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 #2- The Plan

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So here’s the plan we came up with to do this year. Some of these ideas are repeated from last year. Others were planned for last year but didn’t materialize. Others are brand-spanking-new based on H’s needs and the blossoming community we have come to find ourselves a part of, alhamdulillah.

Once again, I grouped them into six general categories that made sense in our situation after brainstorming the long list.

Ramadan Plan for H – 2017

Food/Cooking

  • Soup jars for neighbours/hosts (6)- create and deliver
  • Make cupcakes – bring to Dadi’s House
  • Cook food to bring to Dadi’s House (ask H what she wants to cook…other than cupcakes)
  • Make chocolate covered dates (rolled in coconut flakes) or stuffed dates and other sweets like cookies etc and deliver to friends in the neighbourhood/family/bring to gatherings
  • Ramadan Skewers (fruit in shapes of stars and moons with dates on a skewer)/as part of a goody bag with dollar store items (bubbles, stickers etc) for her preschool class and neighbourhood friends. Also include short blurb for parents.
  • Make fruit salad

Art/Crafts

  • Listen to Ramadan songs (in car ride/at home); compile a youtube playlist and share with others
  • Stained glass geometric designs and lanterns (design in black and use tissue paper squares to fill) – decorate house- make extras for cousins so they can decorate Dadi’s house
  • Paper chains (patterning) – decorate house
  • Paper lanterns- decorate house
  • Make Ramadan card for a friend (and mail it)
  • Create visual duah list (collage style) and use each night
  • Make Eid Cards for family and friends
  • Make wrapping paper (stamping)

Islamic Learning

(*set aside consistent time each day to focus on this)

  • Memorize/Review Surah An Naas
  • Memorize/Review Surah Asr
  • Memorize/Review Surah Ikhlaas
  • Memorize Kalimah
  • Listen to/Learn Eid Takbir
  • Review Arabic Alphabet with blocks; once knows them, set up a scavenger hunt in backyard and reinforce with other games

Activities/Excursions

(Ask other family members to take her to things I may not be able to with new baby)

  • Ramadan Gana Fair – (with nani before she leaves)
  • Moonsighting outing (pack blanket, hot chocolate, binoculars; if F not interested, partner with other local moms)
  • Scavenger Hunt with Ramadan Gift Baskets for all of the cousins as treasure (do at grandparent’s house at beginning of Ramadan); share scavenger hunt clues in a document on the blog so others can benefit
  • Go grocery shopping and buy items for people in need (to donate to food bank)
  • Go to Masjid (non-peak time)
  • Buy Eid Gifts
  • Attend Eid Potluck (MG)
  • Visiting the Elderly/Sick in care facilities/hospitals (MG) 
  • Group soup making after reading Bismillah Soup (MG)
  • Drop off sadaqa that has been collected (ask H what cause she wants to collect for and for ideas on how she can raise money)
  • Operation Eid Child or something similar

Global/Ummah Connections

  • Call/skype relatives in other places
  • Make a card/Write letter to sponsored orphans (Somalia and Bosnia)
  • Learn about Ramadan customs in other countries and learn about those countries (refer to National Geographic book)

Books to Read

(what we already own; add to list)

  • It’s Ramadan Curious George
  • Under the Ramadan Moon
  • Welcome Ramadan
  • Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting and Charity
  • Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr
  • Je me soucie des autres
  • Je prends la bonne decision
  • Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
  • Jameela’s Great Idea
  • Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book
  • Zaynab and Zakariya and the new Neighbour
  • The Little Green Drum
  • Resource: Allah to Z Activity Book
  • Resource: A Life Like Mine: How children live around the world

(what I’ve ordered)

  • Ramadan Moon
  • Hassan and Aneesa Love Ramadan

Hope this plan encourages you to think about Ramadan for your little ones!

Tools are Cool – Post #3: Around the Community

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As H’s interest in tools grew, we sought to make connections with everyday real-life experiences. We started noticing tools being used all around us. Some of our experiences included:

  • Visiting Lee Valley Tools (a tool store) to pick something up (our awesome purchase will be explored in the next post)
  • Watching the Roof Hospital staff repair roofs in our condo complex
  • Watching repairmen fix the door to the garbage shed in our condo complex
  • Watching a man use a power saw just outside of H’s school to cut wood
  • Watching city workers dig and excavate pipes in the alley that borders her school parking lot
  • Watching repair men using ladders and tools to restore the heating system in my chiropractor’s clinic

While she is too young now to participate in children’s workshops, older children could benefit from the free monthly Home Depot’s Kids Workshops, participating in a local Habitat for Humanity initiative or contacting your local community association to see if they need volunteers to help with community maintenance (for example, painting, rink maintenance, trash collection etc.) Similarly, local community and school theatre productions, such as Storybook Theatre often need help with set building.

As I make this list, I notice that everyone we encountered in our experiences was a man. I know there are tons of women that use tools and I know that H hasn’t yet challenged this notion as she feels very comfortable donning her construction gear and playing pretend. But  as an educator it is important to expose children to balanced perspectives, especially in light of some other people’s sexist attitudes , so I will aim to introduce her to (non-sexualized) female construction professionals through books and photos. I’m curious to see if it triggers a response.

*These images have been collected from various places on the internet. 

The one construction professional I do know quite well is my brother. H has always had a special love for her uncle and when I told her that he has lots of tools, she was immediately interested. We arranged a whatsapp video date so that he could show her around his workshop, demonstrate the use of different tools and answer questions. It was a really cool virtual interactive field trip.

So just before our video call started, H fell off the couch and was in a bad mood. It took her a few moments to warm up but when she did, she was curious and excited to see my brother’s collection of real tools. She was also quite eager to show him her plastic versions excitedly commenting “I have that too!” She was especially proud when he admitted that she had one tool that he didn’t…a saw! I’m curious to see what emerges this summer when we go to visit my family and she can get a real life tour (and hopefully some more hands on experience).

If you live in the GTA, check out my brother’s newly launched facebook page for his company MADDA-WORX. He provides wonderful customer service and specializes in landscaping, interlocking and home improvements.

Tools are Cool – Post #1: Bookshelf for Baby

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As some of you remember, H started expressing an interest in tools in the fall this year (you can read about it here). After observing her interest for some time, I started thinking of ways she could have more exposure to tools. Read about our experience in this four-part series.

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The first part of our work was to figure out what H already knew about tools. Through daily life, she understand what a hammer was and what a screwdriver was and had some ideas about nails and screws (although she would mix them up).

Back in January, I had received an Ikea bookshelf that I was planning on putting together for baby’s room. I thought this was something H would enjoy helping with, not to mention, I thought it would have positive implications for their future relationship.

We started by opening up the box and separating out the pieces. One of the great things about Ikea furniture is that their instructions are based on pictures (not words). This gave H the opportunity to practice interpreting visual literacy. By following the instructions, H had the chance to practice counting, matching and sorting small peices as well as improve her fine motor skills. She also had the chance to enrich her language skills. I marveled at how the word “allen key” became a part of her vocabulary.

While I’m a big advocate for open-ended experiences, I also see the value in completing projects that are more closed. Through this experience, H also got a chance to assit me, follow directions, make predictions and make connections to existing experiences.

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“It’s like a house,” H remarked. After putting together all four sides to make a frame, she commented that “It’s a rectangle.”

H stayed by my side and helped for the majority of the process. I distinctly remember how excited she was to help with the shelves and her reaction when I realized I had installed one of the shelves backwards. “Oh no! I made a mistake,” I had complained. And she responded by saying, “But Momma, why did you make a mistake?” So we had a brief (but important conversation) about the value of mistakes and learning from our experiences.

By the time it came to hammering in the sixty tiny nails, she lost interest after helping with just one nail. I expected this as she was tired so I finished on my own. However, she was still close by to pass me things. Later when she came into the room and saw the finished project, she said, “Wow!”

She was impressed not only with the shelf, but I could tell she was proud of herself. Not only did this experience boost her confidence and help create a positive image of herself, but it helped strengthen the bond with her future sibling, and create a sense of responsibility and ownership towards him/her.

Since this experience, she has proudly recalled the fact that she helped build a shelf for baby, and often advocates for baby during our shopping trips, insisting that we buy clothes, diapers, toys and whatever else she thinks the baby needs. This kind of empathy makes my heart swell. I am so excited for her to have a sibling and I pray that they will be the best of friends.

 

 

 

Snow Play

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One of the best parts of winter is getting outside and playing in the snow. I’ve come across quite a few people (cough* adults* cough) who hate winter because it’s cold. I admit, winter is cold. But it can be a lot more enjoyable for you and your family if you find reasons to get outside.

You don’t have to be a “ski family” to take advantage of winter (although, I do aspire to become one at some point). Something as simple as just going for a walk and stopping to observe changes can make winter more pleasant. Not to mention that winter is full of rich opportunities for learning and development across various domains. Here are some photos of us at play in the winter.

1.Take a walk: Sometimes the simple act of walking outside can lead to discoveries and rich exploration.

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Earlier this winter when we were playing in our local playground, my daughter became entranced by the sheer number of geese that kept flying overhead. Soon she started making the association between honking and geese flying above so as soon as she heard the honking, she would stop and say, “Momma! The Geese are coming!” She hypothesized about where they were going (to work and to look for food, specifically waffles). These ideas prompted us to borrow a book from the library called Honk, Honk, Goose!

In the past, one of H’s favourite things to do was to pull at snow-covered Evergreen tree branches and get a face full of snow.

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As temperatures started to drop and rise, H discovered icicles. Here she can be seen breaking off icicles and using them to draw in the snow.

In the past, she has also drawn with twigs and marveled at how big her shadow becomes on the beautiful white canvas that freshly fallen snow leaves behind.

One of H’s favourite discoveries from this winter was to see how as ice forms and melts, it creates routes for water to travel. She became fascinated by this “river” that was flowing outside of our house and checks regularly to see if has come back.

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She made similar discoveries when she went under the slide at our local park and watched ice dripping.

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She was also captivated by the water flowing out of the eavestrough/gutter. She insisted it was water for Dora (her snowman) to drink.

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Another fun thing children are usually drawn to while outside is making and looking for footprints. It’s fun to retrace our own steps as we walk in a circle or try to determine what animal created the footprints we see while on our walk.

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There is a lot of opportunity for rich discussion while going on walks. Children will point out things that you may have never noticed and share their theories with you. The following exchange happened with us as we passed by some bare trees:

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“Plants grow. There are very different plants. Big ones and small ones. Momma ones and bushy ones. Don’t you love how they grow?”

2. Visit the Park: The reality that it is covered with snow will add an extra layer of novelty and challenge.

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H loves going to the park, no matter the weather. While this year she discovered it’s quite difficult to swing in the winter with the snow being so high and the swing being so low, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience last year.

She did, however, find other reasons to love the park this year: she loves the gross motor challenge that climbing over snow banks provides. She spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to climb over and slide down walls of snow.

She also enjoyed cleaning off the slide and didn’t mind landing on her bum. What ordinarily might cause tears resulted in hysterical laughter as she tried to get up off the snow.

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I also introduced some basic physics to this experience – I made a snowball and let it slide down the hot slide on a sunny day. H had fun racing against the snowball while she pondered about how smoothly it slid and how it became smaller by the time it reached the bottom. We raced different sizes of snowballs.

3. Create: There is something so beautiful and inviting about a blanket of white snow- like a canvas beckoning.

Snow is one of those versatile mediums that can be completely empowering or very discouraging depending on other weather conditions and what you are trying to achieve. H wanted to build a snowman for so many days but the conditions just didn’t work for us. Finally as temperatures started warming up, the snow started packing together and we were able to finally build a snowman this year. Mind you, it melted by the end of the day and she was a little sad.

Other classics include snow angels and forts. This winter we brought sand toys to the park and used them as molds.

We also found this cool structure at a different park although we didn’t hang out too long since the floor was all iced over and H slipped as she tried to run across.

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Other fun ideas could include using coloured water in spray bottles to paint pictures on the snow. I remember going on a field trip as a child in Ontario (which is full of maple trees). We tapped sap and added it to fresh snow to make (and eat) taffy. It was a great experience!

4. Travel through the snow and ice: Many modern winter sports seem to have originated from people simply trying to travel over snow and ice. Even though we have found more efficient ways of doing so, these activities have become great hobbies.

Our family is not particularly athletic so here are some ideas in case your family isn’t either!

Pull your child through the snow on a sled. While sledding downhill is fun, with younger children, a pull sled may be easier. Last winter before my daughter was comfortable (and fast enough) to walk long distances in the snow, I would strap her in the sled to take her to playdates in our neighbourhood. This worked out well for me since I was usually carrying food.

Snowshoeing is an easy winter activity. Last year, we rented snowshoes from the University of Calgary and headed over to Confederation park. We brought extra rope and attached my daughter’s sled to a caribiner on our backpack to pull her along hand’s free. This year, I hope to get H to try out snowshoes for herself!

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Dog sledding was another easy winter activity we tried last year. H really enjoyed this activity. She got to sit cozily in the sled and quickly learned the commands. It was quite cute to hear her yelling “mush!” She also got to interact with the dogs which is something she enjoys doing (but doesn’t have much opportunity to in her daily life).

Next winter (post-pregnancy), I hope to be able to go skating and cross country skiing with H. By then, I can push baby along in the stroller (and lean on the stroller for support as I brush up on my skating skills) or use a covered ski pull during cross country skiing.

5. Bring in the snow: If all else fails, bring some snow indoors!

Depending on how much snow you use, how particular you are about mess and whether you have a water table at your house, you can structure this experience to meet your needs.

When H was about 14 months, I would bring snow inside the house for her to play with. You can use a shallow container, but I just used a table cloth near the entrance of our door. You can add tools (I just added things from around the house) and other loose parts depending on if your child will mouth them. H was pretty good about fine-motor play and didn’t try to eat everything. On this day, she played with dried kidney beans and stayed engaged for a long time.

In Calgary, we are also blessed with chinooks. This means that the temperature can get ridiculously warm while we still have snow on the ground. On those kinds of days, we would bring H out to the porch and play with the snow there. Here she is exploring and making snow muffins with her dad.

Here are some photos of children I worked with exploring snow in an indoor setting (at a water table).

Along with bringing in snow, you can freeze ice all year long to use for sensory play. Here are some photos of ice blocks I froze over the summer with my students. I froze small items in big blocks of ice so multiple children could play at once.

This was just an overview of the easy winter/snow play we did over the past few years. I hope it has given you some ideas to make your winter more enjoyable!

I Like Pumpkins- Post #5: Gutting Time

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This year we bought two pumpkins. The idea was to use the first one for lots of hands-on activities that would essentially render the first pumpkin inedible, and use the second one for baking and cooking.

As I mentioned in the introductory post, our pumpkin work got off to a late start. And with my decreased energy levels, we worked through this series rather slowly. In fact, our first pumpkin started losing shape (thats my discrete way of saying that is started to rot) and my husband kept insisting we throw them both out. This was shortly after halloween and the City was collecting pumpkins. I kept saying that we would be cutting it open tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow finally came. And might I say…

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EWWWWW!

So I explained to my daughter that the pumpkin had rotted and was full of fungus. This invited a lot of questions. In the moment, I gave her a simple explanation (the water we had used in our initial washing off the pumpkins had seeped in and led to fungal growth, the same way we sometimes discover fungus-filled produce in our fridge). It also provided an opportunity to learn about day-to-day life (how to handle and store produce). In hindsight, this would have been a good starting place for doing an inquiry-based project together. Older children could definitely explore ideas surrounding decomposition, fertilizer and what happens to excess produce on farms and in grocery stores.

So clearly we did not want to consume those seeds. We threw away the first pumpkin and I made an executive decision to cut into the other one – there would be no puree this year (and I was secretly relieved).

H was not as interested in sensory play this year as she was last year.She really enjoyed getting into the pumpkin last year and pulling at the wet strings and carefully removing the seeds. This year, she removed some seeds and then lost interest. I was left alone to remove the rest of them and roast them.

We did make a fascinating discovery while removing the seeds – some of them had started sprouting!

I hope we can make reference to these sprouting seeds in the spring when we do some gardening. H has asked to grow/care for a tomato plant this year.

I Like Pumpkins- Post #4: Hammer Time!

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Not only was I excited about this part of our pumpkin work because MC Hammer’s lyrics kept running through my head, but I was really excited to get my little girl her first real tool! This idea was actually inspired by something H did in her preschool class this year (and then I realized it was all over the internet too!)

This activity basically consists of providing children with a big pumpkin, golf tees (or any other kind of safe peg) and a hammer. I know some people are weary about handing off hammers to their toddlers. If you really want to play it safe, use a toy hammer or a wooden block (I say this begrudgingly), but I strongly recommend you allow them to handle authentic tools and materials. Not only will the experience be more authentic, but it will affect how they view themselves – hopefully as competent and intelligent learners that can be trusted with real things.

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Show them how to use it first. Hold their hand a few times, guiding the motion it required. Talk to them about the level of force that needs to be used. My daughter was having trouble holding both the pegs, and the hammer, so I held the pegs for her (while quietly praying she wouldn’t smash my fingers).

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While a five-year old may be able to do this independently, I stayed close by, providing active supervision. H was excited to try this but didn’t do it for more than ten-fifteen minutes. At the preschool, there were children who hammered in nearly 100 pegs being super engaged in the process.

This activity can be extended by showing the children how to remove the pegs- either manually, or by using the back of the hammer to wedge them out. In addition to fostering fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and self-esteem, this experience can be used to augment numeracy and math skills too. You can  give the children elastic bands to stretch over the pegs in different shapes (like a geoboard) and explore geometry as well as count the number of pegs used (this is a great time to practice counting in a second language!)

I purchased this child-sized hammer at the Home Depot for less than $8.00. My husband was a little bit confused about why our then two-year old daughter needed a real hammer but I’m sure we will do more projects with it over the summer. You can buy golf tees in the sports department of any store, or if you need to be frugal, post an ad online or visit a golf course and ask them for any loose golf tees they may have lying around.

I can also happily report that H has taken an active interest in tools over the past few weeks. Not only has her fondness of Paw Patrol and Animal Mechanicals contributed to this budding interest, but she has been engaging with a dramatic play tool set and asking us the names of the various tools as she has seen lying around the house. Further fostering her interest in using tools would be a good application of emergent curriculum.