Playdates and Collaboration

I am *thrilled* to announce that I’ve just started contributing to Little Spoon Digest. Each month I’ll write a variety of articles for them (among other awesome mom- and dad-writers) to put together a really useful (and pretty amazing) digest that includes everything growing families need to know, from pregnancy to parenting.

Check out some really neat play date ideas for December here, written by yours truly! With suggestions from infancy to toddlers, you’ll find 12 great ideas to keep your little and their friends busy all month.

Little Spoon is a pretty genius company — they’ve taken the guess work out of homemade, organic, healthy baby food that is perfectly aligned to your baby’s developmental needs. They map out a “blue print” of where your baby is and where they need to go, and plan out delicious homemade baby foods to deliver to your door each week. Founded by a few parents, Little Spoon speaks directly to the needs of new mothers, and who doesn’t love that?

 

 

Advent Activity Calendar

For a couple of years now I’ve planned to make an advent calendar village for our living room. I’d use my silhouette cameo paper cutter, beautiful Christmas cardstock and scrapbook paper, and craft the day away. Or two. Or three. Or more. I sat down once last year, and once this year. And. Well. I failed. I’ve been on an (endless) mission to reduce the time that I spend working (cooking, cleaning, crafting, blogging, teaching, you name it) and increase the time I spend with family. It took me an entire day to make the front of a single building, and I decided to finally scratch the idea and buy an advent calendar. Well, I’ve also been on a mission to reduce my spending on life in general, which leads me to my newest idea: A printable advent activity calendar.

This Christmas, instead of stuffing her calendar with tiny gifts (that’s what her stocking is for), we’ll do an activity a day leading up to Christmas, some as simple as making hot chocolate, as intricate as building a gingerbread house, and some giving, such as donating food to a food bank.

I love the idea of focusing on kindness and family, spending time together counting down to Christmas by completing a family activity each day to get into the holiday spirit.

You can find the Advent calendar here, which has 25 printable red, business card sized envelopes with cute winter/Christmas characters to make your own DIY advent calendar, and 50 activity cards to choose from. Each activity focuses on kindness, family, and the holiday spirit.

We haven’t assembled our calendar yet, but we plan to hang 2 rows of cards from baker’s twine, but you could assemble it on a cork board or chalkboard, an empty wall, or any other creative way you can dream up. Check out our Pinterest board for some DIY advent calendar inspiration. We’ll add a photo once ours is up and running!

Renewal

Well hello there! Peace, Love and Literacy has been on something of a hiatus over the past few months.

As a public school teacher, I get to have one foot in working-mom mode, and one in the stay-at-home mom zone, and let me tell you, I get *so much* more work done when I’m actually working. This summer was all about spending time with my daughter, rest, and growth.

We all know that trying to keep up with life in general is exhausting, as is parenting, familying, working, schooling, and all of the other things one might have on their agenda. I never thought I’d quote Banksy on a parenting blog, but, yes. When whatever you’ve got going on tires you out, don’t quit. Remember you’re why — what brought you to this project in the first place, and rest. Then start again.

So here we are, the Peace, Love and Literacy revival, renewal.I’m refocusing on tips, activities, and resources for raising compassionate children. I hope you’ll join me on what’s to come!

Moana & Hollar Giveaway!

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Have I mentioned how much I love my tribe? Some of the ladies were raving about how much they (and their children, of course) loved the movie Moana. Seriously, they were going on about it, so I decided to get on board, and when one mother shared the link to Hollar’s deal on a $5 Moana digital download, I went for it, and I am *so* glad I did.  We aren’t a huge TV household (we don’t own a television, and we try to limit Violet’s screen time) but we knew that we wanted to introduce her, little by little, to some quality children’s programming and film, and Moana was a fast favorite of everyone in the household, including my husband!In fact, we loved it (and Hollar!) so much that we partnered with Hollar to give away a digital download of the movie, and a $25 shopping credit! If you’re not familiar with Hollar, it’s fabulous: it’s the online dollar store where everything starts at $1. They carry thousands of products from top brands like Disney and new items are added daily – so there’s always something new to score. You can save anywhere from 50-90% off retail price, plus they offer free shipping on your first order and all orders over $25. Check out Hollar here and read on to find out why we love Moana, and enter the giveaway on Instagram!

Firstly, you probably know that we love to bring the world into our home, and I’ve always been fascinated by Pacific culture.  The Hollar download has some really neat bonus features at the end of the film, which accounts how the directors spent many months on the Pacific Islands.  There some documentary footage of their integration into society, the relationships that they built with Islanders, and the extensive research that was conducted in order to make a culturally authentic film. There is a lot of study around the importance of authenticity in cultural depictions in literature and film, and though there are many critical lenses that one can look at Moana through, but in all, there are many fabulous cultural features of this film that seem to be well represented (though criticism states that the film represents many different cultures, as opposed to focusing on just one).  The music and voicing are performed by Pacific artists, many of the songs feature native languages, and the language, rhythm and instruments make the film a truly unique & authentic cultural experience. We’ve downloaded the soundtrack, and listen to it all.the.time. It’s enjoyable to me, as I love “world music” and the repetition and connections are so good for children’s language development.

Another thing I’m smitten with is that I can share the “bonus feature” documentary footage with my daughter that gives her a “real look” into life in this area of the world. It’s certainly a unique experience, and high-interest in that it ties back to one of her (new) favorite films.

The animation in the film, and the scenery, are *gorgeous*.  The picture at the top of the blog post is one of my favorite scenes from Moana, it shows a baby turtle swimming away with it’s mother after Moana led it back to the sea, under the safety of the shadow of a leaf. I love the sea, tropical islands, flowers, you name it. The visual beauty of this film is unmatched, and right up our alley.

Our family is committed to caring for the earth as well, and themes of connections with nature, eco-friendliness, eco-responsibility, and caring for the earth and it’s creatures shine throughout the story.

Another reason to love Moana is it’s appropriateness for young children.

There is no real violence to speak of (some self-defense, but nothing malicious), no romance, and nothing particularly scary (aside from the “lava monster” at the end, but once you see the movie you’ll learn that the lava monster is really just sad, and Moana will help her to be happy again), and the story line deviates from Disney’s typical princess stories, depicting Moana as a strong, almost rebel girl, who teams up with a male (Maui, a loveable [albeit egotistical], funny, and heroic character) to save the world, but in the end emerges as the heroine. Moana is empowered, strong, lovely, kind, and a fantastic role model and inspiration for children.

All of this being said, I do think that this film is just one depiction of life on (and the history of) the Pacific Islands, and if we want to create a full picture of the life and history of the Pacific Islands, there are many more topics, literature, and history (both rich and controversial) that should be explored in order to create a full picture.

In all, we *love* Moana, and can’t say enough good things about Hollar – the dollar store in your pocket bringing you great gifts and goods starting at just $1!

Check us out on Instagram to enter the giveaway!

*This giveaway and post are sponsored by Hollar. All opinions in this post are my own.*

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Beautiful Fruits and Veggies with Haba!

I’ve had my eye on Haba for quite a while, long before I had children, actually. Haba is a German company known for its well crafted, award winning wooden toys. It was this set of fruits and veggies that sparked my interest in Haba’s wooden toys around 6 or 7 years ago, so of course, when it was time to stock my daughter’s DIY Farmer’s Market , I reached out to Haba.

These adorable little fruits and vegetables are perfect. They have a wonderful variety of “out of the box” produce, including carrots, peppers, mushrooms, radishes (red & white) and tomatoes in the vegetable set, and yellow pears, green apples, strawberries, and (Italian) plums.  The fruits are made with sturdy beech wood, and have a vibrant glossy, non-toxic stain that lets the wood grain show through, as opposed to paint, which gives them a truly beautiful quality that is wonderfully unique.  What’s more, each set comes with a cute little shopping net, perfectly sized for little shoppers, and just right for a trip to the market.

Another thing that I adore about Haba is their promise, “Made in Germany with respect for people and planet”.

If you’d like to take home a set of Haba’s Wooden Fruit and Vegetable Shopping Nets, enter the giveaway below!

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*This post contains affiliate links to help keep this blog running.
To learn more about affiliate links, click here.*

*I was provided with sets of Haba Wooden Fruit and Vegetable Shopping Nets in exchange for a review. All opinions in this post are my own.*

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Imaginative Play with Wood Eats Cash Register!

This Wood Eats! Wooden Cash Register by Imagination Generation is the perfect addition to our DIY Farmer’s Market (enter the giveaway below!). After all, you can’t run a market with out a register!

We love that the buttons actually work, and that there is a card reader attached (Violet, and just 2.5, already understands that sometimes we use plastic!).  The receipt roll is a nice touch, and can be used for writing receipts, and making shopping lists — an important organizational concept to teach.  Included inside the working drawer are 2 wooden credit cards, 8 wooden dollar bills of various increments, and nice, thin, wooden coins in different value. I love that the entire set is made of wood, the quality that wooden toys adds to our collection is wonderful & timeless.

What’s more, is that there are so many important concepts that a cash register can teach. Children can explore important ideas, ranging from basic counting skills, to number practice, basic addition and subtraction, dollar and coin values, pricing, budgeting, product selection, social and customer service concepts, developing fine motor skills, and the list goes on.

We are thrilled to add the Wood Eats Cash Register from Imagination Generation to our DIY Farmer’s Market. If you’d like one too, go ahead and enter the giveaway below!

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*This post contains affiliate links to help keep this blog running.
To learn more about affiliate links, click here.*

*I was provided with a Wood Eats! Wooden Cash Register in exchange for a review. All opinions in this post are my own.*

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Eeboo Green Market Spinner Game

As a toddler grows, it’s amazing to see the developmental stages that they pass through, and so fun to watch them grow into varied kinds of activities as well. Violet is just beginning to appreciate games, and its really great to be able to enjoy a game with her, to see her process (and follow!) rules, exercise turn taking, tolerate disappointment, practice fine motor skills, and expand her knowledge in all kinds of ways.

Eeboo’s Green Market Spinner Game  is perfect for the preschool set in so many ways. The rules are simple: each player has a game board (a “farmstand”), which contains a puzzle like section for each of 7 different categories: dairy, eggs, baked goods, fruit, vegetables, flowers, and the farmer.  The spinner has the same categories, and there are 4 different puzzle pieces for each category, each with a different selection (i.e. cookies, pie, cake, and cupcakes for “baked goods”). Each player takes a turn spinning the spinner, and depending on where the arrow lands, you choose a selection from that category and add it to your board/farm stand. If you land on a category that is already filled on your board, you lose your turn. The first person to fill their entire board/farm stand wins.

This game is a great way to expand children’s vocabulary, introduce them to the idea of agriculture and food production, and explore concepts related to business/entrepreneurism/buying & selling. It is also, of course, directly related to and supportive of the endless possibilities around imaginative play that children can explore through the DIY Farmer’s Market (don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post!)

And, true to Eeboo’s reputation, the illustrations in this game are so very cute, and the pieces are sturdy, and will certainly stand the test of time. The design of the game boards is intuitive, with holes in the back to easily punch out the game pieces (Violet quickly figured this out and loves to poke each piece out, again and again). I also like that the farmers are represented with diversity (all kinds of animals), with both female and male farmers. We have loved all of the Eeboo games and puzzles we’ve reviewed, but this one was a fast favorite. Way to go, Eeboo!

If you’d like to take this game home, along with a fantastic bundle of other prizes, enter the giveaway below, and find the original giveaway post here.

 

 

 

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*I was provided with a copy of the Green Market Spinner Game in exchange for a review. All opinions in this post are my own.*

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Plants Feed Me

We’ve got so many great resources bundled up in our new Farmer’s Market Play Giveaway, and today we’re giving you an in-depth look at all of the reasons why we love Lizzy Rockwell’s book, Plants Feed Me.

Firstly, I’ve oohed and aahed on the blog about Lizzy Rockwell’s illustrations before, and I’ll say it again: Lizzy’s illustrations are sweet! Her characters are drawn with a certain softness and likability that is just our speed. The text is perfectly accessible for young children of all ages (I’ve read this book with both my upper elementary school English language learners as well as with my toddler daughter), and explains to kids in such a simple yet technical way that we eat plants; all of a plant’s parts, in fact.

The smile on this boy’s face says it all. Eating plants makes us happy. Now isn’t that a message you’d love to send your child?

The book starts out with the line “I am a plant eater.” It goes on to explain, in short sentences that are both comprehensible to young listeners, and that have easy readability for beginning readers, how plants grow, and the different kinds and parts of plants that we eat.

Here’s a closeup of the spread Violet is looking at in the above picture. This page, too, is sort of special to me, as we’ve just joined a community garden in our neighborhood, and this picture, of children working together to care for plants, will certainly help to drive home the notion that people can work together to not only bring beauty to our community, but to care for and nourish ourselves and each other with delicious, bountiful plants.

The ending really touches a soft spot for us: “Plants feed me. Plants feed the world.” You might know that I strive to “bring the world into our home”, and this book doesn’t fall short in helping children to see this simple, global connection: the idea that plants feed each and every one of us.

I can’t wait to dive into activities around this book with Violet. We’ve put together a pinterest board with all kinds of fun activities, including a fun, interactive, edible “I can eat a whole plant” activity.

And if you’d like to take the teachability of this book even further, you can find additional lesson plans to accompany this text here.

If you’d like to take a copy of Plants Feed Me (and a whole bundle of other awesome prizes) enter the giveaway below and find the original giveaway post here!

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*This post contains affiliate links to help keep this blog running.
To learn more about affiliate links, click here.*

*I was provided with a copy of Plants Feed Me in exchange for a review. All opinions in this post are my own.*

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Farmer’s Market Giveaway!

When I saw What’s Up Mom’s DIY Market Stand I knew I had to make one for Violet.

Spring has just sprung, we are gearing up for gardening, and Violet is loving pretend shopping these days. It’s amazing what a child’s imagination can do entirely on their own — she scans products for purchase in the air while animating the sound of the scanner, she packs up her tiny shopping back and invites me along on pretend shopping trips, she asks (and negotiates!) pricing in her imaginary market — I knew that with a little help, we could really touch on some important concepts: healthy food choices, seasonal foods, wants vs. needs, basic numeracy, social interactions and language, community topics, entrepreneurial concepts, even public & customer service!

Follow us this week as we explore some fun products & activities to support your market play, and enter the giveaway below to have a chance at taking home your very own DIY market!

This is what’s included in the DIY Farmer’s Market bundle:

Plants Feed Me book by Lizzy Rockwell

Green Market Spinner Game by Eeboo

Wooden Fruit Shopping Net by Haba

Wooden Vegetable Shopping Net by Haba

Wooden Cash Register by Imagination Generation

Farmer’s Market Create & Play Activity Book

Threshold 6-Cube Organizer, by Target

Enter to win below!

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Make a Fairy Garden? Yes please!

When a friend of mine with Pure Wow asked Violet and I if we’d like to put together a Fairy Garden for a Miracle-Gro sponsored video, we were thrilled. We’ve just come out of one of New York’s winters, and we’re both itching for cool spring weather, a little sunshine, to get our hands dirty, and just be outdoors. We spent a beautiful April day in Pelham, New York, and did just that: we made an adorable & whimsical fairy garden!

The whole experience was really fun: there were directors, set designers, and a camera crew.

Everything we needed, from rocks to soil to dirt to plants & decorations was provided for us, and it was *adorable*.

Don’t miss the how-to video below, or click here: How to Make a Whimsical Fairy Garden

How to Make a Whimsical Fairy Garden with Your Kids

Your kiddo’s imagination is a thing of wonder (she continually refers to pineapples as spaceships and Dad’s briefcase as the “dragon’s lair”). So why not use your lazy Sunday as an opportunity to combine her love of fantasy with your desire to spruce up the backyard? Enter the fairy garden.

Here’s how we did it:

Step 1: Line the bottom of your planter with large rocks to ensure good drainage (or, alternatively, choose a planter with holes in the bottom).

Step 2: Fill the container with potting mixed. We use Miracle-Gro.

Step 3: Decide where to place your fairy house, and then place the plants around the home to create a beautiful garden for your little fairy.

Step 4: Once you’re happy with the design, take each plant out of it’s pot, dig a small hole, break up the root ball with your hand, and plant away.

Step 5: Decorate the garden with accessories. We used wood slices for a walking path, tiny decorative mushrooms, small fairy furniture, ceramic animal friends, a bird bath, stones, glitter sand, and a tiny reflection pool.

Step 6: Water your garden, and thirty days after planting, feed with Miracle-Gro Plant Food.

We’re so happy to have kicked off spring with this fun activity. We loved it so much, that we’ve gone ahead and joined a community garden in Brooklyn (future blog posts!) and put together this kids’ gardening board on pinterest!