What’s in Your Child’s Bookcase Wordy Wednesday: MIMMY AND SOPHIE: THE VACATION

Sunrise at the Brooklyn Bridge

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Are your children old enough to ask where you are taking them this summer?

Do you watch the television commercials for Disneyworld and feel badly because you can’t afford to take your children to this magical amusement park?

Is your budget already stretched thin with just providing the necessities, but you wish you had extra money so you could plan a vacation?

The parents in today’s recommended picture book story are faced with the same budget problems that many of us are experiencing.  However, even though they have very little money they do have a lot of creativity.

MIMMY AND SOPHIE: THE VACATION

Written by Miriam Cohen

Illustrated by Thomas Yezerski

            Summer is coming and all the children are boasting about where they are going for vacation.   Mimmy and Sophie don’t have anything to contribute to the discussion because their parents are struggling financially.  When Mimmy and Sophie ask their parents if they can take a vacation somewhere, their mother suggests they have a special picnic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

            After helping their mother make egg salad sandwiches, the two little girls accompany their parents to the store where they buy a special treat…cupcakes with filling.  Mimmy and Sophie enjoy the picnic on the bridge and spend the rest of the afternoon watching the boats in the river and the beautiful sunset.  Although they have not traveled far, both girls are satisfied with the wonderful day they have spent with their parents.

            Mimmy and Sophie were fortunate because their parents were sensitive to the needs and concerns of their children.  They used their imagination to plan a wonderful afternoon for their daughters and, with very little money, enabled Mimmy and Sophie to enjoy a very special vacation.  The time their parents spent with them helped Mimmy and Sophie understand how much they were loved.

As parents, we need to listen to our children and spend time with them just like the parents in the story: Positive Parental Participation in action!

If you are looking for activities to do for the summer or anytime, please visit my website and check out my book for parents and teachers of preschoolers.   It’s loaded with easy fun-filled crafts and cooking activities.

What craft activities does your child enjoy most?

Photo credits: Image of the Brooklyn Bridge by Francisco Diez

Cinema Sunday: PULL THE PLUG FOR CCFC’s SCREEN-FREE WEEK

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Usually on Sundays, I review a movie that I feel others might find enjoyable.  But today, I’m devoting my post to informing you about Screen-Free Week.

From April 18 – April 24, thousands (or maybe hundreds of thousands) of families across the country will be pulling the plug of their TV sets and computers in honor of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s SCREEN-FREE WEEK.  Families can participate by turning off their TV’s and computers for entertainment and turning on to other activities.

What a fantastic idea!

Please don’t get me wrong…there definitely are some great programs on TV for adults and children…many of those can be found on your local PBS stations.

But no child should spend too much time in front of the television or computer screen, no matter how educational or valuable the show is.

How can your family benefit by taking part in this week-long event?

  • More family time together.  “To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.”  Sit down together and plan a family trip.  As a family, go through those photos that have been piling up and put together a family album.  Play board games or charades.
  • More time to go outside.  With the obesity rate climbing in this country, both adults and children will benefit from outdoor exercise such as walking, hiking or other outdoor activities.

 

  • More time for reading, crafting and cooking with your children.  If you need some ideas, please check out my book for parents of preschoolers which is an excellent resource.  It highlights 100 picture books every young child should hear and provides an eco-friendly craft project and a child-friendly healthful recipe for each recommended story.  And, if you have older children, how about having them participate by reading the story to their younger brothers and sisters and then assist with the craft and cooking activities.

For more information on this event and other family activities, you can go to the website of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/screenfreeweek/

They have lots of other ideas of what you can do when you turn off your screens.

Earth Day 2011: Preserve, Protect, Promote…How Parents and Their Preschoolers Can Participate

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Have you noticed how much your preschooler wants to be like you?

Look over at your child while you are engaged in some activity like reading, talking on the phone or even cleaning the house.

More often than not, you will see your preschooler mimicking you…the book may be upside down and the imaginary phone conversation may be on a toy…but emulating parents is what young children love to do.

With Earth Day 2011 quickly approaching (Friday, April 22), here are seven simple steps that parents can take to preserve the planet for future generations, protect our natural resources and promote environmental awareness with their preschoolers.

1.     Buy gently used clothing and toys at consignment shops or places like Goodwill and donate your child’s gently used items as well.  This cycle of recycling really helps.

2.     Use homemade natural solutions to clean your home.  They are better for your family and better for the planet.  Here are a couple of links where you can find great “recipes” and other tips: http://housekeeping.about.com/cs/environment/a/alternateclean.htm, http://www.ehow.com/about_4777601_natural-homemade-cleaning-products.html, http://organizedhome.com/clean-house/pantry-recipes-homemade-cleaning-products.  Happy cleaning!!!  

3.     Walk; don’t drive, to local destinations, if possible, like the store or the library.

4.     Spend the day at a local park…bring a picnic lunch, gloves and a big garbage bag.  Walk around and have your child help you pick up any garbage you find. 

5.     Bring your own bags when you shop…you might want to get smaller reusable bags for your young children so that they can help carry groceries in a more responsible way.

6.     Buy local.  I realize it is not always possible or feasible to buy organic, locally-grown or produced food.  However, this not only benefits your family, but also the planet.  The carbon footprint left by foods that are flown or trucked across the country is huge…and buying locally helps the growers and manufacturers who must compete with the large corporations.  The nutritional benefits to your family include not having to worry about artificial colors, preservatives and genetically modified foods.  If you are looking for healthful recipes, my book for parents of preschoolers, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, includes 100 easy child-friendly cooking activities, as well as 100 simple eco-friendly craft projects.

7.     Buy in bulk with as little packaging as possible.   Many stores now have a special section where they offer a wide selection of foods that can be purchased by the pound or less.  The price is usually significantly cheaper than buying the product in a box with a name brand listed on the front.

Seven simple steps…if you only do a few, you will be making an important contribution to the preservation of our planet for future generations. 

Seven simple steps…if you allow your children to participate with you, you will be encouraging them to protect our natural resources.

Seven simple steps…if we all follow them, we promote environmental awareness and the well-being of the world.

You can “like” b-kind-2-earth-day and go here for more information about what lots of other people are doing: http://www.facebook.com/BKind2EarthDay/posts/139097546162617#!/BKind2EarthDay

The Five Lessons of Nanny McPhee: Are They Valid for our Children Today?

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Have you seen the movie, “Nanny McPhee”?

My husband and I recently watched the sequel, “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang”.  The original movie came out in 2005 and took place in 19th century England.  A widower is unable to raise his seven children on his own and the children have systematically gotten rid of seventeen nannies before Nanny McPhee appears and saves the day.  The sequel debuted last year and takes place in the English countryside during World War II,   We are introduced to the harried mother whose husband is off defending the country and whose three rambunctious young children never seem to listen to her and are constantly fighting with each other. (Let me know if this sounds familiar.) 🙂

Into the picture comes Nanny McPhee, a no-nonsense woman who has unseen powers and a gift for bringing calm and order to a situation filled with upheaval and chaos. (Nanny McPhee, where are you?)

What struck me, though, were the FIVE LESSONS the children had to learn while under Nanny McPhee’s care.  I truly believe that these are FIVE LESSONS THAT EVERY KID SHOULD LEARN and use, whether at home, in school or ANYWHERE.

1.     NO FIGHTING

2.     SHARE

3.     WORK TOGETHER

4.     BE BRAVE

5.     HAVE FAITH

Don’t you think it would be a wonderful thing if every man, woman and child on the face of the earth could learn these lessons?

After doing some research, I learned that back in August, Twitter Moms (now Social Moms) had posed the following question on Facebook, “What are the 5 lessons every kid should learn?”  I’m sure they had a ton of responses.

But I’m going to stick with my original plan and, for the next five days, I’ll examine each of Nanny McPhee’s lessons to see how we can apply them as parents today.  If you look carefully, you will see that behind the actual lessons are three crucial components of a life lived in balance and harmony: DISCIPLINE, MANNERS, and ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES OF ONE’S ACTIONS.

Your comments will add value to the post…are these the lessons you have taught your children?

Stop by tomorrow for a closer look at Lesson #1: NO FIGHTING

Restful Sleep…Crucial Factor in the Fight Against Obesity

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I know I feel out-of-sorts when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. And I had heard (thought it was a rumor) that lack of sleep could cause weight gain. 

Tonight, one of our local TV stations ran a special report on kids who get too little sleep being at risk for obesity and diabetes.

So I did a little research and found that studies have shown that “insufficient nighttime sleep among infants and preschool-aged children appears to be a lasting risk factor for subsequent obesity.” (WebMD Health News) http://children.webmd.com/news/20100907/sleep-linked-to-childhood-obesity

I’m always blaming fast food, super-sized meals and lack of exercise on the increase our country is seeing in childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.  But, now it seems that we can add another villain to the mix.

And that is one more reason to set up those bedtime routines for your children…and STICK to them.  One of the pediatricians on the TV report had several suggestions: 

  • Bedtime should be the SAME time EVERY night for your child. 
  • Wind down 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. 
  • Children should be getting 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night. 
  • If you are missing an hour or two of sleep for the week, you can catch up on some sleep on the weekends. 

You can refer back to yesterday’s post about bedtime routines for more tips. https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/bedtime-routines-rituals-and-can-i-have-one-more-glass-of-water-please/

In that post, I suggested you read CORNELIUS P. MUD, ARE YOU READY FOR BED? with your child and I provided a recipe for Overnight Cookies.  Bedtime is a very special time for young children, but without routines and limits, many try to delay going to bed as much as possible.  I promised to give you a simple craft project that may encourage good bedtime routines.  With your help, your child can “set” his clock to the particular time when he will need to be ready for his bedtime story.  Then he can check that time against the real clocks in the house and will know when he has to complete his toy cleanup in order to be ready for that special treat…the bedtime story.

NO TICK-TOCK CLOCK

You will need: A piece of cardboard (from a cereal box would be fine), metal paper fastener, construction paper, marker and scissors.

  1. Cut a large circle (the clock face) from the cardboard.
  2. Cut two “hands” (one longer and narrower than the other) from the construction paper.
  3. Attach the hands to the center of the clock with the paper fastener.
  4. Draw the numbers in the correct order on the clock face.

Parents…keep in mind that if you’ve been trying to lose a few pounds yourselves (as I have been), perhaps getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis may do as much for you as cutting back on calories and exercising.  In fact, if you treat all three elements…restful sleep, nutrition (not diet) and exercise with respect, you may be rewarded with better health than you ever had before.  Believe me, I know how difficult it is to call it quits for the night…there always seems to be something else that MUST be done…laundry folded, dishes put away, lunches made for the next day, bills to pay and checkbook to balance…the list goes on and on.  This is another reason that making lists of short and long-term goals as well as a daily to-do will help organize and prioritize what needs to be done.

P.S. This post somehow got put in drafts and didn’t get posted on Tuesday…sorry. 🙂

Stop by tomorrow for a look at a very special lady…my grandmother…she was a role model for Positive Parental Participation in an era before spending quality time with your children was a catch-phrase.

BALANCE: How Do I Find It?

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“Be aware of wonder.  Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” – Robert Fulghum

We all need balance in our lives.   All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – this old saying definitely holds true today. 

But what is balance?

The dictionary defines balance as harmony, a state in which nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.

There is no standard “one size fits all” spreadsheet for balance because we are all unique individuals with different needs and different situations.  However, to optimize the quality of our lives, we can take a look at how we spend our days (and nights).  Are you working too many hours?  Do you tend to let certain activities slide due to lack of time?  How much TV is watched in your home?  Please don’t get me wrong…I enjoy watching TV…but I also realize that if we don’t put the TV on in the evening, I get so much done.  And when I look at my watch, it is only 9PM.  But I do have to admit that my time spent on the computer these days often occupies an unbalanced proportion of my day…so much so that it becomes the wee hours of the morning when I finally feel I am done.   SO NOT GOOD!  This weekend I plan to sit down to evaluate how I am utilizing that time and hopefully I can produce a more BALANCED schedule that will be better for me AND my family.

I guess we can go back to the dictionary definition of balance: a state in which nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.  So, if your family enjoys watching a show on TV, that is great…but perhaps when the show is over, you can participate in other activities…maybe a read-aloud story-time.  If there are older children, perhaps they can take turns with the adults reading to the younger children, although studies show that older children really enjoy being read to.  Or maybe have a family board game night?

According to Catherine Pulsifer in “We Never Seem to Have Enough Time”,

“We need to maintain a proper balance in our life by allocating the time we have.”

So here are a few simple ways to keep track of how you are allocating your time.

1.     Use a notebook to list your long-term and short-term goals.

2.     Make a to-do list each night for the next day…you will sleep better each night and you won’t realize late in the next day that you’ve forgotten to do something important.  For me, writing down what I need to do gives me peace of mind.

3.     Set up a daily routine or schedule, especially if you have children.  Life can get really chaotic if you don’t have a plan in place.

Do you have a daily routine or schedule in place?  Stop by tomorrow for a look at the successful routine I used with my daycare group and my own family when my children were small.

MOMMY, WHERE ARE YOU?

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One of the biggest surprises of motherhood is the 24/7 factor.  For nine months, the ears of mothers-to-be are filled with horror stories and tales of sleepless nights and endless days of diapering, rocking and feeding.  But somehow, it doesn’t really make an impression until that first sleepless night or endless day.

Maybe that’s how we are wired…otherwise there might be fewer mothers-to-be.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED being a mother and actually enjoyed many of the nights I sat in the rocking chair, baby in my arms and a good book in my hands.  But I know there were days (and nights) when I almost wished I could change my name…mommy, mommy, MOMMY, MOMMY…where are youuuuuuuuu??????

I say almost, because my children have been great joys in my life…now they are grown (two with children of their own) and all of them make me proud that I can say I am their mom.

It’s true, though, that sometimes, as our children are growing up, we may feel we have a shadow…a constant companion, whether we like it or not.  How about when you are shopping and have to use the restroom…of course your child MUST come in the stall with you, especially these days!  And even at home, many children like to be with mommy wherever she is in the house.  This may get a little tiresome, but how would you feel if you turned around, expecting your child to be right behind you, and she was not there? 

The following picture book story suggestion addresses this topic.  It’s a classic in children’s literature from 1948.

BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey

One summer day, a little girl named Sal goes with her mother to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill.  Since she eats the blueberries almost as quickly as her mother picks them, her mother tells Sal to pick some of her own.  Meanwhile, a bear cub is also on a blueberry hunt with his mother.  Both Sal and Little Bear become separated from their own mothers and inadvertently begin following the wrong mother.  Fortunately, the mix-up is resolved and both Sal and Little Bear are reunited with the correct parent.

Very young children often get anxious when they lose sight of their parents because they are afraid their parents will never return.  This story reassures young children that even if that happens (or their parents leave them at daycare when they go to work or with a sitter when they go out for the evening), the separation will only be a temporary one.

 

After reading the story, perhaps you might want to try this simple cooking activity with your child.  Participating positively with young children creates a life-long parent-child bond.

CHILD-FRIENDLY BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

I can still hear the “plink-plink” as the first blueberries of the season my children picked made their way into the containers.  At the time, we lived in an old farmhouse in a small Connecticut town.  The backyard was a paradise of fruit trees and, best of all, over one hundred blueberry bushes.  Here is the blueberry muffin recipe we used.

You will need: 1 cup fresh blueberries, ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ cups flour, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ cup canola oil, 2 eggs beaten, ½ cup milk, 2 bowls and one 12-cup muffin tin.

1.     Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease the muffin cups.  Rinse off the blueberries.

2.     In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking soda.

3.     In a small bowl, combine oil, milk and beaten eggs.

4.     Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

5.     Fold blueberries into the batter and pour batter into prepared pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

6.     Bake 18-20 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned and cooked through.  Insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin…muffins are done if it comes out clean.  Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack.   Store in an airtight container.  The muffins retain their heat for awhile…please let them cool and then cut in half before serving to a young child.

Do you enjoy the combination of story suggestion and related activity?  It certainly helped my days feel more organized when my children were growing up.  A simple schedule helps bring balance and order to what can often be a chaotic day.

“Be aware of wonder.  Life a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” – Robert Fulghum

Stop by tomorrow for a look at some tips on keeping balance in your life…one day at a time.