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 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!
Part of our character building classes is teaching children about heroes in Bahá’í history and how they can emulate their qualities. Bahiyyih Khanum, daughter of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, is a leading Bahá’í heroine and holds a unique place in religious history. In these lessons, the children studied a prayer and learned about her qualities of service and leadership.
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.
Bahá’í History Lesson: Bahiyyih Khanum
Also known by the title Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih Khanum was born in 1846, the daughter of Bahá’u’lláh and His wife Navváb. She was only a child when her family was forced from their homes and, along with the other members of her family, spent the rest of her life as an exile.
She also holds the distinction of being the first woman in religious history to lead a worldwide faith community. When her older brother ‘Abdu’l-Bahá died in 1921, Bahiyyih Khanum assumed the helm of the Bahá’í community, shepherding it through some of its most difficult times, as it prepared to transition to the leadership of the young Shoghi Effendi. Grownups can read more about her extraordinary life in Prophet’s Daughter: The Life and Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, Outstanding Heroine of the Baha’i Faith.
The children’s class activities outlined below were taught over two classes and focused on Bahiyyih Khanum’s qualities of service and leadership, as well as teaching about the Holy Family.
For some aspects, like the prayer book, we did half during one lesson and half during the other. The other activities you can divide between two (or three) lessons as you see fit.
Children’s Prayer: “O Thou Kind Lord”
At the beginning of each class, after our opening prayers, we studied the following prayer from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “O Thou Kind Lord! These lovely children are the handiwork of the fingers of Thy might…” (read the whole prayer).
The children made a prayer book from two sheets of construction paper stapled together. During the first lesson, we pasted on the cover a copy of a photo of Bahiyyih Khanum (from the resource pages of the Core Curriculum Preschool lesson book). On the first inside page, they pasted a copy of a the first paragraph of the prayer. On the opposite page, they traced their hands, to go along with the idea of “handiwork.” Their homework was to read over and begin to memorize the first paragraph of the prayer.
During the next lesson, they pasted the second paragraph on the next page of the prayer book, which includes “…enable them to render service to the world of humanity.” On the opposite page, they drew pictures of things they could do to help others.
On the last set of pages, they pasted the final paragraph, which includes, “These children are pearls, cause them to be nurtured within the shell of Thy loving-kindness.” Then we folded over a piece of card stock and cut out a shell shape, being careful to have the top (the “hinge”) of the shell on the fold, so that the shell can open and close.
They then drew a heart on the outside of the shell (for “loving-kindness”) and a pearl on the inside. They then pasted the finished shell to the page opposite the final paragraph of the prayer.
Holy Family Tree
Next we focused on learning about the life of Bahiyyih Khanum, first by helping the children understand how she fits into the Holy Family (the family of Bahá’u’lláh). For this, I drew on the expertise of my friend Melissa at Delighted Hearts, who worked with me to develop this beautiful Holy Family Tree, which children can use to help them understand the relationships between the members of Bahá’u’lláh’s family. Be sure to visit her website for the printable worksheet!
To learn about her life of service, I adapted a story from Prophet’s Daughter: The Life and Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, Outstanding Heroine of the Baha’i Faith about when Bahiyyih Khanum was very young. Though she was just a small child and not very strong, she would still help to serve tea using a very heavy samovar, an act of service that impressed Bahá’u’lláh’s guests. I loved sharing this story with them, because it shows that even though they are young, they can still serve others and teach the Faith.
Since the children were not familiar with the samovars commonly used in Persia at that time, a local Bahá’í kindly loaned one to use to demonstrate.
We all want our children to go off and have adventures, to live life to the fullest. An essential component of this is, of course, teach them to be brave, so they are not daunted when faced with a difficult situation or a new experience. As the beginning of the school year approaches, it can be an especially important time to remind children of the courage they have inside them. Here are some wonderful books for all ages that teach by example how to be brave when faced with challenges large and small.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Children’s Books About Being Brave
Poor little baby bird can think of all kinds of reasons why attempting to fly out of the nest is a bad idea. Each time he peers over the edge of his safe, warm nest, the shadows twist into the menacing shapes of his fears. NOPE! is his response whenever his mother tries to prod him to try to fly. Then just when it looks like he might never leave, his mother gives him some gentle, um, encouragement but pushing him out of the nest. A very funny story with extremely simple text but incredibly expressive illustrations.
Jabari Jumps is actually one that several of us that review books have been chatting about because we all love it so much! (You can read another review from one of them). So many kids (and adults) can relate to wanting to jump off the high dive at the pool but then chickening out when the time comes and we see how far down it is to the water. I love the character of Jabari but also his dad, who is there to offer him encouragement. He recognizes when Jabari needs a little more time but also knows just what to say when the moment is right. I am going to remember his advice myself, that instead of being scared about something we can think of it like a little surprise – because who doesn’t like surprises?
My 4 year old requests Jabari Jumps every night at bedtime, and after he was brave enough to jump into the pool recently, he told me that he was just like Jabari!
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Hello Kitty Storybook) is part of a gentle series of fairy tale adventures for very young readers. It also includes Thumbelina (Hello Kitty Storybook). If you have a Hello Kitty fan in your house, you won’t want to miss these – and if you don’t, you might after you read these books! While they present somewhat scary situations (falling through a rabbit hole, being kidnapped by a toad), here the scary factor is toned down and the emphasis is on the adventure and the happy ending.
The Road Home is a beautiful book about finding safety and comfort in a big world. “This road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home” is the echoing refrain as woodland creatures and their children begin to prepare for the coming winter. What I love about this book, in addition to the gorgeous illustrations, is the idea that whenever we are with our loved ones, we are already home. A great book to snuggle up and read with your little ones, to remind them that they are never alone.
Black Belt Bunny is a cute, funny book your children will love! Black Belt Bunny has all kinds of super cool moves to face any challenge – but he wasn’t expecting to have to face salad! What will Black Belt Bunny do when he is asked to prepare his own salad? Mind you, Black Belt Bunny actually loves his vegetables (as all bunnies do), but he’s never had to make one before, and he’s not sure he can! Luckily this fierce little bunny summons his skills to invent his own creative way to make a salad! My favorite part, though, is the end, where the grown up, who has been encouraging him all the while, has the tables turned on him – he has to be brave enough to try something new, too!
We love Harriet the Hamster Princess! In fact, I just finished re-reading the first book in the series (Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible) with my boys. So we were all excited to learn that there was a new adventure out: as with all of the Harriet books, Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble is a re-telling of a classic fairy tale (this time Jack and the Beanstalk), but with a spunky heroine who loves to battle with the bad guys. Harriet and her friends are back in another hilarious book that blends the graphic novel and storybook formats. Great for reluctant and early readers. These books also make great read-louds!
RELATED POST: Hybrid Graphic Novels for Kids
I’m also happy to share the latest installment from another beloved series: Mystery of the Min Min Lights is the ninth book from Pack-n-Go Girls, the chapter books that take girls around the world on incredible adventures! (I should add that my son adores these books, so they aren’t just for girls!) Wendy Lee isn’t sure about having to spend a year in the Australian outback when her mom is on assignment for work, but at least she makes friends with Chloe, who invites her to stay at her family’s sheep station. Yet soon she discovers that someone is stealing the sheep – and what does this have to do with the spooky lights that can be seen at night? To solve the mystery and help her new friend, Wendy must dig deep to be brave and do what it takes to catch the thief.
As always, readers will learn about a new part of the world, as facts are woven naturally into the story. I love that the main character (the non-Australian character who is having an adventure in Australia) is Chinese American. Usually the “normal” character is a white Westerner, so this is a great change and adds another layer of complexity and richness to this wonderful tale.
In a time when immigration is constantly in the news, Evangelina Takes Flight gives middle grade readers a fresh look at the challenges faced by Mexican immigrants to the US over a century ago. At the time, most fled their homes because of war, rather than economic hardship. Evangelina is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood when rumors of wars and marauding soldiers reach their small ranch in the Mexican countryside. Though they are not wealthy, her family knows they will still be targets because they own their own land. Evangelina is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and travel with her family to the United States, where she struggles to find her voice in a new language and confront the many Americans who are hostile to the new arrivals.
As a history buff, I loved the detail about life in revolutionary Mexico, as well as what the long journey to the US would have been like. But young readers will identify with Evangelina’s painful transition to her new school and admire her being brave enough to finally confront those who would fight against immigrants rather than giving them a chance. Would be a great book to pair with Esperanza Rising, about another young woman who immigrants from Mexico several decades later.
We all want our children to soar, to go on brave adventures to help others and achieve their dreams. From stunning picture books to a magical middle grade novel, here is a collection of wonderful tales that encourage children to do just that: to have courage and embark on their own heroic journeys.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Tales of Heroic Journeys
Introduce children to a classic Japanese fairy tale with the beautiful The Last Kappa of Old Japan: A Magical Journey of Two Friends. The story begins, as many do, with an unexpected friendship of two children and their subsequent adventures. But while one of the children is a typical boy from the Japanese countryside in the days before the encroachment of the modern world, the other is not human at all. Rather, he is a kappa, a mythical water creature known to be playful – and to love cucumbers! Despite their differences, the boys become close friends; yet, as modernization begins to pollute the nearby waters, the kappa and his family are forced to leave. The boys only come into contact again years later, when the kappa returns to help his old friend – now a man – avoid a tragedy. They are delighted to be together again, but now, thanks to increasing pollution, the kappa is old and weak. A cautionary tale about protecting the environment, and having the courage to help our friends despite the danger to ourselves. (As a side note, the myth of the kappa is actually the origin of our modern story of mutant ninja turtles!)
I love the endearing illustrations of the two boys and the changing landscape of the countryside. And even though I don’t know any Japanese, I love having this bilingual Japanese-English edition because it is such a wonderful way to expose children to another language and way of writing!
I am so delighted to introduce the soon to be released Bessie, Queen of the Sky from Queen Girls. This remarkable new publishing company speaks to the hearts of so many parents who want inspiring stories for their daughters (and sons!) of remarkable women. The creators have taken stories from real life and turned them into fairy tales that will attract young readers. (Note: the heroines of these stories are queens, not princesses!) The poetic writing and and whimsical illustrations do have that magical quality of fairy tales, drawing the reader into a story about a character – the first African American female pilot – who is both larger than life and infinitely relatable.
I have a personal connection to the story of Bessie Coleman. She was from the same small town in Texas as my grandparents, though she had already left by the time they were born. When I think of how hard it was for my grandfather, a white male, to escape the poverty and depression of a sharecropper’s life there, the story of a young black woman making an even more incredible journey outward and upward is simply astonishing. I am so pleased to see this story given the attention it is due and happy to support the mission of Queen Girls to bring more such stories to light. Visit the Kickstarter page to order Bessie, Queen of the Skyand learn more about this remarkable company! (One copy of the book is donated to at risk girls for every copy that is purchased!)
Imagine that the tragedies of history could somehow be redeemed, that not all of the slaves lost in the cataclysmic Atlantic crossings actually died, that not all of the “boat people” supposedly drowned while escaping the chaos of post-war Vietnam were really dead, but that they had somehow slipped through a portal into another world. In the wonderful new middle grade novel A Crack in the Sea readers can imagine a Second World where some of the First World’s victims find refuge and rebuild an ideal society on a string of islands and a man-made floating “Raft World.” Yet always among some there is a yearning to return “home” and a selfish desire to do whatever it takes to get there.
The young protagonists of the story must discover how to stop the plot and save the people of Raft World while at the same time understanding how to make use of their supernatural gifts – or their lack of them. As they journey to find safety for their families, they must contend with the ruthlessness of slavers, disease, pirates, storms, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. But the real journey is an emotional one, as they all struggle to find their place in this world (or another) and discover the depths of their own courage and what they are willing to fight – and die – for.
I was looking for an easy gratitude activity to do with my kids, but as always I had my hands full with the baby, so I knew it had to be something easy but also fun enough to keep their attention. This gratitude game requires no prep, but it is great writing practice and builds critical thinking skills. It helps kids focus on gratitude ahead of Thanksgiving, yet the end results are often hilarious.
Easy Gratitude Game
This gratitude game only requires paper and pencil and takes just a few moments.
Each person writes a list of what they are grateful for, without letting anyone else see. For younger children, give a specific number of items they should write (we did 5). For older children, you could time it and see who can write the most number of items in a certain amount of time.
Once everyone has their list, have them try to write down what they think each other person’s list would be. (If possible, don’t tell them ahead of time about this step of the game, as otherwise they may purposely write a list that is difficult to guess). In our case, it was just the two boys, so they tried to guess each other’s lists, but with a larger group you could ask them to guess the list of the person sitting to their right.
When time is up, see how many you got right! We had a lot of fun with this part, as it was so funny to see what each thought the other had written down. It is harder to guess than you might think, even with hints! (My 6 year old’s list: PS4, basmati rice, life, the Earth, chicken).
Younger children can draw their answers if they can’t write yet, but I really recommend this for elementary age children. It was a good exercise for my preschooler to make his list, but it was so random that it was next to impossible for anyone to guess his answers. (“You’re grateful for a chicken bone?” “Yes! And flowers!”)
One of the values we try to encourage in our children is contentment: that is, learning to accept – and even embrace – the things they cannot change.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Princess Rosie’s Rainbows and Saint Anthony the Great from Wisdom Tales Pressfor 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.
Picture Books about Contentment
I love the beautifully illustrated new book Princess Rosie’s Rainbows. Princess Rosie can have anything she wants, but the only thing that makes her smile are rainbows. So the King and Queen begin a search throughout the lands for someone who can give the princess forever rainbows, so she will always be happy. She receives rainbows of all kinds, but they are not real and so do not satisfy her. She even learns to make one of her own, but it disappears when a rain cloud passes by. It is an old wise woman who finally teaches Rosie the secret of looking in her own heart for forever rainbows – and happiness. Beautiful tale to teach children an important lesson.
We’ve also been enjoying the classic The Missing Piece. In this fable, a circle sets off to find its missing piece, but what it discovers is that joy comes from the journey, and perhaps it doesn’t really want that piece after all!
A square has perfectly equal sides and is perfectly happy but through a series of adventures discovers that happiness can come from trying new things. Perfect Square is a great book with wonderful visuals about how shapes (and people!) can transform into new and even better things!
Another great book for kids learning their shapes is The Greedy Triangle (Scholastic Bookshelf). A triangle is not satisfied with having just three angles, so he visits a shape shifter to add another. After a time as a quadrilateral, he doesn’t another angle would be even better, until he eventually adds to many angles he becomes unrecognizable and can no longer play with his old friends. Great story about being satisfied with what you have.
Saint Anthony the Great is a gorgeous new book about contentment from a Christian perspective. Anthony of Egypt felt unhappy, so he followed the Biblical teaching to give up worldly possessions and find joy in quietness and stillness. The father of Christian monasticism, Saint Anthony taught others to love each other and live a life of peace, courage, and joy. His story still resonates today and is brought to life through this simply told tale and beautiful paintings. Includes an appendix with more information about his life and further reading.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Pine and the Winter Sparrow; however, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
One of the first lessons we did with our character-building class for kids was on generosity. In some ways, this is an easy lesson for kids to learn, as it is all about giving gifts and sharing toys. From that basic understanding, you can also stretch them to think in more abstract terms, like giving your time, sharing a smile, and so on. More to the point, that the best form of generosity is done sincerely, expecting nothing in return.
Teaching Kids about Generosity: Lesson Plan
We talked about how generosity is giving to others without expecting anything back. We asked the kids to come up with ideas for what this might look like, such as giving a gift on someone’s birthday (or just because), or sharing a toy or a snack. We also talked about how spending time with someone, reading a book together, or playing together, is a gift of time. And we can also share hugs and smiles with others.
We then sang a song that I grew up with, “Magic Penny” by Malvina Reynolds. (Here are a video and the full lyrics). The song is terrific and easy for kids to relate to, about how love is like a magic penny – it only works if you give it away! The version I grew up singing actually was just the chorus (“It’s just like a magic penny–“) plus variations of the verse about love (“A smile/Time is something if you give it away–“)
Ahead of time I cut out a heart, a smiley face, and a clock from craft foam, and as we sang each corresponding verse, we passed the objects around the circle like a hot potato. This is nice because it makes it hands on, since otherwise the song can get a little long for restless little ones!
A really beautiful book to share with kids about kindness and generosity is Wisdom Tales Press’s Pine and the Winter Sparrow by Alexis York Lumbard. Based on a Native American fable, it tells the story of an injured sparrow who cannot fly south for the winter. All of the other trees turn the little sparrow away, except for the pine tree, who offers the bird shelter for the winter. Due to this act of generosity, the Creator decided that the pine tree would be rewarded by not losing its leaves in the winter. And thus it is due to its innate kindness that the pine tree stays green all year long. Gorgeous book about the importance of sharing what we have and also the need to care for the natural world. The gentle message and beautiful paintings make this a wonderful book to share with kids.
And of course, you can’t talk about children’s books on generosity without mentioning The Giving Treeby Shel Silverstein, a classic book about the selfless nature of giving.
Another great book on generosity is The Rainbow Fishby Marcus Pfister, a beautifully illustrated book about a fish who learns that having something wonderful all to yourself is not nearly as fun as sharing it with others.
For our activity, we acted out the story of Stone Soup, a popular folk tale about how when everyone shares what they have – no matter how little it may be – we can create something wonderful for everyone. There are many versions of this tale (here is one), but the general idea is that times are tight, and no one feels like sharing, as they have so little to begin with. Finally someone decides to make a “delicious” stone soup, and as he starts to cook, one by one people start to add the little food that they have – a cabbage, a carrot, a potato – until they have a wonderful, filling soup that they all can share.
I had asked the children to each bring toy food from home (plus I had extras on hand), so that as I told the story to them, they could each take turns adding “food” to the pot. This story lends itself very well to acting out, and it’s an easy way for children to practice generosity and see how when we share we can make something better for everyone.
Craft & Service Project
Photo courtesy D. Randolph
To drive the lesson home, I decided to tie our craft into a service project. We made these beautiful rainbow vases using pour painting. (You can also do this using regular garden pots). I cannot stress how fun this craft is. The only problem I had was that Monkey got a little too enthusiastic and knocked his vase over as we were working, so try to find vases that won’t break easily! But not only did the kids have fun, the vases really did turn out beautifully.
And of course they make beautiful gifts! (Find more gifts that kids can make on my Homemade Gift Ideas Pinterest board). So in a subsequent class we visited a senior living home and delivered the vases to some of the residents. We had called ahead to make arrangements, and the activities director was kind enough to meet with us and lead us around to those residents that would most appreciate a visit. The kids took turns handing out the vases. Besides generosity, it was good practice for them to be courageous talking to new people and gracious in accepting thanks from them.
Getting ready to deliver our vases
For more ideas for character-building classes, see our lesson plans on Love and Service. How do you teach generosity to kids?
I received a complimentary kit from Happy Heart Kid for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Spiritual education is a cornerstone of how we are raising our sons, so I am always looking for resources to use at home as well as for our character building classes. So I was thrilled to be contacted by Happy Heart Kid, a line of of kid friendly products that make character building fun and interactive for families.
Each Happy Heart Kid activity kit is based around a character trait like empathy, manners, and grit. We received an empathy kit, and I was impressed by how well thought out it was in terms of content and packaging. All of the materials are attractive and engaging, with an emphasis on learning through play. There are crafts and activities, coloring, and a story. In the empathy kit, for example, you make an Empathy magnet, put together felt flowers to give to others, practice recognizing emotions with a hands on activity, and read a story (also a coloring book!) that illustrates what empathy means.
Even my Monkey – who often will not sit still for crafts – enjoyed making this bright, colorful Empathy magnet. He was so proud to put it up on our refrigerator!
Each kit is a self-contained unit, designed to make things easy for busy parents who want to spend their time focusing on their kids rather than chasing down supplies and materials. So each kit includes everything you need to do the crafts and activities – right down to the crayons and glue stick!
The materials are all right on a child’s level – simple without being watered down. This is so helpful, since explaining abstract values like empathy can be difficult. The explanations and illustrations in the Happy Heart Kid kit are easy to understand, with obvious applications in a child’s everyday life: How can we have empathy towards someone who is rude to us on the playground? What can we do when we hurt someone’s feelings?
Photo courtesy of Happy Heart Kid
Happy Heart Kid aims to empower young kids with strong character traits in the hope of creating the next generation of leaders and change makers.
If you are excited about giving your child the tools to grow a happy heart, visit Happy Heart Kid to learn more about their products, and consider contributing to their Kickstarter, open only until December 16!
I was so honored to be one of the lucky winners, thanks to you, my wonderful readers! And as a thank you, I’d like to share with you our trip to donate the special, virtually indestructible soccer ball to the amazing Mustard Seed School for homeless children.
Many homeless children are not enrolled in school because the places their families find to sleep are often not near a child’s school and the family only plans to be there a short time. Sometimes the school needs an address or updated immunizations which homeless families cannot provide.
Mustard Seed School was established in 1989 to help meet the needs of homeless children in the Sacramento area. Not having a stable address means that many school age children do not attend school. Some lack immunization, birth certificates, or other documents; some are deterred by the requirement to provide an address in order to register for school; others are so focused on survival that schooling is a lower priority. Almost all lack a support system and a helping hand. In spite of their situations these children are eager to learn and to be accepted.
This is why a school like the Mustard Seed is so needed. It truly is a haven for children in great need of a safe, inviting place to learn and thrive. The tireless workers, volunteers and donors have gone to great lengths to make the school a fun, cozy place for children. They are concerned with the physical and emotional needs of the children. In addition to providing support to parents (for example, with documents and immunizations needed to enroll their children in regular public schools), they also provide healthy lunches and snacks – even “weekend bags” with food to take home for those that need it! (I was very impressed with their emphasis on healthy food for the kids. This is very clearly outlined in their guidelines for donors).
The Mustard Seed School is designed to be a short-term solution, until the families find housing and the kids can enroll in regular public schools. As a result, their emphasis is less on the academic and more on emotional and social support for the kids. I love that they have a school counselor who comes once a week to help the kids through tools like play therapy.
Yet a school like the Mustard Seed also faces great challenges. At the time of our visit earlier this month, they had 38 students enrolled, from preschool to 8th grade, but they never know from day to day exactly how many children will show up. The children typically only stay about 4-6 weeks before they moved or are transitioned to public school.
The children come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and their education has often been done in fits and starts. Most kids are in shelters, living in motels, or on the streets, so they all have emotional and physical needs crying for attention.
How You Can Help Kids in Need:
Do you have a similar school or institution in your area? A friend from our character building class and I brainstormed with the office manager of Mustard Seed – who kindly took the time to show us around and answer our questions – to come up with these ideas for how we could get involved:
1. Donate supplies. Do a donation drive to provide much needed supplies. Call ahead to find out exactly what their needs are. Often they can send you a list or you can find one on their website. For the Mustard Seed School, for example, their greatest needs were school supplies but also underwear and socks for the kids. They were also excited to receive the One World Futbol!
2. Provide food. The Mustard Seed provides healthy lunches and snacks for up to 40 kids every single day. You could donate lunches for one day, or sign up to do it on a regular basis. And if you can’t do lunches, perhaps you could provide healthy snacks like granola bars and yogurt cups that they can keep in the classrooms or send home with the kids over the weekend.
3. Volunteer in the classroom. The hard-working teachers can always use a helping hand in the classroom – whether it’s assisting with daily tasks or providing tutoring/mentorAlling. Perhaps you have traveled to/lived in another country. Why not come and do a presentation for the kids? Or maybe you could do a fun art project with them!
4. Throw a party! If there were ever kids that needed a party, it is students like those at the Mustard Seed School! A really fun way to make a difference is to provide treats and activities for a holiday party and bring a smile to a little one’s face.