When my friend Daria from Daria’s World Music approached me about sharing her Indian drum craft along with a related children’s book, I was so excited! Daria and I have been friends for a long time, and I’m a big admirer of her work. She does such an incredible job of getting kids excited about world music. You can see below how much fun we had recently making the dhol Indian drum and reading a folktale about it!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some 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.
Indian Drum Craft and Book
The dholis a drum from North India and surrounding areas, especially the Punjab region. This double-sided drum is hung around the neck with a thick strap and played with wooden sticks.
It is easy to do with resources you probably have on hand right now.
The kids loved getting to decorate the drums with their own designs, but best of all was running outside once they were done to find sticks and get playing!
While the kids were working, I read them The Drum, a folktale from India about a boy who longs for his own drum. Being from a poor family, however, he knows they cannot afford it. But when his mother brings home a magical stick, given to her by a mysterious stranger, the boy’s luck changes. He immediately begins a series of adventures, where his compassion leads him to help people in need, who each repay him as best they can. In the end, he gets his drum! A really fun story of a good-hearted kid being rewarded for his kindness.
As parents, we all want to raise children who are kind and treat others with courtesy. Yet figuring out exactly how to do so can be hard! Here are wonderful new books for teaching manners, plus a simple courtesy craft.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy 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.
Teaching Manners: Resources Plus Simple Courtesy Craft
Light of Courtesy Craft
For a recent Bahá’í virtues class, I focused on teaching manners. First, we studied this quote from Bahá’u’lláh, “Well is it with him who is illumined with the light of courtesy.” We discussed how courtesy is like a light: it can brighten someone’s day, just like sunshine can brighten up a room!
For this simple courtesy craft, you could either cut out the base and lampshade shapes ahead of time, or have the children do it themselves, depending on the ages of the children. The base can be any color, but the lampshade should be yellow, to represent light.
After they glue the pieces together to make a lamp, have them write “Courtesy” on the base (help, if needed) and decorate the lampshade with examples of courtesy. Older children can write things like “please” and “thank you,” while younger ones can draw pictures.
Afterwards, they are free to decorate as they wish!
New Books for Teaching Manners
As the holiday season approaches, it’s a great time to reinforce the importance of being generous. The Gift Inside the Box is an innovative new picture book that is actually shaped like a box, just like might arrive in the mail this time of year. In the story, various children imagine what might be inside, thinking only of themselves and what they would want. The box runs away from each in turn, until finally he is discovered by a little girl who wonders to whom she could give this wonderful gift. A lovely reminder that giving is even more beautiful than getting.
Kindness Rules! is a hip new board book that is perfect for teaching manners to kids. Fun animal characters demonstrate kindness through real world scenarios kids find themselves in every day, such as sharing toys, meeting someone new, and apologizing. A superhero elephant (wearing “respectables” and “positive pants”) shows how to act, with commentary from a cast of friendly animals. I love that standing up for others is included, since bullying is such a big problem these days.
On this blog we talk a lot about activities to teach Spanish or resources for raising bilingual kids, but for many parents, a foreign language is not a high priority to add to their child’s already long list of activities. Many wonder, why should my child learn another language when they have so much on their plate as it is?
I recently had the pleasure to interview an amazing musician and advocate for teaching Spanish, the wonderful Super Stolie. Below she talks about her own journey to learn Spanish, and why she feels it is so important to expose children to other languages and cultures.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Why My Child Learn Another Language?
Interview with Super Stolie
Super Stolie (that is, Rebecca Stoelinga) has been performing for children for over a decade. While she has incorporated Spanish into her music previously (see my review of her album Family in Harmony), her latest album Hola Ola is her first fully bilingual collection. Her music is fun and super catchy, and, on a personal level, I have to say how encouraging it is that Super Stolie is not a native speaker, yet she still has achieved a high level of fluency in Spanish!
But given that she is not a native speaker of Spanish, why is it (and the culture) so important to her, and why does she feel so strongly that children should learn another language? Read my interview below to find out!
1. Tell us more about your love for Spanish and Latin culture! How did it begin, and why does it continue to be important to you today?
When I was in junior high, we were allowed to pick between Spanish or French as a foreign language to learn. Even at 12 I was aware of the influence of the Spanish language and culture, so the decision was clear! I think being able to communicate in another language is like having a super power— I actually have lots of memories of when my language skills saved the day! Since I’ve been making connections through music for so many years, combining that now with my second language seems like a job for Super Stolie!
2. Why do you think it’s important for children to learn another language?
I think it’s important for children to be globally educated, and knowing another language connects us with more people in the world, opening doors to new opportunities in travel, career and friendship. Plus, exposing yourself to a new language can help increase comprehension and speaking abilities overall by literally developing your tongue!
3. What can parents do to encourage their children to learn another language? (Or to learn one themselves??)
The first part of the journey is to increase awareness and exposure to another language, and preferably in a daily practice. This can be with books from the library, watching programs in the second language, using apps or flashcards, calling a relative or family friend who can pepper the language into a conversation. But my favorite — listening to music! One of my early practices was singing along to songs I loved (usually with lyrics printed in front of me) because it really helps with language fluidity.
4. What is the story behind your latest single, “Fuerte sin parar”?
In 2012 I released an album called Press Play! with a song called “Top of Our Lungs” about singing and back-seat leg dancing in the car. “Fuerte sin parar” is a pop remix of that song, with an additional Spanish translation of the original lyrics weaved throughout the song. The new version is totally different, very poppy! I used the Spanish lyrics for the chorus and reworked the original English chorus to a rap in the bridge of the song.
5. What message do you hope your young listeners take away from your music?
There are plenty of materials already out there for language learning. As I’ve been shifting into making bilingual music for kids, I’ve discovered that my expertise as a songwriter, and now a bilingual speaker, is to offer music — for entertainment — for those children who are being raised bilingually or who already are. Why should your favorite music be in just one language, if you can speak or understand two? I hope listeners who share a passion for multilingualism continue to support a world where language crossover is another way we can unite as a whole!
As a kid, it is sometimes hard to feel like your voice makes a difference. It’s important to show kids that they can change the world, by empowering them in the choices they make on a daily basis, and giving them examples from history of kids who have made a difference. Here is a fun Birth of the Bab activity that helps kids see themselves as the spiritual descendants of the Dawn Breakers.
Birth of the Bab Activity: Spiritual Descendants of the Dawn Breakers
This year, to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, I wanted the kids in our community to realize that, as the Guardian so beautifully stated, they are the spiritual descendants of those very early believers in the Báb:
The community of the organized promoters of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the American continent—the spiritual descendants of the dawn-breakers of an heroic Age, who by their death proclaimed the birth of that Faith—must, in turn, usher in, not by their death but through living sacrifice, that promised World Order, the shell ordained to enshrine that priceless jewel, the world civilization, of which the Faith itself is the sole begetter. – Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice
Sometimes it can be hard for kids to see how their lives are related to the lives of those incredible heroes that lived so long ago and far away. This worksheet (which can be done individually or as a group) helps them think about concrete ways they are making the world a better place and helping bring about an ever-advancing civilization.
Some examples that our kids came up with at Feast: picking up trash, standing up to bullies, hugs, collecting food for the homeless, and smiling at people! I’d love to hear the responses from the kids in your community!
To download your copy of the worksheet, simply right-click on the image below:
Want to simplify your life and declutter your house? Many people I know want to achieve these goals but are concerned about the effect on their family. Be encouraged that you are doing the right thing! Here are reflections on minimalist living with kids from people that have made the change themselves, and why they think your family will not only survive, but thrive! Includes a review of a new picture book on tiny house living.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the 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.
Minimalist Living with Kids
Learn more about minimalist living with kids from parents and educators who have made the change!
A great resource to talk to your kids about minimalism and “tiny living” is Sissy Goes Tiny, created by long-time friends Rebecca Flansburg and Ba Norrgard. Sissy is an ordinary girl, who loves her home, her toys, her spacious backyard, and her big, cozy bed.
So when her mom and dad (a beautifully portrayed interracial couple) break the news that the family will be going tiny, Sissy is understandably skeptical. But her parents explain that while living tiny does mean fewer things, it also means more freedom and more experiences.
The book goes through each stage of the downsizing, including donating many items, re-purposing others, and making a scrapbook of their favorite things. Though this process is at times difficult, as it progresses Sissy’s skepticism soon turns to excitement, until it finally culminates in the arrival of their beautiful new tiny home!
Get your child’s school year off to the right start by encouraging them to love themselves just as they are. Help kids embrace their own uniqueness with these books and music that teach kids self-confidence! Because every child should feel comfortable and happy in their own skin.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the material below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contians affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Teach Kids Self-Confidence: Books and Music
We love these Changing Faces books! They are so adorable and fun for little ones, as the faces of the animals change each time you turn the page, thanks to something like a built-in Venetian blind. And the latest in the series, I Love You, Elephant!, has a special message of being happy just as you are. Little Monkey encounters different animals, wishing he could be like them. Yet his animal friends help him by pointing out what makes him special!
Ninja Boy’s Secret is a beautiful book about a boy learning to follow his heart – even if it means he might disappoint his father. Because unlike so many children, Ninja Boy doesn’t actually want to be a ninja. He wants to be a musician! Fearful of how his father will react, Ninja Boy nevertheless summons the courage to share his secret, by playing a beautiful violin sonata. Great story and I love the Japanese-inspired illustrations!
Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color is a beautiful story for anyone who feels like they don’t quite match anyone else. Simone, a young mixed girl, isn’t as dark as her mother or as light as her father. She longs to find a color of her own. A beautiful story about building self-confidence through embracing your uniqueness. It also sparks a lot of conversations with my mixed kids, who were curious to identify exactly what color they were!
How Do You Dance? is a great book about finding your own way, rather than trying to just imitate what everyone else is doing. There are so many ways to dance, but the most important way is the one that feels right to you! Lovely illustrations of diverse people enjoying music in all different ways!
The Love is a truly unique album! It’s hip-hop music that focuses on “love, belonging, and gender justice.” It features more than 60 artists, including many children. What really impressed me was that the album grew out of the group’s genuine engagement with their audience. As one co-founder explains, “Hundreds of kids and families trusted us with their lived experience to write these songs.” It really inspires self-confidence in kids who feel ostracized and misunderstood and encourages allies to stand up for inclusion. And beyond that, it’s just really great music that my kids love!
On sale now! Friends, I have been working hard on getting this planner for Baha’i parents ready for you – and it’s finally done! It includes monthly and weekly calendars, plus planning pages for service projects and holy days! If you are a homeschooler like me, you can also purchase a homeschool supplement to get curriculum planners and lesson plan templates. Read on to find out more!
Planner for Baha’i Parents with Homeschool Supplement
In this digital Homeschool Supplement, you will find templates for fleshing out your family’s daily and weekly routines, organizing curricula and resources, as well as (of course!) lesson plan templates.
I also know how diverse homeschoolers are! There are so many ways of organizing a homeschool; therefore, I have included several different lesson plan templates, also recognizing that some of you may not use lesson plans at all!
This Homeschool Supplement is designed for you to print as needed. This way you can print only the pages that fit your homeschool. Inside you will find:
Want your child to give back to their community – or even just pick up their toys? Children have natural tendencies to want to make a difference in their homes and communities. Nurture them with these wonderful new books that inspire kids to help others!
Books that Inspire Kids to Help Others
It is such a classic dilemma: Parents feel like they are drowning in housework, yet their children never appreciate all of their hard work. In fact, they usually just contribute to the mess! In Llama Llama Mess Mess Mess, Llama Llama – like so many other children – ignores Mama Llama’s calls to clean up. But Mama Llama uses an unexpected strategy to convince Llama Llama of the importance of helping out. What would happen if Mama Llama didn’t clean up either? When Llama Llama realizes how chaotic and stressful life would be without Mama Llama’s hard work, he sees that pitching in means a peaceful home – and more playtime! – for everyone. A fun way to teach responsibility to little ones.
If you are an animal lover, prepare to have your heartstrings tugged with Garbage Dog! This is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book about a dog forced to live on the streets. But throughout his struggles, looking for food and avoiding mean animals, Garbage Dog never loses his sense of decency. He makes friends with all kinds of animals wherever he goes, and looks out for others, even sharing the little food he manages to scavenge. But don’t worry, there is a happy ending for Garbage Dog! A lovely book about friendship and kindness to others.
Endangered Species Superheroes is a graphic novel about a teenage girl living with her grandfather and helping out at his wildlife sanctuary. Yet Lindsey’s idyllic life is interrupted when her grandfather’s nemesis, Mace Zagan, escapes from prison. Overcome with jealousy for her grandfather’s many awards and accomplishments, Zagan is determined to get his revenge. After his first attempts to hurt Lindsey’s grandfather fail, Zagan decides to kidnap Lindsey!
Help comes from unexpected quarters. Several of the animals from the sanctuary – loyal to Lindsey and her grandfather – discover that they’ve developed super powers, ironically, thanks to one of Zagan’s evil schemes. Working together, this super team of an iguana, sloth, rhinoceros, and tapir help Lindsey to save the day.
I love that despite the dangers presented in the book, it always manages to stay upbeat and positive. Plus the relationships shown among both humans and animals are very supportive, as the characters demonstrate true friendship for each other. A great adventure story, and one that will spark an interest in the urgent need to help endangered animals.
The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is the latest installment of the wonderful Unicorn Rescue Society series for middle grade readers. (Read my review of the first two books). There are so many things to love about this book: How its heroes are smart, thoughtful, brave (and diverse!) kids; how it centers on rescuing mythical (but actually real, and very endangered) creatures; and how, through their adventures, the children also learn about other culture and very real problems facing society.
In The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, Elliot and Uchenna travel to the Laredo, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the US, to investigate reports of a chupacabra. This book builds on the previous ones of the series, but new co-author (and Pura Belpré winner) David Bowles brings an intimate knowledge of the bicultural & bilingual communities on the border. The book delves into an issue that children will surely have heard about on the news – the border wall – but in a nuanced way that carefully avoids generalizations. In fact, one of the most brilliant plot twists is that in the end, the children find an unexpected ally in a rancher that they had thought they would have nothing in common with.
Highly recommended series for kids with a lot of imagination and a desire to save the world!
The Bahá’í Festival of Ridvan just began yesterday, and this year I thought it would be a lovely opportunity to focus on acts of kindness. Here is a simple activity that families can do together, by focusing on spreading joy during this most holy festival. I hope you enjoy this Ridvan coloring page with your loved ones!
Ridvan Coloring Page: Acts of Kindness
Here is a simple activity that families can do for Ridvan to celebrate doing acts of kindness. Just download your Ridvan coloring page by clicking on the image below, then they can color in a rose each time they do an act of kindness during Ridvan.
You can find tons of ideas for acts of kindness on my Pinterest board, and I’d love to see yours! Share in the comments below or on my Facebook page, and have a wonderful Ridvan!
Want to raise children with healthy self-esteem? Of course, we all do! Below some wonderful children’s books and music that will help reinforce a positive self-image in children and remind them that they are surrounded by unconditional love. These beautiful resources reinforce your own efforts, inspiring your child to love themselves and their own unique ways.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books and 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 charge to you.
Inspiring Your Child to Love Themselves
My children adore You Can Be. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve read it together. It has just the right blend of silliness and inspiration, teaching children that there are many ways to be a kid – funny, sensitive, smelly, grumpy – and that they can be anything they want to be – except mean or rude, of course! I love the diverse children depicted in this simple picture book, as well as how it works very hard to not reinforce gender stereotypes. For example, it is a boy that is shown to be sensitive, crying over an emotional book, and another boy shown to be caring, by watching out for a younger child. And “dirty” is exemplified by a girl playing on the ground with a truck, and “smelly” is demonstrated by a girl tooting (my kids always crack up at that one!) A lovely book inspiring your child to love themselves however they feel like being that day!
Reading That’s Me Loving You to your child is the verbal equivalent of wrapping them in a big, warm hug. It is a wonderful way to remind little ones that even when you are apart, your love always surrounds them. Best-selling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal uses beautiful imagery from nature to emphasize this point, “That shimmering star?/That’s me winking at you./That drifting cloud?/That’s me thinking of you.” A sweet book to share with younger children, especially if they are just starting school or daycare.
Do you have a child that’s fallen behind on the growth curve, or who feels like they can never catch up to older siblings? Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) is a great book to show children that while being small may have its challenges – like not being able to reach high shelves or being chosen last in sports games – it also has many advantages – like having more leg room on a plane or being able to squeeze into small spaces you want to explore.
I love the obvious love the mother shows to her daughter as she comforts and encourages her, as well as the little touches that demonstrate how loved she is, like the girl’s self-portrait hanging on the wall that show her as a princess surrounded by hearts. It is a wonderful way of inspiring your child to love themselves in whatever kind of body they are in, big or small!
Love Is Te Quiero, now available for pre-order, is a lovely album of bilingual English and Spanish music from award-winning artist Alina Celeste. Love Is Te Quiero is a celebration of hyphenated heritage (Celeste herself is Cuban-American) and love in two languages, inspired by her hometown of Miami. This is reflected in the language mixing in the title itself, which many Spanglish households like ours will immediately recognize! (As my son once put it, “I te amo you, too, Mommy! I te amo everyone in the whole world!”) The music is also a joyous blend of influences, interweaving bluegrass, Caribbean, Latina American, and contemporary styles. For this collection Celeste draws inspiration from sources as diverse as a Civil War-era ditty, an old Caribbean nursery rhyme, and a 20th century Spanish children’s song. One of my favorites is Chito and Abu, a melodic celebration of childhood friendship.
Celeste is also a champion of a cause close to my heart, bilingualism. In fact, she co-founded the Being Bilingual Rocks Foundation, which advocates not only for learning multiple languages but also for engaging with other cultures.
What is your favorite way of inspiring your child to love themselves?
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