Ramadan 2019- Post #4: Week 2 Recap

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Day 8: 

  • H started memorizing surah falaq. She worked on the first two ayaat.
  • For Arabic today, we played Arabic Bingo, an activity we found in the “Allah to Z Activity Book”. The kids also wanted to play one round of the matching card game.
  • Given the interest in nature and our focus on finding bugs during Sunday’s Urban Wild Nature Program along with H’s themes at school this month, I thought it would be a good time to incorporate some more books about bugs and trees. We briefly looked at some pages about different types of trees and leaves and settled on this page, which talked about different animals that trees house and nourish. I also showed them the page about counting rings on a tree to determine its age (something I had told H about the day before). We practiced by counting rings on a tree cookie magnet we have. I alluded to the idea of sadaqah jaariyah and this is something we will explore further in a future circle.

 

Day 9:

  • H memorized the third verse of surah falaq.
  • We read “My First Ramadan” by Karen Katz. I told the kids a story about my first camel ride as a child visiting Pakistan.
  • Activity: We smelled and appreciated some beautiful flowers that we were planning on giving to some special people this week. The kids each made a card for the recipient of their flowers. It was great to see how excited Y was about making the card and how he attempted to demonstrate his understanding of the process of giving the card to someone else. H brought her flowers to give to the janitor at her school the following day and Y reminded me he would give his flowers to the library on Thursday. I was the one who picked the recipients of the flowers (perhaps I will expand on why in a future post).

 

Day 10:

  • H worked on the fourth ayah of surah falaq.
  • To practice Arabic, I had H pull an Arabic block out of the bag. She would identify the letter and then Y was tasked with using the block to build a tower. I constantly have to come up with ways to involve Y and modify any activities so that he also has a meaningful (but developmentally appropriate) experience.
  • Craft: We made paper chains today. H cut out a few strips and then I cut out the rest. She developed a pattern and would ask Y for the next colour. His job was to add glue to the strip and her job was to make links for the chain. Alhamdulilah I love when they are able to work together on things. H did this two years ago so it’s so meaningful for me to reflect on what’s changed since then. At the time, I remember Y, who was just a few weeks old, was laying on the couch while I helped H.

Day 11: We didn’t do a circle today. I ran out of time and energy. On a positive note, it was Y’s second birthday alhamdulillah. I can’t believe it’s been two years with this kid already. His speech has taken off in the past few days. I say this as he yells “mo hoomus and nun plis” (More hummus and naan please) from the kitchen.

Day 12: H was off of school today so the kids had some time to play at home. It was interesting to see how the themes of their play are influenced by our current reality. They were pretending to eat suhoor and iftaar, pray, read Quran and of course save the day in their superhero personas.

  • H memorized the last ayah of surah falaq.
  • We played the matching card game as per the children’s request. I was super surprised when Y recognized “zwa” as I’m making no formal effort to teach him the alphabet in any language. I also used the cards as flashcards in a fast game to identify which letters H still gets confused.
  • Since it was Friday, we read a book called “It’s Jummah!” by 2curioushearts. It’s a really simple board book that Y enjoyed as he tried to copy some of the actions. While young children are by no means required to know the etiquettes at such a young age, I think reading the book on Fridays is a lovely little tradition to establish with young children. I’ve had this book since December but haven’t shared it with the kids until now. **I just checked out their website and the books are only $5cdn!!
  • We also did page out of a fantastic activity book by Ruqaya’s Bookshelf called “The Adventures of Malik and Ameerah.” The page we did was related to healthy eating since that’s something H has been talking about since she is exploring it at school right now.
  • We did the sunnan mentioned in the board book like bathing, cutting nails, wearing nice clothes etc. I was planning on taking H to the mosque for jummah but something came up so we planned to go as a family for asr instead. H expressed that she just didn’t want to go so we let it be. I took the kids to a new park instead.

 

Day 13: We did the learning circle at my inlaws’ place today. It was late so I shortened it.

  • We started Surah fatihah and worked on the first three ayaat.
  • Activity: We read the book “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.” After reading the book, I fanned out some paint samples and had the kids pick a card without looking. They had to find something in the house that was the same colour as the sample. While I designed this activity more for Y (he just turned 2), H really enjoyed it as well.

 

Day 14: We were at my inlaws’ again but since it was earlier in the day, we were able to do the full circle.

  • We reviewed the first 4 verses of Surah fatihah.
  • We played Arabic bingo. We used small ripped-up pieces of paper as our bingo markers since I didn’t bring anything with me.
  • We talked about gratitude and used the activity book to record a list of things we are grateful for. I appreciated hearing H’s rationale, for example “The big tree in our backyard to climb.” I was also touched to see that both of my children included their sibling in their list of things to be grateful for ❤ Since I believe that learning should be an integrated approach, I love how this experience allowed not only for reflection and gratitude, but also literacy, discussion and classifying information- I suggested that H put stars next to Y’s answers. She took the liberty of putting clouds next to my answers. Then, H started colouring in a thank you card on the adjacent page.
  • Activity: when I was consolidating all of my past Ramadan posts before starting this series, I came across one of the first activities I did with H when she was just 18 months old- it was a dua bucket (or prayer pail) and I felt sad that I hadn’t thought of doing anything similar for Y, who was turning 2 shortly. I decided I wanted to have him create a prayer bucket too, which at his age will essentially just be a collection of photos representing things he likes. The goal is to go through the bucket every day (I’m thinking before nap) so we can practicing thanking God for our blessings. This is what the process looked like for H when she was a toddler. For Y, I will just refer to it as his thank you bucket. I started with Y by allowing him to pick out the style of alphabet stickers he wanted to use to spell his name on the bucket. Then, I had the kids go through flyers to find things they were thankful for. They are also able to draw items or include photos. We may modge podge some photos onto rocks or lids for a more tactile experience or if H chooses, she can write the names of things onto popsicle sticks. The prayer buckets are personally very meaningful for me because we did do this with H as her speech was emerging and alhamdulillah, it became a habit, even as she outgrew the bucket. Every night before bed, she continues to thank God for specific things from her day.
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Ramadan 2019: Post #3 – Week 1 recap

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Alhamdulillah our learning circles are going well. H has told me many times she enjoys doing them and Y pops in and out depending on what we are doing. On the 3rd day of Ramadan (after only two circles), H brought home this picture that she drew at school of us having our learning circle and learning Quran (she told me her favourite part is memorizing surahs and the fun surprise).

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This is what our learning circles included this week:

Day 1 (we were at my in-laws but alhamdulillah still managed to do the circle):

  • Memorized the first 2 verses of surah ikhlaas. While H is familiar with a few different surahs, we haven’t formally taught her any until now. I am focusing on pronunciation and tajweed.
  • Practiced the Arabic alphabet in a qaida that my husband bought from India. Maybe it’s because of my Pakistani background, but I do prefer the Pakistani ones. The paper pages are non-glossy, making them easier to mark up and they seem to progress through the level of difficulty at a slower rate. I saw some at a meat/grocery store last week so plan to buy it the next time I’m in the area.
  • Learned about the sunnan around meeting Muslims – I’ve been thinking about how to introduce the importance of greeting others to H given her more reserved temperament around adults she is unfamiliar with.
  • Craft: stained-glass shapes – I did this with H two years ago and really loved how it turned out. I decided to do it again this year and open it up to both kids. Once again, I just free-handed the cutouts instead of using a stencil. The children really enjoyed doing this and I was surprised by how engaged Y was! He’s taken such pride in his art which is now hanging on the window in our home and is really trying to string words together to communicate what happened…”teetee star. Glue…more glue…more glue. Press! Dadi house. Aapi moon.”

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Day 2:

  • Memorized the 3rd verse of surah ikhlaas
  • Practiced the Arabic alphabet through a poster
  • Learned about some sunnan regarding eating
  • Activity: made stuffed dates – we looked at this terrific book and used cream cheese and mini chocolate chips (nut allergies). Special thanks and duahs for my Mushtaq Mamoo who ordered, shipped and ultimately gifted me this book along with its companion from the States back in 2014 because it wasn’t available in Canada)

Day 3:

  • Memorized the 4th verse of surah ikhlaas; added her first sticker to Juz Amma Tree Chart
  • Practiced the Arabic alphabet through a poster; I involved Y by asking him to point to letters that H then had to identify
  • Learned about some sunnan regarding drinking and then gave the children each a cup of water to help reinforce the lesson
  • Activity: H coloured in a Ramadan card she was gifted by her aunt; I gave Y a colouring sheet from a Ramadan colouring book my husband printed off for H last year

Day 4: H came home from school very tired. I offered rescheduling the circle but she insisted on continuing. Given her state, I shortened my plans.

  • We discussed the meaning of surah ikhlaas. There were a lot of (challenging) questions and I was reminded that it’s hard for children to grasp abstract concepts until around the age of 7.
  • Practiced the Arabic alphabet with a memory matching game. I made these cards using stickers, construction paper and then laminating them. Although it was a little tedious and time-consuming to make these, I was motivated by the potential hassanat of my kids learning it from me and inshaAllah passing it on to their own families. Besides, I was able to listen to a live stream of tarweeh from the East coast while I put them together. Playing a memory matching game with all 28 letters was taking a long time so I adapted the game. The children really enjoyed it and asked to play it again tomorrow.
  • Activity: I shared my family’s Ramadan tradition of making and drinking Rooh-Afza. I ultimately decided to put aside my reservations around the red food colour and sugar-laced syrup in the name of tradition. I did add a smaller quantity than I typically would for myself. (Un)fortunately for my kids, it won’t be a daily Ramadan tradition for us.

Day 5: This was also a challenging day. This time, H took me up on my offer to reschedule the circle and we decided to do it much later in the evening, between dinner and bedtime.

  • We reviewed surah ikhlaas and worked on surah nas. H was familiar with the surah so we mainly worked on tajweed.
  • As per the children’s request, we practiced the Arabic alphabet through the matching card game, this time, using 30 cards instead of 56. It was actually quite fun for all three of us- I was grateful for the laughs that had replaced the cries and tantrums from earlier in the day. They have requested it again for tomorrow.
  • We talked about the sunnah related to putting on shoes. While this wasn’t something I realized would become part of our daily circle, the children really seem to enjoy learning sunnan related to everyday life. I have been sourcing them from the book in the photos below which I “borrowed” from my mother-in-law years ago.
  • Craft: H worked on this DIY lantern kit she got from her aunt at the beginning of Ramadan. I think it is such a cool concept. Of course, Y also wanted in on the action, so I cut him some sheets of wax paper from the kitchen (although in hindsight, I think parchment paper would have been a better option) for him to draw on.

Day 6: Considering it was a weekend, I found it more challenging to find the right time to do the circle. Instead of sitting down and doing everything at once, it was spread through three different parts of the day in a different order than usual.

  • Activity: we read the book Bismillah Soup and made the recipe provided on the website. I made a few adjustments (you can read about them below). Y was too busy eating and playing to help but H helped by washing the vegetables and tasting the soup (and telling me it needed more salt). Alhamdulillah the soup turned out quite flavourful. Both the kids enjoyed the soup and H went with her dad to drop some off at her grandparents’ house.
  • We played the Arabic alphabet memory game again and once again, it was a hit.
  • We finished reviewing surah nas and H got to add another sticker to her chart. I’m so proud of how well she is catching onto the rules mashaAllah.

To make the soup, I sautéed onions and garlic in EVOO. I added the cut-up (and skinned) chicken and added a teaspoon of salt, two heaping teaspoons (they were probably 10 ml spoons) of the xawaash spice mix and a few bay leaves. Then I added 4 cups of homemade chicken stock and 2 cups of water, covered and cooked. After some time, I added the vegetables and then reduced the heat as I took the kids to the park.

Day 7: We spent quite a bit of time outdoors today- 3 hours in the morning at the Urban Wild Nature Program (including travel time) and another 2.5 hours in the early evening at the park and doing some gardening. To be honest, I didn’t think we would get around to the circle but H remembered during dinner and insisted.

  • We revised surah Nas and surah ikhlaas and learned the first ayah of surah falaq
  • We had a lovely discussion about the importance and role of trees in our lives. Given how much time we spent outside today, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Islam’s view on caring for the natural environment. I led the discussion by asking the children questions like, “Why are trees important?”  We talked about ideas like trees can provide food for humans and animals, trees can help clean the air we need to breathe, trees can provide shelter or places to rest, trees can be homes to animals like birds, bugs and squirrels, trees provide beauty, trees provide ways to play (climbing and swinging) and trees can be used to make paper and wood products.  I also spoke to them about how future generations can reap the benefits of the trees we plant today. I definitely want to take this further and have some resources in mind that I will implement and share.
  • We played the Arabic card memory match game.
  • Activity: We did this Ramadan scavenger hunt that I made a few years ago that the kids really enjoyed. Since it had photos of objects, it was perfect for a toddler like Y to do as well. You can download your own free copy here.

This first week of Ramadan, we did more than I originally anticipated. I was planning on taking it easy with the children’s programming and focusing on my own ibadah this year, but it turns out that as a mother, my worship is directly linked to their upbringing. I consider it such a blessing and honour to raise these kids and over the past 9 years of having my life tied to others, I realized the mercy of Allah and the beauty of this deen where almost anything is considered an act of worship if that is the intention. I’ve done what I can to set myself up for success this Ramadan, including hiring a babysitter to come in so I can have dedicated time to read Quran along with whatever I’m doing with the children. In full disclosure, I wasn’t fasting this past week. We’ll see what I have the patience and energy to follow through on in the subsequent weeks. I’ve already given my kids a heads up that we will not be going to the park tomorrow as I take some time to adjust.

 

Ramadan 2019 – Post #2: We made a Mosque!

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In early childhood landscapes, educators often talk about the benefit for a child to have a semi-secluded space they can retreat to when they crave a sense of quiet. These often look like tents, little nooks built into the walls, lofts or cozy areas. In the kids’ bedrooms, I have used their closets and tents but I thought it might be nice to have something in the playroom for Ramadan. So we made a mosque which in our house, works as décor, provides a new play space (Y loves crawling through the door) and does indeed provide a place to retreat. I think most families that make mosques at home do it to encourage their children to pray- that was not the purpose of this mosque as my children are still too young to be held accountable to pray but they are welcome (and often do) join me when I pray in our living room.

My childhood was full of visits to various mosques. Since my dad was our primary caregiver once we started school, our summers were marked by Friday trips to the masjid. The first mosque I remember going to with him was Jami Mosque. There was never enough parking and I remember we would park what felt like forever away, skipping along the street, playing with parking meters before we finally got to the beautiful doors.

jami mosque

This beautiful mosque which was once a Presbyterian Church, was the place where my brother and I would run freely, weaving in and out of different rooms as soon as we finished our prayers. I remember seeing Muslims from all over the world at this mosque, a stark difference from the mostly-Pakistani attended mosques I encountered when my family moved to Mississauga.  As I was searching online for a picture of this mosque, I came across this short and wonderful documentary about Toronto’s early Muslim community and an article that will be fascinating to any Muslims who call Toronto home. While I researched Muslim pioneers (coincidentally from Alberta) for one of my university classes, I didn’t know much about Toronto’s early Muslim community except for the stories my father would tell me about his experience in the 1970s.

Even though my children don’t visit the mosque frequently (and have been to more mosques outside of Calgary than inside our city), they were excited at the idea of having a “mosque” in our house. On Sunday, we had plans to be outdoors but both kids were feeling out of sorts and H asked to stay home instead of go to the park (rare!) We got to work to try and make a mosque. Y, who wakes up first, and I had discussed our mosque plans and when I asked him what colour he wanted to paint it, he decided on purple and was singing “puppe moshk puupe moshk” all morning. While he played upstairs, H helped me tape together the frame using cardboard I had been hiding away from my husband, who likes to redirect my project materials to the recycling bin. As soon as the doorway was cut out, Y got to work, crawling in and out.

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We sat down to paint domes, taking a vote and ultimately deciding on green. Other options discussed were blue, orange, gold, purple and rainbow (based on a planning meeting we had the week before Ramadan started,)

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Y decided he didn’t want to paint the dome and instead went to work on his own creation. H spearheaded the domes.

While Y napped, we attached the domes to the mosque. Afterwards, I painted on some windows and doors and the children decided to furnish the inside – prayer rugs, books and eventually pillows to make it cozier.

They spent time at various parts of the day reading in there. And then I used it as a backdrop to take some Ramadan Mubarak photos (which I wasn’t able to send out to very many people as my phone died that night).

After taking the photos, we opened their Ramadan gifts: a new book for each, a prayer rug for Y and a pink hijab for H. The PJs from the photo above were also part of their Ramadan gift but they got to open them the previous night with their cousins (The super cute PJS that say “Ramadan with my khandaan” are from Two Craftistas). We read the books together and then I went to take a shower.

While I was in the shower, I realized that it was too quiet and then a sense of dread set in as my mommy senses told me Y must be playing with the paints. I was right! He decided to paint the paint bottles, paint on his new PJs, paint the floor and paint the mosque of course. Fortunately for him, I had just committed to being patient and tempering my reactions before I realized what he must be up to. It will be interesting to see how long it survives and how the children end up using this space as the days pass.

A little late but a very sincere Ramadan Mubarak to everyone who observes this month. May it serve as a time for reflection, an increase in good and envelop you in its mercy.

And just a PSA since with the advent of social media, this needs to be said out loud: remember the essence of this month. No amount of crafting, beautiful décor or delicious food is going to fill the void that is ultimately within us. Something to think about as we (sub)consciously pass on our attitudes and traditions to the next generation. We need to do what we’re doing so long as it works for our families, and when it no longer does, we can move on. We are all created differently, motivated by different things and in different seasons of our lives. We can celebrate the initiatives of others without getting defensive. And if we can’t, we’re better off taking a step back than sabotaging ourselves out of jealousy or feeling inadequate. If we’re going to feel guilty about anything this Ramadan, let it be for the right reasons -Ramadan can’t just be another avenue for Mommy Wars to play out. So I end by renewing my intentions and praying that this month leaves us better than it found us.

Love Madiha

 

 

 

Ramadan 2019 – Post #1: The Plan

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This Ramadan I will be fasting inshaAllah, and so I have been thinking about what I can do to prepare before the Holy Month begins.

One of the most helpful things I’ve done is dedicate a little notebook to all of my Ramadan related planning, whether it’s food to be cooked, gifts in the works, activity ideas for the children or goals for myself. I’ve also been recording the children’s input in this notebook. For example, last week we had a planning meeting and I asked them “What do you know about Ramadan?” According to H, Ramadan is about:

  • Respect and being nice
  • Saying Thank You to Allah
  • We can bring food for people, like the poor
  • Adults fast
  • Making presents for others

It is important for me to know what knowledge or ideas she already has so I can meet her where she’s at, and direct her to more holistic understandings. For example, one of the things that I shared with her during this meeting is the idea that Ramadan is the month of the Quran and I hope that after the work we do this year, that idea is something that becomes part of her experience.

While Y didn’t have anything to add (he’s 23 months) he was very eager to sit with us and I realized instead of trying to work with H in his absence (which is rarely a reality for us), I can be more mindful of involving him in what we are doing. To be honest, at his age, he’s the more receptive of the two when it comes to more traditional acts of worship.

Another thing I was intentional about doing to lessen my distractions during Ramadan was to do the bulk of my shopping for Eid and Ramadan gifts in advance since this is something I enjoy doing and often spend quite a bit of time on. This last week before Ramadan starts, my focus is on getting groceries, stocking my freezer and getting things into functional spaces so everything is ready to go come next week.

This Ramadan, H will be turning 5.5 years old and Y will be turning 2. Because H is in school full-time, I thought about stepping away from the kind of pocket-style calendar I have typically done because I just assumed she wouldn’t have time for extra activity, and Y is still fairly young. But as Ramadan entered H’s thoughts, she immediately started talking about the calendar and how excited she was and we had this exchange:

“I don’t think I’m going to do a calendar this year.”

“But mama, you always do a calendar.”

“Not always. The year Y was born, we just did a simple sticker one, remember?”

“Oh yah. But I like the calendar.”

“Fine, I’ll do a calendar but it won’t be different activities each day. Some days, it will be other things, like verses of Quran or different things we can learn about.”

“Okay!”

So because I believe in child-led learning, we will be doing a “calendar” this year, but I will not be reusing our beloved homemade one which I first made four years ago.

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Instead, our plan is to have a learning circle every day at a consistent time (most likely sometime after she gets home from school and before dinner).

The plan is to spend 5 minutes on Arabic, 5 minutes on Quran memorization and then seeing what the special thing is for that day (equivalent to checking the calendar). Finding a consistent way to work Arabic and Quran into our daily lives has been a struggle for me so I’m hoping this is a habit we can continue outside of Ramadan.

I plan to use this diaper box that I wrapped in pretty wrapping paper (actually from winter but it works) and replace the contents every day. There will be a chalkboard next to counting which day of Ramadan we are currently on.

The contents may include the supplies required for an activity, a Ramadan-related book or an object that sparks discussion. I will try to include relevant hadith, stories or ayat from the Quran (this is something I’m currently working on getting together) where I can.

 

Here is an example of what it will look like. I will not be doing this particular activity on the first day of Ramadan but will be scheduling it for a weekend. H loves the book Bismillah Soup ( I love the story too) and she’s been asking to make Bismillah Soup at home for over a year now. A few months ago I looked up the recipe to make the special spice mix and bookmarked it. I saved the recipe card (all available through Ruqaya’s Bookshelf in addition to a wide range of Islamic children’s books, including Ramadan ones!) and planned to do it as an activity in Ramadan. A few weeks ago, I actually found the spice mix (pre-made) in a local grocery store so I bought because I wasn’t sure I would have the time to actually make it with the kids- it’s essentially a Somali garam masala.

I originally had stuff I was going to include in Ramadan baskets for my kids including new PJs, books and crafts, but have decided to spread the items out throughout the month so we can intentionally work through things.

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These awesome PJs were purchased at Two Craftistas! These ones say “Ramadan with my Khandaan”  which I thought was apt for our family dynamics hehe (khandaan means extended family). They have a wide selection of styles and still have some in stock, along with many other cool items. I was so happy to discover matching family Ramadan PJs and knew the kids would love them.

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Last year, we ordered a set of matching family PJs for myself, my husband and our kids and my niece expressed her desire to also have matching PJs (coincidentally, H and her typically have at least one matching pair of PJs at any given time) but I know it will be a whole other level excitement to have their brothers in matching PJs too.

The books were purchased through Eastern Toybox, a wonderful retailer of high quality Islamic play items for children that I discovered when I used to live in Toronto (they’ve been around that long, mashaAllah). They have a lovely assortment of wooden and cloth toys that I know will leave some of you drooling! Their commitment to fairtrade and eco-friendly products and practices is very much in line with what I had envisioned for Discovery Dome when we were retailing products.

While I do a lot of shopping via Amazon prime, I like to support small business owners when I can! I encourage you to check out the amazing variety of clothes, books and toys at these three establishments.

 

Ramadan Roundup – 30 posts!

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There’s only a handful of days left before the most beautiful time of year returns for many around the world. All year, we wait for the blessed days and nights of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Alhamdulillah, I’ve been documenting and sharing what I’ve been doing with H for the past four years, and now, there is quite a list. As we think ahead to this Ramadan, I thought I’d generate a post with brief descriptions and direct links so that things are easier to find 🙂

  1. Thinking critically about our role as parents and educators re. Ramadan
  2. Encouraging Dua in Ramadan – provides suggestions on how to engage children with various learning styles to make dua
  3. Different styles of Ramadan Calendars – provides photos and ideas to help mark Ramadan with your children; see the follow-up posts in subsequent years
  4.  Journaling in Ramadan – why journaling can be beneficial and some ideas about what journaling can look like
  5. Welcoming Ramadan in simple ways (toddler edition) – why I chose to decorate and how we welcomed Ramadan on a budget in DIY style
  6. Functional and meaningful calendars for toddlers – includes photos of the calendar that my 2.5 year old used
  7. Sharing Ramadan with new refugees – extending efforts and outreach to vulnerable populations, in this case, a newly arrived Syrian family that we brought food and decorations for
  8. Eid Gift Drives – how to meaningfully involve your children in buying, packing and delivering gifts for others
  9. Reaching out to vulnerable non-Muslim populations – baking and packing food to give local volunteers who help the homeless
  10. Creating a sadaqah jar (toddler edition) – includes the process we used and extension ideas to make it more meaningful for older children
  11. It’s Ramadan, Curious George – our reaction to the book and an easy and related banana pop recipe for young children to make
  12. Easy and unconventional Eid Gift idea – we bought tickets for train rides and mailed them to H’s other toddler friends
  13. Thinking ahead to Ramadan with a newborn baby – what that means for how activities will look for H
  14.  Our learning and activity plan for Ramadan – includes my personal notes on activity ideas and is divided into categories
  15. Setting the mood– stained “glass” crafts, Ramadan youtube playlists and starting to gather books; why I’m shifting some emphasis from Eid to Ramadan
  16. Treasure hunt and Ramadan baskets – I created a treasure hunt (free download of clues in post) and show you what I purchased to put in Ramadan baskets for my kids, nieces and nephew. Look at #20 to see photos of the kids actually doing the Treasure Hunt.
  17. Ramadan visual scavenger hunt – free printable showcases ramadan related objects (words and pictures) to buy you some time; recommended ages 18m – 6 years
  18. Paper Chains – how my 3.5 made paper chains as a Ramadan decoration and how we used the process to strengthen numeracy and math skills and second language learning
  19. Welcoming Ramadan – child-led cupcake and photos of the children doing the treasure hunt
  20. Ramadan Goody-bags for pre-school class – how my 3.5 year old made goodybags, how I supported her 10 days post-partum, and the skills that were reinforced through this process
  21. Gift for neighbours – Soup Jars – To coincide with Calgary’s official Neighbour Day, we made soup jars for our neighbours. in lieu of baking or cooking (I had a baby just before Ramadan started). All the ingredients were included. They just had to add water and cook on the stove. Recipe in post.
  22. Planning for Ramadan – how I involved my 4.5 year old in planning for Ramadan.
  23. Ramadan storytelling event – I recap some of the stories I shared during a children’s Ramadan event I was invited to participate in. I developed a story based on the increasingly famous story about a girl who takes over her father’s drumming duties. I will be working on polishing this story this year so that I can share it with more audiences.
  24. Easy DIY decorations – we share our homemade decorations from last year (the kids were 4.5 and 1 year old)
  25. Ramadan basket ideas – Some photos and thoughts around what I put into baskets for last year
  26. Connecting with the community to start off Ramadan on a positive note – read about our first Ramadan-themed play date and a community initiative that aims to bring food staples to families in need and how to involve the kids
  27. Ramadan at Preschool– story and craft – You can read about what I did to share Ramadan with the young children in H’s preschool class (it was a French school so there are some French titles as well)
  28. Cute DIY learning resource/gift idea – see how to use rocks to make this easy way to review the Arabic alphabet. It makes a great gift and the rocks can be used in a number of ways.
  29. Ramadan Field Trip to a soap factory – There’s a famous soap made in Aleppo, Syria. As Syrian refugees made Calgary their home, a few founded this successful business where they make soap. H and I went there to buy gifts for a project and we got to see how the soaps were made. You have to check out the photos!
  30. No-cook Ramadan gift ideas for neighbours (or colleagues or teachers) – We featured two companies founded by Syrian refugees who have made Canada their home (Aleppo Savon and Peace by Chocolate). They have some great products and it was a functional gift because once again, I did not want to share cooked food.

Bonus post: To make some creative Eid gifts for the special children in your life, check this out

A trip to the mountains

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It finally happened. After years of talking about how our small family should just take an overnight trip with the kids to get a break from our daily life, we finally did! This was a first for us- we typically travel with extended family. We had a budget in mind and planned accordingly.

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On the cusp of the Easter Long Weekend, we headed to the rockies. H did not have school on Thursday so we planned to leave Thursday morning (was closer to 11:30 am by the time we were actually on the road), making a stop at Troll Falls, in Kananaskis on the way.

Despite the spring-like conditions in Calgary, it was windy and cold as we headed towards the mountains. Fortunately, my over-preparedness came to the rescue. The kids were outfitted in splash pants, toques and mittens and so we all had an enjoyable walk. H was quick to find a walking stick and just couldn’t understand why the rest of us didn’t want one.

That hike up was my favourite part of the whole trip. It’s not often we all get to be outdoors together (my husband has very little tolerance for the cold). I loved watching Y trudge along the trail, seeing how passionate and excited H was to be among such beauty, and then hearing her passion turn to frustration as she got tired. I saw my first Canada Jay and we marvelled at what a social and curious creature it was. We happened upon some horses from the ranch next door. And as we neared the falls, we experienced firsthand the snowy and slippery conditions that spring is a work in progress. Watching my husband navigate those slippery sides while carrying Y reminded me of when we found ourselves in a somewhat similar predicament on some off-trail slopes in Niagara when he baby-wore a then 9-month H.

On the way down, we took the path less traveled (well actually, we took a wrong turn and took a rather long way back to the parking lot). It felt like it lasted forever with two tired children who were adamant they could no longer walk. But it was beautiful. Those blue skies. Those mountains. It reminded me of why I agreed to move out here almost a decade ago.

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We got to our hotel in Banff, just after 4 pm. The room was a great size for our family and the hotel in general, was a good fit for us. It had a swimming pool (H’s favourite part), gift shop and two-three restaurants on-site. And the fact that it was at the edge of town made for an exciting bus ride to travel into the heart of downtown (Y’s favourite part). I had packed a few activities for the kids that kept them engaged while we did things like pack or nap, because let’s face it- kids will start their days bright and early.

It was nice just strolling through downtown Banff. H picked out a pair of Moose binoculars and Y decided on a moose backpack. We found a park to stop at. It was overcast and drizzly but still so beautiful.

We were fortunate enough to pray jummah in the mountains with the local Muslim community and alongside other tourist families who were from other places in Alberta, and the United States.

The rest of the day was spent between our hotel room and a trip back to downtown (literally only a few kilometers from our hotel). The next morning, we packed up and got on the road. The scenic drive was my husband’s favourite part. Y finally fell asleep so we decided not to stop in Canmore (earlier options we had talked about included Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, and Lake Minnewanka) but decided to keep on driving because Y had just fallen asleep. We opted for a detour to Cochrane (a small town west of Calgary) instead.

Here we found another beautiful park. I love the return to more natural looking playscapes. I’ve seen them popping up around Calgary and during my visits to Ontario. We did a short walk since H was ready to go get ice cream and then we drove to MacKay’s Ice Cream Shop. We had the chance to enjoy our ice cream in the sun while a senior played the piano. The kids danced and H got a brief piano lesson.

It was a lovely weekend and we hope we can do more trips (day and overnight) as a family together this year.

Cooking with Kids

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Cooking with your children is a natural way to spend more time with them. When H was a toddler, I made an effort to include her in the kitchen from time to time. Whether it was by helping to prep and measure ingredients, stir batters or do things like line muffin trays and wash produce, it didn’t feel like too much extra work to involve her.

 

I’ve been thinking about how I haven’t really given Y those same experiences, so these days, I’m trying to be more mindful in involving him. Examples include letting him smell spices, measure rice and lentils, scrubbing them (he strongly disliked this experience) and his favourite thing – passing me eggs!

I think part of the reason I don’t involve the kids in as much cooking these days is that I don’t make as many things as I used to. I enjoy cooking but hate the clean up (as is apparent by the typical state of my kitchen). Our days are often so busy, I try to throw a meal together in that small window between afterschool snack and dinner time, diffusing tantrums and engaging with the kids as I go. But the thing is, often the things that kids enjoy force us to slow down. They may be inconvenient in the moment, but slowing down is good for people, especially us ambitious, overachiever types, so there’s benefit in it for everyone.

As I write this, I realize that it’s a good time to start getting Y to help me prep his snacks. Not only will it help engage him and give him the opportunity to have great sensorimotor experiences, but it will help him become more patient, something that will help our family dynamics as he moves into a developmental stage where tantrums are becoming more frequent and intense.

Some time a few weeks ago, H and I were talking about pickles, and I reminded her that pickles are made from cucumbers (as we both had learned during a Magic School Bus episode, albeit, two decades apart). I asked her if she would like to try and make pickles at home, to which she responded quite enthusiastically.

It worked out so that H and I made these pickles on Friday night. While we approached this more as a science experiment than as cooking, it was fun to do nevertheless. The pickles were a little salty to eat on their own (we didn’t exactly follow the recipe) but I suspect they will be just fine in burgers. We used this method.

And the kids and I made stuffed french toast roll-ups on Saturday morning since I didn’t have a class to run off to this weekend. H enjoys helping me make breakfast on the weekends or during PD days (she loves to help with French toast and pancakes) but this was the first time we involved Y.

It worked out quite well. Y passed the eggs, H mixed the batter, H flattened the bread with a rolling pin, I spread the cream cheese, Y added the strawberries, H rolled them up, Y passed them to me to dunk in the batter and fry.

They tasted pretty decent. It was our first time making them so I would make a few adjustments for next time (I cheaped out on cream cheese and bought a no name variety instead of Philadelphia. It ended up being salty and some of the strawberries were sour). Y also ate half of a roll up and decided he didn’t like the stuffed version so I made him regular french toast with the leftover batter. You can see the recipe here.

Our latest cooking experiences coincidentally lined up with this drawing H made on Friday. This month they are learning about professions so the teacher asked them to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up. H drew herself as a chef. “I’m cooking Haleem” she proudly said. Haleem is a south Asian stew that I started cooking this year. I love the way she drew her white coat and chef’s hat, but even more, I love that she’s cooking something I make. And the size of that ladle is pure awesomeness.

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While cooking can be a great way for someone to make fond memories with their children, it can also be a cause for unpleasant ones. Ask any child who’s been shooed away or yelled at for not doing things right. I would suggest to set yourself up for success by:

  • Being honest with yourself – If you’re a perfectionist and will end up redoing what your children are doing, you may do more harm than good. If you are truly committed to doing this with your children, remind yourself before, during and after about your reasons. No one is going to judge your 4 year old’s cookies. Their product is not a reflection on your abilities. And if you react in a less than ideal way, forgive yourself and try again. Chances are, this is a learning experience for you too.
  • Choose a time when you are not rushed– children sense impatience. We don’t want cooking to be associated with stress or anxiety, rather joy and spending time together.
  • Choose a forgiving recipe – Simple recipes with a handful ingredients are a good place to start. Smoothies come to mind.
  • Allow time for clean up– This is something I struggle with on a personal level and have to be more mindful of in our home. Explain to your children that cleaning up is part of the cooking process and have them commit to helping you collect dirty utensils and wipe down counters.
  • Have fun! – It’s really not about the end product, but the process. If it turns out delicious, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, it’s a good place to start reflecting with your children and coming up with reasons why things may not have gone as planned- phrase it as a mystery and think of what you may want to do differently.

Most of the “cooking” I’ve done with my kids is either sparked by something we’ve read in a book or H has seen in a cartoon, or as to do with a special time or event, such as preparing food for playdates, parties or to share with friends and neighbours. I’ve also noticed that when I’m caring for other children, we often end up cooking, whether it’s chocolate chip cookies, special desserts or DIY pizza because I had nothing else for lunch when my sister-in-law visited with her kids one afternoon.

Although this was a last-minute thing, I was really pleased by how it turned out. H and my niece who were both 5 at the time, were super excited to play “pizza parlour”- a quick game I came up with so I could quickly prep ingredients without them asking me a million questions. Essentially, I used two whiteboards, listed all the possible pizza toppings we had on hand and put checkboxes next to the toppings. These were their ordering menus. Their job was to take everyone’s orders while I prepped the ingredients. Then they returned and consulted their order menus to customize each pizza. It was an excellent real-life application of literacy skills and they were so pleased to be the waitresses and chefs.

My goal as my children grow, is to shift cooking from a special experience, to a more typical one. I’ve already told them that they will be responsible for making one family meal a week in the years to come.

For an overview of some of the benefits children can derive from cooking, check out these past posts about making lemonade, apple pie, gingerbread cookies, banana pops, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, and banana muffins. 

Do you cook with your kids? If so, what are some of your favourite things to cook? If not, what are some of the barriers holding you back?