Oct 312014

Mustard Seed School: A Haven for Kids in Need | Alldonemonkey.com

This summer we had the privilege of participating in an amazing contest from One World Futbol and Multicultural Kid Blogs: rather than giving away a book or a toy to a reader, we were vying for the right to give the gift of play to kids in need!

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.

Mustard Seed School: A Haven for Kids in Need | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Mustard Seed School: A Haven for Kids in Need | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Mustard Seed School: A Haven for Kids in Need | Alldonemonkey.com

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!

Mustard Seed School: A Haven for Kids in Need | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Thank you so much to the Mustard Seed School for taking the time to give us a tour of the school and to One World Futbol for sharing the gift of play with these amazing kids!

Follow our series Random Acts of Kindness for more ideas for how you and your kids can get involved in your community!

Oct 172014

Character Building Game for Kids {Birth of the Bab} | Alldonemonkey.com

Here is a simple but fun game to reinforce virtues like kindness and generosity.  For the past year I have been helping teach character-building classes for Monkey and several friends.  I wanted a fun way to review the lessons we had already learned, and I know from experience that this group of 4 and 5 year olds learns best by doing. 

So here is a “gate” game, inspired by the upcoming Bahá’í holiday the Birth of the Báb.  I wanted to reinforce the symbolism of the Báb as the Gate for Bahá’u’lláh, but it’s a fun activity for kids of any background, since who doesn’t want to be a gatekeeper for their friends??

Character Building Game: How to Play

One child stands at the front with his/her hands out to the sides, like a gate (in a doorway if possible!)  Then s/he gives clues (either verbally or with charades) about a particular virtue, like generosity or patience.  (For young children, an adult or older child can help).  The other children try to correctly guess the virtue in order to be allowed through the “gate.”  The first through the gate becomes the new gatekeeper.

Character Building Game for Kids {Birth of the Bab} | Alldonemonkey.com

For older children, you could make the game more challenging by not allowing them to use common words as clues for particular virtues.  So for “patience,” for example, you might forbid the gatekeeper to say “waiting” or “time.”  You could also challenge the other children to recite a piece of Scripture about that virtue in order to get through the gate.

For Bahá’ís, you could have the gatekeeper give clues about people from Bahá’í history, like Martha Root or Tahirih!

Happy Birth of the Báb to those celebrating!

Jul 112014

Character Building Class: Teaching Kids to Choose Love - Alldonemonkey on Creative World of Varya

I am so happy today to be sharing over at Creative World of Varya.  Varya is one of my dearest friends and bloggy buddies, and she is now enjoying some extra snuggle time with her new baby boy.  So I am sharing one of the lessons from our weekly character building class for preschoolers: teaching kids to choose love.  Stop by to check it out!

Teaching Kids to Choose Love

Mar 142014

Spring Flower Countdown {The Baha'i Fast} - Chelsea Lee Smith on Alldonemonkey.com

From March 2 to March 20, adult Bahá’ís in good health observe a fast in preparation for our new year (Naw Rúz) on March 21.  Today I am so pleased to share with you this post from my friend Chelsea, of Enable Me to Grow about an activity to share the spirit of the Fast with young children.  For more ideas, you can also see our Fast Challenge Bag and follow our Bahá’í Parenting board on Pinterest.

Several years ago, I brainstormed some ideas about family traditions we might like to start during the Fast.  I wanted it to be something the kid(s) could look forward to that makes the Fast a special time, and also some way they can be more involved in the Fast before they can physically fast themselves (at age 15).  Here is an easy project that only took a couple nights to complete.

First of all, the inspiration for this project was from a lovely tradition where the family lit a candle for each night of the Fast (one candle on the first night, two on the second, and so on), so that by the last night there was a lovely arrangement of candles to mark the end of the Fast and the beginning of Naw Rúz.

I loved this idea.  However, seeing as it doesn’t get dark during Fasting time until maybe 9 pm (and my son goes to bed at 7), I decided to modify it a bit and make a “Fasting Tree” using flowers instead of candles.

The day before the Fast starts, we collect sticks for the “tree”, which we put in a vase on the mantlepeice.  Then during family prayers on each morning of the Fast, we place one flower ornament on the tree so that by Naw Rúz there are 19 flowers.

I used store bought flowers in the interest of time, although felted flowers would also be lovely.  I used these Frangipanis, which reminded me of being at the Shrine of the Báb, since there was a Frangipani tree nearby.

Spring Flower Countdown {The Baha'i Fast} - Chelsea Lee Smith on Alldonemonkey.com

I simply cut up the flowers as necessary and used green and yellow pipe cleaners I had already to make an easy way for them to attach to the sticks.

In order to help remind us of the purpose of the Fast, I added a short quotation about the Fast on a leaf for each flower so that we can discuss the quote on the ornament during family prayers.  For a full list of the quotations, see the end of this blog post.

I cut the leaves out of construction paper.  To make them more sturdy you could laminate them or use packing tape on each side.  Then I punched a hole in order for the leaf to attach on to the pipe cleaner.  I attached the leaves which came with the flowers back onto the pipe cleaner, so that it will help the paper leaf stay on.

Spring Flower Countdown {The Baha'i Fast} - Chelsea Lee Smith on Alldonemonkey.com

Spring Flower Countdown {The Baha'i Fast} - Chelsea Lee Smith on Alldonemonkey.com

Here’s the finished box of flowers.

Spring Flower Countdown {The Baha'i Fast} - Chelsea Lee Smith on Alldonemonkey.com

By Naw Rúz we will have a lovely tree full of flowers!


Quotations used for our Fasting Tree:

“We have ordained obligatory prayer and fasting so that all may by these means draw nigh unto God”
“We have forbidden men from following whatsoever might cause them to stray from the Truth”
“We…have commanded them to observe that which will draw them nearer unto Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving.”
“Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting.”
“Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon”
“Observe ye the commandments of God for love of His beauty”
“We beseech God to assist His people that they may observe the most great and exalted Fast”
“protect one’s eye from beholding whatever is forbidden”
“withhold one’s self from food, drink and whatever is not of Him”
“Fast ye for the sake of your Lord, the Mighty, the Most High.”
“Restrain yourselves from sunrise to sunset.”
“Well is it with the one who fulfilleth My decrees for the love of My Beauty”
“We, verily, have commanded all to observe the Fast in these days as a bounty on Our part”
“His Law is a fortress unto you, could ye but understand.”
“Cling ye to the cord of God’s laws”
“fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two mightiest pillars of God’s holy Law”
“Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man’s life.”
“Act ye in accordance with what ye have been commanded in the Book.”
“It is not for anyone to exceed the limits laid down by God and His law, nor should anyone follow his own idle imaginings.”

For more ideas, don’t miss this wonderful post from Enable Me To Grow with ideas from other young families on sharing the Bahá’í Fast with children. You can also read about our Fast Challenge Bag and follow our Bahá’í Parenting board on Pinterest.

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

Mar 052014

Spring Sensory Outdoor Play {All Things Kids} - Alldonemonkey.com

Spring is in the air!  Or, depending on what part of the country (or world!) you are in, perhaps spring is only in your mind.  Either way, I think most of us are ready for some spring fun after a very long winter!

In that spirit, this week the bloggers of All Things Kids are hosting a series on Spring Sensory Play Date Activities.  (In case you missed them, our previous series focused on Winter Books and Activities and Showing Kids Love). Don’t forget to link up your own posts at the end!

As part of the character building classes I am teaching for Monkey and his friends, I recently did a unit on Love.  This included love of nature, so as part of that lesson I took them outside for some sensory play.

First I had them all draw in their notebooks pictures representing the five senses: ear, nose, eye, hand, and mouth.

Outdoor Sensory Play {All Things Kids}

Then we went through the senses one by one, and they had to sketch (with their mom’s help if needed) what they experienced with that sense.  So, for example, we heard birds chirping (and a truck going by, as it turned out), and we smelled different leaves we found.  In case you were worried that they would try to eat some sticks or something, for “taste” we cut up an orange from one of our trees 😉

Spring Sensory Outdoor Play {All Things Kids} - Alldonemonkey.com

It was fun to see what they came up with (one child observed that the air smelled like mud – it did!).  But most of all I hope that they experienced the outdoors differently than they had before, by beginning to pay attention to all five of their senses.

Spring Sensory Outdoor Play {All Things Kids} - Alldonemonkey.com

Has spring arrived where you are?

Spring Sensory Playdate Activities - All Things Kids

Be sure to visit the other bloggers in this series for more Spring Sensory fun: Crayon Chronicles, Sugar Aunts, House of Burke, Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails, and Fun-A-Day! (You can read the full schedule on the series main page).

And don’t forget that you can find all this and more in our All Things Kids Google Plus community and our Pinterest Board!

Now it’s time to see your amazing posts!

Jan 202014

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

This post is part of the MLK Day of Service Blog Hop. See details at the bottom of this post, including how to share your own posts and ideas about MLK Day and/or doing volunteer work with kids.

Starting this past fall, I have been lucky enough to teach a weekly character-building class for Monkey and some of his little friends (most of whom we did a preschool co-op with last year).  For my lesson plan, I rely heavily on the wonderful Radiant Hearts program from Enable Me to Grow.

One of the first units we did was about “service,” defined in this context as helping others.  Below are some of the activities we did to help the kids get a hands-on understanding of what doing service means and to get ready for our park clean up the following week.

Matching Game

After talking about what service means (“helping others”), we played a simple matching game I created.  I laid out four drawings of different places (living room, outdoors, bedroom, kitchen).  Then one by one we went through cards with drawings of different acts of service, and the kids took turns matching the service card to the place where s/he could do that act of service.  (Some of the cards had more than one correct answer).

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

So, for example, watering plants would be done outside, while helping make cookies would be done in the kitchen.  Giving a hug, however, could take place anywhere!

Other service cards were for comforting someone, telling someone you love them, putting away clothes, cleaning up toys, and helping with groceries.

The point of this exercise was to get kids to think in a concrete way about acts of service and hopefully to imagine themselves doing them.


The kids were set to do a park clean up the following week, so in this class I wanted to help the kids get ready.  My goals were to help them be effective and safe at the clean up, while keeping it fun.

Before class I tore the pages out of old magazines and crumpled them up to make our trash.  I also took craft foam to make fake bottles, candy wrappers, and cigarettes.

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

The game was for them to pick up all the “good” trash (paper, candy wrappers, unbroken bottles) as quickly as possible without picking up any “bad” trash (cigarettes, broken bottles, anything with a sharp edge).  They actually did much better than I expected!  The first attempt they were fast but picked up a lot of the “bad” trash, but the second time around they got the hang of it and managed to pick up (mostly) just the “good” trash.  They had so much fun we did it a third time just for kicks 🙂


One of the ideas in the Radiant Hearts Service lesson is to have kids be Service Super Heroes!  So for our craft we had the kids decorate super hero capes that one of the moms helped me cut out ahead of time.  (Here is a great tutorial from Racks and Mooby for an easy no-sew cape).

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of D. Randolph

We originally thought to have them each do the initial of their name but decided to keep it simple by having everyone do an “S” for service.

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of D. Randolph


For this and several other units, we used the coloring sheets from the Tiny Seeds Coloring Book by the amazing Misha Blaise.

Park Clean Up

The following week we all met at a local park to pick up trash.  Everyone wore their gloves and spread out over the grounds.  Although the kids didn’t have a tremendous attention span for this activity, I’d like to think we made the park a little cleaner before they rushed off to play.  And more importantly for my goals, I hope they had a positive experience with doing some service for others.

Teaching Kids to Help Others - MLK Day of Service Blog Hop - Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of D. Randolph

Now for more great ideas!

I am proud to join with members of Multicultural Kid Blogs to support the US Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service by challenging our readers (and ourselves!) to take the time to do service with our children. Today some of our wonderful bloggers are sharing ideas about the kinds of volunteer work they have done with their kids.

Share your own ideas in the comments or by linking up below! You can also join the discussion in our Google + Community!

For some ideas on doing volunteer work with kids, browse our list of family-friendly service projects or great organizations to support. You can also follow our Teaching Global Citizenship and Black History boards on Pinterest.

Participating Blogs

Multicultural Kid Blogs

Pennies of Time

365 Days of Motherhood

Africa to America

All Done Monkey

Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes

The Good Long Road

Kid World Citizen

Learning to Be the Light

A Path of Light

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