Ramadan 2017 – Post #8: Sharing Ramadan with Classmates

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A few months after starting preschool in December, H expressed interest in wanting to invite all her school friends over, have a party, and celebrate with friends. I suspect that this desire was sparked by becoming more familiar with the idea of birthdays through cartoons and real-life experiences (attending other children’s birthday parties). Since her birthday falls in November and we have so far been pretty minimal about how we celebrate, I told her that we could do something for Ramadan. Now i knew that by the time Ramadan rolled around, I would be pretty freshly post-partum so I went from entertaining visions of healthy, beautifully-crafted fruit skewers, to rice krispy treats shaped like moon and stars to good-old-fashioned treat bags when the reality of post-partum life with two kids, my mom leaving and Ramadan hit.

While we still might get around to the first two ideas for another group of friends during Ramadan/for Eid, I realized they weren’t going to work for H’s school setting as the fruit wouldn’t preserve well and I think there’s a school policy around bringing in homemade food. So instead, we decided to make treat bags that included some store bought treats (granola bars and “fruit” snacks) and included some novelty items like bubbles and tattoos and dates of course. Since nature of goody bag didn’t scream “Ramadan” , I included a “Ramadan Fact Sheet for Parents” inside the bag as well as a simple message in English and French on the outside for the children (thanks to my dear friend Lynn for proofreading the French part!).

Creating and assembling the bags was a process for H. We divided it up into multiple steps and I heavily involved her (I believe that if my kids want to do something, they need to put in the effort!)
Step 1: We used dollar store paper treat bags left over from a past event and brown paper bags. We didn’t have enough of either type so we used both kinds. We decorated one side of the bags with stars and moons. To do this, we used a start-shaped cookie cutter and a sponge, roughly cut up in the shape of a moon, to stamp with using paint. H chose the paint colours. We let the bags dry overnight.
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Step 2: I typed up, printed and cut the message from H and she glued it to the back of each bag. This allowed her to practice using a glue stick.
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Step 3: We filled the bags one early morning while we slept over at her grandparent’s house. Since her cousins were still sleeping and I was trying to to discourage her from making noise (the whole house tends to sleep in during Ramadan). I held baby with one hand which meant it was up to H to really fill the bags.  H carefully chose a bag for each classmate and decided which colour of bubbles and which tattoos each friend should get. I was surprised at how quickly she memorized the quantity of items to put in each bag. We slipped each friend’s name tag inside their bag so that I could finish off the bags at a later time.
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Step 4: I finished off the bags and we transported them back to our house. H took the bags to school and proudly distributed them. We made a list of other friends we wanted to give Ramadan bags too. I explained it may not be possible to make bags for everyone right now but depending on how things were around Eid time, we may be able to share some more things with friends we have missed. Regardless, I was pleased to see how caring and inclusive H is!
This process, which spanned a week, not only gave H the opportunity to practice fine motor skills through stamping, gluing and filling, but also allowed her to work on numerical concepts such as collecting, sorting, sequencing and distributing and contribute to socioemotional development as she got to connect her home life to her school life. She was able to share an aspect of her life that is important to us in a setting where it isn’t discussed (public preschool). She had the chance to do something nice as she thoughtfully created the bags and selected the contents and share them with friends- this was her favourite part! I was actually not planning to add names to the bags (I figured it was more work for her teacher) and randomly select who got what, but H insisted she wanted each child’s name on a bag. This demonstrates the joy and pride children feel when something is made especially for them and the joy and pride they feel in being able to do that for others. I hope H is always this excited and secure to share her identity and experiences with others.

Ramadan 2017- Post #6- Patterning and Paper Chains

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Making paper chains is an easy way to decorate for various occasions. Since I wanted to give H a chance to practice more patterning, I asked her to pick three colours to create a pattern with. She chose yellow, pink and blue. Originally, I had planned to give her some scissor practice, but I couldn’t find any child-sized scissors so I was the one to cut strips from the paper she selected.
I asked her to come up with a patterning sequence. She chose pink-yellow-blue-pink-yellow-blue. Older children can be challenged to come up with more complex sequences.
She sorted the the strips into three piles to reflect the different colours. I showed her where to add glue and she started by adding glue to the strips, and I created circles. After a few turns, we switched and continued trading back and forth. Baby Gaga watched happily from the couch.
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During this activity, we also were able to practice some french. Triggered by her comment, “Maman, fini!” we reviewed the colours she was using in french and I introduced new relevant vocabulary like “glue” and “paper.” In addition to patterning and sequencing, other mathematical concepts used during this process included counting (as she counted the rings and remaining strips) and measurement as she commented on the length of her chain saying “It’s like a long slithery snake!” This idea can further be extended by using the rings as a unit of measurement and asking children to estimate the lengths of various objects. For example, “how many rings do you think it would take to create a chain as tall as you?”
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Creating this paper chain was also a way to foster H’s socioemotional development as it helped to build her confidence to attempt and successfully do new things. She was proud of her efforts and excited to hang the chain in our home. She couldn’t wait to show her papa when he got home from work.
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Ramadan 2017- Post #3: Setting the Mood

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I’ve started hinting to the arrival of Ramadan by making subtle changes around the house and in our daily routine. For example, I created this playlist on youtube of Ramadan songs to play in the background as we go about our day. It is a mix of upbeat child friendly music, some more ballad style songs and some multilingual tracks (English/Arabic/French). I played them this past weekend as H started working on the first of her decorations. It’s nothing impressive but I wanted to get some relevant content in one place that I could also pass along if anyone else was interested. Here is the link.

Note: I don’t let H watch the videos and can’t vouch for the content. I usually play them on my phone and allow her to catch the audio only.

While I was starting to prep the stained glass window craft activity by cutting squares of tissue paper, H wanted in on the action. So I hurriedly cut two shapes out of black construction paper (a lantern and a mosque) and showed her how to glue the tissue paper squares on the back. When she was done, we taped them to our window. I haven’t had time to prep more designs, but I did cut up extra tissue paper squares (that H helped me collect and store in a ziplock bag). H was thrilled with the results and wants to make more for our house and to decorate her grandparents’ house. We are planning on making more shapes, perhaps using stencils that can be found online to give it a cleaner and more uniformed look.

Depending on time, we may make a few of these kits to share with H’s cousins and friends. They make a cute DIY craft kit! Just package some pre-cut stencils, tissue paper squares, a glue stick and perhaps some string. I’ll update this post with a photo if I follow through on this idea. Also, if the kits are for older children, you could just include scissors along with simple instructions allowing them to cut out the pre-drawn stencils and tissue paper themselves.

During the weekend, we also started playing intentionally with H’s Arabic blocks. In the past, she has used them only for free-play, but now I am using them for more intentional learning (to learn and review the letters of the alphabet). It’s been quite an interesting process for me because since Arabic has some sounds that are different than English, I’m getting a feel for what sounds she has yet to develop/say correctly (sh, kh, dh, tha). Basic knowledge of these letters will lead to other games and inshaAllah eventually, the ability to read the Quran.

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Yesterday, we also went shopping to buy some things for the Ramadan Baskets I am planning on making. Generally, there is a lot of emphasis and excitement surrounding Eid, but I’m trying to make the whole month of Ramadan special. I want my children to be even more excited for Ramadan than Eid because as any Muslim adult who loves Ramadan can attest, there is a bittersweet feeling, a sadness that fills one’s heart as Ramadan winds down and Eid approaches. The other reason is purely practical: a few years ago, my husband and I decided that Ramadan is best spent engaging in acts and affairs filled with the remembrance of God, so we would strive to take care of our worldly preoccupations before the special month was upon us. For me specifically what that has looked like is not focusing on the retail aspect of my business during Ramadan (even though that’s probably the most profitable time for me) and planning for Eid gifts in advance.

The gift baskets I am making will be personalized for each child (details to follow) and will be the treasure children find at the end of their Ramadan Treasure Hunt (look out for an opportunity to download clues to use in your own homes/families in an upcoming post). I didn’t tell H what the purchases were for (luckily her nani is in town and was able to preoccupy her as I shopped) but I did get her input to make a few decisions regarding who would like what.

Today, I also started pulling out some of the books that aren’t all about Ramadan, but whose themes I will be connecting to Ramadan as it approaches. H picked a few to read and we will be rotating them with the books that are currently on her shelf.

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These activities and experiences have been a nice way for me to spend more one-on-one time with H. Generally, she just plays in my vicinity as I go about my life, but perhaps because both of us sense that things are about to change, we are really indulging in moments of togetherness. This is what I imagine a more structured homeschool-styled life would look like.