Ramadan 2018: Post #9- No-cook Ramadan Neighbour Gifts

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As the years pass, and I learn more and more about myself, I’ve come to understand that one of the things that makes me feel most like me, is connecting with others. I crave connection and community and I’m happy that over the years, Ramadan has become a time that allows me to feed those needs.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve also come to understand that gift-giving is one of my love languages and giving people gifts makes me happy.

Originally, I was hoping to cook/bake something with H and share it with our neighbours but the logistics involved with that while meeting the needs of a busy young toddler seemed daunting. Instead, I opted for purchasing something that I hoped would be meaningful.

I had similar intentions last year but opted for making these DIY soup jars.

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I love supporting small-businesses and local businesses, and really respect people who pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without waiting around for someone else to help them.  So this year, I was happy to think up something that could foster the intersection of these three areas.

I decided I wanted to share gifts with our neighbours, teachers and some of our non-Muslim friends and co-workers this Ramadan, not only as a way to share some information, but to sincerely show appreciation for the beautiful people that have become my village. Our family sat down together and we figured out that we needed to make 23 gifts.

I decided to include products from two Canadian-based businesses that were founded by Syrian refugees. The first was Alberta-based Aleppo Savon (who I blogged about here) and the second was Nova Scotia-based Peace by ChocolateI was intrigued by their stories and really admired their courage and contribution to Canadian society.

H and I went to the Aleppo Savon soap factory in person and bought a variety of scented soaps. I knew we would be wrapping them individually. As for the chocolate, ultimately, I decided on ordering the chocolate bars because of their clever marketing! The bars have labels that say “Peace” in various languages and include a pronunciation guide and the name of the language. Plus, there was free shipping on orders over $100!

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We did end up ordering a box of mixed chocolate for ourselves.

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H helped me decide who would receive which soap flavour and chocolate bar. She helped me punch holes in the bags, and glue on the beautiful labels that we downloaded for free from Sweet Fajr. She helped me measure and cut the twine to wrap the soaps and tie off the bags.

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Along with the soap and chocolate, we included some information about the businesses and their stories. The staff at these organizations were very open and helpful and provided us with the information in PDF versions (Aleppo Savon Story (1)   PbC Story). We also had a handout explaining Ramadan, which we modified for our purposes, from Waafia. Here is the direct link to their notecards. The header was also taken from Sweet Fajr and altered to better fit the space.

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H was very excited to distribute the gifts to her neighbours, teachers and coaches, aunties and uncles and even the mailman!

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I was excited about how this year’s gift came together- I drew on so many different people and their skills to make it possible and that reinforced the idea of community for me. If you have a moment, please check out their websites (I’ve linked them where applicable).

I wonder what we will come up with next year…

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Ramadan 2018: Post 7- Learning Arabic Rocks!

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I had an idea a while ago that I was hoping to do sometime in Ramadan to surprise H with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been dabbling with the Arabic alphabet for the past few years, but this year, I’m trying to reinforce what she already knows through various different games so that she can move on to start formally learning how to read the Quran.

So far, she has seen the Arabic letters in print (books and posters), on screens (often accompanied by a song) and on these cute wooden blocks I used to sell. (Note: I still have them in a variety of languages, other than Arabic so please contact me if you’re interested- the Farsi and Hindi ones are especially beautiful!)

I love the idea of a tactile resource so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to print the Arabic alphabet on rocks! I used paint pens I had previously purchased from Michaels.

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How cute would these be to make as a gift for someone? Slip them into a canvas bag and give a child in your life a unique and functional play resource.

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And because I like open-ended items and play things that can be used in multiple ways, I decided to paint moons and stars on the back of some of the rocks. I did this so that H could play a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe, a game she discovered a few months ago and loves playing on a dry-erase board.

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Someone could just as easily paint or draw whatever might capture the interest of their child: animals, geometric designs or just leave them in their beautiful, natural state. I love the variety of colour, shape and size!

H found these photos on my phone last week (before I had a chance to add them into her Ramadan Calendar) so we decided to play with them. She was so excited!

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And she went about ordering the alphabet (though as you can see, she doesn’t yet know that Arabic is written and read from right to left).

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Y loves playing with them too. He turned ONE 10 days ago and loves filling and dumping things.

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P.S. I hope you appreciated my carefully crafted pun!

P.P.S. I confess that I ran out of rocks! I still need to complete the other half of the alphabet.

 

Creative Storytelling using Magnets

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About 3 years ago, when I was first introduced to the world of Facebook buy and sell groups, I came across a product that essentially changed the way I thought about storytelling. I put in a bid for a math game called “Ten Little Penguins Stuck on the Fridge.” I knew there would be some time before my daughter, then about 1.5 years old would be able to play with the product in the way that it was intended, but I saw different potential for those magnets.

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « 10 little penguins stuck on the fridge »

Photo from earlygeniuses website

Around the same time, I started designing the space that would become our playroom. I opted for a blackboard wall where I saw future creativity blossoming. I wanted the wall to be magnetic so that it could be used in different ways. I thought ahead to a time where one day, my children, could stick word magnets on the wall as they learned to write and create poetry.

Because of the way the wall was made, it wasn’t as magnetic as I was hoping, but it still worked with light magnets, like the ones from the penguin game. My 2 year old was ecstatic as she started creating stories on the blackboard wall.

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Encouraged by her enthusiasm, I pulled up a Microsoft Word document and asked her what other magnets she wanted. We sat together, finding pictures and using dollar store adhesive magnet sheets to create custom magnets that she could use for play and storytelling.

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The following year, I started seeing magnets at the dollar store: bunny magnets at Easter, Cinderella dress up magnets so I started collecting them to add to our collection. I continue to keep my eye out for magnets and we still continue to create some at home.

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Our blackboard wall has been used in a number of ways.

It’s used for for decor:

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It’s used to hang posters and for planning purposes:

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It’s used for mark making, drawing and literacy:

 

It’s still used for storytelling! Now that H is 4, she uses it in a collaborative fashion, often creating stories with me as we use both chalk and the magnets to create our stories.

 

Y also loves sticking magnets onto the wall. I anticipate creating a new set of magnets for him as his language skills continue developing.

 

Even if you don’t have a magnetic wall or whiteboard in your home, fridges and dishwashers work great!! This is a great option for my kids when I’m cooking and they want to be close by.

 

 

For a more portable option, using a cookie tray works well. My daughter uses this when we travel or when she wants to play with magnets in her bedroom.

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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!

Wonder Journal

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A few months ago when I decided to be more intentional about following H’s lead in terms of the learning we did , I started keeping a list of questions she would ask me on my phone. I also made brief notes about her areas of interest.

The original plan was to create a journal where we could start documenting her questions and thoughts. I thought of calling this a Wonder Journal, where she could essentially record things she wondered about.

We finally created the journal. It was a very simple one made out of white paper stapled together with a sheet of black construction paper. I cut out a question mark and glued a painting to the back of it that she had done with watercolour earlier that day.

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The purpose of the journal is threefold:

  1. To keep track of her learning in an inclusive format (one that is accessible to her)
  2. To encourage her to start documenting (whether through pictures or words) to promote literacy
  3. To set up the habit of reflection

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From this page, I can see that H’s thinking is becoming more complex as she notices more details. A month ago, when she drew a picture of herself, she would not have intentionally chosen colours to reflect details such as eye and hair colour. She also was not attempting to colour things in. While it just looks like scribbles right now (and actually messier than the picture below from one month ago), I can see that H tried to colour in her pants (the red) and her dress/shirt (the blue) and chose to use brown marker to more accurately reflect her eye and hair colour.

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This drawing is from one month ago (I drew the balloons). 

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H’s question today was about how computers work. I asked her to draw a picture of a computer. She asked for help and I prompted her to think about the shape of a computer. She was picturing her father’s computer and excitedly replied, “A rectangle!” I asked her what else she knew about computers and she went onto add that “It has lots of buttons.” I encouraged her to draw what it looked like. If she shows a sustained interest in computers/technical knowledge/wanting to understand how things work, this will become a topic that we delve into deeper.

While this is a very simple practice and H does not yet have the capacity to dive in deeply or independently, I hope that by occasionally doing this now, it will come more naturally to her as she gets older. Children starting in kindergarten can do this pretty effectively, so if you have a child in grade school, this might be worth a try. It’s always fascinating to take a peek inside of your child’s mind!

 

Ramadan 2016- Post #7: Curious George and Banana Pops

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This Ramadan, H received the highly anticipated book, “It’s Ramadan, Curious George” as a gift from a lovely friend.

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Not only was it the type of high quality book our ummah is in need of, but the board book format and side tabs made it particularly accessible to young children.

The book inspired us to embark on a very easy mini cooking session…chocolate and sprinkle covered banana pops! My daughter loved making (and eating!) this creation. Since sweets and candy were not a regular part of her diet, this snack added a festive touch.

Materials used: 

  • (1) Banana (use more depending on quantity required)
  • Chopping board
  • Butter knife
  • Some melted chocolate chips (we used allergy free chocolate chips that only have 3 ingredients!) – An older child can be supervised to microwave this themselves but chocolate burns quickly and heats the bowl too so I did this step for my daughter. You could even try using nutella or another nut/seed butter for a healthier snack. How good would peanut butter dipped bananas be?!?
  • A handful of sprinkles in a little plate (I used an empty yogurt lid)
  • Popsicle sticks (I used the reuseable plastic bottoms from popsicle molds)

Steps for children to follow:

  1. Start by melting the chocolate. Use the double broil method if you’re fancy. Otherwise, microwave the chocolate chips for a a few seconds (depending on your quantity), stir and microwave again. Parents or older siblings can help with this step
  2.  Peel the banana. For young children, this fosters fine motor and self-help skills.
  3. Use the butter knife to slice the banana (again, this helps with fine motor development). In the book, George uses half bananas (they look more like moons) but I didn’t want the portion to be so big for my little one.
  4. Stick the popsicle sticks in the bananas.
  5. Hold onto the popsicle stick and dip the banana in chocolate. If you want them fully dipped, use a deep bowl/cup with lots of chocolate.
  6. Dip or roll the chocolatey bananas into the sprinkles.
  7. Additional step: To extend the activity, you can make little holders for your banana pops. We made very simple ones using styrofoam cups that H drew on with markers and added stickers to. Alternatively, if these were going to be gifts, you could use fancier cups or decorate them ahead of time with paint, gems, glitter and whatever else little hearts desire.

I am well aware this is not a pinterest-worthy creation but I honestly believe it’s far more valuable. Imagine how proud and validated your child will feel when they are independently able to create a dessert that the entire family can enjoy, or a special snack they can serve their friends during a playdate. Not only does this activity work well with a few children, but it can also be easily accommodated to playgroups, daycare and preschool settings!

Bismillah and Bon Appetit.