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?

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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 Piece of Heart

I walked to my mailbox. I physically opened my quiet and subtle mailbox not my loud and pinging gmail inbox. No need to sign on or even click on anything. I opened my literal real 3D mailbox outside of my home and took out a piece of real mail. Real paper. Real ink. Real love. I am afraid of clowns but as I saw the clown nose with the stethoscope; my heart fluttered like a hummingbird and sang like one too! I screamed and danced love and gratitude. I opened the letter and read the words from none other than Patch Adams himself who deeply inspires and resonates like the same beating of a drum except its the same beating of a heart. I am grateful.

Don’t know who he is? Check out Robin Williams playing him in Patch Adams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZqGA1ldvYE

I am deeply moved and inspired by his genius and caring way of being. His message was to catch the sunrises and sunsets. He told me to read poetry by Emily Dickinson. He told me to write and make art. He said many times when we feel low and down that something is missing. That something could be and is the creative arts for our soul.

He listened as he read my letter. He knew what I was deeply missing as I was in the midst and mixture of a rat race not life. When we feel lost or “off”, a feeling of not being ourselves, of not feeling the essence of our being, we miss our core human way of being…our art, our creation, our time, our love…the greatest gift that we give ourselves and emit to the world.

We are merely working to survive not working to thrive. I jumped off the rat wheel, stopped running and racing. Instead I walked into love.

I can’t merely live to work. I work to live. Connection. Love. Life-long learning. L-o-v-e. Real love. Jump, slow down and walk into it. How do you show love to yourself? How do you show love to those around you and your environment?

Dogs and Roses

It was a cold evening in Arlington and I was walking around a few blocks during my 30 minute break. This happened pre-pandemic back when we were at school in person and not online.

I stopped at a corner, as light snow started falling, a rose blanket caught my eye. 

It was tan and worn out patterned all over with roses. It covered a man crouched and hunched over in the corner. 

I stood still in time watching the man under the blanket. Strangers on the street walked, kept walking by. They had places to go and people to see.

Two strangers were walking up opposite sides of the sidewalk. One stranger with a dog. The other stranger with a warm drink cusped in their hands, steam rising from it. Maybe a coffee or maybe a hot chocolate. Maybe, neither. They stopped in front of the man with the rose blanket. 

The person holding the warm cup asked about the dog and if she could pet her. The dog walker nodded, “Yea, go ahead she’s friendly”. 

The woman with the warm cup placed it on the ground, knelt down and pet the dog. She asked, “What’s her name?” The dog walker responded, “Rose.” 

No one asked the man with the rose blanket covering his shoulders like petals, what his name was. The strangers didn’t ask each other’s names either.

Why do we call humans homeless when we’ve in fact, made them strangers? We’ve turned them nameless.  We’ve turned each other into strangers.

The holidays. Depending on your perspective is a time for thankfulness and togetherness. 

What type of thankful and gratitude are you showing? What are you giving, what are you noticing…what are you asking?

I am asking for names.

Can I Have a Word or Two?

It’s Halloween time and I’m reminiscing when I was little and went trick or treating. You know when grownups would and will ask a child: “So what do you do?” And, children do a song or dance? I sang the little witch song and changed the word witch to (can you guess to what rhymes with witch—change the w to a b).

My sister was shocked and everyone laughed. In that moment — I realized the power of words.

I knew and realized in that moment just how powerful words are and the effect they may have on us. Most of all — words can incite us. Words can also invite us to talk or push us away not to talk and forever hold our peace.

My sister cursed like a sailor. I would curse at school as I tested out the words and expressions she used. Such as: #1 B#tc$ to describe best friends and sister Bonds. F#€|< it or f#€|< you when angry or frustrated. I went to school — testing out these words and phrases with friends but no grownup ever knew.

We test out words and expressions.

This brings me to another moment in time as I was teaching and all of us were outside on a field trip (giving a plug to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC). We were in the blue construction room: Play Work Build exhibit where my class aka engineers, architects and builders were building and constructing very cool creations and structures! One of my Fireflies as he was trying to fit a square peg into a circle and he was exasperated by all of his unsuccessful attempts (he kept persisting and showed a lot of resiliency!) and to everyone’s shock and dismay minus my own: he said, “Awww, f bomb, it’s not fitting!

All of the grown ups stopped and stared at us and looked very carefully at me. I was the responsible grown up for this class. I looked at my firefly that lights the night sky and who clearly just lit up this space like the Fourth of July. I got low and spoke low. I said, “I see you learned a new way to express exasperation and frustration. What word can you use instead of that one? I said, what rhymes with it?” He smiled and said, “Oh, shucks, oh muck, ohhh tuck, ohhh luck” we laughed. I took the stigma and the struggle away. Again, language can incite us. Language is explosive. Language (most of all — the connections in the brain) are also exploding for preschoolers at this time.

If we reprimand or dismiss, shut down or get shocked how do we model? If we kick out, put in detention, suspend or expel how do we teach?

Teachable moments happen each and every moment. Don’t overlook them or dismiss them. Don’t lock it up and throw away the key. Words are caged birds begging to be free. Teach with compassion, love and understanding.

Restorative practices, compassion, learning and justice is meant and intended not only for preschoolers. It is for all ages, stages and levels of life. Meet children, youth and grown ups where they are are and help them to where they are going.

Bonus: listen to some of my stories made up from my heart and brain.

https://podcasts.apple.com/za/podcast/the-story/id1505653221

Reading the Rainbow

I dream in rainbow technicolor. My dreams are vivid hues and shades where we are all connected as one. It’s not a dream. I am literally living this in my life. I’m thankful and full of gratitude.

Each color of the rainbow symbolizes something special.

June is pride month. Remember Stonewall. Always. It was a riot and uprising to be treated as human beings. Riots and protests are our language. It is the human language especially when no one is listening. Yea, they hear us but they are not listening and not taking action. This month I’m honoring the Black Lives Matter movement. Their lives matter too.

Remember that.

For advocacy work please go to:

https://www.momsrising.org/

https://www.childrensdefense.org/programs/cdf-freedom-schools/

https://naeyc.org

Rock, Paper, Scissors. Sticks and Stones.

Rocks literally rock. Rocks like boxes can become anything you want. In our preschool classroom we have been really into rocks. Actually even outside of our classroom, children have been collecting and using rocks in symbolic ways. Here are all of the ways we have been using rocks.
1. Collecting them which results in sorting, measuring, how much space we need, sizes of rocks and boxes needed to store them
2. Making up stories as we use rocks in symbolic ways representing the characters and props (i.e. building a bridge and re-enacting/retelling the stoy of the three billy goats gruff. We used small, medium and large stones to symbolize the sizes of the goats and one unique stone to represent the troll.
3. Make houses and caves out of them
4. Make shelves
5. Make flooring
6. Paint them and leave them in your neighborhood for others to find
7. Skip them over water
8. Build with them
9. Little grave stones for dead creatures from birds to bees and so many more!
10. A Rock Band (great polay on words)
11. Rolling Stones literally rolling them or rocking with them
Happy “rock”ing out.

Big Brother

The moment we walked in the door questioning eyes were on us: “Who are you?” my coaches asked my brother in law and father figure as he questioned them as to why I wasn’t getting any playtime on the basketball team. My brother is black and I am white based on societal descriptions. He always stood up for me and had my back. From elementary through high school. We would get side way kinds of stares by people who weren’t exposed to different kinds of families.

My mother died when I was turning 10. My (I think biological father) was incarcerated off and on. I was raised by my sister and my brother in law. We were rare and uniquely different. Looking back and reflecting on my upbringing, I realize just how thankful I am. I was exposed to what children normally are not exposed to and as a result I am an eclectic kind of person. I watched and listened to shows, movies and music such as The Sopranos, Poetic Justice and The Streets is Watching. However, I always had someone present and there telling me someone made it or it was directed by someone. Someone made it up from their brain and it was inspired by real life events. I always had someone like my sister or brother in law telling me to cover my eyes during the racy parts.

I have so many memories from playing ball, driving around pretending to be on MTV Cribs to witnessing drug raids to people dying. This was my reality. So, I understand many walks of life. I was and am blessed to be surrounded by real, authentic type love. A rare kind of love that you cannot find. They never had to buy love or material possessions. Getting Chinese takeout, laughing, yelling and crying a lot, playing monopoly and playing ball was enough. It was my foundation of what a family is all about. Not perfect but perfect if you know what I mean.

As a grownup, I am working towards planting seeds where children will make a better life and ultimately a better world by reaching mutual understanding across cultures and perspectives. A world where people will know who each other is the moment they walk in the door. Questioning eyes will fade. The who are you will turn into I know who you are. A place where different families exist and it’s cool and unquestioned. People will stop and stare for how beautifully dynamic and powerful differences are. A place where it’s cool and dope to be different aesthetically, creatively and intellectually.

Let Your Voice Ring. Sing Everywhere. Even if You’re Off Key. 

I remember singing in the car with my older sister during my formative years. Janet boomed from our car speakers: “Thats the way, thats the way, thats the way love goes.” We would sing our hearts out. I reminisced about my childhood memories of singing a lot during my last night drive with my other sister and we sang a lot during our road trip.

When is the last time you sang in the car? In the shower? With your family? Singing has endless benefits for our young and old. An Alzheimer’s patient may not remember their name but you know what they can remember? They can remember their favorite song!

Singing in the early education classroom is one of the keys for brain plasticity and growth. During the first five years of life the most connections (think synapses) are made out of the entire lifespan.  Every year of a child’s life is precious, but when it comes to development, the first 8 are the most important. This is when a child becomes the person they are going to be. It is when they learn appropriate behavior, boundaries, empathy and many other important social skills that will remain with them for life. Guess what else will stay with a child for life? Their favorite jams!

Babies are born with more synapses than adults. In a child’s early development stages, the speed of the synapse formation is the greatest from birth until 18 months of age. From 18 months until 3 years of age during the process of cognitive development in kids, synapses continue to form and expand. The number of synapses reaches about 1,000 trillion at this age and because of that a toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is also the reason why toddlers enjoy heavy outdoor activities such as running, jumping and climbing. From 6 to 9 years of age in kids’ development stage, the brain reduces the number of synapses which are not used and they eventually die off.

So sing. Sing your heart out! Play Motown to Country. Most of all sing and dance to your favorite songs and ask families for their favorites. Home school connection is powerful. Even change the lyrics to the songs.

Here are 7 benefits of singing. For more benefits click: https://takelessons.com/live/singing/health-benefits-of-singing

  1. Singing creates a better sense of well being and causes us sensations of feeling good.
  2. Improves concentration, alertness and memory.
  3. Singing strengthens the immune system. That’s right it’s good for our health like an apple. A song a day keeps the doctor away.
  4. Singing is in fact exercise
  5. It helps with sleeping well and getting a good night’s Zzz.
  6. It lowers stress levels
  7. It’s a natural anti-depressant

So, turn the speaker up and sing like no one’s listening or watching!

We’re Bringing Play Back..Yep.

Hello there,

We are preschool educators. After a discussion of how children learn and recognizing our many kinds of learners, we narrowed in on, noticed and talked a lot about recess and recognized the importance coupled by the lack of it. We call recess by another name. For us, recess goes by the name of play.

Often we inform our families to advocate for their child and the kind of learner they are as they grow, move on and become kindergartners. We do this in order for their new school community to be ready. We now realize how we need to take our own advice. So here goes.

Are you ready for our students? Our children will ask you questions: lots of them. Get ready. See, please understand we allowed and followed their lead. We facilitated and encouraged our students to solve many problems socially, cognitively, emotionally, physically, mathematically, creatively, linguistically through play. Not just any kind of play but intentional and meaningful play. We weren’t focused on getting them “ready” because we know you are ready for them. We hope and hold on to that.

As mentioned, we all learn differently and we believe it is a process and are looking to connect and build a relationship with you as we have a lot to learn from one another. We want to connect in order to facilitate and help bring recess and play back to our community. Back to your school. We know it won’t be easy.

However, it will be worth it for all. Our children are showing and sharing with us what they need, it’s time we listen.

Let’s talk and bring back recess.

Preschool Educators

a.k.a TPA: The Play Alliance