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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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!

For the love of literacy: DIY gift idea for young children

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Over the course of this year, I have been observing how H and her same-aged cousin’s interest in literacy has been developing. There came a time, that whenever I saw my niece, she would be holding a pen and some sort of notepad or notebook, writing down “important” things. Like many children, she would draw squiggly lines to represent the words she wished to capture. As she got older, the squiggles started resembling letters and numbers.

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H’s writing development followed much the same path. She started by learning how to spell her name, and then moved onto “MAMA”, “PAPA,” her cousin’s name, her brother’s name and “RAMADAN.” Since I don’t believe in just making her memorize a list of pre-written words, I left her to her own devices (although one time, I did show her how to spell CAT and how that word can change into so many other words by replacing the first letter). Soon I found H copying the titles of her books and copying other things I had written. She eventually started asking me how to spell specific words and would often add written details to her pictures. She even decided to make her own hopscotch and write numbers.

To foster the girls’ interest in writing, I decided to create letter-writing kits so they could play and practice their letters before they headed to kindergarten in the fall.

To make these inexpensive kits, I included various types of paper and notepads, pencils with eraser toppers, a special pen, a sharpener, various types of envelopes, cards and some printables that would allow them to design their own postcards and stamps. I made up a custom wordlist with words that I thought would be personally relevant to H and her cousin and included a tin mailbox.

I had purchased H’s mailbox at a garage sale for 50 cents a few years ago- It’s been living among her dress-up costumes since. I found similar smaller ones at Target during Valentine’s Day when it was briefly open in Canada circa 2014. Since I genuinely enjoy gift giving and love DIY gifts, I bought a few and put them aside for the day I could make this gift idea a reality. I put the items together in a nice sturdy box (in case you haven’t been able to tell, I love re-purposing things. This red box was originally home to either a pair of gloves or a scarf and hat set). All of a sudden, I had a flashback to my childhood and remembered the book, The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters in which a postman has mixed up the mail for the residents (all fairy tale characters). The coolest part of the book is that it contains actual letters, cards and postcards that can be removed (the pages are bound together like envelopes). I remembered what joy that book had brought me- not only was it creatively bound, but in elementary school, I entered a writing contest based on the book at my school library and won a prize. I quickly ordered the book and included it with the writing kit.

I gave my niece the letter writing kit as part of her Eid gift along with a personal letter from me.  What followed was an exchange of mail between us. I could not believe how much time she must have spent writing and copying words and trying to express her ideas. It’s been so nice writing back and forth with her- a bond that I hope we can continue to develop as she starts school.

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I gave H the gift later in the summer and she got to work, drawing pictures mostly, and making cards and postcards. She seemed to care less about making letters and cards for actual people and instead used them as props in her play about mail delivery. In fact, she did create a postcard for her cousin but ended up keeping it so that she could play with it instead.

H made lots of pieces of mail (she also asked me to create some) and filled them in her mailbox. She then arranged her stuffed animals through the room and went on her rounds, delivering the mail to them. She turned one of Y’s ride-on cars into her mail delivery van.

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During the days her postal work play was unfolding, she received a special piece of mail, all the way from New Zealand! Prior to Ramadan, I had connected with some moms from different places with the hopes that our children could share their Ramadan experiences and traditions with each other.  Given H’s interest in different places (as blogged about here) I thought this would be a good connection. What arrived was a letter from a 4 year old boy about his Ramadan experience in New Zealand alongside a magnet with a map of New Zealand and stickers of the kiwi bird- what a treat! We are working on writing back to our new friend.

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Along with reading the Jolly Postman book (seriously, check this out if you haven’t heard of it before), we also read these books. H really enjoyed the fictional world of Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds and was intrigued by the real information presented in La Poste, a book from France that explains the postal system via the story of a girl who sends mail to her relatives in Nice, France and Quebec, Canada. Even if you don’t speak French, this book provides great pictures that visually demonstrate how mail is collected, sorted and delivered. It even shows historic methods and reasons for mail delivery. I was able to make a cool connection to Islamic history for H by telling her the story of letters that were sent (including the one to King Negus of Abyssinia, or modern day Ethiopia) and the importance of seals.

A few weeks later she drew this picture of two postal workers who are gasping because it started snowing while they were in their rounds.

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Both the kids love watching our mail being delivered (to a community mailbox) but I don’t think either have them have actually been to the post office with me. I suspect when we go to mail our letter to our friend in New Zealand, it will be a good field trip for H.