Ramadan 2016 – Post #2: Setting up a Calendar

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Having a daily calendar to accompany the passing of the month can be an easy way to be more intentional and make Ramadan a more engaging time for young ones. For more information on the purpose of a Ramadan Calendar as well as different formats, please refer to this post.

Last Ramadan was the first time I toyed with the idea of a Ramadan Calendar. I built the frame (which I plan on reusing in the years to come and for other purposes as well!) but I was a little bit stuck with filling up 30 days worth of things for my then 18 month old. This year,  I found it much easier to come up with content. Not only was my daughter older, but I also started thinking about what I wanted her to get out of Ramadan before the holy month began. And while this was a step up from last year, I still found myself tempted to use a commercial sticker calendar because I was not sure I would have this ready in time. In all honesty, it didn’t quite come together until the second week of Ramadan.

I wanted the content of the calendar to be meaningful for my daughter so I thought that focusing on social welfare and community was an appropriate big idea. Alhamdulillah we had the opportunity to serve various segments of our community- some of these ideas will be expanded on in future posts as the calendar really was the inspiration behind what I did with my daughter this Ramadan.

To make the calendar more user-friendly (i.e. engaging and functional for a 2.5 year old) I drew little illustrations on one side with words on the other to promote literacy skills. For children who do not read yet, including pictures on labels helps them independently derive meaning and also helps to make and reinforce relationships. If you are not an artist (or you are a perfectionist) including clip art photos works too!

While we didn’t remember to check the calendar each day (it wasn’t as much a part of our daily routine as I would have liked), and we weren’t able to do all 30 things included in the calendar, I know that the difficult part (creating a template) is over. Some of these ideas can be reused for next year and some new ones will be added. I have complete faith that this calendar will be even more beneficial to our family next year, God Willing.

 

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Pumpkin Mania: Part 3

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The third experience in our work with pumpkins focused primarily on “cooking.”

To be honest, getting my hands on some unprocessed pumpkin seeds was a big part of my motivation to buy a pumpkin in the first place. Not only was the experience personally sentimental (because it was reminiscent of my dad toasting seeds for us as children), but it was necessary given my daughter’s nut allergies. I was looking for something beyond raisins to add variety to homemade granola. I decided we would take on the task ourselves since it was proving challenging to find uncontaminated pumpkin seeds close to home (not to mention it was way more cost-effective to do it ourselves!)

Because this was such a simple recipe, my two year-old was able to take the reigns and I was the helper.

She simply transferred all of the seeds into the bowl. I helped by adding olive oil and then she used the salt shaker to season the seeds and mixed everything together. She then transferred all of the seeds onto a baking tray and then spread them out.

*Because this was our first time doing this, we decided to play it safe but in future years we will be experimenting with different seasonings and flavours.

Like many toddlers, she prefers using her hands to utensils, so I marveled at her patience as she transferred the seeds (by hand) through the different steps.

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We then baked the seeds at 350 degrees Celsius until they were brown (next time we won’t toast them for as long). She’s been particularly excited to munch on these as a snack and share them with her Papa. Eating seeds has proven to be nice bonding time for them, since someone else has to extract the seeds for her (and I am terribly unskilled at this).

* We were also intending on bringing some for her seed-loving grandfather, but sadly after a night of Mama and Papa binge-munching, there weren’t enough left to share.

This experience was an opportunity for sensory play, fine motor development, and contributed to numerical and scientific concepts (related to measurement and transformation) and life skills (because knowing how to cook IS important). It also had great socioemotional benefits as my daughter was able to eat (and share) something that SHE had created – what a reason to be proud!

Now what happened to the rest of the pumpkin, you wonder? I roasted, puréed and stored it for the last part of our pumpkin experience.

Pumpkin Mania: Part 2

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The second part of our pumpkin adventure was getting to the good stuff: the ooey-gooey insides! This sensorimotor experience is fantastic for all ages. As an adult partaking in the experience, I was surprised by how cold, wet and stringy it was. I was also surprised my daughter didn’t make more of a mess (I dressed her in old clothes and proactively covered my floor, expecting an orange explosion).

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This is also a great time to introduce more refined vocabulary and concepts or apply the ones you have already explored in your readings together. Use all five senses to interact with your pumpkin. The depth of your conversation will depend on your child’s age and their predisposed interests.

  • What do you see? Does the inside of the pumpkin look the way you thought it would? Does it remind you of anything? What colours are inside? What shape is it?
  • How does it feel? (Note: If your child uses an adjective like “gross” or “disgusting”, probe them further. Why is it gross? What makes it disgusting?) This is also a good time to contrast this fresh raw pumpkin to other forms you may have seen (in the previous post, there was a picture of my daughter touching the inside of a smashed pumpkin at the corn maze. That pumpkin was dry and hard since it had been laying in the sun for a while). Is it heavy? With older children, you can also estimate how much it weighs.
  • How does the pumpkin smell? Does it remind you of anything?
  • How does it taste? (you may have a child brave enough to try this one)
  • How does it sound? It may be interesting to compare the sound when you knock on the pumpkin, pre and post-gutting.

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You can also use this time to draw on other areas of learning. My daughter is particularly interested in fine-motor activities and numeracy – she enjoys handling small items one by one, making the seeds ideal for counting. With older children you can estimate how many seeds you think are inside of the pumpkin or estimate how many seeds are in one fistful. The nice thing about this approach is that you can count the seeds and adjust your estimate before trying again with the next fistful. If you have multiple pumpkins, you can work on sequencing (ex. arrange them by biggest to smallest etc.)

The next thing we did was wash the pumpkin seeds (we intended on toasting them later). My daughter has washed things in a basin on the floor before, but this time I decided to pull up a chair and let her stand at the sink. She was super excited for the change in view.  Most toddlers love to play in water. To provide more sensory variation, you can adjust the temperature of the water, vary the force, and change the flow to the shower setting if your faucet has this feature.

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Next, we lay the seeds out on a kitchen towel and allowed them to dry until we were ready for the next experience, a few days later.

Pumpkin Mania: Part 1

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As promised, new fall content! I’m super excited about this four-part series since it was emergent curriculum in action. One outing blossomed into many experiences, providing my daughter with rich opportunities for hands-on learning. I hope our projects can inspire and encourage you to see the wonderful potential of pumpkins.

It started a few weeks ago when a dear friend asked us if we would be interested in going to a local Calgary gem: Cobb’s Corn Maze and Family Fun Park . While corn season was over, the place was full of pumpkins!

I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity, and so our learning journey began. I introduced my daughter to the following books (from my personal/professional library) and they became instant favourites. We’ve been reading about pumpkins daily for the past few weeks.

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These books were all ordered through Scholastics during my time as a preschool teacher. “This Pumpkin” is part of an excellent science-based series for young children. I will do a blog post to cover this series and its merits at a later time.

Each of these books was a non-fiction choice, full of real photographs. The language and concepts in these book prepared my almost two year-old daughter for the play that lay ahead. When we finally make it to the library, we will look for some more (fiction) books that tie into the ideas we have been contemplating.

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Our trip took place on a gorgeous day! We didn’t have a lot of time to spend, but my daughter was elated to climb and sit on pumpkins.

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We came across some smashed pumpkins and she curiously poked around. From our reading, she knew that pumpkins had seeds inside.

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There were also pumpkins for sale, so we brought one home to continue our learning. Later that week when we went grocery shopping, we saw all sorts of pumpkins for sale. I handed this one to my daughter and we talked about how small and bumpy it was. (Yes, those are bite marks. My daughter decided to take a bite while I turned around. She didn’t like the taste much).

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Our pumpkin sat on the kitchen table for a week before we got to do anymore hands on work. In the meantime, we continued exploring the books, talking about things we may be able to do with the pumpkin.

 

 

Fall in Full Swing

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Fall is such a fantastic time, and a great opportunity to naturally engage your little ones. Below are some interactive experiences you can partake in before Autumn comes to an end.

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(This post is a repost of pictures from our facebook page last year. We hope to have some new fall content soon!)

Fall Scavenger Hunt

Simply copy and paste this image to a word document and print it in full size. While a printed list works great for older children, a visual representation this helps younger children who may not have the vocabulary or concepts yet. It also works well when developing vocabulary in a second or third language (this is how we are intending on using it today).  It’s an easy way to enrich a walk or to spend some time together as a family.

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Craft and Create

You can bring along a bag or bucket to collect some natural items while you are out on your walk and bring them back home to create scenes, collages or other artwork. Here are some animals (and a flower) I fashioned out of leaves, twigs, rocks and pinecones. I am curious to see what my two-year old will come up with!

Eid Gift Guide for Children

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Are you having trouble deciding on the perfect Eid gift for that special child in your life? Here’s our handy guide to help clear away some of the confusion. Click on the photos below for a description and pricing. Remember, this is based on approximate developmental levels. For more assistance or for custom orders, please contact us at discoverydomeyyc@gmail.com.

*Please note not all of our products are listed in this guide.

Babies

Toddlers

Preschoolers

6-8 years old

9-12 years

*Please note that some of the books may be relevant up to the age of 16 depending on the title and the child’s reading level

Samples of Custom Orders we have Filled

Journaling the Journey

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Journaling can be a very meaningful and practical routine. Some people journal regularly and it is easy for them to fill pages upon pages with their thoughts and reflections. For others, it is extremely difficult or doesn’t seem to hold much value.

I believe that part of the hesitation for people to journal comes from a misinformed idea of what journaling entails. Journaling, as I see it, is to document experiences and then reflect on them. Experiences can be recorded with illustrations, photos, tangible objects and words of course.

Ramadan is a wonderful time to journal, even if someone only does it for the 30 days. It can be especially valuable for children since it can help promote emotional health, literacy skills and knowledge of self. It can also serve other purposes, such as second language acquisition if your child chooses to journal in a second language, or interpersonal skills if they share their experiences with others. Children can start to keep a Ramadan Journal from the time they are 3 years old. You can also keep a Family Ramadan Journal (more on that below).

How to start:

1. Find/buy/reuse/make a book. It can be as simple as using an exercise workbook, buying a special journal from a bookstore or taking a pile of loose paper and stapling it together. Children can decorate their journals if they wish. Some ideas are to use wrapping paper, stickers or paint squeezed out of tubes to make designs reminiscent of henna. Again, do what works for your situation. I would recommend that the book has at least 30 pages. Also consider the value of blank (unlined) pages.

*Note: The journal does not need to take form of a traditional book. A scrapbook, sketch pad or even a private online blog account for the more tech-savvy out there serves the same purpose!

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Some things I repurposed to make Ramadan Journals: loose sheets of paper, an exercise notebook, a duotang and an old store-bought journal.

After repurposing the above materials. Items used: doily, marker, stickers, beads, foam, paint, cookie cutter, scrapbook paper, aluminum foil, construction paper, gel pen.

After repurposing the above materials. Items used: doily, marker, stickers, beads, foam, paint, cookie cutter, scrapbook paper, aluminum foil, construction paper, gel pen.

2. Depending on the development and abilities of your child, you may choose to include headings or prompts on each page. It could be as simple as putting down the date (ex. Thursday, June 18, 2015: Day 1) or you could form specific questions (ex. What was the most challenging part of my day?) Alternatively, you may wish to include a list of GUIDING questions on the inside cover. Children can refer to this list if they feel stuck. Otherwise, if they already know what they want to journal about, take a backseat.

3. Talk to your child about expectations: why do you want them to engage in this practice? Does this sound like something they even want to do? Is there a minimum or maximum amount of space that needs to be filled (ideally not!) Is this something the child wants the parents to be involved in? Maybe an older sibling?

Tips for Success

– Journaling does NOT have to happen in words. Especially for younger children, give them a box of crayons and step back. Allow them to document experiences and then ask them what is happening in their picture. If your child agrees, you can write a brief sentence right on the page, capturing what they have said (this will be beneficial in the years to come for them to see how their concepts/understandings/experience of Ramadan has changed and evolved).

– As children grow, the content of what they journal about will change. For example, a four year old might journal EVERYDAY about what he ate at iftaar. A seven year old may express she enjoys going to the masjid because she gets to play with her friends. A 16 year old (assuming she is willing to share with you) may express doubts about the wisdom behind having to keep an 18 hour fast while she is studying for exams. There is no right or wrong way to journal. This is merely a tool for us to record our experience so that we can more meaningfully reflect on Ramadan and our relationship with Allah inshaAllah.

– As a parent, understand that the journal is a SAFE place. In theory, it is meant only for the child’s consumption and the child should feel free to write and reflect, question, make connections and plan without the fear of being punished, ostracized or having to defend himself. Respecting privacy is a part of our way of life. Unless there are safety concerns, we should demonstrate trust.

– Like most consistent habits, journaling will work best if your child identifies a consistent time of day when they will journal (ex. Every night before bed, every morning after fajr, each day sitting at the kitchen table while parents prep iftaar etc.)

In terms of a Family Ramadan Journal, you may choose to create one space together as a family. It might be a blackboard/corkboard where members can come display thoughts and reflections as relevant or you may choose to do a scrapbook style book whereby everyone collects their thoughts separately and comes together to collaborate. Another option is for everyone to take photos of their experiences through the month and put them together for a family slide show that can be enjoyed together on Eid.

Examples of Guiding Questions

  • What was the best part of today?
  • What was something I found challenging today?
  • What is an ongoing struggle for me? Why is it so hard?
  • What is something I did well today? Why did I do it?
  • What is something I would like to improve on before next Ramadan? What will I do to improve?
  • Today, I ready the following ayaat _______ and here’s what I thought.
  • Today, I learning the following du’a(s) _________. I chose to learn them because _________________
  • Today, I gave charity by __________________.
  • Today, I benefited my hereafter by ___________________.
  • Today, I benefited the ummah/the world by _____________.

*Note: You can definitely use the journal for deep reflection, but you can also use it as a place to track progress with regards to specific practices. This may make it more relevant to the busy ones among us.

Wishing you all a beautiful and beneficial Ramadan.

– Madiha