Monday, January 10, 2022

The Simple Joys of a Plastic Bowl

The Simple Joys of a Plastic Bowl
A lot has changed in my household over the last few months. First, I became guardian to my 10 year old tutoring student (JJ), then foster mom to his one year old brother (IK). Then, we moved to a larger apartment to accommodate us all. And, my own child shed their birth name -- an association with an abusive father that they no longer wished to have -- and chose a new name (EB). Meanwhile, the pandemic is still raging globally and most of us are still spending huge amounts of time at home. 

The one year old has been with us for almost four months now, and it's been a delight to see him grow and change. 

As anyone who has raised children can attest, sometimes the best toys are the simplest, and that's certainly true with IK! A few months ago, most toys and objects bewildered him, but as time has gone on, he's progressed and gained skills and improved motor function. And, he's definitely developed favorites among his toys -- one of which is a simple, plastic bowl. 

We live in a world that saturates children's lives with technology practically from birth, not just in the gadgets and gear new parents are told they need, but in the toys promoted to parents and children: toys that beep and chirp and talk. Toys that ask kids to push buttons and make associations before their young brains are developmentally ready. Toys that whir and buzz and honk. Toys that drive parents mad with sound in an already noisy world.

So, when IK decided that a simple, yellow, plastic bowl from IKEA was his favorite toy, I was delighted! 

A plastic bowl is a great way for a child to learn about the world around them. They can:

  • Put things in and take them out
  • Hide things under an upside down bowl and then discover them again  
  • Wear the bowl as a hat
  • Put their feet or hands (or both) in and take them out
  • Turn the bowl over and stack things on top (or try to stack things inside the bowl)
  • Bang on the bowl like it's a drum or use the bowl to bang on other things
  • Pick it up and drop it 
  • Chew on it
  • If they are walking, put things in the bowl and use it to carry objects.

And, there are probably many, many more ways a baby or toddler can use a bowl that I'm not even thinking of -- leave a comment and let me know how your kids have used bowls for play and exploration! 

This simple toy is also a great reminder for me to slow down my life, rely less on technology, and to find simpler ways of experiencing the world. Instead of spending an hour scrolling on social media or zoned out in front of TV, I could stretch and do some yoga, take a walk with EB, work on my container garden (our new apartment -- really, a townhouse -- has a HUGE patio), or simply get down on all fours and play with IK or get outside and kick a soccer ball with JJ. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

7 Ways to Use "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn

7 Ways to Use "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn
This year, in addition reading some children's books as part of my work on Mom2MomEd, I'm also participating in a children's literature reading challenge hosted by Mrs. Sarah Collier of Belle's Library and the Victorian Letter Writers Guild

My inaugural book for the Children's Literature Challenge is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. My child (now an adult) and I first received this book as a gift from my mother several years ago when my kiddo was still quite young. 
The Kissing Hand holds a special place in my heart because it was instrumental in helping us in adjusting to the emotional turmoil that comes with going back and forth between divorced parents (read about my suggested books for divorce HERE). Although the book is the story of a child going to school for the first time, it easily is applied to any form of temporary separation between parent and child.
Here are 7 ways to use The Kissing Hand beyond simply reading it with your child (or on your own):
1. Start a Kissing Hand tradition with your child
When my child was struggling with the emotional ups and downs of going back and forth between mom's house and dad's house, we started every exchange by kissing each other's palms and holding them to our cheeks. My child then could put palm to cheek during their time with their dad and thus would be reminded of my love. My kiddo told me several times that it helped them to feel better. 
2. Encourage your child to have a Kissing Hand tradition with family members that live far away, that they don't get to see often, or that are towards the end of life
Keeping in mind safety measures around viruses (Covid-19 as just the most worrisome as I write this), your child can start a Kissing Hand tradition with a loved one outside of the immediate family. If the loved one is too far away or it isn't safe to exchange palm kisses, you can kiss your child's palm and tell them, "Grandma gave me this kiss for you. You can put your palm to your cheek anytime you miss grandma or are thinking about her. Grandma loves you so much and would be so happy to know that you have her kiss in your palm."
3. Use The Kissing Hand anytime your child is nervous about trying something new or going somewhere new without you
In the book, the little racoon is nervous about starting school which prompts Mama to teach him about The Kissing Hand. Your child could use the same concept for any new situation or place -- a lesson or class, taking a flight without you (started flying alone at age 8!), starting up with a new babysitter, and so on. 
4. Teach your child to self-soothe anxiety, stress, or fear 

If your child tends towards anxiety or excessive stress or feels fearful at times, but maybe The Kissing Hand and holding a palm to a cheek isn't ideal, you could kiss your child's palm and have them kiss their other palm. 
Teach them to hold their palms together, interlacing their fingers, and pressing their palms into one another. They can then visualize their kiss and your kiss and the love between you. The side benefit is that the whole exercise of putting the palms together, interlacing the fingers, and then pressing against their own palms can help to reduce stress and anxiety. There are many other ways to do this that are similar -- tapping, pressure points, and so on -- but this is one that a child can do without anyone noticing. They can put their hands under their desk or simply in their lap and anyone that notices will just see a child sitting with their hands together. Your child will know that they have a little secret centered on your love for one another.
5. Introduce or practice early math literacy skills
If you flip through The Kissing Hand, you'll notice that it's filled with gorgeous illustrations, most of which have a multitude of different animals within the scenes. You can have your children count the animals on any given page or count all of the animals in the entire book or count a specific type of animal (how many frogs are there? bunnies? owls?). For kids that are already counting, you can begin to incorporate some basic addition: "If we have two frogs on this page and one frog on that page, how many frogs do we have?"
6. Play "I Spy"
You can turn many pages into the book into scavenger hunts: "Where is the frog? Can you find the red book? Where is the snail?"
7. Talk about similarities and differences
One of the subtle things I love about The Kissing Hand is that so many different animals are included in the illustrations. You could easily turn this into a discussion about how people have all kinds of differences. Some of the animals are little, or even tiny, while others are bigger. Some have feathers while others have fur or smooth skin. You could translate this into a discussion about diversity and inclusiveness or about bullying (after all, a lot of bullying happens due to someone being perceived as different in some way). 
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, is such a lovely and sweet book. I hope you'll pick up a copy for a child in your life.  

Grab a copy on Bookshop HERE.
Grab a copy from Amazon HERE.
Or, hit up your local library.

Links in this post may be affiliate in nature ~*~ making purchases through these links may result in a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How to use lunchbox notes when the kids are home every day

How to use lunchbox notes when the kids are home every day
As I write this, many kids across the country are still attending school virtually thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate them a little bit with lunchbox notes.

...even if the kids aren't eating out of lunchboxes.

Here are 10 ways to use lunchbox notes without a lunchbox or when the kids are eating at home every day:

1. Stick a note on the bathroom mirror for your kids to see while they brush their teeth in the morning.

2. Tuck a note next to their breakfast in the morning.

3. Tape a note to the milk carton in the fridge.

4. Stick a note on your child's computer keyboard.

5. Slip a note inside your child's pencil case.

6. If you do Elf on the Shelf or something similar, have your elf sprinkle notes around the house.

7. Attach a note to your child's alarm clock.

8. Stick a note inside a textbook or other books your child uses or reads regularly.

9. Pop a note on your child's pillow before bedtime.

10. Fold up the notes and put them all in a jar or other container and have them pull a note out every day.

Lunchbox notes are a great way for your younger kids to practice reading while also getting a quick, positive boost. For the older kids, it's an easy way to show your love at a time when they may want less obvious demonstrations of affection. Lunchbox notes are also a great way to connect silently when you are working and they are doing schoolwork.

How else have you been using lunchbox notes during the pandemic?

We have several sets of lunchbox notes in our Etsy shop and you can grab them HERE or click on each picture below for specific sets ~*~ each set is a PDF file that you can almost immediately download and print at home after purchase.

Don't forget to check out lunchbox notes for the adults and older kids in your life! Everyone likes to know they are being thought of!




Monday, December 14, 2020

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce
Please note, this is cross posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading.
Divorce isn't easy for anyone, but it can be especially hard for our children who may not have the maturity or vocabulary to understand or talk about what is happening in their family. It is hard for kids who may feel insecure, who may worry that they are unloved, who may think the divorce is their fault. 
It's obviously hard for parents too. 
And, the difficulties on both sides -- parent and child -- can make talking about divorce and making your and their way through it difficult. Books can help. 
My son was 4 years old when his father and I separated, and it was hard on all of us, but especially on JP. My priority was making sure that he understood that he was loved and wanted and that he had a safe way to explore and express his feelings. I spent a few hours at my local bookstore, looking at children's books about divorce and changing families and brought home the following books -- the first two are specifically for children and the third is for parents.
I will be honest, my son wasn't always in the mood to have these books read to him or to read them with me. Sometimes he was just mad and wanted to stomp around and be angry or to curl up in a ball and cry. But, I would calmly remind him, "Hey, I know you don't want to read these books right now, but I also know that when we do read them together, you always end up feeling better. You start smiling and relaxing and we can talk about what you're feeling and thinking about afterwards. It's OK if you just want to curl up in a ball while I read to you, or I can rub your back, or you can pace around and just listen."
Most of the time, he'd curl up next to me or in my lap or he'd want me to rub his back while we read, and almost every time, he would feel better -- and he'd recognize that too. We read each of these books dozens of times from the time he was 4 years old until about 7 years old, and they truly helped both of us to navigate difficult emotions and conversations.
If your family is going through divorce or separation or you know a family that is, I hope these books will help you or them too. 
My Family's Changing: A First Look at Family Break-Up by Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
This sweet book combines a story with discussion prompts. You can read it straight through as just a story, you can stop at each discussion prompt as you go, or you can stop at one discussion prompt and set the book aside while you talk things through.
The illustrations combined with the story and the prompts helped my son to feel like he was seen and heard amidst the grown up problems. The prompts are especially great if you aren't sure how to talk to your child about divorce or a family break up. 
There's an entire range of books in the series from topics such as family dynamics to bullying to inclusion and diversity and more. 
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Amazon HERE.
Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown
Like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce helps kids navigate the ups and downs and new normal of divorce and changing families. And, if the dinosaurs look somewhat familiar, it's because Marc Brown is also responsible for the Arthur books and cartoon series. Of all the books we had about divorce -- and we had many -- this is the one we read the most.
My son particularly liked this book over the others because of the dinosaurs. I think it was easier for him to view divorce through the lens of a non-human character and it was easier to approach a very real and difficult topic through very unreal/non-human characters. Children live in a magical space between reality and make believe, and they often use make believe to sort out their feelings about very real problems. Using dinosaurs in place of humans is a great way to help ease kids through such a difficult experience.
Also like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce is part of a larger series of books that tackle numerous topics. One of the most popular other books in the series is When Dinosaurs Die
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Amazon HERE.

Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
This book is for the adults in a child's life, but it will help you manage your own way through the divorce or separation in a way that supports your child. 
One of the reasons I love this book is that it doesn't assume anything is one parent or the others fault. In fact, it offers suggestions and analysis for self-reflection to look at your own behavior and thoughts as both a parent and a divorcing or separating adult and think, "Is this thought or behavior reasonable or am I the problem in this situation?" Ricci also gives many ideas and tips and thoughtful suggestions for how to talk to children and how to work with the other parent or guardian.

Ricci's book helped me to navigate disruptive issues with my son's father and to set firm boundaries during a difficult situation. It gave me a framework for sorting out what I needed as a half of a divorcing couple but also what my son needed and how to best show up for him. It helped me to see both sides of the divorce and gave me many excellent ideas and tips to consider when it came to the overall situation, as well as for specific situations and for sorting out a parenting and custody plan. The book gave me a vocabulary to use and a way to look at things more objectively. 

I truly believe Ricci's book helped me to navigate what was best for my son, even when that sometimes conflicted with what I wanted for myself.
There's also a kids version of Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, but I have not read it or reviewed it. Have you?
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Bookshop HERE and the kids version HERE.
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Amazon HERE and the kids version HERE.

There are many, many books about divorce for parents and children, but time and time again I am led to believe these three are the best. What books do you think divorcing or separating couples should read? How about kids stuck in the middle?


Please note: links may be affiliate in nature. Making purchases through these links may result in a small commission to us at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

REVIEW -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

As I write this, Marley Dias is 15 years old. When she was 10, she launched a book drive called #1000BlackGirlBooks in order to collect and donate books featuring Black girls as the protagonists. Her campaign aimed to raise 1,000 books, but it became hugely successful and garnered international attention and support, raising well over 12,000 at last count. She has continued to be an activist for literacy and racial justice, particularly promoting diversity and justice through literature. She's also written a book of her own: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! 

Marley Dias Gets It Done -- And So Can You!
Now, Marley the host of a sweet new series on Netflix called "Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices." If you grew up watching "Reading Rainbow" featuring host LeVar Burton, I suspect you'll like this series! 

While "Bookmarks" is focused on children's books by Black authors and about Black characters, I think it has something to offer for all children. The stories all speak to experiences common among children that, although portrayed through Black voices and characters, most likely will apply to non-Black children too. As a white woman, I saw and heard experiences in these books that were absolutely relevant to my childhood -- concerns about belonging, experiences with my hair and appearance, feelings of worry and hope and joy, and much more. 

Each episode features one book read by the author or by a celebrity, and each is short -- just right for children who might not have long attention spans. The episodes also end with the readers asking questions and speaking directly to viewers. A few of the readers also share stories from their own lives and ask questions during their readings.

While the series is focused on books with Black characters and written by Black authors, several of the books address children of other races and diverse experiences. In particular, I am thinking of The Day You Begin written and read by Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson's book covers having a different name, different skin, different food, and much more. Woodson also talks, after reading the book, about why the illustrations include rulers throughout the story (you'll have to watch the episode to find out what the rulers mean!).

As a child, I would have loved to draw while watching and listening to a show like this. 

I hope that you will watch the series with your children and take some time at the end of every episode to answer and discuss the questions posed by the readers. If you are homeschooling, you could also use the questions as prompts for writing assignments or art projects -- it would be fun to answer some of the questions by doing a drawing or painting, even for younger kids.

All of the books and the questions the readers ask at the end of the episodes are about celebrating and loving oneself and those around us, despite our uniqueness and differences. 

You can learn more about the show HERE, and if you have Netflix, you can watch the show HERE.

We're linking the books below as well, just in case you want to order any of them BEFORE watching the show -- that way you and your kids could read along with each episode! So far, there are 13 books across 12 episodes. 

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

ABCs for Girls Like Me by Melanie Goolsby

 Pretty Brown Face by Andrea and Brian Pinkney

 Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker

 Firebird by Misty Copeland 

 Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

 The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

 I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown

 Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

  We March by Shane Evans

Please note: Links may be affiliate links in nature. Purchases made through these links may result in small commissions for us at no extra charge to you. Thank you in advance!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

A version of this is cross-posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading. 

I've heard from many friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers that the global pandemic, social injustice sparking protests and riots across the country, concerns about school at home AND working from home, and many more concerns have caused them to feel lost, confused, unfocused, and generally unable to engage with their usual interests and habits.

And, I'm right there with all of you.

For a few months, I struggled to keep reading and engaging in my other interests and hobbies -- of which, reading is my favorite -- and the further I got from those things, the worse I felt about myself and life in general. 

I spent hours and hours scrolling on my phone, watching television without paying attention, picking up and setting down books and hobbies, and just not enjoying anything. I am already predisposed to depression and I felt like I was slipping pretty quickly into a massive depressive episode. Without making some changes quickly, I knew it was going to just get worse and worse.

So, I decided to be proactive and set up some rules around my needs, interests, and the way I was living life in order to create new habits and re-ignite old ones. I'm still struggling on some days and sometimes during moments of pretty good days, but I feel like the changes I've made have helped me to not sink too far down, and I've reinvigorated my reading habit.

While they aren't perfect and life isn't happy rainbows and unicorns every day, these three tips have helped me to ramp up my reading again -- I hope they'll help you too. 

1. Read first thing in the morning

Like making your bed, going for a run, or any other good habit, if you read first thing in the morning, you'll be able to tick it off your list of accomplishments for the day. And, if you love reading as much as I do, it will start your day on a positive note. 

I've been finding that if I start my day with 20 minutes of reading -- my personal minimum amount of time -- then I usually come back to reading later in the day. And, because I love reading so much, I don't mind getting up earlier just to read.

2. Have a designated reading spot

I don't just read anywhere in my home. Instead, I consciously cultivated a corner as my reading nook. Is it special and fancy with grand bookcases and luscious furnishings? Nope. Not at all. But, it is comfortable with a stack of books at the side of my reading chair and ottoman, a few blankets, and a table for a cup of coffee or glass of water, and it has great natural light during the day with a lamp for darker days or the evening. I don't do much else sitting there. That spot is reserved just for reading. And, because it's cozy, I love to sit there, so I read a lot by cultivating a special, comfortable reading experience. 

Chances are, you can get your kids reading more too if you just make it a given for everyone in the house that in order to use this comfy space, they need to be engaged with a book.

3. Read something easy or familiar

My TBR (to be read) pile is quite large with some pretty heavy reading material -- I like complex topics, but also what my mom once called "depressing" genres. Right now, I just can't handle that type of material when the world feels darker, heavier, and more depressing than at any other time in my life.

I've given myself a break and instead picked up lighter and easier books. I've been reading some chick lit, young adult, and humor. I've also been reading some very short books and children's books, as well as re-reading books I love and am already overly familiar with. 

A friend and I planned to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and to have a virtual dinner date to discuss the book, but I found it so heavy and sad (it's about the effects of slavery through several generations and from Africa to the US) that I had to put it down. By following the three habits above, I've managed to go back to the book in small chunks, interspersed with some of my favorite chick lit novels.

It's OK to put in some focused work at renewing your reading habit. It's OK to set up a comfy spot that you use just for reading. It's OK to read books that you normally wouldn't pick up simply because the genre or reading level is easy. 

Drop a comment and let us know what tips and tricks you've used to get back into reading or other habits and hobbies that have gone by the wayside due to the state of the world.
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Monday, August 31, 2020

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas
We hope summer treated your family well, despite how crazy the world is and has been. We've compiled (almost -- we missed a couple due 31 tips and suggestions for back to school prep and hope they serve you well! We initially shared these on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and now we're wrapping up August by compiling all of our tips and ideas in this post.

Biggest take away?

Be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. Oversights occur. Life gets busy and important things get missed, but most of the time they aren't that important if they were missed. And, hug your kids.

Oops....that's not day 7, that's day 8!
As noted, sometimes mistakes happen!
 Forgive yourself if you sometimes need a break or things don't always go to plan!
Your kids will be OK, even if you aren't always perfect!