Showing Gratitude & Spreading Love (How are you Teaching your Little Ones?)

This is a post that I’ve been wanting to (meaning to) write since February, but to be honest, I’ve been busy since February. I’m still busy, but I thought that Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to pose this question to all of the seasoned parents, and to discuss the small ways in which we have been trying to give back.

I have been taking care of children for a very long time, and have always felt a responsibility towards them to help show them the importance of recognizing the gifts we have, and appreciating the people around us. Now that I am a mother myself, I feel that responsibility even more so. With the holidays approaching I have found myself having moments, of what I can only describe as panic, at the mere thought of how to even begin teaching my daughter what is truly important, at a time when it’s so easy to get lost in the selfishness of it all.  My husband and I have already made the decision that we will be very limiting in what we give our daughter as far as Christmas and birthday gifts. This year she is only one, so it is not yet an issue, however, as she gets older I want to combat the commercialism of the season, with the idea that our heads and hearts should be focused on giving back, and showing our gratitude, instead of focused on what we want but don’t need. So my question to you (and its a heavy one) is how do you instill this in your young children? What are the small things you do on a daily or weekly basis, and what do you do on a larger scale around the holidays?

The reason I have been wanting to write this since February is because for Valentines Day I decided that we would take the week to practice random acts of kindness. We did things such as making notes for our elderly neighbors and leaving them a box of candy. We thanked our mail lady (who is always so sweet to the kids) with a note and few boxes of Milano cookies. We took gifts to the park and left them for kids in the neighborhood, and while we were there we picked up trash, which is something I try to make a habit with them. We also made feeders for the birds and squirrels, and hung them in the yard.IMG_1035 IMG_1057 IMG_1037

I haven’t been able to do as much as I would like to for Thanksgiving, because I’ve been battling bronchitis for about 2 weeks. However, one of my awesome daycare moms has stepped in and saved the day. The town we live in has a small movement called Frederick Rocks, where people paint and leave rocks around town with all kinds of messages on them. This mom gave us a ton of pre painted rocks, along with all of the supplies we needed!  The kids colored them with paint markers, and I wrote quotes and sayings about being grateful and giving thanks. Tomorrow we will place these all around our park and local community. We will also be taking brownies to three of our neighbors, who are always so kind to us, and have donated an abundance of things to our daycare. We will also be drawing and writing about the things we are thankful for. I’m very curious to know what everyone else will be doing to show their children the importance of gratitude this week? I know I will be grateful for all of your insight!IMG_1070 IMG_1054 IMG_1069

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

An Ode to Mud

Okay, no I have not written a song or poem about mud, but what I am going to do is shed some light on the subject of the importance of playing in the mud.  Most people tend to cringe at the very thought of letting their children roll around in mud, squashing it through their fingers and toes, and getting it in their hair, and I get it.  It’s a lot of work, and can be a disgusting mess, but, that’s what hoses are for right?  So, here are just a few of the reasons I firmly believe you should let your children make mud pies, use mud as an artistic medium, roll around in mud, and do anything else mud related that their brilliant imaginations can conjure up.

  1. Mud is Scientist and Doctor Recommended – Something that I did not know about myself until my late twenties, when my husband and I bought our first house together is that I LOVE to garden!  I love everything about it, and at the end of a long day of working in the garden, I feel great.  I feel refreshed, happy, and generally just relieved of stress.  As it turns out, there is some sound scientific reasoning as to why I feel this way after a day in the dirt.  I won’t go into the detailed science of it all, but a 2007 study, originally published in the journal of Neuroscience found that a “friendly” bacteria Mud Play3found in soil activates brain cells to produce serotonin.  They essentially found that playing/working in the dirt has the same effect on one’s brain as an anti-depressant, leaving you happier, and less stressed.  So not only is the mud great for children’s mental health, but for ours as well!  It seems we should all take some time out to play in the mud.  If you would like to read more about the science of soil you can visit http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66840.php
  2. Mud is an Astoundingly Wonderful Medium for Open-Ended Play and Learning – When children are allowed to explore with mud and a few simple household items, the sky is the limit.  They express their creativity in a myriad of ways, they enhance fine motor skills, and practice literacy and math skills.  They are given the chance to explore texture, see what happens when mud dries, or when dirt becomes wet, they use problem solving skills, and investigate volume.  They utilize their communication skills and practice working togetherRaylan Mud 2 and cooperation as they cook, clean and experience pride in their completed work.  All of the pictures I have here are of us working in the mud kitchen, but that does not mean you must have a mud kitchen to play in the mud.  Children are very resourceful and will utilize the materials you give them in the most creative way possible.  All you have to do is give them the medium, maybe include a some utensils, pots and pans, shakers, etc. and they will create their own world.
  3. Playing in the Mud Helps Children to Connect with Nature – In this age of technology I don’t think I need to say much more than that this is something which children desperately need.  As screens become a bigger and more time consuming part of our day (at home and in school) children desperately need to be able to take time out to connect with nature, and they need a variety of ways to do that.  Our children are suffering from a nature deficit, but there are so many ways to turn this around, and mud play is just one of them.
  4. Mud Play is an Amazing Sensory Experience for Babies and Toddlers – Mud provides a completely new and different tactile experience than any other sensory medium.  Babies and Toddlers should be given the opportunity to squish it in their fingers and toes, sit in it, sift it, and search through it.  You can sit them in a bin, or simply let them crawl around in the mud.  Either way they will love it, and benefit from it!

Yardley Mud

These are just a few of the ways that mud can benefit our children, and us as well.  I hope that you will take it to heart and let your little ones indulge in this rewarding and beneficial activity.  Happy Playing!