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If you are like me, your abilities to create with playdough are limited. An Israeli friend recommended I check out the products of Rony Oren, a master clay animator and artist. His distinctive, easily taught method of working with clay is conveyed through a wide range of books and merchandise, available on his site. Rony sells how-to book series, story books, board books, clay-kits as well as internationally broadcast short animation films and worldwide workshops.  Rony likes to work with special clay, but his creations are easily replicated with simple play dough, as well. Check out his site to buy his amazing books, or just to get inspired.

http://ronyoren.com/

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There are many things I like about the Waldorf philosophy of child-rearing. I love the importance of free play, the connection to nature and the simple chores for kids. I like the absence of television and the emphasis on reality-based crafts. I love the handmade dolls and the beautiful pieces of fabric , which are used as toys. I don’t agree with the theory that children should not be taught academics until they are seven years old: if my kid is interested in reading earlier, I will teach him how to read.

My favorite thing about Waldorf is its emphasis on rhythm and rituals. According to Waldorf philosophy, there is nothing as important for the child’s healthy growth and development as the work you do to maintain consistent rhythms in their lives. Noticing the change of seasons with your child is important. Noticing the times of day is important, as well. Paying attention to simple things in nature, like sunshine coming after the rain, helps your child to better connect with their inner rhythm and to tune into the world around them, which they are a part of.

The Waldorf philosophy states that a child develops a sense of self through a carefully-guided, secure and stable childhood. Keeping close ties to the natural rhythms and cycles helps your child develop a sense of well-being and certainty that the world is an understandable, safe, and predictable place. Here’s how to develop a natural rhythm in your home, according to Waldorf: Make a list of the chores and errands you do each week. Include “basic” things, like cooking and cleaning, as those present a wonderful learning opportunity to a child. Assign each errand to a specific day of the week ahead. Make your schedule and stick to it.

Here’s what we do:  ( letters and numbers are not supported by the Waldorf philosophy at an early age,but I choose to teach them, because my kid is interested)

Monday: Learn and play with numbers
Tuesday: Cook, play dough
Wednesday: Learn letters and do a craft project, involving letters
Thursday:  Field trip
Friday: Housekeeping (washing, polishing, dusting.) Watercolor painting.

We usually do the chosen daily activity in the morning an then repeat it a few times throughout the day,as a theme. If the theme is housekeeping, we dust in the morning and learn about different tools,used for cleaning, while going for our afternoon walk.

While choosing your daily schedule, the Waldorf philosophy suggests to alternate between activities of expansion and those of contraction. Reading, writing, doing crafts- all require concentration and are, therefore, contracting. Free play is expansive. This theory of expansion and contraction sounds very true to me, because I apply it to my daily yoga practice: the only way to maintain a perfect balance in the body is to even out the constant play of the expanding and the contracting forces: those of power and engagement with those of broadening and stretching. A daily schedule of alternating contracting and expanding activities gives your child time to run and play, as well as sit and learn.  Alternating between the two is the most effective way for your child to process new information.

Here’s a typical Waldorf day:
• opening verse
• daily activity
• independent play (inside)
• clean up
• circle time
• independent play (outside)
• story, puppetry, drama
• closing verse

Songs and verses are very popular with Waldorf, as they contribute to the daily rhythm. When children hear the verses, related to specific activities, the transition to these activities becomes smoother. Many verses are available in A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, a book of poetry, verses for morning and evening, blessings and meditations for parents and teachers.

According to Waldorf theory, when a family gathers for their evening meal, it’s a good idea to use place mats, decorated by the kids. Dinner becomes an art project. The place mats can be drawn, sewn, knit. They can have ornaments, glued to them or you can try patchwork – most importantly they should be lovingly decorated as a family art project. Then, there should always be a candle and a prayer. If you are not religious, something like:

” Thank you, Earth, for growing our food,” is good enough.

Keeping a consistent daily and weekly schedule, simple chores and activities, outside play – are crucial tools for raising happy kids, according to the Waldorf philosophy and I wholeheartedly agree. What do you do to keep a sense of rhythm in your child’s life?

      My son loves to build. So, I bought him three different kinds of blocks and eventually, he got bored with all of them. It  was time for a new project. We cut different shapes out of colored papers. We made rectangles, triangles, squares and  circles. Then, we put them all on a table and started building a town. We made houses, trees, cars, trains and people. My  son loved the game! The best part is that this game is portable ( just put all the pieces in a ziploc bag and take it with you  to a restaurant or on a plane ride.) While building , you can also discuss shapes, sizes and colors, therefore, learning them.  You can count shapes:  “Find how many circles we have?”or count shapes and colors: “Find how many blue squares we have?” … etc. Additionally, this is a perfect rainy day activity.

My son will be three years old in less than a month. Most of his buddies are already in preschool or are starting preschool this fall. Supposedly, going to preschool can help the child’s social development and teach them colors, numbers, letters and some basic reading and writing. Preschool can also help with learning arts and crafts, since there is a lot of coloring and working with play dough going on.

I don’t have anything against preschool, especially if you have an only child, who is beginning to get bored at home. Or, if you want  a little break from your kid to do yoga, hair and nails. Every Mom deserves some free time!

However, I noticed that many of my friends had second babies by the time their first ones turned two or three years old. This way, they can send the oldest to preschool and spend uninterrupted time at home with the youngest, so that the youngest feels as special as the oldest felt, when they were a baby. This sounds logical. Unfortunately, this thinking appears to be against nature.

The second child was not meant to get the same attention and one-on-one time as the first one. This is why they were born second. They were meant to have an older sibling to learn from (something the first one didn’t have.) If you send your older child to preschool and play at home with the little one, you are creating an artificial environment for both. You are robbing the younger one from hours of learning from the older one and you are not letting the older one learn how to lovingly share. Children learn from each other. They also learn to adjust to the new family structure. The older one needs to understand that the younger one is here to stay and the younger one needs to learn that the older one needs his or her time with Mommy, too.

This is where “at home preschool” comes in. I teach my older kid numbers and art and letters, while my 8.5 months old twins try to eat our crayons and I think it’s the best setup, because it minimizes any jealousy or sibling rivalry there may be. My oldest learns about socialization right in our living room and my youngest twins learn how to build castles and read books. A kid who comes home from preschool wants his or her Mommy. The little baby wants his or her mommy all the time, and this is a problem for both. This is where the older one can get aggressive or whiny. If the older one stays home, both him/her and their little sibling learn to lovingly co-exist with the limited amount of  “Mommy-time.”

The problem of socialization with the kids outside of family can be easily solved, as well. You can join  a local mommy group on meetup.com, you can go to playgrounds, you can enroll your child in various classes and activities. You can organize your own playgroup, where you and five other mommies agree to meet at a specific time in a specific place once a week. I know many will disagree with my view, but I believe if a woman is a stay at home mother, she should stay home with ALL of her children, not just some. What do you think?

 

Eat This And Live For Kids by Don Colbert and Joseph A. Cannizzaro is a terrific book for parents and kids about making smart and healthy choices in food and exercise. Everything from prenatal health and infant nutrition to nutritional  needs of teens and young adults is presented in an easy-to read and understand format with lots of colorful illustrations. The book stresses the importance of exercise, explains what to buy at the grocery store and gives easy and healthy meal ideas both for staying in and going out. There is also a chapter on special diets.

Dr. Cannizzaro is my kids’ pediatrician and my family trusts his opinion wholeheartedly. It was a pleasure to read his wonderful book, while waiting for our appointment.

As a lifelong learner, I always take an opportunity to attend a seminar or to get another degree. There is a website, which provides endless learning opportunities for stay at home moms, for those that commute to work and like to listen to audio books, while they are doing so, for homeschooled children and for anyone, interested in learning new things: thegreatcourses.com

The site features an extensive collection of more than 300 Great Courses in diverse subjects and fields , ranging from  history, to  science, to  philosophy, to mathematics, to literature, to economics, to the arts. The Great Courses consists of series of video and audio courses led by the world’s best professors from the Ivy League schools.  If you have a moment to learn something new, I highly recommend you try The Great Courses. Their courses also make a great gift.

image:  Simon Howden

I jut finished reading Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child by Maja Pitamic.

I believe every parent of a preschooler should have this book. It presents simple activities that you can do with your preschooler to help encourage his/her cognitive development. If you consider yourself not too creative and imaginative, the book will give you tons of ideas of learning by playing interesting games with your child. If you are already full of ideas for fun and productive play, the book will give you more.  The instructions are brief, clear, and well illustrated. The activities are fun, and generally don’t require a lot of prep on the parents’ part. The recommended materials are easily found in most homes.

There are five chapters with activities you can do at home or in a classroom setting: Life skills, Developing the Senses, Language Development, Numeric Skills and Science Skills. Each activity has a picture next to its description, a numbered list of directions, a list of  what you will need as well as other, similar,  activities to try. In the back of the book you can find worksheets to accompany some of the activities shown in the book: everything is simple, concise and well-organized. I highly recommend this book.

 


I just finished reading this incredible book. Full of well-researched practical information and tips, the book explains what goes on in your kid’s brain. It talks about how children learn, how we can help them and which activities and circumstances can hinder their brain development. It explains how to maximize our children’s intellectual capacities, and help them reach their full potential. It also explains what not to do and where pushing the kid to succeed would be futile, because they may not be ready for the push at that particular stage of development.

I particularly enjoyed reading the confirmation of my parenting theory. I believe that teaching children comes down to simple things like talking and reading to them, playing outside and allowing them to freely explore their environment. Buying them piles of toys and putting them in front of a TV set doesn’t do much to your child’s brain development, which this book confirms with scientific research and practical observations. Read it to better understand how kids learn and to help them learn better.

 

 

 

I feel like I’ve been pregnant forever:  I have a 2.5 year old and four month old twins. I stayed active during both of my pregnancies and had big and healthy full-term babies (yes, the twins too. )

The following reading list helped me to have healthy pregnancies:

Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

Active Birth by Janet Balaskas

Birthing from Within by England & Horowitz

Every Woman’s Guide to Eating During Pregnancy by Shulman & Davis

Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm

A good Birth, A Safe Birth: Choosing and Having the childbirth Experience You Want by Diana Korte

Birth Without Violence by Denoy Leboyer

I also recommend my own DVD, YogaPulse: Pregnant, Fit and Tight.  I made it while nine months pregnant with my son. It has wonderful pregnancy-safe moves for strength and flexibility, as well as breathing exercises and relaxation tips.

 

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