Cloud In A Cup

Craving a little rain? Not likely, but still, everyone likes to be a rainmaker, and this activity is perfect for that. No prep or special ingredients required; this will be mesmerizing to your child.
This is a very good way to entertain your child for 20 to 30 minutes (even longer sometimes). It is a nice quiet activity that allows for independent work. Now, although I am promising a quiet activity, don’t be surprised if instead you get squeals of delight and excitement, and even some jumping up and down. Your child will want to do this activity over and over again!

Best Ages For This Activity

Two to five.

How to Make It

Ingredients

  • Shaving cream
  • A clear glass or jar
  • Water
  • Food colouring (you don’t need many colours, just one is good enough, but more colours is always more fun!) – make sure it’s the one that you press on to get one drop at a time (like the one here), otherwise you will also need pipettes

Let’s get started!

  • Invite your child to make rain in a cup
  • Get your clear glass/jar and fill it with cold water (about ¾ of the way full)
  • Make a fluffy “cloud” on top of the water using the shaving cream
  • Next comes the most fun part of all – your child will make the cloud “rain”! To do this, they squirt a few drops of food colouring on top of their “cloud” and wait until it makes its way through the shaving cream and starts to “rain” just like in the picture – it is truly mesmerizing!
  • If you do have pipettes at home (which I use and re-use for many of my activities), you can dilute the food colouring into a little water and use the pipette instead to squirt a few drops on the cloud.
  • You can use blue, to make it like rain, or several colours of food colouring to make it your very own creation of rainbow rain, not to mention watch the colours twirl and mix beautifully once they reach the water

Learning Opportunities

Although this activity is often classified as a S.T.E.M. or science experiment by schools, I don’t really think of it as such. To me, it is more of a fine motor activity as children have to learn to squeeze the pipettes to control how much food colouring comes out, which isn’t easy at first. This makes it a great and very fun pre-writing game. Make sure that it is your child and not you squeezing the colour in. If you use several colours of food colouring, they can observe colour mixing in action, which is both a math and arts activity.

Extended Learning Opportunities

Learn about rain clouds (natural science) and about our planet and the world around us.

What are clouds?

Clouds are formed when water vapor rises into the air and condenses onto tiny particles. When billions of these droplets come together, they form into a visible cloud. Over time, the droplets and crystals that make up a cloud can attract more water to themselves. When water droplets grow heavy enough, gravity pulls them down as raindrops.

Learn the science of the water cycle in this kid friendly and informative article by national Geographic kids here.

Your child can also watch a video about how clouds are formed below:

Extended Learning Opportunities

See if you can observe the colours mixing and learn about math and art while observing how colours blend into different colours as they fall through your “cloud” and begin mixing. Can you tell what new colours appear? What existing colours had to mix in order to make the new colours?

CEFA tip: Remember to let your child do as much of the process as they are capable of.

Books Your Child Might Like


How to Feed a Picky Eater While Staying at Home

I have been a picky eater most of my life so in writing this, I want to offer you both your perspective and your child’s, while helping you ensure that your child receives proper nutrition.

Feeding your picky eater is challenging in the best of times, but during quarantine, when the level of stress is higher for the entire family, and your child is not getting as much exercise as they normally do, it can seem like an impossible task! Fortunately, I have had plenty of practice with my own children and can share my best tips with you, to help ease the process.

These cannot all be implemented overnight, but with consistency and a little persistence, you will see that soon your child will begin to eat much better.

Keep your routine as consistent as possible
This advice works like magic not only for eating, but also for sleeping, bath time, and pretty much anything else. This is because after a while of your child following the same steps day after day, doing it (in this case, eating dinner) becomes a habit. When that happens, your child doesn’t think about it, they just do it. And since they’re not thinking about having to eat, they’re not thinking about not wanting to eat either. They know, for example, that after playing, we wash our hands and sit down for dinner, then bath time, then story time, then it’s time to sleep. It works after about a week of being consistent, but it will not become a habit until 30 to 90 days (depending on how consistent your routine is).

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely left many families struggling to adjust to new routines, and figuring it out day by day. Having said that, it can also be an opportunity to figure out a good routine for the entire family and implement it daily. Being home all the time means there are less variables as well (no traffic jams, travel schedules, late nights at work, everyone is together in one place). One of the things you can work on is ensuring that your child has breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at the same time every day. Choose a routine that you can still implement once everyone returns to school and work, so you don’t have to start over again once the quarantine is over.

Offer healthy snacks in just the right amount
Your child gets hungry between meals, and often need a snack. Just make your snacks healthy (think fruit slices, veggies and dip, oatmeal or nuts with a glass of milk or nut milk rather than cookies or other empty calories) and space them equally between your child’s meals. If at lunchtime your child does not finish their food, offer them the rest of their meal instead of a snack when it’s snack time. Keep beverages to water in general between meals and snacks, so your child’s appetite is not ruined. If your child is used to getting their own snacks when they feel hungry, just be aware of the amount of food they are consuming between meals. Having a big bowl of cereal or a whole banana just before dinner will most likely result in your child having no appetite when you are all ready to eat. If this is the case with your child, simply leave smaller portions, or encourage them to have the rest of their meal instead of a snack when they do feel hungry again.

Also, look at the sugar and nutritional content of the snacks your child has access to. Many granola bars and cereals have high amounts of sugar, which is not only unhealthy but is also the number one reason why your child is not as enthusiastic about your homemade chicken come dinnertime. This, of course, is a general rule, and does not have to be followed so strictly that you can’t enjoy an ice cream together in the backyard every now and then.

Switch to water
When my brother was little, it was painful to watch him eat – he simply couldn’t. No matter what my parents tried (and back then, the most popular techniques for getting a child to eat were yelling, punishing, threatening, and force-feeding) he would only eat a few bites. What my parents had not noticed was how many glasses of milk my little brother would help himself to throughout the day. Milk kept him full all day, and when it was time to eat dinner, he simply wasn’t hungry anymore.

If instead of milk, your child is drinking fruit juice, smoothies or pop, they are consuming a very unhealthy amount of sugar. Put sugary drinks in the same category as desserts instead of viewing them as healthy drinks.

Try switching to tap water, sparkling water, or have your child help you prepare “special water” (prepare a jug of water with berries or citrus slices in it, to add a hint of flavour). Despite a few protests at the beginning, children will eventually get used to the switch, and will even delight in coming up with their very own recipes for “special water”. Some to try are:

  • Water with slices of orange
  • Water with slices of grapefruit
  • Water with slices of cucumber
  • Water with slices of lemon and a few drops of stevia (a potent natural sweetener)
  • Water with raspberries and/or blackberries
  • Water with strawberries
  • Water with slices of watermelon
  • Water with a few mint leaves and a few slices of lime

Make the switch very special, explain that you had no idea how much sugar a juice box / pop had, and how glad you are that you all know now so you don’t ruin your health. It’s really a positive switch. You can make it extra special by buying a new water container that I know for a fact your young child will be fascinated by (one of these which even offers two options for your child to choose from) and leaving it within their reach, inside or outside. You can add ice to keep it cool all day.

Don’t force your child to eat
Children generally know when to stop eating (how much is enough) better than adults do. Adults tend to finish what is on their plate, whereas children tend to stop eating when they are satisfied. Body awareness is the ability to listen to cues from our bodies and is an important life skill that we often lose as adults. As a result, we eat too much and become unhealthy or overweight.

I recommend you set the simple rule I did at my home, which never fails to work. When your child feels satisfied, help them save their portion for later. Make it clear, however, that when they feel hungry again, it is important that they eat the rest of their meal instead of a snack, a fruit, or anything else. This is not a punishment, but if it feels that way to your child, you can very simply explain that the meals you prepare have all the nutrients their bodies need (protein, carbohydrates and greens). If they just eat a cereal bar, it will lack those nutrients (or at least some of them) which they absolutely need. This was something my children understood well from a very early age. Just explain it, make no exceptions, and repeat, repeat, repeat the same explanation.

By applying this strategy, your child will end up eating their meal when they are hungry, instead of having it all in one go. Also, if your child was inadvertently saving themselves for a sugary snack which they preferred, having to have the meal instead of the snack will take care of that, and ensure that your child is getting the proper nutrition they need. Eventually, they will get used to eating at mealtimes, since the sugary “rewards” are no longer available.

Try it 17 times (this is truly a magic trick)
I learned in one of my classes at university that it takes 17 times before your body learns to not dislike a particular food. According to what I read, if you didn’t like spinach (as an example) the first time you tried it, you should still keep trying it, and after about 17 times you would begin to like it. Given enough times, you would learn to love it. This absolutely fascinated me, and I of course shared this with my children when they were very young. They were really surprised, but better yet, they wanted to put it to the test. This was amazing for me, because each time they tried something and didn’t like it, we would say ”I bet you will like it after 17 times” and I would serve it again another day of the week, and again, and each time, they would try to keep count of how many times they had tried it. The best part was that they just had to try one bite, they didn’t have to eat any more (after all, they didn’t like the taste). More often than not, they would lose count of how many times they tried the food, but would always look forward to the 17th time, to see if they would end up liking it. They often did! The result, over the years, was that they really did try everything not once but 17 times, and that they ended up with a very short list of things they truly didn’t like, even after 17 times.

You don’t have to eat what I prepare (another magic trick)
This is another one of my favourites, which I have been doing since my children were old enough to tell me they didn’t want to eat what I prepared. I know it will work for you too – it’s just human nature.

I taught my children that their bodies required a balanced meal in order to get all the nutrients they needed to be healthy and grow. I kept it incredibly simple and divided it into: vegetables, carbs and protein. I don’t eat a lot of “carbs” per se (bread, rice, potatoes) other than vegetables, but I didn’t make it that complicated for my children, as they did need more energy from carbs than I did. Whenever I served a meal, I made half their plates vegetables (salad or steamed or prepared), a quarter of their plates protein (meat or legumes) and the other quarter carbs (rice, potatoes, freshly baked baguette, pasta, etc.).

I always said to them that they didn’t have to eat what I had prepared, but they had to replace it with something equivalent. If they didn’t want the salad, they could run to the kitchen and make their own salad, or have some carrot sticks, or steamed broccoli – whatever they wanted, as long as it was vegetables. I did the same thing with the meat and carbs. They loved knowing that they never had to eat something they didn’t feel like eating. All they had to do (because I had already cooked) was to cook something different for themselves. At first, it was fun and they loved trying, but soon enough, they found it so much easier to eat what they had on their plate instead of having to prepare something else, that they ended up eating it just to save themselves the trouble of having to cook something. I always prepared extra food that I kept in the fridge as well, so if they wanted rice instead of mashed potatoes, they would just eat the rice from the day before which I had saved.

This not only gave my children great self-help skills, it also left them in charge (armed with the right information) of deciding what they wanted to eat. No arguments – just lots of options.

Have the one sweet thing per day rule
Both my sons and I have a sweet tooth. We love dessert, candy, chocolate, gum, pop, and any other sweet option we can find. From a very young age, I had to teach my children that too much sugar was damaging to their bodies, and that the maximum amount we could handle was one sweet a day. This is very simple, very easy to understand, and very easy to apply. If my son felt like having a can of pop, all I would have to say is: is that what you choose for your sweet today? And they could make the decision right on the spot and all by themselves. They could enjoy their can of pop or save their one sweet thing for dessert or some candy. They never argued with me about it, because if they tried to make exceptions, I would stay firm, but also let them know I can relate. I would say, for example, “I know, I wish I could have two things also! If I could have two things, I would choose to have a glass of pop and a slice of chocolate cake! What would you choose?” and they would stop trying to negotiate (there’s nothing I could do about it either, in their eyes, it’s just how our bodies work) and move on to deciding what they would spend their sweet allowance on.

Provide opportunities for your child to exercise each day
I know it is easier said than done when everyone has to stay indoors, but with a little creativity, we can make it work. Go for a walk or bike ride every day around your neighbourhood, have a race in your backyard, set up an obstacle course, jump on a trampoline, play catch, play frisbee – anything is good, as long as your child has an opportunity to move.

If you are not able to go outside, use your bed as a trampoline, have an obstacle course at home, play balloon badminton, have a dance party, slide down a long corridor, do a jumping jacks competition, or invite your child to join you in your (home) gym routine – as long as it’s appropriate for their developing muscles. My sons used to like joining me when I did abdominals, lunges, runs, or any of my exercises. Try it!

Reduce screen time
If you are like every other family, struggling to work from home while your child is in constant need of your attention, it is understandable that in order to manage all your responsibilities, you have been open to a little more screen time. This is fine and will not have a huge detrimental impact on your child’s development, especially if you choose more educational apps or programs for them.

The only thing to keep in mind, however, is that according to research, too much screen time has been linked with inattention, insomnia, obesity and other troubles. Inattention, of course, is the last thing you need when trying to feed your child a healthy meal.

Eating as a family is, in my opinion, one of the most important gifts you can give your children. I love cooking for my family, and to this day, we always eat dinner together not because we have to, but because we want to. That’s when we talk, catch-up, laugh, share stories, learn new things and bond. Fighting with your child because they are picky eaters can put a real dent in this treasured family tradition. I never had to argue with my children about what they should and shouldn’t eat, and I know that with these few strategies, you won’t have to either. Just slowly start implementing them and before you know it, you will no longer have difficulties at mealtimes. Let me know how it goes!


Getting Closer to Your Child Through Journaling

You are a busy parent. By the end of your workday and after your child’s various activities, it seems near impossible to engage in a rich, meaningful conversation with your child. More times than not, when asking about their day, you barely get a “fine” for an answer.

Having a close relationship with our children and truly connecting with them in a meaningful way is what we all want as parents. And for that to happen, keeping the lines of communication open is a must. Yet, it seems that no matter what question you ask, the answer is either “yes”, “no” or “I don’t know”. How do you go about turning these short answers into actual conversations?

A great way to achieve this is to invite them to start a journal. In it, your child can write the things that are most memorable about that day, while you explore them together. If you can, set aside some time to spend with each one of your children while they journal. If you are pressed for time, you can always have ten to fifteen minutes as a family, where everyone writes n their journal and shares the highlights of their day. Daily journaling not only gives you a glimpse into your child’s life, it also has great health benefits.

Journaling is shown to reduce anxiety and stress in adults and children. It helps your child clarify their thoughts and feelings, and get in touch with their internal world, which in turns helps you know your child better, by giving you a glimpse into their internal world.

Even if your children are too young to write, journaling can be a wonderful activity. Instead of writing, they can draw the things they loved the most about their day, or tape photos and even objects onto their journal, like a feather they found on the way to the park, or the wrapper from the most delicious candy they tasted.

At any age, journaling is a wonderful way to connect with your children because it gives you the chance to learn about the things that matter most to them. Journaling not only helps you understand your child, it will also help them get to know themselves, as they discover the things they like, the things that make them happy, and the things they do not like so much. A child’s understanding of their identity can have a big impact on their self-esteem and emotional health. Strengthen the bond you have with your children by staying with them while they work on their journal. Make sure, however, that you are only an observer. Do not judge, correct, or influence your child in any way during this time. If your child is writing, do not spell-check. Keep in mind that this is not a school assignment, nor is it an opportunity to improve academic skills – it is a way for you to communicate with your children and get to know them. All you need to do is be present, and make the most of the experience by talking to them with interest about the memories they choose to include in their journal.

In addition to the health benefits of journaling, the activity also helps develop your child’s emotional intelligence, vocabulary and critical thinking skills. This, in turn, directly impacts your child’s school performance. Journaling is a wonderful outlet and inspiration for young writers in the making as well!

If your child does not like the idea of journaling, an alternative would be to film short videos where your child talks about the things they loved most and least about their day, or the things they are looking forward to. Because talking to a camera is much more simple than drawing, writing, or assembling the contents of a journal entry, your child will have less time to explore their feeling around what they have chosen to talk about, and the experience may be less impactful for both of you. Still, it will get you closer to your child.

Encourage your child to document not just the big, obvious events in their day, but also the little things, like a new song they like, a photo of a caterpillar they found in the backyard, a drawing of their favourite swing, or the recipe for a meal they tried and really liked that day. Journaling is less about re-telling what we do, and more about discovering who we are.

Through time, you can bring up the things that you remember them mentioning in their journal and include them in your daily activities. For example, you can plan a picnic to the beach and mention “I remember you writing about how much you like the sea, and I thought you might enjoy coming here today.”. By paying attention to what matters most to your child, they will feel understood by you and open up not only while they are journaling, but also throughout the day. This is a sure way to strengthen the bond between parent and child.

Once journaling becomes a habit, you can also share your own thoughts and feelings with your child throughout the day. This will help your child develop empathy skills, by being aware of your interests and needs, as well as their own.

Soon you will see that these journals are not only your most treasured keepsakes as your children grow, they are also a guaranteed way to provide rich and fulfilling conversations, and a close relationship for years to come. Happy journaling!


Teddy Bears Picnic

Did you know that every 10th of July it’s unofficially Teddy Bears Picnic Day in some countries? It originated from a very old children’s song by the same name. On this day, children can either prepare a picnic to share with their teddy bears (as the photo shows) in their own homes (a tea party for them, of sorts) or can go to a park with their families, a picnic and their teddy bears. There, they will see many other families, with their favourite teddy bears, having a picnic as well. It is a fun thing for children, and for families if they want to partake in the fun.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait until July 10th to partake on the fun. Any day of the week, you can invite your child’s teddy bears for a picnic, to the delight of your child. You can have a regular picnic, either at home like I describe in this activity, and then a mini picnic right next to the family picnic, just for the teddy bears, or your child can just prepare a picnic for their teddy bears on their own – both are fun!

Best Ages for This Activity

2 to 5, although older children may like it too!

How to Prepare

What You Will Need Just for the Teddy Bears:

  • A mini picnic basket (you don’t need one really, but your child can use it for pretend-play many times over if they like it. You can of course use whatever you have at home, just choose miniature plates and cups – even espresso cups – and cutlery)
  • A towel or baby blanket to use as a picnic blanket
  • Tiny sandwiches and food (see below for some ideas); or
  • Play food like this, or this
  • Your child’s favourite teddy bears

What To Do

  • If you are going on a family picnic, prepare the food as I describe in this activity. In addition, here is what you could do for the teddy bears, for this part, enlist your child’s help in preparing the picnic for them:
    • Cut the sandwiches into extra tiny pieces for the bears. A great activity in and of itself is to teach your child how to make sandwiches and let them prepare the meal. This will teach them independence, science, cooking skills, fine motor skills and many other skills. You can use cookie cutters of various sizes and shapes to further fine motor skills and math (talk about the different sizes and shapes, measure, etc.)

    • Put some of the tea your child can prepare into a small teapot that your child can serve to the teddy bears (you can add more milk or water, so it is not too hot)
    • Cut the fruit into even tinier pieces for the teddy bears
    • Add tiny cookies or bake tiny pancakes with your child (you can even put icing on them to make them look more like dessert). Icing is fun because your child can make different colours by adding food colouring to it (separate white icing into different small cups and add in one drop of food colouring) and add sprinkles or decorations. Plus, it is all edible in case your child partakes in the picnic
  • Help your child set up the picnic area for the teddy bears, either next to your own picnic, or by itself if you are not partaking in the fun. If it can be outside, even better!

Learning Opportunities

This activity is great for your child’s imagination, as they pretend play (part of our dramatic play curriculum at our CEFA Early Learning schools). It is important that your child prepare the picnic, not you (but you can help, which is a great way to spend quality time with your child). By doing so, they learn self-help skills, they learn to cook, and even better, they learn to contribute, because they are doing something for someone else (their teddies). If they play outside, it is a great way for your child to connect with nature. It is a great activity to play with a sibling or friend (which builds social skills) or by themselves (which helps with focus, imagination and attention span) all of which are good social and emotional Cooking for the teddy bears encourages your child to be independent, learn to cook and think of others. It teaches S.T.E.M., especially math, and science, and fine motor skills, which leads to writing.

Ideas to Inspire You

This play food is made with sponges:

This is if you were hosting a teddy bear picnic for friends (when we all can go out again) I found some really neat ideas that you could even use for a birthday party theme:

This shows you how simple a teddy bear picnic can be:

Extended Learning Opportunities

  • Your child can read a story to their teddy bears. This will improve your child’s reading and literacy
  • Teach them a nice poem about teddy bears, like this one, which they can recite and even act out before they go to bed:

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, reach up high,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the sky,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, bend down low,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch your toes,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, go to bed,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, rest your head,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn out the lights,

Teddy bear, teddy bear, say “good night”.

  • Your child can make invitations for the teddy bears, and even put them in envelopes for them. This will improve your child’s writing, reading and literacy skills. You ask your child what they should write on the invitation, so people know where to go, when to go, etc. The more your child thinks about it, the more they are using their problem-solving skills, essential in life, and a huge part of our S.T.E.M. curriculum. You can also make a poster and use watercolours or a collage, to add visual arts. Here are some examples I found out there for your inspiration (of course, only take what you need from it – no need for a magic show):

  • Plan the picnic with your child. Ask them questions such as:
    • What would you need?
    • What date would be best?
    • Which teddy bears would they like to invite?
    • Should you make invitations?
    • What should you cook together?
    • Would they like tea or lemonade?
  • Encourage your child to make a list of what you both will do. Even if your child does not write, they can still make a list by illustrating those words (for example, they can draw a sandwich instead of writing “sandwiches”). Once they draw it, write the name (sandwich) beside it so they begin to connect that everything has a name that you can learn to write. It also helps them form the notion that there is one word for each one thing. Making the list is an incredibly rich pre-writing
  • Take the time to connect with your child, ask them questions like the ones below. This opportunity to chat, share ideas, dream together, plan together, share stories, laugh and feel pure joy will help you bond with your child and form an even deeper connection. Here are some ideas to get you started:
    • What are some of the things they like about picnics?
    • What are their favourite memories about picnics with you or with friends?
    • Do they have a favourite teddy bear? Which one? Why is that the favourite? Since when?
    • Tell them about your favourite teddy bears over the years
    • Ask them which teddy bears they would take if they could only take three, and why? How would they decide? How would it be different?
  • Plan a similar picnic for other toys, like dolls, or stuffed animals that are not teddy bears, lego people, playmobil, anything you can imagine. Think of what would need to change (for example, if the teddy bear food is much smaller than the food you eat, how small should they make the food for the lego people?)
  • Make a teddy bear cake for the whole family! This is a great S.T.E.M. activity, involving math, science and engineering. If you are not a great baker, just use a pre-mixed box of cake mix which can also be used for baking cupcakes. Below is a rough idea of what the process is like, but you can do it however you like. Figuring out how to make a teddy bear out of all those cake and cupcake pieces is in itself its own engineering activity, so enjoy the process knowing your child is learning so much.

  • You can teach your child the song “Teddy Bear Picnic”! If you play the guitar, even better!

Your child can make headbands or crowns with teddy bear ears to wear, which works on their colouring skills, scissor skills, fine motor skills – all skills essential for writing, as well as for school. It of course extends pretend play (dramatic arts). Here are some examples:

  • Your child can even dress up as a bear using an old halloween costume or just brown clothes and felt ears for extended dramatic play opportunities:

  • Extend the play after the Teddy Bear Picnic by setting up a plate at your dinner table for your child’s favourite teddy (much to their delight and surprise), with small plates, cups and cutlery. Children love surprises, they love miniature things (plates, cups, food) and it creates an opportunity for you to be in the moment with your child (and the bear). You can then ask your child (or the bear) what they like to eat, and get to know the new guest: Where did the bear come from (a friend, a cousin, a birthday present, a store)? What is the bear’s favourite thing about your child? Take your time, let them expand on their answers. This too is a great idea for bonding and dramtic play.
  • Learn about real bears – try this activity
  • Learn how to draw a teddy bear (or several) with your child. You can also paint one as an additional activity. I prepared a document you can access here, with different styles of drawing (including some classics) where you and your child can discuss the different styles they like, the details, the paintings versus drawings, and so much more. This will enrich your child’s vocabulary while learning about drawing and illustrators. This exercise is an immense opportunity to discuss, elaborate, exchange ideas, thus enriching your child’s vocabulary and making the bond between you even stronger. As your child is drawing, name the body parts for additional vocabulary. Drawing is excellent as a precursor for writing as well as for visual arts and math.
  • Make a book of bears with your child: use a beautiful but inexpensive notebook with blank like this one. There, help your child write the title (or write it for them if they are too young), draw a photo and write their names as authors of the book (ex: Bears by John Smith). Inside, you can paste photos of bears cut out from magazines (I prepared a document you can access here with some photos I found myself that you can print and cut out). Once the book is done, display it proudly in your child’s library.
  • Make a teddy bear together using fabric or felt and glue or thread. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • Make teddy bear puppets or finger puppets out of felt for dramatic play. Your child can draw or paint a forest background for their “play”. Here are some ideas.

If you are not confident in your puppet-making abilities, here are some I would recommend, but again, you can literally stick a picture of a teddy bear or bear to a popsicle stick and have a puppet that will offer the same quality of play as a purchased one. You can even take a photo of your child’s favourite teddy against a white background, print them and use them as puppets. Nevertheless, here are some links:

  • Make a paper teddy bear. Sewing (with a big play needle like this one) and yarn. You can keep it even more simple by just offering it as a lacing activity:

  • Help your child sew, knot or knit a blanket for your favourite teddy bear. You can teach your child to weave. This is a great quiet activity that will entertain your child for days! They can also just cut any old piece of fabric to make one. It can be a little bigger than this one:

  • Together, make an outfit for your teddy bear (an old sock can be cut, and your child draws on it using fabric markers) it can be very simple, like this one:

  • Your child could make a bed for their favourite teddy bear. This is very good way to put your child’s S.T.E.M., engineering and math skills to practice. Encourage them to figure out how to make a solid bed using wood, cardboard, Styrofoam, or any other material you have around the house. You can also help your child cut an old sheet to make sheets and a pillow, and even a blanket.

  • Celebrate teddy bear’s birthday by making them a birthday (cup)cake! Together, find a day in the calendar to make it your child’s teddy bear’s birthday. You can celebrate it every year after that, which your child will love. This is a wonderful way to study time measurement, learn how to read a calendar and also plan ahead! Aside from the cupcake baking and/or decorating (great for fine motor skills, which are essential for writing, as well as life skills, fostering of independence, focusing skills and science) you can also help your child make invitations for the party, write a card or letter to their teddy bear (all literacy activities), decorate the house or their room for the party, blow balloons and have a magical day! A great dramatic play activity

Books You Might Like

 

Toys and Other Things You Might Like


A Portrait for Mother’s Day

This is a beautiful gift for Mother’s Day, but it takes a little work (maybe two hours). I did it with my children one summer day, we painted outside, and they made their own self-portraits. My oldest was five and my youngest was two. They turned out beautifully! I framed them and had them as art at my house for years. We also do self-portraits at CEFA Early Learning schools every year when studying Picasso, which are masterpieces every time. This is a gift Mom will be sure not to forget, and an amazing opportunity for you to spend a few hours with your child, taking about Mom, about painting, about life. If you can, take photos of the process (of your child painting their masterpiece).

Best Ages for This Activity

3 to 5 years

How To Make It

You will need

  • A canvas or drawing paper (I prefer a canvas because you can hang it once it is finished. You can buy these as single canvasses at an art store or even at Walmart – it does not have to be of great quality. I would recommend at least a 9x12 size.)
  • A B pencil (You can use a regular pencil, but the lines will be a lot lighter)
  • Acrylic paint. Here's a set with beautiful colours. You can also buy a very inexpensive set at Walmart, or individual colours at an art store. You could also use liquid tempera paint if you have it at home already, but I think it looks much brighter with acrylic paint.
  • Chalk pastels

Let’s get started!

I will teach you an easy, simple way to paint portraits for young children.

  • Invite your child to draw the outline of the face on your canvas using the pencil. Draw lightly at first. If your child needs to erase, you can – It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t erase perfectly as you will paint over it.
    • Start with an oval for the face, two lunes for the neck, two semi-circles for the ears (talk to your child about the body parts)
    • Add the eyes
    • Add the mouth
    • Add the nose
    • Add the eyebrows
    • Add the outline for the hair

Here is an idea of how it will look once your child has drawn the outline (depending on your child’s age – you don’t need as much detail):

  • Then begin painting your masterpiece, following the outline
    • Paint the skin (face, ears, neck) using acrylic skin colour paint, then let it dry before you paint the features in the face.
    • Paint the features of the face with acrylic colours as well (eyes, nose, mouth, hair)
    • Paint the clothes (if your child drew them)
    • Paint the rest of the canvas with a beautiful, bright colour. I like to suggest to children to paint the sides of the canvas – leave no white space. Here is a beautiful example:

  • Once it is complete, here is a little secret that will really define your child’s painting: add the details with the chalk pastel colours! It makes it really pop, giving it texture and depth. You can add eyelashes, eyebrows, outline your painting (the painting above is outlined, for example), add different colours to the hair if you wish (and by you I always mean your child, of course). Here is the difference between using only paint (left) and using pastels to draw the outlines (right):

Learning Opportunities

This is a proper visual arts lesson for your child. The purpose of visual arts is to invite your child to express themselves, to bring the inside, out. Your child will discover themselves and the beauty they are capable of expressing through art, and that is an amazing thing to witness. Enjoy every moment of it. Don’t try to guide your child or “teach” them how the portrait should look like. You can ask them if they want to draw the eyes (for example), the mouth, or lips, but don’t “tell” them to do it – let them express themselves.

It is also a great activity to help your child think of others, namely: their mother. This helps your child develop empathy. Also, painting is an excellent fine motor activity, a precursor to writing!

Books Your Child Might Like


Temper Tantrums: How to Prevent Them and How to Deal With Them

Some of the most frustrating moments for parents includes having to endure their child’s temper tantrums, especially if these happen somewhere in public, like, the local supermarket. No matter how cool and collected we act on the outside, tantrums can be quite challenging and embarrassing at times. When our children lose control, even the best parents are left doubting their ability to parent.

But the truth is that temper tantrums are a very natural and normal part of every child’s development. They happen because your child has not yet developed the maturity to deal with all of their emotions. Specifically, they cannot express in words the emotions that they are feeling. Even very verbal children have a hard time expressing their emotions with words. In time, and with your guidance, they will learn how to express their feelings appropriately. Still, I feel that even as adults sometimes we feel upset and don’t quite understand why, or can’t put it into words – does that ever happen to you? I always think that if we struggle sometimes, having much more life experience and a wider vocabulary, how can we expect a two year old who is just learning to talk, experiencing emotions for the first time, growing at an incredible speed and learning about the world around them to handle it all?

We know from research that temper tantrums are not planned, they just happen, and when they happen, there is nothing you can do to stop them. Having said that, there are ways for you to anticipate them and prevent some from happening, which I will share with you here.

Why do Temper Tantrums Happen?

Temper tantrums happen when your child loses control of their emotions. Children generally have trouble controlling themselves when they feel frustrated, angry, tired, hungry or stressed in any way. Sometimes even boredom, hunger, or a nap that was too short will make them whiny. This in turn will make you feel irritated, and your negative response to your child can trigger a full-blown tantrum. Temper tantrums also happen when your child is going through a growth or developmental spurt (for example, learning to walk or read). They are more common when children reach the age of two, and sometimes also at ages five or six. This corresponds with the time your child is asserting their independence.

How to Get Good at Preventing Temper Tantrums

Some temper tantrums will happen even if you are an exemplary parent, but many can easily be prevented. To prevent tantrums, you need to work on two things:

  1. Provide clear and consistent discipline for your child, and a calm environment.
  2. Get to know your child’s cues so that you can catch it before it starts. Generally, parents today are not as connected and in tune with their children’s cues as they were before cellphones and texting entered our world. But if you look closely, you will notice when your child is getting sleepy or overly tired. You will see when they are frustrated by an activity that proves too difficult, or hungry between meals. The more you are in sync with your child’s emotional state, the more you will be able to help your child manage those emotions before they reach the level of a tantrum. It is as simple as that. Once you recognize the source of a potential tantrum, you can use some of the strategies below to ensure that your child experiences as few tantrums as humanly possible. And believe me—tantrums are as unpleasant for your child as they are for you!

By providing the right guidance, environment and understanding when your child is about to lose control you can prevent most temper tantrums from happening. My children rarely had tantrums, because I researched and put in place the same strategies I am sharing with you here today. I was the first of three siblings to have children, and my family and I are close. We always have fun together, but I have to admit, we are not a quiet group – there are always lots of laughs at family reunions, When I had my first child, I found out the hard way that some things had to change. My family and I got together about once a week to share a meal. When I had a baby, he went with me to all the parties, all the family get-togethers, and stayed until everyone went home. When he was about two years old, I remember getting together for brunch with my family, and my son starting to cry about two hours after we arrived, for two or three weeks in a row. I couldn’t understand it – he slept well, ate well, had lots of my time and the family’s time – why was he crying? I have to admit, I felt embarrassed at first, and as usual, tried to immediately solve the problem by doing what I do best – research. I realized then that since he was still napping in the afternoons, and my family reunions were so stimulating and fun for him, he didn’t want to miss out and instead didn’t nap, but after a while, as much as he wanted to partake in the fun of it all, it was too much for him. It was too loud, too stimulating, too much. All I had to do was make sure I changed the time of the family get-togethers to work around my son’s schedule and learn to make an exit before he was overtired, and voilà! No more crying! I learned that knowledge is power when raising a child, and that things are quite simple once you know what you are doing. That is why I am so passionate in sharing all that I have learned with you.

Avoiding Temper Tantrums Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3!

  1. Avoid crowded, busy places

If you see that your child is about to have a tantrum (or is having one) avoid crowds at all costs. If you are already somewhere with too many people or too much noise, leave as soon as you can and go somewhere quiet with as little stimulation as possible.Once you get to know your child’s sensitive times (when they are tired, hungry or frustrated) avoid taking them to crowded, loud or stimulating places during those times.

Those places are triggers when your child is feeling sensitive. You can plan your day around your child’s needs, which will avoid many temper tantrums. For example, you could go to the supermarket after your child has lunch and a nap, instead of when they feel hungry or tired.

  1. Divert

If you see that your child is getting frustrated with an activity or a sibling, suggest a different activity before they lose control of their emotions: “You’ve been playing with your sister for a while now, and I miss you! Would you like to come for a walk with me?” or “It’s hard to put these puzzle pieces together isn’t it? Do you want to play in the water to rest your fingers for a little while? We could put bubbles in the bathtub!” Find something else attractive enough for your child to want to take a break from their current activity. Above all, don’t make your child feel like they have to do something else because they can’t handle what they are doing—children too have their pride.

  1. Offer choices

If your child is asking you relentlessly for something they want, and your answer is no, say it in a different way. For example: “This candy will hurt your teeth. Let’s find something you will love that is better for your health. Would you like this piece of watermelon? Or do you want to help me prepare apple slices with honey? Let’s see if we can find honey here…” and go in search of it. If it is something they do not want, and you can’t provide an option for them, use the same method: “You need to wear shoes because we are going outside. Would you like your runners or your rubber boots? Would you like me to put them on for you or do you want to put them on?”. This works because young children quickly focus on the options provided and the fact that they have a choice to make and feel less upset about what they cannot do (in this case, go barefoot on the street).

The more choices your child gets to make throughout the day, the more they feel in control and the fewer tantrums they will have. Even when your child is happy and content, make it a habit to offer choices and ask them for their opinion: “Should we go this way or that way? Which do you prefer?”. Offer them the opportunity to make decisions: “Do you want to go to the park today or to the library? Would you like to eat with a spoon or a fork? Do you want your vegetables first or your noodles?” The more your child learns to manage their life and enjoy more independence, the sooner they will be able to manage their emotions as well. Many tantrums happen because children are asserting their independence – they reach an age where they no longer want you to make all of the decisions on their behalf. Giving them the opportunity to make decisions on their own means less confrontations, and less confrontations means less tantrums.

How Your Response to a Tantrum Affects Your Child

Even if you get really good at detecting your child’s triggers, sometimes tantrums will happen anyway. Remember that your child is developing physically and emotionally at an incredibly rapid rate and this can be draining. This is one of the times your child needs you the most as a parent, to help them through it.

Yet, many parents feel like if they “let” the tantrum happen, they are spoiling their child, or reinforcing the behaviour. This is not the case. Our children need to know that no matter what, you love them, you are there to help, and they will be ok. If you ignore your child while they are having a tantrum, that is not the message you are sending. Instead, they learn that their feelings are not important, that they don’t matter (and maybe even that they themselves don’t matter unless they “behave”). If you get angry, yell at them or worse, punish them for having a tantrum, they learn that it is not ok to express their feelings, that they have to repress them.

Parents who lash back at their children and “lose it” when they have a tantrum are only teaching their child that their parents can turn on them, and this has long term consequences that are much more damaging to your child than having to put up with an embarrassing public tantrum.

What we can do as parents is make sure our children feel that their feelings are accepted by us, and not diminished or played down. Instead, help your child understand their feelings, and encourage them to express them in words instead of fits, and channel that energy constructively. This is something as parents that we do on a daily basis, from the moment our child is born, and it never ends – it constantly needs to be reinforced.

The message to your child should be clear and consistent: You will be okay; I am here for you.

When Temper Tantrums Happen Anyway

So what do you do when a tantrum is happening? That is also as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Get down to your child’s level

Wherever your child is, get close to them at their same level. Stay calm, and don’t worry about who is around you, just be there for your child. Sit in the middle of the grocery store aisle if you must; no one that matters will care. If you can, embrace your child in a warm hug until it passes. If they don’t want to be held, just stay as close as you can and rub their back, or just stay close. Don’t crowd them. The point is to show your child that you are there for them and you empathize with them. Next, you;

  1. Validate and verbalize their feelings

Tantrums happen when your child is not yet able to cope with their feelings. Part of learning to cope is learning to identify what these feelings are. You can help by verbalizing what your child is feeling. Even if you are the cause of your child’s tantrum, you can still, without changing your position, empathize with your child. Here is an example of how to do this: “You are angry with me because I had to help you get dressed so we could leave on time. I know how much you like to get dressed on your own. I am sorry we did not have more time today, but we could not be late for our doctor’s appointment. I am here for you; you will be okay.”

  1. Wait for it to end

As difficult as it is to watch your child go through it, the best thing to do is stay close and calm until it ends. It is like waiting for the rain to stop—there is no point in encouraging it to stop sooner —it will stop when it stops. If you are calm, and if you are there for your child, you will see that soon your child will feel calmer and the temper tantrum will end. Once it does, you do not need to talk about it unless your child brings it up. Definitely do not make your child feel bad for having a tantrum. Avoid talking with your spouse or someone else about what you “had to go through” in front of your child, as it can unnecessarily affect your bond with your child. At a different time, when your child is calm and rested, you can show them different ways of expressing themselves when they feel upset.

It takes time to teach your child how to handle their own feelings, but in doing so, you teach them that their feelings are important, that they are free to express them, and that you trust them to handle their feelings. They will also learn that they can count on you for guidance and mentorship when they don’t know how to handle their feelings.

Of all the things we go through with our children, tantrums are by far the least pleasant to endure. With these tools, you will ensure that the tantrums are as few and as mild as possible. Let me know how it goes!


Favourite Mother’s Day Traditions

I love Mother’s Day. I know that many people say it’s just a commercial opportunity, and I can understand why: buy presents, buy flowers, buy cards, buy brunch, buy dinner, buy, buy, buy…

Still, there’s another side to Mother’s Day – the day we honour our mothers. We don’t need the rest, really, if we don’t subscribe to the whole commercializing of it.

My Mother’s Day traditions are a blend of both, and I absolutely love that day, every year. I see it as an opportunity to stop and think of what our mothers mean to us. And of course, for my children to also do the same. I thought I would share with you my favourite things about this day and ask you about your own traditions. Here’s how we spend the day:

Mother’s Day Brunch
I love brunch in general, it is my favourite family meal. I love brunch at home, and I love brunch at a restaurant, complete with mimosas and all. My sons and I go for brunch almost every weekend. We have our favourite places, and we also try new places from time to time. When we stay home, we love making brunch – anything from eggs to pancakes. Brunch is my favourite way to start Mother’s Day. Last year, we went to a place by the sea, with a beautiful view and delicious food.

Mother’s Day Photos
My other favourite tradition is to have my partner take photos of my sons and I. I do the same for Father’s Day, and I have to say, sometimes a whole year goes by without us stopping to take pictures of the three of us together. Below are some photos we’ve taken over the years, they’re such great memories.

This year, although we have to stay in isolation, we will still have brunch at home and take photos.

Mother’s Day Card
This is the part where you take the time to think of what mom means to you. I don’t care if the card is purchased or made. In fact, I always tell my boys not to spend money on a card, but I do want them to write me a card. Every year, I have scanned and dated their cards, and kept them in my memories folder.

Here’s one from a few years ago (my sons are older now):

Now you see why the card doesn’t really matter, it’s what it says. I have also had the amazing fortune of getting a card from my partner for Mother’s Day, which means so much to me. I do the same for him for Father’s Day, as I truly admire the kind of father he is.

Gift or No Gift?
I used to love getting a present for Mother’s Day, but that was when they were not the ones paying for the present (when they were little). Now I don’t want them to spend their money on me. I don’t need gifts or flowers, just time.

Guilt-Free-Do-Nothing-Day
This is also my favourite thing to do on Mother’s Day. Generally, I don’t sit still. I am always either working, cleaning, or doing something for someone (making hot chocolate, sitting down to chat, making dinner, giving a back scratch or a shoulder rub) – I love doing things for others. I also always find things to do around the house, which means that most days, when it’s time to go to bed, I find I have not stopped for a minute. Mother’s Day is the only day of the year (by choice, mind you) where I sit in the sun and read my book for hours, get brought food and drinks, and do absolutely nothing all day. I love it, and my sons love it too. They cook for me, bring me tea, check up on me occasionally and even watch whatever movie I choose. They do this throughout the year as well, but I am not as relaxed and ready to “receive” as I am on Mother’s Day. For some reason, it always feels so much nicer to do nothing on that day!

Dinner With My Mom And Grandma
In the evening, I like to spend time with my mother and grandmother (now 93 years old), and cook them dinner or take them out to their favourite restaurant. I give them a present, a card, and tell them how special they are to me.

These have been my Mother’s Day traditions for almost twenty years. I would love to hear how you like to spend Mother’s Day with your family!

Have an amazing time this Sunday,

xo Natacha


Mother's Day Keepsake Video

This is the easiest Mother’s Day gift you can do, and it is one of my all-time favourites as a mother. We do it for each child at CEFA Early Learning schools, for Mother’s Day and for Father’s Day. Since most of you are not at school due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I thought I’d share it with you so you can do it at home and surprise Mom on Mother’s Day.

Best Ages for This Activity

18 months to 5 years.

How to Make It

You will need:

  • Your phone
  • Your child

Let’s get started!

  • Make sure your child is nicely dressed (no need for a gown, just clean clothes that fit) and groomed (face washed, hair brushed)
  • When Mom isn’t looking (it’s a surprise), find a nice corner of the house, or a blank wall
  • Take a video of your child answering one of these questions (or any other question that you feel comfortable with):
    • What do you love about Mom?
    • What is your favourite thing to do with Mom?
  • Voilà! Now send to Mom by e-mail (or post on Facebook and tag Mom, adding why she is the most amazing mother ever) on Mother’s Day
  • If you have more than one child, do one video for each child, or one video with each child taking turns telling Mom why she is so special
  • If you are really inspired, you can have your child film you delivering the same message to their Mom, or to your own Mother

Learning Opportunities

This is a great activity to help your child think of others, namely: their mother. This helps your child develop empathy. Also, you will be developing your child’s public speaking talents as a bonus.

Books Your Child Might Like


6 Easy Ways to Teach Your Child Empathy

A four-year-old girl walks into a classroom for the first time. She does not speak English, and she knows no one, except her father who lovingly drops her off. The children are playing and only one boy notices her by the door from the other side of the room. He gets up, walks towards her and reaches for her hand. He doesn’t say a word, but when he looks at her, she knows he understands exactly how she feels, and she feels safe.

Children who are empathetic are better able to deal with their emotions and those of others during conflict or even in everyday situations. This also allows them to “read” social cues, such as when a person wants to play and when they prefer to be left alone, or when it’s ok to give someone a hug. This will help your child make friends easier, have deeper and more meaningful relationships, and even have better grades at school.

Every child has the innate ability to understand another person’s circumstances, thoughts and feeling, which is described as empathy. As parents, all we need to do is cultivate it. Here are 6 tips to teach your child empathy:

Help Your Child Recognize Different Feelings

Help your young child recognize different basic emotions and begin identifying them with words. Start with basic feelings, like “angry”, “happy” or “sad” and evolve to more subtle ones like “proud” or “disappointed”. Once they recognize their own feelings, they are better able to recognize them in others. This is the first lesson in teaching empathy and emotional intelligence. You can draw how you feel, talk about it, express it with movement, but don’t forget the most important prop: a mirror. Show your child their facial expression for each emotion and explore it together.

As they grow older, use more complex vocabulary to help them understand how they feel: “It surprised you to see dad arrive so early today”; “You have a big test tomorrow, and now your stomach hurts, are you feeling nervous?”; “You have had a very long day, are you feeling drained?”.

To enhance this learning, make sure you share with your child how you are feeling as well, by using feeling words yourself. You can say, for example, “I am so thrilled to see you!” or “I am preoccupied” or “indecisive” or whatever you may be feeling. The more precise vocabulary you use, the more your child will begin to understand subtle nuances between emotions.

Be Aware of Others’ Feelings

As you go through the day, demonstrate empathetic behaviour towards other people. One way to do this is by observing other people’s state of mind. Invite your child to participate in this observation by including it as part of your daily conversations. For instance, “That baby is laughing, do you think she feels happy?” or “Look at the puppy in the car, it must be feeling lonely! I bet it can’t wait for its owner to come back from the store…” or “Your friend was very quiet today; I wonder if he is feeling sad about something…”. This will help your child recognize feelings in others, which is the first step towards helping someone feel better and empathizing with them.

Walk Your Talk

The best way to teach a child empathy is to be empathetic as parents. Respond to your newborn’s needs with empathy and kindness, don’t keep them crying or waiting and you will teach them that you love them, you care for them, and that they can count on you. As they grow older, listen to them and let them know they are loved no matter what, cared for and understood. They will learn that being there for someone provides comfort, and soon act the same towards you, and towards others.

Children model your behaviour. If you are kind and empathetic towards people you care about, they will learn to do the same. If you are kind and empathetic towards people you have never met before, they will also learn that from you. This is an invaluable learning experience for your child, and one they will most likely keep for the rest of their lives.

If your child sees you holding the door for strangers, giving up your seat for someone who needs it more, or being patient with a new teller at the bank, they will learn to do the same. This will teach your child not only to understand how others are feeling, but to know that they have the ability to make others feel better and to help just by the way they behave towards them.

Help Your Child Understand Others

Your child covers their ears when they hear another child cry very loudly. Their first reaction is to feel bothered by the child, or at least by the loud noise. You take the time to look and quietly comment to your child “That boy seems very upset, I see he is also holding his leg, he must have fallen and hurt himself. How can we help?”.

As your child gains more practice, choose situations that are progressively more subtle or complex, for example “I noticed that Lily had her head down and was walking slowly after school today, I wonder if she had a chance to play with anyone at recess? Do you know if she might be feeling left out?”. Also try to help your child understand why a person may be affected by something that does not seem so obvious to them “You sister is not upset with you, she is upset because she did not do very well on her test. She just needs a little time alone until it passes and then she will be able to think about it without getting emotional.”

Show Your Child How to Make Others Feel Good

It is incredibly rewarding to make someone else happy. Give your child ample opportunity to care for you, they can make you a tea, for instance, or save you a piece of their chocolate bar. For their siblings you could as “What do you think we could prepare for dinner that would make your brother feel special?”. For others try saying “It was really nice of you to hold the door for that man at the supermarket, especially because he looked so tired”. If you or your child has guests your child could offer them a drink of water when they arrive or hang their coats. Once your children receive an allowance, teach them to set aside some of that amount (it can be any amount they choose) to help someone else. They can choose to help someone in need, or raise funds for something they believe in, like saving endangered species. You can also ask them to help you carry some groceries to bring to the food bank or recycle bottles to help keep the environment clean.

One of our favourite games to play as a family is, after dinner, picking the names of each-other out of a bowl and being extra kind to the person we got without telling them, for as long as it takes that person to realize we were their secret benefactor. Another fun thing to do is choosing one family member at dinner time, when we are all together, and telling them (one at a time) one thing we like or admire about them. It teaches your children how to really look at someone’s good traits rather than always point out what they don’t like about them, and also to think a little more deeply about that person and what they mean to them. The next time you have dinner, someone else will have a turn, until all of you got showered with love!

Recognize and Praise When Your Child Is Being Kind

When you see your little one demonstrating empathy, concern or care for others, be quick to compliment them on their actions; “It was very nice of you to share your bucket at the park. How did you know this child wanted to play with it?”; “You made grandma very happy by giving her such a big hug. She misses you so much when she doesn’t see you!”; “It was very kind of you to share your seeds with the birds”.

Children who are empathetic feel much happier and more fulfilled. They also have a much higher level of understanding and acceptance for other cultures and embrace different people and experiences regardless of how different they are from their own. They have more respect for animals, insects, and the environment, and have the qualities needed to be a true leader, an example for others. You can enhance this by exposing your child to different cultures if you like traveling, or even different foods, different music, different books, where they learn to appreciate others’ ways of seeing the world, which in turn expands their own view.

The next lesson will be to ensure that they treat themselves with the same kindness and respect as they treat others. The same way you taught your child to discover their feelings first before being able to understand how others feel, teach them that unless they feel happy and their needs are met, they won’t have much to give. A lesson as parents we also should learn!


Spa Day for Mom

When my youngest was three, I was invited to a Mother’s Day Spa at CEFA Early Learning schools, in his classroom. When I arrived, all the children had their own basin with warm water where they each soaked their moms’ feet, a little towel which they used to dry them, and then nail polish of every imaginable colour to paint our nails with. I left with one nail of every colour, toes and hands, and with a son so proud for having given me the best manicure and pedicure ever (according to him and his choice of colours), that I never forgot that Mother’s Day present. I loved every minute of it, and so did my son. He loved having the chance to do something for me, and to make me feel beautiful, and I loved seeing how much he enjoyed it.

This activity is very easy, as all you need is nail polish and a little hand moisturizer (or if you made the bath bombs I posted, you can use the sweet almond oil you have). You can complete it with a shoulder massage (teach your child how to do it) along with a cup of mint tea and you have a full spa day! This will be a nice treat for Mother’s Day, or any day for that matter (after all, spa days are always welcome!).

Best Ages for This Activity

2 to 5 years (or older). If your child is younger, you might need nail polish remover as mom’s toes and feet will most likely also be painted – still working on fine motor skills!

How to Make It

You will need:

  • A basin or Tupperware to soak mom’s feet in
  • A small towel
  • Nail polish (see if you can find a variety of colours for your child to choose from)
  • Hand moisturizer, or you can use sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil
  • Nail polish remover
  • Flower petals (these are optional, but you can get them next time you go out on a walk, to add to the warm water)

Let’s get started!

  • Fill a large bowl, a basin or a Tupperware with warm water, and add flower petals to it
  • Put the towel beside it (to dry mom’s feet)
  • Your child can invite mom to soak her feet, then dry them, then choose a nail polish colour (or several) to give mom a pedicure (and a manicure if they like)
  • While the polish dries, your child can give mom a back rub, using the moisturizer
  • Partners or siblings can help your child bring mom a hot cup of mint tea or a glass of champagne if she prefers – I know what I would prefer!
  • Mom can relax after her spa – best Mother’s Day ever!

Learning Opportunities

This is a great activity to help your child think of others, namely: their mother. This helps your child develop empathy. Also, painting nails is an excellent fine motor skills, a precursor to writing!

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