embarrassing, but that embarrassing someone in school exposes him to an immediate peer group, while embarrassing him on a World Wide Web site exposes him to ridicule by the entire school plus hundreds of millions of strangers.
  • Have participants tell their own stories without using actual names.
    • Ask: Have you ever witnessed kids posting or sending photos or videos in order to embarrass someone? What happened? Why?

Part 2: Think About It

  • Have participants read the Think About It section on the activity sheets. Point out that sometimes when people believe they cannot be seen or found out, they do things that they would never do in a face-to-face situation.
    • Ask: Who is doing the cyberbullying in this story? Is it only José? What about the boys in school who helped him upload the video to the Web site? What about the people who posted nasty comments? What about the people who viewed the video? Encourage students to decide for themselves and support their reasoning.
  • Have participants use drawing paper and markers to create a visual map showing all the players in this event. Participants may choose to show a labeled web, use concentric circles, or draw something more representational. Allow participants to share their maps with their parents and others.

Part 3: Find Solutions

  • Have participants discuss their solutions. Look for solutions that show empathy for Kevin and discuss the rights and responsibilities of being citizens of a worldwide community.
  • Make sure participants understand that those people who posted cruel comments were just as guilty of being bullies as the boys who originally uploaded the video were.
  • Discuss with participants how trusted adults could help, including asking a guidance counselor to talk to Kevin, a technology teacher to investigate whether it would be possible to remove the video from the site, and a school principal to try to enforce school bullying rules.
  • Have participants add to their concept map drawings, clearly labeling their proposed solutions.


Tweens learn about communication and collaboration, to interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media. They learn to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.

Tweens also take digital citizenship, that is: advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology. They also exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

All Ages: Body Beautiful

Purpose: For youth to identify and share positive traits they possess


  1. Body Template
  2. Markers/pens/crayons
  3. Scissors


  1. Give each participant a body template
  2. Encourage them to label each part of their body with a positive thing they can do
    1. Arms: Give Hugs
    2. Brain: Helps with Homework
    3. Legs: Runs Quickly
    4. Heart: Caring friend
  3. Allow them to share with their family and others


In a time when body issues are on the rise, even the youngest of children have body image issues. Children will see focus on the positive traits they and others have.



Milk has an expiration date and so do your car seats

As you’ve seen lately, car seat expiration dates are quite a buzz. You might be wondering why this issue has come to the forefront suddenly, when expiration dates were a non-issue before.

Let’s set something straight…Everything has an expiration date, whether it is stamped with one or not. Fresh flowers wilt in a matter of days and pictures yellow over the years; even Twinkies only have a shelf life of 25 days! The point being, things change and erode over time.

I remember a time when I was 8 and I learned a hard lesson: don’t leave your MC Hammer Can’t Touch This tape in the car during the month of June. Why? Because it warped and cracked. Think about car seats; they are made completely of plastic and fabric, two things that break down in the UV rays.

Not only can the plastic become so brittle that it shatters and the Styrofoam so degraded that it doesn’t protect upon impact, but best practice and regulations change frequently, meaning that seat may become obsolete.

Wondering what the expiration of your seat it? Expiration and/or manufacture dates can be found on the bottom of the seat or in the owner’s manual. If you can’t find an expiration date, check for a manufacture date. Most car seats have a maximum life of 5 years, though calling the manufacturer is the best way to find out what their schedule is. All-in-one car seats can be a danger here, as children should be in boosters more than 5 years. Keep that in mind the next time you look at convertible car seats.

It’s also important to replace seats after an impact. Seats can become damaged during an accident due to force. California law requires insurance companies to replace seats that have been in accidents, regardless of age of the seat.

September Children’s Activities

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

For Infants: Magic Mirror

Purpose: Engage parents in social emotional development of their infants

Materials: Mirror (preferably hand held)


  1. The caregiver holds the mirror in front of the infant’s face so they can see themselves
  2. While the baby gazes into the mirror, the caregiver can say things such as:
    1. Who is that!
    2. Look at you smiling; you must be happy!
    3. You have brown eyes
  3. The caregiver can also hold them mirror so both baby and themselves are visible and talk about family, etc


Engaging infants in talk about themselves and others not only increases communication skills (such as responding to verbal cues, identifying a home language, and the act of communicating through words and actions) but helps them learn about themselves (feeling valued and attached to others and being competent and proud), their feelings (communicating through gestures, sounds, and words in an appropriate manner), and about others (developing trust and interest and care and cooperation with others).

Parents also stand to gain more understanding about how their infant communicates and confidence in the emotional growth of their child.

For Middle Childhood: Extra! Extra! Read All About Me…

Purpose: Children will identify and document memories (stories) about important people/times in their lives


  1. Newspaper Template
  2. Writing Materials


  1. Caregiver guides child through creating a Newspaper with a name and articles (with titles and/or pictures) about special people or times in their lives such as:
    1. Spotlight: Child’s Name
    2. Local Dad Wins Best BBQ Award
    3. Caution: Monster Little Sister on the Loose
  2. Newspaper can be filled with pictures and captions if full paragraphs are difficult


Child will have a piece of work caregivers can identify with and talk to their child about (source of pride).

This activity can be completed as a group or alone!

For All Ages: Feelings Collage

Purpose: Children will identify various emotional cues in other people


  1. Paper
  2. Glue
  3. Scissors
  4. Newspapers/Magazines


  1. Children look through magazines for pictures of people
  2. Cut out pictures and clue on paper
  3. Caregiver (and other children) dialogue with each other about what the person in the picture is expressing
    1. What about their facial features tells you how they are feeling?
    2. How does it make you feel when people smile at you?


Children learn to recognize visual cues of emotion in people. Sharing and talking about the pictures provides additional insight from others.

We know the key to learning is to engage caregivers in their child’s development. When caregivers are in the center with their children, we invite them to join in the activities. Please share these activities with anyone who may benefit from them!