Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love: A Great Idea

When I saw the glitter jar of floating hearts I knew I had to make some for my kids for Valentine's Day. It would be my gift to them. What I hadn't expected was to find the perfect vessel for my Preschool Engineers: a glass jar shaped like a lightbulb. 

I couldn't love this gift more because it screams "Love is a great idea!"

p.s. In case you're wondering, I found the jars at Michaels for $1.99. But you can also find them at other craft stores and Amazon.

Adventures in ING: Loving

Adventures in ING
ING is a wonderful world where kindness is important. In fact, kindness is the most important thing in ING and all the elves, sprites, fairies, and gnomes who live there celebrate kindness every chance they get. They celebrate small kindnesses like when someone smiles at them and they smile back. And they celebrate big kindnesses like...well...like when someone smiles at them and they smile back.

One of the best things about ING is that everyone knows that there are countless ways of being kind and countless ways of celebrating kindness. The tricky thing for humans to learn is how to notice kindnesses. Humans have to learn to notice when other people are being kind to them just as much as the need to learn to notice when they are being kind to others (and themselves). (Yes! You can practice being kind to yourself!)

But...once someone learns how to notice kindness, many wonderful things happen. First, they start to see kindness everywhere. Then they are able to be kind wherever they go. And the funny thing about being kind - the more you do it, the more you want to do it, and the more ways you imagine to do it!

Those are the Adventures in ING. Noticing kindnesses. Being kind. Imagining new ways of being kind.

February is for Loving
The elves from ING take turns inviting humans to practice being kind. Every once in a while a couple of experts from ING offer ideas about how little humans can learn about giving, sharing, caring, loving, laughing, and living in kindness.

In February the Loving Elves, named Heart and Soul, like to explain that love is about more than loving a single other person. There is plenty of work to do to practice loving oneself, other humans, animals, and the earth.

A Letter of Introduction
When they arrive, Heart and Soul like to introduce themselves because that is the kind (and polite) thing to do.

Dear Small Persons,
Our names are Heart and Soul and we are Loving Elves from ING. We like to visit small persons in February, right around Valentine’s Day, to play with Love.

Loving is powerful business and sometimes it is tricky when it involves other creatures. That is why the first place to start Loving work is within you. Once you are good at loving yourself, you can love other persons, other creatures, and even the earth. So let’s get started by thinking about why and how we love ourselves.

We look forward to doing this fun and important work with you! Sincerely,

Heart and Soul

Four Ways of Loving - Some Ideas

Then Heart and Soul suggest some ways to practice loving. They ask the children to notice acts of love - whether they feel love for themselves or others, or when they notice other people acting with love.


Dear Small Persons,  
It is important to love yourself because if you feel loved then you can share your love with others.  
There a many ways to love yourself. You can make a plan to say something loving to yourself every day. Some people say, "I love myself." Others say, "I am strong." or "I am beautiful." or "I am smart." or "I am funny."   
You can even do something nice for yourself. You can make something beautiful to decorate your room. Or you can go outside to smell nature. Or listen to your favorite song.
We think Loving Yourself is important! Do you think you can show yourself a little love today? Tomorrow? Every day this week? 
Heart and Soul 


Dear Small Persons  
We think Loving Other People feels really good! That is because saying "I love you" to someone usually makes them smile. You can also show your love by doing something nice for the other person or giving them a gift.
What about you? Do you think you can show Love to Someone today? Tomorrow? Every day this week?  
You can start simply by saying, "I love you." 
Heart and Soul

Dear Small Persons,  
Have you ever noticed a dog wagging its tail or a cat purring? Those are ways that we know animals feel loved. They are well-fed and feel safe. 
Loving Animals is often a fur-filled event! Gentle touches, soft words, walking or running together, and giving them tasty snacks are ways to love animals. 
Do you think you can Love an Animal today? Tomorrow? Every day this week? If you want to show love to an animal you don't know then you can start by asking the owner, "Can I pet your dog (or cat)?"
Have furry fun!
Heart and Soul

Dear Small Persons,  
We think Loving Earth is easy because there are so many ways to do it! The easiest way to Love Earth is to spend time outdoors breathing fresh air, enjoying grass (or snow) beneath your feet, planting trees, or smelling flowers. Another way to Loving Earth is to take care of it. You can Love Earth by picking up litter (don't forget to take a trash bag along with you and to wash your hands when you're done), turning the lights off when you leave a room, and turning the water off while you brush your teeth. 
Do you think you can do something to Love Earth today? Tomorrow? Every day this week? 
Heart and Soul 

Saying Goodbye
Before departing, the Loving elves say goodbye because that is the kind thing to do.

Dear Small Persons, 
We have had great fun with you. Thank you for practicing loving with us. You had many clever ways of loving big and loving small. And every kindness counts! 
Heart and Soul


Friday, February 10, 2017

You're Recycling Your Cans and Boxes Too Soon

Playing in the Pantry
Toddlers and preschoolers are often underfoot in the kitchen. They empty drawers, bang on pots and pans, and spill things (and sometimes even try to clean them up). Sometimes they even offer to help put away groceries (or get them out) by playing in the pantry.

It is a life skill, really. Putting food away so that it is easy and safe to retrieve. Precarious stacks of heavy canned goods or glass containers are seldom seen in a well-organized and highly used pantry. And your children can start learning how to put things away pretty early in life. 

However, you might not want their "help" in your kitchen. So, why not make them their own kitchen stash? 

Facepalm, or Lessons from the Children's Museum of Phoenix
I'm not suggesting that you buy a giant, albeit inviting, toy kitchen. Nor am I suggesting that you stock up on wooden or plastic toy foods. Instead, I'm inviting you to take a page out of the playbook used by the Children's Museum of Phoenix - do it yourself.

The grocery store exhibit at the Children's Museum of Phoenix uses recycled containers to stock their shelves.

Just like the ones I have sitting around at home...

Facepalm? Yeah, me too. 

The Flux of New and Old
As you empty the contents of boxes, remove the plastic bag from within and then tape the box closed. Wash out the milk containers, let them dry, and then glue their lids on. You don't even have to do anything to an egg carton (assuming none of the eggs broke). 

How to Open a Can...
The only tricky part piece is having the right can opener so you can recycle your canned goods. Many can openers leave a sharp-edged circle that would fall to the bottom of the can if you tried to re-attach it.

The OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener solves the problem.

As you can see, the top of the can is removed and has a lip on it. You can take it off, wash it, dry it, and place it neatly back on the top of the can. 

...and Close it Up Again
A couple beads of superglue secures the lids just fine.

And if you feel like being fancy then you can drop a few dried beans or uncooked rice into the can before sealing it up. Then you'll have a can that also makes noise! (Certainly a good trick to have up your sleeve to re-invent the toy.)

Speaking of Tricks Up Your Sleeve
Another way to embellish the groceries is to stuff old herb containers with yarn, paper, or fabric.

And, I mean, who DOESN'T have a ton of bits of scrap paper laying around the house? It makes perfect ingredients. Have your kid cut the paper up into tiny pieces and make their own concoction. They could fill an old cracker box with paper crackers; they could make a rainbow soup; or who knows what. But whatever it is, it can be recycled.

Get Started 
How cool is it that you can extend the life of your canned goods by turning them into toys? 

I see two huge things I put in my parenting "win" column: First, my preschooler gets free and novel toys on a regular basis. Second, I can throw out (recycle) the toys with no sneakiness or guilt.

Here's how you can get started:
  1. Buy a good can opener, some packing tape (optional), and superglue.
  2. Go grocery shopping.
  3. As you empty containers, wash them out and let them dry. 
  4. Seal the containers shut.
You can stash the play groceries away for a rainy day surprise. Then you can say, "Let's play grocery store together!" and do a big reveal. 

Kick it Up a Notch

OK, OK. This post would not be complete without a way for your child to haul their new groceries around the "store." So, you might also be interested in a collapsable Grocery Cart...

...or a Grocery Basket.
Whatever version of this post resonates with you, be sure to keep it in mind for the upcoming indoor play season! And I'd love to hear how it goes!