Have Things Gotten a Little Negative at Your House?

In August, my family will start its sixth month of quarantine. Grocery shopping has become a task I look forward to because it is the one thing that brings new life through the solid oak entry door. I have the sacks of bounty delivered. We sanitize the counters and hands after putting away what will become my entertainment.  Mask, wrap-around glasses sit on top of a stool right next to the door.  Shoes stacked under the stool and a designated quarantine area for the daily mail complete the additions to our decor.  I think I have gained at least five pounds and I’m feeling a bit squishy.  So, a stationary bicycle has also been added to the backyard.

We started out like a pack of bears huddled in our den while we kept each other safe and warm.  But as the weeks became months and the forecast became many more months to come of COVID-19, being close turned into being too close.  I noticed more infighting from extended family and the two plus one at home seemed to make picking on each other a sport.

Last week I had had enough of all the negativity.  So, I created the Negative-Nelly or Negative-Ned game.  I pulled three retired plastic cream cheese containers out of the bottom kitchen drawer, grabbed a Sharpie from a pencil cup in my nearby office, and then wrote my name on one, my husband’s and son’s name on the other two.  With scissors, I cut a slot in the top of each. Then I announce the rules of the game,

“Each time someone says something negative to another, they get a ticket dropped into their container.  At the end of each week, the person with the most offences has to perform a favor for the other two.  For example, my car sits and collects dirt now days, so I may ask for a car wash.”

It started out as a joke, but those three little containers performed magic in my house.  The negativity disappeared.

In a time like now where we have so many stresses and at the same time are pushed together in spaces designed for basic shelter, perhaps a little reminder (in a non-threatening way) can help us all remember to be kind to one another.


Business is Kid Stuff – Naming your company and creating a logo.

So you have an idea and want to start your own business.   We learn in the book “Business is Kid Stuff” that business is like playing a sport.  In sports, every team has a name and a unique logo that helps their fans identify the team they claim as their own.  A logo also helps fans to align with who the company is and what it provides.  Note I said who the company is.  That was not a grammatical error.  Your company will create its own personality and human-like qualities.  Often companies take on the human qualities of its founder(s.)  This is important to understand because it will help you understand how to build and represent your company’s personality or brand.

For example,in the book Business is Kid Stuff, Mako and Melina are building a skateboard company.  Mako wants to call his company, “Kickflip.”  Let’s help Mako find out if the name Kickflip is available to use for his company.  Yes, I said available to use.  You are not legally allowed to use a name for your company that is already being used by another.  The first thing is to do a Google or other search engine search on the name Kickflip.  If we find any companies in the same market and region using that name, it is not available.  Or is it?  Mako said he wants to name his company Kickflip, but he will take the flip and turn it upside-down.  At this point, Mako made a unique mark that can be protected as his own.

Notice I used the words “unique mark.” The legal purpose of a “unique mark” is to help the consumer find what they are looking for.  If two companies (or more) are using the same exact mark, it will confuse the consumer.  Such confusion can lead to the customer being taken advantage of or cause an unfair perception of what hey are purchasing.  And when a new company copies an existing mark, they are stealing all the name recognition for which the company has spend money to create.  Thus, if you get caught using a name that already exists, you may find yourself in court and all the money you made can be granted to the owner of the company who first created the mark.

Let’s say we searched for Kickflip and did not find another company (in the same consumer good category) with that name.  Is it safe to use?  No.  Next, we will search the Secretary of State’s Business Entity database to see if anyone has registered a name like the one we want to create.  Or you can hire a company like LegalZoom to do the search and file the registration papers you will need to protect your name.

What about logos?
In our book “Business is Kid Stuff,”  the kids make their own logos.  Each logo incorporates the colors that will represent the company (just like teams have their own colors), a stylized font and maybe even a character or symbol.  Take a look at the logo ideas below or do a Google search for the logos of your favorite companies to help you get your creative thinking warmed up.

I’ve working in marketing for many companies in the past and teach this subject at the university level.  I have a few suggestions to pass on:

  • Keep your logo simple.
  • Do not use too many colors
  • Make sure your logo looks good in many different sizes.
  • Make a black and white version for when printing in color is not possible.
  • Get opinions from others–do they see and feel what you want others to see and feel?

Of the logos above, Mako’s Kickflip logo fits all the criteria: it is simple, there are only two colors used, because it is simple it will look good in many different sizes, the logo will look good in black and white, and it expresses an idea or feeling skateboarders will understand so it will be memorable.

If you follow these simple instructions, at any age, you too can create a name and a winning logo for your company.

—Ellen M. Callen

Ellen is the founder, Via E, Inc.  She has been an Instructor at the University of California, Irvine since 2004 and most recently was awarded the Distinguished Instructor Award, University California, Irvine, Division of Continuing Education in 2019.  Ellen is the author of 3 college-level textbooks and 12 children’s books.  In addition she has earned three product design awards. Although she has held several senior positions in both international and domestic companies, Ellen’s passion is best fulfilled sharing knowledge and, hopefully, inspiring other to pursue their dreams.

Melina Akemi™ Dollfriend® Activity – Japanese Kanzashi Flowers

Making Japanese kanzashi flowers are a wonderful craft for all ages.  I suggest you first use squares of paper, two inch by two inch (has to be perfect square.)  When you move on to fabric, make sure you use heavy starch on the fabric or ribbon.  This will help hold the fabric in the folding process.  When you start to make small flowers, use tweezers to help you hold the fabric as you move from stage to stage of the folding.  Post your Kanzashi on the Facebook page for all to see!  Facebook.ViaE.Dollfriends.

Via E Melina Akemi Dollfriend

Via E Melina Akemi Dollfriend

Don’t Forget Who You Are

I think every parent goes through a period of time where our children find themselves in situations that rattle their self confidence.  Perhaps it is a group of mean kids at school, maybe a teacher that has lost his/her compassion for those they teach, or maybe a sport or other competitive activity has turned from healthy life lessons to a political mess of adult goals and favoritism.  Regardless, we parents often feel inadequate to help ease the pain of such situations and powerless to protect those that are so dear to our hearts because, in fact, life is not always fair.

I’m in one of those situation now.  With four children, this is not the first time I’ve faced the situation and, I suppose, it will not be the last time either.  But I wanted to blog about the one thing we can do to help our children, no matter how old they are or become. Confidence is a very important life tool.  It becomes a shield to protect from life’s challenges and injustice.  We can’t stop the world from presenting difficult times or situations that feel unfair, but we can build and prop-up our children’s confidence.

Remember to tell your children how proud you are of them, tell them they are strong, smart, talented.  Find their strengths and give them opportunities to be successful so they can build their identity in confidence.  And when life gets hard and people are telling your child they are not good enough…remind your child of their talents, successes, intelligence.  Teach your children sometimes things just don’t fit together and that is O.K.  Give your children the power to remove themselves from situations that are abusive and everyday they walk out your front door to face the world tell them, “Don’t Forget Who You Are.”

Because who you are is good enough even when others say less.

From one parent to another,


A Fashion Designer in the Making

Dollfriend Sewing, Via E, Meet Zaleeya, a budding Fashion Designer.  Many dreams and careers are launched during the tender ages of youth.  It is then when we often know ourselves the best–before the world tells us what we are supposed to become.  I met Zaleeya at a Girl Scout event where she was being recognized for her accomplishments in math and science.  Zaleeya’s goal is to someday become a Fashion Designer.  I thought to myself, why not now?  So, I asked Zaleeya to create a fashion for our Tatiana Dollfriend®.  Happily, she was as excited to take on the project as I was to ask her to do so.

I put forth no guidelines or requests, the design was to be just Zaleeya and her own creativity.

FIRST:  Zaleeya sketched many different design ideas and then selected her favorite design.

NEXT, she was off to the local fabric store to find the materials needed to create her vision.

THEN having the design and the fabric, it was time to get busy making the pattern and fitting the design for Tatiana.  Zaleeya spent many days with her sewing teacher, measuring, cutting, sewing, and adjusting until she came up with her finished product.

Via E Sewing, Dollfriend Sewing, Tatiana Dollfriend

A, little bit of sparkle, coordinating accent rose belt with three flower accents to pull together the perfect pallet of color.  Part of being a Fashion Designer is knowing how to create fashions that will make the person wearing the outfit look their best.  I think we would all agree Zaleeya has a promising Fashion Design Career in her future!Via E Sewing, Dollfriend Sewing, Tatiana Dollfriend

Be a Dollfriend® Fashion Designer like Zaleeya.  Make your own patterns or find patterns for Dollfriends at https://via-e.com/collections/sewing-patterns-and-activities.

Thank you Zaleeya!

Kewanee’s Potawatomi Pucker-toe Moccasin Pattern

Let’s make authentic Potawatomi pucker-toe moccasins for Kewanee.  Use this pattern and follow the instructions.  If you get stuck, email Ellen@Via-E.com and yell for help!

Can Playing More Be The Answer?

Parenting is tough.  There is so much to do!  To complicate things, entertainment has become almost anti-family values.  Do you know the background of those who are creating your child’s playthings and entertainment?  How much do they know about childhood development?  Do they even think past just selling a toy?  Via E does.  My goal is to help by providing a play culture and play things that are engineered to follow the latest science of child development and learning so you can rest assured.  Here is a list of courses I have completed or are in process (this list will continue to expand over time):

  • Child Growth and Development
  • Teaching Foundations and Frameworks for History and Social Science
  • Child Guidance and Communication
  • Early Care and Education Administration
  • Foundations and Frameworks for Language and Literature
  • Child Family and Community
  • Teaching Language and Literacy
  • Teaching in a Diverse Society
  • Infant and Toddler Development
  • School Age Before and After School Programs
  • Personnel and Leadership in Early Childhood Education
  • Principals and Practices of Teaching Young Children
  • Math and Science for Young Children

Supporting research and books:

  • Mind in the Making – The seven essential life skills every child needs by Ellen Galinsky
  • The Owner’s Manual for The Brain – Everyday applications from mind-brain research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D.

We have a whole lot of fun playing, but our play has a purpose of building strong minds and values.  The more play, the more learning…so let’s Play More!

Play More = Higher Intelligence

Playing makes children smarter.
In fact, playing increases intelligence in adults too.  Sounds like a marketing pitch, right?  Wrong.  I have spent over seven years investigating this premise and I can’t find any data to debunk this claim.  Actually, the more I research the better I understand the why of this claim.  The crazy thing is our schools are decreasing the amount of free play in their curriculum in the United States.  No doubt this is the result of the well-meaning politicians who know not what they do.  The subsequent increase of homework for all ages is almost at epic levels.  Well my friends, here is a bit of homework that will increase your child’s intelligence and at the same time, decrease stress at home…Play More.

Tinkering:  Time Magazine reports, “Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth.”[1]

Free Play: “The average bright child seems to spend about 45 to 50 minutes a day more in play than the average dull child. In mental recreation (“picture shows; playing checkers; cook and similar games; playing the piano or other instruments, etc.”) the average bright child spends an hour more than the average dull child.” Writes Boynton and Ford, in The Journal of Applied Psychology back in June of 1933![2]

Sports: There are scores of reports that show a positive correlation between participation in sports and academic improvement.

Doll Play:  Another scholarly paper writes, “Pretend play might be a zone of proximal development, an activity in which children operate at a cognitive level higher than they operate at in nonpretense situations. “[3]

I like to keep my posts short and to the point. But if you wish to read on, here is a great article found at Parenting Science: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html.

My goal for Via E is to provide an educational experience that is cloaked in fun.  Since play is a natural part of learning, we have science on our side.  So, come on…let’s Play More!

Always yours, Ellen


Ellen Callen, B.S., M.B.A., Instructor at the University of California, Irvine, Division of Continuing Education, researcher of Child Development and Early Learning, is the founder of Via E, Inc. Via E’s, mission is to develop and deliver wholesome play products and integrate methods to increase cognitive and creative abilities in the young and young at heart–and have a lot of fun doing it.

[1] http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/19/in-praise-of-tinkering-2/

[2] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/17/3/294/

[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1993.tb02914.x/full

The Freedom to Play

When my grandson was about a year old, I introduced him to an Alexis to see what his reaction would be.  I don’t know why I was surprised when he took to her right away.  He sat her on his push toys and pushed Alexis around the room, picking her up when she fell and promptly seating her back to continue the ride.  He would study her face and poke at her eyes and then he moved on to the next toddler thing to do.  So, I decided I should dress this Alexis in more appropriate “boy wear” and braided her hair so she would be read for tough love.

My grandson, now about 2 ½ years old, moved away last year as my daughter received a great job offer in Virginia.  She keeps me up to date and we Skype so I can still talk to my grandson.  This week my daughter sent me this picture. She said that my grandson, Gunnar, pulled Alexis out of the bottom of his toy box and took careful effort to sit her up to watch him play with his cars.  I’d like to think Alexis reminds him of his grandma, but most of all I love the story because it reflects a world where parents are more open to gender-neutral play.  My grandson also plays with a 12” action figure, but neither are anything more than just Gunnar having the freedom to play and explore.

In a Psychology Today post on their website, Peter Gray Ph.D. wrote, “Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. It is what one wants to do as opposed to what one is obliged to do. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty. Play is not always accompanied by smiles and laughter, nor are smiles and laughter always signs of play; but play is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.” Players are free agents, not pawns in someone else’s game.”[1]

Bravo Dr. Gray!  Here’s to the freedom to play and a wish that you may…Play more.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200811/the-value-play-i-the-definition-play-gives-insights

Tell a friend about Elena

I’ve made a flyer to help spread the news about Elena.  Please print or copy it to an email and use it to tell a friend about Elena so we can spread the word that we have something special at Via E.  Your help is greatly appreciated!!

(To print, copy and paste into Microsoft Word Doc or other application.  To copy, right click on your mouse and then select copy.)