Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated on July 18th around the world. Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in South Africa and spent his life fighting against apartheid, racism and for equal rights for everyone in his country. He spent over 30 years of his life in prison because of his work to end apartheid. After his release from prison in 1990 he worked with South African President, FR de Klerk, to end apartheid. This work won them both the Nobel Peace prize in 1993.
In 1994 all people were allowed to vote for the first time in the South Africa election and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. In 1999, he stepped down the from world of politics and started the Nelson Mandela Foundation, an organization that works to promote the principals of equality, freedom and peace. A great way to celebrate Nelson Mandela, his perseverance and his work for civil rights is to share a book with your children about his life. Here are a few of our favorites and an interview done on his 90th birthday.
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a beautiful book about his life. This is a great overview of his entire life and the work he did to end apartheid in South Africa. The illustrations are incredible and this book is a recipient of the Coretta Scott King honor award. I would recommend this book to ages 4 and up. You will find a YouTube link of the story below where it is beautifully read by a child.
Granddad Mandela is a beautiful book written by Nelson Mandela’s daughter and his great grandchildren, Zazi and Ziwelene Mandela. In this story Zazi and Ziwelene asking questions about their great grandad’s life to their grandmother. It is a very child friendly way to learn about Nelson’s life as leader and activist for civil rights in South Africa. I would recommend this book to ages 4 and up.
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom is the official picture-book edition of Nelson Mandela’s bestselling autobiography. This book was abridged by Chris Van Wyk and beautifully illustrated by Paddy Bouma. It is a kid friendly version of his autobiography and covers his entire life. This book would be great for children ages 6 and up.
This book from the Who Was..? series is all about Nelson Mandela and his life. This book is perfect for children ages 8 and up to read on their own.
From the publisher: “As a child he dreamt of changing South Africa; as a man he changed the world. Nelson Mandela spent his life battling apartheid and championing a peaceful revolution. He spent twenty-seven years in prison and emerged as the inspiring leader of the new South Africa. He became the country’s first black president and went on to live his dream of change.”
An Interview with Nelson Mandela on his 90th Birthday
The other night, we sat the kids down at dinner and had a discussion about racism. As homeschoolers, we often discuss racism from a historical perspective or from the perspective of inclusion of all people despite their skin color, beliefs or who they love.
On this occasion we spoke about three innocent people, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who’s lives were cut short because of hate, violence and the color of their skin. Tears were shed as we talked about each innocent person and their horrific story of racism.
“Mom, color shouldn’t matter, we are all human beings.” my daughter said through her tears. I explained that we are all human beings but color does matter. At that moment a blue jay flew by the window. “Think of the blue jay,” I said, “he is a bird but his blue feathers and unique call make him different from the other birds. Birds come in different sizes, eat different foods, live in different habitats and come in many different colors. Humans are just like birds in this way. We come in many different sizes, colors, believe different things, live in different places, love in different ways and that makes us special and unique. These differences need to be celebrated and not feared.”
This conversation is just the beginning of our deep dive into the topic of racism and implicit bias. I cannot begin to make sense of the hate and fear in this country but I hope to raise my children to be people who are inclusive and stand up for justice. Racism is not a political issue but a human issue. As Drick Boyd said in his blog post, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – Why White People Need to Talk About Them, “this isn’t a black problem but a human problem.”
Racism is a sensitive and very big topic and I am by no means an expert. I am a parent, like many of you, trying to raise kids to be accepting and kind individuals who stand up for what is right. As I was doing my own research for resources to help teach my children about racism and injustice, I felt the need to share my findings with the Kids in Service community.
I always turn to books and movies as a springboard for greater conversation with my children and there are some great suggestions below. I couldn’t include all of my findings and will most likely do another post with more resources in the next few weeks. My hope is that you will find something in this list that will help you, as you navigate this important topic with your children of all ages.
I HIGHLY recommend ALL parents watch this 13 minute Ted Talk about discussing race with your children.
Resources I Have Found
For Young Children:
1. I LOVE this video! It is great to share with young children and then discuss how beautiful it is to live in a world with so many different kinds of hair. The book, Hair Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry would go along nicely with this video.
2. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz is a great book about the different skin colors in our world. This would be a great book for ages 4 and up. From the publisher: “Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people. Karen Katz created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala six years ago.”
3. Same Difference by Calida Rawles is a sweet and fun book about two first cousins who consider themselves to be twins. As the story goes on they start to notice their physical differences and become upset. Their grandmother helps them to celebrate their beauty and their differences. This book would be great for children ages 4 and up.
4. Under My Hijab by Hena Khan is a sweet and colorful story about a family of Muslim women and the the beautiful lives they lead. This book will spark a rich discussion about what a hijab is and why some Muslim women wear them. Children will see that underneath those stylish hijab’s, are beautiful woman just like the women they know in their own lives. This book is recommended for ages 4 and up but younger children will enjoy the comfortable rhyme and colorful pictures.
5. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who created a non-traditional family when zoo keepers gave them a chance to hatch and raise a motherless egg. This beautiful book about love is recommended for kids ages 3 and up. It is a great way to introduce young children to the idea that there are many different kinds of families in this world.
6. I, Too, Am America is Langston Hughe’s powerful poem come to life in a BEAUTIFUL children’s book. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are incredible and they are the perfect compliment to the powerful text. The book ends with information about Langston Hughe’s life as a brave voice for equality. This book reminds us that despite our differences, we are all AMERICAN. I would recommend I, Too, Am America for ages 4 and up.
7. I am sharing this Oscar Winning short film for no other reason than I LOVE it!!! I cry every time I watch it and it is perfect for children ages 3 and up to enjoy.
For Children ages 6 and up:
1. This read aloud of Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins PhD is a great springboard for a discussion of racism with children ages 6 and up. I’d preview the book before you share it with younger kids, so you are ready for the conversation that will come after listening to it. My 13 year old thinks that older kids should watch this too.
2. Not My Idea, A Book about Whiteness is a book by Anastasia Higginbotham. The publisher recommends this book for ages 8 and up. I’d preview the book before you share it with your children, so you are ready for the conversation that will come after listening to it. I shared it with my 10 and 13 year olds and it was a great conversation starter. “For white folks who aren’t sure how to talk to their kids about race, this book is the perfect beginning.“ —O MAGAZINE
3. My 10 year old recommends Love Has to Win as a great movie to learn about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. This movie may be made by American Girl but it is not a movie just for girls. It is a great family movie that will spark important conversations about racism, love and standing up for what’s right. It is FREE for those that have Amazon Prime and recommended for kids ages 7 and up.
4. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh is the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her families fight to desegregate schools in California in the 1940’s. This book takes place 10 years before Brown vs. the Board of Education and it is recommended for children ages 6 and up.
5. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper is on our family’s summer reading list. Though it takes place in the early 1900’s, so many of the themes in the book are still present today. This will be an excellent book to read aloud as a family and will spark rich discussions about racism. This book is recommended for ages 9 and up. From the publisher: When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this New York Times bestselling Depression-era “novel that soars” (The New York Times Book Review) that School Library Journal called “storytelling at its finest” in a starred review. Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
6. Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj is a story told in two voices, Karina (an Indian-American middle school student) and Chris (her caucasian neighbor and classmate). This book is recommended for ages 10 and up. From the publisher: “Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens–the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Her grandfather is gravely injured and Karina and Chris vow not to let hate win. When Karina posts a few photos related to the attack on social media, they quickly attract attention, and before long her #CountMeIn post–“What does an American look like? #immigrants #WeBelong #IamAmerican #HateHasNoHomeHere”–goes viral and a diverse population begin to add their own photos. Then, when Papa is finally on the road to recovery, Karina uses her newfound social media reach to help celebrate both his homecoming and a community coming together.”
7. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr is the story based on the author’s own story of fleeing Germany in 1933 as a small girl. Her family is Jewish and they face many challenges as refugees as they go from Switzerland to France and then to England. This book is recommended for children ages 8 and up but given that this story takes place during the Holocaust there are sensitive themes and events that may be too much for younger children. Click HERE to listen to Judith Kerr talk about the book and her life. From the publisher: “Based on the gripping real-life story of the author, this poignant, suspenseful middle-grade novel has been a favorite for over forty years. Perfect for Holocaust Remembrance Month. Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him. Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them? Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind.”
8. Ruby Bridges is the true story of 6 year-old Ruby who was the first African American child picked to integrate into a white New Orlean’s public school. Common Sense Media recommends this movie for children ages 10 and up. Click HERE for the read aloud of The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. I would recommended this book for children ages 5 and up.
9. I LOVE sports films and Remember the Titans is one of my favorites. This movie is based on a true story of two high schools integrating after segregation ended in the south. The movie follows the integration of the football team and is a powerful story of racism, acceptance, respect and teamwork. This movie is rated PG and recommended for ages 10 and up.
Resources for Talking with Teens:
1. This video brought my daughter and I to tears. Tyler Merritt is a comedian and in this powerful video, he wants you to get to know him “before you call the cops.” This video is so simple and yet so POWERFUL. It is a short clip and I’d recommend it as a discussion starter for ages 9 and up.
2. Looking for a way to start your discussion of racism with your teens? Start with these videos and conversation starters put together by the Parents Coalition of the Bay Area High Schools. It is a step by step process to help you and your teens have a rich discussion about Implicit Bias and Racism. Click HERE to access this amazing resource.
3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone is recommended for high school students. From the publisher: Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is recommended for 8th grade and up. This book has also been made into a movie. From the publisher: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
5. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is another powerful book for kids in 8th grade and up. This trailer was made by a student for their English project. From the publisher: A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement? There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
6. This lesson plan from the New York Times was designed for a classroom but can easily be done at home with your teens. They start off with the same Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism video that the lesson plan put out by the Parents Coalition of the Bay Area High Schools use (see #2 above). They then share 4 teens first encounters with racism and provide discussion questions for each short story. Follow up discussion questions and activities are then provided. I plan on taking my teen through these exercises this summer.
7. This Teen Vogue Article talks to teens about how they can take anti-racist action through education and community involvement.
8. In this video from 1993, Toni Morrison talks honestly with Charlie Rose about racism and her own experiences with it. This is one of Toni’s many inspirational interviews that you can find on YouTube.
9. They Called Us Enemy is a graphic novel about the heartbreaking true story of George Takei and his time in a Japanese Relocation center during WWII. This book is recommended for children ages 13 and up. From the publisher: “They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.”
Additional Resources for Parents:
1. This powerful and heartbreaking Ted Talk from Jim White is about his 53 years of discrimination in this country. This would be a great video to share with your older children. “Bringing reflections and the reality of race relations in USA, Jim White Sr. provides a lens that goes back 53 years from his first experience with discrimination, coupling it with how he’s struggling to provide counsel to his grandsons facing the same bias. This talk was the first time he’s shared this provocative and heartbreaking story in public after his decision to be silent no more.”
6. Click HERE for a list of movies from Common Sense Media that tackle racism. Each movie listed has a description and a recommended age level.
7.75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice–This article has a wealth of suggestions and resources of ways you and your family can educate yourself and jump into action to help with racial justice in our country. There are action steps, movie recommendations, book recommendations and so much more.
8. Raising White Kids, Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey is “a book for families, churches, educators, and communities who want to equip their children to be active and able participants in a society that is becoming one of the most racially diverse in the world while remaining full of racial tensions. For white people who are committed to equity and justice, living in a nation that remains racially unjust and deeply segregated creates unique conundrums.” I just purchased this non-political book from Audible to help me navigate the discussions I am currently having with my children about race in age appropriate ways.
When I was a kid most of our summer was spent at home. Most days I’d wake up, eat breakfast in front of the TV and then my mom would kick us outside for the rest of the day. We didn’t have neighbor kids nearby so we’d create our own fun in our own backyard. We’d run under the sprinkler, ride our bikes, sip on lemonade, play in the imaginary world that we’d created or play board games in the screen house tent we had. Summer was simpler back then and it didn’t consist of fancy vacations, multiple day trips per week, fancy summer camps or a summer pool membership.
When summer rolls around now, I feel stressed to make sure that my kids have a great summer. We create a bucket list and fill our calendar with camps, day trips, vacations, homeschool (we school 3 days a week in the summer) and play dates. Everything that we schedule is lots of fun but the fun often leaves me exhausted and longing for simpler days.
This summer, many of us are being forced to slow down and change things up. We are staying close to home and our kids have the opportunity to have time and space to play and be creative. Below we have some ideas to help your summer be slower, yet memorable. It’s time to shift our perspectives to one of gratitude, break out the lemonade and give our kids the simple summer of our childhood.
Create a Summer Oasis
Maybe you have a backyard, a deck, a rooftop, a community garden plot or a special place inside your home where you can create a summer oasis. Hang fairy lights, bring in flowers, create cozy seating (a tent maybe) and bring in some fans or a water element to keep things cool. Serve a special summer treat like homemade popsicles or roast marshmallows over an open fire. My friend has Pina Colada Fridays on their back deck all summer long and they love ending the week with this yummy tradition.
If you have a backyard, maybe you invest in a fire pit or an inflatable kiddie pool for the oasis. Grow a beanpole tent, buy a slip and slide, get some tiki torches, put up a screen house…whatever it takes to make this space special and your own little summer oasis.
If you want to spice things up this summer, plan on monthly theme nights. One of my Facebook friends has been having theme nights all throughout quarantine. They have had a Disney Night, a Hawaiian Luau, a Fancy Dinner Party, Family Escape Room Night, a Living Room Campout and many more. Pick a theme for the month and have everyone contribute something. Have somebody pick the music, others help to decorate and work as a family to plan the menu. We recently studied China in homeschool and are working as a family to put together a Chinese Festival. We are planning a night of stories, music, food, games and a movie.
When my kids were younger, I’d handle those long days of summer by organizing “camps” for us. I would plan a theme for a week and we would read books, make crafts and do activities all around the theme. Do you have a house full of wizards? Turn your house into Hogwarts for a week and make potions, practice spells and drink homemade butter beer. Are your kids into sports? Create a wacky sports camp where there are no rules and sports are combined to make new and different sports. The possibilities for themed home camps are endless!
There are also lots of FREE and inexpensive camps that you can find on the internet. Kids in Service has created Camp Kindness, a FREE “camp” experience that you can download and try out with your family this summer. It is organized as a 4 day week but you can easily spread the days out and do one a week for a month long program or schedule in the activities when they fit into your summer.
Grab the buckets, cups, water guns, hoses, sponges, sprinklers and anything else that can carry or shoot water. Set up a water obstacle course and/or some racing games and end the fun with popsicles for all of the participants.
Our family has a backyard Quidditch pitch where we play a water version of the wizard game (water balloon bludgers and a sprinkler in the middle of the course). Click HERE and HERE for some fun family water games that will keep the whole family cool even if you don’t have a pool. Click HERE for some ideas for DIY PVC sprinkler fun!
The Games of Yesterday
Kick the Can, Hopscotch, Jumprope, SPUD, Four Square, Flashlight Tag, Capture the Flag…it’s time to bring these classic games back. Many of these games can be played with social distance modifications so the neighborhood kids can gather to play together. Click HERE and HERE for an explanation of some great 80’s backyard games.
OTHER FAMILY FUN IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--We LOVED watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox this past Winter/Spring. We were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
VIRTUAL FAMILY GAME NIGHT–Our extended family has been getting together a couple of times a week for Family Game Night online. You can use FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom or another service to come together and play. We have done Name that Tune, Charades, 5 Second Rule, Yahtzee and we are working on a virtual corn hole tournament. It is fun to come together to laugh and be silly with the ones we love. We may not be allowed to be together physically but it is fun to connect in virtual ways whenever possible.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels. Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Click Here for some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.
We are living in uncertain times right now and one of the best ways to combat feelings of anxiety and worry is to think of others. We may be social distancing but it is important to reach out and help people when we can. Below you will find ideas for 10+ service projects that you can do as a family at home. Many require very little materials and most are items you already have at home. It is our hope to help ease your anxiety (at least for a little bit) while you work together to help those in need.
We’d love to see pictures of you and your family serving others while social distancing. You can email us (email@example.com) or share them on social media using the hashtag #kidsinservice. Thank you and stay safe!
Hearts for Healthcare Workers--Make hearts to hang on your door to support Healthcare Workers and First Responders. Let them know that you appreciate their hard work and sacrifice. This beautiful movement was started by the Russell Family, one of our Kids in Service NH families.
Send cards to the local nursing home–Local nursing homes are not allowing visitors and the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside. Contact your local nursing home to see if they are open to cards to cheer up their residents. If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity. We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
Virtual Talent Show–Many seniors live alone or are in quarantine in their nursing home and assisted living facilities. Let’s bring a little joy to their lives while keeping our kids busy. Post an act of your child performing a talent that they may have (comedy, dance, magic, musical performances…the sky is the limit). Please keep your video under 2 minutes long and let’s help spread some joy to the seniors who are sheltering in place right now.
Do a Trash Pick Up of your street–Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt. Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids. Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
Record an Uplifting Message for Make a Wish–Many kids are the most vulnerable during this time and many of their wishes have been postponed. Consider recording an uplifting message for these kids as a family. Click HERE to learn more.
Sew Masks for Hospital Workers–Are you or your kids handy and have a sewing machine? There is a much needed demand for masks for healthcare workers and the public is being asked to lend a hand. Click HERE for more information on how you can help by making masks.
Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus–Order a blanket kit (or two) from JoAnn Fabric or another online retailer. Once it arrives, transform it into a warm and cozy blanket that can be donated to a child in crisis. If you can tie a knot, you can make a blanket!
Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones. Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge–The deadline to send in your cards is the end of October but there is no reason why you can’t get started on them now. Put on some holiday music, get out the paper and markers and spread some holiday cheer to our military with a holiday card that thanks them for all of their hard work and sacrifice.
Write a Thank You Note–-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately? Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift? EVERYONE loves mail! Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you. This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude.
Cut out Shoes for Sole Hope--Do you have old jeans laying around your house? Order a shoe party kit from Sole Hope and turn those jeans into future shoes for children in Uganda.
Kid Knits–Are you looking for a craft to keep your kids busy that supports others? Kid Knits was started by 9 year old Ellie who wanted to find a way to help support women in Rwanda by purchasing their yarn to knit hats with. Five years later she has a non-profit that supports women in Rwanda, Mexico, Chile and Kenya with her yarn and knitting kits. Click HERE to learn more about Kid Knits.
Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times. Click HERE to find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
For the past two years my children and I have been working to include more mindful practices into our days. Practicing mindfulness is a lot like going to the gym. People go to the gym to exercise their muscles so that they will be strong and ready when they need them. Just like exercising your muscles, it is important to exercise deep breathing and being mindful. When you do this, you will better be able to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes your way.
Today I want to share with you a few of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. We do not do all of these things daily but try to pick one or two each day to help us to center and focus. Practicing mindfulness daily has made such a big difference in our lives and I hope that it will help you and your kids too!
1. Mindful Jars
Mindful Jars are not only fun to make but they are a wonderful tool for children (and adults) to use when they are agitated and upset. We have a few Mindful Jars around the house and they are great for those moments when you just need to calm down. Give them a good shake and sit and watch the glitter settle to the bottom. Click Here to learn how to make your own Mindful Jars.
2. Breathing Exercises
Over the past few years we have learned a lot of deep breathing techniques. Many of our favorites were learned through the book by Kira Willey called, Breathe Like a Bear. We put our favorites breaths on slips of paper and put them in our breathing jar. At breakfast or dinner, we will take turns choosing one slip of paper and practice that days breath. Lion’s Breath and Candle breath are two of our favorites. Our daily breaths usually leave us in giggles but learning deep breathing techniques has greatly helped us in moments of stress.
3. Gratitude Journals
When my children were small we kept a Family Gratitude Journal. Each day we would record the things we were grateful for in the family journal. Now that they are older, we each have our own gratitude journals to mark the things we are blessed with. Focusing on gratitude forces you to live in the moment, be more present and research shows that gratitude leads to greater feelings of happiness.
4. Mindfulness Apps
There are so many mindfulness apps and programs that can help kids and parents to learn to breath deeply and self-regulate. Many of the apps offer guided meditations for both kids and adults. Our favorite apps are Mindful Powers, the Mightier Program and Headspace. Check out this post from Parenting Chaos for more apps that will help your children with practicing mindfulness.
5. Blowing Bubbles
When my kids were small, blowing bubbles was a regular activity. When energy levels were high or moods were cranky, I’d grab our bottle of bubbles and we’d head outside (or to the garage if the weather was not favorable). Watching bubbles is a fun way to practice being mindful. Bubbles are mesmerizing and kids can’t help but be present as they follow and try to catch them.
6. Body Scans
This is one of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. Have your kids lie down and allow their bodies to sink heavy into the floor. Have them take a few deep breaths and encourage them to make their body feel heavy. Next have them squeeze all of their muscles tight. Have them squeeze their hands, their feet, their face, their toes…and squeeze and squeeze. Then after a few seconds have them release EVERYTHING and feel heavy. Ask them to pay attention to their body, how do they feel? Have them scan each body part and see how it feels. You can repeat this a few times or have them isolate muscles to squeeze from head to toe. It is such a great way to relax and help them learn to pay attention to the signals of their body. There are many guided meditations that will take you through a detailed body scan if you want to do it along with them.
7. Gratitude Walk
Take a quiet walk as a family and as you walk encourage each person to think of things that they are grateful for. Have them use their 5 senses to explore their surroundings as they walk and observe things in nature to be grateful for. Spend a few minutes in quiet and then take a break (maybe with a snack) to share all of the gratitude that was felt and everything that they noticed.
8. Coloring or Painting
My kids love to listen to audio books or classical music and color in coloring books or paint. There is something so relaxing about this process and it is a great way to encourage your children to be present. Children who struggle to stop moving to listen to a story or music, may enjoy the act of coloring, drawing or painting to help them focus on the what they are listening to. There is something about art that allows children to truly listen to the book or music that is being played for them.
9. Finding Your Heart Beat
Teach your children how to find their pulse (either in their neck or on their wrist). Have them count the beats in 10 seconds. Put on music and have them dance around for a minute or two. Have them check their pulse again. How much faster is their heart beating? Now take 5 deep breaths in and out and have them check their pulse again. How long does it take to return to a calm heartbeat? Explain how powerful breathing can be for our bodies.
10. Solo Sits
Have your children spread out around the house or yard and sit quietly for 30-60 seconds. You can add time on to the solo-sit each time they practice this activity. I love to do this on a hike in the woods and have the kids sit for 3-5 minutes. While they are sitting quietly, have them pay attention to the noises around them. Ask them these questions when they return. What sounds did you hear? Did you struggle to focus on listening for sounds? What were some loud sounds? What were some quiet sounds? How did you feel as you sat there silently?