Month: August 2012

Painting Rocks: Another Way to Get Creative with Your Kids

 

   

Lake Superior is one of the largest fresh body lakes in the U.S. and a favorite vacation place for most people who live in Minnesota. My daughter, a friend and I visited this area for a few days ago and had a lovely time. There is always a cool breeze rolling off the lake even when the sun is out.

While walking on the beach we decided to gather some rocks, polished by the wind, water and rain, to take home and paint for the garden. Here we are collecting rocks.

At home we pulled out the acrylic paints and brushes. I used a highchair tray as the palette.

     

A pinecone also turned out to be fun item to paint.

 

The fruits of our labor were put into the back garden for all to enjoy and as a reminder of our creative endeavors.

 

So get out and get creative! See what you can come up with.

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A message to all those promoting outdoor learning

Wyre forest school fire steel

A message to all those promoting outdoor learning.

From: http://rethinkingchildhood.com/2012/07/09/outdoor-learning/#more-2001

Written by Tim Gill

This weekend saw the launch of a new national body for those working in UK Forest School settings. I have agreed to be the patron of this new body. Sadly I was not able to be at the event in person. At the Association’s invitation, I passed on a message of support, which I thought may be of wider interest:

I am very honoured to be asked to be the patron of the first national association for those working to take forward the Forest School movement. I first heard about Forest School back in the early 2000s, and have been a big fan ever since.

Not that I needed much persuading. As someone who in the 1970s, I roamed freely throughout the large village and countryside where I grew up. So I have vivid memories of the times I spent with my friends in the woods and fields. We scoured rotting tree stumps searching for devil’s coach horse beetles and toads. We gathered horse chestnuts for playground conker tournaments. We picked rosehips and squirted out the insides to rub into each others’ backs as itching powder (though it never seemed very itchy to me).

I am sure many of you have similar memories. I do not doubt that – like me – many of you do what you do because you believe that children today deserve experiences that share some of the magical qualities of everyday adventures like these.

But just what are those magical qualities, and why are such experiences so universal, and so resonant? In my view, there are two reasons. First, they speak of the richness and boundless fascination of the natural world. No matter how humdrum or familiar it may seem to adult eyes, almost any green outdoor space holds mystery and wonder, and invites exploration and investigation, when experienced through children’s fresher, less stultified senses.

The second reason is our lifelong appetite for experience and autonomy. From the earliest age, we human beings have a deep hunger to get to grips with the world around us; to feel a sense of our own agency, of our competences, and of our ability to control our fate.

Thanks to Richard Louv and others, there is growing awareness of the fact that nature is disappearing from children’s lives, and indeed it is the focus for a thriving global movement. The fact that autonomy, freedom and a sense of responsibility are also disappearing from children’s lives is far less well recognized. To see this, just look at the tortuous health and safety tangles that many schools get into in the playground and on school trips.

For me, the potential of Forest School is built on two vital foundation stones: the intrinsic qualities of natural places, and the intrinsic motivations and learning impulses of children. If Forest School is to leave a lasting impression on the lives of the children and young people who experience it, these two need equal emphasis.

This is why I would like to make one plea to everyone here. When your new association gets locked into the minutiae of debates about definitions, and principles, and accreditation, and awards – as it inevitably will – do not forget to revisit those childhood memories. Remember the places you played when you were young, and the things you did there. Remind yourself that at its heart, what Forest School is about is allowing children the space and time to experience the everyday wonders of nature, and to feel what it means to be human.

I look forward to following and cheering on the work of the Association, and I am happy to do whatever I can to help take the organisation forward.

Note: the Association is yet to decide its name. I will amend this post once the decision is made.

Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. For over 15 years his writing, research, consultancy projects and other work has focused on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them.

The Power of Modeling Behavior for Children: A Run-in with a Caterpillar

The power of a mother, father or other trusted adult figure to shape a young child’s life is amazing and at times seemingly limitless.

This last week, while out on a walk, I looked down and saw a very beautiful caterpillar. I stopped to point it out to my daughter so that she could admire and experience its beauty as well.

And then I came to a fork in the road. Should I pick it up or leave it on the ground?

Honestly…I had no desire to touch that creepy, crawly, little caterpillar with sticky legs. Yuck.

But I did. I went down the fork I didn’t want to go down. I put my hand in front of it, put a big smile on my face and let that little creature crawl up my hand. Surprisingly, I found myself thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so creepy after all. Not as bad as I thought!” I remembered when I was young and collected caterpillars in a box. Did I let them crawl up my hand then? I can’t remember.

No less than two seconds later the little one below me cries…”I wanna hold it.” The little guy crawled freely around her hand and on her sweatshirt for a long time. She never showed one sign of distress or discomfort. Five minutes later we put it back on the grass to let it go and as we walked away she turned back, crying for the caterpillar, “I wann caerpiwarrrr…”

She was so distressed we went back for a little more of that little guy marching up and down her sleeve.

Wow! She was in heaven. You can see a really genuine, calm happiness peeking out from behind that binky.

Had I said, “No, don’t touch…Icky,” she most likely would never have experienced the beauty of that little crawly thing and would have been one step further away from nature and its glory.

I’m happy for her and proud of myself for taking a leap and putting my finger in front of those sticky little legs. I knew it was the right thing to do and I did it.

It may seem like just a little thing but I would like to believe that the outcome was bigger than that small act.  Little did I know how much the power of modeling would hold for a child of this age and how much joy she would gain as a result.

Yummy, Healthy Pancakes for Kids?: No Problem!

Other recipe posts

What’s better on a Saturday morning than a nice plate of pancakes? Nothing, I say! But, they must be healthy now that I’m raising a little body that is growing like a weed.

Typically I’ll start out with a high quality pancake mix that already has whole grains in it. Then I start adding stuff – it’s different every time, depending on what I have on hand. Here’s what this morning’s pancakes looked like.

I started out with the Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix.

Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix

And went crazy from there.

Here’s all that went into my pancakes:

1 cup Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix
2 frozen bananas from the freezer
1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
1 container organic pureed pears
1 container organic pureed harvest veggies with grains
1 container organic pureed carrots
1 container lunch box sized apple sauce
1 Tbs whole wheat bran flakes
1 Tbs seven grain hot cereal
1 Tbs ground flaxseed
2 Tbs oil
Enough milk to bring it to pancake mix consistency. Since you’re adding all of these other wet ingredients you don’t really follow the package anymore.

I didn’t have any eggs but normally I would put one or two eggs in the mix as well.

1) The containers of fruits and veggies (except for the applesauce) were all Gerber SmartNourish Organic baby food. Besides the ones listed above I will also use squash or sweet potato. This is just what I happened to have on hand. I usually try to mix up the sweet with the savory. I have also used the pumpkin pancake mix from Target and have added in sweet potato because the flavors are so similar. They are always good.

I have actually found some of these organic baby foods at the Dollar Store (2 containers for a dollar= 1 pack). At Walgreen’s they are $1.79 a pack. Not sure about the regular grocery store. Probably somewhere in the middle.

2) When bananas start to get old I throw them in the freezer. Yes, they will get black but that’s okay. They are still good. I put them in a pitcher or bowl of warm water to thaw them out. After a few minutes of soaking the skin comes right off. They were still a little frosty when they went in the mix this morning but I was able to mash them with a fork and mix them into the pancake mix just fine.

3) Ground flaxseed, wheat bran flakes, wheat germ are all ingredients that you can keep in a tupperware or glass container in your fridge to throw into any baked goods you are making–cookies, brownies, banana bread. No one will ever know they are there and they bump up the fiber in your final product. You don’t even have to measure them. Just sprinkle about a tablespoon over your mix and stir.

4) If you have the time and feel like it, you can also chop up some nuts really fine and throw them in for a little crunch and protein. I like walnuts or pecans.

These pancakes, despite the zillion ingredients, are really super easy and quick to make. There’s nothing to measure; just throw in one or two containers of fruits and veggies, sprinkle in whatever dry goodness you have in the fridge and off you go.

Oh, and another God-send for pancake making? The electric griddle. Here’s one at Target for around $30.00. They are great because you can put six pancakes on at a time and cut your standing around in the kitchen time in half. Plus, more pancakes make it to the plate hot at the same time.

Overall, my pancakes are always a hit! They get rave reviews from both kids and adults alike and no one is the wiser as to what is in them. Today the pancakes mostly tasted like good blueberry sweetness. I was a little nervous when I threw in the carrots because they can have such a strong flavor, so then I specifically chose the pears to offset that possibility. When I realized I had pears, apples, blueberries and bananas in them, I knew I could get away with the pureed veggies, no problem. And I did.

I’m assuming I can also wrap them up and send them in the lunch box as part of a healthy lunch. They are probably still good cold.

Excuse me while I go warm up a pancake! Yum!

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Six Week Bran Muffin Batter 

One of the Best Things a Business Can Do for Parents

Install one of these in the bathroom! They are the bomb!

(Safe-Sitter: Wall Mounted Child Seat)

I will never forget when I was in a grocery store (it was either a Rainbow or a Cub Foods) with my baby and I had to use the facilities. I walked into the bathroom and saw one of these seats. It was a God-send!

Think about it. There you are, in the store, with a baby and a grocery cart. Suddenly you have to go…What do you do? You can’t put your child down on the floor. You can’t push the cart into the bathroom and even if you could are you supposed to leave the door open with the baby hanging out in the cart? 

The only thing you can really do is to either strap the child into the changing table or hold the baby on your lap, which is EXTREMELY inconvenient, to say the least.

Please, for the sake of mothers and fathers shopping with their babies, let more businesses install a seat of this nature! Mothers and fathers around the world will be singing your praises!

From the promotional materials of this product (randomly selected because I happened to take a picture of this brand while in a restroom):

  • Wall mounted Safe-Sitter keeps child safely restrained with a three point Safe-Strap harness belt
  • Unit complete with head and side supports for added protection
  • Seat extends just 12.5″ from wall, and folds up for convenient storage when not in use
  • Easy to clean plastic construction

In my opinion one of the best things a business can do for parents is to install one of these seats in the bathroom (right next to that changing table they undoubtedly have!). It looks like they cost around $85.00. Not a bad investment for happy parents.

I would return to a store with one of these seats if I still had a baby, wouldn’t you?

Related Posts:

No Changing Table at Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream Cafe (Or at Starbuck’s)

Changing the World: One Changing Table at a Time

Single Mothers Combat Stress by Engaging with Their Children! Who would’ve thought?

Probably one of the most interesting things that has happened to me as a result of my blog. I get a phone call out of the blue. This journalist is writing a story about single motherhood and wants to interview me! Awesome!

Christina

Single mothers combat stress by engaging with children, new study finds

 

By , Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 19 2012 3:00 a.m. MDT

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865560877/Single-mothers-combat-stress-by-engaging-with-children-new-study-finds.html

Christina Robert, a 44-year-old single mother, is headed out the back door of her home in the outskirts of Minneapolis to fill the dog bowl before it gets dark. But before she does, she turns to her 3-year-old daughter, LuaClaire.

“Do you want to come with me or stay here?” she asks.

“Come!” is her daughter’s response 99 percent of the time.

Though it will take her twice as long to finish the task, Robert regards this as valuable one-on-one time with her daughter. And if asked her opinion, she’ll tell you time spent together is not only to LuaClaire’s pleasure, but also her own.

Spending time with children combats the daily stresses that single mothers face, a new study led by a team of doctorate students at Kansas State University found.

“Being a single mother and being a parent in general is very exhausting,” study author Blake Berryhill said. “But if a mother is willing to spend time with her children, it can reduce her parental stress because she will feel that in her role as a mom, she is doing an adequate job.”

Single-handed super women

Compared to married mothers, single mothers are twice as likely to experience a bout of depression and higher levels of chronic stress, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 2001. The study also found that these women have less contact with family and friends and less involvement with church or social groups.

“Single mothers can feel constantly overloaded and overwhelmed at being a parent and trying to fulfill all of their responsibilities,” Berryhill said. Being a single mother brings extra stress, caused by decreased economic resources, longer work hours and a limited social support network.

As a mother with two jobs and a shared custody arrangement, Robert understands the pressures of single motherhood.

“Your life is so stressful,” she said. “I had no clue when I became a mother that my life was going to change as much as it did and I had no clue that being a single mom was going to be as hard as it was.”

The study followed children, ages 1, 3 and 5, to focus on parental engagement, stress levels and child temperament. Researchers found that spending time with a child through daily activities, such as reading stories, playing games or putting a child to bed, can reduce parental stress by instilling confidence that the mother is doing an adequate job in her role as a parent.

“The time that I have with her is really valuable and really meaningful, and in doing that, I try to set aside the negative things that have gone on and I allow that joy to rejuvenate me,” Robert said. “It is healing. Kids are so innocent and unconditionally loving.”

Brittany Phelps, a dental assistant living in West Linn, Ore., and single mother to Peytyn, 3, has found that the most simple of moments can ease her stress.

“I was actually thinking … when I took my daughter to the park how awesome she is and how perfect our afternoons together are after my days working full time,” she said.

Author of “Confessions of a Scary Mommy” and mother in Baltimore, Jill Smokler, says she feels less stressed when she feels her life is not so off-balanced. She enjoys the day-to-day routine that allows her to see her kids before school and several hours after school, before bed and during dinner together. “That is perfect for me, having them in big doses but also having space to myself.”

Consistency, the study showed, reaped benefits far more noticeable than time spent intermittently together.

“Our research showed that those daily things, spending time with the child in a daily routine, putting the child to bed, or reading stories to them were what really made the difference,” Berryhill said.

Creating a family unit

While a single-parent home can be unconventional, mothers such as Phelps work hard to maintain a strong sense of unity.

“We’ll do typical family activities, just the two of us,” Phelps said. They get their family portrait taken once a year and have family prayer together each night.

Robert tries to create a sense of community and a sense of family that goes beyond the two of them. She schedules play dates with other single mothers and their children, and they spend time with other adults she and her daughter have a positive relationship with.

“There’s almost this extended sense of community and family that comes out of this,” Robert said, “because we don’t have that at home.”

“No matter how much I may miss parts of who I used to be,” Robert wrote on her blog, “the little girl who calls me Mommy fills an amazing spot in my heart that no one else can ever replace.”

Not Another Mom Blog: NYC Knows What’s Breast

Let’s hear it for New York!

Cushion Cut

Not Another Mom Blog is a regular satirical feature exploring all the vital, life-saving, keeping-your-child-from-growing-old-alone advice out there. NAMB: Because every mother needs something else to worry about.

Hey, I think breastfeeding is awesome. I breast fed, never even considered not breastfeeding, and I enjoyed doing it. Breast is the freakin’ best.

Good thing Mayor Bloomberg has finally realized this fact and is implementing some real change in NYC hospitals. Moms have so many choices to make on the arrival of their little bundle. Cloth or disposable, infant or convertible seat, whether or not to use gender specific pronouns…But there’s one choice mothers won’t have to make any more—bottle or breast!

Mayor Bloomberg, the world’s foremost expert on childhood nutrition, parenting, and health of all people in general, is also the father of this program that provides relief for those struggling with choosing soft drink sizes. Thankfully, size doesn’t matter with…

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Teaching Toddlers Values: The Creation of a Person

I’ve recently come to realize that parenting a toddler is a full time job, and not just in the tedious, labor intensive way that building a house or plowing snow is.

It’s about something much more critical to the long-term well being of our children. It’s about the oh-so-important job of creating a person.

CREATING A PERSON?

Yes, creating a person—a person that we as parents can be proud of. A person that is steal, lie or cheat in order to get their basic needs met. It’s about creating a person who can move through the world with ease and with dignity. It’s about creating a person who knows right from wrong and acts according and about creating a person who gives and receives love and charity easily and with grace.

And it takes every second of every single minute that you’re with this little being-in-the-making.

There is no time for a break, no time to relax. If you stop to breathe for a moment you will miss a teachable moment.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like to relax and I don’t think I go toooverboard on the whole parenting business. It’s just that these little free-spirited toddlers that know no impulse control and are running around like little savages don’t give you the opportunity to take a moment to rest and to breathe.

When they smack the dog in the head you are forced to take the opportunity to teach the value of kindness and gentleness towards others. When they march into the Director’s office of the daycare and say “I have sticker?” you have to teach them the value of good manners. “Say ‘por favor’! Say ‘gracias’! Say ‘adios’!” (My daughter actually goes to an amazing daycare where the staff are all native Spanish speakers and they speak Spanish all day to the children.)

Here’s a short list of some of the values I’ve identified as ones that I subconsciously and consciously have been trying to teach my toddler:

1. Expressing and Exuding Kindness of Spirit

I want my child to be a warm and good person. I want her to show her friends that she loves them and appreciates them. I want her to be kind and friendly to people she knows and to strangers she meets in the street. I encourage her to approach people and when she spontaneously smiles and engages in conversation with strangers, I facilitate the conversation whether the person on the receiving end is interested or not. I don’t want to squelch the natural social behaviors that I see coming from her on a daily basis.

2. Sharing

Every toddler needs to learn how to share and aren’t we given the daily opportunity to encourage that? I feel very fortunate that my child loves to share with her peers even when she is not asked to. Mostly this comes in the form of food. I have to ask myself if she is imitating me (given that 99% of what she does is mimicking my behavior), and if I think about it, she may certainly be doing so. I love to cook and I always offer some of what I have made to everyone around me.

3. Generosity

Similar to sharing. I want her to be generous to others and to share her belongings or her food or her toys. Generosity is a value that was instilled in me and I want to instill that in her as well. I want her to give and give freely. I want her to enjoy the warm feelings one gets from sharing and giving to others.

4. Expressing Love

I want my child to be warm, to give hugs, to show her friends and family that she likes and loves them.

5. Connecting with Others in a Meaningful Way

I want my daughter to develop meaningful relationships. I want her to greet others when she sees them after they’ve been gone and to say hello and good-bye and good-night to show that she cares about the presence they play in her life. It would be easy enough for her to not greet her peers and to just start playing but I make a point of having her go up to her friends and to say hello, to have her hold hands with them, to have her appreciate their friendship.

6. Engaging in Good Manners and Appropriate Social Behavior

Of course she needs to engage in the standard social niceties: Please, thank you, you’re welcome, hello, good-bye. No hitting, shoving, biting, etc.

7. Patience

This is a hard one to teach a toddler as they like to push the limits and to act as if nothing short of immediate gratification is acceptable. I deliberately use the word “patience” with her while she is waiting for something. I sit by her side and hold her close to me. “We need to be patient,” I tell her. “It’s hard, I know. Sometimes we need to wait. That is being patient.” I am trying to teach her the concept of patience rather than just the behavior of needing to wait. I think it will have more value in the long run this way.

8. Turn-taking

Turn-taking is about recognizing and understanding that there are other people in the world besides herself. As a concept and a behavior it goes beyond playing games or using the playground equipment. It is the understanding that we have our own needs but that we need to watch for and meet the needs of others, even if they do not ask us to.

9. Understanding and Acceptance of Diversity

This is harder to teach to toddlers but when she asks me questions about people who look different from her I explain the difference in a way that is factual, accepting and open, without secrets. I help her to understand what makes people different from each other.

10. To Love, Respect and Appreciate Nature

How could I forget this? In some ways it is the most important value in a technology-laden , eyes-glued-to-the-screen age. Because of an ever-increasing dependence on electronics, it is imperative that we teach our youngsters that the world is bigger than they are, that getting dirty is okay, and that food comes from the earth. Giving them the opportunity to feel leaves crunch under their feet, rain falling on their faces and dirt in their hands, are all ways we engage in the enormous job of teaching them to love and appreciate the earth and the world we live in.

How do you teach these values to little people?

Well, I’ve examined how my time is spent engaging in this ongoing task of facilitating the development of one (hopefully) amazing human being and this is what I’ve come up with…

  1. One of the ways is to model the behavior or action for her. Saying please to her; saying thank you to her; showing her how her momma does it. I read somewhere that this is actually more effective than continually reminding them of how to behave.
  2. Another way is reinforcing her positive behaviors. Anytime a “positive” behavior is produced you praise the heck out of them. If she spontaneously shares or offers a cookie to a friend, “That was wonderful! What a nice job you did sharing! You are sooo sweet!” Watch the happy look that comes over their face. They feel good having pleased you and are likely to repeat the behavior simply because of the praise they received.
  3. A third way is correcting negative behaviors. “We don’t hit when we’re angry. We say, ‘That makes me mad.” In addition to pointing out what they did wrong, and even more importantly, is to tell them what TO DO rather than what not to do. This can be very helpful when you’re in the moment. If your child is reaching out to hit, you can catch the hand and say… “No, no…we don’t hit to get what we want. We ask for what we need. Can you ask your friend for the ball?” Telling them what to do gives them a behavior they can act on rather than just feeling reprimanded or punished.

Well, those are my thoughts on teaching toddlers values. Interestingly, these are probably the values that will continue on as my child ages and develops. So, in essence, as parents we are creating the core values that our children will carry forth with them for the rest of their lives. It’s an amazing time in their development as they are soaking up everything like little sponges and imitating every little thing we do. This is the prime time for developing all of those pro-social behaviors that we want to see in our children. In essence, we’re in the throes of helping to create the people we want our children to be in ten and twenty years. It’s a big job – bigger than I ever imagined – but one that I signed up to do and one that I do not take lightly!

Multi-Media Painting for Toddlers and Children Alike!

It was time to cook dinner and I needed an activity for my three year old and an adult friend I had over. Fingerpaints, I thought! It was something I’d been wanting to do but hadn’t had the time to explore fully. I pulled out the easel paper, a thin waterproof drop cloth that I keep on hand for messy occasions (I think I picked it up at the dollar store or a local drugstore. It was cheap but seemed like it might come in handy some day), and the paints.

In addition to the paints, I decided to add in some multi-media materials to make it interesting.

I brought out the following:

A set of paint brushes
A bag of cotton balls
Q-tips
Colored pom-poms
Marshmallows (an Inspiration Laboraties idea, I believe)
Leaves and evergreen branches from outside

Off we went! I’m not sure if I even got to dinner given that the painting project was so much fun, but I’m guessing I did. My daughter LOVED this activity and was engaged and happy for a good 30 minutes, as I recall. We stopped when the paper was pretty much lacking in space.

I used the lid to the paint box as a palette.

She had a fun time stamping with the marshmallows and then sticking them in the paint. The marshmallows, the cotton balls and the pom-poms all served as both something to paint with as well as part of the finished product.

It was an awesome project and the full painting is hanging on the dining room wall for all to see. Since that day, “Momma, I wanna paint!” has been heard pretty frequently as well.

Full picture hanging on the cork board.

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