The children are the future, and as parents we want to prepare them for it and inspire kids to make the world a better place. But often parents struggle with how to talk to their children about real problems faced by the world today in ways that are age appropriate. That is why I am so pleased to share with you a wonderful new resource aimed at parents and children, designed to inspire the next generation of world citizens through teaching them about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Disclosure: This blog post was sponsored by Mattel but all opinions are my own.
5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place
We all want to raise children who will make a difference in the world, but often we don’t know where to start. Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Everyone’s favorite tank engine has teamed up with the United Nations to educate families about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Thomas & FriendsTMinteractive Global Goals website has resources to help parents and children learn more about six of these goals:
Clean Water and Sanitation
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Responsible Consumption and Production
Life on Land
For each goal, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website provides a Thomas & FriendsTM video Life Lesson, Parent Tips with conversation starters and activities to educate about the goals and get kids excited about achieving them.
Here are 5 tips on how you inspire kids to make the world a better place through using this incredible resource.
1. Educate Yourself
It’s impossible to teach what you don’t know, but this doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. What you do need is some background knowledge and – even more importantly – the right tools to teach the whole family.
One thing I love about the All Aboard for Global Goals! website is that is designed to educate parents and children. It gives you the materials and language for talking to your child about these important issues, so that you can learn about them together.
2. Talk About Real Issues – in an Age Appropriate Way
If we want to inspire kids to make the world a better place, we can’t shy away from the tough issues we face globally – but we must do so in ways that are appropriate for young children. That is why the format of these upbeat Thomas the Tank Engine videos is so effective: they present the material in ways that children can easily understand without becoming overwhelmed.
The information and activities come with suggestions for older and younger children, so you can adjust to what is appropriate for your child.
3. Use Media Thoughtfully
Children immediately warm to familiar characters like Thomas & FriendsTM, and using the videos as part of your discussion will help children get excited and engaged with the material. Rather than being asked to sit through a dry lesson, you will be playing together and watching a short video with some of their favorite characters! My favorite is the one on “Gender Equality,” which uses the examples of different tank engines from the show to demonstrate that girls and boys can do the same jobs!
4. Nurture a Sense of Empowerment
For each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals presented, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website offers ways that children can get involved and make a difference. At every turn they are invited to see themselves as having an important role. For example, for “Life On Land” (about caring for the environment), children can plant seeds and learn to care for their seedlings, while in “Gender Equality” they are asked to dress up as a superhero and think of tasks they would perform as a hero.
5. Keep It Fun
More than anything, for young children it is important to learn through play, especially when talking about potentially difficult topics. This wonderful resource means that you can engage with your child in fun learning activities that will inspire kids to make the world a better place.
Join Thomas as he learns about the Sustainable Development Goals! Learn together with your child through fun videos, meaningful discussions, and playful activities on the All Aboard for Global Goals! website.
Today it is more important than ever to teach children about embracing differences and forming friendships with those with whom at first they may seem to have nothing in common. It is the critical issue facing our little world citizens, yet in reality it is as simple as making a new friend on the playground or seeing yourself in the face of a stranger. This wonderful collection of children’s books – including picture books and a chapter book – use humor and inspiring XXXX to instill these values in our children.
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.
Children’s Books About Embracing Differences
The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick is a laugh out loud book from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit about an unlikely pair and their lively trip around the world. What makes this book so hilarious is the constant shift in perspective between these two completely opposite characters. While upbeat Stick sees every situation as a wonderful adventure, grumpy Huggie is forever looking at the downside. Stick, for example, is enchanted by the “little elves in tuxedos” they discover on Antarctica, while Huggie describes these same penguins as “vicious” because they tried to nibble on him.
The biggest misunderstanding of all, of course, is whether Huggie and Stick are actually best friends (as Stick thinks) or not (as Huggie emphatically believes). Either way, you won’t want to miss their epic adventure together!
All Are Welcome is a beautifully written picture book about embracing differences and creating an environment of respect for all. The portraits of diverse children playing, learning, and sharing are gorgeous and demonstrate an ideal climate where diversity is seen as a community’s strength. Moreover, by portraying the children engaged in similar activities during their day, it powerfully shows how we are just as much alike as we are different.
I have been a fan of Joy Sun Bear for a long time. Joy is an adorable, curious little sun bear that promotes global education through a safe, online environment full of resources for children, parents, and educators.
And now he’s starring in his very first book! The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra covers many important topics, like environmental destruction and having courage to do the right thing, but at its heart it is also about embracing differences. When a group of refugees arrive in Joy’s part of the rain forest, he overcomes his initial reluctance (and the prejudices of his elders) to make friends with one of the newcomers: Tipah, a frightened young orangutan.
To help convince the others to welcome the refugees and help his friend, Joy embarks on a remarkable adventure, aided by magical creatures, in which he must rely on his wits but especially his heart to guide him.
I love the metaphor of the trickster used in the book to explain why the humans destroy the rainforest in the first place, and why Joy’s forest community is so convinced that the refugees are cursed. But the mischievousness of the trickster is matched by the light of the creatures that lend their aid to Joy and by the purity of his spirit.
I highly recommend this early chapter book for children that love animals, adventure, and the triumph of good.
Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to share some of the many treasures of Latin American music with your children! Latin musical traditions are so rich and multifaceted, that it is sometimes hard to know where to begin! Here are some wonderful new picture books that celebrate Latin American music, from lullabies to rock and roll.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the products 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.
Latin American Music to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
To start at the very beginning, in more ways than one, you really should go back to nursery rhymes and lullabies. They are the beginning of Latin American music because they have been enjoyed for so many generations, and because they are the first melodies that many children in Latin America hear, often in the lap of a loved one.
They range from the lively La víbora de la mar from Mexico to the gentle Duerme negrito from Cuba. (Keep in mind that many of these songs are enjoyed in more than one country, but the country mentioned is the one whose version is shared here).
It is perfect for non-native speakers like me, who didn’t grow up with these nursery rhymes and lullabies. With the CD, I can assure that my children hear the original songs as they were meant to be sung, plus the full lyrics (in English and Spanish) are at the back, so that we can learn to sing them ourselves.
But Latin American music isn’t just about lullabies. It is also about finding expression through modern media like electric guitars. Few Latin American musicians embody this spirit of fearless innovation like the legendary Carlos Santana, who forged his own path by creating a unique blend of Latin, European, and African influences. Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World celebrates this giant of Latin American music by telling the story of Santana’s early years. It is a story of perseverance in difficult circumstances but also about the struggle to find your own voice.
Santana was heavily influenced by his father, a mariachi musician whom young Carlos admired greatly. Yet he also realized early on that his path was different from that of his father. He felt no joy in playing mariachi and wanted to experiment with new sounds rather than playing the same songs over and over.
Despite his misgivings, Carlos’ father eventually gave his son a used electric guitar, which would change the path of the teenager’s life – and modern music – forever.
The artwork of the book is stunning and uniquely suited to Santana’s style. In fact, the artist was the same that Santana commissioned to create the iconic cover of his Shaman album.
What is your favorite style of Latin American music?
Even so, although it is tempting to simply say that we should support the books below solely for this reason (and this alone would be reason enough to support them), it must also be stated that these books are remarkable in and of themselves regardless of who wrote them, simply because they are wonderful books all children will enjoy.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions mine. This book contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors
5 decades before the current push for diverse books for children, there was Corduroy, a beautiful little gem of a book about a girl and her stuffed bear. What made it so ground breaking was that the little girl was black, which made a world of difference to children like Viola Davis, who used reading as an escape into an imaginary, idealized world. It was for that reason that when Ms. Davis, the winner of multiple acting awards, turned her hand to children’s literature, she decided to write a sequel to this beloved work.
Corduroy Takes a Bow is a deserving follow up to the original. Davis and illustrator Jody Wheeler bring Corduroy and his friend Lisa back to life in this gentle adventure at the theater, as Lisa and her favorite teddy bear accompany Lisa’s mother to a performance of Mother Goose. A beautiful tale that has the feel of a classic, it is a fitting tribute to the original and a lovely way to continue Corduroy and Lisa’s story.
The Day You Begin is the first of two books in this list by award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, best known for Brown Girl Dreaming. Her new picture book is a beautiful work that speaks to any child who has felt out of place from everyone else, too different to fit in. So many children can find themselves in the pages – as someone who looks different, speaks a different language, who can’t run as quickly as the rest, or whose mother packs a lunch that seems strange to the other kids.
What’s so lovely is that even as the children in the book find refuge in each other, they still celebrate what is unique about themselves: “This is the day you begin to find the places….where every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”
A special mention also for award-winning illustrator Rafael López, whose graceful images match the emotional depth of the text.
Sonia Sotomayor is a vocal advocate of reading, telling an audience recently that, “The key to success in my life, it’s the secret that I want to share with kids and how I became successful. I’m here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books.” And so it is fitting that she write her own life story in the form of a children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story. (And as a tribute to her native tongue – learned in New York from her Puerto Rican parents, the book is also available in Spanish, as Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida).
I was instantly drawn to the personal photos at the front of the book, as well as the wonderful illustrations by the legendary Lulu Delacre. Sotomayor’s story of overcoming adversity is truly inspiring, and I love how she makes the direct connection from books to social justice and the ability to help others. The main message to take away from this work, as emphasized by Sotomayor herself, is that if she can succeed at her dreams, so can any other child who loves to read.
Harbor Me is the book we need at this moment in history, a deeply emotional story about young people forced to grapple with big social issues like racism, sexism, prison, and guns. The pacing of the story is just right, as we gradually come to know this special circle of tween students, brought together by their teacher as a sort of social experiment, in the hopes that they could learn to support and help each other. In this one novel, Woodson manages to highlight a wide range of social issues, without making it seem trendy or gimmicky. Instead, each child’s story is treated respectfully, as are the ways that the other children respond and support them.
What really makes this middle grade chapter book come alive is the authenticity of the children’s voices and the emotional range and complexity they display. As in The Day You Begin, it is a book about finding your voice and learning to respect others’ as well.
While so many of the other books on this list tackle major social issues, The God Gene Chronicles: The Secret of the Gods (Volume 1) is just plain fun. It is a rollicking adventure story whose main protagonists are a trio of friends at a boys’ school in Mumbai. But make no mistake, this is life or death stuff, as two clandestine organizations fight for control over the fate of humanity.
Author Projesh Banerjea was fascinated by the idea of retelling the Hindu myths he grew up with in the style of the modern superhero tales he loved. The result is a page turning novel that older readers will enjoy from beginning to end – from the boys’ shenanigans at school to the underground world of good and evil that simmers all around them.
Through much of the book the boys move in parallel to this end-of-the-world battle, oblivious to what is happening just below the surface all around them, at times involving their teachers and even their own parents. But soon the two worlds collide, and each boy is caught up in a maelstrom that will invoke the ancient tales of the gods and ultimately mean for two of them either life as a bearer of the god gene – or death as a victim of the dark side.
I thoroughly enjoyed this action adventure, and how it brings ancient stories into modern times, reworking the Western idea of superheroes to suit an entirely different Eastern universe. Don’t worry – if you don’t have much background in Hinduism, the author has a primer at the beginning, and does a great job of weaving basic explanations into the story, so you won’t miss a step!
The Thunderbird is an important symbol found in legends throughout North America. Sometimes friendly, sometimes threatening, this awe-inspiring bird was a supernatural creature that derived its name from the flapping of its powerful wings, which was said to produce thunder. Read on to find resources to teach children about this widespread Native American legend, as well as a new middle grade fiction series that celebrates mythical creatures.
The Thunderbird appears most frequently in legends of the Pacific Northwest, yet it can be found throughout North America. It appears in songs and oral histories, even in ancient stone carvings. With the flapping of their powerful wings and the lightning that would shoot out of their eyes, the Thunderbirds were said to bring rain and storms.
A Note About Sources
When learning about Native American cultures, it is extremely important to interrogate your sources. This is a highly sensitive topic among Native communities, and with good reason. For hundreds of years outsiders have appropriated and interpreted Native culture. Even when done with good intentions, this can distort the original context, so it is important to make sure that your source is reputable and respectful.
For example, when searching for resources on the Thunderbird legend, I came across many entries from “cryptozoology,” a branch of pseudoscience that attempts to prove the existence of creatures from legend. As a result, there is a lively search for the “real” Thunderbird, sometimes thought to be a surviving pterosaur and sometimes a monstrous creature related to the condor.
You also run into a lot of links about the cars and the airplanes named after the powerful Thunderbird!
As a result, I’ve collected for you reliable resources about the supernatural Thunderbird from Native American legends, so you can learn more about it with your children. Keep in mind that the Thunderbird appears in legends across North America, so you will run across some variation.
I also found a beautiful book at our local library, called Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird: Tales of the People. This traditional Absaroka (Crow) tale is here retold by Joseph Medicine Crow. It is an example of how the Thunderbird often is friendly towards humans and can help them. It is part of the Tales of the People series created with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
If you have a child that is fascinated by mythical creatures, then you don’t want to miss the wonderful new middle grade series The Unicorn Rescue Society. In the first book, The Creature of the Pines, we meet Elliot, a bookish boy starting his first day at a new school. He quickly teams up with Uchenna, his polar opposite in many ways except for how neither of them seems to be a bit of a misfit. But my favorite character is the wild-haired Professor Fauna, a mysterious teacher feared by most students. But when the children find a mysterious creature on a school field trip, they find that Professor Fauna is the only person in whom they can confide.
And thanks to him, they are introduced to the Unicorn Rescue Society – much to Elliot’s chagrin and Uchenna’s delight. Young readers will delight in their adventures with the Professor, and travel along with them to save a dragon in the just released second book in the series, The Basque Dragon. Highly imaginative book for anyone who believes (or wants to believe) that mythical creatures might still exist!
This book is part of the Basque Dragon book tour. Find out more in the links below!
The wedding season is upon us, highlighted by the recent royal wedding. But if you are invited to a wedding from a culture other than your own, it can be difficult knowing what to expect – especially if you have children. Are children included in the invitation, and if so, how are they expected to behave and dress? I’ve asked parents from around the world to share their tips for wedding etiquette for families from their own cultures, and it’s a fascinating view!
Many thanks to those that graciously shared their experiences with me for this article! Share your tips on wedding etiquette for families in the comments, and don’t miss my review at the end of the post of a new children’s book about Indian weddings!
Multicultural Guide to Wedding Etiquette for Families
What to Expect
India: Sumiti: “I grew up in a big Punjabi family. And weddings were a big affair. It was minimum 4 days affair (could go up to a week) and the relatives and friends from across the world would stay at our house. The meals (breakfast/lunch/supper/dinner) were catered for all or women of the house would take turns making meals.There is one big evening only for Henna Ceremony, where men are at the bar and women are getting henna done and it’s an evening of dance and fun. All the neighbors are invited for the functions and are treated as family.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Indian wedding celebrations traditionally carry on for many days. Close family and friends will often travel far distances to attend…Mid-morning naps, dinner before you leave home and comfortable shoes, all work for kids. And parents too. There’s usually loud music so carry headphones for the little ones.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “A Chinese wedding is like marrying two families. It is a huge event, and it often starts from the engagement ceremony and the delivery of engagement cookies with fancy packaging to relatives and close friends. A Chinese wedding can be extravagant, and it can easily have several hundred guests in a hotel ballroom, a restaurant, or a huge block wedding feast with live music entertainment.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “There is a lot of dancing, and the party goes on very late.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “There is a mass or wedding vows at a town hall and then a wedding party at a ball room/hotel,etc. Loads, loads of food. Traditionally people had a band playing live music instead of a DJ. Many still do. Tons of food and vodka during the whole night. Hot food is served all the time. It’s not a single dinner. There is often a brunch on the next day also involving alcohol.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “Indian weddings in Fiji are traditionally multi-day affairs which encompasses many elaborate ceremonies such as putting hardi (turmeric) on the bride and grooms body, henna (mehndi) which is painting beautiful designs on the hands and feet of the bride, prayer ceremonies and etc. I would say, the weddings are divided into three segments, pre-wedding, main-wedding celebration and post-wedding celebrations. For each daily festivity, they expect close to 100 people to show without any RSVP. In Fiji, people do not believe in the concept of RSVP. My grandma always said to us guests is like gods. They’re okay having extra food prepared but no one should leave the wedding functions hungry.”
Mexican-American: Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com: “People stay forever, eat, drink, dance, visit, etc. A wedding is an opportunity for community and reuniting family you might not have seen in a while. There’s usually recuerdos, candies, cake or centerpieces to bring home. Nobody goes home empty handed.”
Russia: Varya of Creative World of Varya: “In Russia the wedding is celebrated 2 days – first day at the bride’s home where her parents give her away, second day – at her new home, where the groom’s parents receive her into the family. Lots of food, dancing, some love inviting entertainment.”
Across the board, the safest bet is to not wear white – no matter what the bride is wearing! Rita of Multilingual Parenting shares, “I once wore a cream dress when the bride had chosen dark red and felt a bit awkward.”
USA: Even within the US, there is some debate about what is appropriate to wear. Diana of Ladydeelg in NYC thought wearing black was very chic, while Mary-Helen, who grew up in New Orleans, said that “In the South, wearing black to a wedding is a passive aggressive way of saying that you REALLY are unhappy with this particular union” and are treating it “as if there has been a death in the family.” Instead, one should wear something “floral or happy looking.”
India (Punjabi): Sumiti: “Wearing black and white outfits to the wedding or reception is a total No No. The outfits should have bold colors and ladies were expected to wear heavy jewelry.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Since Indian wedding usually involve dancing until late in the night, comfortable shoes are great for kids and adults. Wear leggings underneath the lehenga (Indian skirt) in case a quick change of attire is needed on the dance floor.”
India: Charu of Ketchup Moms: “In India kids are expected to be dressed in Indian attire for weddings mostly. And interestingly a young boy from the immediate family of the groom’s side is dressed just like the groom and then he ride on the horse with the groom (another custom) to the house of the Bride to marry her. He is called ‘Sarwala’.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “People get VERY dressed up. Here in the Yucatan, men always wear a guayabera, but everywhere else it would be a suit or tux.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Red is always a good color but any bright happy colors are good choices. No black clothing for children or adults.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “You should not wear white to the wedding. Or black (brings bad luck).”
Read about the tradition of a “cake pull” in the US South!
Should Kids Attend?
One of the most hotly debates aspects of wedding etiquette for families in the US is about including children. As we saw at the recent royal wedding, children are often included in the wedding party at British weddings, while in the US they are often not even invited! So how do you know whether or not to bring your kids when you receive an invitation? It depends on where you are:
India: Sumiti: “Children are expected to attend, and it is a fun event for all ages.”
India: Vandana: “Kids are a part of the celebrations and very welcome. When we give the invitation, it’s implied that it is for the whole family, unless specified, which is very very rare.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children are always welcome to the wedding. You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Children are an important part of a Chinese wedding because they bring happy spirit to the bride and the groom. They are also a reminder for the bride and groom of having a family. There is a Chinese tradition that one healthy happy little boy of a close relative of friends will be chosen by the bride’s or the groom’s family and this child will jump on the bed of the newlyweds prior to the weeding banquet to symbolize the couple will have happy healthy kids.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “In Latvia kids are welcome to all weddings, have never heard of asking people to not bring their children to the wedding (or a part of it) as it sometimes happens, e.g. in the US. Most commonly, the wedding takes place in one location and then the party at another with accommodation included (hostel-style and free of charge for the guests). So many parents just let the kids stay up until they drop, put them to bed, and continue celebrating. On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “When people give out wedding invitation cards, they generally expect everyone from the family to attend most of the festive activities. They’ll invite everyone they know (the whole village). Kids are the blessings of the family and they’re included in all the wedding festivities.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “Kids used to take part in the wedding, but many parents including us do not bring them. Preferably I prefer to have fun on that night, drink, dance and not to chase after my kids. Only took them to one wedding when they were small and didn’t enjoy it at all.”
USA: In the US, it is mixed whether or not children are included in a wedding. Many report that children are often excluded from weddings, while others say that they are usually invited to daytime weddings. Often people assume that children are not invited and so leave them at home. Even Martha Stewart (or at least her organization) weighed in on how to decide whether to include children at a wedding. Your best bet? Unless it is specifically stated on the invitation, be sure to ask.
But keep in mind this is not true for many groups in the US. Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com shares that for Mexican-American weddings, “Many times it’s expected that you’ll be bringing the little ones, grandma, etc. I’ve heard that in many American weddings (at least those uppercrust ones) that people have to request to bring their kids. In MexAm culture, for most, it’s expected you would bring them…from newborns to teens. This is a family event after all.”
How Are Kids Expected to Act?
If you do take your children, what behavior will be expected of them? Here are tips on wedding etiquette for families from experienced parents!
Mexican American: Elizabeth says, “Kids were always included and expected to act like kids – dance silly, run around, fall asleep.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children love going to the wedding as well. They always have fun with the candy and soda provided on each table prior to the beginning of the 10 or more dishes are brought to the table one by one. The tips for bringing kids to a Chinese wedding is to make sure they sit through the wedding ceremony (it can go up to an hour) before the banquet starts.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji: Ashi: At a wedding in Fiji “you’ll hear screaming, crying, whining, kids running around but we’re all accustomed to all these noises. Children are considered blessing, they’re included in all the functions in Fiji Islands.”
New Children’s Book About Indian Weddings
I received a complimentary copy of Let’s Celebrate an Indian Wedding 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.
And now you can share the joy and beauty of an Indian wedding with your children thanks to the new children’s book Let’s Celebrate An Indian Wedding! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 9). This book is a great way to prepare if you are attending an Indian wedding or simply want to learn more about it. This is the latest installment of the adventures of Maya and Neel, and it does not disappoint!
I love the emphasis on the diversity of Indian weddings. While Maya and Neel are attending a wedding in New Delhi, there is also information about weddings in other regions, such as Tamil Nadu, where the bride and groom sit on a beautifully decorated swing!
Maya and Neel get to participate in all stages of the wedding, including of course lots of dancing! Kids will love learning about lovely traditions such as stealing the groom’s shoes in order to get a treat!
This is a wonderful book to share with children if you are attending a wedding this summer, or if you’d like to learn more about Indian culture!
What are your best tips on wedding etiquette for families?
The weather is finally warming up in our neck of the woods, so we celebrated by concocting some fruity, chocolate-y pops! Inspired by a traditional Puerto Rican treat, these tropical chocolate mango popsicles are full of fruity goodness – mango, banana, and coconut – plus a touch of decadence from the chocolate. What better way to celebrate the fact that summer is just around the corner? Plus, you don’t want to miss our giveaway of a wonderful new children’s activity coloring book all about Puerto Rico!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment 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.
Tropical Chocolate Mango Popsicles
Summer is coming, which makes us all think about tropical beaches and relaxing by the waves. To bring a little taste of the tropics to our home in Northern California, we decided to make these scrumptious tropical chocolate mango popsicles. I was inspired by Puerto Rican limber, a frozen treat similar to popsicles and often made with fresh fruits and juices. You can do all kinds of combinations, but we were especially interested in mango – which was great because I had a huge bag of frozen mango in the freezer! Of course, if you have fresh, by all means use that, but it is often hard for us to find really good mangoes in our area, plus with kids, it’s so much easier to use frozen since it’s already peeled and chopped for you.
If you want an authentic mango limber, then I highly recommend trying this recipe from Modern Mami, or you can browse this great collection of healthy limber recipes! I wanted to do something a little different, so we added a little twist to our recipe by adding shredded coconut and banana, as well as chocolate. Cocoa powder alone is quite bitter, so I actually used hot chocolate mix (!) but if you don’t have this, just use cocoa powder and sugar to taste.
Ingredients (makes 6+ popsicles)
4 cups of mango (frozen or fresh)
honey to taste
3 cups water (add more or less depending on how thick you like it)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup hot chocolate mix (or combination of cocoa powder and sugar)
Combine all ingredients in blender. Taste and adjust for sweetness. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
I am endlessly impressed by the author’s talent as an illustrator but also the depth of her knowledge about the subject. Puerto Rico, La Isla del Encanto – Cuaderno de Ejercicios: Puerto Rico, The Island of Enchantment – Workbook is incredibly comprehensive, covering topics as varied as history, geography, government, religion, sports, food, and the arts. It contains nearly 200 workbook pages (plus answer keys) appropriate for elementary school and even older (though younger kids will definitely enjoy the coloring part of it!) There is so much to explore here, no matter what your child’s interests, so it is sure to be a hit!
The book is completely bilingual, so whether your kids read/write fluently in Spanish, just un poquito, or not at all, this is the perfect book to expose them to Spanish and the rich culture and history of the Island of Enchantment.
Even better, all of the profits from the first year of its publication go to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. This book is a true labor of love, dedicated to the author’s homeland during its time of need. It is a great way to support Puerto Rico and teach kids about this beautiful island that they have surely been hearing about on the news.
And now you can win your own copy! Simply comment on this post, letting us know which topic about Puerto Rico you think your child would be most interested in! Geography, history, the arts, sports, or … ? Let us know!
Contest ends Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at midnight PT. Winner chosen by random selection. US Shipping Only
South Asian culture is so rich and diverse, that it is a fertile topic to return to again and again with your students. Whether you are interested in religion, history, the arts, food, or folk traditions, there is so much to explore. Here are some wonderful new children’s books about South Asian culture that you won’t want to miss!
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 charge to you.
Learn About South Asian Culture Through Books
Let’s Celebrate Vaisakhi! is the latest Maya and Neel adventure, this time exploring a joyful spring harvest festival from the Punjab state in India. Fans of Maya and Neel won’t want to miss this latest adventure into the rich traditions of South Asian culture! Punjab, which borders Pakistan, is known for its large Sikh population, so Let’s Celebrate Vaisakhi! features a section on Sikhism as well as information about the food and dances associated with Vaisakhi. As always, the illustrations are so beautiful and engaging, and the wealth of information is presented in a way that is easily understood by young readers. I love how there is an emphasis on the natural world of the region and how it is showcased in the various aspects of the Vaisakhi festival.
One aspect of South Asian culture that cannot be glossed over is the caste system, which historically designated people into a rigid hierarchy from birth. The Boy Who Asked Why: The Story of Bhimrao Ambedkar is a beautifully done book about a civil rights hero you probably have never heard of who fought against this hierarchy and the injustices it engendered. Bhimrao Ambedkar grew up in the early twentieth century, when the caste system was still entrenched. As an Untouchable, the lowest caste of all, others were not allowed to touch or even interact with him. Overcoming incredible odds, Ambedkar pursued his education and became a successful lawyer, but he still faced many prejudices despite all of his achievements. He led a movement to break down the barriers that held the Untouchables back. Great book to inspire children to allow ask why in the face of injustice.
One of the smaller countries that makes up South Asian culture is Bhutan. In the West, it is principally known for its use of the “Gross National Happiness” instead of “Gross National Product.” This joyful, kind attitude can be clearly see in the lovely folktale Room in Your Heart. Can you imagine going to a country with no hotels, where instead visitors could stay with a local family? This was a reality until the mid-twentieth century in Bhutan. Inspired by this tradition, Room in Your Heart is a beautiful story of a woman who, despite having so little herself, welcomes those in need who appear at her door. Wonderful way to teach children about generosity, and that “there will always be room in your home, as long as there is room in your heart.”
Are you excited for Purim? Here are some ideas for throwing a Purim party everyone will enjoy, including an amazing new Purim album for kids! So whether your kids are already familiar with Purim or learning about it for the first time, here are fun ideas and resources to plan a Purim party your kids will love. And don’t miss the big GIVEAWAY at the end of this post!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Purimania by Danna Banana; however, all opinions are my own.
Plan a Purim Party Your Kids Will Love
What Is Purim?
The origins of the Jewish holiday Purim go back to the Persian Empire in the 4th Century BCE. After King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed because she didn’t follow his orders, he held a beauty contest to find a new queen. The winner, Esther, was at first careful not to reveal to the king that she was Jewish, yet she was destined to become heroine for her people.
The problems began when her cousin Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, refused to bow to Haman, the Prime Minister. Furious, Haman influenced the king and set into motion a plan to kill all of the Jews. Yet Mordecai convinced Esther to intercede with the king, a very dangerous task, since anyone who visited the king without being summoned could be put to death. Yet Esther showed true courage by speaking to the king, who turned against the wicked Haman. Haman was put to death and replaced as prime minister by Mordechai. The Jewish people were saved and were finally allowed to defend themselves against their enemies.
How to Celebrate
Purim is a joyous celebration of Esther’s bravery and the triumph of good over evil. Purim starts Wednesday night, February 28 and continues through Thursday, March 1, 2018, in the US (ends March 2 in Israel). Here are some great ways to help your kids celebrate Purim and learn more about this fun holiday. (Read more in this wonderful how-to guide).
Purim is perhaps best known for the fun costumes that everyone wears. While traditionally people dressed up only as Esther, Mordechai, or the King, these days you can wear any costume you like!
Try your hand at making hamantaschen, the triangular cookies thought to represent Haman’s triangle-shaped hat. There are so many variations to love! People also send gifts of food and drinks to friends during Purim, to reinforce bonds of friendship and community.
Service to Others
Purim is also a time to think of the less fortunate. Why not do a food drive at your Purim party or collect donations for a local charity?
At the heart of Purim is the story of Queen Esther herself and how she saved the Jewish people. Read more about her as well as other Purim stories in this collection of Purim books for kids.
Make your own grogger, a special noise maker to use when you read the Purim story, so you can boo and make lots of noise whenever Haman is mentioned! Another fun activity is to color in and use these printable Purim puppets. Don’t miss these other free Purim printables, including masks and coloring pages.
And just in time for Purim is a new album from award-winning family performer Danna Banana, writer of classics like “The Goofball” and “Suddenly Summer.” Purimania is a stellar collection of tunes old and new celebrating Purim. (See details below on how you can enter to win your own copy – plus a $25 Amazon gift card!)
Danna Banana is a well-loved performer with six albums out and numerous performances across the country. He is a John Lennon Songwriting Grand Prize Winner and named New York Magazine’s Best Party Entertainer. The New York Post called him a ‘ripe talent’ and a mom in New Jersey called him ’a piñata of listening pleasure’. Trained as an opera singer, he sang leading roles all over the country in such operas as La Boheme, Don Giovanni, and Carmen before turning his talents to children’s music.
While most of Danna Banana’s work is non-denominational music for kids, among his earlier albums include Bananukah!, a celebration of Hanukah. That album’s success prompted him to create Purimania.
As in Bananukah!, Purimania mixes traditional songs with his own tuneful originals. Mr. Banana offers lively versions of classics like “In Shushan”, “Wicked Man”, and “Hag Purim” while “The Purimania Song” offers up his own whimsical version of the Purim story. In “Hamantaschen Party”, he uses recipes for Hamantaschen, the traditional cookie of Purim, as his lyric– both regular and gluten-free!
My kids and I have been listening to Purimania over and over – it is irresistible! The songs on this album are sure to add the element of fun to any Purim party and make everyone – adults and kids – want to get up and dance!
Check out Purimania! It’s the funniest, most danceable Purim music ever! Let’s party like it’s 330 B.C.! Here’s the title video:
And now for our big giveaway! One lucky reader will win a digital copy of Purimania plus a $25 Amazon gift card! All you need to do to enter is comment below with your favorite character from the Purim story.
Giveaway ends Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at midnight PT. Winner chosen by random drawing.
Do you wonder how you can celebrate diversity with your kids because you live in a fairly homogeneous area? Here are great tips from guest author and mompreneur Kamilah of Many Shades Club, a unique children’s book delivery service featuring books with diverse characters and families of all kinds.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary subscription box from Many Shades Club for an upcoming review; however, I received no compensation for this guest post on how to celebrate diversity with kids, a subject dear to my heart.
When my husband and I (who were born and raised in the D.C. Metro Area and spent most of our adult lives living in Brooklyn, NY) moved to Florida, we were in for a bit of a shock. We were, in essence, city folk. We were used to having access on a regular basis to just about all kinds of people, food, languages, accents, complexions, genders, family make-ups, and socio-economic statuses that you can imagine.
We knew we valued “diversity.” But we never really appreciated just how much until it became less a part of our everyday lives and more something that we had to put quite a bit of effort into trying to find.
Throw kids in the mix, and for us it no longer was a wish, but an imperative. We felt that our regular access to diversity as kids had fundamentally shaped the people we became and the way we engaged with the world. Bringing this sense of awareness and regular access to all kinds of people and families (especially while living in a much more homogeneous place) is now priority #1 for us now as parents. Here are five things we’ve tried as ways to celebrate diversity in a place where it takes much more effort.
5 Ways to Celebrate Diversity (When Everyone Around You Looks the Same)
1) Regularly attend cultural events and celebrations that are different from your own
Local Diwali Festival? We’re there! Japan Association hosting a day of demonstrations and exhibits? Sign. Us. Up.
There’s something very mind expanding about being in places where you are in the minority. Not only does it give you a sense of awareness and a taste for what it’s like for people who may be in that position on a daily basis in their places of work, school, worship, etc, but there are valuable lessons in the discomfort that may be felt initially and the potential gradual lessening of that discomfort as you continue to expose yourself to different cultures. More than anything else, it’s just fun, and interesting, and cool, and lights up parts of your brain that might not otherwise be lit.
Sign up for email lists, social media groups, etc for community events to make it easier to find things to do.
2) Constantly seek and read books that show characters from all backgrounds, and in casual and age-appropriate ways, talk about what you see
And especially for older kids and adults, read books about the experiences of different kinds of people written from the voice and perspective of the people actually living those experiences. Think critically and mindfully about what you’re reading.
3) Try taking public transportation
When you don’t live in a city that relies on public transportation for the majority of the population to get around, taking buses and trains can lead to some interesting conversations and broadening perspectives about the ways that people live, possible disparities, and appreciation for what you do have. Do it on a day when you have time to spare, and start with a short trip (to the library or grocery store, for example). Many cities with public transit have websites with trip planners, or you can also use Google Maps.
4) Expand your social circles and open your home to people for a meal
When our kids are in their comfort space of home and see all kinds of people regularly welcomed into our home, we can’t help but to think and hope it makes some sort of impression. It is also a wonderful way to teach by example about acceptance and welcoming people of diverse backgrounds.
We regularly search and venture to new neighborhoods to try new restaurants that specialize in foods that we’ve never tried before. These are awesome places to both meet new people and raise adventurous eaters.
At the end of the day it’s really all about exposure. It can start with surface-level exposure (just being in the space where there are different kinds of people), but the goal for us is for it to expand to more substantive engagement—actually getting to know people and experiences and being comfortable around all kinds of people and experiences, which we hope will grow into an appreciation for and an awareness of self and others. While it definitely takes extra work to celebrate diversity when everyone around you looks alike, it can be done. And we’re choosing to believe it’ll be worth it.
All images courtesy of Many Shades Club.
Kamilah is an Orlando based nature-loving, travel-seeking wife and mother of two, and the mom in the ‘Mom & Pop’ duo behind Many Shades Club, a diverse children’s book delivery service. Many Shades is a unique children’s book delivery service. Every month children receive a high quality book, carefully curated by us, that features diverse characters and families of all kinds. We do the searching, shopping, and shipping for you, bringing compassion and awareness right to your door.