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.

 

 

Ramadan 2016- Post #6: Sadaqa Jar

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Sadaqa is an Islamic concept which basically means to give charity (voluntarily).

About a year ago, I first read my daughter a book called “Jameela’s Great Idea” (review can be found here). My daughter loved this book and we’ve rotated it in a few times over the past year. When I was carefully choosing the books I wanted to add to her bookshelf during Ramadan, this book was a natural choice. The book is about a little girl who regularly goes to the Mosque with her father and upon noticing him deposit money in a “little brown box” asks him what that is all about. The book follows her as she brainstorms ways to raise money so that she can give sadaqa too.

What I decided to do with my daughter during Ramadan was give her simple art materials to create her own “sadaqa jar” (a glass jar*, paint, paint brush, glitter).  We talked about the idea of collecting money, ways she could collect money and what she would do with it after. Keep in mind she was 2.5 years old and it was a very simple process (essentially asking family if they would like to donate money to her jar so she could share it). While we’ve been toying with the idea of a piggy bank for her, I liked the idea that the first time she was going to save money, it was going to be for charity.

*Some people are weary of letting toddlers handle glass, but I believe that children should be entrusted with using authentic materials.

My daughter was excited to paint her jar. She picked two shades of blue paint. But of course, painting the jar wasn’t enough for her.I passed her some recycled materials but she shortly moved onto something more exciting; she decided to paint both her arms. I have to admit, my inner parent wanted to rush in and give her paper, but I know that sensory input is valuable for children. Besides, it wasn’t anything a good wash couldn’t take care of. So I sat back, made a video and marveled at the curiosity and focus of my little smurf.

 

She added some red and purple glitter to her jar and once it was dry, I made a simple top with a slit out of a styrofoam plate (we used a mason jar which worked really well for this). For the next few weeks, she collected coins from her Papa, grandparents and aunts.

Near the end of Ramadan, we drove to the Mosque and after some hunting (there was no donation box on the women’s side…sigh), we found one in the men’s lobby. H excitedly deposited her coins and we were on our way.

As I mentioned, this was the process we followed as part of our Ramadan Calendar, tailored to my then 2.5 year old. Below are some adjustments that can be made to better meet the developmental needs of older children.

Modifications for older children

  1. Learn about your local currency – Now that my daughter is three, she is interested and better able to differentiate between the various coins and learn about their value. Coins collected can be used not only to learn new terminology (In Canada, we have the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, loonie, toonie) but these coins can be used in other mathematical and numerical learning such as numerical value, patterning, sorting, weighing etc.
  2. Allow children to choose their own sadaqa recipient – For younger children, a generic sadaqa box at the mosque works splendidly, but with the array of charitable organizations in existence, it might be more meaningful for your child to research and pick a cause that is dear to their heart, whether it is building a well, contributing to the education of a child abroad or helping with the local pet shelter.
  3. Ask children to create a plan about how they will earn/raise money – Have children consider the materials and resources needed to raise money and critically evaluate what will be the best approach. Perhaps this will be a great opportunity for their inner entrepreneur to shine! Older children may choose to take on additional jobs or engage in classic fundraising initiatives like bake sales to help raise funds for their cause. Work with your child to adjust the plan so that it is suitable for your scope and lifestyle.
  4. Nurture their desire to help in a sustainable way – Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Your family may choose to make this sadaqa initiative an annual tradition or better yet an ongoing project.
  5. Remind children of the other forms of sadaqa – While monetary giving is commendable, it is not always possible or what is most required. Remind children of the words of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him who told us that even a smile is sadaqa. As a family, brainstorm other ways of giving sadaqa and possibly undertake one of these ways as a family initiative. Some suggestions include volunteering time, gardening, conversing with the elderly in your community, shoveling snow for neighbours with limited mobility, sharing meals and toys and speaking what is good and true.

Ramadan 2016 – Post #4: Operation Eid Child

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This year we came across a local effort called Operation Eid Child whereby community members could sign up to buy gifts for children of specific ages and genders and wrap them up to be delivered just before Eid. The gifts were distributed at a local masjid to refugee children and other families in need. This drive is inspired by one which operates in Pakistan (http://www.eidchild.com/operation-eid-child.html) which found in roots in similar shoebox-filling drives that happen around Christmas in many parts of the world

When I came across the group on facebook, I knew that it was a process I wanted my family to be a part of. I added it to my daughter’s Ramadan calendar and thought of ways I could stretch out the activity to create excitement and also cover more learning domains.

  1. Shopping – If you can, take your child shopping with you when you go to buy the gifts. It is wise to talk about the children you will be shopping for and the types of items they might enjoy before finding yourself in the store. Brainstorming these details with your child ahead of time and discussing other necessary elements like budget can make for a smoother shopping trip and also get their wheels turning before they become overwhelmed by rampant consumerism upon entering the store. For younger children, it might be easier for them to appropriately shop for children who match their own demographics so allow them to have some input in what you decide to purchase. My daughter is fairly young and doesn’t quite understand the concept of numbers/budgeting but for an older child, set a budget and allow the child to pick the items that will go in the gift. Allow some time for this activity and use cash to pay. Along with reinforcing numeracy and basic financial skills, this activity can also help children learn to prioritize, refine their decision making process and spark creativity.img_3350
  2. Creating Cards – If you are drawing out this project, let your children spend an afternoon creating thoughtful cards. Some children will spend hours painting, colouring, gluing and pasting. Other children, either due to age or lack of interest may only choose to spend a few minutes. What we decided to do was use pieces of paper that my daughter had previously painted as the base for our cards. She then chose stickers to decorate the cards and I wrote a simple message. Depending on your child’s level of learning, use this as an opportunity to practice not only art and fine motor skills, but also writing skills and socioemotional development: encourage them to reflect on their own blessed lives and empathize with children who may not be as fortunate. Ask your child, how might the recipient of your gift feel opening the gift that you have so carefully put together on Eid day? What else can you do to make sure the people in your community have a good eid? Why might your actions please Allah? Acknowledge any feelings your child might experience during this process including jealousy and envy. Don’t invalidate your child’s feeling or simply tell them not to feel jealous but empathize with your child and explain the implications of their actions. For example, “I know you really like that water gun that we are giving. I’m sure the little boy that receives it will love it too and be really happy that there’s someone in this world that cares about him enough to share such a cool gift with him. Allah promises that when we give something up for His sake, He will give us something better so let’s make duah that all boys and girls will get awesome gifts this Eid and be in a safe and happy place surrounded by people they love.”
  3. Packing the Gifts – This is a fun time for children. Lots of children have excitedly ripped the wrapping paper off of their own gifts, but how many children have had the opportunity to pack a gift for someone else? I included my daughter who was 2.5 years old at the time of this experience by asking her to pass me the items and help place them in the box. She then added tissue paper to cover the contents. If your child is older, have them source the correct sized box. Allow them to use concepts like estimating volume to find an appropriate box and surface area to determine how much wrapping paper is required. img_3413
  4. The Drop off – This was one of the most exciting aspects for my daughter. Because we had been talking about these Eid gifts and working with them for the week, she was thrilled when after daycare one day, I told her we were going to go to a new auntie’s house to drop off the gifts. When the auntie opened the door, her dining table was full of gifts and I explained to my daughter that there were many nice boys and girls just like her, who cared about others and were doing the same thing. I’m sure it would have been a more powerful experience had she gotten to present the gifts to the children herself, but we were busy during the distribution timeslot.

 

We did a similar process when my daughter was providing input and shopping for her cousin. Of course, the dynamics were a little different because my daughter knew about the person in question, and had a relationship with her, but the point is that if no such gift drive exists and you cannot start one, the same process and learning can occur any time of of the year when buying a gift for anyone! With Christmas right around the corner, why not look for an opportunity for your family to help brighten up another family’s day?

Ramadan 2016 – Post #3: Spreading Cheer

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This was the first year that many newly arrived Syrian refugees were going to be observing Ramadan in Canada, their new home. While I can’t imagine that the past few Ramadans have been particularly cheerful, I did want to do something with my daughter to help welcome this beautiful month and make it special for our new friends.

Through the wonderful and dedicated individuals that make this city so great, I came to know about a Syrian family who didn’t live too far from us at the time. While I knew of them and had even been in their home before, I still had not had the opportunity to meet them in person. This seemed like as good of a time as any.

I made a simple Ramadan Mubarak platter with cake, appetizers and cookies and added some cute pinbacks for the children. I wrapped it up and my daughter and I went for a brief visit (this was one of the activity cards I made for her calendar). She was super excited to carry and present the lantern to the very friendly children. They hung up the lantern right away. The family seemed genuinely appreciative of our gesture, even though what they were really in need of were regular and sustained friendships.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I like to bring my daughter with me when we are dropping off food to friends and family. I want her to understand what it means to be part of a community. I want feeding others to be a natural instinct for her. I want to give her the opportunity to live her faith.

It’s easy to give and share when you are blessed with so much. The hope is to build up these characteristics so that even when times are tough, we are able to have enough tawakkul (trust and reliance in God), to continue giving and sharing.