Two Top Kids Easter Crafts and a Story of Hope

Spring is just around the corner! Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. My signs-of-spring-checklist goes something like this:

  • Growing things: Green shoots push up from the ground, tiny buds appear on trees and tulips and daffodils are breaking ground.

  • Birds: Robins and bluebirds greet me in the morning and I hear the welcome cry of geese overhead, returning from their winter holiday in the south.

  • Daylight: The days are noticeably longer…the sun is still casting its warming rays after 6pm here in Colorado Springs.

  • Susanna Leonard Hill’s In Just Spring Contest is starting! Her holiday writing contests are infamous legendary…I wouldn’t miss one for the world. The instructions for this one are: write a children’s story with a spring theme in 350 words or less and make sure the last line says, “(Character’s name) knew spring was here at last!” There is a super prize as well…a chance to submit a picture book manuscript to KidsBooks editor Laura Galvin! WOW! I’ll be linking up on her blog where you can go to check out everyone’s stories. I hope you enjoy my entry.

spring chick

Years ago, most soldiers were men…and most of the time, if they had families, their wives tended house and home and children until they returned. But things have changed! These days, many of our brave soldiers are women…and a good number of them are mothers of young children. According to the government:

 “The demands on military members and their families are increasing and are becoming more complex. Military families sacrifice their personal comfort and experience tremendous upheaval when soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, reservists and National Guard members are called to serve our country here or abroad. Children are especially vulnerable when separated from parents due to deployments. Their unique developmental perspective and limited life experience put them at a heightened risk for emotional distress during the separation period.”

There are very few picture books out there that address this issue…I’m excited to offer this story (344 words…phew!) to little ones who are missing that special person in their lives.

 

WAITING FOR SPRING

“I’ll be back when it’s spring” whispered Rachel’s mom. As the old pick-up disappeared down the hot dusty road, Grandmother gave Rachel’s arm a little tug. “Come on, girl! We need to get busy making cookies for the Labor Day picnic.”

Rachel loved baking with her grandmother. The smell of fresh cinnamon tickled her nose reminding her of the fragrance of her mother’s cinnabar soap-scented skin. Mama hadn’t even been gone an hour and Rachel was already missing her.  How could she wait until spring?

The trees turned scarlet and gold as the weeks passed. Rachel’s dad pushed her in the swing…so high she thought she might touch the sky. Rachel loved her daddy and loved the sound of the wind as it whistled past her, but it made her think of her mother, laughing and singing. Rachel missed her mama’s sweet voice. Spring seemed so far away.

One morning, Rachel awoke to the sound of sleigh bells. The world outside her window was covered in snow and Rachel hurried to get dressed. She loved the snow! She built a snow princess and put her scarf around the princess’ neck. A gust of wind brushed the scarf across Rachel’s cheek…it felt like mama’s soft touch. Would spring ever come?

The yard was a muddy mess for the next few weeks. “It’s the spring thaw,” said her daddy. It can’t be spring, thought Rachel, because mama’s not home yet.

Her grandmother filled a vase with daffodils. “These are the first spring flowers,” she told Rachel. Rachel didn’t believe her because if it was spring, mama would be here.

Rachel went to the barn. “We have four spring lambs,” her dad explained. Rachel was happy to see the baby lambs, but she knew they weren’t SPRING lambs because mama wasn’t there. She walked back to the house. The scent of cinnamon reached out to Rachel. Was Grandmother baking cookies without her?

Rachel ran up the porch steps. The music of a lilting voice filled her ears. “Mama, you’re home!” Rachel knew spring was here at last!

RELATED ACTIVITIES

colored easter eggs

Photo courtesy of www.etsybaby.blogspot.com

NATURAL DYE COLORED EASTER EGGS (a craft from my book)

Coloring Easter eggs is lots of fun…you can turn this activity into an educational one by using natural dyes. You will need three bowls. For yellow, use 1tsp turmeric in a cup of hot water. For blue, crush a bunch of blueberries and cover with hot water. For red, crush a bunch of cranberries and cover with hot water. Be careful to cool the water before the children dip their eggs. You can also use food coloring if you don’t have the time.

After the eggs are colored (or you can use plastic eggs), you can add pieces of foam and felt to make these animal-inspired Easter eggs…use a marker to draw in the lines

easter egg animals.

Photo courtesy www.glueguncrafts.com

Here are some resources for families who have members deployed:

The Association of the US Army http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/resources/InternetResources/Pages/ChildrenDeploymentResources.aspx (for children who are experiencing separation problems)

From Sesame Street: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc

From the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/deployment-services

From Military One Source: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/deployment/military-and-family-support-programs

Substance abuse and mental health services administrationhttp://www.samhsa.gov/dtac/dbhis/dbhis_military_intro.asp

Do’s and Don’ts: Shopping With Preschoolers

Child driving shopping cart in Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Although we’d all probably like to leave our children at home when we go shopping, this is not always possible.  So what can we do to make sure our shopping trips with preschoolers go as smoothly and safely as possible.  Many of the following tips are from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  I posted this back in November…but I see so many lost children, children climbing on shopping carts, etc. when I am at the store, I thought I should bring the article back again. 🙂

DO’S FOR SHOPPING WITH PRESCHOOLERS

  • Do keep children with you at all times.
  • Do accompany and supervise children in public restrooms.
  • Do have a plan in case you become separated…just like a fire safety plan which should be discussed at home and practiced routinely.
  • Do teach your child to look for people who can help…a uniformed security officer, salesperson with a name badge or another mother with children.
  • Do remind children to remain in the area where they became separated…there is a wonderful picture book story that addresses this issue…DON’T WORRY, I’LL FIND YOU by Anna Grossnickle Hines.  When Sarah and her mother go the mall to buy Sarah some clothes, Sarah insists on taking her doll.  When Sarah realizes she has left her doll at one of the stores, she runs to find it.  Now, however, she doesn’t know where her mother is.  Sarah remembers her mother’s instructions to “stay put” and so she remains  at the toy store and soon mother and child are reunited.  Read this story with your preschooler before your shopping trip and discuss the plan of action in case you become separated.

DON’TS FOR SHOPPING WITH PRESCHOOLERS

  • Don’t dress children in clothing that displays their first or last name…this may give strangers an opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
  • Don’t leave children in the toy area of a store expecting store personnel to supervise your child while you shop in another area of the store.
  • Don’t allow young children to shop on their own to purchase gifts for friends or family members.
  • Don’t shop with your child if you feel you will be distracted.  Try to make other childcare arrangements…perhaps you and a friend who also has young children can take turns watching the children while the other goes shopping for a morning or afternoon.
  • Don’t allow children to push the shopping cart if there is a younger sibling in it…and don’t allow children to hang on the cart, even if it is empty…too many accidents occur when shopping carts tip over.

Important tip: Make sure you wipe off the cart with a sanitizer (many stores provide them near the carts now) and clean your child’s hands when you leave the store.  Tawna at Random Thoughts, Advice, Gripes, etc. http://btrbb.blogspot.com/2011/02/prefenz-botanicals-alcohol-free.html is offering a giveaway of a great hand santizer product.  Head on over and enter…just a few more days!

For busy parents, online shopping can be wonderful option.  You can do it in the evening when the children are sleeping and avoid the crowds and parking hassles.  If you do go out shopping with your children, keep these tips in mind.  You’ll be glad you did!  If you need a gift for a parent, grandparent, teacher or babysitter of a preschooler, I’d like to suggest my new book, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SLEF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.  This great resource pinpoints 100 picture books every young child should hear and provides a story summary, gentle parenting tip, eco-friendly craft project and child-friendly healthful cooking activity for each   recommended title.   Hop over to my website: www.positiveparentalparticipation.com for a half-price special! 

The Grandma Chronicles: The Aborted Sleepover

Photograph of a Coney Island hot dog.

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My grandmother was a very special lady.

She loved people and had an special place in her heart for children.

Every summer, each of her grandchildren was given the opportunity to spend two weeks with her in that warm and welcoming house on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn, New York.

When I was 4 years old, I pleaded to be allowed to go for my first sleepover.  Even though my parents didn’t think I was old enough, they relented and so I helped my mother pack my little suitcase, dreaming of all the fun things I would do with my grandmother during those two weeks.  Visits to the beach at Coney Island, hot dogs at Nathans, hours spent helping my grandmother bake and cook in her warm kitchen,  planting seeds in her wildly beautiful and fragrant backyard garden. 

Since all of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren visited her on Sundays, my family and I took the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  I sat in my seat, my little suitcase at my feet, and could hardly wait for the train to arrive at her station. 

After a fun-filled day of playing with my cousins, the house slowly emptied as my aunts and uncles and cousins left for their own homes and I bid farewell to my parents and older sister.  I enjoyed the next few hours, helping my grandmother wash and dry the dishes.  I played with her special box of costume jewelry that she kept just for little girls who love to wear sparkly things.  I helped her prepare our dinner. 

But, as evening approached, I began to feel very anxious and unhappy.

I wanted to go home to sleep in my own bed…in the room I shared with my sister.

Although my grandmother did try to encourage me to stay, she understood how I felt and did not try to pressure me or make light of my concerns.  She called my parents and my father came to get me…no easy task since he had to take the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn and then do the trip in reverse to bring me home.  He had already made the trip back and forth earlier in the day.  And the next day was Monday and he would have to do it again to go to work.

But there were no recriminations or “I told you so” comments from either of my parents.

Do you have a child who suffers from separation anxiety?  Early on, young children form a very strong bond with their parents.  While we don’t want to ever break that bond, each child has their own unique ability to stretch it…some are able to do it sooner and some later. 

How can you help your children get to the point where they can watch you walk away and keep a smile on their faces and in their hearts?

Here are a few good tips that might help:

1.     Reassure your child you will always return.

2.     Keep your attitude positive and matter-of-fact.

3.     Treat your child’s concerns with respect.

4.     Offer stories of your own childhood experiences and feelings.

5.     Read picture book stories where the main character faces a similar problem, but succeeds in overcoming it. 

If you check out some of my past posts that address this issue, you will find some of those book suggestions and other tips that may help.

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/mommy-where-are-you/

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/help-where-am-i-im-lost/

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/is-your-child-anxious-about-starting-school/

You can also find more picture book recommendations, gentle parenting tips and fun-filled educational activities in my new parenting book

I hope you’ve all enjoyed The Grandma Chronicles.  It was a wonderful experience for me, revisiting with my memories of a person who had a great impact on my early years…and in helping me to become the person I am today. 

Tomorrow I will start a new series based on The Lessons of Nanny McFee.  Have you seen the movie?  I just did and I was struck by her five lessons…I think each one has a place in every parent’s rulebook.

MOMMY, WHERE ARE YOU?

Mother and three children, oil on wood, 38.5 x...

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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.

Help! Where Am I? I’m Lost!

A TTC subway train at Warden station.

Image via Wikipedia

It was a cold gray late afternoon in New York City. 

 I was on my way home from a student teaching assignment in an unfamiliar part of Brooklyn.  Leaving the school, I quickly walked to the subway station and boarded the train that would take me home.  As the train pulled away from the very next stop, I realized that the name of that station was not one I recognized.  Now I watched carefully as the train pulled into the next few stops.  More unfamiliar names!  A sick feeling formed in the pit of my stomach.  I had gotten on the wrong train! 

I must admit that I panicked.  I got off at the next stop.  Instead of finding a uniformed security person and asking which train I should board to return to the right route, I ran up the subway stairs, hailed the first cab that passed by, gave him my address and sat back, heart pounding. 

It was an expensive lesson…the cab ride cost me $10 and that was A LOT of money in those days…but I did get home safely, so I guess it was worth it.

Have you ever been lost?  Maybe there was a detour and you found yourself driving around and around, wondering which road to take.  Perhaps you went for a hike on a park trail and meandered off to look at some interesting rock formations or a bunch of wild flowers and now you are not sure which way to go to return to the main path.

Many young children also worry about getting lost or separated from those they love.  Although we want to encourage curiosity and independence, we are responsible for keeping our children safe from harm.  Teaching your child his name, address and phone number, and what to do in case he is ever lost is very important and will enable him to feel more confident about his own ability to deal with such a situation.  Reassure your child that you will always find him, no matter what…this will contribute to his feeling of safety.

You can also help children talk about their concerns by reading picture book stories that address the issue of getting lost.  While you read the story, a window of opportunity for discussion opens…so please take advantage of it.  Here’s one story suggestion on that topic:

ANGUS LOST written and illustrated by Marjorie Flack

This is a classic in children’s picture books.  The copyright date is 1931 and the illustrations hearken by to a bygone era.  That might be part of the charm of the story and you and your child can have a wonderful conversation about how milk was delivered in the olden days. J 

Angus, a little terrier, is bored with his home and yard and he decides to see what the world is like.  After several scary adventures, Angus wants very much to go home, but he cannot find his way.  He spends the night hiding in a cave, trembling in fear the entire time.  In the morning, he hears the familiar sound of the milkman’s horse and wagon and he eagerly follows them from house to house as the milkman makes his deliveries.  Finally, Angus recognizes his very own yard and is relieved to be home at last.

After you read the story and talk about it, perhaps you and your child would like to make some “real” butter. 

CHILD-FRIENDLY HOMEMADE BUTTER

You will need: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, electric mixer and a large bowl.

1.     Pour the cream into the bowl and beat on medium until stiff peaks are formed (about 2-3 minutes).  This is REAL WHIPPED CREAM!!! 

2.     Continue beating (4-8 minutes) and you will see the curds separate from the whey.  You can sing “Little Miss Muffet” with your child while you are doing this and do the finger play later.

3.     Pour off the whey and you will be left with a lump of pure butter.

4.     Enjoy with crackers, bread or toast.

5.     Put the leftover butter in a covered container and store in the refrigerator.

6.     Instead of using the electric mixer, you could put the cream in a glass jar with a lid and shake…but this will take 5-30 minutes…and everyone’s hands will be tired.

Stop by tomorrow for another story suggestion and activity from my book.  And I’ll tell you about the time I spent SIX HOURS reading Little Women while my mother and half the staff of a major New York department store searched for me.

WE ALL NEED A CHEERING COMMITTEE AND PARENTS ARE A CHILD’S MOST IMPORTANT FANS!