Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

How do you notice and celebrate the fall? There are so many ways to acknowledge it with children in natural ways. Bring in and celebrate the changing seasons with some of these creative ideas. Please feel free to share some of your family’s ideas in the comment section below: sharing is caring! These sensory and awesome activities are simple to set up and perfect for inviting your child to explore and notice the wonders of Autumn.

1. Take a Walk to Notice the Changing Leaves

Change the lyrics of the classic Bear Hunt song to “We’re going on a leaf hunt” and take a walk together as you notice the leaves falling as they crunch beneath your shoes and spy the changing colors. Walk while collecting colorful various sized leaves as you go. Invite your children to tell you what color, texture and size of each leaf in fun ways. For example…notice the size by pondering outloud: “I wonder if it’s bigger/smaller than your hand?” “How does it feel?” “Where did the green disappear to?” “How did the color change?” “Which is your favorite shade?” Once you’re home, invite your child to sort the leaves by size, shape and color. 

2. Sensory Play with Fall

Sensory play is vital for babies and children and there are lots of amazing ways to represent the colors of Fall. Invite your child to change the leaves with food coloring or Tempera paints. Wonder out loud: “If you could change the colors of the leaves, what color would you change them to?” “How does a leaf change its color?” Offer Blue/Red, Yellow/Red, Yellow/Blue primary paint combinations to discover what they turn into.  

4. Sing Autumn Songs click below for some ideas

5. Read Books about Trees: list of ideas below: **add your titles in the comments below** *Bonus Make Your Own Book Using Colorful Leaves

The Lorax, The Giving Tree, Stuck, Because of an Acorn, The Kids’ Family Tree Book, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown-ups

6. Observe, Draw and Pick out Some Favorite Trees 

Take a sketchpad outside and draw what you see. Plan to revisit and plant one of you and your child’s favorite trees in the spring!

5. Paint / Collage with Leaves

Use leaves to paint and collage with. Make a large Fall mural inspired by the Fall. **Bonus Make a fall wreath together for your door or a neighbor’s door. 

6. Rake the Leaves 

Don’t forget to JUMP in them! Make up a story using the leaves together. 

7. Make Leaf Rubbings / Pressings

Grab a paper, crayons (and/or pastels), playdough/clay. Place the leaf/leaves on the paper. Place a paper on top and then use the crayon (writing utensil) to rub. (Another variation is to do pressings by pressing the leaf into playdough/clay to make impressions/imprints. See it by clicking below: 

https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/leaf-rubbings.html

8. Visit a National Park and Chat with a Park Ranger

Visiting parks and nature is a wonderful way to get up and personal with nature, especially trees. Talking with a park ranger who is an expert could turn into a life changing memorable experience as you make meaning out of the trees and their importance. If you’re local to Fiolina the Arboretum is an iconic place to visit many types of trees from the smallest Bonsais’ to  the tallest of Sycamores. A perfect place for that sketchpad we mentioned earlier.

Have Fall inspired ideas you want to share? Let us know by commenting below!

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com 

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Bringing in the Holidays: Ways to Celebrate a More Meaningful Holiday Season with Children

In the middle of the holiday hoorah from relatives to gifting presents, families may forget the why of the holidays and what the deep significance of the giving season is all about. Have you ever given a present to see a child open it and be more fascinated by the wrapping paper and cardboard box? It’s a reminder and lesson how the season is not exactly about the gifts but how the time is spent.

Here are 8 ways to bring in a more meaningful holiday with your loved ones. 

  • Write letters, draw pictures, make cards, make bracelets and send care packages to essential workers such as EMS, Armed Services (Military and First Responders) who are away from their families during the holiday season. An awesome organization to do this through is Operation Gratitude. Families, teachers, children may volunteer at https://www.operationgratitude.com/
  • Take care of wildlife by decorating an outdoor tree with yummy snacks. Roll pinecones in peanut butter and bird seeds and place nuts. Wildlife will thank you!
  • Encourage children to connect and interview their grandparents and/or family members. Ask for favorite family stories. Retell stories. Record it for memories. Get some inspiration from: www.storycorps.org
  • Move together. Each day pick a movement activity to get moving. Dance to you favorite songs, take walks/hikes to look at lights, play basketball/soccer and if there’s snow: sled.
  • Adopt a family in need for the holiday season. Usually you will receive a list of what the child(children) are wishing for then let your children pick out the presents for the children. Become an angel today! https://adoptafamilymaryland.com/how-can-you-help-1
  • Admire the lights and stay present with your children. Hot cocoa, books, movies and love. The memories made will be remembered much longer than the presents. It’s about the time spent, not money. 
  • Wear pjs outside and build igloos, snow castles and snow people.
  • Travel someplace else to volunteer or just because. Most of all, spend time, use talents and make treasures together. 

How does your family bring in the holidays?

Art’s Process: A Day of Becoming

“As an artist you don’t owe them an answer but as a leader, you do.” -Kanye West

Creating something —anything is an action of process and processing. A process of becoming and unbecoming again and again. Into the dark and out of it back into the light.

Putting something somewhere out there in the world doesn’t need an explanation just as your very life’s essence way of being doesn’t need one or permission to exist. Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness. For some of use the mere art of living and being free is a revolutionary act of consciousness. In this act, it sets others free and on fire for something deeper than the surface. What you see is not necessarily what you get. When you’re zoning and in the zone it just comes to you this free fall form. Nothing else matters but seeing just how much of the universe is in you and how much you’re out there in the universe. Taking the bits and pieces and the parts and transforming it all back into a whole piece of art. 

That not everyone will understand.

Using subtle Imagery or even words both big and small brings bits and pieces of a whole together again. No longer ash but spirit. You may not have spirit without ash. Water without dirt or sand. Ever taste a piece or particle of a grain of sand? The texture is gritty which is what our bone is made of. We all become brittle bone, rock and grains of sand. Fragments. Texture and color which is art. We are art.

Children are works of art. Therefore, we are all God’s works of art. Masterpieces. I’m finding myself more in God’s hands than I’ve ever been. The prayers of my Mother. No one else could take the credit of a mother’s prayers. 

I remember the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep prayer. Each and every night. A prayer of peace, blessings and protection to all those we love. God is love. Found in a Tupac song. Found in a sip of water. Found in the whole. Found in the 1/2. Found in the bits and in the pieces. Fragments found in eternity put back together again. Found in Heaven. Even found in Hell.  So choose wisely.

A Little Bookshelf

It was raining as I stood on our front porch screwing in our registered charter number onto our Little Free Library. A beautiful sign. When the rain went to a drizzle, I carried it outside towards a tree closer to the road where people could discover a book and share a treasured one of their own.

We decided to open one up in honor of children and families who are in a crisis.

Our message is simple, do something good no matter how big or small, for someone else.

Books connect us, inspire us, help us to process, imagine and open another door to see the world through another lens. A single book has the potential to heal us and to connect us. We are all have the potential to feel and become better because of a single book.

Anything is possible, hope you join our movement by leaving a treasured book for someone else and take one for yourself or pass it along to someone else. Or open one up in your neighborhood.

Happy reading, sharing and transforming.

What is Your Joy?

Recently, I was inspired by a reading from Plough‘s Daily Dig. An excerpt is below and it’s by Kahlil Gibran, a favorite author of mine who wrote The Prophet. In it Kahlil Gibran ponders joy.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.…When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. Source: The Prophet

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

What gives you pain gives you joy. I felt like I just caught joy holding hands with pain and it sunk in the pit of my stomach. Imagine you love running really fast, tripping and falling. The running culminated into an eventual trip and fall. However, you don’t stop running because it brings you joy…and sorrow.

Lemons to Lemonade.

Failing. Falling. Rising. People say failure is not an option but in fact, it is. Failure holds hands with success. We fall, we rise. The sun sets and rises.

We live, we die.

We laugh, we cry.

We hurt, we heal.

Life is ugly. Life is beautiful. So what is it? What is your joy? Choose wisely.

Ps. A poem / Almonds and Joy Just Because

Here are some almonds and joy, just because.

They said it is a stork bite.

Where her birthmark is behind her neck.

I smiled.

Tears rolling down like mounds of almonds.

Rolling them up and down a hill like Sisyphus with his rock.

What do I do with this sorrow, this pain, this grief, this hurt, all of this?

Bundle it up in a pretty blue and white wrapper.

Swaddle it up.

A bundle of joy. Almond Joy.

She is as tiny as one.

Signs Everywhere, Everywhere Signs

A cardinal flies by. Bright ruby red. Butterflies and hummingbirds dance across the sky right before my eyes. Morning doves sing. A quarter on the ground dated 1986. Changed by so many hands. Possibly fell off of an angel’s wings in the path I was meant to stumble upon it. I stand and walk among giants as none of us is as small as we think we are. A paradox of our times. Looking out a plane window, you would think and see just how small and potentially insignificant we really aren’t. Nothing is as it seems. Littles things are big things. Just watch and study ants at work.

Looking out a plane window, you would think and see just how small and potentially insignificant we really aren’t. Nothing is as it seems. Littles things are big things. Just watch and study ants at work.

Life all around us and beyond us. Beautiful, daring and fleeting life. Life in a single blade of grass life. Life in a single fingerprint life. Life in a single sip of coffee life. Life lies even in a pesky and stubborn weed in the garden that keeps reemerging life. It hurts to tug it out of the ground. Everything wants to live. We want to live another day. Another minute.

We emerge no matter the challenge or obstacle in the words of Tupac Shakur even from concrete. We breakthrough like the stars emerging from stardust life that we innately are. Where do we go after life? That question follows me each and everywhere I turn. Where do we go? Will we see each other again?

Life is found in a single minute. One single minute matters more than you think. I stare at the sky throughout the day just to stare at it no need to have a reason. The stars. The constellations. Connecting the dots to what all of this really means. We’re all deeply connected like an infinite constellation more than anyone could possibly ever realize or conceptualize.

A Day of Care

Photo by Japheth Mast on Pexels.com

I don’t care says a lot. It could be said that that phrase means the opposite of it’s intended meaning. In fact, it means that one does care a whole lot. After viewing Rick’s Reading Workshop, what resonated the most was when Rick said, “When kids care, the rest handles itself.” I feel like that phrase applies to every facet of life itself.

What is it that you care about? Once you care, the rest handles itself. 

That’s all for this one. Short and sweet like a sip of sweet tea. 

Code the Life You Want

3:08 am. How did we get here? I stretch and I yawn into the morning. Into the new day as I give thanks and am filled with gratitude to see another day. During the pandemic, I was deeply moved and inspired to move. To change. To dig deep within myself. I just needed a shovel. During the pandemic, we went virtual as we taught and learned online.

Some grown up students loved it and some did not. Some children loved it and some did not. For instance, I had a student who loved typing on the keyboard. He inspired me to dig deeper within myself. He gave me a shovel without even knowing it. While many times, I push and cheer others on, deep down I knew it was time to push and cheer on myself as well.

I noticed something. Literacy in action as he typed. We were singing Dem Bones and he started typing the sounds of the song out. Not because I told him to but because he wanted to.

What do we do in a world where computers and technology are a part of it. We embrace it and work alongside of it, learn to work with it and even create it. As I am learning coding now, I think about the past languages I learned and recognize coding as a language. Another language to communicate in.

Commas and quite frankly, punctuation matter in the code. You miss it or make a mistake then the code will not work. It will be null and void.

As we started returning to “normal” I didn’t want the old normal. I craved a new normal. So, here I am coding, creating and writing the life I want. The life I need. One that is far from normal. Love and light leads me. We are life. It is now almost 4:00 am on a Tuesday and this will be reaching you at 8:26am. on May 26. Happy reading. Happy living. You are life. Remember that.

The Little Things

What were the little things you carried in your pockets before the world made you empty them? Mine literally were rocks and dandelions. I would marvel at a rock as I found it fascinating. I loved and still enjoy collecting rocks. Ultimately, it’s not about the things you buy, it’s about the experiences you have. The moments made into memories. It’s about the little things you care about. Perhaps it keeps you up at night or wakes you up really early in the morning. Perhaps it sits with you for awhile mid-afternoon while you have your tea. It calls out to you. It knows your name without ever having to say it.

When is the last time you noticed or discovered that little thing you care about? When you saw or realized it did you marvel and sit with it for awhile? Were you present in the moment with it? When is the last time you did something about it? No expectations. Not because you have to but because you want to. Not following steps walking into “adulthood” but into “yourself hood” When will you follow your calling? Your own footsteps, left foot, right foot one in front of the other? Not for money but for your soul. Those are the kinds of things that are worth carrying in your pocket. Noticing and fulfilling the little things that you care about are victories.

I remember a little thing. A student of mine wanted to take a worm back to the classroom. So, he put some dirt in his pocket. Then he put the earthworm in his pocket. He carefully sprinkled a bit more dirt on top of the worm in his pocket as well so the worm in his own words would have a home. Think of the care and careful consideration he took to look out for the worm as he fulfilled his mission of bringing it back into our classroom.

If I had interrupted this play and told him to empty his pockets and that a pocket is no place for an earthworm even to transport it then we would have missed out on all of the learning with earthworms, anatomy and how to care for them and how they care for our Earth creating nutrients for plants and other organisms. It started with one worm and turned into so much more.

A worm. A single worm created a moment which created a memory and is in the process of possibly creating an entomologist. We all have an inner child, an inner soul. Nurture it. Nurture the little thing you love and yearn for whether it’s an ant or the sky. You are drawn to it for a reason. When someone asks you why are you “fixated” or “stuck” on something. Ask them, why not? Keep your wonder and your fascination especially in a world that is “stuck” and “fixated” on being busy and moving onto something else before really getting to know and work with what it started with to begin with. Studying and observing earthworms doesn’t take a week or month. For example, Darwin studied earthworms for forty years.

What were the little things you carried in your pockets before the world made you empty them?

Four decades Darwin hung out and observed the worms. So take your time with your passion and purpose, on purpose. The little thing you care about. The little thing that keeps knocking on your brain and on your heart: your soul. It’s worth it. Nurture it, care for it and be there with it for awhile. Sit with it. Walk with it. Crawl with it. Do whatever it is you have to do to be with it for awhile. Keep it safe, give it a home. Put it in your pocket. Take a decade or two or three or four or even more with it. Slow down and move with it in a world that wants to move onto the next thing. It warms. It cools. It warms. It cools. Stay with it for awhile. Savor it like the last bite. In fact, save the best bite for last.

So what is it and what will you do with it?

Ps. Here is a book entitled Finding Me by Viola Davis that may encourage you to dig a little deeper than the earthworms.

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Play is Our Life’s Work

What is play? We all have a schema in our minds about it. What ideas come to yours? Oxford defines it as engaging in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical endeavor. In other words, engaging in an activity one cares about just because. “Play is the highest form of research” as quoted by Albert Einstein. If that is true then why are we not doing more of it? There are conversations about play and even changing the word play to something entirely different.

That’s kind of funny right changing the word play to another word? What would another word for the word play even be?

What would another word for the word play even be?

I remember going to the World Forum on Early Childhood Education which is an amazing forum and foundation gathering minds emphasizing on sharing ideas and yes, renaming p-l-a-y is a real conversation going on. We all chatted about what we would change the word play to and talked about how people don’t take the word seriously or even misunderstand what the value of play has for children and grown ups. Play is so misunderstood. I remember being an educator and some views went something like this, “Oh wow, that’s cool, so you get to play all day?!” Yes and no. Imagine being a fly on a wall and you get to observe play. “Play is the highest form of research” for the person playing as well as for the observer.

Why are some grown ups including myself for a time being turning play into a serious or practical endeavor? Someone who is not taking play so seriously is Pat, the Play Lady who I had the opportunity of connecting with in this lifetime. She is one fun and joyful person. I stumbled upon her when I worked in Takoma Park during one of my walks. I saw this sign and took it as a sign:

Don’t know who she is? Here is her Ted Talk: hope it inspires you.

Play encompasses all. Who doesn’t love to play? For example, take a play object / material like sand or even Kinetic sand?! So many connections and synapses are being made in the brain as you are molding kinetic sand for instance. What do you think happens outside and inside a person? One it gives you an unforgettable experience, two it’s fun and three molding kinetic sand helps build schema and synapses in our brains especially for children and those rewiring/rebuilding their brains like Jill Bolte Taylor or even just because it’s fun meanwhile it is helping strengthen and literally mold our brains.

Here are more ways kinetic sand play helps children. https://www.jimbeamracing.com.au/kinetic-sand-offers-unique-benefits-to-your-childs-development/

Need more play ideas? Here is another source and another: https://www.letsplayamerica.org/handbooks and https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play

Keep playing as though your life depends on it. Because it does. Happy playing and being as Fred Rogers would say “just the way you are”.