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

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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?

Jumping into Spring

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In Calgary, we are blessed with chinooks, essentially warm winds that we receive courtesy of our locations in between the rocky mountains and the plains. These winds help give us bursts of mild weather and surprise us with warmer than average temperatures, helping us get through the long winters. I really have come to expect snow at anytime between October and April.

Last week we had such temperatures and so the great thaw began. Snow started melting and the “little rivers” that start flowing under and around surface ice appeared. The sudden onset of water resulted in…

MUD!

And so after some mild splashing this past week, we took to our community park on Monday. The combination of sand and thawed snow resulted in some very impressive muddy puddles.

So H had a big hurrah. And I quickly learned that Y enjoys his puddles on a smaller scale.

And through books.

I bought this book (Split Splat) for H a few years ago and can’t help but sing it (no seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever actually read it). It’s so delightfully written and the kids and I just love it.

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There’s this book that Y really enjoys because it stars Peppa Pig.

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And this one because it features a dog, who is aptly named “Muddypaws” along with farm animals.

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And these ones that I ordered last month, but have yet to give to the kids. I think we will look at them soon.

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Mud and puddles bring H so much joy. The above picture shows her at 2.5 years old. I’m glad to see that three years later, her passion persists.

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Seriously, the grin on her face as she pushed her feet through the water, her boots filling, and mud flying all over me, and into her own mouth – priceless!

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We actually had to empty out her tall rainboots 3 times during this outing. And 30 hours after we came in, the faux fur lining still wasn’t dry.

During my almost 9 years living in this city, I’ve quickly learned that when you have weather that you like, take advantage of it! It will almost always change the next day (if not a few times that same day).

I woke up to my backyard and car covered in snow this morning. Good thing we haven’t put away those winter boots yet.

This year, spring has become my favourite season.

DIY Gift Ideas for Children

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One thing I can honestly say that I enjoy doing is putting together gifts for the children in my life. If time and creativity permit, one of my favourite ways of going about this is to put together gift sets/kits that revolve around a particular theme/interest. Below is a list (with pictures) of some of the ones I’ve put together in the past. Many of these have been Eid gifts but would work great for any holiday, birthday or just because 😊

1. Cooking Gift Set– the first time I made these was in 2013 for a few family friends. I was inspired by one young girl’s fascination with making apple pie. I found a good children’s cookbook (with an apple pie recipe of course!) and paired it with a children’s baking set I purchased at Real Canadian Superstore. The set included a baking tray and utensils such as a spatula, beater, cookie cutters etc. I remember how excited the little boy was when he opened it and realized they were real tools! (Not just for pretend play). To round off the gift, I added a few items from the dollar store including measuring cups, measuring spoons, cupcake liners and aprons (they were originally meant for crafting). Variations of this gift have included different main baking sets, including making a cake in the shape of a train, icing tools and other little items I found at the time. The one I’m working on now has a dress up Chef’s costume but depending on your budget, you could find a plain children’s apron and hat set and get it personalized! This has been the most popular set I’ve gifted, giving it (with some variation) five times now with a sixth in the works.

2. Writing Kit – I blogged about this earlier here so I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially I collected a bunch of stationary supplies including pretty paper, pens, pencils, sharpener , envelopes, and threw in some printables so children could design their own postcards and stamps. I included this amazing book I remember reading as a kid (The Jolly Postman) and cute metal mailboxes. I hoped the kits would support my daughter and niece’s emerging interest in writing.

 

3. Design your own Clothing– H’s interest in drawing got me thinking about new ways she could extend her passion. I thought of an idea for her which I was able to duplicate for the other kids in our circle based on it’s versality. For Eid last year, I put together simple DIY kits for children to decorate their own T-shirts. I ordered fabric markers online (one pack per family) and then bought plain white T-shirts for the 8 kids I was planning on giving this to. Since the number of kids in our family friend circle is growing, it can get pricey and challenging to buy gifts that everyone likes so these were perfect for a multi-age group. I also bought some plain canvas bags that can be used in a future activity. The kids really enjoyed designing their own shirts and it was interesting to see how H went about this activity because she was able to observe how the older children planned their designs on paper before they began. I was happy to learn that one of the boy’s loved his shirt so much that he wore in 3 days in a row and two of the girls who were best friends, made matching shirts, which they quickly made plans to wear the next time they saw each other.

4. Play Dough Kits – In my work with children, it’s been impossible not to make my own play-dough, whether it was a task assigned by H’s preschool or a fun activity to do with H or a cool idea for a DIY gift. Three years ago, I made purple glitter playdough to give to H and my niece on Eid alongside a small jar of loose parts (buttons, gems, beads etc) to add to their creations and personalized unicorn stuffies. A few years ago, I happened to be at Real Canadian Superstore a few days after Christmas and they had plastic cookie cutters on sale. I picked some up along with some cool metal tins and figured out I would give some DIY playdough sets as presents to some of our neighbours and friends. The way logistics and time constraints played out, I wasn’t able to create them right away, but I did get to put them together this year. I made “red” cinnamon scented playdough and green peppermint scented playdough with Y this year to include in the sets and added some straightforward tools (wooden popsicle sticks, plastic cutlery) and some loose parts. The sets were a hit, homemade and budget friendly! This year I happened to see cookie cutters and tins on clearance again so I bought some more because they really are a great gift for toddlers and preschoolers!

5. Magnet Sets – I’ve written in the past about using magnets for storytelling. This year, my two best friends were both expecting their second child. Each already had a toddler at home. Both the toddler’s enjoyed the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which child doesn’t?!?) so I decided to make them magnet sets to play with. Given the popularity of the book, I was able to find images online (albeit, pixelated) and printed, cut, laminated, re-cut and added magnets to them so the toddlers could start retelling the stories and hopefully give their mama’s a few minutes to tend to the new babies. Y really enjoyed playing with them too! *Please note this was done for personal use. Be mindful of copyright laws and never use someone else’s work without permission to turn a profit.

6. Detective Set H has no doubt been my inspiration for a lot my creative endeavours. Most recently, she has been intrigued by the idea of detectives. I often find her with a notepad and pen in hand trying to solve mysteries like “Where has the blue ball gone?” She interviews suspects and witnesses and scribbles something onto her pad. She’s been asking me for a magnifying glass (I found one while decluttering our basement that I had purchased during my days as a preschool teacher) and decided to put together a little kit for her. Earlier this year, I bought a cool book called Officer Panda: Fingerprint Detective  and I stowed it away. This was the perfect opportunity to present it to her, so I paired it with the magnifying glass, a stamp pad, notepad and pen to get her going. I thought it would be cool to package it in a vintage briefcase but I came across my old laptop case which would probably be easier for her to carry anyway (but I will keep my eye out for the old combination lock briefcases). I will also make up an ID card for her and come up with some activities like teaching her how to encode things (I have fond memories of sharing encoded notes with my friend Emily in grade one), using magic ink to hide messages, learning how to lift fingerprints and of course, giving her a mystery to solve. Perhaps if this sustains interest, I will do a post specifically about this. 7B77D45D-EC39-45AE-8B57-3EC78CE211DD

7. Flannel Board Set – Telling stories is something I enjoy doing. The first time I created flannel board characters was back in 2012 for a practicum placement. The Three Little Pigs story has served me well ever since, with my own children playing with it on countless occasions. I made a DIY flannel board by purchasing some flannel and hot gluing into to a foam board from the dollar store.  Three and a half years ago, I created another set for The Famous Donkey Story to perform at a children’s Eid party. I’ve since used in during volunteer storytimes in the Calgary community. Shortly before the birth of Y, H was really into fairytales (she’s been revisiting them lately, mais en français). Her favourite story at that time was Goldilocks and the Three Bears and she asked me to make her a flannel board story set so one day while her dad was playing a very long cricket game, we got to work (she gave input on colour and design) and I created this, which both kids love! It happens to be Y’s favourite story at the moment. This was particularly special, because during her second meeting with her brother, she performed this story for him (and then a few days later, for the midwife who patiently listened to her entire rendition). I’ve also created flannel board shapes, characters and activities for the children to play with in more open ended ways included food, faces, people getting dressed, snowmen etc.) I created a smaller portable flannel board by using some leftover flannel fabric and hot gluing it to the inside of a legal-sized file folder. When H was a toddler, I could send her with this folder (and the pieces inside) when she was spending the day at her grandmother’s house. I’m currently musing about a flannel board set I can make for Y given his emerging love for playing with what we already have. His current interests include animals and trains.

Every time I’ve gifted one of these, the children have loved them and the parents have appreciated the uniqueness, thought and customization that went into the gift. I love that they are gender neutral and can go in so many different directions!

Learning the Arabic Alphabet through Play

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As H’s interest in letters and reading has really emerged this past year, I’ve been finding ways to extend her learning beyond English and French, into Arabic so that she can start preparing to read and learn the Quran.

Here are some of the games I’ve developed (all on the fly with using supplies we already have) to help learn and revise letters. Hope they can benefit families and teachers who are looking for more play-based options to supplement learning of the Arabic alphabet.

  1. Guessing Game – I asked H to close her eyes and pick a block out of the box. She told me which letter it was. If she couldn’t remember it correctly, I told her and she repeated after me. I made a mental note of the letter so we could focus on it more later. She decided to start lining up the blocks and then independently proceeded to review them. A great extension activity to be used with these blocks is while the child has their eyes closed, help them run their fingers over the letters to trace them and see if they can guess which letter it is. Because the letters are embossed into the block, this works really well and helps engage other senses (not just sight). We used our existing Uncle Goose blocks for this activity, but feel free to use these DIY Arabic Rocks, or draw the letters onto any other tactile medium of choice like duploblocks, lids, tree cookies and yes, even flash cards).
  2. Scavenger Hunt – Anyone who follows this blog knows how much H loves searching for things. In fact, she created her own scavenger hunt for her brother just yesterday (I will share it in a future post). I thought this would be particularly fun for her to do. To make this activity, I just took a blank piece of paper and quickly wrote out the Arabic alphabet (although I’m sure you could find much prettier templates online or make one yourself). I hid the blocks all around our playroom and then called H and Y to find them. H really enjoyed this activity and used the template to mark off the letters she found. Each time she (or her brother found the letter) she had to say the letter out loud and put it back in the box. At the end, she was missing a letter according to her paper so we reversed the process- each time she removed a block from the box, she said the name of the letter and double-checked her list. We discovered she had originally mixed up two similar letters. All of this helped reinforce her letter recognition. As with the last activity, you can create and use your own Arabic alphabet resources. Some more ideas include magnets, playdough cutters or stickers.
  3. Spatial Connections– When it comes to learning in general, I hate limiting myself and my children to linear or chronological approaches. While it’s an easy way to rote memorize things like the alphabet, I want my children to recognize the letters, even when they are not in order (or context). I have been very intentional about H learning the letters in a random order. To supplement this, one day when we were sitting on the couch, I just started writing Arabic letters randomly all over a lined page. H had to say the name of the letter I was writing. When we were done, she had the idea to go through the alphabet (in order) and draw lines between the order of the letters (like connect the dots). This was such a cool original idea, and extra memorable because it was an idea she developed!
  4. Chalkboard and Punctuation – We have a chalkboard wall in our house. Randomly on a Sunday last month, I decided to clean it. I thought that H had gotten a decent handle on identifying the Arabic alphabet (in it’s standalone  since the way the letter looks changes depending on where it appears in the word) so I thought I could move on and teach her a little bit of punctuation. I explained it to her and then wrote different sounds on the board. Her job was to use the red chalk and circle the sounds I was saying. My sister-in-law was over at the time was impressed that H was able to do this, as was I, because it was the first time I had tried to explain it to her and alhamdulillah, she caught on so quickly. Even Y, who likes to be a part of everything we do, was trying to copy the sounds.
  5. Sensory Search– As I was writing this blog post, this idea came to mind. I have a water table in the playroom right now filled with water beads. I’m going to hide the Arabic Alphabet rocks in them so that when H is scooping and squishing, she can happen upon them. I can imagine her excitedly running towards me saying “Mama, I found a Jeem“. If you have any kind of (dry) sensory materials (rice, beans, lentils) in a container, you can hide little pieces of paper or brightly coloured foam with the letters on them. If you want a more natural feel, you can use wooden shapes (I found these at the dollar store). I’ve  even seen people create search and find bags using taped ziplocks or bottles which are perfect as an on-the-go activity.

Do you guys have any fun games or activities that your families have come up with to learn or review the alphabet?

Fall Musings

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Things have been more quiet over here as we adjust to our new normal. After spending summer with both kids full-time, it is very different to have H in full-day school and to have Y in the throes of toddlerhood.

Routine has become a huge part of getting through each day and through the week. It makes me a little sad because there isn’t as much time for spontaneous play (we still do what we can). But we aren’t able to delve as deeply or as entirely as we once did.

Y’s foray into loose parts continues. Whether it’s playing with random loose parts after dinner …

Or playing with a jar of pom poms …

There is something so novel, yet so familiar about watching him work.

His love for books and being read to and his natural desire to connect lead us to be away from home every day, except for the days when the hermit in me says I just want to be alone. And then my house implodes. Because keeping a toddler home (almost) all day is just asking for trouble…

So far, this fall has not witnessed any pie making, or leaf collecting, although we do play outside nearly every day after school.

Instead, laughter and yelling, shrieks of joy and hot tears, the pitter patter of little feet running across the hard floor and crunching leaves (or snow) seem to fill my days.

And the only pumpkin we’ve seen or touched was just for H during her field trip.

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The increasingly normal blurring of summer, fall and winter here in Calgary, provide us with sun, leaves and snow and calm starlit nights.

They play dynamic between H and Y shifts. Here, H creates “Lost” posters in case Y ever loses his beloved Dinosaur.

The last leaf has almost fallen from the tree in our backyard.

This time always passes too quickly.

But not without H turning the big 5.