Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Raising bilingual kids? Ideas for keeping it fun!

Check out Mama Blogueras week over at Spanglish Baby for fun links to other mom bloggers who are raising bilingual kids! There you will find great ideas for connecting with cultures and fun games to keep language learning fun! Here are two more ideas to add to the list:

*If you want your child to be biliterate as well, consider posting a selection of Spanish household vocabulary around the house for an early elementary learner. Posting on things like light switches, cupboards and even candles can widen oral vocabulary as well as help learners begin to connect with the language visually! Change out 10-12 words every few months.

*Pick a Spanish speaking country and learn one or two children's games popular there to spice up a playdate or rainy afternoon. Resources like Mama Lisa's World or Streetplay can help get you started!

Here is one example of a game popular in Bolivia, where I learned Spanish.

Tirar Frijoles (pronounced TEE-rahr FREE-holes), meaninf “throw the beans.”
Bolivian children play the game with dried beans. If no beans are available, use marbles instead. There
are many ways to play tirar frijoles. Here’s one way to play it.

1.Find a partner.

2. Each player of a pair stands about 5 feet from the line and attempts to
flick a bean toward the line. The player whose bean lands closest
to the line becomes the standing player. The other player becomes the
kneeling player, who stands across the line from his/her partner facing
him or her.

3. The standing player stands by the line with heels together, toes apart,
and a bean in his or her hand.

4. The other player kneels across the line from his/her partner about
five feet from the line, and attempts to flick a bean between the standing
player’s feet.

5. The kneeling player gets three attempts to land a bean.

6. If the kneeling player does not land a bean, the standing player keeps
the unlanded beans, and takes a turn at being the kneeling player.

7. If the kneeling player lands a bean, the standing player drops one of
the beans he or she is holding.

8. The kneeling player tries to hit the opponent’s bean. If it’s hit, the bean
belongs to the kneeling player. If not, the standing player keeps the bean
as well as the bean used for the hit.

The game ends when one player owns all the beans or marbles.

From: Sidewalk Games Around The World, Arlene Erlbach, Published by
Millbrook Press

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fresh Spring idea: Plant a Pizza Garden!

Since tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and parsley all need lots of sun, rich soil and regular watering, consider plotting out an area for a pizza garden this Spring! How much fun to plant, tend and harvest your own ingredients for a delicious summer pizza!
If you have the space, you could plant the vegetables in pie shaped pieces of a large circle. If you are short on space, consider using containers instead. Herbs such as basil, thyme and parsley could share a large pot, as could onions and peppers. Your ingredients should be ready in just a few months! Celebrate Spring by planting something edible to enjoy soon!

You can also visit Kids Gardening for other great ideas!
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes

Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2005, this gorgeous picture book is a new classic. Kevin Henkes is known for his many picture books about sassy mice like Lilly, Owen, and my personal favorite, Chrysanthemum. Kitten's First Full Moon is a touching tale about a kitten seeing (what else?) a bowl of milk when he gazes at the moon. He is persistent and adorable, and the black and white illustrations are crisp and luminous. The book's underlying message is that we can achieve what we believe, and the young protaganist draws the reader into his innocent despair as he tries to reach his goal. The book itself feels so large and square and so unlike Henkes' rectangular, colorful mouse books, delightful as they are in their own right. Dive in!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What the Brain knows: Music and Movement

Why is the Alphabet song the gold standard when we first start to think about kids and reading? According to brain researchers, music opens pathways in the brain and helps develop equilibrium between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. One side is focused on the words of the song while the other is more concerned with the music itself. Music also acts as a stress reliever, calming the mind and setting up ideal conditions for active processing by creating a sense of relaxed alertness, recognized by researchers as crucial for learning. The natural companion to music is movement, which is known to oxygenate the brain and cause it to produce endorphins, also creating an optimal environment for new learning. So, the natural combination of music and movement is a great way to prepare the brain for new learning! Cross-lateral movement specifically stimulates the brain which is why crawling is such an important milestone for babies. Any movements that cross the mid-line such as windmills, or games like "Pat-a-cake" or "Hot Cross Buns" are also effective as they strengthen the nerve-cell paths that link the two sides of the brain. So crank up the stereo (or the wireless ipod) and have some fun! For more info, try these links:

Children's Music Web-a non-profit resource with web-based kids public radio
Articles on music's effects on the brain divided by age group
Brain Rules, by John Medina-for adults too! check out the 12 rules

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ten on Tuesday-Tidbits and Tips for green living with kids

1. Try packing kids' lunches in reusable containers and use real cutlery instead of plastic baggies and throwaway silverware.
Bento boxes make for fun lunches! Try cutting cheese with cookie cutters or decorating hard-boiled eggs with food markers to create fun characters. Check out the fun at Maisie Eats Bento. For more info about creating bento lunches, see Cooking Cute

2. Need some time for household chores? Check out Birdycake's great recipe for eco-playdough!

3.Keep those extra canvas and cloth grocery sacks right in the car so they're there when you get to the store! Grab them when you head into other stores too like Target or the drugstore. Most cashiers are used to seeing them now, and the easier they are for you to see in the car, the more likely you are to remember them!

4. Good: Pick seasonal produce.
Better: Pick locally grown produce in your grocery store that is appropriate to the season. As an added bonus, It will taste fresher and be more economical as well. Produce shipped across borders has the added environmental cost of transportation.
Best: Shop local farmers' markets or farm cooperatives.

5. Have little ones who put everything in their mouths? Try replacing one or two brand name household cleaners with non-toxic or natural alternatives such as vinegar, baking soda or plain hot water! Baking soda deodorizes and scours, while white vinegar cuts grease and removes mildew. Try adding 5-10 drops of essential oils such as lemon, orange or peppermint if you desire a scent.

6. Remember Punky Brewster? Well, she's all grown up with two daughters of her own (Poet and Jagger) and co-owns The Little Seed, an organic children's store in Los Angeles. So if you're in a shopping mood, check out the store and blog for fun green products! Buy green!

7. Plan an Earth Hour event or party in your home or neighborhood. On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 P.M. millions of homes and businesses will switch off the lights for one hour. If you plan ahead, it's an opportunity for a fun night for family and friends. Tell stories, play guitar, just talk! Reconnect in the dark and Vote for Earth!

8. The Lorax is a popular Dr. Seuss tome first published in 1971. It describes the plight of The Lorax, who desperately attempts to defend the trees when the Once-ler comes to town and starts a Thneed factory, soon decimating the lush landscape of Truffula Trees and leaving a smoggy, gray, barren place instead. Now you can visit The Lorax Project and take the pledge! There are activities, games, and information too. Most appropriate for elementary-aged children, though some preschoolers will enjoy the games and pictures.

9. Read The Lorax with your kids!

10. Help kids see garbage as a potential resource. Instead of throwing all empty containers in the trash or recycling bin, consider designating an area of the garage or basement to collect empty jars, egg cartons, lids, and small boxes to use for art projects such as recycled instruments (a shoebox with a paper towel tube and some rubber bands makes a great guitar!) or giant robots. When kids are finished with the homemade toys, have them take it to playgroup or school to share with someone.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Zabbit

picture from www.zabbit.com, all rights reserved
I had the opportunity to see Jim Walkow at a conference recently. He is the creator of The Zabbit; Abbot the Rabbit who is a rabbit with zebra stripes. Abbot learns about valuing his unique talents and believing in himself. Mr. Walkow has presented
the story of The Zabbit along with a CD of songs. Check it out at The Zabbit and hear him narrating an excerpt of the story. Here is a sample of his song.
Here is an excerpt from the story.

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