Let Them Grow: Three Edible Creative Free-Play Recipes

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Eat What You Play!

Now that my newborn is becoming a toddler overnight, I have begun to include her in toddler–esque art projects. This is exciting in so many ways. As all kids, she explores, experiments and creates every waking moment. Like every one-year-old she loves sensory exposure at its best- mostly by mouth. So, the question became how do I include her without poisoning her, letting her choke, or dumbing down toddler activities? Because she mouths everything and taste it just the same, I decided to create a few sensory activities that would be safe and fun for both infants and toddlers. And what do they both love? Food! Read the rest of this entry »

Reiki Positive: Waves

Waves

Joy is never gone, it is simply forgotten.

Energy is everywhere, even in the waves. I believe in our human potential. I believe our natural disposition is JOYFUL and WHOLE.

I want balance. I don’t want to have my guard up anymore. As my kids grow, I get more and more worried for their safety. But what is safety? Are we ever really safe? How can I know if being on the highway is safer than sitting in a movie theater, is safer than flying in a plane, is safer than swimming in the ocean? Faith.

We went swimming with my kids at the ocean, and watching them was killing me. There were no lifeguards. It was cold. The breakers were hitting me in the crotch. The sun was burning my epidermis. So I decided to join them. Yee! Ha! It was fun to boogie board and enjoy the waves as they knocked into us. It takes your breath away. My kids couldn’t believe I was having fun with them. They were so incredibly happy that I was playing in the water.

On my last day of vacation, I watched from the beach around 7 PM as another family arrived to feel the ocean water. Mom and Dad watched their two kids, who were the same age and gender as mine (8 and 13). The four kids soaked in the positive energy. The parents worrying their eyeballs out on the beach. The father kept yelling from the rocky shore at his son to come back closer. He was clearly stressed out about how deep his son was wading in to the surf. He kept suddenly exploding in an anxious voice, “Christian!” His son diligently responded and walked back to lower water. After the tenth, “Christian!!” the boy rolled his eyes and finally said back to his Dad, “WHAT!?!?!?!”  Then he called his son all the way back in and told him all about riptides and their unpredictability. “You just don’t know,” he explained. “You can’t predict it.” Luckily, the boy went back in the salty surf anyway. That explains why Dad wasn’t swimming.

I hope in your life, you stop worrying about all the risks of waves and just ride them, and know both sides, the worrier and the warrior. I’m happy to report, Christian’s mom put on her suit and was soon screaming with joy in the icy waves with her son and daughter, while Dad stood on the edge!

Photo credit: Valerie

If you’re looking for guidance and support in raising your little ones, Alison would like to help! Send your questions to: a.vale5000@gmail.com


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alison Vale

Alison was born and raised deep in the woods of Pennsylvania, where her childhood imagination ran wild and free. As a scabby-kneed tomboy she seemed fearless, yet as she grew older, her fears and anxieties clearly got worse. She attained her Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology. As a clinical researcher and biostatistician at a university medical center for 18 years, Alison co-authored many medical articles and observed first-hand the short-comings of conventional medicine. She left clinical academia to become a Reiki Master Teacher and author. Her goal is to forge energy medicine into conventional medicine and share more intriguing stories and workshops. She has an 8-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, and is still learning every hour of every day how to parent.

Off the Mat: Lessons in Unconditional Love from Piggett

Things that Fly

My boy is at school. Kindergarten. A whole new world. He’s only a mile away, much closer than the preschool over-the-river-and-through-the-woods. Still, it feels farther. Distant. I was in and out of his preschool room. Most days we said goodbye at his cubby-hole, but there were regular opportunities to come in and play, read a book, or just cuddle until he was settled.

Now, we say goodbye as he sprints out to the bus. If he remembers to say goodbye. He goes into a big building and hangs his new big backpack in a cubby I have never seen. May never see.

Apparently, stuffies don’t go to kindergarten.

I remember him that very first day, all wrinkled and noisy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Family Plant Nursery: Homestead-Scale Propagation Projects

The Family Plant Nursery: Homestead-Scale Propagation Projects

I started learning about propagation because I wanted edible and medicinal perennial plants for my budding homestead and I quickly realized that buying them in any kind of quantity would cost more than I was prepared to pay. So my adventure in plant propagation began. I set up a little nursery of desirable species by sourcing cuttings from friends, grafting onto the wild crab apples on my land, and planting seeds. It took way more time than the nursery-bought alternative, and it was not always tidy or efficient, but I learned a ton. Helping plants to grow and reproduce uplifts the spirit, induces a reverence for nature, and can even nourish the body. I hope you will seek the magic out for yourself and share the joy with your family.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Water & Color

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Water & Color

It is still summer and that means it is still time for toddlers and preschoolers to play with water. Water has been the theme of our lives over the last six weeks and I love it. I love watching children mesmerized by water play. Pouring and measuring, filling and carrying and dumping – the only thing that makes it more fun is adding color! Here are some easy and fun water based art projects to keep your little one engaged in sensory and science play. Read the rest of this entry »

Plantastic! A Horticultural Journey

On the Pursuit of Plant Wisdom

I grew up barely able to tell the difference between a maple leaf and an oak leaf. I perceived, somewhat dimly, that the crunchy green things I put into my mouth when I ate a salad were plant-related. And now I work with plants for a living. I still have so much to learn in my journey toward plant literacy, but I’ve certainly come a long way. I’m taking my family along for the ride, too. If I’m patient enough, and lucky enough, my kids will not only know the names, biology, and uses of plants in our area, they’ll have a deep and long-lasting reverence for the magic of the natural world. What follows are some of the best tools I’ve made use of along the way:

Credit: Emma Frisch

Learn about (and eat) wild edibles. What better way to learn about plants than to digest them? As we know, an experience that engages all five senses will stick in the mind far longer than a paragraph read on the internet. You’ll feel the texture and taste of the plant on your tongue, and feel the way it sits in your stomach. Go on a wild edible walk with a knowledgeable guide to learn what’s safe and good to eat. Taste the surprising sweetness of black locust flowers, crack open your first shagbark hickory nut, bring home a sack of fiddleheads and sauté them up (as my wife has done the past few springs) for your loved ones. There is a world of gastronomic delight right outside your door. Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer is the most enjoyable book on the subject I’ve encountered. Though I haven’t personally taken any, I hear Earthwork Wilderness Survival Training School offers informative classes all through the summer and fall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Age of Contentment

The Age of Contentment

Contentment is a nine year-old in summer. He runs like fluid water, swift and effortless and fresh. We can’t keep up anymore. I don’t even try. His unconscious skip-hop step betrays the simple excitement of moving. He devours chapter books, curled on the sofa with one of the warrior cats’ adventures, then bikes to the library to get more. He makes his own sandwich (though clean up skills are still lacking.)

He’s aware of his appearance, but not yet in a self-conscious way. “I like my hair like this” he says of his flattened-on-one-side bedhead. His simple self-confident acceptance is irritating at times, until I realize my irritation is jealousy. To be so content!

He considers his life far from perfect. I am the meanest Mama in the universe because he doesn’t have his own phone, unlimited Minecraft time, or ice cream with every meal. Even so, he sings himself into unbroken sleep. He smiles with his whole body.

By contrast, too many adults I know, myself included, are largely malcontent. I scowl at my never ending to do list, dust under the couch, spider veins and cellulite. Begrudge the beauty outside as I hunch over laptop indoors. Resent the bright moonlight for interrupting elusive sleep, and then lie awake cataloguing all I’ve left undone – personally, professionally, spiritually. How much energy do I put into being aggravated?  Read the rest of this entry »

Reiki Positive: Let It Be

Let It Be

I believe in energy and unseen entities. There was a time I thought I might be clairvoyant and intuitive. My inner guidance was strong. I was confident I was making decisions that were ideal for me. Being a Reiki Master and Teacher, I felt aligned, but then doubt came back – a dark, familiar figure. I was meditating one day and I saw only darkness and shadows behind my eyelids. I was looking and searching and trying to find answers. As I struggled and sat more to meditate for guidance, I grew more and more frustrated by my opposition. Was the universe ignoring me? I thought I must be useless or forgotten. I was lost.

I began to get stuck in this negative cycle of trying to meditate then feeling so incredibly alone. I sought professional help because my friends were telling me I seemed depressed. I criticized myself for everything I might be doing wrong. I had been so joyous for two or three years of my life, but now I felt like a failure and I kept telling myself I was a failure. In the cold, dark days of winter, I told myself I wasn’t earning enough money. I told myself I wasn’t looking attractive anymore. I told myself I wasn’t a happy person and my kids were cursed with me in their lives. I told myself I wasn’t successful. I felt like the failure I had feared all along. Sadness descended upon me. I cried for myself. I cried for the loss of my connection with Spirit. I thought I was doomed to sit in suffering, isolated. Was I being punished? Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Garden Chores Galore

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Garden Chores Galore

At three, rounding four years old, my daughter is still a menace in the garden. With her little friends, they terrorize the green tomatoes, eat green blue berries and rip up entire strawberry plants with ease. They trample over the kale and the hearty cabbage is still no match for the preschoolers size tens. In response, I have come up with the Four W’s for our visit to the farm, picking, and home gardening. They are watering, washing, weeding, and wondering. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Sarah: Lying

Moving, Sending, and Settling Energy: Family Exercises

Moving, Sending, and Settling Family Energy

Have you ever noticed that some individuals are grumpy and some are joyful? Is it mood or energy? Energy is ever-present, all around us, but the question is: how do we direct it? That’s what matters most. Pouring our attention into positive thoughts and actions creates powerfully important increases in energy and lifts many people around us. Charismatic people are enthusiastic and energetic. Enthusiasm is contagious and powerful, plus it heals! Our words and actions impact one another. What we do and what we say is where our control and magic lie.

That’s not to say we all have to be perfect, but rather to raise our awareness and pour our attention into positive thoughts and actions. None of my suggestions in this column are meant to replace medicine, therapy, or basic science. Energy medicine is a complementary method intended to enhance other approaches. My personal goal is to show all people the value of their hearts, and raise their awareness about what they already have to offer of themselves in the form energy, touch, compassion, and positivity. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Fear Itself

Fear Itself

He’s hit 54 inches, or close enough for Six Flags safety standards. With his extra effort to stand tall – viola! – he’s cleared to ride Superman. As the train climbs and climbs that first hill, I gaze down at the beautiful, absolutely unobstructed view of the river 200 feet far below.

My stomach clenches. Hands clamp. Breath catches. Until I reminded myself – this is supposed to be fun. We pay for this fear! I exhale and enjoy the ride. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Sarah: Chores

 

Dear Sarah,

What do you think is a good age at which to start giving children chores? Should chores be a requirement for getting an allowance?

Signed,

Uncertain in Belchertown

Dear Uncertain,

Ah, chores! This is a hot topic among many of the parents in my practice and one that I have struggled with myself, over the years. I am a big fan of chores for several reasons:

  1. Chores teach children to be contributing members of their families, which is the beginning of learning to contribute to their teams, workplaces, and communities.
  2. Chores provide an opportunity to teach children to do a task on time, thoroughly, and without complaining. These are important skills for holding down a job someday.
  3. Requiring our children to help in meaningful ways protects them from the overwhelm, exhaustion and resentment that their parents feel when parents try to do it all alone.
  4. Learning new tasks and mastering challenging jobs help children to build confidence and competence.

If you ask three different parenting consultants you will probably get three different answers, but I will share with you what works for me at my house. My 14 year old daughter, who is not a big fan of chores, might not agree that my approach “works” for her! As I say to her, “That’s ok, I don’t like all of my chores either. You don’t have to like them, you just have to do them.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Irons in the Fire

Off the Mat: Irons in the Fire

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Willpower. Intense discipline. These concepts call to mind early memories of my dad smoking a pipe. He was about 38 and had smoked for 20 years when he quit. Just quit. His dentist, concerned about palate irritation from the pipe stem, suggested he switch to cigarettes (no joke). Dad decided to go cold turkey. No drama or public declarations or program. He just did it. As a result, my expectations of willpower are perhaps a tad bit unrealistic.

In my 20s, I worked a series of campaign jobs, promoting a particular local candidate or political cause. These jobs were intense: long hours for little pay demanding deep passion and youthful vigor. One included collecting boycott pledges in busy public spaces and recruiting teams of local volunteers to do the same. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Sarah: An Advice Column Addressing Everything from Toddler Tantrums to Teenager Troubles

 

Dear Sarah,

The #MeToo movement has me wondering – how we can raise daughters who will speak out about harassment and abuse, and know that it is not their fault? Can you share your thoughts about this?

Signed,
Concerned Mama

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Dear CM,

I am raising a daughter too, and I share your concerns. I congratulate you for broaching this important topic. As parents, we are the earliest and best teachers of our children regarding their bodies and their rights. We can empower them from very young ages in a wide variety of ways.

Here are just a few of my thoughts for parenting all children – our daughters and sons:

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Early Spring Garden Prep Activities for Little Hands

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Fun Gardening Activities for Little Hands!

Garden starts like tomatoes, pea shoots and other delicate plants are not something a toddler can easily handle without destroying. However, there are some really great garden prep activities that even the littlest of the little ones can help with. Watering, raking, and weeding may be the obvious places to start, but here are a few more fun early spring garden prep activities for the younger green thumbs.


Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Tell it Slant

Off the Mat: Tell it Slant

Photo credit: Whitney H

In my 20s, a girlfriend introduced me to May baskets. She purchased old baskets from Goodwill or wove paper ones and gathered small treasures like stickers, maybe candy. Then, early on a weekend morning, the two of us would drive around town snipping blossoms to fill the baskets. We only took flowers from public places (we decided campuses counted as public) in ways that were respectful of the plant’s growth, never too much from one spot. Flower glutton that I am, the back seat soon filled with apple blossoms, rhododendron, plum, pear, and if lucky, a few remaining sprigs of forsythia. Baskets overflowing, we’d drive to our friends’ houses, still very early on a weekend morning, sneak a basket onto the stoop. Ring. And RUN!

Don’t be seen. Don’t get caught. And don’t tell. Even when asked, lie through your teeth. I think I still have friends these 20+ years later who – believing my dishonest denial – still wonder who delivered those baskets.

I don’t remember now how many years we did this, maybe five? More? As the friendship shifted more into our 30s, I stepped out of the tradition.

Until the year my kiddo turned seven. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: May is the Perfect Time…

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

May is the Perfect Time…

34936077296_53780f7eb8_nAccording to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the month of May is significant. The Celts traditionally celebrated Beltane on the first of May, later known as May Day: a day half-way between spring and summer which welcomed the return of earthly fertility in the form of flowers. Modern pagans still believe that it is a day when the veil separating them from the spiritual world thins, making May 1st powerful for enchantments, similar to Samhain or Halloween. Northern Europeans still celebrate Walpurgisnacht (also known as Vappu or Walpurgis depending on what country you are from) with dancing, bonfires, and sprigs of tender flowers to ward off “evil” and welcome the sun’s return. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Get Fizzy!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Get Fizzy with Bath Balls!

Well it’s not a new rage, but they have made a comeback. Bath Balls are a fun way to engage kids in an open ended sensory experience that will sprawl into the nighttime bath routine.

Bath Balls fizz when they hit the water, and if they are made with good ingredients, they can actually nourish your child’s skin and offer a calming scent (eg. lavender, sage) to set the tone for bedtime. But, the bath tub is not the only place to use these fizzy creations. You can also use these balls for water table sensory play, volcanoes, or outdoor play with the hose.

There are several recipes for bath balls, varying based on how you want to use them. I found this recipe to be the best for play purposes. They fizz great in the water!

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Walking on Air – April 2018

Off the Mat: Walking on Air

Photo credit: Eugene Goffredo

Browsing for books for a friend’s toddler, I came across the Science for Babies picture book series and was reminded of this exchange from many moons ago. Putting his squirmy wormy legs up the wall next to his changing table, my oddly polite two-year-old states, “Wawk up dere, peese.”

“Walk up the wall?” I confirm his intent.

“Peese. Wawk up dere and over dere and down dat side.” He gestures to illustrate his intent to climb the wall and cross the ceiling.

My freeform self wants to encourage this outside the box thinking. My anxious self flashes to headlines of fatal falls from fourth floor windows by kids wearing blankie capes, attempting to fly. Must I teach my child about gravity? The thought is so…heavy.

It’s not that I’m opposed to limits. Far from it. Painted hands and feet stay on the paper, not the floor. Splashing stays in the tub. Hitting in all its variations (punching, kicking, butting, et al) is not allowed.

Yet somehow it saddens me to think I must tell my child he can’t walk on air.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Landscape for April: Spring’s Big Night & Vernal Pool Habitat

Learning Landscape for April: Spring’s Big Night & Vernal Pool Habitat

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Download this month’s Learning Landscape to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves.

The April Landscape

April is a month of massive transition here in New England. March’s maple sugaring season often runs
into the month’s earliest days, while the tail end of April is filled with new life and much green. Spring emerges
on its own time, and its arrival varies from year to year. Regardless, the pattern of melting, emergence, and
growth remains the same annually, and the events outlined in this Learning Landscape follow the same
trajectory at some point between mid-March and mid-April every year.

This month, we focus on the annual Big Night of springtime – the moment at which frogs and salamanders (and occasionally other damp-dwelling creatures) emerge from their winter hibernation to mate and lay eggs. Frogs and salamanders both burrow deep down in the muddy ground for the winter, lowering their body temperatures to make it through the cold. Then, when the timing is just right, they’ll come out.

The night when amphibians return to the spring landscape is often referred to as the Big Night, and it happens on the first rainy night when temperatures surpass 40 degrees. Generally, this happens once most snow has melted, but sometimes the Big Night takes place when there are still lots of patches of snow around. Frogs and salamanders can be found in ponds and in vernal pools, special (and essential) habitats for these creatures. Explore your surroundings to locate amphibian habitats, and use these spaces as a catalyst for learning about early spring’s burst of life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Fresh Way to Engage Toddlers in Creative Free Play

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Sugar on Snow

31872072121_c5cb22e945_mGrowing up in New England means I was raised on snow. I never missed a chance to play in it, and more so, eat it. I have passed this down to my children, inherently, without knowing. Even the dregs of snow left on the street are tempting to my three year old. She sneaks handfuls from the flowerpots on Main St and shoves them into her own face. Her obvious passion makes me thankful that I had saved some fresh snow from last weeks storm as it opened a dialog about the dreaded “yellow snow” verses clean snow. It got me thinking about the best part of snow…sugar on snow and snow cream! This New England treat is a favorite of kids and adults both! With a little creative thinking it can be made into a fun sensory edible experiment as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat for March 2018: Coming Clean

Off the Mat: Coming Clean

Saucha – cleanliness – leads to a heart-mind that is happy, focused, not distracted, and ready for experiencing the divine light within.” Nicholai Bachman, The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga

My hubby and I are fighting about dishes. Mundane of the mundane, but increased demands on us both have bumped cleaning lower on our priority list. Our best intentions to wipe down the kitchen each night fall victim to email needing reply, uninterrupted phone call opportunities, exhausted naps on the child’s bedroom floor.

I’ve grown resentful of our stereotypical tension, his long commute leaving more housekeeping to me. I’m irritated by the clutter: yogurt foil left on counter, coffee splats dried beside compost bin, ever present pile of backpack, coat, mittens, boots, socks blocking the front door.

I’ve tried to be Zen about it. I can only change myself, after all, so if I’m bothered by picking up after them, stop. And I do, for a few weeks, anyway.

And yet my cataloging mind still tracks who used the spatula still beside the stove, whose bread crumbs remain, a trail leading to tidying undone. Bitterness builds along with the stack of junk mail and soap scum in the sink.

***

I lived by myself only briefly. Left to my own devices, I was less fastidious; it was my mess, only mine. I was only inconveniencing myself by leaving my one skillet crusted with sauce. No one to set an example for, no one over whom to retain moral superiority.

Because there is judgement in cleanliness. Judgement against the messy. I apologize as I clear flotsam and jetsam off of my passenger seat, flinging it into hatchback so a friend can catch a ride to the potluck. My generation – or at least my cohort – of overcommitted mamas one-ups ourselves with how little time we have to tidy the way my mother’s generation, or at least her circle, measured their value with the good housekeeping seal of approval. Their expectation of being next to godliness.

We all have our places – our passenger seat foot well or junk drawer or grimy fridge. Whether public or private, accepted or shame-drenched, being human is messy.

I find it reassuring that cleanliness, saucha, is the foundational tenet of the niyamas, the personal principles of yoga. Learning to treat myself ethically starts with care for my body and my personal space. When I wash windows or clear smears from the bathroom mirror, I can see the world more clearly. See myself more clearly:

  • Recognize the resentments and projections separating me from my hubby, and instead choose compassion for his exhaustion and stress.
  • Acknowledge being my mother’s daughter, concerned with appearances. If exercise is my priority and time is tight, I can go out in public with greasy hair.
  • Accept my OCD tendencies. I do prefer to function with less clutter and mess. I want to inhabit the here and now, present in my mind and body. Sweeping Os off the floor is practicing yoga.

***

Monday morning, I enter the kitchen and am immediately affronted by Sunday night’s pots and pans. I cooked. It’s not my job to clean them. But my frustration festers every time I pass the sink. So I wash the dishes. And ask the water to wash away my irritation. I grant myself permission to leave Monday night’s pots and pans to soak.

Tuesday morning, I come down to find them clean in the drying rack, replaced by my hubby’s soaking breakfast dishes. We are a work in progress.

Photo credit: Laurens Kaldeway


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ginny Hamilton

Pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki Master Ginny Hamilton teaches simple & proven techniques to release pain & restore energy in the workplace, group classes & private sessions. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com

Learning Landscape: Putting Food on the Table in Late Winter

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Download this month’s Learning Landscape to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves.

Learning Landscape: Putting Food on the Table in Late Winter

The February Landscape

Humans much prefer February (and its early season equivalent, December) to January for its lengthening days, warmer temperatures, and gentler storms. But for those whose lives are dictated strictly by the natural elements, February can be a harsh month depending on the status of local food stores.

During a mild winter, most animals will easily be able to find what they need in order to survive throughout the season. When conditions are harsh, however, food sources can become scarce while the effort necessary to access them can become much greater.

Whether a winter falls towards one of these extremes or is somewhere in the middle, it’s worthwhile to know how to identify, locate, and even consume a few common winter wildlife food sources. If you know who eats what and when, you’ll have a greater chance of learning to track local species. Monitoring likely meal sites over time can alert you to the patterns of the creatures you share your natural space with, and can bring you into closer alignment with the natural world.

Exploring outdoors in February is generally quite enjoyable; temperatures regularly surpass the freezing point, the sun shines often, and if you’ve been active throughout the season, you’ll likely have a good walking path packed down by late winter. This month, pay special attention to a few common wildlife food sources. Note the changes that each feeding area experiences to understand the role that it plays within the local ecosystem. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Tape Town

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Tape Town

Now I am stretched thin as the tape. A sticky waddling baby slowly swaggers around looking to get into everything that his three-year-old sister is into. The challenge becomes affording both age groups an opportunity to play without shorting my infant of a great art experience or ‘dumbing down’ the project for the preschooler.  Here is a fun and easy activity to try out!

Tape Away

Masking tape is a fun and easy way to engage any age group’s fine motor skills and avant-garde art intuition. Masking tape from school suppliers peels easily from surfaces, has good rip-ability, and comes in every color. Pulling, peeling, and tearing the tape exercises little fingers and makes a beautiful temporary work of art. Use a plain wall surface or a large blank table. Let the children tear and pull and put on and take off the tape. The goal is not to keep a beautiful piece of  art, but rather to inspire and engage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Aspiring to Reverence and Love

Aspiring to Reverence and Love

While his wife was pregnant with their one and only, my friend found himself chatting with a colleague’s husband. Impending parenthood seemed a safe topic. “The difference between hitting your kids and not is knowing when to leave the room,” the man volunteered. My idealistic father-to-be friend found this odd. Startling. Inappropriate. But he chalked it up to the teller’s awkward reputation.

Until their daughter was two and the truth of the conversation came flooding back on waves of shame, realization, and thankfully, restraint.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: An Unexpected Journey Through Dog Rescue and Adoption.

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

Any Damn Thing Can Happen: An Unexpected Journey Through Dog Rescue and Adoption.

A friend once said to me after a shocking turn of events in her life, “Any damn thing can happen.” The more revolutions I make around the sun, the more evidence I see of this understated truism. It is apparent in happenings both life-changing and unremarkable. Sometimes you win the lottery; sometimes the socks match up. Life after 40 is a game of chance, not skill. With luck, you will get to 50 on the right side of the grass, but along the way, you will be surprised again and again.

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YA Book Reviews for the Seasons: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

You may have heard that author Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. Ishiguro is best known for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day. More recently, in 2005, he published a haunting novel entitled Never Let Me Go. While Ishiguro likely intended Never Let Me Go to be read mainly by adult audiences, the plot of the novel focuses heavily on the main character’s recollections of adolescence. As such, it can be relateable and enjoyable for teens, especially older teens. This beautifully woven novel is the perfect, contemplative read for a snowy day, provided that you don’t mind a sad story. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Do you want to build a snowman, but its too dang cold for your little one to be out more then two minutes without getting frostbite? Winter is always a fun time to use snow and ice as a medium for art. As you know, toddlers can make art out of just about anything. Playing with snow in New England is a time-honored tradition. Real snow is the best – you can bring it indoors in bowls or pans and let your little one explore the cold without gloves in the warmth of your house. However, it melts. This led me to experiment with several fake snow recipes. I tried a bunch, but this one is the most realistic.

What is in it? 50/50 white hair conditioner and baking soda. It is that simple. It feels like real snow – cool to the touch and malleable.

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Learning Landscape for January: Tracking to Learn Winter Habits

Learning Landscape for January: Tracking to Learn Winter Habits

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Download this month’s Learning Landscape to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves.

The January Landscape

January in New England is bleak. Deep snow covers the ground, and temperatures hover – unwavering – right around zero. Modern humans instinctively shy away from what we see as a harsh landscape, but all around us, creatures are going about their lives. If we project our human interpretation of winter upon the landscape, it appears dormant, bleak, perhaps even depressing – how could anything be alive within it? Yet all around us, the natural world is indeed very much alive, simply experiencing winter as another moment in its existence. Creatures roam about, insects are literally snug as bugs underground, and trees stand tall and unfrozen, filled with natural antifreeze.

This is not to say, however, that winter does not have an impact on nature. Each species changes its patterns in order to live in alignment with its surroundings, and just as January elicits certain behaviors and attitudes from humans, it does in animals as well.

You can prove this to be true yourself by exploring the natural world during this frosty month. Look for signs of life, and compare the winter habits of familiar creatures to their habits in other seasons. Notice how well they align with the conditions afforded by the season; their survival depends upon it. Read the rest of this entry »

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