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 »

The Ripple: The Living Land Wants to Play

Our Bodies of Water

The land is an organism, wrote Aldo Leopold, the Yale-trained game management specialist, about seventy-five years ago. An organism is alive, and its life is made up of the contributions of disparate organs, each of which would be lifeless without the collaborations of all the others.

The idea—actually fact—that land is an organism is, of course, an ancient one, as venerable as our anthropomorphic figure of “mother earth.” Leopold’s work, especially his classic book A Sand County Almanac, reveals how he struggled through his education in empirical science to prove something that we, as a species, have felt and known for eons. If Plato was correct, and knowledge is remembering something we have forgotten, then Leopold stands as a vibrant example of a knowledgeable person. His experience of translating the wisdom of our ancient ancestors into the lexicon of science is one that anybody who loves and tries to protect land knows well. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Being Creative With Your Old Books

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Playing with Books

Books support literacy and learning. And when you have too many books in duplicate and falling part, they can even support creative-free play!

We might have a book problem at our house. Some are read over and over. Some are just collected such as the various printings of Moby Dick. Some gather dust. I am not sure where that yellowed copy of How to Use a Microscope came from but we have never opened it. Books are everywhere. All of my art history, theory, design and teaching manuals line one wall of the bedroom. The fiction and garden books are packed into the bookcase turned headboard. Sewing, knitting and books on art for kids fill the shelf under the bench. Current reads by both of us are scattered about the living room. Cookbooks belong to the pantry. And my daughter has arranged her library by subject and book series. She is a series reader and collector. How many versions of Harry Potter does one need? We might be book hoarders. Or maybe we aren’t because we recognize a problem developing.

Books just find their way into our house. We love to browse the local book shop and our neighborhood used bookstore. Book fundraisers are always good for a bargain. We often check the book share-and-take corner in the school lobby. Grandma feeds the addiction. Books are everywhere and hard to pass by without at least a peek.

Brainstorming here on what to do with the extras. There are the ones we start and a chapter or two in realize there is no interest. And there are old ones aged and crumbling. Those 20 year old copies of college textbooks are not needed. There must be some way to use these for play purposes. So here are some ideas! Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: The Judgement (Re)call

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

Winter is the Cruelest Season

A friend recently told me that March is “Non-judgement Month.” She went on to explain that a colleague was having a rough time last March and declared the entire month judgement-free.

It started me thinking about judgement, and while I certainly support non-judgement as I understand it, I recognize that as humans we make judgements every day: “The roads look slippery, so I will go home early.” “ You look great in black.” “The kids have had a tiring week. Rollerskating Friday night is too much.”  – These are all judgement statements, but they aren’t objectionable (with the exception of not rollerskating). So what is it about judgement that makes us cringe? Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Strength In Confidence

14 Ways Martial Arts Training Can Help Raise Confident Girls

Martial arts training for girls is an outstanding way to bolster self-confidence in our girls as they navigate the ups and downs of growing up. It can teach so many valuable life lessons, strengthening their connection between the mind, heart, voice and spirit, providing a strong foundation for a lifetime.

I have been teaching girls self-defense and martial arts for the past 30 years and have been introduced to many martial arts and different teachers along the way. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed a quiet, shy girl transform into an assertive, confident person through the practice of a martial art.

Confident girls are less likely to become bullies and less likely to be bullied. True confidence comes from accepting oneself as a unique and special being, just like everybody else. The most confident people always respect others and are among the most respected by others.

Don’t we want this for our girls? I know I want my own daughter to grow to be confident, strong, able to stand up for herself and others and to be able to fight for her safety if necessary.

Most martial arts schools have confidence builders built right into their classes. Here are 14 ways I have found martial arts training able to strengthen confidence in our girls:  Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Mapping Out Childrens’ Behavior

Barriers to Learning: Part 2

Our behaviors are stitched together by a series of reactions…how we respond to things, how we process and then how we move on to another reaction. For children it is important to have some recognition of behavior and how reactions dovetail.

In my last article, I talked about how behaviors interfere with children’s learning and can impact their emotional, vocational, and economic futures. One important factor that positively impacts learning is the ability to think and reason. We can teach self-regulation of emotions. First, the child needs to understand that no one can think when they are emotional. I already explained using a 1-5 rating scale for “How big is my problem?” and “How big is my reaction?” The game “Should I or Shouldn’t I?” gives kids practice using a rating scale. Turning music on, then off for practice calming down was also mentioned in my previous article. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Positivity Downs Winter’s Walls

Cabin Fever Gratitude

It’s 4 degrees outside and snowing. Again. I’m at the kitchen counter with my coffee dregs. 10 feet away, building a marble set, he’s forgotten I’m here. What can I get done without moving? I reach my phone and type email with my thumbs. Usually, I take advantage of voice dictation, but speaking would remind him I’m here. I wonder how many generations will pass before the phrase “all thumbs” is considered an asset. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Setting Up the Toddler Who Wants to Get To Work!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

The Industrious Toddler

I have found that young toddlers thrive on exploring the world around them. Finding new ways to create and explore can mean the difference between a boring day and a day filled with the emergence of new skills. Lately with the snow over the babes heads, finding new ways to master skills such as cutting, grasping, gluing, sorting and creating has taking up the bulk of our art time.

Toddlers love repetition, as you may have noticed. They love the predictability of repeated motions, motions that will soon be a mastered skill. They thrive in a child-centered environment. A place where all the tools on the table are for them to explore, there is no one telling them “please don’t touch” instead all the supplies are screaming “touch me” and “ figure me out.”

The industrious art projects that can help you through this winter are just as much educational as they are fun. Help your toddler master fine motors skills such as scissors, tweezers, knives, forks, spoons by giving them the opportunity to uses such tools on a toddler friendly forum! Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Getting Beyond the Dam

Life Will Return to Our Rivers!

The challenge we (who value these nonhuman lives) face is to turn the immense powers we have to obstruct life into powers that liberate it.

Sweet as maple syrup, the thaw is coming.

Sea lamprey, shad, herring, alewives, eels, sturgeon and the last of the salmon: all are sensing it, as they swim far offshore in the (comparatively) warm ocean. Exactly how they sense the return of Spring remains unknown, even to the brightest marine biologist; but our lack of comprehension, alone, will not prevent their return. Our dams will.

Every dam we remove increases the chances that our native anadromous fish—and all the other creatures (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles) that feed upon them—will thrive. For this reason, I long ago joined the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which has a laudable record of success in removing the obstructions that block fish passage.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Building the Free Play Common Core

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Play: Every Child’s Common Core

Play encourages creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, social skills…and so much more. Then there is the common core which promotes college preparation. “Free Play” Vs. “Common Core”…both in 2 corners ready to duke it out for the future of child development? Not necessarily! Create a Free Play Common Core to support creative-free play at home!

Free Play and Common Core are not two phrases usually seen together. The basic shared goal, in its simplistic form, of the Common Core State Standards is to give students knowledge and skills so they can be prepared to succeed in college, career and life. As a kid, play is a vital part of learning from the first peek-a-boo with a much loved adult to fort building with sofa cushions to running with the neighborhood kids making up games while socializing. Play encourages imagination, social interaction and play can teach self entertainment and more. All important skills to have for success on whatever path you choose. Play is your shared common core as a kid. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

5 Essential Tips for Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

In her debut column, “It’s a Girl Thing: Empowering Our Girls to Be Expressive, Safe and Strong,” Hilltown Families newest Contributing Writer, Nancy Rothenberg, shares essential tips for teaching assertiveness to our daughters. These tips to teach our daughters to be assertive are a starting point for investing time and energy into giving her the skills she needs to communicate with confidence. It is a gift that she will carry with her for the rest of her life

We all want our daughters to grow into confident and assertive women, able to express their thoughts and feelings without hesitation in any situation. My own personal experience growing up was one that taught girls to be quiet, “seen and not heard.”  My voice was thoroughly squelched when I was young, spending half my life adult life waking it up!  So, when I gave birth to my daughter, I was going to make sure to encourage her full expression!

Now, I have a preteen whose voice is loud and clear. I chuckle to myself saying,”Can she just stop being so sassy?” But I trust that with the self- awareness that comes in time, the self-correction that comes through the influence of her peers, and supportive parental guidance along the way, she will know when to take up lots of space with her voice and when to choose to be silent.

Girl empowerment has been my focus for the past thirty years, not only for myself and my daughter, but for all girls and young women.  Being assertive is an important skill that supports empowerment in all girls. Here are five tips that support teaching our young girls to be assertive as they blossom into their full empowered selves: Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: The Tradition of Girl Scout Cookies & Personal Growth

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

It’s Not About the Cookies

This month in “The Good Life,” Sarah shares her experience as a Girl Scout leader as to the motivations and inspirations of young girls selling Girl Scout cookies.

The winter days seem longer than ever this time of year, and hope remains distant with all the ice and darkness.  However, I don’t have to look very far to find inspiration, and you don’t, either.   The Girls Scouts are coming your way, fueled by goal-setting websites and friendly competition.  It is Cookie Time, and I am a Girl Scout leader.

I was not a Girl Scout as a child, but I wish I had been.  I didn’t know much about it, but knowing what I know now makes me a believer.   These girls are smart, achievement-oriented women-to-be, and I now understand that the Cookie Sale isn’t about the cookies.    The girls set personal goals, and order the number of cookies they think they can sell months in advance.  There are incentive prizes for the  youngest girls, and they pour over the brochures, dazzled by the enviable stuffed animal they can earn by selling 125 boxes.  This year it is a “plush cheetah,” and  it is the object of  every ten-year-old’s intense desire.

However, something happens as the girls grow over the years, and they seem to love the challenge more than the prizes (well, almost more) as time goes on…  Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: The Importance of Applying Reason & Scaling Problems

Barriers to Learning: Part 1

LEGO exercises can be a path to reason. Certainly calming.

This week I’m thinking about my students and how they’ll function in the world. Will they have the social skills to keep a job? (Social skills are a stronger predictor of job success than the ability to do the job.) Will they have the skills to be available for learning while in school? Although I often feel overwhelmed and powerless about the state of the world, I am very thankful to have skills and materials that can address barriers to learning for my students. At least, in my little corner of the world, I can start them on the right path. One parent described my job as teaching her child how to think.

For many of my students, their behavior at school and home is their biggest barrier to learning and to having successful futures. Although this is partly the realm of a psychologist, or a trained ABA practitioner, as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I am the expert for social communication. I am the teacher who helps them discover what is expected in a situation and what is unexpected and that there are consequences to the choices we make and the ways we communicate. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Remaining Color Blind

Technicolor and Skin Color

 "WIZARD OF OZ ORIGINAL POSTER 1939" by MGM - http://daw.dyndns.org/images/movies/posters/wizard%20of%20oz.jpgalt source: [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Last month, we took our son to see the Wizard of Oz on the big screen. This all-time favorite had yet to debut on family movie night due to my hubby’s flying monkey terrors. As the one who gets called for nightmares at 2 a.m., I had no need to introduce flying monkeys yet. But the rare chance to watch on a big screen was worth the risk.

We needn’t have worried. In the age of computer generated animation, his baseline of what looks real is vastly different than mine was at age 5. Hoisted up to the movie poster for a Facebook photo op, my kiddo commented on the image of Dorothy and Co. on the yellow brick road, Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Making Nice With Ice & Snow

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Frozen

No, this piece is not about a Disney movie that I am sure in part I have not seen because A: Oh Please No! and B: My daughter is only 4 months old- Instead this is about being literally frozen. Frozen, so cold that even 36 would be warm. Frozen so hard that the play yard and bike tires seem a solar system away. This inaccessibility is only intensified by the constant fear of the hum of boredom coming around the corner.

Toddlers and preschoolers can really spend a lot of time outdoors in the proper clothing. But there is a limit. This recent winter weather has been far from “kid friendly.” Snow is one thing, soft and fun once you shovel out, but ice is a whole different beast. Here are a few great ways to grab that beast by the horns and let the kiddos blow off some steam… Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Listen to the Story of the River

The Importance of Escaping to the River

Be adventurous and skirt the edge, but do be careful; use snowshoes, stay clear of ice jams, and have a friend close by if you can’t resist walking in spots that clogged with frozen floes.

A walk alongside one or our rivers is a walk with a companion, even when alone. Cares of the world will ping pong and even hornet in the head ‘til settled by rushing water. Give a river a chance, when one’s thoughts have quieted down: listen—it tells a story, and like every really good story, it draws us out of our heads and into another.

Asked how I began to love rivers so much, I recall how as a lad I’d scoot to the flow whenever things stagnated, or became too crazed, in a house with three brothers. No matter the boredom or conflict I escaped from, the river—Silvermine river it is—settled the ping pongs in my head by providing fresh and loud sensations, and endless opportunities for adventure. Rafting down it in cold April floods, in cheap inflatable pool rafts that punctured instantly (unless steered by experienced skippers), introduced me to hyperthermia, blue lips and the need to pack hot chocolate in thermos.’ (We wore cotton back then, and I remember shivering for hours like a wet cat on an iceberg. The experience toughened me up, and made me realize that dressing correctly makes all the difference between teeth gritting and laughing when on the adventure. To this day, I dress so I when sleep in snowdrifts, I purr.) Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play?: Build Your Own Entertainment

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

User Designed & Constructed

It is cold outside. Infrequent snow fall downtown has left little snow for sledding this season or to properly build snow people. What to do outside? During a recent play date I bundled up my children and said, “Outside. We all need some fresh air.” A short walk around the neighborhood would get the bodies moving for a few minutes. It happened again. Just a few minutes of “what to do?” stares and mumbles had them thinking and planning.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Grounded. Disconnected. But Grateful.

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

Sweetness of Strangers Gives Strength In A Crisis

A helping hand is so poignant and strength-giving when it comes from a stranger.

I was in Florida just after Christmas visiting my dad. It wasn’t an expected trip, but the emergency sort filled with last minute searches for one-way plane tickets, and feverish texting with family. At the time I was sick with worry, exhausted from lack of sleep and answers, and restless from endless hours spent waiting for doctors to share the tiniest crumb of news from this test result or that scan. Dad had been on vacation, but was ready to call it quits. He wanted to go home, and so did I. We wanted the comfort of our own beds, the warmth of our own coffee pots, and the familiar light from our own kitchen windows. We wanted to be exactly where we were before all of this discomfort and uncertainty happened. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: 2015 Resolutions to Connect, Play & Practice

Resolve. Re Solve. To solve again.

Recently, a friend lent me CDs by poet David Whyte. I’ve been listening in the car as Whyte reads and reflects on poets from William Shakespeare to Mary Oliver. People who choose words so carefully make me look differently and think differently about how a word sounds and what those sounds mean.

This fall, my kiddo began bringing home Words of the Week from kindergarten. His teacher posts words like WITH and THE as passwords to enter the classroom, to help kids learn by looking. Participating in his early reading, I find myself taking apart words. Paying attention to how the words I use fit together for sounds. For meaning.

Like that blessed and cursed word: RESOLVE.

Resolve. Re Solve. To solve again.

Something you just solve once, just figure out like 2 + 2, doesn’t need to be re-solved. We re-solve those things that aren’t easily fixed. That we’ve tried a few different solutions for, yet haven’t yet found one that sticks.

So here, dear readers, in no particular order, are my daily re-solutions for 2015: Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Sounding out the New Year for Kids’ Development

New Year’s Resolutions: Articulation and Early Reading

Making New Year’s Resolutions? How about resolving to create a culture of reading in your family, supporting language development while connecting with your kids.

It’s hard to believe that yet another year is over and that a New Year is beginning. It’s time to make some resolutions for the future. My resolution is to spread clear and helpful information to parents. What are you resolved to do in the future?

Here’s some helpful information. As I’ve written in the past, young children mispronounce words in the cutest ways. At what point is it a problem that needs a speech-language pathologist? It usually becomes a problem for grandparents. They begin to admit that they need a parent’s interpretation to understand their grandkids. Then you may notice that their peers don’t understand. The child may start being aware that peers are reacting to their speech and begin to think that speaking is hard. If a child shows any frustration around communication, it’s time to seek help. Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: Feliz Navidad – The Art of Making Bilingual Happen

Artists Interpretations Bring Music Diversity

I usually post videos and write about the songwriting process here in my column for Hilltown Families. But every once in a while I like to perform music by other artists! This month found me in Tuscon, Arizona, singing the holiday classic, “Feliz Navidad,” surrounded by beautiful catci.

The song was written and made famous by the great Puerto Rican singer and guitarist José Feliciano. One of the the things I’ve been focusing on over the last few years is writing songs in both English and Spanish. José Feliciano was one of the first artists to write bilingual songs and “Feliz Navidad” has been a holiday staple ever since it was first released in 1970.

What makes a song memorable? Is is the melody? The melody? The chord progression? The particular style of the singer and the musicians? For a song to become a classic, it’s really got to be a combination of all of those elements. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About Me

Give Yourself a Gift Everyday

In April of this year, after some unforeseen and life-shaking circumstances, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to make some changes. Life-quaking things often bring these realizations, and this time was no different, but as I pondered what to do, I became increasingly aware that my options were not abundant for so many reasons. I knew from experience that hoping that those around you would change, needing them to change for you, wishing and dreaming about the day they would wake up after experiencing three ghosts completely renewed in a Scroogian way–well–it wasn’t happening. The changes I needed to make had to be my own. But how?

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Empowering Children to Support their Wellness

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Sick- Ok

Children love creating in the kitchen and by allowing them to help create herbal remedies; it can open the discussion on wellness and how food and plants can keep us healthy in the winter months. – To discover more folk remedies for colds and flu, check out this post from the Hilltown Families archives: 25 Western MA Folk Remedies for Colds & Flus

Having a sick child is the only thing worse than being sick yourself and ‘tis the season. In our Family Child Care, we are very particular in paying attention to the cleanliness of the children and ourselves. As the frequently used adage goes around here, “hand washing first.” When the children arrive from home they are first asked to wash their hands. They also wash after toileting and before eating. The children love washing their hands, we make it fun by singing, making lots of bubbles and discussing the importance of those clean little paws. They are also beginning to understand the importance of it without us, as adults bombarding them with too big words like “contagious” and “spread of infection”; words that can only scare a child without fully understanding them. Often in their private little circle they can be overheard pretending to wash at the play sink, or wiping their sneezes away with a tissue– this is when you know you have done a great job!

Children around the age of two begin to learn about germs. They do not really have any real sense of the huge impact this imaginative creature can have on them but they begin to follow along with the social cues we are teaching them; “cover your mouth” and “ wash both hands”. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: The Survival Instinct of the Sea Lamprey Endures…for 460,000,000 years

Why I Love Sea Lampreys

Sea Lampreys: A lot to love, and even more to admire.

Our rivers—the Westfield and the Connecticut—are alive. They could be more alive than they are, but the Holyoke and Turners Falls dams on the Connecticut and the West Springfield dam on the Westfield prevent that vivacity. These dams make anadromous fish (that spend part of their lives in fresh water and another part in salt water) go extinct.

I have wondered how it is that people can allow these extinctions to happen, without feeling absolute horror and guilt, and preventing any more of them. One reason is that we don’t know why their lives are valuable. Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play? T’is the Season of…Silly Walks!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Silly December Walks

monkeys, dogs, cats, snakes, alligators, hawks, chickens, bunnies, ninjas, marshmallows, horses, giraffes, elephants, sharks, butterflies, otters, ants, spiders, gorillas, bumble bees, lions, octopi, snails, bugs, reindeer, pigs, fairies, dinosaurs, snowmen, penguins.

Another busy month is here with a school vacation that provides hours and hours for free play. Pick three animals. Air, land or water. Now walk, fly or crawl like that animal in the snow, down the grocery isles or while picking up the living room before holiday guests arrive. No talking. No giggling. Not even a whisper. Simple. Easy. December family free-play.  Read the rest of this entry »

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