Time to Talk: 11 Apps to Support Children’s Language Skills

Summer School Vacation: Fostering Language Carryover with and without Apps

The activities we do when on vacation can be used to support vocabulary and language skills. When used together with your kids, apps can also be useful tools to stimulate communication and fostering language carryover.

Summer school vacation is finally here. Many parents have a lot of plans set up for their kids, but make sure to save some time for pure relaxation with each other. That’s where our memories of childhood are built.

Hopefully some educational activities will be shared by teachers, libraries and service providers for the summer. I can share apps but rather than let your children play on the iPad to keep them occupied, I suggest using apps together with your child during relaxing child/parent time, similar to book reading. I always suggest that parents play with an app before introducing it to their child. Apps are flexible tools. They can be purely entertainment or can teach a skill. It’s all up to how they are originally taught. Remember, even an electronic game can be a vehicle for narratives, explanations, and defining vocabulary if the parents ask for this. Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: Counting and Key Changes

Counting and Key Changes

My new bilingual album is called Los Animales, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like: a collection of original song about animals.“Siete Elefantes” is a counting song, and a pretty simple one at that. In each verse you count different animals (elephants, butterflies, lions and crocodiles). The structure of the tune is four short verses with a bridge between verses two and three.

As a songwriter, you never want to be boring or predictable. So what’s the trick to avoid that with a song that is intentionally repetitive? In this case the answer is a combination of studio production arranging and key changes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: The Bumpy Inconsistent Emotional Journey of Parenthood

Sensitive Souls

I am a teacher; have been for 23 years. If you don’t know, a teacher’s clock is different than other adults. For us, this week is the end of the “year.” June is when the last chords play on a song that has it all; soft parts, loud parts, fast, heart-racing tempos and slow, feet-dragging beats. In June, I am pensive and melancholy because of the ending…the missing of students and parents and colleagues with which you spend most of your day. In June, I am reflective. I look back and take stock.

My “year” started in September.
My daughter went to kindergarten.
My eldest went away to college.
My 18 year old went to jail.

Read the rest of this entry »

Picky Eaters, Part 1: The Root

Picky. Finicky. Persnickety. Choosy. Stubborn. Boring. Narrow. Limited.

Where does picky eating come from? Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenge for the omnivorous or adventurous cook. Let’s explore some of the reasons some folks keep a limited diet – and how we can address those needs and help them expand their tastes!

If you’ve ever used one of these words to describe yourself, your child, or someone you know, you probably know the frustration of trying to feed someone who doesn’t seem to like a wide variety of foods.

Perhaps it’s your screaming toddler, who’s latched onto a diet of grape juice and animal crackers; your nine year old who would eat peanut butter sandwiches for every single meal if she could, or even your spouse, who methodically reads the online menu and identifies what he’s going to order before you hit the restaurant.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons that people get labeled “picky eaters.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Creating Child Friendly Food Experience

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Play With Food

Stirring, whisking, beating, blending, pouring and smearing are all ways that your child can help you in the kitchen. Using these verbs while working can be very helpful to making cooking and creating fun and help your child become more skilled in these areas.

I can see why adults are continuously reminding children not to play with food. It’s messy, it’s rude and it’s bad mannered but it is FUN! So, why not? Food is fun, it’s squishy and adults are always playing with it. We are always there at the kitchen counter cooking, cutting and serving so why not let your little one have a little fun in the kitchen and allow your child to experiment with foods in a natural way.

Cutting foods, pouring water and self-feeding are amazing skills that even the youngest toddlers can master with little practice. Introducing utensils at a young age can only help your child develop the fine motor skills that it takes to self-feed and master skills that she will need to become a skilled independent preschooler.

Offering the opportunity is the first step in creating a child friendly food experience. It is easy to prepare a child friendly work and feeding space in your home or outside. This area will help give your child clear expectations of what should happen there.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Living Patterns of Watersheds

Thinking Like a Watershed

In the same way all the tiny veins at a leaf’s edge connect to the midrib and then the leaf stem and then the branch and tree trunk and roots, so do our upland streams and brooks flow down into our rivers that empty into our oceans.

Make this summer the summer you discover (if you haven’t yet) the Westfield River watershed.

A watershed is—imagine—a giant bathtub, where the high sides of the tub are defined by ridgelines; and when the shower is on (rain), all the water is contained in the tub shape, flows to the bottom (river), and exits through the same drain.

A better way to imagine what a watershed is: it is a leaf-shaped geography. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Getting Creative in the Cleanup

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Combining Play and Cleanup

Many parents know someone who loves to build with those brightly colored, interlocking building blocks. It starts as a toddler with the bigger, chunkier version and continues up into the tween to teen years for some kids with the 2,000+ piece master builder sets that take hours and hours to complete. There can be some tiny and unusual parts. We always seem to have a few extra odds and ends after a big build. Do you have extra people heads or arms or a single square of floor tile?

While in search of a fun way to organize these bits and pieces, we came across an easy project that clearly connects the contents of the containers to the supplies inside. No need to label. Kids can have a creative-free play activity while helping you save the dog or the vacuum from sucking up little bricks and plastic body parts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Allowing our Children to Choose What’s Best for Them

All the Things We Thought Were Important

To bush or not to brush. To mitten or not to mitten. Is it worth the fight and sometimes unhappy kids? Learning to listen and allow my kids to make their own choices allows them to make choices that are right for them.

When my kids were little, we had some friends who never made their kids brush their hair.  They didn’t have dreadlocks- it wasn’t a cultural or aesthetic choice, it was just a choice not to argue about it.  Combs were offered and suggested, but in the end the family went out and about happily whether or not the children had combed hair or snarls.

At my house the children did not go out happily, nor did they go out with snarls in their hair.  Frequently they went out with eyes red from crying after lots of fussing and fighting about hair brushing.  Their hair got brushed because I am bigger and stronger and insistent and have the car keys.  But it was sometimes awful.

Then we’d be out and see these other kids with their messy hair, and who cared?  I didn’t.  I didn’t judge those kids or that family.  I noticed, in an amused sort of way, and then the very next day I went back to fighting with my own kids about their hair.  A model of another option was right there in my life, but I didn’t consider it.  I wanted calmer, happier interactions with my small children, but not so much that I was willing to be seen in public with them looking unkempt.

Was that for them?  No.  That was for me.  That was all ego.  I couldn’t be the mom with the kids with messy hair, and if that meant some crying and screaming before we went out, so be it.  Somehow I thought it was that important. Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Being a Role Model

19 Ways to be a Healthy Role Model for Your Daughter.

As we know, our children will learn more from what they see us doing, than what we tell them to do. Correct? Sometimes it is hard to sit with that truth. The truth is that we all may have some ways of acting and communicating that may need some revision. We are after all, only human. But do we need to carry on certain less-than-ideal ways of being that have been passed down from generation to generation?

I challenge myself and invite you to join me in being a better role model for our daughters (and sons!). The benefits of doing so will ripple through their lives and the lives of future generations! Here are 19 ways we can consider being a healthy role model for our daughters…

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Helping Our Kids Explain

Helping Our Kids Explain

One of the classic cliches of the parent-child relationship is the question and answer, “What did you do today?” “Nothing.” Over the years, I have had so many parents ask if I could help them get some information from their children. I suggested that they think about the three types of questions (yes/no, wh-questions, and open-ended questions) and chose ones with easier answers. Open-ended answers are overly broad and require the most work. “What did you do today?” appears to be a wh-question (what, where, when, who, why, how), but it is actually an open-ended one. Asking what a child liked doing today and what they didn’t like doing today may create a structure that supports more conversation. So parents need choose their questions carefully.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Letting People Help

The Village Helps

Yoga instructor and pain specialist Ginny Hamilton has never been good at asking for help. In this month’s Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting, she shares a story of independence and interdependence from her first days of motherhood.

I’ve always been fiercely independent, which is not necessarily a useful trait in the blurry days of new motherhood. Pushing 40, it was my first time around – and for me the only time. Thankfully, my sister came to help. She played with her newborn nephew overnight so I could sleep, taught us to swaddle, and fed me while I fed him. And she provided the other main support I wanted: company as I tried to go about daily business by myself. I drove, baby in back, sis in the passenger’s seat. We took the subway downtown, bought button-down tops to make nursing easier, and she stood guard as I nursed in a dressing room.

The store clerk, an older woman with a Middle Eastern accent, cooed over my tiny son curled up in the ergo carrier. “I’m amazed at how people in this country bring babies out so young. In my country, the mother stays home. Aunties bring what you need to you.” Her tone wasn’t critical. More sympathetic, offering condolences.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Getting Engaged Through Blowing Bubbles

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Giant Bubble Day

Bubbles are so much fun for everyone, they are strange and exciting and have the characteristics of a liquid, soil and air all at once. Infant and toddlers will want to explore all areas of the bubbles. Making giant bubbles is so much fun for adults as well. Try to encourage the toddler not to eat them or get them in their eyes. Otherwise let them play. Read the rest of this entry »

What to do with Fiddleheads?

Fiddlehead Arugula Salad

One of the most joyous culinary moments of the year for me is the arrival of the season’s first fiddleheads. It’s among the first of the “just-picked” cooking rituals that will continue to unfold until late autumn. Each year I repeat the simplest of preparation techniques for my first fiddleheads of the season: blanch (cook in boiling water) for 4–5 minutes; drain well; sauté briefly with butter or olive oil and salt. Simple, elegant, and delicious. Then I move on to soups with fiddleheads. Last week, Amy and I were inspired to create a new dish, Fiddlehead Arugula Salad. We wandered the aisles of the Old Creamery and gathered ingredients that “spoke to us.” We found some fresh and crisp arugula, organic hazelnuts that had just arrived (now less expensive than many of the other nuts), perfect ricotta salata cheese from Italy, and some Cattani white balsamic vinegar and aged Castello d’Este balsamic vinegar that had just been featured in our vinegar tasting. With the addition of a couple of other standard Old Creamery ingredients, we prepared a stupendously delicious salad! We enjoyed it so much, I’m going to prepare it again for lunch today.

♦  Print Recipe: Fiddlehead Arugula Salad [Vg/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)
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Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments

Violets & Nature Providing the Perfect Medicine

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!

You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.

Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Respecting the Lifeblood That Are Rivers

No Substitute for Health, Our Own and Our Rivers’

Last month, I wrote about how our native trout survive, miniaturized, in the plunge pools of our chilly mountain brooks, while in the main courses of our rivers, big fat factory-raised trout are set loose by the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs so folks who want to catch big fat native trout out in the wild can pretend. They have to pretend because, as game fish go, factory-trout are listless and lack the vital energy and intelligence of the native trout who actually live and breed here. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Helping Your Local Animal Shelter Through Creative-Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Play and Community Service

Adopting, fostering, and pet taxing are a few ways families can help local animal shelters. Making toys for animals while waiting to be adopted is yet another way to support shelters while encouraging creative-free play at home. This month in “What to Play: Play Ideas for Family & Community,” Carrie shares several DIY projects families can do together to support our furry friends and the agencies that care for them.

It is the beginning of kitten season at the local animal shelters. From spring into summer the shelters are inundated with kittens! They are dropped off in boxes left at entrances overnight. Many are brought in because families are overcome with the work and dedication needed to take care of a litter of tiny babies. Some arrive with their mother or when a soon to deliver mother is surrendered. The main cause is lack of spaying. Many are so small they are not healthy or strong enough to be adopted out. Those tiny ones might spend time in a kitten ICU or go to live with caring foster families while they gain strength and put on weight.

This year we are not able to foster. We are missing the experience. The tiny kittens have so much love, cuddles and silly play to share. It is a great experience to watch them grow, to teach them to eat solids and even to figure out the best way to provide needed medications. Kittens do not like medications. We failed as fosters last year by adopting a “tuxedo” from the last batch of siblings we had in May. Many foster families fail and joke about this. We get attached to the tiny ones and adopt. Our two furry boys have taken over so we no longer have the spare room to devote to fosters. Adopting from our last foster group was a bonus for our family in many ways. My daughter has the lap cat she has been hoping to have for years. They are inseparable. He cries in her room when she has a sleepover or play date and does not come home at the end of the day. He watches her brush her teeth. She has trained him to use a leash and play fetch. A perfect match. I have to say it is nice to have him in our family. Oh, and he has a safe home to call his own forever and a big orange brother to sleep with.

One day we will foster again. We want to help those tiny babies get a great start on life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Debut of Teens 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations, and Small Wonders

Adolescents and Squirrels

This adolescent period is a clunky time for all mammals- one long and clumsy transition. As adults, our role is to walk the impossible balance of supporting just enough challenge and exposure so that they can gain necessary skills, with enough safety and protection to prevent injury.

I’ve never really been into squirrels. Never thought too much about them except to avoid them on the road. But suddenly this spring I’ve found myself fostering two baby squirrels, from a nest narrowly saved from a chipper on my husband’s job site.

I’m a sucker, and I’m a mother. You give me a small, helpless, hungry thing, and I feed it. With the guidance of a wildlife rehabilitation professional and the internet, we’ve managed to grow a couple of happy, healthy squirrels, and they’re almost ready to go back out into the world on their own.

I don’t usually work with squirrels. I work with teenagers. I am currently parent to two teens, as well. And now some adolescent squirrels, too. Adolescents at every turn.  Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: 20 Ways to Get Active with your Daughter

Let’s Get Physical

Jumping rope, hiking, swimming, bike riding, skateboarding, rock climbing… there are so many fun ways to get your girls active and engaged outside in their community in the summer!

Wondering what activities to do with your daughter so you both build a healthy and fun exercise habit that can last a lifetime?

Having fun while exercising is key to building the belief that physical activity is something to look forward to, not something to dread.

Here are 20 ways to get active with your daughter. I hope you get inspired!

1. Jumping Rope — You can get two jump ropes and have a competition as to who can jump the most times in a row. Make up a silly song as you jump. Try to synchronize your jumping. Get a long jump rope and if there is just two of you, tie one end to something and one person spins the rope while the other person jumps. With toddlers, just lay the rope on the ground and watch them jump back and forth over them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Stress-Free Reading

Therapy Dogs and Reading

Often times our local libraries host a reading to dogs program where therapy dogs support literacy through companionship for young readers. Check Hilltown Families list of Weekly Suggested Events to find out about upcoming programs.

When I was in first grade, my family began to notice my lack of interest in reading. I spent most of my time building villages in my sandbox, drawing, and climbing trees, while they always carried a book everywhere they went. To me, reading was some magical thing they did that had nothing to do with me. Enter my grandmother, the elementary school teacher. She was enlisted to help me with reading. Now that I think of those torturous sessions, I realize that I was not the only one being tortured! My poor grandmother required incredible amounts of patience. Eventually, I learned to read, but never with the pleasure that my family experienced daily. I was slow and had to hear every word in my mind. I dreaded reading aloud in class. I would count the paragraphs other students before me would be reading and try to figure out and practice mine in advance. I never heard what anyone else read because of my state of terror. It was very easy for me to mix up words, making my peers laugh and horribly embarrassing myself. It was an ordeal. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Binding Thread of Peace for Mother’s Day

Honoring Traditions, Honoring Ourselves

This Mother’s Day, I expect to receive more handwritten letters. My six year old loves to demonstrate this newly acquired skill. Ms. Jarvis would be proud.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m contemplating paths to outer peace – on a global scale of state on state violence, on a societal scale of institutional violence, on a frighteningly personal scale of schoolyard gun violence, on a kitchen counter scale as two 6 year old boys negotiate train positions.

Did you know that early efforts to establish Mother’s Day were responses to the Civil War? Abolitionist, peace, and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe organized the Mother’s Day for Peace, calling on women to stand up against the horrors of war. Less well known, activist Ann Jarvis was in the trenches, caring for Union and Confederate soldiers. She organized meetings of moms who had lost sons on both sides of the conflict. Her daughter led the charge to make Mother’s Day an official holiday and reportedly was widely outspoken about the almost immediate commercialization that followed. Apparently the younger Ms. Jarvis lamented Hallmark creating Mother’s Day cards. She had envisioned hand written letters figuring prominently in Mother’s Day celebrations. I can only imagine she’s rolling in her grave as we greet mom via text message. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Characters Locked in a Cell

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Reluctant

So done with winter!“Spring seems most reluctant this year…” my husband’s grandmother wrote in a letter to us almost twenty years ago. Personal email was just starting up, and Grandma was close to 90, so the technology revolution entirely missed her generation. Her phrasing stayed with me all these years later, because what she said was certainly true, but there was no frustration in her words, only grace. A similar text today might read, “So done with winter!,” also true, but delivered with a crass directness and blistering internet speed never before seen. I love social media and texting for the very way it keeps us connected in a casual, immediate manner, but with the intoxicating rush of 21st century communication, and insatiable quest for immediate information, I have lost something.

Internet access makes me feel as though there is constantly something I should be doing, every minute of every day, right up until I fall into bed at night. I could be registering for retirement benefits, paying for school lunches, researching my ancestry, or confirming dentist appointments (there are 5 of us, and one with braces). My cell phone was a generous gift given to me by my generous family. Texting makes communication with them flow freely and easily. Help at school pick up time is now just a text away, and for that I am truly grateful. That cell phone has truly made my life easier in that respect. However, I feel the burden of expectation that comes with that portable, yet powerful device.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Cheering on our Native Trout!

Native Trout vs. Finned-Zombies: the Essential Difference

More than ever our rivers—and other river-lovers—need us. The Massachusetts Department of Ecological Restoration has published a list & calendar of river-helping opportunities. This local offering is a perfect way for those of us who want to do something, to do it!

Purples, reds and greens thrown high like hard candies, caught by each branch tip that shakes in the soft warming breeze;
our winter dun hills flare up in their pointillist fervors, a rolling canvas of vivacious colors that blend and bleed and swarm ‘til we can’t see the ridgelines or hollows;
hawks and falcons and eagles circle above our busy ant movements in parking lots, farm fields and backyards;
sweet tulips burst and bend over, taking their bows:
the snow melts and sugarings are suddenly memories;
and amorous fish arrive from far out at sea, crowding the rumbling spillways of Holyoke Dam, hoping to catch a ride on a world-famous elevator, so they may have babies upriver where their parents once did.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Getting Ready to Travel

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Getting Organized for Travel is Key to A Successful Trip

Fruit kebabs. Organize a bento box with a lot of different fruits and little wooden skewers – Include a pattern sheet that your child can try to match: apple, grape, apple, strawberry . This is a fun brain game!

As Spring rolls in, many of us will roll out. The travel bug may bite you too! The idea of free play while traveling in airports and on planes can seem nearly impossible for you and your toddler. However, by planning appropriately and creatively, you can make travel with your toddler a great adventure and a great memory for the whole family. Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Tips to Building Confidence

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and 7 More Empowering Tips for Girls

Stepping stones to empowerment.

Do you ever wonder what the secret sauce is to helping little girl grow into a truly empowered young woman?  By empowered, I mean being fully embodied, strong and resilient in body, mind, voice and spirit. We are all hoping to watch out daughters grow into young women who believe in themselves and have the courage to express their full selves in the world. There really is no secret sauce to building confidence and self-esteem. But if you mix together these eight key ingredients into your daughter’s life, she may just wind up being a very healthy, expressive and strong person; a person we will feel good about sending off to college or to travel or just out of our homes into their own futures… Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Overflowing Recycling Bins is an Opportunity for Creativity

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

More Collections

Try saving some items with no set goal then leave a bin of this and that out on a rainy April afternoon. All sorts of things have potential for free play and new ideas. See what happens.

“Mom, the recycling bin is overflowing. Why do you keep all those cardboard rolls?”

I just do. I also save all the colorful, plastic, rectangle do-dads that tie off bread bags and the white pull tabs from inside the 1/2 gallon milk carton caps. Those bits and pieces might be the perfect addition to a project one day. The plastic, mesh bags from fruits and veggies could be a great background or texture during a kid collage afternoon.

She should not be surprised at the saving at this point but she is, if it gets in her way—when the cardboard rolls tumble out the of the recycling. It is not that extreme yet. These little items all have bins they get tossed in. I make quality control decisions when saving. There is criteria for potential usability. I don’t save the extra sheets of twist ties from boxes of garbage bags. I have no use for those. Yogurt cups and tubs instantly go out on recycling pick up day. There are things we would never reuse, things we hope to reuse and things we actually reuse.

But, the kiddo is correct, the amount of empty TP rolls has grown too large. So here is the response she gets:

“Make something with them.”

After 30 minutes of free time with those rolls, I was envisioning TP roll sculpture, maybe painted or turned into an animal.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Reflections of Parenting Bring Self-Awareness

The Mirror

One of the truths of parenting is that my child is also my mirror. I see my expressions looking back at me. I hear my tone, my words, my affect in his bubbly little voice.

“Let your mat be your mirror,” the teacher said. “What does your yoga practice reflect about your life?”

Ah! That was easy to answer. Teacher after teacher would remind me to slow down, to find ease. To relax. Not to work so hard.

I immediately recognized the reflection in my mat-mirror: Work-a-holic off the mat, work-a-holic on the mat. 110% effort. Muscle through. Overthinking everything, not allowing flow. Filling every empty space with busyness. Not accepting myself as good enough. Erring on the side of perfectionism instead of acceptance. Hard work was my emotional currency: how I tried to earn my worth.

So for my self-study project during the months of my yoga teacher training, I worked to cultivate the opposite tendency from my habitual relationship with work and time. I committed to take Fridays off for the final months at my high stress job and to reflect on that experience. (Work-a-holic + no kids then = oodles of unused vacation time.) While I did not take off every single Friday, I was much more conscious of my inner dialogue about my choices for spending that time. And I did take off far more days than I had anticipated! Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Understanding & Helping Children Who Stutter

Smooth Speech

When a child repeats a beginning sound of a word or a beginning syllable, or pauses for a long time before speaking, or says filler words like “um, um, um,” parents wonder if their child is a stutterer. As listeners, we feel the effort and anxiety the child is experiencing to get their words out. We feel helpless, uncomfortable, or mildly annoyed to have to slow down and wait to find out what the child is trying to express, especially when we are on tight time schedules. We finish sentences for them, ask more questions to find out what they want, or tell them to relax and slow down.  Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: When Sound Crosses Borders

The Universal Language of Dogs

Dogs all over the world understand each other, instantly! This universal language can be found in music too, crossing cultures and facilitating communication without barriers. Knowing how to play music can cultivate a sense of cultural appreciation and connection, building a bridge of cooperation and joy between people without the need for spoken language.

I’ve been a professional musician for thirty years, but it wasn’t until I started collaborating with artists from other countries and cultures that I finally understood the old cliché that music is a “universal language.”

I’m currently recording an album of original songs for a new bilingual album called, Los Animales. Part of the fun of making the record is working with great musicians from different parts of Latin America. Yesterday I was in a studio in Los Angeles with my friend Mari Nobre, who is a wonderful Brazilian singer. Over lunch we started talking about the different sounds we have for the way dogs bark in English and Portuguese. While we say “woof woof,” in Brazil they make a sound like “au, au.”

This realization led to a conversation about how dogs all over the world understand each other instantly. We concluded that there’s a universal language of dogs, which enables dogs to communicate and interact instantly regardless of where they’re from.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Have No Fear of Feelings

Sensitive Souls

Being sensitive is what makes me who I am; someone who strives on a daily basis to improve, a writer who notices the most minute life details, a philosopher who searches for meaning in the most mundane places.

When I was 9, while eating dinner in a fancy restaurant with my parents and sisters, an elderly woman at another table began to choke. The two men seated with her stood up quickly and one grabbed her around her middle to perform the Heimlich maneuver (although at the time, I didn’t know that was what he was doing). There was quite a lot of commotion surrounding the scene; silverware clanking on dishes, women gasping, and chairs scraping, but I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of the poor woman’s face. She was so clearly suffering, and so terribly full of fear. In an instant, her fear seemed to wash over me and I began to panic as well. My body started to shake. I felt the familiar sourness of nausea. My hands trembled and my armpits prickled with sharp needle-like jabs. I was overwhelmed with dread and turned to my mother who was standing across the table from me. I appealed to her with the only word that my dry lips could form, “Mommy?”

There was a lot of meaning in that single utterance…Mommy can we help? Mommy I am scared. Mommy I don’t like how fearful I feel. Mommy will it be ok? Perhaps because she was feeling just as scared, or maybe because she didn’t have any answers to those invisible questions, she responded with a scolding “Logan, don’t start!!”  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Bringing A Taste of Winter Indoors!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Chipping Away at Winter

As winter begins to wind down and we are left to unbury ourselves from the squishy sugar snow, I would like stir in a few more weeks of winter themed activities.

Recreating a frozen world is easy and by bringing a piece of winter to the table, you can create a fine motor and sensory adventure for your little one! All of these winter themed activities are variations of the same basic idea, freeze things inside ice and challenging your child to get them out. You can freeze the objects in ice cube trays, small plastic bowls or in giant trays. Add food-grade dye to match the theme, use sparkles or sand for texture- Have fun creating a mini frozen world. Then, offer tools such as squirt bottles of warm water, eye droppers, toothpicks, forks, child knives, tweezers, mini hammers, chop sticks… or whatever you can dream up to help excavate the ice.

Here are just a few suggestions. I like to do these at the table, in trays to hold the mess. These activities also work great in a water table, in the bathtub, or outside on the ground: Read the rest of this entry »

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