Ramadan 2017- Post #6- Patterning and Paper Chains

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Making paper chains is an easy way to decorate for various occasions. Since I wanted to give H a chance to practice more patterning, I asked her to pick three colours to create a pattern with. She chose yellow, pink and blue. Originally, I had planned to give her some scissor practice, but I couldn’t find any child-sized scissors so I was the one to cut strips from the paper she selected.
I asked her to come up with a patterning sequence. She chose pink-yellow-blue-pink-yellow-blue. Older children can be challenged to come up with more complex sequences.
She sorted the the strips into three piles to reflect the different colours. I showed her where to add glue and she started by adding glue to the strips, and I created circles. After a few turns, we switched and continued trading back and forth. Baby Gaga watched happily from the couch.
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During this activity, we also were able to practice some french. Triggered by her comment, “Maman, fini!” we reviewed the colours she was using in french and I introduced new relevant vocabulary like “glue” and “paper.” In addition to patterning and sequencing, other mathematical concepts used during this process included counting (as she counted the rings and remaining strips) and measurement as she commented on the length of her chain saying “It’s like a long slithery snake!” This idea can further be extended by using the rings as a unit of measurement and asking children to estimate the lengths of various objects. For example, “how many rings do you think it would take to create a chain as tall as you?”
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Creating this paper chain was also a way to foster H’s socioemotional development as it helped to build her confidence to attempt and successfully do new things. She was proud of her efforts and excited to hang the chain in our home. She couldn’t wait to show her papa when he got home from work.
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Ramadan 2017 – Post #4: Setting up a Treasure Hunt

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This is a treasure hunt I originally created for a children’s Ramadan party a friend threw a few years ago. I have modified a few of the clues and encourage you to change around the clues and their locations to better suit your own needs and environment. Here is a brief explanation of how to set up the treasure hunt.

Backstory: You can make up a little backstory that includes your child’s interests if you like to promote dramatic and imaginative play. For example, if they like pirates, you can make the clues look like pirate clues and create a letter addressed to your child on a piece of paper that looks ancient and has been rolled into a scroll (use teabags and a lighter to brown the paper and burn the edges).

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Similarly, if you are okay with creating notions like “The Ramadan Fairy” or some other mythical creature, you can use glitter and jewels…Or, create no backstory and just be honest that as parents, you have created a treasure hunt for your child.

You can download the clues I’ve prepared here: Ramadan Treasure Hunt 2017.  You can either copy the clues onto cue cards or just print and cut the document above.

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Read the initial letter to your child(ren) or if they are independent readers, hand it to them. Then, pass them the first clue (make sure to remove the “answer” portion from the bottom of the clue!) Hide the next clue where the answer for the previous clue indicates. For example, the first clue reads:

In the morning for sahoor,

Healthy foods we must eat

This large, cold place

Stores eggs, milk and meat

The children must determine that the answer is “fridge” and so they go to the fridge to find the second clue (which you have already posted there). To modify the treasure hunt for younger children who may find it difficult to solve the clues, draw hints on each clue (for example, for the clue above, draw a fridge) or better yet, include photos of those areas from your actual house. This way, children are able to rely on visual discrimination and memory recall, not just their cognitive and problem solving skills.

Although the initial treasure hunt I created involved digging for treasure at the spot marked X (outside in the sandbox), the treasure I’m using this time is far too big to bury! I created one Ramadan basket for each of the five children, so while the children are outside looking for the final clue, I will set them up on the dining table at their grandparent’s house (where the last clue will lead).

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In terms of what to include in these Ramadan baskets, I was creating them for a range of ages from just a few weeks old to seven years old. I knew I definitely wanted to include a unique book about Ramadan for each child (something that would be age appropriate).

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I toyed with the idea of getting PJs for the children and also was planning on making DIY “My First Ramadan” onesies for the two babies and pretty Ramadan t-shirts for the older three but I didn’t have time or the resources to figure that out, so I opted for matching outfits for the children!

I also included a mix of toys/activities based on the ages of the children. I had picked some stuff out from Ikea, but once again, didn’t have a chance to make it there so just went to my local dollar store. I included things such as balls, stuffies, puzzles, bubbles, art supplies, stickers, beads, and candy for the older children.

I added each child’s name to the basket and wrapped it with cellophane and ribbon. I can’t wait to see their faces

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 #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.