Free At Last! . . . or is that Three?


When I hear “Free at last!” in the rousing speech by Martin Luther King, I admit I don’t think only of that inspiring pastor and the human rights movement.

I also think of my daughter Aimee’s 3rd birthday.

Free at Last!Back in the ’90’s when Aimee was two and her older brother six, one of our favorite CDs was by the group DC Talk.

Our church was less than a mile away from home in our tiny town of South Bend, Washington. But if on the way home a song we liked was blaring out our speakers, my husband would  drive up and around hills and through neighborhoods as we all loudly sang along.

This also involved a lot of posturing and what I called “finger and head dancing”. (There is only so much you can do when strapped into a car seat.)

Our favorite song was Free at Last. It had a humorous off-key opening (which can most likely be heard in any small church congregation) and the “free at last” passage from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. Most of the song was upbeat Christian rap, featuring the singer known now as TobyMac. Our car rides were so much fun (we also danced crazily with the kids in our living room) that the song Free at Last became a family favorite.

So of course when we realized that at that age Aimee counted this way—one, two, free, four—I couldn’t resist putting up the sign (see image above) on her birthday, when she was finally “free at last!”

The only thing missing from this video is better sound quality, and the car-dancing Sargent family:

Fun and Learning with Picture Puzzles (8 Developmental Stages)


by Laurie Winslow Sargent:

Previously published in Christian Parenting Today magazine.

Puzzles can offer a window into your child’s mind, helping you see how he thinks and problem solves.

I still remember learning about the way my child thought logically through problems as we worked this puzzle together, many years ago. (Ignore the 80’s hairdo!)

Puzzles can be a fun diversion.  But do you know that they also will help your child develop the following skills?

* color, shape, and pattern identification and matching,
* recognition of integrated parts, and their relationship to the whole,
* fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination,
* problem solving skills, and
* the ability to make choices independently (even when uncertain about the outcome) with self-confidence.

In my occupational therapy work with young elementary school children, I often used picture puzzles. Puzzles can be used to teach kids new skills and also offer a window into a child’s mind. Watching a child and having him verbalize what he’s thinking helps you to better understand his ability to problem solve.

Following are eight developmental stages in puzzle problem solving, which I believe children move through sequentially, from preschool through elementary school.  Thinking about the stages your child has passed through (and the stage he is currently in) will help you choose appropriate puzzles for him.

Understanding how your child is thinking makes playing with him more exciting, as you see him go from one stage to another. This also may give you clues as to how your child problem solves in general, which may affect his schoolwork as he grows older.

Let’s begin, using a typical preschool puzzle (separate holes for each piece; differences in shape are obvious), with:

1) HOLE FILLING: A very young child discovers that holes in a puzzle can be filled with loose pieces.  She usually tries to push all pieces in all holes (regardless of color or shape) to “make” them fit.

2) MATCHING HOLES AND PIECES: She now realizes that each hole has only one corresponding piece.  Tends to rely on color  to find the correct one.

3) RECOGNITION OF DIFFERENCES IN SIZE and SHAPES:  Your child now takes size and shape into consideration, looking closely at both holes and pieces.  Finds the correct one more quickly.  Does not yet understand turning a piece to make it fit, however (especially if small protrusions mean the piece fits only one way).   May abandon the correct piece and try another, incorrect one.

4) MANIPULATION: She will turn a piece to see if it fits.

At any of the above stages, after completing a puzzle, your child may be able to re-do it easily alone by simply relying on her memory and fine motor skills.  But she may now be ready to tackle a jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking parts and an outside boundary (cardboard back with raised edge on all sides), using the following skills:


Your child sees relationships between pieces; begins to sort and group them by similarities in color and design.  He is beginning to discern tiny differences between pieces; and may compare the puzzle pieces to the design printed on the box.  Realizes the scale is different.  May not yet understand significance of straight edges on the sides of some pieces.


He now can “see” in his mind, how pieces will look together (i.e., pieces with a black line running through them, together will form one continuous line.)  He sees individual sections, as well as the whole. (ex., clown puzzle: sorts out face pieces, even if different shapes and colors, then leg pieces, etc.)

7) MIRRORED OPPOSITES:  She now does the above, but also with  mirrored opposites. (i.e., a butterfly; wings pointing opposite directions.)  Visualizes how pieces will look together; reverses images in her mind.  Recognizes similarities despite reversed directions.

     Now your child can move on to standard jigsaw puzzles, done on a table with no confining frame.

8) CORNERS AND EDGES (square puzzles):  She realizes that two connecting straight edges, at 90 degrees, makes a corner piece.  Know there are only four such pieces; will actively look for them.  Realizes that only one straight edge indicates that piece will create an edge of the completed puzzle.

Note: Your child may be able to do a 70 piece jigsaw puzzle alone after trying it a few times with you, but still not understand corners and edges.  He may still rely on visual memory (remembering how the puzzle looked when it was completed).

By the end of first grade, your child should progress through the first five stages (and may progress through all eight).  If by fourth grade he still seems unable to grasp the concepts in stages 6 & 7, a learning problem might be indicated.

Watch your child do a puzzle. You can practically see how he thinks as he looks and sorts pieces.  If he struggles, have him verbalize how he’s figuring it out.  Resist the urge to tell where pieces go as you coach him. Model problem solving by asking questions: “How are these two pieces alike?” “This piece has a straight edge–where could it fit?”.  Don’t forget to be cheerleader too, giving your child an enthusiastic “Yay!” when he’s successful.

Copyright © Laurie Winslow Sargent. Contact the author here for reprint permission.

How Do I Stop My Kids’ Fighting?


By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

One frustrated mom asked, “How I stop my kids’ fighting? It’s driving me crazy!”

Photo by Stuart Miles:

Ooooh, been there, done that, felt that. I know, it can be enormously frustrating. I think what  made me craziest was the noise level–just having to listen to it.

Even handling it perfectly (and how would that be?) won’t make it go away entirely. Kids are learning how to relate to each other and will practice with their siblings.

As we enter this discussion on sibling squabbles, ask yourself this:  “What am I most reacting to?” Is the answer:

#1 The noise?

#2 The issues at hand, which you feel you must intervene in (and should you–really–or must they work it out themselves?)

#3 The need to protect one child from another, physically or from wounding words?

Kids pick at each other for all kinds of reasons and many do require adult intervention (AKA refereeing). But for this first post on kids’ fighting, let’s examine your own attitude as a parent, as I was forced to examine mine.

Is it possible that your interventions in kids’ fighting sometimes make things worse?  Consider your:

(CLICK to cont. for 6 Ways parent attitudes can affect kids’ fighting…)

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Are We There Yet? 3 tricks to help kids travel (more) patiently


By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

How do you keep your sanity when traveling kids whine, “Are we there yet?” Here are 3 ways to keep them occupied, so they travel more patiently and pleasantly.

How do you keep kids from whining, “How much farther?”           Image:

Today I had to lay still for half an hour for a simple medical test, but couldn’t see a clock. To pass the time (and distract myself from moving) I played an old mind game, Count the Music, which I played with my kids on long road trips.

Try this, plus two more ways to keep your own kids occupied as you drive:

Way#1: Count the Music

Consider that most songs on the radio are 3-4 minutes long. In your own head, take the number of minutes you expect it to take to reach your destination and divide by three. Tell the kids “We’ll be there in 7 songs,” (or whatever). They can keep track of the number of songs on their fingers.

While listening to music during my medical test, I’d calculated that would hear eight or nine songs. I only heard three, so must have dozed off while counting and focusing on the music. It tends to work the same way with kids–they either get into the music or fall asleep. It also gives them a sense for how much time is passing if they can’t grasp what “half an hour” is nor tell time.

(CLICK TO READ Way #2 and Way #3)

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Introducing Family, Faith and Writing ( July 6 Issue)


I started a new online–the Family, Faith & Writing Friday Post–with the June 29th Issue–and now have this week’s July 6 Issue (click HERE to read) which includes these topics:


grumbling (Poppy Smith); chocolate (Karen O’Connor); mistakes and regrets (Cyndi Moor Jones); high conflict people (Jim Calhoun); musician Shelly E. Johnson interview: father loss (Laurie Winslow Sargent)


collaborative writing; worst query ever; getting started (Chip MacGregor)


defining RSS feeds (Stacy L. Meyers)

This is a bit of an experiment for me, but a once-a-week seemed a good way to give you an easy way to see, on one page, the headlines from the two blogs I write (, and plus the blogs I edit (including It also includes links to articles written by others which I’ve found interesting and hope you will too. I’ve attempted to do this with my business Facebook page, but the way FB keeps monkeying around with settings made me want to give a try. works with twitter and RSS feeds to grab links and headlines, so this particular post in Parenting by Faith will be “collected” as well, and end up as a headline. In that way it will also function as a mini table of contents for the July 6 Issue.

I hope you enjoy being introduced to my new, the Family, Faith and Writing Friday Post. If you subscribe to that, you should only get one email a week on Fridays with a link to the online paper. If you’d like to subscribe (subscriptions are anonymous) just click the subscribe button at the Family, Faith and Writing Post.

Have a great week!  Laurie

A Huge Thank You for Playful Fathers


This makes me ache for every child who has no dad to play with, or a father who is present but not available. And it makes me very thankful for my own husband who has been so wonderfully involved with our own three kids and helped them grow to become such fine grown up people.

I appreciate Igniter Media for creating this video showing the empty spaces and places left by missing fathers. It truly reveals the power of parent-child play and especially the impact of playful fathers. Visit Igniter Media’s website at and their YouTube channel. You can also find them on Twitter as @IgniterMedia.

Links to Articles on Parenting, Faith and Writing


I’ve neglected Parenting by Faith for awhile, but haven’t forgotten you!

I’ve been writing for Finding God Daily and Sell Your Nonfiction. I also am the editor for Finding God Daily (with Right to the Heart ministries) plus a new Christian suicide prevention site, Thinking About Suicide (which we hope will save many lives!)


As a consolation prize for you, I added a page to Parenting by Faith called More Articles: Other Topics.

That page has links to some of my articles not related to parenting, posted on other websites. So far I’ve added links to 27 articles written in the past year or so. I’ll eventually add links to older web archived articles originally published in print magazines or books.

You can also visit my other page here at Parenting by Faith: More Parenting Articles. That has links to my parenting articles on other sites including Focus on the Family, Christianity Today International, and CBN.)

Meanwhile I’m bursting with ideas for Parenting by Faith, and hoping for a lull in my editorial work to add more parenting tips for you here!

This week, have a lovely time with your kids. Summer parenting memories you create with your children now will be remembered by them as adults. Have FUN together!

By the way: at Finding God Daily, I post content every weekday, 52 weeks a year! Whew. That’s a lot of posts. I work with over 20 wonderful pro Christian writers and speakers from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). I try to add a video to every post at FGD so am always looking for awesome ones. If you know of any great ones, send me links! Even if you’ve made them yourselves! I also love leads to interesting topics or people.

Thanks for your interest in Parenting by Faith! See: Blog Posts by TopicMore Articles: Other Topics and More Parenting Articles.

Have a great day!


Quiz to Test Parents about Child Personality Traits


Image by renjith krishnan:


Your Child Has Personality!

This short personality quiz is excerpted from Delight in Your Child’s Design by Laurie Winslow Sargent, and was contributed by Kim Miller, Laurie’s editor at Tyndale House.

In some ways, determining your child’s personality is an inexact science.She is likely a blend of more than one personality type. A child’s relationships and experiences also influence the way she behaves.

Still, it is helpful to get some sense of why your child acts the way she does. Try to answer the following questions to see if you can discern a pattern in your child’s behavior and help you understand and identify some of his or her strongest personality traits:

1. You can truthfully say, “I’d be a millionaire if only I could bottle and sell my child’s . . .”

a. optimism.
b. persistence.
c. kindness.
d. confidence.

2. Your son keeps you up until 2 a.m. the night before his school’s science fair because:

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