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Involving Young Children in Service

Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.comWelcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

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Every parent hopes to raise children who will be compassionate and contribute to the world around them.  For me, this is a significant part of raising my children to be global citizens and a core element of my spiritual foundation as a Baha’i, so I am always thinking of how to foster a passion for service in my son.

But how to do this?  My son is not quite three years old, so the types of service projects we can do are limited, and he is not yet old enough to have detailed discussions about why service is so important.

Yet this is the perfect age to begin teaching compassion and to ensure that service is a natural part of life for him.  This is the time when children can start to learn to say “please” and “thank you” and to do smallInvolving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com tasks around the house, for example.

And larger service projects are not out of the question for young children.  My little Monkey and I recently dedicated a day to performing Random Acts of Kindness.  As I planned our day, I was careful to choose activities that were fun and easy for him to understand, such as making cards and baking cookies for others.

Reflecting on this experience, I have come up with several points to keep in mind when encouraging young children to do service.  I would love to hear your ideas as well!

Involving Little Ones in Service

1. Be a model

It is one thing to talk the good talk, but children are very attuned to our actions.  If we model compassion and helping others, this behavior will have a powerful effect on our children and set the tone for family life.

Children should come to see service as just a natural part of the life of the household, rather than as something special we do at particular times of year.  And experience is a great teacher for us as well.  The more we are involved in serving others, the more experience will we have to draw on when teaching our children.

Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

2. Be age appropriate in your activities

Take care to choose activities that will hold your child’s interest, keeping it on a level they can relate to.  Some volunteer projects, though wonderful, may be a little too abstract for these concrete thinkers.  Try to choose projects that will have very real, tangible results that your child can easily understand, such as donating clothes or toys, or sharing a meal with someone in need.

It is also helpful to tie activities to something important to them.  So if they love to read, donate books.  If they love animals, volunteer at an animal shelter.  For our Random Acts of Kindness Day, I chose delivering treats to places that are important to my Monkey, such as the library, his doctor’s office, and the fire station.

3. Be age appropriate in your explanations

For very young children, it is important not to overwhelm them with concepts that are too mature or scary for them.  We don’t want to frighten them about the reality of disease and poverty in the world, for example, but we can talk about people being sick or kids who don’t have a lot of toys or who may need something to eat.

This is a fine balance, because while we want them to understand the importance of the service we are doing, we also want it to be based in joy rather than fear.  Each child is different, so work to find the balance that is right for yours.  Here is an example about how one mother explained hunger to her preschooler.Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

4. Keep it fun

Especially at this age, it is important to emphasize the joy of service.  Kids should learn to see helping others as not just another obligation but rather as something that makes them happy.  It is important to choose activities that they will enjoy and to keep the mood light.

5. Don’t force it

If they really don’t want to participate in something, this is not an age to obligate them.  Again, try to encourage their natural sense of compassion through emphasizing the joy of service, rather than making it into a duty.

6. Don’t forget the small things

Little ones are just learning how to do so many things, and service is just one of them.  Don’t feel like you have to conquer the world; be content with the small things, knowing that you are doing the important work of planting seeds that will blossom in the future.

You don’t have to tackle ambitious service projects.  You can encourage small acts, such as saying please and thank you, giving a card to a grandparent, sharing toys with friends, or helping carrying one’s plate to the sink.  As any parent of a toddler will tell you, having a child who willingly does any of these things is a huge step!Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

How do you teach compassion to your child?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to weekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

<!– END BOTTOM STRAIGHT LIST CODE –!>

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Random Acts of Kindness: Mud Hut Mama

PhotobucketThis is the second installment in our new series on Random Acts of Kindness.  Each week a different blogger will share about a day that they and their little ones dedicated to committing random acts of kindness.

Readers will have a chance to share their own experiences with committing random acts of kindness on our Facebook page, to be a part of our final series post on December 19.

This week’s post comes to us from Mud Hut Mama, who shares about her Random Acts of Kindness Day in Malawi, where she lives on a wildlife preserve with her husband and two daughters. Visit the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page for a full schedule of the posts in this series.

Random Acts of Kindness: Mud Hut Mama

When Leanna sent out the invitation to join her Random Acts of Kindness month I loved the idea of it and I wanted to participate but even as I accepted the invitation I realized that it would be a little tricky for us. In the States a random act of kindness is generally accepted with surprise and gratitude but, in the context of Malawi, it becomes a lot more complicated – at least for me as an expat navigating a foreign culture.

In this part of the world there is a lot of jealousy and you have to be very careful about what you do for one person if you are not doing it for everyone. If people start to think one person is being favored and they become envious of that person it is very likely that someone will do something to put them back in their place, and this can take the form of witchcraft, which is very real to many Malawians. In addition to that, the history of blanket aid in this part of the world has often led to an expectation of handouts from foreigners and there is sometimes a sense of entitlement to those handouts, so I worried that bigger gestures such as passing out large amounts of food to the needy in Blantyre (our closest city) might turn into a bun fight.

This is not to say that there are not random acts of kindness that take place every single day in Malawi because there are and I could fill post after post with descriptions of the compassion and kindness that I have seen in this part of the world. The challenge is that this project is to take one day and do a number of random acts of kindness which in many ways makes those acts less random than if you do what is more common here and offer help when you see that it is needed or when it is asked for.

That is more my style but I liked the idea of focusing an entire day on kindness so I decided to use it as a learning experience for my littles and to keep it simple, keep it local, and keep it culturally sensitive. I wanted most of our acts of kindness to be things that the girls could replicate on a regular basis so that when they see us doing for others we can remind them of what they did and hopefully encourage them to do additional acts of kindness. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that we live in the middle of a wildlife reserve and don’t come into to contact with many people on a daily basis, but we found out that there are always opportunities to spread a little kindness.

My daughters are ages two and three so we chose a Friday for our day of kindness. This gave us the entire week to prepare. Many of the crafts and cards were made in advance with just a final touch added on Friday. This provided a lot of time to talk about what we were doing and why. By Friday the littles were excited to spend a day doing things to make people (and their environment) happy.

Here is what we ended up doing:

Kindness for our family

I started the day by making a homemade coffee cake for my family. They love the very rare occasion that we have cake for breakfast. As we were enjoying the coffee cake I told the girls that my act of kindness to them was that it was going to be a day of no time outs and that I promised not to raise my voice for the entire day. I was pretty proud of myself for keeping that promise and have vowed to repeat it more often.

We finished the card we were working on for the girls’ Great Aunt who is currently going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. This is a special aunt that they have nicknamed “the other one MomMom.”

Random Acts of Kindness 1- Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

We made long distance hugs to send off to the littles’ grandparents – one set is on its way to Botswana and the other to the United States. We found this craft at Tons of Fun and added our own cards that read: These long distance hugs are made with our very own handprints, we measured our arm spans with the string so when you wrap our arms around you, you will know exactly how big our hugs really are. We can’t wait to squeeze you tight in person but we hope these hugs will tide you over until we see you next.

Random Acts of Kindness 2- Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

For Dada the littles practiced singing the song he likes to sing to them, an old Jam song that he inserts the girls’ names into. When he came home for lunch we pulled out our microphones (errr one microphone and one whisk) and used the table as a stage to perform for him. It made him very happy!

Random Acts of Kindness 3- Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

Kindness for others

When our housekeeper, Saliyapa, arrived for work she was greeted with a thank you card and a piece of coffee cake. She was able to enjoy her cake while the littles and I washed the dishes to show that we appreciate what she does for us.

Random Acts of Kindness 4 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

I regularly go through the girls’ toys and books and donate anything they have outgrown or are not using to a local orphanage but I have always done this when they are sleeping and have then distracted them when they realize something is missing. On this day I told them that it would make another child happy if they gave them one of their toys or books. I asked them to each pick out just one toy or book that they would like to give to another child. I was expecting tears and refusals since I had recently cleared out our shelves and there wasn’t much left that doesn’t get used regularly. I was shocked that instead of crying they ran to their shelves and decided on their notebooks. They love to “write” in their notebook and thought another child would like them as well. I told them that was a good idea but that since they had already used a lot of the pages in the notebooks maybe another child would prefer something else. They then decided on their books and surprised me again by choosing seven books to donate instead of just one each as I had suggested. Two of the books were all time favorites. I was so touched that they wanted to do this and Boo even asked if she could help me wrap them up so that the children could open them like presents.

We decided to go play with our friends who live just outside the reserve and we made a special American treat to share, Chocolate Chip Cookies. That brought an awful lot of smiles.

Random Acts of Kindness 5 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

We talked about one of the staff members here who the girls know is extremely ill and who has a daughter about their same age. I told the littles that she is spending a lot of time on transport going back and forth to the hospital with her father and that she is probably very worried about him. I asked what they thought we could do to make her feel a little happier and we decided that we should get her a coloring book and crayons the next time we were in town so that she has something to do while she is waiting in the hospital for her father or traveling. This is what the girls picked out for her:

Random Acts of Kindness 6 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

We made these cute and easy friendship bracelets that we found at DIY Life. The girls each ended up with four bracelets. They exchanged with each other and gave the rest to some friends they have in town.

Random Acts of Kindness 7 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

Kindness for the earth and wildlife

Dada brought the girls down to the waterhole to give it a good clean before filling it up again so that our four legged friends could have a nice clean drink of water during this hot time of year.

Random Acts of Kindness 8 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

He then had to go out to collect elephant dung (they are DNA fingerprinting our elephant population) and he took the girls with him. As is our usual habit, they stopped to pick up any trash they saw and talked about why keeping the reserve free of litter would make the animals happy.

Random Acts of Kindness 9 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

We collected some sterculia seeds and planted them. We talked about how important indigenous trees are and why planting them and protecting them would make the earth happy. There was a bit of an ulterior motive here as the girls have just started learning to identify trees and Boo has said that what she really wants for Christmas is a sterculia tree. If we have any luck with our seeds her wish might just come true, otherwise I’ll have to put a bow on one of the sterculias near our home.

Random Acts of Kindness 10 - Mud Hut Mama - Alldonemonkey.com

Although I was hesitant to join in at the start, I am so glad that we participated and that Leanna forced me to really consider ways that my daughters, even at their young ages, can spread kindness and happiness. It has had a wonderful effect as they are now asking me on a daily basis if certain things make people happy. The other day when Boo finished her dinner without it being a fight she looked up at me and asked, “did that make you happy?” and Kooks helped Saliyapa with the sweeping and asked if “that made her happy?” Thank you Leanna for spreading so much kindness!

Mud Hut Mama

Jody is a stay-at-home mom, raising two girls in a wildlife reserve in Malawi. Pre-motherhood she worked with international and environmental education. Jody is homeschooling her daughters and enjoys sharing her love of other cultures, nature, and conservation with them.

She writes about their adventures at Mud Hut Mama.  You can also visit Mud Hut Mama on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Watch for a post next week from Bilingual Babes!  You can see a full schedule of the posts in this series by visiting the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page.

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Multicultural Corner: Guest Post on Hartlyn Kids

I am so excited to be featured on Hartlyn Kid’s Multicultural Corner today!  Hartlyn Kids is an independent children’s book publishing company that specializes in multicultural kids’ books.  As part of that mission, they have a regular “Multicultural Corner” feature, where they introduce readers to bloggers with a passion for culture, diversity, and travel.  We are so honored to be included in that list!

You can read our interview with Aisha by visiting the link below, and also be sure to check out the other featured bloggers as well as the wonderful products offered by this great company!

Multicultural Corner: Interview on Hartlyn Kids

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Where There Is Love: Learning Mindfulness on the (Parenting) Job – Guest Post from Tender Sapling

Scott and his wife Emily are parents of three boys and founders of Tender Sapling, which offers fun, inspired, and eco-friendly products and ideas to help kids grow noble – cultivate virtues, world citizenship, and environmental sustainability. The following post on mindful parenting first appeared on their blog at blog.tendersapling.com. This holiday season Tender Sapling is running great specials on their organic tees & bodysuits (which come with fun activity ideas) for kids ages 0-12, matching tattoos & stickers, stationery, and canvas bags.  And you can enter by Nov 12 for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate.

LoveFest 2012 - Tender Sapling

I’ve studied mindfulness* just enough to know that I’ve been anything but mindful most of my life. It seems I’ve always been focused on some goal, some imagined future, or – truth be told – some distraction in everyday life. Okay, the ability to delay reward (future focus) has value; we don’t want to become lethargic loafs. And there is certainly value in having fun in one’s daily life; we know what all work and no play did for Jack. My issue, and I think this is fairly common in Western industrialized societies, is being worried or preoccupied with those things to the detriment of one’s happiness and ability to be present in the moment.

Which is why mindfulness is such a powerful tool.

For example, the simple act of focusing, even for a few moments, on one’s own breath — how the air feels inside one’s lungs, how it nourishes the body – has the power to re-center one’s mind just beautifully. It becomes so much easier to let go of my worry about the global economic crisis or climate change or what to eat for dinner. Not that I shouldn’t take actions to help stop climate change, for example, but that I should do it without undue stress and worry. Only concern myself with the things I can effect and not carry the burden of worry about everything else.

Cooking - Mindful Parenting - Tender Sapling

Two-year-old “cooking”

It’s a powerful tool in parenting, too. First of all, lower stress equals happier parent. But even when I’m at my most peaceful, happy, contented self (I’m working to make that more and more often), at some point in a day my reaction to our three boys will doubtless throw off that equilibrium. Some saints out there might be blissful and carefree when the nine-year-old doesn’t respond to calls because he’s too absorbed in Legos, the five-year-old has built and destroyed a pillow fort laying waste (it feels like) to the whole family room and is now playing a harmonica at full volume while pulling out painting supplies, and the two-year-old is singing at full volume while “cooking” by stripping the contents of the pantry and dumping them in a huge heap (yes, I mean opening and emptying packages – not just piling up containers) on the floor.

Laundry - Mindful Parenting - Tender Sapling

Two-year-old “folding laundry”

Yes, these are real, everyday examples. All normal, age-appropriate behavior. If I only had one of those at a time? No problem. Cool, sweet Dad is there. Two? I got that. Mom, why don’t you go out for a walk? Three? Alright, I admit it. I occasionally lose my cool.

Exercising - Mindful Parenting - Tender Sapling

Dad “exercising” with the boys

For some reason the image at the beginning of the Flintstones comes to mind for those of you old enough to remember the Flintstones – the big whistle signaling his “Yabba Dabba Doo!” celebration as he gets off work. Except I’m the whistle, not Fred. I’d much rather be Fred.

That’s where the mindfulness thing comes in. Becoming aware of my emotions, being able to separate myself from them to a certain extent has been pretty astounding. Being able to step outside myself and feel that I’m going to blow my stack has made it possible to then laugh at it (sometimes – more and more often). After all, the boys aren’t doing anything malicious. None of them is meaning to be upsetting. It’s not their fault that the accumulation of the action around me has set off my inner Flintstone whistle. So I’m getting better at stepping away, catching my breath, and then helping out with the cleanup. There’s also calling for backup, which I still do at times. Sometimes just having a second set of hands to keep the poopy diaper from being kicked across the floor is like magic. That’s when I thank God to have a partner in this crazy endeavor called parenting and I take my hat off to all those going it alone.

The mindfulness work reminds me of one of my favorite quotes at the moment. I’ve been repeating it to myself many times a day. It’s from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith, who has been on my mind a lot these days since it was 100 years ago this year that he made a 239 day voyage across the U.S. It’s this:

“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.”

What? When I first heard that I thought – easy for him to say. He didn’t have young children at the time, I thought, or the hectic pace of modern life. But as I reflected on mindfulness, the deep wisdom of this quote began to sink in. Sure, he didn’t have to be checking his e-mail on his smart phone a hundred years ago, but come to think of it, neither do I even today. I can let go of distraction.

So I repeat this quote whenever I’m stressed about getting the kids to sleep and it’s long after bedtime and the five-year-old asks for one more cup of water. It’s not worth the fight. Instead, I can show my love for this miracle of a boy and get the water.

My meager attempts to practice mindfulness have unlocked this quote for me, and when I’m on my game and finding my own peace, even at those crazy stress points, it means creating sweet moments throughout the day rather than breezing by them and missing out on the true bounty of parenting these noble souls. It makes me want to work harder at the mindfulness, the being present. Being there to love.

I wish the same for you.

_____

*Mindfulness is a spiritual or psychological faculty from the Buddhist tradition focused on practicing awareness of one’s body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness. In the past thirty years, pioneering practitioners of Western psychology have applied these teachings to a wide range of counseling and psychological therapies with very positive results.

Interested to learn more? There are a ton of great resources, but for a start I’d recommend:

– Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn

– Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, by Steven C. Hayes

Tender Sapling

Scott Mohajeri Norris is the co-founder of Tender Sapling and father to three wonderful boys. He blogs about sustainability, world citizenship, and virtues development at the Tender Sapling Blog.  For more, you can also visit the Tender Sapling Facebook page.

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Quotable Kids: On God and Spirituality

Quotable Kids - On God and Spirituality - Alldonemonkey.comFor many parents, one of the great joys of raising children is getting to teach them about God and faith.  It is such a privilege to guide these tender souls in their spiritual development.

These moments of teaching our children about spirituality are both sweet and – let’s be honest! – sometimes incredibly funny.  Last spring, for example, my Monkey and I were looking at pictures of the Bahá’í holy sites in Israel, including a photo of the beautiful Shrine of the Báb.  My Monkey listened to my careful explanation then informed me that he was planning on going there so he could climb the stairs and show the Báb his firetruck 🙂

Recently I followed a thread in a parenting forum I belong to, in which moms started to share funny stories about their children learning about God.  These stories were so touching and laugh out loud funny that I knew they had to be shared with a larger audience.

With their permission, I have reproduced these wonderful stories below, along with those I have since collected from other friends and fellow bloggers.  I am hoping to be able to do another similar post in the future, so please share your stories in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Relationship with God

Catherine of Momma’s Fun World: When my son was 3 yrs old we got out of church and I said “Did you talk to God in church today?”  His reply was “Mom, you told me to not talk in church so how can I talk to him?”Quotable Kids - On God and Spirituality - Alldonemonkey.com

Meg of North Carolina: My son told me once when I asked him where God was “God lives in your heart”.

Kristin of Simply Klassic Home: “Mommy, I can’t hear God talking.”
“Well you don’t hear Him with your ears, you listen with your heart.”
“I know why I can’t hear him! Because I’m covered with too much stuff!”
“Stuff?”
“Yeah, my skin!”

Carrie of Walluski Babble: My daughter Aimee tells her daughter Asiya, “We are going to Feast [Baha’i community gathering] tonight.” Asiya: “Why we going to Feast?” Aimee:” We go to Feast to keep God in our hearts.” Asiya: “God wants out?”

Andrea of Berlin: My then 2 year old came in with a toy phone next to her ear saying: “Oh God, guide me protect me…” I asked: “Did you call God?” She said: “Yes!” I responded: “So what did He say?” Her: “Alláh’u´Abhá!” [Arabic greeting meaning “God is Most Glorious!”]

Varya of China – Last night [for the Bahá’í Holy Day, Birth of the Báb, on October 19] we had a small potluck dinner with friends, afterwards we had some prayers and watched a very short presentation.  It is really funny how my daughter reacted this year: her birthday is on 17th and we had a cake at school and at home. On 21st we have a small picnic with few families with children. So yesterday she told me she loved having another birthday. I said: “But you do know we are celebrating Báb’s birthday tonight? Your birthday was on Wednesday and your friends will see you on Sunday”. To which she replied: “It’s ok, Báb will share his cake with me” ♥

Kids’ Versions of Songs and Prayers

Carrie of Walluski Babble:  I love how we all hear things differently and kids, so innocently, can bring a new perspective to everything. When mine were young one of our car songs was “Singing the Song of Peace” and one of the lines is “This is a world that is hungry for peace.” After singing this song for years one of our youngsters finally asked, “Why is the world always hungry for peas? Why isn’t it hungry for corn, or maybe even meat?”  And then there is ending a prayer with, “Thou art the Mighty and Power to Greyskull!”Quotable Kids - On God and Spirituality - Alldonemonkey.com

KLynne: When my oldest was little his favorite song was “We have come to sing praises to our Lord!”  He was 3 and would dance around the living room singing “We have come to bring raisins to our Lord!”

Lynn of North Carolina: Our son (7 1/2 years old) made up his own prayer on a walk with my husband: O God, Thank you for the world, the trees, the grass, the houses and us. Thank you.

Joy of Washington: As I was singing “O God Guide Me” with my son (20 months) before bedtime, he decided to chime in with “honk, honk”, “beep, beep” and “E,I,E,I,O”!

Hediyeh G.: When my 7 year old was 3 she was memorizing a [Baha’i] prayer.  When we said “The Bab” [an Arabic title pronounced like the English name “Bob”] she looked up at us in all seriousness and questioned with great delight “SPONGE BOB???”  Also, with this particular prayer, my then 2 year old would always point to his sister MIA during the part of the prayer that says “…and make ME A brilliant star” and thought we were praying for her.

Varya of China: My daughter slipped last time while chanting a prayer and instead of “abide by his bidding” she chanted “abide by his beating.”  She was very congested so I guess that’s why but I could barely keep from giggling.

Maria: When I put my then 5 months old son down for his nap – we looked together at his prayerbook and I read to him “Is there any remover of difficulties save God?” – he suddenly said “Neeee” (which in German means “Nooooo”) smile

Emily of Maine: From Asher, at 20 months old, “Oh God guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. How I wonder what you are! Up above the clouds so high, like a diamond in the sky!” smile

Kalyan: My Naia (17-months old) says, “Oh God, guide me, protect me, Chloe, Char-Char (her friends). Make me like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle twinkle. The Mighty and the Powerful. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” It takes everything in my power to not crack up every single time!! And my girl prays A LOT!

Quotable Kids - On God and Spirituality - Alldonemonkey.com
Helen: My daughter who is now 3 year old today, told her older sister that there are prayers for everything. She then went to say one prayer for the blueberries like this: “He is blueberries, Oh God, my blueberries, bestow upon me a pure heart, like unto a blueberries. ” We fought hard not to giggle or laugh.
Emily of Tender Sapling: One of our favorite kid-prayers was one a friend’s sweet 2-year-old shared before we had kids: “O God! Guide me. Protect me…..the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.”
Emily adds: Our middle son’s first prayer (age 1.5-2?) went like this: “O God! Guide me. Protect me.” And then he’d stand up and do a somersault. Every time. It was so hard not to laugh. Especially for his big brother. Our third son (also around 24 mos) did another version of the big-movement prayer. He’d say almost all of the “O God! Guide me” prayer, while spinning in circles the whole time during our family’s bedtime prayers.
Ruhiyyih of North Carolina: When I was little, I went to the bank with my mom and the teller gave me a lollipop. I asked what it was and she said a sucker then I responded “in this world and the world to come” and smiled. The teller looked confused. [Based on a Baha’i healing prayer, “Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor, both in this world and the world to come.”]
Ruhiyyih continues: One night at dinner I started crying and my mom asked me what was wrong. I was eating peas and I said “I don’t want to live in a world of peas!” She said “no – the song goes we’ve got to live in a world of peace- not peas!” I felt much better about that 🙂

Understanding Spiritual Teachings

Meredith of North Carolina: I had been talking to the kids about being a Light like Jesus was to the world and what shining that light meant…being kind, showing love, etc. One morning Emma woke up and came into my room, Zachary said “Good morning Emma! Give me a hug!” She walked right past him with a scowl on her face and sat down on my bed. Zachary just looked at her and said, “Well, I guess your Jesus light isn’t shining very bright this morning, huh?”

Chelsea of Australia: My three-year-old was calling out to a neighbor from our front lawn, “Hey come back and play with me!” The boy didn’t hear him and kept skating down the road.  My child said to me, “That boy is not being obedient to me.” (This of course is after a few weeks of focusing on Obedience)

Jenny of California: We have been working on memorizing quotes from the Baha’i Writings almost nightly. During a stressful moment for me my 6 year old said sternly: “Mommy: ‘Put your trust in God and commit your affairs to His keeping.’ ”

Quotable Kids - On God and Spirituality - Alldonemonkey.comMichelle of Ohio: We struggled for awhile with our daughter (8 years old) saying that it was unfair that mommy and daddy get to do anything that we wanted to. We told her no, we don’t get to do anything we want to – we have to be obedient to God. And her job as a child is to be obedient to her parents because God gave her her parents to guide her and help her learn to be obedient to God when its her turn (at the age of maturity). As she started to understand this … she summed it up this way: “I’m being obedient to God because I’m being obedient to you guys who are being obedient to God.”

Further Reading

Check out this wonderful post from Crayon Freckles, part of her Tough Questions.  Here she asks kids, “Were There Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?”
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World Citizen Wednesdays #1

World Citizen Wednesdays - Alldonemonkey.comWelcome to World Citizen Wednesdays, a brand new feature on All Done Monkey!

Each week we pose a question to members of the fabulous Multicultural Kid Blogs group and share their answers here.

You can find out more about these wonderful bloggers by visiting our Facebook page, subscribing to our Facebook feed, following us on Twitter, or following our group Pinterest board!

This week we ask:

If you could take a fun trip with your kids anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Alyson of World Travel Family: I’d stay right at home here in Port Douglas, Australia, and take a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We’d do this every day if we could, but it’s rather expensive. I love the sea and our reef and I’m passionate about marine conservation, so showing the kids what it is we’ve got to save is extremely valuable. Plus it’s fun, brilliant fun, a day to be a family, help each other out and learn together, physically and intellectually. I’m sure my children are part fish, it’s amazing to watch them fearlessly darting about in the open sea.

Becky of Kid World Citizen: Since I have 4 kids, I’m going to take advantage and list 4 dream vacations. I’d love to take my kids to China (Great Wall, Xian Terra Cotta Warriors, and Urumqi on the Silk Road), to see where my oldest son was born. I’d love to take them to Madagascar to visit the lemurs (my eldest daughter’s obsession) and Kenya to see wild cheetahs (my younger daughter’s favorite). And while we were in Africa, I’d visit Ethiopia (Lalibela in the north down to Omo Valley in the south) to visit where my youngest son was born:).

Soraya of Multicultural Mama: One day, when he is old enough to understand, I am going to take my son on a trip to San Agustin in Colombia and Machu Pichu in Peru. I will explain how the native Americans (north and south) had their own cultures, cities, technology, built amazing monuments and created unique pieces of art. I will tell him that their culture was every bit as rich and interesting as the European one that our ancestors had to assimilate into. I will show him these places, since due to the unfortunate historic events the great value of such culture can’t be found even in books anymore.

MaryAnne of Mama Smiles: I would take them to visit their cousin who lives in China! Or really anywhere – we drove up to Montreal last year, and that was a fantastic experience for them that they still talk about all the time.

Jill of Moms Gone Global: My boys would love to go to the Galapagos Islands. Off the coast of Ecuador, these volcanic islands are home to many species of plants and animals that can only be found there – which is the primary motivation for my little budding wildlife conservationists. Ideally, we would visit as participants in a conservation volunteer program (focusing on preservation of endangered plant & animal species, and habitat restoration). In our free time, we would go snorkeling with sea lions, and meet enormous (nearly 6 ft. long) tortoises which can live well over 100 years!

Amanda of Maroc Mama: I would love to take our kids to West Africa. Whenever we’re in Morocco I want to explore farther. Senegal, Mauritania and Mali are high on the “to-visit” list. I think it would be an awesome experience for them (and us!) to just go with a slower and different way of life. Both of my kids love art so seeing traditional artisans at work would be a big part of the experience. Plus I just like them to spend time with kids whose lives are different from their own.

Varya of Little Artists: Tanzania, Iringa. That’s where my husband grew up and where his father built 2 schools. It is a nice mountainous town, still lots of friends there and it would be relatively easy for us to be there with young children. We would definitely go to Zanzibar.

Thanks to all the bloggers who shared their answers here!  We will continue to share responses to this question next week on World Citizen Wednesdays #2!

And what is our own answer?  You’ll have to wait until next week to find out! 😉

To find out more about these amazing bloggers, check out the Multicultural Kid Blogs Facebook page!

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Random Acts of Kindness: All Done Monkey

PhotobucketWe are so excited to kick off our new series on Random Acts of Kindness.  Each week a different blogger will share about a day that they and their little ones dedicated to committing random acts of kindness.

Readers will have a chance to share their own experiences with committing random acts of kindness on our Facebook page, to be a part of our final series post on December 19.

Visit the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page for a full schedule of the posts in this series.

Random Acts of Kindness Day: All Done Monkey

I was inspired to create this series by an amazing post about a blogger who dedicated her birthday to committing random acts of kindness.  I wanted to modify her inspiring idea to make it practical for stay-at-home moms of young children by 1) creating activities that would be appropriate for little ones, and 2) creating activities that could be done on a limited budget.  The number of activities we did was considerably less than those that she did, but I wanted to keep it fun and not overwhelming for me or my Monkey.

Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com

My message to you, gentle reader, is that if this pregnant lady and her toddler can do a Random Acts of Kindness Day then so can you!

The two main activities we did were giving out cards and delivering homemade cookies.  Both required prep work ahead of our actual day, but I knew they would be activities my Monkey would enjoy and that would be on his level.

So two days prior I spread a drop cloth on the kitchen floor (it was raining outside), and we pulled out the paints.  My Monkey has so much fun painting, and I enjoyed seeing him create.  My main job was to continually provide him with blank paper, so that he wouldn’t layer all of the paint in one single spot.  Nothing wrong with his aesthetic, but I had a mass production goal 😉Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com

Once his artwork was dry, I cut the pieces in half, folded them into cards, and wrote a message inside.  For groups like the library staff, I wrote, “Thank you for all your hard work!” For our neighbors, it was “Have a nice day!” while I included a more personal message for family members.Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com

Step two was to make cookies.  I had previously contacted the manager of our local library branch about our project, and luckily she mentioned that one of their staff couldn’t eat eggs.  Hmm, that eliminated most of my cookie recipes!  Luckily, I have a sister who is not only vegan but an amazing cook, and she turned me on to Post Punk Kitchen, a wonderful vegan cooking website.

I used their Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, although trust me, these are so rich that you really don’t need to add the chocolate chips.  (Bonus tip: One great thing about making vegan cookies is that because there are no eggs you can eat the dough without guilt!  Okay, not exactly true because these cookies are so decadent, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting salmonella from raw eggs – always a plus!)

So when we awoke on the Big Day, the cards and plates of cookies were packed, along with other assorted goodies we were going to pass out.

Here is how our day went:

  1. Our most important act of kindness was the first one, when my Monkey delivered his handmade card to his daddy, along with a big kiss and hug.  No one is more deserving of some extra kindness!
  2. My act of kindness to my Monkey was not to rush him out the door, as I am so prone to do when I have an agenda for the day.  I let him enjoy playing while I gathered together last minute things and tidied up the kitchen.  Afterwards I let him enjoy a really fun, splashy bath.  As a result, we didn’t actually leave the house until almost 10 am, but it was worth it, since we were both much more relaxed and happy.
  3. Before we drove out, we walked to the mail box to leave a special treat for our mail carrier.  I wasn’t sure how long our gift would be sitting in the mailbox (as it turned out, we had missed the daily delivery, so the mail carrier didn’t get our gift until the next day), so I was hesitant to leave homemade cookies.  Plus since we had never met in person I was afraid s/he would be nervous about accepting homemade treats.  So instead, we left a gift box of chocolates, along with one of my Monkey’s cards.  Several days later we received a really sweet card in return, letting us know that our gift really brightened up her day! Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  4. As we were about to leave the house, I saw that one of our next door neighbors was home, so we hurried over to deliver our cookies.  We often wave when we pass in the street but haven’t really spoken much beyond this, so I was especially glad to build that relationship.

    Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com

    Loaded up and ready to go!

  5. Finally, we were on the road.  Our first stop was the doctor’s office.  The folks in the office are really wonderful, so I was glad to have my Monkey – whom they have known since he was a few days old – deliver some cookies and a card to them.  I was also happy to have him make a “social” visit, to reinforce the fact that the doctor’s office isn’t a scary place but one filled with people that help us.Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  6. Next, we tried our local fire station, but no one answered the door when we rang the bell, so we hopped back in the car to return later.
  7. Then we were off to the grocery store, where we mailed cards to both sets of grandparents.  We speak to them on the phone or over Skype on a fairly regular basis, so I thought sending a card through the mail would be something special.Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  8. Lunch break!  It was time to head back to the house and have some lunch and then quiet time.
  9. Afterwards, it was back in the car to try the fire station again.  Monkey was so excited when a firefighter answered the door and graciously accepted the card and plate of cookies.  My Monkey is obsessed with firefighters and fire trucks, so it was a real treat for him to make this delivery.Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  10. Next up, the library!  I made sure most of our deliveries were to places we visit often, so that my Monkey could really understand the connection between the service these folks do for us and the kindness we were trying to show to them today.  The library definitely falls in this category, as we visit quite often. Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com First we went to the Friends of the Library store.  These wonderful volunteers help keep the library running smoothly despite budget cuts, in part by operating a used bookstore inside the library.  After we delivered our cookies and card, I let Monkey play with the toys in their kids’ corner while I rummaged through the used children’s books to find ones we could deliver to the children’s hospital later in the afternoon.  I was able to buy all of the books pictured here – all in great condition – for only $6!Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  11. On the way into the main library, my Monkey personally delivered a cookie from our plate to the security guard.  He is a great guy and someone we frequently see, so this was a delightful exchange to witness.
  12. Once in the library, we delivered cookies and a card to the main checkout desk.  As luck would have it, the librarian on duty was one of those that has been there since the branch first opened.  She always remarks on how big Monkey is getting and loves to hear what he is up to, so I was thrilled that she was the one we got to deliver our treats to.Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  13. In the children’s section, we left a box of stickers on the counter for the other kids to take.
  14. Our last stop in the car was the furthest out – the downtown children’s hospital.  I had spoken earlier to the head of volunteers, who advised me on where to take our donation.  So we didn’t actually go to the hospital itself but to a small office across the street, where the volunteer coordinator accepted our gift of books that we had bought earlier in the day as well as candy.  (Again, because of the location, I wasn’t sure that homemade cookies would be appropriate).  I had been careful to get items that came individually wrapped, so that there wouldn’t be an issue of having multiple people sharing out of a single box.  I left it to the coordinator to decide whether to give the treats to the volunteers, the kids, or leave them in a family waiting room.  We had packed another box of stickers to deliver as well, but I couldn’t for the life of me find them when we arrived, so we had to skip it.  Several weeks later, they still haven’t turned up!  Hopefully someone somewhere is enjoying them – talk about a random act of kindness! 🙂Random Acts of Kindness Day - Alldonemonkey.com
  15. When we arrived home, the car was in the driveway of our other neighbor’s house, so we tried to deliver our cookies, but there was no answer.  Perhaps they were just busy, but I have to wonder if they simply didn’t answer the door.  This is just a sad fact of life today, that many people (ourselves included) often don’t answer the door unless we are expecting someone, because otherwise it is usually a salesperson or a politician.  In any case, it was nearly time for dinner and then bed for Monkey, so I didn’t attempt to deliver to the neighbors again.  Instead, we gave the remaining cookies to friends at a playgroup the next day, which was also fun to do.

Reflections

This is definitely something I would like to do with my Monkey again, and I look forward to his level of participation evolving as he grows.  For now, these low-key activities were just our speed.  It was  a full day, but we had fun along the way and weren’t totally exhausted by the end.

Because of this project, I was also much more aware of the kindness others showed to us as just a routine part of our interactions – whether it was waiting for us to get into or out of the car, waiting for us to cross the street, taking time to talk with Monkey, letting him hand over an item to be rung up at the register, and so on.  The truth is that when you have small children – and especially if you are also pregnant – you are much more likely to be on the receiving end of acts of kindness.  Which, frankly, is how it should be.  I believe that there are times in life when you can do more for others and times when you are more focused on yourself and your family, and that is just the natural flow of things.

And while some people may find it a stretch, I would include on the above list a final, ongoing item – giving others the opportunity to commit random acts of kindness.  I really believe this is true, and by the reactions we got from everyone we came across, they were happy to do something nice for us.  After all, who couldn’t be charmed by an adorable toddler (especially when he is in a good mood!), and aren’t people always happy to help a pregnant woman?  Knowing how happy it made us to commit our acts of kindness, I’d like to think that those that helped us out that day (and all those who do so everyday) got some joy from their acts of kindness as well.

So be fearless as you go out and commit your own random acts of kindness, but also be reassured that when you let someone do a kindness for you, that is just another way of spreading joy!

Watch for a post next week from Mud Hut Mama!  You can see a full schedule of the posts in this series by visiting the main Random Acts of Kindness Challenge page.

This post has been shared at the weekly Kid’s Co-op.