If the Nutcracker is part of your family’s traditions during the most wonderful time of the year, you may be feeling like you’re missing out this time around. Well, San Francisco Ballet is trying out a fun, kid-friendly, and Fauci-approved alternative. This evening (6pm est) on the company’s social media one of their dancers, Tiit Helimets, will be retelling the classic story while he illustrates it live! It should be amazing to watch since this world class dancer also happens to be a gifted visual artist. You can follow along on the company’s Facebook live or on YouTube.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the kids are home from school (for a week? Indefinitely? Who even knows at this point?!). I’m looking for ways to fill the time. I had the vague idea that I’d like to do some sort of Thanksgiving themed art with my kids BUT the project had to meet the following criteria for selection:
Both my kids (ages 2 and 5 years) need to be able to participate
There cannot be a single “correct” way to complete the project
I’m not heading to the store and so the project must be feasible with supplies readily on hand
No white-washed representations of the historical origins of Thanksgiving
My Googling left me very disappointed and I devised my own little Thanksgiving turkey craft that I’m now happy to share with you. The only supplies that you absolutely need to complete the project are paper, scissors, and something that can make marks on paper.
Step 1: Create your turkey tail: cut a large semi-circle out of paper and divide it into sections
Step 2: Decorate the sections of your turkey tail with any supplies you have on hand. Paint sticks were a popular choice in my house, but markers and crayons also got some play. If you look at the pictures of our final project, you’ll see that my 2 year old contented herself with going bananas with some gems and glue.
Step 3: Add a turkey body. There are two ways to do this. You can cut out a large turkey to create a standing turkey or a smaller, front-view turkey body to create a flat decoration. In hindsight, I think flat would have been easier for everyone in my house; but I realized that once we were already most of the way finished with the project. If you are aiming for a standing turkey, cut small slits in both the body and the tail and then fit the two pieces together. For a 2-D craft, simply tape or glue the turkey’s body onto its decorated tail.
If free-handing vaguely turkey shaped drawings is not on your agenda today, I’m including a template that you can print and use at your convenience.
Did you recreate these versatile turkeys on your own? We’d love to see what you came up with. Share your results and tag Thoughtful Parenting on Facebook or Instagram. Did you come up with an entirely different Thanksgiving activity to do with your kids? We’d love to see that too!
Here is a fun Thanksgiving dish kids love to make!
You can have kids of any age help with this:
Steve’s Sweet Potato Marshmallow Balls
You will need:
1 bag marshmallows
Roast how ever many sweet potatoes you need (2 for a small gathering of 4 people, more for a larger gathering) at 400 degrees until soft. Let sweet potatoes cool then remove the skin and put into a large mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher or hands. After mashing add a little brown sugar to taste.
Now for the fun part!
Put corn flakes on a cookie sheet with sides and have your child mash with his/her fists.
Then have your child stand at the counter and take a scoop of sweet potato and form into a ball around one marshmallow. Each ball should be larger than a golf…
This is Bear and Piggy, two Native American carved fetishes. A creative woman I know sent them as a gift to a friend. And as she packed them up in their box and thought about the trip they were about to make, she decided to write a story about this for the children in her family. Because she could not actually be with the children this year due to Covid, she printed up a little board book with the story accompanied by photographs of Bear and Piggy emerging from their box. This year we are all going to need to think outside of the box when it comes to the holidays. Many of us are used to doing the same things each year – getting together with the same relatives at the same place, in the same way. And these rituals are so comforting and so familiar that many of us are trying to figure out how we can continue them this year. But, really, does this make any sense? In many places Covid numbers are way up. They are higher than they were at the beginning of the pandemic; they are higher than they were during the summer. This year calls for creativity. And flexibility. One mom I know has made her garage into a playroom for her children and the occasional friend who comes over and she is thinking of setting up a dining room table there for Thanksgiving dinner – with the garage door open! Another parent I’ve talked to is going to forego eating Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family and is going to have a brief Thanksgiving get together with masks and social distancing – just long enough to give each family member a to-go turkey dinner in take out containers! So this year, whether you decide to write a children’s book and send it to the kids in your family, or eat in the garage, try not to let the old traditions tempt you into taking risks you really don’t want to take. Be flexible, be creative, and get out of YOUR box!
Today is a good day to talk to your kids about winning and losing. The subjects of sportsmanship, humility and grace come to mind – as well as braggadocio, sore losing and bitterness.
Whatever side of the electoral battle you were on, you and your children will be having strong feelings today – and this week – and perhaps for months to come.
So what do we say to our children? And at what age are they ready to have this conversation?
Well, really children of any age, starting around 3 know about winning and losing – and they can talk about the feelings that come when they experience each. Of course, depending on your child’s age, you will speak about this differently.
But the place to start is to remind your child – whatever age they are – that how they and your family feel at this moment is not the way that everyone feels. Some people are extremely happy and relieved today and some people are extremely disappointed and upset today. And you can remind them that it is normal to feel happy when you win and upset when you lose.
HOWEVER – and this is where the more nuanced part of the discussion comes in – it is important, however you feel, to be aware that other people might feel differently than you do and to treat them and their feelings with respect.
Good sportsmanship is something that kids who play sports should be learning. You can provide this as an example: after a game, your team shakes hands with the other team to indicate that you both played a good game and that there are no hard feelings left over from the competition.
The losers can feel upset but still lose graciously. This is a concept that can be introduced to a 3 year old and also to a 16 year old.
And the winners can feel happy and joyous but they can also behave graciously by telling their competitors that they played a good game. Children can be reminded that bragging about winning is not the way to go, even though inside it feels so good to win.
You can tell your children the story of “burying the hatchet”. When Native American tribes had disputes or wars with each other, when it was over, they literally buried a hatchet in the ground to symbolize the end of the disagreement.
This is a way to handle winning and losing too. After someone has won or lost, it is time to bury the hatchet, to accept the defeat or the victory and to move back to getting along.
Today, I fervently hope that our nation can do this – and that all of our children can learn something about how to win and how to lose with grace.
As always, we’d love to hear from you and to know what you think. Have other resources that support you in figuring out how to guide your children through this quadrennial stressor? We want to hear about it!
If you need a diversion to help alleviate some of the stress in these final days leading up to the election, we may just have a tasty solution for you…
When the orders to stay at home came in the spring of 2020, certain items flew off the shelves of grocery stores. Some were predictable, like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, others were inexplicable (ahem, toilet paper hoarders, I’m looking at you right now). One thing that I found really hard to get ahold of was flour, because perfecting one’s homemade bread game was suddenly very in. If you became one of 2020’s newest wave of bread makers, my advice to you is this: it’s time to involve your kids. My own breadmaking, which antedates the pandemic, is something that my children are quite curious about and they love when they’re called upon to help. Lest you think that I have magical unicorn children who don’t make a mess when we work in the kitchen together and that’s why I don’t mind baking with them, let me assure that my children make just as much of a mess in the kitchen as everyone else’s and, since my two year old daughter’s favorite hobby is systematically emptying kitchen drawers, perhaps even more than some people’s. Let’s talk about why I don’t mind the mess…
Once during a late-night scroll through social media, I read an article about how many skills children acquire in early education settings that they then forget or lose mastery over because they aren’t given the opportunity to practice them outside of a school setting. Take pouring—your child is not going to get out of preschool without some top-notch pouring experience and then they unlearn or become insecure in their ability to pour because many parents take over the task at home. Breadmaking with your children is an excellent opportunity to practice skills like scooping, pouring, and, yes, pitching in to clean up the occasional mess. Not only are these important life skills, they’re also great fine motor practice. If you and your child knead and shape your loaves by hand, that’s even more fine motor practice and sensory stimulation.
Baking bread, following any recipe really, also involves practice with math and measurement. We may halve or double a recipe. We get practice with reading values off of our kitchen scale and with recognizing the numeric labels on our cup measures. In addition to the numbers practice, working within the parameters of the recipe is an opportunity flex our direction-following muscles—you cannot add extra scoops or pours simply because it’s fun. Depending on the age and interest level of your baking companion, you can expand the science and math talk to discuss the role of yeast as a living organism in the baking process and how temperature and weather informs the function of the yeast.
If you have the time, and of course not everyone does, baking bread with your child is an excellent diversion and a dynamic sensory experience. You can engage your child’s sense of sight, touch, smell, taste, and—if you count the number of times that you’ll say “Hey! Watch where you’re pouring that!”—hearing. And, if your kids are anything like mine, their sense of pride and accomplishment over having created something that the whole family can enjoy will be immeasurable. If bread isn’t up your alley, a lot of these same benefits can be derived from working with kids in the kitchen on other projects.
If you’ve been baking with your kids recently, we’d love to hear about it. If this post inspires you to get into the kitchen with your family, feel free to let us know or to tag us in your posts. Not sure where to start? There’s no need to purchase a ton of cookbooks. A search of Waldorf+bread will pull up a seemingly infinite number of recipes well-suited to your littlest bakers.
Have you been wondering why time sometimes drags and sometimes flies by during COVID? Cindy Baum-Baicker, a clinical psychologist based out of Philadelphia, explains why this is in her piece that was originally published in Psychology Today:
Have you noticed that since March, our conversations no longer begin with the weather but rather how weird time feels? Every day can feel like Groundhog Day, as tedious as the one that preceded it. Or, perhaps it feels that life is spinning so fast. Maybe you’re finding the moments ticking by all too slowly as you await the upcoming presidential election. You know it’s now the fall and that seasons have passed, but do you really feel it?
Our sense of time is off. It may seem dissolved even though the structure of minutes-hours-days has remained the same. Suspended as it moves, why does the present seem isolated from the continuity of time? The reasons go beyond the changes to our daily routines and structures that COVID-19 has wrought.
The invisible threat of COVID-19 and the upcoming presidential election are a one-two punch to our felt sense of security. We no longer have our illusory assumptions that the future is knowable and predictable. Who will get sick? What will happen to our democracy? Will there be a peaceful transition of power? Researchers have found that without illusions of a knowable future, we tend to live more in the present moment. And our present moment—the very thing that is filling the gap of the unknown future—is riddled with stress.
Altered time perception has been termed, “temporal disintegration” or “temporal discontinuity,” and has been shown to be related to mood state. People who are depressed are temporally desynchronized and often experience life at half its standard speed. A felt sense of slowed time is also experienced in everyday life; when we feel bored, time feels slow as molasses. The opposite is also true, as when we are in a creative flow, time seems to fly.
Have you ever been really frightened, and it felt like time stretched on and on, when in fact it was just a couple of minutes? This is because when exposed to threatening stimuli, people increase their time estimates. Daily, we are bombarded by news of rising COVID-19 deaths while at the same time subjected to unrelenting political advertisements alerting us to the disasters that may lie ahead if the other candidate wins. Is it any wonder then that time seems to move so slowly?
There is a downward spiral during stressful waiting periods. Distress makes time seem to slow down, which in turn exacerbates distress. It is a spiral of distress and time perception, making us feel ever the more like we are living in a time warp.
Time is a unique sense, and this may contribute to time distortion’s powerful effect. Unlike hearing, seeing, or tasting, the sense of time is not mediated by a specific sense organ but rather is “embodied” in a more all-encompassing way. It has been shown to be encoded in body signals governed by the insula, a fragment of the cerebral cortex folded deep within each lobe of the brain. Time sense fully embraces us because it lives throughout our brain.article continues after advertisement
Unconscious psychological defenses, too, can contribute to our altered sense of time. In a state of overwhelm, the psychological defense of dissociation often unconsciously kicks in. Dissociation is a feeling of being here and not being here simultaneously. This unreal feeling of time is analogous to an electrical system that gets overheated when overloaded. In a functioning system, the overheating trips the circuit breaker before it gets too hot. Dissociation helps us in times of powerful stress—overload—to remain as functional as possible.
Given that we are living a collective trauma, is it any wonder so many of us are experiencing temporal discontinuity? As noted previously, when the future is unknown and the stakes so very high, we tend to abandon a sense of the future and live more in the present. And this present moment? This is a moment infused with the stress of COVID-19 and the election of a lifetime. It is no wonder, then, that many of us feel as if we’re living in a time warp. We check out because it’s too overwhelming to check in.
Dawson, J. and Sleek, S. (2018) The fluidity of time: Scientists uncover how emotions alter time perception. Association for Psychological Science September 28, 2018.
Holman, E.A., Grisham, E.L. (2020). When time falls apart: The public health implications of distorted time perception in the age of COVID-19. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. 12 (51), 563-565.
Rankin, K., Sweeny, K., Xu. S. (2019). Associations between subjective time perception and well-being during stressful waiting periods. Stress and Health 35 (4).
Another humorous posts by Tejal Toprani Misra who is a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and a most-time stay at home mom. She lives in California with her spouse and two young sons.
“Why is your hand on your penis?” This is a question I ask my four-year-old at least once a day. In the active effort to be a forward-thinking, progressive parent I have to beat back my urge to say “Get your hand off your penis!!!” Growing up in a conservative South Asian family, touching yourself anywhere south of your neck would lead to shaming. Now as a parent I get to make the choice to reframe that question and proceed to psychoanalyze my four year old till I am up half the night. This is not where my effort to be a “woke” parent stops. It’s only the beginning. As a mom to second generation, Indian American, four, and one-year old boys (that’s a mouthful) I have also taken on the responsibility of educating them about their cultural background like I am Alex Trebek on Hindu Jeopardy. I’m not pioneering this endeavor by any means but I wish there was some camp I could send them to where they would come back with part immigrant hustle and part American entitlement. I’m envious of other ethnic backgrounds whose migration story to America started more than a 100 years ago so there is more of a flow chart to follow. Something like “if child A does not know about Hindu gods then have child A read book B.” As far as I know, this magical road map doesn’t exist for South Asians, or for anyone else, and if it does then please send it to me at the email below. I will be forever grateful.
In this continued effort to raise “woke” kids I’ve added more to my plate. After learning that children start noticing race and gender as early three. I’ve been reading books to them on race and diversity since they were fetuses. We sent them to a school in the diverse city of Philadelphia with children of various backgrounds. I teach them daily that love makes a family and families come in all shapes, colors, sizes and make ups. And then in the spring of 2020 the glaring cracks in our racial justice system came closer to the forefront of our minds. Now I am reading about “when to talk about racial injustice?” Is it okay to tell them why there are so many helicopters flying over our previous home in Philadelphia? The answer for us was ultimately yes – but who knows if it was the right one. I do not say any of this in jest. I just have no idea how to navigate this territory.
Recently the only people I have seen have been neighbors and somehow my professional degree put me at the top of the pedestal in regard to“how to talk to children about matters of race”. I don’t know how this happened but somehow it did. Or wait. Maybe it didn’t have to do with my professional degree? This topic is a sensitive one and the sensitivity level changes based on the pigmentation of your skin. This puts people of color in a difficult position. How is it that I/we are supposed to talk about this and how come we are suddenly supposed to be experts? None of us know the “right” way to discuss race but if we don’t discuss it, we will never know.
Oh, and did I mention that we’re in a global pandemic and the world has stopped moving? Well yes there is that too. To add insult to injury (shout out to my Mom for her famous line) we’re in a pandemic. We were blessed enough in my family to have one very compliant mask wearer and I told myself that by the time the younger one turns two in December this will all be over, right? Wrong. Now we will have to get my food dumping, bowl wearing on head toddler to wear a mask. If only there was some way to keep it on like a car seat. The silver lining to having a one year old is that he will never remember the pandemic, however I will have the joy of having it seared into my brain matter forever.
I would love to drop the rope on being a “woke” parent but I also try my hardest to have the content my sons take in depict religious equality, racial equality AND gender equality. For me that means taking on the assignment of changing the pronouns in their books from “he” to “she.” I don’t even know if that’s doing anything but I’m doing it anyway. I try to have them watch content that passes the Bechdel and Latif test. I also read them books on feminism and if something they’re watching seems off then I stop what I’m doing to interrupt and explain. I ask my boys to help me in the kitchen and clean up after themselves so one day their partners don’t say “Indian husbands don’t do anything around the house.”
We also carry Costco (my four-year-old’s happy place) sized boxes of chips and water bottles in our car to give to unhoused people we see. This is my attempt at teaching our children that there are people in this world with less than us and to hopefully reduce any future douche baggery on their parts. I don’t mention all this to say I’m amazing but I’m definitely exhausted. The question is, am I a woke parent yet?
This is the first post by Wendy Lias, LSW. Wendy has a clinical background in child and adolescent mental health as well as the treatment of substance use disorders. Wendy lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband and her children, ages 5 and 2.
In light of the pandemic, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against traditional trick-or-treating this year. It’s strange to think that during a year when mask-wearing is a topic on everyone’s mind that we’re putting the kibosh on our only mask-wearing holiday. If you read Dr. Masur’s recent post on 2020, then you know that she reminded us that 2020 as year is not cancelled—and that includes Halloween. Let’s talk about how to incorporate some spooky spirit into your Halloween, even if you won’t be making it out to trick-or-treat this year.
HIT THE BOOKS
Whether you head to your local library or pull from your own book collection, there is plenty of fun Halloween-themed reading to be done with kids of all ages. The littlest listeners may enjoy the Halloween tales from popular book series like The Berenstain Bears, Arthur, Little Critter, and Clifford. There are no scares to be had on the pages of those books but they still manage to evoke the spirit of Halloween.
For those kids who would enjoy more of a spine-tingle, Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary by the late, great Carl Reiner certainly fits the bill. The book is framed as the narrator telling a scary bedtime story. The narrator frequently interrupts the story to make sure it’s not getting too scary. This literary device provides the benefit of reminding the reader that the scares are only part of a story AND of reminding us the chills and thrills of the season are only fun as long as they’re fun for everyone.
If your young reader is ready for something in the chapter book variety, the Harry Potter series has some of popular culture’s favorite witches and wizards. The eponymous Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage also follows a young boy with extraordinary magical powers. Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series finds two modern-era children thrust into a world populated with familiar fairy tale characters. If you’re looking for an oldie but a goody, don’t discount Roald Dahl’s The Witches, as a source of spooky fun.
COOK UP SOMETHING SPOOKY
There are plenty of Halloween treats that you can whip up in the kitchen. My five-year-old son, for instance, really enjoys making what he calls “Boo-nana Bread.” Spoiler alert: it’s just banana bread with a slightly spookier name. Since it’s that time of year, anything pumpkin flavored would also fit the bill. As for what I’ll be baking this year with my kids, it’s going to be sugar cookies. It’s my personal belief that you cannot go wrong with a sugar cookie. There are a million recipes—each as good as the next—and there is absolutely no wrong way to decorate them. An afternoon of cookie-ing is suited for the littlest hands (who doesn’t love to watch icing distributed in the manner of Jackson Pollock?!) all the way up through adulthood.
If you’re looking to cuddle up on the couch for some Halloween viewing, again, there is simply no shortage of material. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Room on the Broom both make for short, family-friendly viewing. A slightly older crowd might enjoy Hocus Pocus or Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. To borrow a title from earlier in the post, the movie version of The Witches is just as good as the book. Although not specifically for Halloween, Disney’s Coco is certainly of the season. If somebody in your house is looking for some true blood-curdling thrills, the options are myriad; but not the fare that I’ll be listing on a Thoughtful Parenting blog. 😉
BORROW FROM ANOTHER HOLIDAY
Finally, in the absence of our usual Halloween traditions, borrow some customs from other holidays. The gingerbread house is traditionally associated with the winter holidays, but who says you can’t build and decorate a spooky Halloween house? And—credit where credit is due—my mother came up with the brilliant idea of hiding little treats in glow-in-the-dark eggs and letting kids do an egg hunt on Halloween night. I also happened to see some places are selling pre-filled plastic mini-pumpkins that you can send your little ones out to hunt for.
If you try any of these suggestions, we’d love to see and hear about it. Did you know that Thoughtful Parenting is on Facebook and Instagram? Feel free to hop on our social media and share either your thoughts on these suggestions or suggestions of your own.