Did you grow up singing along to “Down by the Bay” or help your kids “Shake My Sillies Out” to Raffi’s infectious tunes? Then you won’t want to miss his live show, coming soon to a city near you! I’ve got all the concert details, plus a giveaway for my Sacramento readers, so just keep scrolling down while you eat, eat, eat your “Apples and Bananas”!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the music below and tickets to the concert 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.
For four decades Raffi has delighted audiences at his concerts and through his numerous albums, and now is your chance to share his music live with your little ones! Raffi is on tour now, singing from his beloved classics as well as his brand new 15-song album, Dog On The Floor (see my full review). Proceeds from his concerts benefit the Centre For Child Honoring.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see Raffi live in concert! For my Sacramento readers, scroll to the end to see how you can enter to win your own tickets!
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?
September 14, 2018musicComments Off on New Children’s Music to Brighten Your Autumn
As the days get shorter and families get settled back into the school routine, sometimes we need a little something to put a bounce back in our step. Which is why I’m so happy to bring you this list of wonderful new children’s music to brighten your autumn and keep everyone dancing their way through the crisp fall days and nights. And don’t miss an announcement about a music tour from one of the giants of children’s music!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the music 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.
New Children’s Music to Brighten Your Autumn
If you have heard of any children’s musician, chances are that it is Raffi. For four decades he has delighted audiences at his live shows and through his numerous albums. Little ones seem to instinctively respond to his gentle music and uplifting lyrics. At the age of 70, you’d think this music icon would be slowing down, but he just released a brand new 15-song album, Dog On The Floor. Young animal lovers will adore the songs inspired by Raffi’s dog Luna, as well as the other animal songs. And parents will appreciate his interpretation of “Here Comes the Sun.”
I am delighted to share that Raffi is also going back on tour and is coming to Sacramento! Proceeds from his concerts benefit the Centre For Child Honoring. Remaining dates are as follows:
Saturday, October 27, 2018 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre – 1:00 PM
Sunday, October 28, 2018 – Easton, PA – State Theatre – 1:00 PM
Saturday, November 3, 2018 – New Haven, CT – Shubert Theatre – 1:00 PM & 4:00 PM
Sunday, November 4, 2018 – New York, NY – Town Hall – 1:00 PM & 4:00 PM
Sunday, November 24, 2018 – Sacramento, CA – Alex Theatre – 1:00 PM
Sunday, November 25, 2018 – Glendale, CA – Alex Theatre – 1:00 PM
Saturday, January 19, 2019 – Tampa, FL – Tampa Theatre – 1:00 PM
Sunday, January 20, 2019 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Parker Playhouse – 1:00 PM
The very first song on Blue Skies and Sunny Days references the Beach Boys, and it is an apt reference, as this album from Grammy nominated Frances England definitely has the same laidback, cheerful vibe. Anytime we play this album, it puts me in a more peaceful state of mind. England has a wonderful ability to tune into the mood of a beautiful day (“Perfect Tuesday Afternoon”) or even a bad one (“Mama Said”).
Ms. England says, “I hope these songs provide an antidote to all the bad news out there…I wanted to make something that sounded really light and loose…I knew that’s what I wanted to share with children and families next because I feel like that’s what’s needed right now.” If you need a pick-me-up, be sure to listen to this album, which will remind you there is still so much to sing about.
Back to the Land is an old-school style album, returning to roots “to honor the great tradition of children’s music where families could all sing along and share the experience,” as their band leader puts it. I love the diversity of musical styles – in addition to the folk influences of greats like Pete Seegar, there are also tunes based on Liberian music traditions (“Funga Alafia”) and Caribbean influences (“Ven Conmigo Para Esta Tierra”).
My little one loves “Listen to the Water,” which features animal noises, while my oldest begs to hear “Big World Kid” over and over again. A really fun multicultural family music band you don’t want to miss!
Ready Or Not! (releasing September 21) is the 7th album from the energetic group the Not-Its. The music absolutely sounds like something you would hear on a rock station, so kids and parents alike will love it! It is geared more to school age kids, addressing their interests (like playing hide and seek or having a staring contest) as well as their concerns, like what to do when you’ve told a lie. And I believe this is the first time I have ever heard a song about budget cuts at school! The Not-Its approach all of their music with a real understanding of a kid’s point of view. All of their music is really rockin’, but it is also very melodic and several songs, like “Heading Home,” are quite beautiful.
Be prepared to giggle with the new album I Am Your Food from Grammy nominated Gunnar Madsen. (Look for guest vocals from Frances England, among others). Though the songs are frequently silly, the music is still top-notch. My oldest identified right away with “10,000 Pancakes,” about a kid who never quite feels full, while my younger two loved “Divine Bovine,” sung from the point of view of a cow. Often the songs are about what happens to food, such as “Egg Salad in the Sun,” and one asks the important question, What happens if fast food is so fast that you can’t catch it?
I’m thrilled to share something very special with you – a brand new video from artist Sara Lovell that just debuted yesterday! It is the title track from her award-winning album Wild Is Everywhere. As someone raising city kids, I love the message that nature is everywhere, and children can be explorers wherever they are. The ethereal vocals highlight the beauty of the lyrics. Enjoy!
Pretend play is a wonderful way for children to work out their problems, try out new ideas, and explore imaginative worlds. It is an important part of a child’s intellectual and emotional development, as well as an integral part of cherished childhood memories.
And it’s not just for the very young! We often associate pretend play with toddlers and preschoolers, but I find that it is just as important for older children, who still have big imaginations and often use pretend play as a way to unwind.
Here are three simple tips for encouraging pretend play for your children, no matter what their age. You can also find below great books and music to set their imaginations on fire. Share your tips and resources in the comments!
Disclosure: I was sent complimentary copies of the resources 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.
Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips
Allow for Plenty of Free Time
This seems so obvious, yet it’s amazing how busy our schedules can be, especially when seen from a child’s perspective. If we are exhausted after shepherding our kids through schoolwork, errands, doctor’s appointments, etc., how do we think our children feel? Depending on your circumstances, opening up some free time for imaginative play may be as simple as a change in perspective, or it may mean a more fundamental restructuring of your schedule and perhaps cutting back on organized activities.
With my children I’ve found that they do better if they have plenty of downtime, whether it’s running around outdoors or playing with playdough or Legos. So, for example, in the mornings I make sure they get an hour of free play after breakfast so that it is easier for them to focus on schoolwork. Many children find pretend play a great way to decompress after school.
Provide Open Ended Toys
While my kids love toys with all the bells and whistles, to really encourage pretend play there is nothing better than open ended toys, which are great tools for children to project their imaginations. What this really means is to provide your children with toys that don’t have a set purpose but rather can be used in many different ways, such as sensory bins, building sets, or crayons and paper. Again, don’t put age limits on these toys – I’m always pleasantly surprised at how much my eight year old still loves playing with play dough.
Pretend play can introduce an element of fun into your everyday routine. My 5 year old regularly fights off storm troopers while we are at the grocery store, and your child could be a mermaid or a pirate during bath time. Many of our learning activities also incorporate some element of pretend play. For example, when we studied about knights and castles, we did a “knighting” ceremony and made shields and swords out of cardboard, followed by plenty of pretend play as knights!
Pretend play can also be a life saver if you are waiting at a doctor’s office or have a long car drive, though in those kind of spaces you might have to be more creative about what you can do!
Offer Big Ideas for Them to Dream with
A wonderful gift you can give your children is to introduce them to big ideas to excite their imaginations. In a way it is like giving them the vocabulary to dream with, the tools to construct their own imaginative worlds. Whether through exploring other cultures and cuisines, telling them tales from your childhood, or reading from great books together, these experiences of adventure and wonder will spark hours of pretend play!
Below are new wonderful books and music that are sure to expand children’s imaginative worlds and inspire pretend play!
My son loves How to be a T. Rex! In fact, just the other day he was telling me he was scared to go into our back bedroom by himself, when he suddenly stood up straighter and said, “Wait! I’m going to be a T Rex!” and scampered off alone. Thank you, Ryan North!
This fun book is all about a dinosaur-loving kid (a little girl! an African American little girl!) who just wants to be a T Rex, even though her older brother says it’s impossible. Of course, she eventually realizes that being a T Rex also has its downsides, so she comes up with an even more creative solution! And even makes up with her brother when he apologizes 🙂
Pirates are another set of classic characters that kids loved to act out. And now there is the perfect soundtrack! If You Want to Be a Pirate: Songs for Young Buccaneers is a brand new album of original songs from Tam Mason and the Blue Buccaneers. This group performs in costume (see below), often even on ships! This album was inspired by their youngest fans.
We have had so much fun listening to these swash-buckling tunes about parrots, a kindly kraken, and an invisible first mate. I also love that there’s even a song raising the environmental consciousness of young pirates, telling them that thanks to messy humanity you can’t see the treasure anymore because of all the trash.
If you have a pirate lover in your house, you won’t want to miss this album!
Sarabella’s Thinking Cap is a beautifully illustrated picture book for all of the day dreamers out there. I love it because it celebrates those children whose heads are perpetually in the clouds, at the same time as it offers ideas for how to help them function in a classroom setting. Thanks to her wise teacher, Sarabella isn’t shamed for having trouble focusing. Instead, he encourages her to come up with an invention that allows plenty of room for her imagination – and multiplication tables.
July 13, 2018Education, musicComments Off on Music Appreciation: Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids
Are you planning to take your children to a classical music concert but are afraid they are going to get the wiggles partway through? Are you looking for music appreciation tools to keep them engaged with the music during the concert? Here are three fun activity sheets designed for elementary aged children to use during a classical music concert. No extensive knowledge is needed here – these are meant to help kids keep their eyes and ears open during the concert and start to engage with the music itself.
What are your experiences taking kids to classical concerts? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Music Appreciation: Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids
Recently I had the opportunity to take my children to a weekly classical music concert at a local church. I knew I needed something to keep them engaged and learning during the concert, so I went online to find some activity sheets we could take along.
(Notice that I am studiously avoiding saying “worksheets” because that sounds so boring, even to me, and I love worksheets!)
I found quite a few wonderful music appreciation resources that focused on listening exercises in a class or at home, but I couldn’t find anything related to actually taking children to a classical music concert.
Being a blogger, I of course decided to make some of my own! Here are three fun music appreciation activity sheets you can print out and take with you. Just right-click on each image to print!
The first (Concert Scavenger Hunt) can be used for younger children, as it is mostly pictures.
The next two are more geared towards older elementary students. (My third grader really enjoyed them). The Program Scavenger Hunt can be done while you are sitting waiting for the concert to start, as they look over the concert program.
You will want to print multiple copies of the Listening Sheet, as it is designed to be used for one piece at the concert. (Keep in mind that your child may tire of doing this for every piece. I told my eight year old to do a Listening Sheet for three pieces of his choice). A younger child could do a Listening Sheet with help, focusing mostly on the drawing portion.
I would also recommend bringing plenty of blank paper (or a sketch pad) for them to draw. This really helped occupy all three of my children during the concert, even when their interest in the concert itself was starting to fade. I also used it to do tic-tac-toe with my 5 year old near the end, when he was getting particularly restless.
Want to raise confident kids? We all want to raise well adjusted kids who are ready to take on the world, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to best encourage and support them. Here are 5 pro tips to help you set your child on the path to success.
How to Raise Confident Kids: 5 Pro Tips
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 cost to you.
1. Support Their Dreams
Kids are full of amazing ideas and have a natural inclination to dream big. Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re bound to get some fantastic answers! Yet adults often squash these glorious ambitions with a dose of (supposed) reality – this is often done with good intentions or perhaps just carelessly, but either way it just serves to make a child more self-conscious about their dreams.
Instead, find ways to support your child’s passion without pressure or judgment and give them space to experiment. Let them express themselves creatively without feeling the need to step in with a reality check.
And don’t forget to be a role model for them – share with them your own dreams and how you are following your passion!
I love Mia and the Rocket Ship Tree because it takes children’s fantasies seriously and encourages them to let their imaginations run wild. Author/illustrator Boaz Gavish created this colorful work for his niece when he saw the need for more books with girl heroes. And Mia is the epitome of a girl hero – a great role model for confident kids everywhere! The hand paintings showcase wonderfully Mia’s incredible (and tickly!) space adventures with her robot. This is a book sure to excite your child’s imagination and spark their own imaginative adventures.
But what I really love about this book is that when Mia decides to go on an adventure, she sets off despite the fact that none of her friends will join her. She is confident enough in herself that she doesn’t give up on her quest for a good adventure, even when others tried to change her mind. Beautifully creative book to share with your little explorer.
2. Encourage a Positive Outlook
Confident kids are optimistic about the future and are able to put a positive spin on events that don’t go according to plan. Teach your children how to see mistakes as opportunities for growth, and model flexibility and resilience when the unexpected happens. Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and have optimism about the future instills a sense of confidence in your child that she can handle whatever the world sends her way.
I have been a fan of Nikki McClure and her incredible cut paper art since my sister-in-law gave my firstborn a copy of Mama, Is It Summer Yet? In All in a Day, McClure teams up with Newberry Medal winner Cynthia Rylant to create a gorgeous picture book about embracing opportunities and learning from mistakes. This lovely book inspires young readers to see the beauty in each day. I especially love the message that each day is a chance to start fresh and seize the moment. Also a wonderful book for encouraging a love of nature and taking time to enjoy lying in the grass with a friend.
3. Embrace Their Uniqueness
One of the main reasons kids lack confidence is because they feel different from their peers. As adults we have grown to be more comfortable in our own skin, but children usually want to just fit in and not be seen as too “weird.” Help your child gain self-assurance by encouraging his uniqueness and helping him connect with others who share his interests. In the busyness of our every day, we can often slip into the habit of wishing our kids would just “act normal” – usually to make our lives easier, or perhaps because we think it will make their own more stress-free.
But in the long run, encouraging a child’s unique way of being in the world promotes self-confidence and sets him on the path to becoming a well-adjusted, interesting adult.
One of a Kind is a great book to nurture confident kids by encouraging them to march to their own beat. Here is a character who doesn’t mind standing out from the crowd and doing things his own way, from how he dresses to the music he loves. It also lets kids know that even if they sometimes feel so different from everyone else, they can often find others who share their interests.
I love the bold artwork in this book, which will remind your child of a graphic novel. Great book to encourage kids to not be afraid to make a splash.
4. Arm Them with Knowledge
A surefire way to raise confident kids is to arm them with knowledge. As children enter the tween years and are hit with all sorts of physical and emotional changes, it can be confusing and disorienting. Often children feel unsure of themselves and uncertain of how to relate to their peers, who are going through major changes themselves. Maintain open communication and let your kids know you are available for questions and conversations without judgment. Provide them with resources – books, websites, and trusted adults – who can help them understand the changes they are undergoing and begin to think through the grown up they wish to become.
The books cover an incredible range of topics – from nutrition and exercise to dealing with stress and discovering your passions. But what I most love is the respect with which the books treat their young readers and their concerns. I also love the emphasis that there is no “right” way to be or to experience puberty. Some kids, for example, may find themselves suddenly interesting in dating, while others may still run the other way at the mere mention of romance. No matter what you are feeling or going through, Blalik has got you covered and reassures you at every turn that you are completely normal and great just the way you are.
Be aware that these books address all topics, including sexuality, very openly and frankly, so be sure to preview them ahead of time. (And for yourself, don’t miss Blalik’s website, Grok Nation!)
5. Inspire Them
Surround your child’s world with role models and encouragement. Make sure they have other trusted adults in their lives that they can look up to, and fill their minds with real life examples of people who have followed their dreams and made a difference in the world. Because in the end, what really will make a difference to them is what touches their hearts and sparks their imaginations.
Every Voice is a danceable album of catchy tunes you and your kids will find yourselves singing long after you turn off the music. But more than just great music, it shares powerful messages that stay with you as well.
“You don’t have to be a cool girl…You can be a real girl.” The lyrics inspire confidence, compassion, and hope, all delivered via original songs from an award-winning artist.
The album is a departure for musician Kira Willey, who is best known for her yoga albums and mindfulness workshops. While there are slower, softer songs here, the majority are heart-pumping tunes your children will love to dance to. And of course, don’t miss guest singer Laurie Berkner, who also teams up with Willey on her “Music You Can Move To” radio series.
Great music for kids with a message you can feel good about!
What are your pro tips for raising confident kids?
Raising the next generation of conservationists means encouraging a love of nature in children. Helping children get outdoors and explore is a large piece of this puzzle, as is providing them with resources like music and books that nurture this spark inside them. I’m happy to share with you new music from an Grammy nominated artist and a lovely new children’s book perfect for budding environmentalists. And you could win a free song, see details at the end of this post!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the songs and book 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.
Encouraging a Love of Nature: New Resources
We can offer children facts about conservation and its importance, yet in order to really influence them, we must also speak to their hearts. This is where art in all its myriad forms can help.
I’m excited to share that Grammy nominated pioneering indie children’s music artist Katherine Dines has just released two new songs celebrating the planet and a love of nature (watch for a full album release in the fall!)
The songs are very gentle and upbeat, something you and your children will both enjoy listening to! I love the incorporation of sounds from nature and how the use of international instruments underscores the lyrics’ message of harmony and global awareness. “Thanks to the Earth” especially borrows from Middle Eastern music traditions to create a beautiful love song to the planet.
“Thanks to the Earth, Mother of life, wake up from Heaven’s embrace. … let springtime warm every face.”
Both songs are now available for purchase, plus five lucky readers will win a free song! To enter this giveaway, which is open internationally, just comment on this post letting us know what brings you closer to nature! Entries accepted through Sunday, June 17, 2018, at midnight PT. Winner will be chosen by random selection.
Another great resource for encouraging a love of nature is the beautiful new picture book Agua, Agüita/ Water, Little Water. This bilingual book is filled with gorgeous illustrations that perfectly complement the poetic tribute to the life-giving force of water. Tracing its origins deep within the earth, the book follows water through its entire life cycle, celebrating its dynamism and the interconnectedness of the natural world.
I also love that this book celebrates the indigenous heritage of El Salvador, where author Jore Tetl Argueta (now Poet Laureate of the San Francisco Public Libraries) grew up. Illustrator Felip Ugalde Alcántara includes native themes and symbols in his paintings, and the complete poem appears at the back of the book in Nahuat, an indigenous language of the region. Beautiful work children and adults will love!
Does your child have trouble falling asleep at night because of fears or anxieties? This is unfortunately a common occurrence, but there are ways that you can make bedtime a more relaxing time for everyone with these 5 tips for helping an anxious child fall asleep. Includes a review of a beautiful new children’s album of lullabies in Spanish – be sure to enter the giveaway at the end for a chance to win your own copy!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of La Luna 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.
Helping an Anxious Child Fall Asleep: 5 Tips for Parents
1. Know the Triggers
You know your child better than anyone, so keep an eye out during the day for things that may be causing anxiety at bedtime. This could be, of course, a major life event or an incident at school, but you should also be aware of what they are watching and reading. Even media considered kid-friendly may be upsetting for a sensitive child. My son once was afraid he would get nightmares after seeing a photo of a shark in a kids’ encyclopedia! Consider how to minimize or manage whatever is causing the anxiety.
2. Create Visual Reminders
One method for helping an anxious child fall asleep is to give them child a concrete embodiment of their fears, such as worry dolls, that they can interact with. This helps them feel in control of their fears and can help them deal with them more easily. This may seem silly or superfluous to us as adults, but children really do benefit from these visuals. Depending on the age of the child, you could have them use a stuffed animal or doll to represent their fears and have them talk to it. You could also Set up a monster trap in the closet, or hang a dreamcatcher over the bed to catch nightmares.
A wonderful way to set the mood for helping an anxious child fall asleep is to play soothing music. A new favorite album at our house is the beautiful La Luna (Canciones para Soñar) from Latin Grammy-winning 123 Andrés. It is the perfect album to put on at bedtime, though I also love putting it on during the day to bring a little calming influence to our busy household!
These Spanish language songs are a mix of classic lullabies like Velo qué bonito and new gems. Infused with the sounds of the Andes, La Luna (Canciones para Soñar) features guest vocalists from Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and the US. Even songs with which I was already familiar, such as Un elefante, are presented with such fresh instrumentation that I never tire of hearing them.
If you are teaching your children Spanish, there is the added benefit, of course, of exposing them to beautifully done music in the target language. I really appreciate how clearly the lyrics can be heard, making it easy for little ones to understand even if they aren’t native speakers.
And now you could win your very own copy of La Luna (Canciones para Soñar) from 123 Andrés! Simply comment on this post, letting us know your child’s favorite part of their bedtime routine – is it bedtime stories, or a snuggle with a favorite stuffed animal? Let us know!
Contest runs through Tuesday, May 1, 2018, at midnight PT. Winner selected by random selection. US shipping only.
One of my goals is to create a calm, loving environment for my children to grow up in. In the daily struggle to complete chores and schoolwork, this can sometimes get lost, but I try to keep this goal in front of me to remind me to focus on the bigger picture, rather than what has just gotten spilled or broken or who pushed whom. Here are 5 tips that have worked for me to create a peaceful home. Share yours in the comments!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the albums 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 commissions at no extra charge to you.
Creating a Peaceful Home: 5 Tips for Families
1. Focus on Yourself
There is no way you can create a peaceful home if you do not have peace within yourself. Find out what helps you keep balance: whether it’s getting up a few minutes earlier than your kids or staying up a little later in the evening to have some time for yourself, practicing meditation or yoga, or making sure to have a coffee date with your best friend once a week. When you have a calm center, you can more easily keep your cool when things go wrong during the day, as they inevitably will.
2. Focus on the Big Picture
Know that things will go wrong, especially if you have young children. I once saw a program for new parents that stated, “If you want to be efficient, don’t have kids.” In other words, children help you focus on the journey rather than on accomplishing tasks quickly and efficiently. This was a big mind-shift for me coming from the workplace, where the emphasis was on achieving concrete goals.
With children you have to look at the big picture – for example, it may take you longer to teach your child to clean up his own mess, but you are helping to raise a responsible adult. If you stop and look at the dandelions and ladybugs with your toddler, chances are you won’t get all of your errands done before dinner, but you are making a heart connection with your child and nurturing her budding interest in the natural world. Often our frustration comes from the clash between reality and our expectations, so if you often find yourself frustrated, it may be time to look at your expectations.
3. Stay Organized – to a Point
While we do have to be realistic about how much we can get done and how well, we can also look at systemic problems that can be corrected to help our day flow more smoothly. If you are constantly rushing to get out the door in the morning, step back and think about how you might organize your household to alleviate this constant stress. Perhaps your children can take on more of the responsibility to make their own lunches, for example, or to pick out their clothes the night before. I have a snack box always stocked that I can just grab as we head out the door rather than having to put something together each time we leave the house.
Again, keep your expectations realistic, and know that you may still be late – the baby always seems to know to poop just as you are ready to get in the car – but at least you can eliminate some of your stress to have a more peaceful morning as you get ready.
4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation with Your Children
Whatever your religious beliefs, all children benefit from some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. Whether it’s prayer, yoga, or simply breathing exercises, it is such a gift for children to learn to slow down and clear their minds. In today’s often frenetic world, we can help give them a calm center to return to, to relieve anxiety or simply help them unwind at the end of an exciting day. A mindfulness practice is a wonderful tool in teaching kids to handle big emotions or to deal with difficult subjects like bullying or the loss of a loved one.
In our family, we do some deep breathing exercises and say prayers together in the morning as well as at bedtime. At least once a week we also do yoga together before starting schoolwork. I keep it short as my children are still very young, though I try to push their attention spans a bit to challenge them to work on their lengthening their focus.
5. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere
An easy way to nurture a peaceful home is to play relaxing music. Music is such a great way to set the mood, and I know for myself that it can really help calm my nerves. Which is why I was so happy to receive two incredible new children’s albums that really do create a warm, relaxing atmosphere.
The first is The Land of Yangalele. Yangalele means “happiness” in Kikongo, a language spoken in Congo, the home of one half of the dynamic duo behind this wonderful music collection for children. “Papa Siama” and “Auntie Dallas” wanted to capture the feeling of a family gathering like those from Siama’s childhood, where everyone would sit outside under the stars to share songs and stories together.
And this warm, easygoing atmosphere is exactly what their music creates. As soon as I hit play the very first time we listened to this album, I could feel an instant change in the air. Suddenly I was more relaxed, and the kids were, too. The rhythms are so gentle and fun, and you feel as though you were gathered at the musicians’ feet, creating and enjoying music together. We often find ourselves singing the tunes throughout the day – my personal favorite is Monkey Games! – and it’s impossible to do so without a smile on your face.
Featuring traditional instruments (listen for the mbira on most songs and the shaker on the beautiful lullaby Nalingi Bosembo) and lyrics in English, Swahili, Lingala and Kikongo, these songs are also an opportunity to learn more about the Congo and make a heart connection with what can seem like a very remote place. The liner notes even include a map, a quiz, and a seek-and-find game. Highly recommended.
Who doesn’t love Ladysmith Black Mambazo? I grew up listening to Graceland and so was thrilled to find out that this world-renowned music group has recently put out a children’s album, Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World, which was nominated for a Grammy last year. Just as you’d expect, the music is incredible, and I love the focus on themes important to children, such as the trouble of communicating with parents (Everything’s So Stupid!). They also sing about important social issues, like racism, homelessness, and respecting women. My personal favorite is Old MacDonald – sung in Zulu! Great to put on when you want to relax and enjoy beautiful music together.
Ridván has come again and we are having fun celebrating each day with a little activity.
As we have been doing for the past three years, each day of Ridván the children receive a little note sharing a Ridvan related thought of the day (based on a quotation) with an activity to help discuss it. This year I’ve been putting the notes in our “homeschooling mail box” for them to open each morning after prayers.
Two of our activities so far have been based on music. Music is such a lovely way to introduce ideas to children, and listening in and participating in music-making can really uplift everyone’s spirit as well.
On the first day we attended our community’s Ridvan picnic, and shared a special song about Ridvan written and sung by Diana Howlett called “This is the Day.” The song is based on the three quotes below and you can find out more about the CD and even download the lyrics and sheet music on this page:
Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 10)
This is the Day whereon the Ocean of God’s mercy hath been manifested unto men…” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 7)
This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favours have been poured out upon men…” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 121)
Today our activity was singing the ever-famous song “Garden of Ridván” (to hear and watch a video, plus find the lyrics, visit this page). I also made it into a game by asking the boys to stand up and clap each time they heard the word “garden.” It was a lot of silly fun and I was reminded again how much children love to play and have fun with even the simplest of “games.”
So there are two songs we know for celebrating Ridván – do you know of any others?? Please share in the comments below!