Dec 192014

Mongolia Craft: Build a Model Ger {Around the World in 12 Dishes} |

It’s time again for my monthly post for “Around the World in 12 Dishes,” the series in which each month participating bloggers travel the world with their kids by cooking a dish from another country and perhaps reading a book, doing a craft, or learning fun facts about it.

This time we travel to Mongolia, and while we do have a dish to share with you soon, I first wanted to write about our Mongolia craft, building a model ger.

A ger is the traditional dwelling of the mostly nomadic people of Mongolia.  They are common not just in Mongolia but throughout the region (my sister stayed in one in China), and so are more often known by their Russian name, yurt.  You can watch this video to watch an actual ger being built and see how they are used.

Talking about the ger with Monkey was a good way to get him thinking about nomadic life.  First we talked about why moving around frequently would be a good strategy for life on the harsh steppe, where families must move often to find food for their animals.  We then talked about why it would be good to have a house that you could pack and set up again easily.  I could really see the wheels turning in his brain as we talked – even if it did turn out he was applying these principle to space ships.  Hey, that is a great application, when you think about it!

Finally, I made our learning more hands on, so he would really remember the lesson and have fun with it.  First he drew a ger (though of course it had to be caught up in a natural disaster).

Then we made a model ger out of pipe cleaners and felt.  The lattice in a real ger is wooden, but on the scale we were making it, I wasn’t sure that popsicle sticks or toothpicks would work.  Plus they would take forever to glue! Instead I opted to make the lattice out of pipe cleaners. 

It was much easier to do, and it held together well, but it was harder to get the sizes to match – and of course it wasn’t nearly as strong.  Still, I was aiming more for speed and ease, so it was a good choice.

Mongolia Craft: Build a Model Ger {Around the World in 12 Dishes} |

For the roof, I made a cone out of poster paper and let Monkey decorate.  We used red and blue, since those are the colors of the Mongolian flag. Finally, I wrapped the walls in yellow felt, which nicely showed just how uneven the walls were!  In any case, by this time I was losing my audience, so we skipped making a door.   (He was supposed to have made it while I was working on the lattice but inexplicably ended up cutting up straws instead).

Mongolia Craft: Build a Model Ger {Around the World in 12 Dishes} |

Almost immediately after, Little Monkey grabbed hold of the ger, crying, “Hat! Hat!”  And so it has passed into their playthings not as a home, as I had envisioned, but as some sort of a helmet.  I will just pretend it is a Mongolian helmet and hope our dish fares better…

Mongolia Craft: Build a Model Ger {Around the World in 12 Dishes} |

Around the World in 12 DishesCheck out the other participating blogs to see what they have been cooking up: Adventures In Mommydom, Afterschool for Smarty Pants, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Maroc Mama, Creative World of Varya, Glittering Muffins, Kid World Citizen, Mermaids’ Makings, The Educators’ Spin On It and The Mommy Talks. If you try a dish from Mongolia, we’d love to hear about it! You can link up your dish or craft here to share your post on all the participating blogs:

Dec 152014

Christmas Acts of Kindness: Caroling for the Sick and Elderly, Plus Tips for Caroling with Kids |

Growing up in a small rural town in North Carolina, I remember vividly the closeness of the community and how people really did treat everyone like family.  One way they always showed their concern for the sick and the elderly was to bring them a special treat at Christmas: caroling!

You have to remember that this is a place where your nearest neighbor might live half a mile away – if you lived in a busy part of town!  While such spacious living did have its advantages, one downside was that it could be very isolating for “shut-ins,” those that because of illness or age were unable to venture out.

Luckily this was a place where people were not forgotten, especially at Christmastime.  So one chilly Saturday in December, many of the families gather to spread some holiday cheer with some good old-fashioned caroling.  While this is done in many places, here is a peek at how this community organizes it.

Acts of Kindness: Caroling for the Sick and Elderly

Each year they visit a number of homes where the residents are sick or elderly and so could use some good cheer from their neighbors.  Because of the cold (and the condition of those they are visiting), they keep each visit short, singing 3-4 songs as the recipient watches from their front porch.  As there are always children among the carolers, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a perennial favorite, as are “Silent Night” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

When the songs are over, they call out their well wishes and move on, without expectation of receiving anything in return.

Instead, they organize among themselves a progressive dinner, which they enjoy in between caroling stops.  At the beginning of the night, they gather at the home of our former neighbors – and dear friends – for appetizers.  After a few caroling visits, they continue to another home for the main course, before ending up at a third house at the end of the evening for dessert and a longer visit.  My mother jokes that it is amazing that for people who see each other everyday, they always have lots to talk about!

The children, of course, rush upstairs to the toy room, while the adults enjoy each other’s company until late in the evening.  Though my parents moved away years ago, they still make the trip back for caroling as often as they can, and I remember fondly the year I was able to join them!  It was such a warm, festive atmosphere, despite the cold, and it was especially heart-warming to see what joy it brought to those we sang to.

Tips on Caroling with Kids

Now we live with our little ones on the other side of the country, but I am trying to recreate this joyful experience with my children by caroling at a local retirement center.  I asked a good friend of mine for tips about successful caroling with kids, which I am sharing them with you below.  She is a smart lady, so these are definitely worth noting!

  1. Practice ahead of time:  Ideally you will have time to practice together as a group, but if not, at least make sure everyone has the lyrics to practice at home
  2. Keep it short: Though it is tempting as adults to want to pull out all the stops and sing all of our old favorites, that is an easy way to lose children’s attention – especially if they are songs they are not familiar with (see #3 below).  Keep it short and snappy, so that you end while everyone is still paying attention and enjoying themselves.  For young kids, 3 or perhaps 4 songs are plenty.
  3. Sing songs they know: Make things simple by choosing songs they are already familiar with.  Not only will it be easier to teach them the lyrics, they will have lots of fun singing their holiday favorites.  For us, this would be “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
  4. Bring props: Keep things fun by giving the kids some instruments to play – jingle bells are perfect!  Not all kids will want to sing in front of strangers, but most will enjoy shaking jingle bells.
  5. Limit the number of houses: Again, keep it short and simple.  If you are caroling in a neighborhood, 3-4 houses is a good number for preschoolers.  You may be able to fit in a few more for older children, but try not to stretch them too much, especially considering the cold weather!
  6. End with some hot chocolate and treats!  Finish things off on a high note by giving them some yummy treats.  This can also be a good motivator when their spirits start to flag, plus it ensures a positive finish no matter what happens during the caroling!

Have you taken your kids caroling?  Share your tips in the comments!

Christmas in Different Lands | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Christmas in Different Lands series from Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Be sure to visit the main page and Pinterest board!

Dec 122014

Children's Books About Friendship Around the World |

Part of raising world citizens is teaching children to make friends with others who may seem different.  Below is a wonderful collection of books that teach kids about friendship around the world.  Some address the topic of diversity and friendship head on, while others do so more indirectly.

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.

I received copies of Beautiful Rainbow World and The Olive Tree for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Beautiful Rainbow World

Beautiful Rainbow World was created by Suzee Ramirez and Lynne Raspet based on the lyrics of the song by Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou.  Gorgeous is really the only word to describe this book.  The photos Ramirez and Raspet have compiled of children around the world are absolutely stunning, and the text is a perfect complement, talking about diversity in terms easy for children to understand and that really speak to the heart.  The “beautiful rainbow world” is a vision of a world where everyone is appreciated and differences are celebrated within the context of our underlying unity.  Watch this video to hear the song and get a sneak peek of the book!

The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston is a beautiful tale about two children in Lebanon who learn to look past their differences to form a friendship.  The house next door to Sameer has been vacant for as long as he can remember, but now that the “troubles” in Lebanon have ended, the owners are moving back.  Sameer looks forward to having a new playmate, but the girl next door has no interest and instead stops him from collecting the olives from their family tree.  In the end, it is the destruction of this tree, growing on the border between their two houses, that brings the children together and teaches them compassion.  I love that this book is specific to a place yet the themes are very universal.  The civil war in Lebanon is alluded to but not discussed directly, so that parents can decide whether (and how much) of this to discuss with their children.  Parents of older children can use it as a starting point to discuss conflicts and war, but parents of young children can focus on the main themes of friendship and resolving conflict.

Everybody Cooks Rice

Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley is a really fun look at what connects so many diverse cultures – rice!   A young girl visits diverse homes in her neighborhood, trying to call her brother to dinner.  Each household is preparing for dinner, so she samples cuisines from the various cultures, each of which uses rice.  This is a fun book to introduce children to a range of cultures, from the perspective of the family kitchen.  I love the concept of this book – using this dinnertable staple to show how much we have in common even as we differ.  I also love that the main character takes a “trip around the world” without leaving her neighborhood, by visiting the warm, welcoming homes of her neighbors.

Going Home, Coming Home

Going Home, Coming Home/Ve Nha, Tham Que Huong by Truong Tran is a wonderful book about a young girl traveling to Vietnam, the land of her parents’ birth.  This was a great read for Monkey, as it talks about her conflict about going to a country that to her was so different – and often uncomfortable – but that was so important to her parents.  This must have seemed very familiar to him, after his trips from his home in the US to my husband’s home country of Costa Rica.  In the end, the girl comes to appreciate this new country and consider it as a second home for herself as well.  A pivotal experience for her is when she is befriended by a young Vietnamese girl, with whom she becomes close.  A beautiful book about learning to appreciate differences and being open to new experiences.

The Name Jar

The celebrated book The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi speaks to any child who’s ever felt different or shy about meeting new people.  When Unhei arrives in America from Korea, she not only has to deal with being the “new kid” but also having a strange name that no one can pronounce.  When Unhei refuses to tell them her new classmates her name, their clever solution is a “name jar” to help her choose a new one.  I love that this story is a journey not just for Unhei but for her classmates as well.  As Unhei comes to appreciate the beauty of her own name, the other children do, too.  One even goes so far as to learn how to write his own name in the traditional Korean way.  This is a book about the simple but powerful ways that we can build bridges of friendship across cultures.

Yo! Yes?

Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka is a wonderful book that can be appreciated by kids of different ages.  The text is simple enough to be understood by young children, while older children will identify with the awkwardness that sometimes accompanies making a new friend.  This is one that my son asks me to read over and over again.  The story moves along swiftly enough to keep their attention, and the vibrant, energetic illustrations capture their imaginations, as the two boys (one black, one white) meet and form a friendship.  I love that the fact that the boys are different races is never addressed directly, yet the story powerfully demonstrates how two strangers from different walks of life can become friends.

Whoever You Are

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox is one sure to spark conversations with your little ones about how much they have in common with children all over the world.  This beautiful picture book demonstrates that despite differences like skin color, schools, houses, and languages, children everywhere experience the same joy, pain, and love.  The wonderful paintings and simple text describe diversity – and unity – in ways that even young children can understand.  Older children will enjoy exploring the images of the different homes, schools, etc that are shown from other countries.

You may also enjoy these children’s books about making new friends.

Dec 102014

9 Reasons Why Education in Poor Countries Should Matter to Everyone |

It is so well-known to us that it has become almost trite: Education has the power to change the life of a child.

But have you stopped to think about exactly why it is better for you and for the world to educate children everywhere?  Sometimes living in rich countries like the US we feel insulated from what happens in remote villages on the other side of the world, but the power of educating children in those seemingly distant places truly should matter to all of us – here’s why:

1. Education = A Road Out of Poverty

Education is the fastest, most effective way to help someone rise out of poverty.  According to the UNHCR, each year a person stays in school, their earnings increase by up to 10%.  Why should you care?  Beyond, of course, the obvious humanitarian benefits, functioning economies abroad mean a healthier world economy for all of us.

9 Reasons Why Education in Poor Countries Should Matter to Everyone |

Image courtesy of IKEA Foundation

2. Education = Justice

An educated population is less likely to tolerate injustice and human rights abuses.  They are more likely to have the knowledge and access to protest and ultimately stop human rights violations.

3. Education = Democracy

A healthy, well functioning democracy needs educated citizens.  They are less likely to be persuaded by flashy rhetoric and more likely to push for discussion about real issues.

4. Education = Equality

It is perhaps girls who benefit the most from education.  Educated girls have more opportunities in life and more control over their bodies.  A society cannot advance while half of its members are kept in ignorance.

But educating girls is more than just this simple equation, because of what The Nike Foundation has termed the Girl Effect.  (One of the many things I learned from Growing Up Global).  By educating a girl, a cycle of poverty is broken for future generations, as her children are much more likely to be healthy and educated.  And non-profits have long known that if you want to educate a community, the most effective way is to educate mothers.

9 Reasons Why Education in Poor Countries Should Matter to Everyone |

Image courtesy of IKEA Foundation

5. Education = Health

Education and health go hand in hand.  As mentioned above, an educated girl is more likely to be in control of her health and to have healthy children.  Often educational programs abroad focus specifically on public health.  We can see the connection in our own country as well.  According to the US National Head Start Association, early childhood education significantly increases the overall health of children.

6. Education = Safer Communities

The same report from the National Head Start Association also shows a reduction in crime rates due to early childhood education.  Children who are educated are less likely to commit crimes and much more likely to be contributing members of society.

7. Education = A Healthy Planet

If you care about the planet, you should support education.  Simple ignorance is behind many of environmental problems at home and abroad.  Often it is the simple but significant changes to customary ways of doing things that have the most impact.  And don’t forget that the person who could engineer the next revolution in energy use, or design a better solar panel, or move us all to action with her words, could be sitting in a dusty classroom in a far-off country.

9 Reasons Why Education in Poor Countries Should Matter to Everyone |

Image courtesy of IKEA Foundation

8. Education = More Malalas, Mozarts, Gandhis, Einsteins, Curies, Mandelas

Indeed, we might well wonder how many inventions, masterpieces, and inspirations we have lost because children with great potential were not educated.  Are you willing to risk losing the cure to cancer?  Or the next great novel?  Or a soaring thinker who could inspire change through his sweeping vision?  All children have great potential, and education alone can allow us all to benefit from those hidden treasures.

9. Education = Hope

Finally, one of the most important benefits of education is hope.  Children who have access to education truly have the world opened up to them – in terms of economics, health, and quality of life.  But also in terms of dreams and confidence.  A friend of mine worked with impoverished mothers, and so often these women had a very practical understanding of what they could do to better their lives.  They could outline the steps they could take to get an education, get a better job, etc – but what they lacked was the belief that it could be done.  Education can provide children with the confidence that their dreams can become reality, and that they can make a difference in the world.

IKEA Soft Toys and How You Can Help

IKEA Soft Toy Foundation

Image courtesy of IKEA Foundation

One amazing organization that supports children’s education on a global scale is the IKEA Foundation.  If you shop at IKEA (as we often do!), you will probably have noticed their snuggly soft toys.  Now through January 3, 2015, buying one of these or a children’s book at IKEA will support childhood education!  For every soft toy or children’s book sold, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children.

Thanks to the IKEA Foundation, since 2003, more than 11 million children have benefits through 99 projects in 46 countries, with a total amount donated of $90.4 million (67 million euro).  This year it is likely they will take this grand total over the $100 million mark.

How are the donations used?  They help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.

So while you are shopping for your child this holiday season, think of other children as well, and buy a toy that everyone will really love – a softy, snuggly toy or fun children’s book for one, an educational benefit for life for another.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Dec 052014

Spanish Learning Songs for Kids: Whistlefritz CD Review |

I received a complimentary copy of ¡Sabor! for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Raising our children to be bilingual is important to us, and we are always looking for fun ways to encourage language learning.   So I was thrilled to receive a copy of the ¡Sabor! – a CD of Spanish learning songs from Whistlefritz – to review.

Music is such a wonderful way to learn language, as it makes it easy for children to absorb the rhythms and sounds of a language.  Plus it keeps learning fun, particularly important when teaching a a child who may not want to learn a language just because his parents think it’s a great idea!  In our experience lessons are learned best through play, especially with languages, since Monkey is often resistant to speaking Spanish.  But he loves music and so doesn’t mind what language it is in, as long as it is fun!

And this music definitely is fun — The themes are ones that speak to children: “Juguetes, jugetes, Yo quiero jugar. (Toys, toys, I want to play.)”  And what child wouldn’t agree that “no hay fiesta sin pastel (it’s not a party without cake)”?

The album features Spanish versions of a few classics that your children will already know – like “En el rancho de MacDonald” – but also new favorites.  My kids love “Caminemos en el Bosque/Let’s Walk Through the Woods” – which features a wolf howl!

Spanish Learning Songs for Kids: Whistlefritz CD Review |

The music itself is also the type that you can’t listen to sitting still. The songs are also lively and upbeat, and the lyrics are interactive, encouraging the listener to make animal noises, shout out a response, or sing along.

Singer-songwriter Jorge Anaya takes the listener on a journey through a fusion of different world music styles, such as cumbia, salsa, calypso, and merengue.  So not only is your child having fun, he is also absorbing some of the musical culture of Latin America along with the language.

Spanish Learning Songs for Kids: Whistlefritz CD Review |

As a non-native speaker, I really appreciate that the CD includes a booklet with the full lyrics, in English and Spanish.  But this feature had an added bonus that I hadn’t anticipated!  My reluctant Spanish speaker is also an emergent reader.  He loves to read anything he can get his hands on, and thanks to ¡Sabor! he now spends our car trips reading the album lyrics in Spanish!  Sometimes he reads it like a book (even when the music is off), and other times he reads it along with the music, exclaiming as he recognizes the words being sung.

Spanish Learning Songs for Kids: Whistlefritz CD Review |

I highly recommend this album, whether your children have already been exposed to Spanish or are just getting started.  It is a fun way to encourage Spanish learning even for the most reluctant speakers!  To see for yourself, you can listen to clips of the songs.  For more on this award-winning line of language learning materials (not just Spanish but French, too!), be sure to visit their website.  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Dec 012014

Children's Books About the True Holiday Spirit |

With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to share some of our favorite books!  These are ones that are not only fun for kids to read but that also teach them about the true holiday spirit – giving rather than getting, and love rather than just presents.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

I received complimentary copy of The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.  This post also contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a small commission.  Thank you!

Children’s Books About the True Holiday Spirit

We just love Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson.  It is an engaging, indirect way to teach kids about the Nativity.  Kids learn about sharing and sacrificing for others, as Mortimer Mouse has to decide whether to give up his warm bed in a family’s Nativity scene to make room for the tiny Baby Jesus doll.  This is a fun book to pair with making a gingerbread house, as this plays a major role in the story’s resolution.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the Nativity story from the point of view of the animals in the barn.  Through this gently told story, children will learn the importance of always making room for others.

Okay, I had to include another Karma Wilson book, since she is one of our favorites!  Bear Stays Up for Christmas follows Bear and his friends as they get ready for Christmas.  In the end, Bear learns that giving is the best present.  As with all of the Bear books, a main theme is also the importance of friendship.  Kids will love the appearance at the end of a very special red-suited visitor.

Another engaging story of the holiday spirit is The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan and Mike Berenstein.  Like children everywhere, Brother and Sister Bear are excited about getting presents on Christmas, yet during the Christmas pageant they learn the importance of giving.

The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin

The Driedel That Wouldn’t Spin by Martha Seif Simpson is a lovely book set during Hanukkah, though its message is not specific to the holiday  A shopkeeper during the busy Hanukkah season dreams of profit from selling an elaborate dreidel given to him by a peddler.  Though the peddler warns that “the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought” the shopkeeper immediately puts it in his shop window with a hefty price tag.  Child after child demands it from his parent, yet it is always returned because it won’t spin.  It is not until a humble, shy boy enters the shop with his father that the shopkeeper discovers the magic of a toy waiting for a deserving owner.  This charming tale, illustrated with Old World style paintings, is a beautiful way to teach children about the triumph of humility over greed and the importance of appreciating the real spirit of the season. Includes information at the back of the book about the miracle of Hanukkah and how to play the dreidel game.

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel is another favorite of ours.  It is a silly story about an old woman whose hearing and sight are so poor that she mistakes a wandering bear for the rabbi and so invites him in to enjoy latkes.  Children will laugh as she tries to remove the bear’s fur “coat” and exclaims over his remarkable appetite.  She even sends him off with a special gift – a warm scarf.  When she later discovers the truth about her Chanukah guest, she laughs at her foolishness and proclaims that even a bear deserves a happy Chanukah.

The charming heroine of The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser shows the true heart of Hanukkah when she is determined to invite her elderly neighbor to a special family dinner.  Though Mrs. Greenberg is invited every year, she always refuses to come, saying she doesn’t want to be a bother.  Yet this year young Rachel will not be deterred, as she comes up with an ingenious offer that the woman cannot refuse.  A fun story that also teaches the importance of hospitality and thinking of others.

Don’t be put off by the funny title of The Trees of the Dancing Goatsby Patricia Polacco.  This book is truly a gem.  It is a wonderful story for older children about people coming together despite their differences.  Young Trisha is caught up in the excitement of preparing for Hanukkah in the traditional Russian way, yet the holiday fun is dampened when her best friend’s family is struck by scarlet fever.  Trisha’s family then work together to make sure their neighbors get a real Christmas.  Based on her own family’s experiences as Eastern European immigrants living on a farm in Michigan, this book can be an especially good stepping stone for discussions about interfaith celebrations and the true spirit of both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Christmas Activities and Crafts for Kids hosted by All Things Kids Bloggers

I am so excited to be participating in another wonderful monthly event from All Things Kids.  This month our theme is Christmas Activities and Crafts for Kids!  Enjoy the wonderful posts below, and don’t miss out on our big giveaway!

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails: Stackadoo Printed Christmas Tree Cards

Craftulate: Pipe Cleaner Christmas Trees

Where Imagination Grows: Christmas Tree Suncatchers

House of Burke: Tape Resist Christmas Presents

All Done Monkey: Children’s Books About the True Holiday Spirit

JDaniel4’s Mom: Christmas Memory Countdown

Sugar Aunts: Recycled Ornament Garland Craft

Our Prizes

US Shipping Only

All Things Kids Christmas Giveaway Prizes

1. That Dog! and I Can Do It books from Tiger Tales

2. Science BLAST from littleBLAST

3. Stackadoos from B Toys

4. The Pandas and Their Chopsticks from Wisdom Tales

5. Handprint Stone Craft Kit from Craft Project Ideas

6. ¡Sabor! Spanish Learning Songs CD from Whistlefritz

7. Kids yoga book (winner’s choice!) from Kids Yoga Stories

8. Celebrate Christmas Around the World! Printable Pack from Multicultural Kid Blogs

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nov 282014

Character Building Activity Kits: Happy Heart Kid |

I received a complimentary kit from Happy Heart Kid for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Spiritual education is a cornerstone of how we are raising our sons, so I am always looking for resources to use at home as well as for our character building classes.  So I was thrilled to be contacted by Happy Heart Kid, a line of of kid friendly products that make character building fun and interactive for families.

Character Building Activity Kits: Happy Heart Kid |

Each Happy Heart Kid activity kit is based around a character trait like empathy, manners, and grit.  We received an empathy kit, and I was impressed by how well thought out it was in terms of content and packaging.  All of the materials are attractive and engaging, with an emphasis on learning through play.  There are crafts and activities, coloring, and a story.  In the empathy kit, for example, you make an Empathy magnet, put together felt flowers to give to others, practice recognizing emotions with a hands on activity, and read a story (also a coloring book!) that illustrates what empathy means.

Even my Monkey – who often will not sit still for crafts – enjoyed making this bright, colorful Empathy magnet.  He was so proud to put it up on our refrigerator!

Character Building Activity Kits: Happy Heart Kid |

Each kit is a self-contained unit, designed to make things easy for busy parents who want to spend their time focusing on their kids rather than chasing down supplies and materials.  So each kit includes everything you need to do the crafts and activities – right down to the crayons and glue stick!

The materials are all right on a child’s level – simple without being watered down.  This is so helpful, since explaining abstract values like empathy can be difficult.  The explanations and illustrations in the Happy Heart Kid kit are easy to understand, with obvious applications in a child’s everyday life:  How can we have empathy towards someone who is rude to us on the playground?  What can we do when we hurt someone’s feelings?

Character Building Activity Kits: Happy Heart Kid |


Call for Bloggers: Happy Heart Kid | Multicultural Kid BlogsPhoto courtesy of Happy Heart Kid

Happy Heart Kid aims to empower young kids with strong character traits in the hope of creating the next generation of leaders and change makers.

If you are excited about giving your child the tools to grow a happy heart, visit Happy Heart Kid to learn more about their products, and consider contributing to their Kickstarter, open only until December 16!

Call for Bloggers: Happy Heart Kid | Multicultural Kid BlogsPhoto courtesy of Happy Heart Kid

Nov 262014

Fun and Educational Gift for Kids: Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review |

Looking for a gift your kids will enjoy and you can feel good about?  Be the cool mom (but also the smart one) by getting an Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition!  Monkey looooves this tablet, and I love that he’s actually learning while he plays – plus it has a 2-year worry-free guarantee, so I don’t have to worry about it getting dropped, spilled on, or (ahem) banged on by a toddler.

What your kids will love:

  1. Tons of fun games, apps, and more: The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition includes a year of FreeTime Unlimited.  What does this mean?  Unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games – at no extra cost!
  2. Lots of cool features: More than just a toy, the Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition is a full-fledged tablet, with a quad-core processor, HD display, and Dolby Digital audio.  It also has front- and rear-facing cameras.
  3. Easy integration with other Amazon devices.  If you already have kids’ books or apps downloaded to your own Kindle or in your Cloud, the Amazon Fire will easily detect these and download them onto the new device.  Monkey was excited to see not only loads of new content but also his old favorites.

Fun and Educational Gift for Kids: Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review |

What you will love:

  1. See #1 above:  A year of FreeTime Unlimited at no extra cost.   Rather than having to constantly purchase new games and apps to keep your little ones entertained, with the Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition, you have access to all this content without paying another penny!
  2. You control what content your kids have access to:  You can set up a customized profile for each child, tailoring their access so that you can hand over the tablet without worrying about what they’ll be viewing.
  3. Screen time limits: Personalize screen time and set educational goals for each child.  I love that you can  limit overall screen time, or limit just the games while giving unlimited access to the books, for example.  Parents can even decide set a “bedtime” for the Amazon Fire and make sure it doesn’t wake up again until morning!  You can also made adjustments for weekdays vs weekends.  A real parent must have designed these controls!
  4. The first ever 2-year worry-free guarantee – no questions asked!  That means no matter what happens, just send the Kindle back and it will be replaced for free, without having to answer any awkward questions! Each Kids Edition tablet also comes with a sturdy but lightweight kid-proof case to protect against those drops and bumps.

Fun and Educational Gift for Kids: Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review |

If you are looking for a fun, educational gift for your kids that everyone can feel good about, the Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition is for you!

Fun and Educational Gift for Kids: Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review |

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Nov 242014

Spiritual education is a keystone of how I am raising my sons, and I am always inspired to hear how other parents are working to raise their children along a spiritual path. In the series Parenting and Faith I feature posts from bloggers discussing how their religion or philosophy influences their parenting. I am so pleased to share a post today from Anna of Russian Step By Step for Children, about baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church {Parenting and Faith} | Russian Step By Step for Children on

Baptism (Крещение) is an Old Russian tradition. It comes from Jesus Christ being baptized by John the Baptism in the waters of the river Jordan.

In Russia this tradition is what adds you to Church (воцерковление) and you can be baptized at any age, although most Russian Orthodox families will baptize their children young or even as soon as possible.

The water element is always present and babies are put into the water while with adults water will just be used without them going all the way in the water.

Baptizing is considered one of the most important religious events in the life of a person and you have to carefully prepare for it.

During the Soviet times religion was prosecuted so those who stayed with the church would have a clandestine baptism. The baptized could not wear their crosses. Nevertheless a lot of families kept the religious traditions alive and only in the late 80-ties the tradition of Baptism started to be accepted by the government again.

Russian Orthodox religion is the dominant one in the modern Russia.

Russian Orthodox (41%)

Muslim (6.5%)

Unaffiliated Christian (4.1%)

Other Orthodox (1.5%)

Neopagan and Tengrist (1.2%)

Tibetan Buddhist (0.5%)

Other religions (1.7%)

Spiritual but not religious (25%)

Atheist and non-religious (13%)

Undecided (5.5%)

Many churches that were demolished or used for other purposes during the Soviet times are now restored or rebuilt. One of the famous churches that were rebuilt is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It was demolished during the soviet times and an outdoor pool was built in its place. In 2000 it was reopened in the same place.

What is Baptism in Russian Orthodox Church?

Choosing a Name

First the parents decide on the Church name for the child. Usually it is linked to a Saint whose day is near the Birth day of the child and who shares the name. That will be the child’s guardian saint.


Then a godmother and a godfather are selected. As it is a big role there is a lot to take into consideration when choosing them. The godparents take the responsibility of leading the child in the spiritual and church life, showing what is right to do in life, teach to be hard-working, being able to behave properly, love others, be kind, etc. Godparents bear the responsibility for part of the godchild’s actions. Godparents have to be of Russian Orthodox faith. If you cannot find both a Godmother and a Godfather you have to have a Godmother for a girl and a Godfather for the boy.

The Ceremony

This is the brief description of the actual ceremony. It lasts about 40-60 minutes.

The ceremony starts in the doors of the church with the Godparent holding the child while the priest says prayers over them. Then the Godparent reads a special prayer called “I Believe” (Верую). Then the child is stripped out of the clothes and gets anointed with special oil and is put into the water, the cross is put on the child’s neck, then the Godparent with the child follows the priest around the basin with water and then in the final part the priest carries boys into the altar or girls in front of it and finally gives the child back to the Mother (or Father) after the parent does a big bow  (they touch their head to the ground).

Then the priest will add the child’s name into the church book alongside the parents’ information.

The Clothes

Before the baptism the child usually wears an all-white outfit, after the child is put into the water he/she is accepted by the godparent into a clean usually new white towel, and then the child wears a special white gown with a cross on it for the rest of the ceremony. If several children get baptized in the family it is traditional to keep the same gown and baptize all the children in it. The child would now wear the cross on a daily basis. Usually you can have two or more crosses, one for daily wear and others that are more decorative for special occasions.

After the Ceremony

After the ceremony is done at the church, a meal is traditionally hosted by the family to celebrate the event.

The next step is to do the First Communion. Usually you want to do it as soon as possible after the Baptism. Usually the child will start going to church once a week and will have communion every week. After the age of 12 the child needs to start doing confessions before being able to do communion.

The New Old

Nowadays people who were baptized in secret themselves and usually do not have any memories of it want their children to have a big open baptism ceremony that is celebrated with relatives and friends of the family.

Old traditions are rediscovered and reintroduced into the lives of the Russian people and Baptism is one of the traditions that became quite popular among the Russian Orthodox population all over the world.

Anna WattAnna Watt is originally from Russia and majored in Education and Linguistics there.  She lived in France where she received her Master’s Degree in International and Interactive Communication.  Anna speaks fluent Russian, English and French and also knows some Spanish, German, Japanese and Italian.  Anna loves education, languages and technology, so she is always involved in all three.  Anna has always been involved in supporting and promoting the study of the Russian language, as well as introducing Russia’s language and culture to a variety of people world-wide.   As a mother of young girls (she is raising them Russian-English bilingual) her recent projects are books and a blog Russian Step By Step for Children geared towards kids living outside a Russian-speaking country.

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Parenting and Faith on

In the series Parenting and Faith bloggers share how faith influences their parenting. You can find all the posts in this series on the main page as well as the Parenting and Faith Pinterest board.

Nov 202014

Practificing Mindfulness for Kids: Spot Sitting {A Year in the Secret Garden} |

I am so thrilled to be taking part in the book tour for the magical new book A Year in the Secret Garden by Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters.  The Secret Garden on which it is based is a classic of children’s literature, whose appeal spans the generations.  My grandfather related to me how he would read it to his mother in the evenings as she washed the dishes, and I like to continue that parent-child bond now by sharing this favorite book with my sons, aided by this wonderful new guide.

So much of the wonder of The Secret Garden is that the reader watches along with Mary and Colin as the garden gradually comes back to life.  It is a lesson in patience and in learning to appreciate subtle changes.  The authors of A Year in the Secret Garden mimic this progression by structuring their book around the months of the year.  For each month, there are special activities, recipes, crafts, and characters related to the book for the reader to explore.  As the garden grows, so does the reader’s understanding of the world of The Secret Garden.

As part of the blog tour for this wonderful book, I am focusing on the month of May.  I was instantly drawn to the activity spot sitting, which is a wonderful way for children (and adults!) to practice mindfulness.  It relates to the outdoor sensory activity I did with Monkey and his friends last spring, so I drew on that for this exercise.

Monkey and I sat in our backyard one day, and I explained the concept of spot sitting: sitting still in a quiet spot and really paying attention to what is happening around you.  What do you see?  What do you hear?  What do you feel?  Allow your thoughts to follow your senses and enjoy delving deeper into the natural world.

Practicing Mindfulness for Kids: Spot Sitting {A Year in the Secret Garden} |

Practificing Mindfulness for Kids: Spot Sitting {A Year in the Secret Garden} |

For my active little Monkey, this was a real change of pace!  It’s fine if your child can’t sit still for very long – this will come with practice.  Right now it’s more about planting the seed and teaching them that there are different ways of being in the world – sometimes we’re running and jumping and playing, and sometimes we’re still and observing.  Both are great!

I highly recommend A Year in the Secret Garden for adults and children to explore together.  It is a wonderful tool to learn about literature, history, culture, but also to build the bond between parent and child, just as my grandfather did so many years ago, to the gentle sound of his mother’s washing.

A Year in the Secret Garden - Blog Tour Button


About the Book

A Year in the Secret Garden - cover

Title: A Year in the Life of the Secret Garden | Author: Valarie Budayr | Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters | Publication Date: November, 2014 | Publisher: Audrey Press | Pages: 144 | Recommended Ages: 5 to 99

Book Description: Award-winning authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book.Over 140 pages, with 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room.

Amazon * Audrey Press * Goodreads


About the Author: Valarie Budayr

Valarie BudayrValarie Budayr loves reading and bringing books alive. Her popular website,, inspires children and adults alike to experience their books through play, discovery, and adventure.

She is founder of Audrey Press, an independent publishing house, as well as an Amazon and iTunes best-selling author. She has written The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and encouraging families and schools to pull books off the shelves and stories off the pages.


Book Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Pinterest | Google+ | Goodreads


About the Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters

Marilyn Scott-WatersMarilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website,, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things.

She is the creator of a paper toy craft book series The Toymakers Christmas: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling), and The Toymakers Workshop: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling). She is also the co-creator with J. H. Everett of the middle grade nonfiction series, Haunted Histories, (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). Ms. Scott-Waters illustrated The Search For Vile Things (Scholastic), and created paper engineering for Pop & Sniff Fruit (Piggy Toes Press).

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A Year in the Secret Garden Blog Tour Schedule (2014)


November 1

Mother Daughter Book Reviews (Launch)

Coffee Books & Art (Guest Post)

WS Momma Readers Nook (Book Review)

November 2

Cherry Mischievous (Excerpt)

Hope to Read (Excerpt)

November 3

Eloquent Articulation (Book Review)

Enter Here Canada (Excerpt)


November 4

BeachBoundBooks (Excerpt)

Books, Babies and Bows (Book Review)

November 5

Monique’s Musings (Book Review)

November 6

SOS-Supply (Book Review)


November 7

Randomly Reading (Book Review)

November 8

Adalinc to Life (Book Review)


November 9

100 Pages a Day (Book Review)

November 10

Edventures With Kids (Book Review)


November 11

Icefairy’s Treasure Chest (Book Review)

November 12

Girl of 1000 Wonders (Book Review)


November 13

Seraphina Reads (Guest Post)

November 14

Juggling Act Mama (Book Review)


November 15

Pragmatic Mom (Author/Illustrator Interview)

Purple Monster Coupons (Excerpt)

November 16

Stacking Books (Book Review)


November 17

Oh My Bookness (Book Review)

November 18

Crystal’s Tiny Treasures (Book Review)


November 19

The Blended Blog (Book Review)

November 20

All Done Monkey (Book Review)

November 21

Geo Librarian (Book Review)

Grandbooking (Author/Illustrator Interview)


November 22

My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews (Book Review)

November 23

Christy’s Cozy Corners (Book Review)

My Life, Loves and Passions (Book Review)

November 24

Bookaholic Chick (Excerpt)

Hide-N-(Sensory)-Seeking (Book Review)


November 25

Ninja Librarian (Guest Post)

November 26

Jane Ritz (Book Review)

Rockin’ Book Reviews (Book Review)

November 27

I’d Rather Be Reading At The Beach (Book Review)


November 28

Deal Sharing Aunt (Book Review)

November 29

Mommynificent (Book Review)

November 30

This Kid Reviews Books (Book Review)

Java John Z’s (Author/Illustrator Interview)


* $100 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 100 gift card

Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: December 7, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
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