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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Suzuki Pathway: Books 1-10 General Overview

This next year I want to spend several blog posts discussing in detail the various books contained in the Suzuki violin method. I think it would be helpful to preface individual book discussion in favor of a general look at the Suzuki violin method books 1-10.

I think of the books as grouped in beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels:
  • Beginning: books 1-3
  • Intermediate: books 4-6
  • Advanced: books 7-10
Within each of these groups, I think the books represent a beginning, intermediate, and advanced level as well. For example:
  • Beginning: books 1-3:
    • Beginning: book 1
    • Intermediate: book 2
    • Advanced: book 3
  • Intermediate: books 4-6:
    • Beginning: book 4
    • Intermediate: book 5
    • Advanced: book 6
  • Advanced: books 7-10:
    • Beginning: book 7
    • Intermediate: book 8
    • Advanced: books 9 and 10
So within each basic category, there are subcategories. Within each of these subcategories are additional "sub"-subcategories. For now, for general discussion purposes, let us consider the basic ingredients of each book. I will leave for a later discussion the actual information about how to mix the various ingredients in the proper way to create a satisfactory finished product.

For the purpose of this general and brief discussion about the various books, I will consider the general left hand and right hand skills. What will not be included is a discussion about how to specifically teach the concepts contained in each book.

Book 1:
  • Left hand skills include the introduction of 3 basic finger patterns, which encourage the left hand fingers to stretch between each finger within the basic hand framework of a perfect fourth.
  • The right hand skills include staccato, legato string crossings, good contact point, pizzicato, slurs, hooked bowing.
Book 2:
  • Left hand skills include the introduction of some more finger patterns which encourage the left hand to "unfurl" and lengthen, and the Bb scale pattern, the extended fourth finger, and the wider stretch between the first and second fingers.
  • The right hand skills include more complex use of the up bow staccato (2- to 4-note staccato groupings), string crossings at a quicker tempo, and hooked bowing (dotted eighth and 16th note rhythms).
Book 3:
  • Left hand skills continue to widen the stretch between the first and second fingers, the Bb finger pattern, the cross-the-string pattern (Minuet) when the fingers consider playing combinations as double stops, third position, and the cementing of the "yellow" finger pattern, where the third finger is sharpened and placed next to the pinkie.
  • Right hand skills include more complex slurs, including string crossings on a slur, and more complex use of the up bow staccato and string crossings; the introduction of double stop execution
Book 4:
  • Left hand skills mix and match all the finger patterns learned in the previous books, plus double stops (Seitz 3) and 6/8 meter. In addition, the student uses second and third positions (Vivaldi concertos) and 4th position harmonics, along with "cross" fingerings, which are those fingerings that accommodate augmented or diminished fifths across the string. In addition, the student extends the "unfurling" of the hand to reach the interval of an augmented fourth. The final repertoire piece, Bach's double violin concerto, combines everything learned to date, by combining every possible finger pattern, upper positions (1st, 2nd, 3rd), and bowing complexities.
  • Right hand skills include more complex string crossings and slurs and playing of harmonics and double stops. The student learns how to apply equal pressure between up and down bows to accomplish a good articulation.
Note: The Suzuki community has embarked on a campaign to revise the Suzuki books to memorialize several teaching techniques that have been in play for many years now. The Suzuki books are designed to be a growing, breathing animal, so it should not surprise us that the books will continue to meet this growth demand. I have not addressed the particular changes of each book in my discussion here. I am still learning how to incorporate the new changes within the framework of how I have been teaching the Suzuki material to date.

Book 5:
  • Left hand skills include 4th and fifth position skills and more familiarity with second and third positions. The book builds the knowledge of the fingerboard "across" the strings rather than up and down a string, as in earlier books. The book allows the discussion of fingering choices and also introduces the time signature of 3/8. The student learns how to play successfully in the key of G minor.
  • Right hand skills include more complex string crossings in lower positions as well as higher positions. The student learns how to perform "off the string" bowing techniques, such as spiccato and flying staccato, and perfects the collé stroke.
Somewhere along the way, students learn the vibrato skill and how to read music. I have discussed both of these topics in earlier posts as well a teacher's need to develop a system for incorporating such new skills as these:

http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com/2011/06/johnny-cant-read.html (post about reading)
    From this point on, I would like to be more general in my discussion about the books. At this point, the student is probably exposed to a lot of repertoire that is not contained in the Suzuki books. The student may be a member of a youth or school orchestra program or responsible for preparing special repertoire or ensembles for school assignments or regional contests. The student may be a member of a church or other ensemble outside of school or be asked to perform as a soloist at community events. The student is therefore learning a lot of music that is not contained in the Suzuki books.

    Book 6 is one of my favorite books because I use it to teach a full development of tone as a right hand skill, and it is a chance for the student to develop ease in playing in various positions within a phrase as part of the left hand skills. The pieces present many varied bowings within each piece, and the repertoire becomes complex in its demands for memory and advanced musical forms.

    Book 7 really advances students to another level by the middle of the book and the big Bach A minor concerto. Dr. Suzuki set up the concerto learning by inserting the Handel Sonata No. 1 in A major, which is similar in many respects on a simpler scale to the Bach concerto. The Bach concerto provides an in-depth study in articulation clarity (movement 1), tonal colors in phrasing and bowing (movement 2), and bariolage and 9/8 bowing phrase complexities (movement 3). In addition, the concerto draws increased focus and concentration from the student in terms of memory and structure. The rest of the book provides the student with additional opportunities to learn alternatives to the Bach bowing of movement 1. The last Corelli piece is an excellent pinkie development tool.

    Book 8 develops the students' facility to trill and ornament. There are even more complex musical forms for the student to exercise memory and concentration skills, and there are ever increasing string crossings and double stop opportunities. I enjoy using book 8 repertoire pieces in an advanced discussion of musicality and phrasing. By advanced discussion, I mean the kind of discussion I would have with a performance major at the university or conservatory level. This is very advanced repertoire, and by this point in a student's musical education, they are well versed in advanced musical concepts of phrasing and execution, so I go to that place in our discussions, no matter the student's age.

    I lump books 9 and 10 together in my mind because they are the end of the Suzuki line and I sometimes think that we can teach these books interchangeably, although I do them in order. Mozart is as important to me as a teacher and performer as Bach is. The music in these two books is quite advanced in terms of right and left hand skills, phrasing, musicality, and musical forms. We can study these pieces over and over and still come up with new ideas, new fingerings, and new expressions. I use these books to enthuse my students with the excitement that comes from true music making on a professional level. These books represent creativity at its highest level. Every student is unique. Every student presents with unique learning issues and individual ideas. Every time I teach these pieces, I learn something new about the student and about myself and my approach to music. If I were to keep a record of the comments I write in my students' music in books 9 and 10, I would enjoy re-living my own growth as a musician and a teacher.

    Although many people may think that the Suzuki Method is the only way to create true artists, I will have to point out that the research I have read seems to indicate that the number of "professional" or "concert artists" that come from the Suzuki Method seems to equal that which comes from the more traditional approach. In other words, the same number of students go on to become professional musicians on some level, no matter what their origin or learning. But that does not matter to me. That is not my purpose. I have always known my purpose as a teacher since the moment I first read Dr. Suzuki's book "Nurtured by Love." I want to teach students to raise them to be productive citizens in the world and not only to create concert artists, although teaching students to love their culture and musical heritage and to be able to express emotions and creativity on an advanced level is extremely important to me as well. To this end, I whole-heartedly agree with Dr. Suzuki's philosophy.

    I do not always retain a student who makes it through all 10 of the Suzuki books, although I have had several. It is always a joy to journey with such a student who has made it his or her goal to complete all the Suzuki books by high school graduation. Students do develop other life interests and focus on other life goals outside of music. My having exposed my students to learning and life lessons gained through the disciplined study of music as a creative art gives me satisfaction that I have touched their innermost souls and hearts. I know that each child I have taught will retain in their spirit and hearts the love that their parents and I have shown them through our teaching, our sharing, and our learning together.

    That is the Suzuki Pathway.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Monday Morning Check In: Anything is Possible

    We are in the home stretch now. Today is the last Monday of the year 2011. Next Monday will be the beginning of an entirely new year. We have today and five more days to close the book on 2011 and begin a new book for 2012.

    To finish our discussion about “Your Best Year Yet!” by Jinny S. Ditzler, we have a few more questions to consider briefly:

    What are my personal values?

    This question seeks to uncover the driving force behind the things that we do. If we are not tuned in to what is our hidden unconscious drive, we are unlikely to feel very satisfied once we have achieved our stated objective. We need to be aware of what we are really trying to achieve and tap into the motivation that this drive will produce in us.

    I hope you have an opportunity to read Jinny Ditzler’s book and complete her exercises. Jinny lays out a good discussion about some of the different life pursuit paradigms we might be unconsciously following and how limiting or empowering our life pursuit paradigm choice might be.

    What roles do I play in my life?

    This question provides several benefits:
    • It provides direction.
    • It places your values at the center of your life.
    • It makes it natural to focus on how to share your gifts.
    • It generates balance in your life.
    • It increases your natural motivation.

    Count the number of roles that you play, and consider whether some of them could be grouped together in focus. Jinny suggests limiting our list of roles to no more than seven or eight.

    Which role is my major focus for the next year?

    To help us determine the answer to this question, Jinny provides us with a Whole Life Review Chart. We build this review chart to plot our performance rating for each of the roles we perform in our lives. Once we connect the dots, we can see where we may be out of balance and in need of more focus. I highly recommend this visual performance and balance check.

    What are my goals for each role?

    Jinny’s chapter about setting goals will guide you to create powerful goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, and appropriate.

    What are my top ten goals for the next year?

    Jinny shows us how to write out our best year plan, how to prioritize our list of goals, and then how to summarize the four principal parts of the “Best Year Yet Plan.” Our final one page document -- our best year plan -- will include the guidelines we created to advise us along the way, the new paradigm we framed to empower our thinking, the major focus we identified to give us direction, and the top ten goals we shaped to give us achievable possibility.

    How can I make sure I achieve my top ten goals?

    Jinny provides suggestions and questions that will encourage our success, such as:
    • Keep the plan visible (how can I keep my awareness high?)
    • Be aware of external factors (what’s the next step?)
    • Find and use a support system (who can provide the support I need?)
    • Keep focused on the paradigm that will lead to success (does the way I see the problem lead to success?)

    One day I was on an early morning run about 5:30 am before the sun came up. My running headlamp brightened a small path in the road before me. The sound of my breathing was my sole company. I heard a slight rustling in the bushes behind the wire fence that lined the road about 5 feet ahead of me. Startled, I stopped short and trained my lamp in the direction of the noise. There stood a brilliant white unicorn not much taller than I. I held my breath as I took in the delicate sight before me. A small white pony gazed back at me, but for a breathless few seconds, anything was possible.

    I urge you to create that vision where anything is possible, because we need this attitude in order to create the kind of life that we want to live. For a few brief seconds, hold your breath and visualize the unimaginable, the impossible, and the wonderful. Let the image soak in to your very core. Drink it in and let it fill you up. Allow yourself to experience the joy of the vision that you have created in your own mind. Let the image strengthen your faith and your belief that anything is indeed possible.

    Now go out there and get to work. I want to hear from you at the end of 2012 when you write to tell me how proud you are of your created life and how you shared your gifts to accomplish much in the world.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Quick Teaching Tip: Tunnel Fingers

    When shaping the student's left hand, how can we help him or her form a "tunnel" between the fingers and the top of the fingerboard? There are several possibilities.

    If the student's hand is large enough to accommodate this, I place a roll of life savers lengthwise along the D and A strings and ask the student to curve the fingers around the roll for a count of 20 or longer. If the student's hand is a little smaller, breath mint rolls may be tinier. I have also used a large or thicker "children-sized" pencil, sometimes referred to as a "Kindergarten pencil."

    For young children, I make a caterpillar out of a colorful pipe cleaner. I take the pipe cleaner and wrap it like a coil in a spiral fashion around a pencil. I remove the coil and tuck the sharp ends inside the coil so the points do not stick a student. Then I use a black marker to draw two eyes on one end (or you can glue two craft eyes instead). The parent and I use this caterpillar for all sorts of things besides checking for "tunnel" fingers. We also use it to see if the student has left a "wormhole" between the neck and the left hand web between the thumb and index finger. We wiggle the caterpillar into the little hole.

    There are many ways to accomplish this. Look around and see what might be useful.

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Quick Practice Tip: Factorial Repetitions

    Here is a quick tip for assigning a student a certain number of repetitions for a tricky spot to be worked. It is called "factorials." Your students will enjoy this.

    If you remember your math lessons from high school, you may remember the factorial expression "10!" and what it refers to. No? Well, many of us have stopped using those math lessons learned many years ago, and now that calculators are so prevalent, many of us may not even remember some of our basic math skills. One of my students did an internship with NASA this summer, and he found that he was rusty with his basic math skill of multiplication. Interesting. When we discussed how that could be, because he is a very, very bright student, he thought it was probably due to his not having to remember the multiplication tables because he used his calculator exclusively.

    I digress. Back to the discussion about factorials. The expression "10!" means that you multiple 10 by each consecutive number lower:

    10! = 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1

    Now in the math world, the expression 10! would equal 3,628,800. But for my teaching purposes, I use the factorial expression in a different way, because I doubt that my student (or his or her parent) would be willing to repeat something over 3.5 million times. Instead I ask my student to repeat a particular skill or passage 10!, which means:

    day 1: play the passage 10 times
    day 2: play the passage 9 times
    day 3: play the passage 8 times
    day 4: play the passage 7 times
    et cetera until
    day 10: play the passage 1 time

    So in ten days the student will do a "factorial" of 10! and decrease the number of repetitions beginning with 10 times and ending with just one repetition. In sum total, the student will have done 55 repetitions. My student and his or her parent can handle that number.

    If I asked my student to repeat something 55 times, I doubt that my student would have completed that assignment completely. By couching my instruction as a factorial, my student has a plan to follow. The assignment also gives motivation, because the incentive is that the practice assignment decreases with each day.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    How to Determine What Size Violin for your Child

    The beauty of learning to play the violin is that the instrument comes in many different sizes. There is practically a size for every child! Granted, the 1/64 size violin is probably more suited to being bronzed and hung from the rear view mirror of a car like a child's first baby shoes. For a very small or very young child who is taking his or her first violin lessons, this tiny violin is a treasured possession to the child and a frequent reminder to the child's parent of the treasured gift that music lessons will give to the parent and the child.

    How does a teacher or parent size the child to determine which violin size will best suit the child?

    I recommend that parents seek the advice of the child's teacher first and foremost before making any purchase or rental decision. The teacher may have a preferred method of sizing the child, as I do, and the teacher would therefore appreciate that the parent seeks direction from the teacher. There are many different ways to determine a child's violin size, and I have seen some tools on the market that are designed to help the sizing process. I do not use these tools, and I do not use special fingerboard tapes that have the finger spots already marked on them. My reason is very simple. All violins sizes vary.

    Just because a violin bears a label that it is a ¼-size violin does not mean that the violin would fit the typical ¼-size violin student adequately. There are variations within the general size labels. There are "bigger" and "smaller" ¼-size violins. A child may do very well with a smaller ¼-size but have a great deal of difficulty playing well with a larger ¼-size violin. For this reason, I ask my parents to follow my "system" of sizing the child. I demonstrate my instrument sizing method to the parent in the studio during the child's lesson or at a group class when there are many violin sizes available to try. If the parent goes to the violin shop and I cannot be there (which is usually the case since we live in a rural area about an hour's drive from the violin shops), I know that I have been careful to instruct the parent in my preferred method of sizing the child. I have also made sure that the violin shop understands exactly how I wish my students to be measured for a violin sizing.

    When I place the violin under the child's chin and stretch out the child's violin arm as far straight out as it will go, I would like the center of the violin's scroll to reach the child's wrist. If the violin is a little bit too big, then I opt for a smaller size. The child should not have to "grow into" a violin size. That "grow into" philosophy might work well for clothing sizes, but it does not work for violin sizing. If a child is asked to play for a time on an instrument that is too big, the child will develop some very bad posture habits, such as turning the violin elbow outward instead of under the violin, or tilting the head to the right as if to see "around" the violin. I have one such student now who had been playing on a violin that was too large for over a year. Now that he has come to me, and time has dutifully passed, we are still working two years later on correcting the incorrect posture alignment problems that arose during the "too large" phase.

    After checking that the violin and arm length are a good fit, I then hold the violin flat across the student's upper chest and take a look at how the instrument fits with the shoulders. Ideally the instrument should appear as if it "fits" between the shoulders rather than looking as if the instrument dwarfs the child. Some children are from sturdier, stockier family designs, like rugby or defensive football linemen in the making. In these cases, sometimes a smaller instrument would be easier for the child to maneuver his or her muscles around. Measuring the violin across the shoulders would reveal this possibility if it exists.

    Other Problems

    Tall Students. A very, very tall student may pose an additional sizing problem because the student’s neck may be rather long. In this case, the student may have to scrunch the shoulder up and squeeze the chin down to get a good "fit" in the violin hold. This is quite uncomfortable for the student and may lead to neck and other muscle problems down the road. The first remedy this student might try is to use a taller shoulder rest. The problem is that by building up underneath the violin to fill in the empty space, we are also raising the height level of the violin. A violin that is too high in relation to the rest of the body will also cause muscle problems and unwanted muscle tension.

    The better solution is to find a way to build up the violin to the normal specification underneath and then to provide the student with a way to fill up the empty space from the top of the instrument. We might try a higher chin rest, or in the case of one student I knew years ago, use something under the chin rest to raise the chin rest height in relation to the instrument.

    Short or Stocky Students.

    Irregular Finger Length. Occasionally I run into a student whose fingers seem to be irregular in length. For instance the pinkie finger may be a tad shorter in length with regard to the other fingers or one of the other fingers is longer than is typical. There is not much that a teacher can do to accommodate the unusual sizing in these cases except to encourage the student to find an instrument size that works best for the student.

    Inconsistent Growth. A growing student will not grow evenly all around. The student may gain a quarter inch on one side and an eighth inch on the other. The student’s neck may lengthen, but the student’s body may stay the same. I like to use the wedge sponges as shoulder rests to accommodate growing students. The sponges come in six sizes, and I can easily switch from one size to another in a lesson. If a student's violin hold tends to tip the violin “upward,” I try a larger size sponge. Sometimes a small child may be playing on a size 6 wedge sponge (the largest size!) while playing on a ¼-size violin. When a student moves up to the next larger size, we might try a smaller sponge to accommodate the increased instrument width between the shoulder and the chin.

    My sizing method may not be the same as your method. I recognize that there are many ways to do this. This is my preferred method. Keep in mind that there may be other factors that will impact a sizing decision, such as the child’s body size overall, the child's hand size, irregular finger length, and inconsistent growth. My key points are these:
    • Develop a sizing method for your studio that produces the type of results that work for you.
    • Make sure that your instrument provider or dealer understands your method of sizing your students. In other words, make sure that you and your shop owner are “on the same page” when it comes to sizing your students.
    • Make sure the parent takes the child to the violin shop in order to be there for the proper sizing process.
    • Do not allow your students to choose instruments that are too big. Students will not “grow into” the correct size without other unnecessary posture problems that may be difficult to correct later.
    • Follow your teacher’s advice about sizing!

    Please feel free to share your particular method for determining what size instrument a student needs.

    Monday Morning Check In: Limits and Complaints

    This article was updated on December 21, 2016.

    When we cast a look back at our lives up to this point in time, we can see that there are goals and plans that we did not accomplish. As we map out a new plan for the upcoming new year, we would do well to consider why we have not succeeded. This thought process brings us to question four in Jinny Ditzler's "Best Year Yet!" program: "how do I limit myself and how can I stop?"

    In order to have a best year in the coming new year, we need to discover how we limit ourselves and own up to the responsibility for our lives turning out just the way we planned them, thought about them, created them. What are our reasons for not succeeding?

    Here are Jinny Ditzler's basic questions to consider:
    • How do I limit myself?
    • What has it cost me to do so?
    • How have my limits benefited me?
    • Am I willing to stop limiting myself?
    When we examine ourselves within the framework of the above questions, we uncover the true focus that guides us to the kind of life results we get. But, instead of accepting a limiting paradigm, we can create and focus on an empowering paradigm. Here are Jinny Ditzler's four steps to shift a paradigm:
    • Discover your limiting paradigm.
    • List your limiting thoughts, feelings, and perceived benefits.
    • Create a new empowering paradigm.
    • Shift to the new paradigm whenever you are haunted by your old, limiting one.
    One of the trickiest parts to make a paradigm shift in thinking is to find ways to remind yourself whenever you slip from the new way of thinking to the old way. Let me share one technique with you -- the complaint-free world campaign.

    Started by Will Bowen in 2006, his complaint-free idea has reached possibly 6 million people or more from 106 countries. Will Bowen's idea was to wear a purple bracelet on one arm. Any time he caught himself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, he would switch the bracelet to the other arm and renew his commitment to focus on the positive instead. The goal is to go at least 21 consecutive days (which could take 4 months to complete!), and ideally make this a new life habit. It counts if you speak it, but there is no proscription if you think it.

    I bought some black hairbands so that I could wear the "bracelet" while performing with the symphony. I was prepared to move my bracelet back and forth several times during the day and was pleasantly surprised that I went one or two days without a single complaint. I have had to switch the bracelet to the other arm a few times over the course of the week, but I am surprised to find out that I did not complain as often as I thought I did.

    I think the reason for my success was due to the bracelet as a reminder. The bracelet helped me to remember not to complain. Another benefit to this enterprise was that I considered any negative aspect about anything in order to see whether it qualified as a complaint. In so doing, I discovered that there was a subtler aspect to negativity that I had not considered before. Now that I wear my bracelet, I have evaluated the words I say and sift them carefully before I speak them to be sure that they contain nothing that others might consider a complaint. This is probably the greatest gift from wearing the bracelet: thinking before I speak.

    As you explore this week how you might be limiting your achievements, consider using the complaint-free technique I have outlined above. The bracelet can represent any aspect of change that you wish to make.

    If you are interested in exploring more of Jinny Ditzler's program for the best year yet, click on the book link below (affiliate link):

    Happy Practicing!

    ----- Paula -----

    © 2016 by Paula E. Bird

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Christmas Gifts

    It's that time of year when everyone is distracted by the glittering decorations and twinkling lights, the holiday music, and the scent of special baked goods and favorite recipes. Whatever holiday you celebrate during this time probably involves giving gifts. I thought it would be fun to talk about giving gifts.

    As a teacher, it is pretty tricky to budget for gifts for everyone of my students since I have quite a few. I usually provide everyone with a candy cane or other holiday treat and a small Christmas tree ornament. Even those students who do not celebrate the same holiday as I do still opt to select a decorative ornament, such as a snowman, One year I gave miniature photo albums. During the year I collect items that I keep in a "prize box." There is something for students of all ages. During the year, the students earn opportunities to pick something from the prize box. This year, everyone gets to pick something from the prize box during this holiday season.

    As a parent, I suggest that there are several things you might consider as gifts for your child. Ask your child's teacher to suggest recordings. My students love to get recordings by Joshua Bell, Rachel Barton Pine, or Hilary Hahn, but there are many other possible recordings that your student may enjoy. I particularly enjoy those CDs with a theme, such as "Mozart for Meditation" or "Beethoven for Book Lovers." There are many such theme CDs available, and your child's teacher may have many others to suggest.

    You child's teacher might also recommend particular pieces of music that the child might need. These are usually more comprehensive collections of music that an older student might need, such as the complete Bach sonatas and partitas or the Galamian scale book series. For younger students, there are several fiddle,  popular, or religious music solo books that come with CDs for listening.

    Grandparents also like to get in on the act of gift giving. Do not overlook the student's need for instrument supplies: new strings, rosin, metronome, tuner, etc. I recall one student whose uncle gave him the gift of new Evah Pirazzi strings, which are expensive. The student really appreciated this gift!

    As a teacher, I do not expect gifts from my students, but I receive them nonetheless. Here are some of my favorites:

    • Picture frames with a picture of the child inside
    • School picture of the child
    • Large picture frame with photos of the child's group class
    • Starbucks gift card (yum!)
    • Target gift card (I spend hours thinking about how to use this!)
    • Home baked goodies
    • Hand lotion and soaps
    • Special coffee or tea mugs
    • Christmas ornaments (especially the handmade kind)
    • Homemade soap mix (just add water!)
    • Homemade cookie mix (just add water!)
    I especially enjoy the homemade gifts. One year I made up little candy treat bags and wrapped them inside empty toilet paper rolls. Then I wrapped the rolls up to look like firecrackers. Another year I made homemade bubble bath. Another year I made up special practice bags filled with counters, colored chip or plastic animal counters, dice, and instructions for several practice repetition games.

    I hope these are helpful ideas for the holiday season.