Aug 252017
 
 August 25, 2017  Education, multiculturalism, raising world citizens, spiritual education Comments Off on Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids

Learning about other religions is an important of a world cultures curriculum, but one religion I did not know much about growing up was Sikhism. That is why I was so pleased to receive some beautiful books on Sikhism for kids, which prompted me to deepen my own understanding of this egalitarian, inclusive religion.

When my oldest son was very young, some friends and I had a chance to visit a local Sikh temple with our little ones. It is was an experience I’ll never forget! We were shown such kindness from everyone we met, and I was impressed with their dedication to serving others, as exemplified in the meal that was provided to everyone who attended. Since I was there with a three year old, I didn’t have a chance to really ask questions, and so was left wondering exactly what Sikhs believed and where their traditions had come from. Why do the men wear turbans, and why do they keep their hair so long? Do they believe in one god or many? Why do they all seem to have the same last names?

If you or your children have similar questions, here are great resources on Sikhism for kids that you can share.

Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. 

Related Post: India for Kids: Favorite Resources

A great place to start is this overview which outlines 10 things everyone should know about Sikhism, including the fact that it is an inclusive, pluralistic religion whose members have a long history of fighting for social justice. You can also get a good overview from the Sikhism Guide online or from the BBC website.

I really love the Khalsa Kids website. (Khalsa is the word for the Sikh community). This site is geared towards Sikh kids, but has one section devoted to explaining Sikhism and another just for teachers. These even include lesson plans and aids for classroom discussions. You really get the sense that Sikhs spend a lot of their time having to answer questions about themselves!

Your kids will enjoy this brief video introduction to Sikhism from Little Sikhs (be sure to check out their other resources as well!)

And now for those beautiful books I mentioned! I am grateful to the lovely Saffron Press for sharing them with me. All three are from author Navjot Kaur but with different illustrators, all of whose paintings compliment the text of each book in wonderfully distinct ways. (Side note: the author’s last name of Kaur is the female equivalent of the last name Singh. All Sikhs have one of these two last names – Singh for males, Kaur for females – to demonstrate their belief in total equality, a revolutionary idea when it was founded in 15th century India, steeped in the hierarchical caste system. Traditionally, last names were an easy way to find out what caste a person belonged to).

Related Post: Zoroastrianism for Kids

As of this writing none of the books below is readily available from Amazon; however, you can find them all on the Saffron Press website.

The Garden of Peace by Navjot Kaur | Sikhism Learning Resources for Kids

The Garden of Peace is a lushly illustrated book about the origins of Sikhism, using the allegory of planting a garden from seeds that no one thought would sprout. Each seed represents a central tenet of the Sikh faith, such as kindness or determination. Despite the opposition of the evil emperor and his warriors, the little seeds grow into a beautiful garden of peace, tended by a growing number of faithful followers who come from all walks of life. At the back of the book are instructions to grow your own garden of peace by, for example, planting kindness and believing in yourself. I also appreciated the extended author’s note, which gives a detailed history of the origins of Sikhism and how Sikhs today carry on this tradition of peace and service to all.

A Lion's Mane by Navjot Kaur | Sikhism Learning Resources for Kids

The award-winning book A Lion’s Mane focuses on the most visible marker of a follower of the Sikh faith – the turban. It explores the meanings of this “lion’s mane” by traveling around the world to connect this Sikh tradition to beliefs about lions in different cultures. For example, Richard the Lionheart of England had many brave knights, and being a Sikh also means having courage. The underlying theme of the book is that although the boy in the book may look different, the turban that looks so “strange” is precisely what connects him to others around the world, and, more to the point, each of us has something that makes us special: “I have a lion’s mane and I am different, just like you!” Don’t miss the curriculum guide that the author has created to accompany this conversation-sparking book.

Dreams of Hope | Sikhism Learning Resources for Kids

Dreams of Hope is a gentle bedtime story told by a father to his young daughter. “Where will our dream journey begin tonight, Little One?” His words travel with her as she flies through dreams to visit the nighttime creatures settling down to sleep in the meadow, on the mountaintop, and in the ocean. The text is sprinkled throughout with Panjabi words, explained in a glossary at the back, including the mantra Vaa hey guroo, which is used by Sikhs as “an expression of awe or wonder.” This gorgeous book is clearly meant to be a keepsake, as it contains space for you to write down your dreams and wishes for your child. It also includes a Dreams of Hope Travel Guide with drawings of peace monuments around the world.

Aug 022017
 
 August 2, 2017  Book Reviews, character building for kids Comments Off on Children’s Books About Being Brave

We all want our children to go off and have adventures, to live life to the fullest. An essential component of this is, of course, teach them to be brave, so they are not daunted when faced with a difficult situation or a new experience. As the beginning of the school year approaches, it can be an especially important time to remind children of the courage they have inside them. Here are some wonderful books for all ages that teach by example how to be brave when faced with challenges large and small.

Children's Books About Being Brave | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Children’s Books About Being Brave

Poor little baby bird can think of all kinds of reasons why attempting to fly out of the nest is a bad idea. Each time he peers over the edge of his safe, warm nest, the shadows twist into the menacing shapes of his fears. NOPE! is his response whenever his mother tries to prod him to try to fly. Then just when it looks like he might never leave, his mother gives him some gentle, um, encouragement but pushing him out of the nest. A very funny story with extremely simple text but incredibly expressive illustrations. 

Jabari Jumps is actually one that several of us that review books have been chatting about because we all love it so much! (You can read another review from one of them). So many kids (and adults) can relate to wanting to jump off the high dive at the pool but then chickening out when the time comes and we see how far down it is to the water. I love the character of Jabari but also his dad, who is there to offer him encouragement. He recognizes when Jabari needs a little more time but also knows just what to say when the moment is right. I am going to remember his advice myself, that instead of being scared about something we can think of it like a little surprise – because who doesn’t like surprises?

My 4 year old requests Jabari Jumps every night at bedtime, and after he was brave enough to jump into the pool recently, he told me that he was just like Jabari!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Hello Kitty Storybook) is part of a gentle series of fairy tale adventures for very young readers. It also includes Thumbelina (Hello Kitty Storybook). If you have a Hello Kitty fan in your house, you won’t want to miss these – and if you don’t, you might after you read these books! While they present somewhat scary situations (falling through a rabbit hole, being kidnapped by a toad), here the scary factor is toned down and the emphasis is on the adventure and the happy ending.

RELATED POST: Adventure Books for Kids

The Road Home is a beautiful book about finding safety and comfort in a big world. “This road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home” is the echoing refrain as woodland creatures and their children begin to prepare for the coming winter. What I love about this book, in addition to the gorgeous illustrations, is the idea that whenever we are with our loved ones, we are already home. A great book to snuggle up and read with your little ones, to remind them that they are never alone.

Black Belt Bunny is a cute, funny book your children will love! Black Belt Bunny has all kinds of super cool moves to face any challenge – but he wasn’t expecting to have to face salad! What will Black Belt Bunny do when he is asked to prepare his own salad? Mind you, Black Belt Bunny actually loves his vegetables (as all bunnies do), but he’s never had to make one before, and he’s not sure he can! Luckily this fierce little bunny summons his skills to invent his own creative way to make a salad! My favorite part, though, is the end, where the grown up, who has been encouraging him all the while, has the tables turned on him – he has to be brave enough to try something new, too!

We love Harriet the Hamster Princess! In fact, I just finished re-reading the first book in the series (Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible) with my boys. So we were all excited to learn that there was a new adventure out: as with all of the Harriet books, Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble is a re-telling of a classic fairy tale (this time Jack and the Beanstalk), but with a spunky heroine who loves to battle with the bad guys. Harriet and her friends are back in another hilarious book that blends the graphic novel and storybook formats. Great for reluctant and early readers. These books also make great read-louds!

RELATED POST: Hybrid Graphic Novels for Kids

I’m also happy to share the latest installment from another beloved series: Mystery of the Min Min Lights is the ninth book from Pack-n-Go Girls, the chapter books that take girls around the world on incredible adventures! (I should add that my son adores these books, so they aren’t just for girls!) Wendy Lee isn’t sure about having to spend a year in the Australian outback when her mom is on assignment for work, but at least she makes friends with Chloe, who invites her to stay at her family’s sheep station. Yet soon she discovers that someone is stealing the sheep – and what does this have to do with the spooky lights that can be seen at night? To solve the mystery and help her new friend, Wendy must dig deep to be brave and do what it takes to catch the thief.

As always, readers will learn about a new part of the world, as facts are woven naturally into the story. I love that the main character (the non-Australian character who is having an adventure in Australia) is Chinese American. Usually the “normal” character is a white Westerner, so this is a great change and adds another layer of complexity and richness to this wonderful tale.

In a time when immigration is constantly in the news, Evangelina Takes Flight gives middle grade readers a fresh look at the challenges faced by Mexican immigrants to the US over a century ago. At the time, most fled their homes because of war, rather than economic hardship. Evangelina is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood when rumors of wars and marauding soldiers reach their small ranch in the Mexican countryside. Though they are not wealthy, her family knows they will still be targets because they own their own land. Evangelina is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and travel with her family to the United States, where she struggles to find her voice in a new language and confront the many Americans who are hostile to the new arrivals.

As a history buff, I loved the detail about life in revolutionary Mexico, as well as what the long journey to the US would have been like. But young readers will identify with Evangelina’s painful transition to her new school and admire her being brave enough to finally confront those who would fight against immigrants rather than giving them a chance. Would be a great book to pair with Esperanza Rising, about another young woman who immigrants from Mexico several decades later.

May 112017
 
 May 11, 2017  Book Reviews, spiritual education Comments Off on Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing

Whenever my four year old wants to do something he knows he is not supposed to, he looks at me very intently and says, “Mommy, don’t see me.” It makes me laugh every time (and I do appreciate the red flag that mischief is afoot!) but on a more serious note, it reminds me that it is a work in progress to teach children to do the right thing even if no one is watching or, more importantly, even if it is difficult or they may not get an obvious reward.

There is no magic formula, but here are some ways I’ve discovered that help raise children who do the right thing.

Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing

Lead by Example

Nothing will make a bigger impact on your kids than how you act, even in situations where it may not seem like a “big deal.” For example, do you hold the door for others? Are you gracious when someone holds the door for you? Do you go back inside the store if you notice the cashier forgot to ring up one of your items? Do you step in when you see someone is being bullied? Kids take notice, and quickly learn to mimic your actions.

Inspire Them with Role Models

Of course, we as parents are far from perfect, which is why it is wonderful to be able to show them some examples of truly extraordinary people who can inspire us. I must confess that I didn’t really know much about Pete Seegar until I read the remarkable new children’s biography Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice, and then I realized how much I had already been influenced by him without even knowing it! For example, I never knew that he was the one who popularized the anthem “We Shall Overcome,” even introducing it to Martin Luther King, Jr.

This beautiful book gives us an intimate look at this pivotal figure, focusing not just on his musical legacy but on his legacy of change and fighting for justice. It is hard to read this book without wanting to get up and do something to make the world a better place – and to sing while you do it! I love the illustrations and how highlights from Seegar’s life are woven together to give the reader a cohesive message of hope and the power of one person to make a difference.

Related Post: Girls Who Changed the World

Teach Them to Look Beyond Themselves

A key element in teaching kids to do the right thing is to help them care about others. Developing empathy is key, because without it, they lack the will to take action to help others. Pass It On is a very sweet book for very young readers about sharing joy with others. It is also about recognizing the wonder of the world around you then passing that excitement on to others. Pass It On is a perfect way to teach children that sharing isn’t just about toys, it’s also about sharing a smile or a laugh with someone else.

Related Post: Children’s Books About Sharing

Teach Them to Think Long Term

A child who only seeks instant gratification will not understand the more satisfying rewards of doing the right thing, since these usually are slower in coming. Sometimes you immediately get a smile or a thank you when you help someone, but oftentimes there is no immediate reward or it may not be obvious. By helping children understand that good things come to those who wait, you will set the stage for them to do what is right, even if there is no immediate benefit to themselves.

Give Them Concrete Tools

Most children are concrete thinkers and understand better through specific examples of what behavior you expect from them. Set them up for success by giving them concrete tools of how to handle situations like bullying. For example, in our character building classes, we read stories, brainstormed how we might react in different scenarios, and did lots of role playing. These activities help build children’s confidence and give them concrete actions they can take when confronted with a difficult situation. Doing it as a group activity also helps build a community of peers that are all striving to help others and do what’s right.

How do you teach your kids to do the right thing?

Apr 132017
 
 April 13, 2017  activities, crafts, Ridvan, STEM 2 Responses »

The Festival of Ridván begins next week, and because it commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s stay in a garden full of roses, I love to do rose crafts and activities with my children to celebrate (like make these rose cookies). Inspired by the roses that were piled in Bahá’u’lláh’s tent each day (so many that His guests could not see each other over them!) I have gathered together a huge list of rose crafts, play and learning activities, and recipes for you. Enjoy!

A huge collection of rose crafts, play and learning activities, and recipes

Rose Crafts

From Living Ideas: DIY Rose Egg Craft

From Crafts by Amanda: Realistic Duct Tape Roses & Cardboard Tube Bouquet of Felt Roses

From Red Ted Art: Paper Towel Roses & Duct Tape Rose Pens

From Messy Little Monster: Celery Roses

From No Biggie: Pipe Cleaner Rose Rings

From Mum in the Madhouse: Simple Paper Roses

From Bellissima Kids: Paper Roses Bouquet

From FabDIY: Coffee Filter Rose

From Self-Reliant Living: Egg Carton Roses

From Mom on Time Out: Hershey’s Kisses Roses

From Kids Activities Blog: Paper Plate Roses

Rose Play & Learning Activities

From Teach Beside Me: LED Roses

From Schooling a Monkey: 3D Rose Model – Biology for Kids

From Mother Natured: Rose Study

From Homegrown Friends: Color Changing Rose Experiment

From Kitchen Counter Chronicle: Make a Book – The Giving Roses

From Nurture Store: Rose Petal Sensory Play Tub

From Frogs Snails and Puppy Dog Tails: Rose Petal Water Play

From Childhood 101: Rose Playdough

From Crafts on Sea: Rose Scented Playdough

Rose Recipes

From All Done Monkey: Rose Cookies

From Martha Stewart: Ring Around the Rose Petal Fools

From The European Mama: Rose Petal Jam

From Gimme Some Oven: Rose Cake

From Life of a Lost Muse: Rose Apple Pie

From Heather Christo: White Peach and Rose Sorbet

From The Pretty Blog: Homemade Rosewater Marshmallows

From Global Table Adventure: Rosewater Lemonade, Rosewater Tea, Sweet Semolina Cake with Rosewater and Lemon, & Sweet Saffron Custard with Rosewater

From Posh Little Designs: DIY Raspberry Rose Ice Cubes

From A Pumpkin & A Princess: Rose Petal Bath Soak

From Lulus: Coconut Rose Body Scrub

Apr 112017
 
 April 11, 2017  Ridvan Comments Off on Ridvan Flower Board with Activities for Kids

As the Bahá’í festival of Ridván approaches, I’m pleased to share this beautiful Ridvan flower board idea from my friend Chelsea Lee Smith of Enable Me To GrowIt is a great way for families to celebrate this festival with kids! For more ideas, see our Walking Through the Garden of Ridván series.

Ridvan Flower Board with Activities for Children | Alldonemonkey.com

Ridvan Flower Board

Ridván is the “King of Festivals” for Bahá’ís and commemorates the 12 days that Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. camped on the banks of the Tigris River near Baghdad and, while there, proclaimed His mission to a small group of followers. (To read more click here).

I wanted to create some sort of way for our family to get a surprise on each of the 12 days (plus a decoration to have out during the Ridván period). Luckily I happened to find a piece of homemade art at a second-hand shop made out of wood with 12 wooden flowers, so I used it to make this Ridvan flower board.  I took off the random bits that were on it (stickers, pieces of paper, buttons, paper muffin cups etc decorating the flowers) and repainted it, cut up some leaves and painted them too, then added little jewels, some decorative ribbon, and some letters and numbers I bought.

Ridvan Flower Board | Alldonemonkey.com

You can make your flower board out of cardboard, card stock, cloth, etc. You could either add leaves or flowers – if with cloth a little tab of velcro may work well to attach them, and if it’s paper then try using blue tac.

I put a little surprise activity on a post-it note on the back of each of the leaves. The leaves are attached to the frame with sticky tac, so that my son can take them off to read on the appropriate day. (You can use pictures for younger children so they can “read” the notes themselves).

For a group project, you could give each child a flower or leaf to decorate and add to the board. And you could either post up quotations or numbers on top of the flowers/leaves for each day.

Sample Activities for Each Leaf

Bake a cake for the Ridván party

Plant a garden

Do a crown craft

Rdivan Flower Board | Alldonemonkey.com

Make a card for a friend

Have fun with sensory play

Enjoy tea and muffins while talking about the story of Ridván

Rdivan Flower Board | Alldonemonkey.com

Get ice cream

Tell the story of Ridván using a felt board

Make tents

Rdivan Flower Board | Alldonemonkey.com

Make a collage of flowers

Make rose cookies

Learn a new song

Go on a picnic

Ridván Flower Board | Alldonemonkey.com

Because we’ve been in the groove of celebrating Holy Days for the past few years, it is seeming to come so much more naturally now and I don’t feel stressed about getting things together but just going with the flow.  So if you are new to the idea of celebrating but want to do something, don’t worry if it seems difficult at first or like it’s too much to plan.  The smallest and simplest of things mean the most to children… like today I arranged the fruit on the plate in a pretty way for morning snack (ie grapes in the middle of the plate surrounded by cut up pears and apples) and the boys were super impressed.  Just putting in a little effort here and there to make things festive and remembering to talk about the meaning of the day is great.  And with a little practice, it will all come together easily.

Chelsea Lee Smith is a mother of three and is passionate about empowering families with tools for character education so that they can contribute to making the world a better place. She blogs at Enable Me To Grow offering activities, ideas and resources for character building and more.

Apr 052017
 
 April 5, 2017  Book Reviews, parenting, spiritual education Comments Off on Emotional Intelligence: Tips for Parents

Learning to navigate your emotions and those of others is an important set of skills for children to develop. This “emotional intelligence” is just as critical to future success and happiness as learning the multiplication tables and state capitals, perhaps more so. Children who are able to identify their feelings and work with them will be healthier, more balanced individuals who can empathize with others and connect with them in meaningful ways. Here are some tips for how you can help your children develop emotional intelligence.

Tips for parents to teach emotional intelligence

I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Emotional Intelligence: Tips for Parents

1. Name that Emotion

The building block of emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions. Teaching this skill can begin very early, as babies learn to read and mimic expressions. I love board books like Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions:

My toddler loves flipping through the pages of this sweet, simple book to see the photos of the baby faces. The book explores six basic emotions by showing one enlarged photo of a baby whose expression reflects that emotion then asking the reader to find that face again on a page of various smaller photos. Books like this are great because they capitalize on babies’ fascination with looking at other babies. My daughter loves to stare at the baby faces and often mimics their expressions, trying out the emotions for herself.

My little girl loves her new book Making Faces from @abramskids! Babies and toddlers love looking at faces, and this sturdy board book makes good use of that to teach little ones about emotions by showing them pictures of other children that are angry, happy, surprised, etc. The mirror at the end is an especially big hit! Great book to keep very young readers entertained and learning. Visit @annofdoodlesandjots for another #picturebookoftheday recommendation! . . . #mkbkids #kbn #momsoninstagram #kidbloggersofig #kidlit #books #booksforchildren #homeschooling #kbnhs #ig_motherhood #childhoodunplugged #motherhoodunplugged #picturebook #boardbook #ece #mytinymoments #ourcandidlife #playmatters #instagood #instakids #learningthroughplay #love #kbnmoms

A post shared by Leanna || Parenting, Education (@alldonemonkey) on

As children get older, the naming process can become more sophisticated, as children learn to identify more nuanced emotions. For example, in the lovely Today I Feel . . .: An Alphabet of Feelings we find I is for Invisible, O is for Original, and R is for Relaxed.

This is a book my preschooler often requests at bedtime. Again, the book makes use of an interest at this age (learning ABCs) to talk about emotions. In Today I Feel…, each letter/emotion pair is accompanied by an illustration, so it is easy to spark a conversation: “Why do you think he feels invisible? What’s your favorite way to relax?”

2. Check Your Judgment at the Door

Sometimes it’s hard to feel empathetic with a little one and their big emotions, if their problems seem, well, small to you. Why is your child throwing a tantrum over which color cup he can use or who gets to push the button on the elevator? Don’t they know there are bigger problems, like paying bills or dealing with global warming??

Yet remember that to them their problems are very real and very big, and only when we treat their feelings respectfully can we help our children grapple with their emotions. When we respond with respect, we open up a safe place where children feel comfortable sharing their feelings with us. One picture book that does a great job of this is Dad and the Dinosaur:

This beautifully illustrated book does not belittle the very real fears that children have about what might lurk in the shadows or under manhole covers. Instead, it introduces coping mechanisms to help calm those fears, like having a comfort toy or confiding in a trusted adult. The boy in the story is able to face his greatest fears because of his toy dinosaur, which is not afraid of anything. When the dinosaur goes missing, however, the boy’s fears become overwhelming. I have to mention that while I love that the father in this book takes his son’s fears seriously and sets out to help him find the dinosaur, I wish that he had also taught the boy that he didn’t need the dinosaur for courage but that he had the courage he needed inside himself all along.

3. Give Them Tools

All too often we find ourselves in the position of reacting to behaviors that are the end results of an emotional process, when the emotions are already too big to be easily dealt with. Try to get ahead of this during calm times, by helping kids gain the tools they’ll need to head off emotional explosions before they reach the boiling point. Teach them strategies like taking a deep breath, talking it out, and running out their energy to help them manage their emotions. One book that does an excellent job of teaching kids how to deal with anger is The tiger in my chest:

I mean, what a great metaphor for feeling angry! First it talks through how it feels to be angry as the tiger in their chest grows bigger and bigger. Then teaches kids that tigers can be tamed and that they can be tiger tamers – brilliant! My kids really love this book, and we’ve started implementing its suggestions for calming down body and mind. This book really breaks everything down into terms that children can easily understand and put into practice right away. I also love the emphasis on learning to accept, forgive, and move on (including forgiving ourselves).

4. Show Them the Bigger Picture

Perspective is everything, and one of the easiest ways to get out of an emotional funk is to do something to help others. Serving others not only will help children get their mind off their own problems, it helps put their troubles into perspective. However, resist the temptation to make too direct a link between others’ problems and their own, or children may become defensive or feel belittled. The point will get across, and, more importantly, their spirits will be uplifted and their horizons expanded, which in the long run will make a bigger difference in changing their perspective.

If you have tweens or teens, I really recommend the wonderfully creative book Hot Air (Kindle edition). (Visit One Voice Press for the paperback version).

Bored and frustrated with living with her alcoholic mother, twelve year old Annie decides to make a grand escape – by building a hot air balloon (the perfect metaphor for anyone who has wanted to escape from their troubles)! This magical adventure takes Annie across the world, making new friends at every stop. As she visits distant lands, she finds her own strength to help others and in the process sees her own life through new eyes. I love how multi-dimensional the main character is – we see her immaturity and naivety as she begins her journey, but we also see her selflessness and courage as she chooses again and again to help those in need. A wonderful book about leaving your comfort zone to serve others and gain a new perspective.

5. Model Emotional Intelligence

Finally, remember that actions speak louder than words, and your children will learn more from watching your behavior than they will from anything you say. Take time to check in with your emotions and use the same tools you recommend for your kids. Taking several deep breaths has helped me on many occasions! And being honest with your kids when you make mistakes and apologizing if you blow your top also go a long way to helping them learn to be gentle with themselves. Kids really respond if they feel you are all in it together!

What are your tips for teaching emotional intelligence?

Feb 142017
 
 February 14, 2017  Ayyam-i-Ha Comments Off on Find Great Ayyam-i-Ha Gifts in our Ayyam-i-Ha Gift Guide!

Looking for some great Ayyam-i-Ha gifts for your loved ones? Find something for everyone (including homemade gifts and crafts) in our newly updated Ayyám-i-Há Gift Guide, while supporting Bahá’í-inspired and globally minded businesses!

Ayyam-i-Ha Gift Guide 2017 - Alldonemonkey.com

Ayyám-i-Há Gift Guide 2017

And don’t miss these Ayyám-i-Há gifts on Etsy, and these cute printable bookmarks and gift tags!

And of course, don’t miss our Ayyám-i-Há Fun Book, on sale now!

Ayyam-i-Ha: Fun Ideas for Children and Families

Dec 282016
 
 December 28, 2016  Book Reviews, character building for kids, multiculturalism, raising world citizens Comments Off on Tales of Heroic Journeys

We all want our children to soar, to go on brave adventures to help others and achieve their dreams. From stunning picture books to a magical middle grade novel, here is a collection of wonderful tales that encourage children to do just that: to have courage and embark on their own heroic journeys.

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Tales of Heroic Journeys | Alldonemonkey.com

Tales of Heroic Journeys

Introduce children to a classic Japanese fairy tale with the beautiful The Last Kappa of Old Japan: A Magical Journey of Two Friends. The story begins, as many do, with an unexpected friendship of two children and their subsequent adventures. But while one of the children is a typical boy from the Japanese countryside in the days before the encroachment of the modern world, the other is not human at all. Rather, he is a kappa, a mythical water creature known to be playful – and to love cucumbers! Despite their differences, the boys become close friends; yet, as modernization begins to pollute the nearby waters, the kappa and his family are forced to leave. The boys only come into contact again years later, when the kappa returns to help his old friend – now a man – avoid a tragedy. They are delighted to be together again, but now, thanks to increasing pollution, the kappa is old and weak. A cautionary tale about protecting the environment, and having the courage to help our friends despite the danger to ourselves. (As a side note, the myth of the kappa is actually the origin of our modern story of mutant ninja turtles!)

I love the endearing illustrations of the two boys and the changing landscape of the countryside. And even though I don’t know any Japanese, I love having this bilingual Japanese-English edition because it is such a wonderful way to expose children to another language and way of writing!

Related Post: Global Adventure Books for Kids

Bessie, Queen of the Sky

Image courtesy of Queen Girls

I am so delighted to introduce the soon to be released Bessie, Queen of the Sky from Queen Girls. This remarkable new publishing company speaks to the hearts of so many parents who want inspiring stories for their daughters (and sons!) of remarkable women. The creators have taken stories from real life and turned them into fairy tales that will attract young readers. (Note: the heroines of these stories are queens, not princesses!) The poetic writing and and whimsical illustrations do have that magical quality of fairy tales, drawing the reader into a story about a character – the first African American female pilot – who is both larger than life and infinitely relatable.

I have a personal connection to the story of Bessie Coleman. She was from the same small town in Texas as my grandparents, though she had already left by the time they were born. When I think of how hard it was for my grandfather, a white male, to escape the poverty and depression of a sharecropper’s life there, the story of a young black woman making an even more incredible journey outward and upward is simply astonishing. I am so pleased to see this story given the attention it is due and happy to support the mission of Queen Girls to bring more such stories to light. Visit the Kickstarter page to order Bessie, Queen of the Sky and learn more about this remarkable company! (One copy of the book is donated to at risk girls for every copy that is purchased!)

Related Post: Biographies for Kids about Following Your Dreams

Imagine that the tragedies of history could somehow be redeemed, that not all of the slaves lost in the cataclysmic Atlantic crossings actually died, that not all of the “boat people” supposedly drowned while escaping the chaos of post-war Vietnam were really dead, but that they had somehow slipped through a portal into another world. In the wonderful new middle grade novel A Crack in the Sea readers can imagine a Second World where some of the First World’s victims find refuge and rebuild an ideal society on a string of islands and a man-made floating “Raft World.” Yet always among some there is a yearning to return “home” and a selfish desire to do whatever it takes to get there.

The young protagonists of the story must discover how to stop the plot and save the people of Raft World while at the same time understanding how to make use of their supernatural gifts – or their lack of them. As they journey to find safety for their families, they must contend with the ruthlessness of slavers, disease, pirates, storms, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. But the real journey is an emotional one, as they all struggle to find their place in this world (or another) and discover the depths of their own courage and what they are willing to fight – and die – for.

For more book recommendations, be sure to visit my Books for Kids board on Pinterest!

Dec 082016
 

Bullying is a subject on the minds of many parents lately, particularly for those with children of color or of a different faith, orientation, or that simply look or act different than other kids. For generations parents have worried about whether their children will fit in or whether they would make friends, but for many families today, the worries are much more serious and the consequences even more so. It is time for us to come together to create safe havens for our children, where they can just be kids, without fear of harassment. In that spirit, I am honored to share with you these wonderful resources to help children of all ages embrace diversity and choose love and acceptance over judgement.

Resources to Help Kids Embrace Diversity | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclaimer: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Resources to Help Kids Embrace Diversity

A friend recently pointed out to me that so many resources about bullying and acceptance are aimed at school age children, although we need to start teaching respect for diversity at a much younger age. While there are some picture books on the topic available these days, we do need more that speak to younger children in language that they understand. I love Red Or Blue I Like You because it takes real situations that children may encounter and helps deal with misconceptions they may have or that others may have about them. I also appreciate that it deals with stereotypes in a way that is very gentle and not at all s-c-a-r-y. No one is harassed or targeted; there are just a bunch of happy monsters that have some silly ideas about each other, which they overcome through genuine friendship. For example, when Elmo goes to his new friend’s house, he finds out that not all blue monsters eat the same food, while Angela and her family are surprised to learn that not all red monsters watch a certain TV show!

A great book for very young children is Olivia Loves Owl. Although Olivia and Owl have many differences – one has feathers, one has a sweater, one sleeps at night, one sleeps in the day – they are inseparable buddies. Olivia and Owl do everything together, and children will love their special bond. While this book does not talk explicitly about diversity, it does have a message of acceptance of differences, told in a way that very young children can understand easily.

A sweet book for animal lovers is Coco y Coca Tienen Miedo (Spanish Edition). Through the story of Coco and Coca, two Doberman Pinschers, children come to understand the problem of judging someone before you know them. Coco and Coca are loving, friendly dogs, but most of their neighbors gossip about them and hide their pets because they assume that all Doberman Pinschers are aggressive. Yet, as we learn, the truth is that these dogs are often scared themselves, even of the vacuum cleaner! What I most love about this book, though, is that the reader is invited to become the illustrator, as many of the drawings are only partially complete. Great activity to help children pay close attention to the details of the story so that they can illustrate it!

A tiny elephant is the perfect friend – except that no one else seems to think so. A young boy is excited to take his tiny elephant to the Pet Club meeting, only to find out that there are strictly no elephants allowed! But this pair show what friendship and loyalty are all about, as they not only stick together but reach out to others who have been rejected. Soon they start their own club, where strictly everyone is allowed. Very sweet book for any child that has ever felt left out because they are different.

#RespectEachOther Anti-Bullying Resource

I cannot say enough good things about the #RespectEachOther resource packet.  This packet, offered free of charge here, is full of resources for parents and educators on how to prevent and deal with bullying at school. It has practical, easy to follow advice about what to do if your child is being bullied, how to talk to students in the classroom about bullying and diversity, and what to tell your child to do if they are being bullied or see someone else being bullied. These are the on the ground, nitty gritty details about how to handle bullying and harassment – from phrases to use when talking to your child’s school, how to keep from losing your cool, and even how to contact the police and FBI. It includes great visuals for talking to children about different forms of bullying and about how to stand up for yourself and others.

This packet was borne out of love and fear for children today, who face a rising tide of bullying, in particular bullying that targets racial or other minorities. (Read more of the story behind the packet). It is being offered free of charge so that it can be used as widely as possible to create safe communities for all of our children.

How do you teach your children to embrace diversity?

Nov 152016
 
 November 15, 2016  character building for kids, Literacy, Thanksgiving Comments Off on Easy Gratitude Game: Writing Activity

I was looking for an easy gratitude activity to do with my kids, but as always I had my hands full with the baby, so I knew it had to be something easy but also fun enough to keep their attention. This gratitude game requires no prep, but it is great writing practice and builds critical thinking skills. It helps kids focus on gratitude ahead of Thanksgiving, yet the end results are often hilarious.

Easy Gratitude Game: Writing Activity | Alldonemonkey.com

Easy Gratitude Game

This gratitude game only requires paper and pencil and takes just a few moments.

Each person writes a list of what they are grateful for, without letting anyone else see. For younger children, give a specific number of items they should write (we did 5). For older children, you could time it and see who can write the most number of items in a certain amount of time.

Once everyone has their list, have them try to write down what they think each other person’s list would be. (If possible, don’t tell them ahead of time about this step of the game, as otherwise they may purposely write a list that is difficult to guess). In our case, it was just the two boys, so they tried to guess each other’s lists, but with a larger group you could ask them to guess the list of the person sitting to their right.

When time is up, see how many you got right! We had a lot of fun with this part, as it was so funny to see what each thought the other had written down. It is harder to guess than you might think, even with hints! (My 6 year old’s list: PS4, basmati rice, life, the Earth, chicken).

Younger children can draw their answers if they can’t write yet, but I really recommend this for elementary age children. It was a good exercise for my preschooler to make his list, but it was so random that it was next to impossible for anyone to guess his answers. (“You’re grateful for a chicken bone?” “Yes! And flowers!”)

How do you practice gratitude with your children?

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