Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe I’ve found the perfect plan.
On our quest to “Bloom Where We Are Planted” we’ve decided to seriously downsize our apartment in order to move into a neighborhood that we love with fantastic public schools. Call us crazy, but we’re hoping that trading space for amenities will be a move we won’t regret. That being said, we need to do a major overhaul of our “stuff”. Declutter. Refresh. Minimize. That’s my mantra for our next chapter.
I’m actually quite excited to re-home things that we’ve enjoyed and start fresh in a new space. I’ve been holding onto a lot of things, particularly those of our daughter’s. Baby clothing in case another ever comes along. Sentimental baby gear that we just can’t part with. Outgrown toys in hopes of one day running classes for young children. Books because, well, books. We’ve got old favorites on rotation to keep things new and interesting, and our closets are stuffed to the brim. A LOT has to go. While I’m a little sad to part with our things, I’m empowered by a few articles* I’ve shared in the Peace, Love and Literacy Facebook group that point to major benefits for kids in keeping a minimalist play space.
Benefits of Having a Minimalist Playspace
Develop a longer attention span: When children have less choice, and therefore less distraction, they have fewer demands for their attention. As opposed to jumping from activity to activity, children develop a sense of focus as they immerse themselves in one activity.
Experience greater creativity:Having endless options can keep children from using their imagination. When presented with less, children must invent their own games, for example, and exercise their creativity.
Establish better social skills:Children are able to focus on those around them when presented with less toys. Kids develop conversation skills, engage in play with others (both children and adults), and develop interpersonal relationships.
Learn to appreciate and take care of what they have: Children with few possessions are less likely to take something for granted. They will be more likely to keep track of their things, keep them in good condition, and have an appreciation for what they do have.
Develop an appreciation for literature, art, and experiences:When not buried under a pile of toys, children will be more interested in going outdoors, visiting a museum, enjoying a story, or creating art. These collective experiences will help children to grow in ways that toys cannot provide.
Learn problem solving, patience, and perseverance: If presented with a difficult puzzle, for example, children may lose interest in trying to figure it out, give up, and move onto any other of their endless choices. Problem solving, perseverance, and patience are three skills and values that can be encouraged through a minimalistic toy collection.
Have a cleaner, tidier home:I don’t think I need to tell you that more toys equals more mess. Instill the sense of peace that comes from decluttering, starting with the playroom.
Will you be keeping a minimalist playspace?
Check out the inspiration for this post here and here.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that our family had a rather exciting day last week. We were lucky enough to have rescued a baby bird! On my way home from work, I found a tiny baby bird fallen from the nest on a Brooklyn sidewalk. With scooters and strollers coming down the block, I simultaneously stood in a protective stance and searched for a nest in the rather large tree above, but I couldn’t locate it. With spring’s trees sprouting leaves like crazy, there was no finding that nest. I hemmed and hawed about what to do (take it in? move it to safety? construct a makeshift nest in the tree? leave it for nature to take its course?). I made a few calls, and after talking with NYC’s Wild Bird Fund and explaining the situation, I took it in for the night as per their request, until we could bring it over to them the next day. The little nestling made it through the night under our care, carefully instructed by the Wild Bird Fund, and through the next afternoon when we dropped it at their location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The tiny baby was finally in experienced hands.
Our 3.5 year old daughter was absolutely beside herself. Excited is an understatement, and totally and utterly in love is more like it. While the situation was very unfortunate (a baby bird’s best chance of survival is with its mother), I am glad that we were able to do our part.
In the face of challenge, we were given the chance to learn some very valuable “Life Lessons From a Baby Bird”:
Be mindful and aware of your surroundings
In the hustle and bustle of life it is very, very easy to miss the little things (literally and figuratively). I’m so relieved that this little baby caught my eye. Spotting the bird in the first step of this rescue truly is a lesson in awareness and mindfulness.
2. There is beauty in even the most unexpected places
Our little nestling was tiny & completely featherless. It’s eyes had yet to open, and between it’s black, bulging eyes, and it’s misshapen, bulging belly, it looked like something out of a science fiction film. That being said, this little helpless baby, with it’s wide open beak was adorable, and really a creature of true beauty.
3. Things might not always work out the way you’d like them to
The last thing that man at the Wild Bird Fund said to me on the phone was “Lastly, please know that this little bird might not make it through the night. And if it doesn’t, don’t be sad. You tried your best and there was nothing else you could have done.” Well, I think I could have handled that, but what to tell our daughter to prepare her? We’ve lost a couple of fish during our stint in aquatics, so the idea of an animal dying is not new to her, but this little bird really captured her heart. I did warn her (and she told her nursery class that “its going to die”, so, well, we have to revisit this, I don’t exactly want to raise a pessimist), but I did think that she needed to be warned that “things might not always work out the way you’d like them to.”
4. Care for those that are less fortunate than we are
We’ve talked a lot recently about taking care of others, even if they aren’t a part of our family. There’s a lot of debate out there in today’s political world about whether or not those that are more fortunate should take care of those that are less so, but in this family caring for others is a point we’d like to drive home.
5. Help out where we can, to the best of our ability
She *really* wanted to keep this baby bird. When I told her that we don’t know what kind of bird it is, and that we don’t know what it eats she said “I know mommy, birds eat worms!” And when I went on to explain that we don’t know how to care for a baby bird she said “You can watch a video mommy, and learn!” Well, yes, I suppose we could. But the care for a wild bird is really quite complicated. The Wild Bird Fund told us to give it only water until we could bring it to safety, and so that’s what we did. We tried our best with the limited knowledge and experience we had.
6. Sometimes the right thing to do is to give something up & Let others step in when you can’t do the job
See # 5. We aren’t the best choice for caring for this bird long-term, and we can’t pretend that we are. It is sometimes heartbreaking to give something up, but this is where the old cliche holds true: “Sometimes if you really love something, you’ve got to set it free.” It’s ok to admit that you’re not cut out for something, especially when something so precious and important such as another’s creatures life is depending on you. In this case, let the experts take over.
7. You can’t always get what you want
We cross this lesson’s path each time we go shopping, and it rears it’s head again. “I know you’d really like to keep this bird but we just cannot.”
8. A love for all creatures, big and small, and the understanding that all life is precious
We are major lovers of all living things in this house. My husband, myself, and our daughter. We try to practice kindness, empathy, and understanding towards all creatures big and small. We know that all life is precious and priceless, and this is a value that we hope to and work hard toward passing on to our child.
9. Sometimes life’s coincidences are just uncanny
The day I found the baby bird I had taken home a “big book” from school with a collection of stories and poems inside. It was being discarded and I knew that my book fan at home would treasure it. While we were busy caring for the bird, the little miss was flipping through the book. When she uncovered a poem about baby birds inside, with an illustration complete with wide open beaks, just like our little baby, the excitement was tangible. Our brand new book forged a major life connection with our major life event. The coincidence was just uncanny.
It’s never too early to instill a love of literature in the very young. Children’s books familiarize kids with early concepts of print, offer a unique literacy and linguistic experience with their playful language and rhyming text, are often a child’s first introduction to high-quality art. Most importantly, reading together helps families to create warm memories. Each month, we’ll bring you sweet suggestions* for building children’s collections. This April we’re focusing on books, games and activities to celebrate spring and Earth Day 2018.
It’s no secret that I love Lizzy Rockwell’s work, and Plants Feed Me is a treasure that shouldn’t be missed. The text is perfectly accessible for children of all ages, and explains to kids in such a simple yet technical way that we eat plants; all of a plant’s parts, in fact. The book opens with the line “I am a plant eater” and goes on to explain in simple text how plants grow, the different parts of a plant, and how we enjoy them. 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.
In this fun, interactive book children explore how tiny seeds grown and bloom into beautiful flowers. What’s more, they’re a part of the action! What child wouldn’t love a book in which they press the seeds into the soil, wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, or clap to bring sunshine after the rain? Christie Matheson’s books are a little bit of magic for young readers.
Julie Fogliano will always hold a very, very dear place in my heart. I shared a while back that her book, If You Want to See a Whale, was one of our wedding readings, so when I came across And Then It’s Spring I immediately added it to this list. Following a snowy winter, a young boy decides that he’s had enough of brown and sets out to plant a garden. He and his dog dig, plant, play, wait . . . and wait . . . until at last, the brown becomes a more hopeful shade of brown, a sign that spring may be around the corner. And Then It’s Spring is told with Julie’s patient, hopeful tone – the tone that punctuates our collective wait for spring.
Plant a Kiss has a very, very simple text about a very, very lovely idea: Little Miss plants a kiss, and her one small act of love blooms into something beautiful. This story of love, kindness and giving is simple enough for babies, but lovely enough for children of all ages.
We were gifted a set of Bear books for Christmas last year and they were a fast favorite. Bear Wants More has really lovely, rhyming prose, a range of vocabulary that is fun for adults and really pushes the envelope for kids, and a story that focuses on friendship. This tale about a bear, hungry after hibernating all winter, just can’t get enough roots, berries, or fish! His friends help him satisfy his springtime hunger in a sweet and surprising way.
How Did That Get In My Lunchbox is a playful way to introduce children to the concept of Farm to Table. Following foods from their origination at a farm, through the production process, onto the shelves of your local store, and finally, to their plate, this story shares with children the life of the foods we eat.
Each and every one of Todd Parr’s books combines humor and sensitivity, the perfect combination for capturing children’s attention and capturing*and* their hearts. In The Earth Book, Todd gently suggests ways that children can help the earth and it’s creatures in this sweet introduction to environmental conservation and doing our part to protect our planet.
9. Don’t Throw That Away!, by Lara Bergen Don’t Throw That Away is a lift the flap book, focused on reusing household items, and is made of recycled material. Talk about a good model! I love that this cute little book has realistic suggestions for kids around ways to give trash a new purpose.
I Can Save the Earth features a cute and likeable little green monster named Max who is always getting into trouble, and mistreating the earth in the process. When his shenanigans cause a blackout, he is forced to see the world from a different perspective. What he discovers is that earth is a beautiful place, and that it needs our help to care for it. Our daughter was inspired by Max to use less toilet paper, and I think your children will find inspiration here as well!
Rainbow Weaver is a new book to us, and a fast favorite. I picked this up at an educational conference recently, and it’s brought to us by one of my favorite publishers for children: Lee and Low Books. Set in Guatemala, Rainbow Weaver follows the story of Ixchel, a young girl frustrated by both her desire to help out at home by participating in her family’s traditional Mayan weaving, and by discarded bags in her community. With a little creativity, Ixchel tackles both of these problems and creates something both innovative and beautiful. Based on the work of Mayan Hands, a fair-trade organization out of Albany, New York, this gorgeously illustrated stories is both heart-warming and inspirational.
As a child, Wangari was surrounded by trees in her homeland of Kenya. Years later, when she returns, deforestation has taken place, and she realizes that soon all of the trees she had loved will be gone. Wangari decides to take action – she starts by planting nine seedlings, and before she knows it, her efforts have turned into a country wide movement. This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner is an inspiring example of how one woman’s determination and vision inspired great change.
13. Chandra’s Magic Light Chandra’s Magic Light is a beautifully illustrated book, outlining two girl’s struggle to provide their brother a solar lamp to replace his smoky old oil lamp. The girls work to improve both the environment and their family’s health in this touching story. Set in Nepal, this book lends itself to *gorgeous*, colorful illustrations.
If You Plant a Seed is a *gorgeous* book that very simply equates planting and cultivating a seed of kindness to the way in which a planted seed grows and blossoms into a plant. This simple metaphor is a great way to introduce children to the idea of nurturing kindness and positivity.
This fun set is great for guiding older kids (I’d say 6 and up) through a farmer’s market exploration. It comes with a reuseable bag and activity cards with tasks such as finding root vegetables at the farmer’s market, along with suggested questions to ask the farmer when they find it.
I love this book. It’s a go-to birthday gift for all of my daughter’s friends, and really just such a pleasure. With sticker sets to help create a DIY farmer’s market goods, punch out garden markers and craft activities and ideas, this cute craft book is everything you need to put together an imaginary garden and market for earth centered pretend play.
Violet’s 3rd birthday has come and gone, and as cliché as it may be, time really does go by so very quickly when you spend your days with children. They grow so quickly that you, quite literally, watch time pass right before your eyes. It’s amazing, awe inspiring, and, of course, just a little bit sad. Don’t we all want to keep them tiny forever?
I shared this PureWow article: 25 Things to Do Before Your Child Turns 5 in the Peace, Love and Literacy Facebook group months ago, and while I like to keep that content exclusive, I was scrolling through the archives it reminded me of the importance of not losing daily opportunities to love and share with your child among the dynamics (read insane business) of life. It’s so important to me, and I thought you all might appreciate it too.
As a teacher, I am incredibly lucky to have quite a bit of family time, and for that I am incredibly grateful. We’ve crossed a number of these 25 items off of our list, but still have quite a few to explore, and many we’d like to do again and again! How many have you got covered, and what is still on your to-do list? Is there anything you’d like to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
1. Teach her to tie her shoes.
Velcro all the way over here!
✓2. And how to politely say no when she doesn’t want do something.
This is a biggie for us. We tread a fine line between being polite and being a pushover. We want our daughter to know how to be polite, but how to confidently say no when something makes her uncomfortable or she doesn’t want to do something.
✓3. Unplug as a family as often as you can. Before social media vies for her soul.
We’ve sort of got this checked off. As a mother who blogs, writes, and creates digital content, and a father who practices photography/videography this is so challenging, but so.important. And considering that turning off screen time is the only thing that makes her cry like a banshee, we recognize the importance of limiting this.
✓4. Collect seashells and build sand castles.
We’ve definitely got this covered. Seashells, acorns, rocks, you name it. Every.day. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to cross this off the list. Is anyone ever really done finding treasures?
5. Instill confidence however you can.Self-esteem gets locked in by 5, suggests science. So, you know, no pressure.
Ongoing. But I guess we’ve got until 5. Eeeek!
✓6. Kiss her as much as you want to—in front of her friends.
✓7. Read Dr. Seuss, watch Sesame Street and rock out to Rafi, before anyone gets too cool.
Done and done.
8. Dress him in overalls and her in Mary Janes and pigtails. Take pictures.
9. Let them run naked outdoors.
Ummmmm. In NYC not so easy.
✓10. Give some thought to the way we talk to girls and the way boys learn to behave. Then subverts those norms, dammit.
Love this. We definitely have babies and pink galore over here, but Violet has a brand new set of (hand me down) wooden trucks that we just gifted her for Christmas, she loves to dress up “as a brother” and we try to teach her that success, following your dreams and listening to your heart is for everyone. Do what your heart tells you.
✓✓✓11. Spend an afternoon at the zoo
I could put like a thousand checks there. WCS membership for the win.
✓ 12. Ride a carousel together.
My brave girl just overcame a fear of the carousel. J
13. Go to Disney World
On our to-do list.
✓14. Frame a picture she drew and signed.
Have you checked out our Instagram account lately?
15. Write down the hilarious stuff he says.
✓16. Have his speech, reading readiness, vision and hearing evaluated.
17. Stop thinking about your kid for 24 hours and spend a night at a hotel with your husband.Sleep past sunrise.
18. And then plan a weekend getaway with your friends where you talk about something besides pre-school woes.
✓23. Embrace your child’s quirks, help him learn from his mistakes.
Our child can be extremely shy and equally as outgoing. It’s been hard, at times, to accept some of our daughter’s behaviors, but ultimately we realize how very lucky we are to have someone like her in our lives, quirks and all.
✓24. Volunteer to help out in his classroom.
✓25. Tuck her in every chance you get.
Again, and again, and again, and again.
If I were to analyze my list, I think one of the biggest things I’m actually missing is establishing my “me time” before she turns 5. Oh, and Disney World. J
Share in the comments below what you’ve accomplished as a family, and what remains on your list!
I recently wrote about New Year’s Resolution Planning for Families and anyone who knows me in real life is privy to the fact that I am on an endless mission to grow. As a dreamer, I’ve always had aspirations that were lofty, an endless mill of ideas tumbling through my head, plans laid, refigured, and relaid. Going into 2018, this year is no different, in fact, it may even be the loftiest of all.
I’ve heard that when you share your goals with others, put them out there for the world to see, the accountability makes you more likely to attain them, so I’m here to do just that.
On the agenda for 2018:
Get (mostly) out of debt. Gain control of finances, and make all of our hard work work for us.
Save time and money, and prioritize family over workandeverythingelse.
Make major life changes around where we live — we’d love to move into our ideal neighborhood, possibly build a vacation house in the years to come, and find happiness in our community. Small steps in 2018 in a move toward happiness and community building.
Sort out school decisions. Just shy of a year ago I shared that I was trying my best to bloom where I was planted, and, well, I see I have something of a pattern.
Write a book. Yes. That’s right. Write a book. Details to come!
I know what this takes. This takes an inextricably intertwined combination of reflection, forward thinking, growth, and change.
Well, hello, 2018.
*Leave us a comment below if you’d like to put your goals for 2018 out into the world! Go ahead and share!*
The start of a new year is upon us. This new beginning presents us with a time for reflection, change, and growth. Last year, our family established a tradition of making resolutions, both as a family and individually. We even encourage our 3-year old daughter to set goals for herself in the coming year. Because of the abstract nature of goal setting, I put together a resolution planning worksheet to help her reflect on the year, and use forward thinking.
When making resolutions for the New Year with young children, it’s important to keep some guidelines in mind, and our Resolutions planner (see the free download below) makes it easy!
Set specific, attainable and realistic goals
Set out to learn new things, and improve on the great things that are already happening in your life and in your family
Put health and wellness on your to-do list
Consider charitable giving
Be sure to include quality family time and fun activities
Now… for the planner! I’m excited to share the 2018 New Year’s Resolution Planner with you as a free download. Just enter your email address below to sign up for our mailing list to access the download, and get planning!
Subscribe to Peace, Love & Literacy's Newsletter to download your free copy of the 2017 New Year's Resolutions Planner
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?
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!
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!
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!