Do Your Kids Have the Attention Skills They Need?

Attention Skills: The #1 Skill Kids Need So They Can Learn AND Have Healthy Emotions.

Kids need to have strong attention to read and reflect.

Kids need certain level of sustained attention to read, write, and learn.

Starting at the beginning…how can we start our kids out from birth on the road to happy kids? How can we help our little ones be happy big ones?

Taking stock of our own attentional habits is a good place to start. Creating environments where our babies can thrive make a difference in our kids’ attentional development. If we can’t attend long enough to know what our babies need, then we better slow down and focus. We are the only ones who can help our babies, and they are DEPENDING on you to do it!

Below area the basics to watch for in caring for your baby. They will help them grow up happy and loved. One day, all the love and care will come back to you ten fold.

baby milestones and attention

Nutrition

Babies can benefit from many things we as parents do. From birth, we know that supporting brain health is often most simply done by providing good nutrition. It is very important to understand that the stomach links directly to the brain. The stomach makes up the enteric nervous system, and it is crucial in making neurotransmitters that are important for attention and mood, much like the brain. Additionally, the gut is the first place where a child’s immune system is turned on. Traveling through the birthing canal helps the baby ingest beneficial bacteria from the mother to turn on immunity. Immunity secures the future gut health over the long term, and overall health as well.

A balance is also necessary. In talking about children, sugar is one of the main culprits that rocks the once-nutritious apple cart. Years ago, sugar was a special treat, a few times a week if a kid was lucky. In the 70’s and 80’s, when the US government allowed food manufactures to legally market directly to kids, we saw a tremendous increase in food placement ads directed at kids. Most of the foods were sugar-rich and nutrient-low. Now sugar and processed food are staples for most daily meals for kids. As parents, we have two challenges; first to locate both healthy and convenient options in grocery stores, and then to communicate to our kids that just because a superhero is on the bag, the food is not necessarily filled with good things.

.attention skills and baby milestones

Attentional Skills

At the baby age, we can attend to our babies needs, without the burden of explaining superhero food labeling; however, we also have the breast food/best food dilemma. Breastfeeding is great in that it helps the gut turn on the immune system by providing antibodies from the mother directly into the babies’ digestive systems. GREAT! But moms often work outside the home, and in the USA, women have very little maternity leave. If a employer doesn’t allow for pumping breaks, or a mom can’t afford to buy a $200 breast pump (really?) what is a mom to do? Some moms are able to figure out a way to breastfeed, but others move on to formula. Formula is great for nutrients…AND refined sugar. Lots of it. Refined sugar is banned in all formula in some countries in Europe…but it is in almost all formula in the US. Makes me wonder what is the most nutritious formula. I was lucky to find a formula with an alternate sugar source when we needed to supplement with formula, but we paid several dollars more per container.

Sensory

Sensory soothing also assists babies and toddlers in self-regulation, an important component to attention. They have a better chance to self-calm and soothe themselves when their general environment is characterized by safety and support. This basic idea, of trusting their environment, helps them to lay down brain architecture that supports development. Chronic stress, on the other hand, does the opposite, with milestones not being met as a result. Research presented by The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University supports the correlation between toxic stress and developmental delay. So creating homes with positive family relationships that are supportive for the baby are the first steps in laying down brain connections that support attention. Simply put, the less stress in a home, the more attention skills develop.

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Habits

As kids get a little older, we have more time to observe our own habits related to attention. Although seemingly still very young, our toddlers will begin to observe and copy our habits. It’s a critical time to make sure their environment is set up to facilitate attention. So let’s ask ourselves; how much time are we distracted from our kids? Do we look them in the eye, or sideways as we check our messages on our phone? Also, what media is distracting our kids? Auditory and visual media affect attentional skill development significantly, so it’s time to think about how much media time your kids are getting on a daily basis. This total includes music, T.V., video games, computers and mobile devices. What is the total for each toddler? What is the total for the family as a whole? The higher the total media time, the lower the total sensory and motor and social developmental time. So the lower the total media time, the better.

If you think your child might be behind in technology as a result, I can assure you that the technology is only going to get easier to use, and what we are using now will be outdated. By the time you child has good attention skills, they will be even more prepared to jump on the trend of media, whatever that shall be in the future.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a computer game developer while sitting at the same table at a recent wedding. He graduated from a highly ranked University and worked for a prominent gaming company. I asked him if he was seeing kids’ video games being made that were interested in teaching developmental skills. He reported that the main industry goal is to make a profit, and that educational games didn’t bring in big returns. Consideration for kids’ developmental futures is actually not a priority. He said the industry was more about getting the kids hooked and wanting more video games.

Working with attentional skills and brain development for over 15 years, I understand that the format for media is often designed to influence addiction as well. The constant frame changes present in our current video formats trains the brain to change focus every 1-2 seconds. This is detrimental for developing brains. It lays down architecture that decreases long term attentional skills. Additionally, the executive function centers of the brain are off, and these are the ones that allow for sustained attention, task completion, and problem solving. Video games are similar.

In France, for example, no children under the age of 3 watch TV, as per the French way of thinking. Why? Research study after research study has found that media use at early ages has a significant negative effect on speech skill development and motor learning. In the US, the American Medical Association recommends no TV viewing for kids under the age of two, but profit-driven media companies market their wares to parents who actually are told it will enhance their toddlers’ development. Again, profits take precedence over the betterment of our children. So limiting family media time, and actually not introducing media to children until they are already exhibiting strong attentional skills is recommended. So What is the Toddler Parent to do in the meantime?

Try following these simple ideas to create an environment that your toddlers will love, and will hopefully provide parents with time to make dinner or take a break when necessary.

baby milestones and attention

Top 10 List for Parenting an Attentional Toddler/Child:

1. Un-plug media for toddlers and young children, and create a time and space for adults to check media when children are not around. Use tools such as a smartphone to connect with other, as a way to model connection, not addiction.

2. Create a child-safe play space that is neat and more “low” stimulation than “high” stimulation. Visually busy walls in classrooms decrease attention in students. Make your home well organized with bins, and shelves where clutter and toys can be put away.

3. Set up toys and activities that are easily accessible so

kids can get them on their own. Gross motor activities like

indoor bowling, sit-and-spins, and other indoor-outdoor safe games are idea for this age.

4. Select and provide toys that encourage creativity such as building and problem solving construction games. The younger the child, the bigger the blocks.

5. Rotate toys every 2 months or so to keep the toys interesting. Use big bins to keep them orderly and easily stash-able each month. Kids will love to pick their own games and toys, as choice and curiosity rule!

6. Sensory games, toys and activities that focus on physical touch. Soft toys, pompoms, goo, building pillow forts, getting covered in pillows (safely) and playing games of tickle, tag and HUG! The touch sense is what needs stimulation at this stage of development the most.

7. Happy and joyful play with positive words and encouragement. Laying down basic neurons for successful feelings and fun play will come in handy when they get older and bigger challenges arise. When a child likes to work thought new experiences with their parent, they have a life-long support right from the start. They will be braver and more willing to try things given a strongly connected parental relationship.

8. Kids crave limits. Working with kids showed me that firm and gentle limits win the kids over every time. Following firm limits with positive and specific

praise makes kids feel proud and able to self-regulate. They know that, given certain limits, they can control themselves. As long as the parent is safe, meaning that they (the parents) are not hitting or yelling in the home, and are providing food, clothing and safety, kids trust the parents’ rules are in their best interest. If the kids can follow these limits, they feel über safe.

9. Use puppets! It sounds strange, but emotional regulation helps attentional skills. I have had kids tell my puppets things

they would never have told me otherwise. Hard emotions are easier felt and processed when aided by a fluffy puppet. I have had kids tell my puppets they didn’t want to be on their ADD medicine, just because the puppet was “acting” hyperactive and that maybe “the puppet needed some medicine”. Your kids will totally dig puppets, and even more so the sillier you get!

10. Sit and read books, for at least 20 minutes every day. Make sure the pictures are of good artistic quality if you are doing picture books. The more realistic the pictures, the better. As your toddler grows they will notice more and more details in the pictures. As you begin reading more and more words, your child will begin following the basic words and develop eye-motor skills. Finally, the attentional head/neck position they will use for the rest of their life is the exact position for reading a book. The position of head tilted forward and down is the position that facilitates attention for learning. The positional system in your inner ear knows this, and it’s important to develop brain neurology in this position.


Easy and Fun Oktoberfest Foods that Kids Love!

Pretzels, sausages, and other good food make Octoberfest a great time to show kids how to enjoy good food.

Oktoberfest parties can be fun for kids, and a time for them to eat well and try new foods. My family proved it can be done!

So many families enjoy the sights and sounds of Fall. It’s colorful, cozy and most of all FULL of candy and sweets. Besides candy and pumpkin specialty sweets, how can we get our kids to eat a decent meal when they are flooded with creepy, gooey, pumpkin-y treats?  And on top of all the sugar and chocolate, what really stinks, is that fall is the time of year they need nutritious food the most so they don’t come down with a case of the “Ick” (aka cold and flu).

But I have been around the block a time or two with kids and food, from extreme picky eaters as clients, to kids at birthday parties that won’t even try a cupcake due to it’s color and shape. Fall food for kids is a walk in the park, and this park is full of beautiful leaves and tasty treats. So no worries; it’s harvest time!

Why Oktoberfest?  Using Creativity to Feed Kids.

My kids are pretty good eaters, but I have to be honest. I work with them a LOT on growing our own food, knowing our farmers, teaching them how to bake and cook, and setting the expectations that they eat well in order to get sweets. Oktoberfest is one fall party that is going to make my job easy.

First off it’s a party. A great big harvest party, and except for the beer, it is one party that has lots of delicious food as a focal point that is kid-friendly. With a little research and a look in my Slovak family cookbook, my imagination and party plans start to seem very, very possible.

Even better yet, my cousin is throwing a picnic this weekend and I have hinted about the Slovak and German family roots we share as a reason to have ethnic food. She gets the hint and starts planning the menu, but with some minor reservation. She needs to feed almost 10 kids and isn’t sure how to turn Oktoberfest food into kids’ food. I assure her that we can easily transform the picnic into a family memory that will include the kids.

Why Family Makes Food All The More Delicious

It isn’t a secret that eating with family makes families stronger. But as a developmental therapist, it’s often forgotten that parental example of eating is one of the strongest indicators of how well (or poorly) a child eats. This says that parents and family, including siblings, set the example for the kids. Family members that realize the impact their eating habits has on future generations usually choose to eat more mindfully.

So getting together, sharing food, and being social are key factors in teaching kids to eat. So picking some foods that are healthy when having a family meal or a party is essential.

A Pot Luck is a Lucky Pot.

If everyone can bring a dish that is built around a theme, with the goal of making for a delicious meal, then how could a family party not be successful? Duplicate foods, too many of one item such as desserts, and food allergies make the modern family party a little tricky.

It was best for the host, my cousin, to check in with all the guests ahead of time to see if there were any food allergies before planning. She discovered that we needed to address gluten free and dairy free options.Then the menu can be developed and volunteers can be asked to bring specific foods. For our family Oktoberfest, my mom had already offered to bring 2 dozen pierogies. Off to A delicious start!

Kids can try these sausages and enjoy Octoberfest while eating well.

Bratwurst is a tasty choice for Oktoberfest!

Brainstorming an Oktoberfest Meal for Kids

It’s always a good idea to have a plan when hosting a party, especially when kids are involved.

Now for some there may be no need to go beyond the buttery pasta pocket filled with potato and cheese that is the classic pierogie, but being realistic about what kids might find tasty, and also what they might need in terms of well balanced nutrition, my cousin and I come up with a few ideas for kids food.

Oktoberfest Food

There are so many choices when it comes to Oktoberfest foods. With options ranging from bratwurst sausages to German potato salad, we have a good start. Add in pretzels, cider, spaetzle (fried noodles), pierogies (stuffed dumplings),  sauerkraut, simple Instant Pot pulled pork goulash, cucumber salad, stuffed cabbages, and more. My German, Hungarian and Slovak ethnic ties of a few generation ago make this menu a dream! This is a super easy meal plan endeavor.

But how to make this all kid friendly? Easy.

Octoberfest food for kids can be easy and delicious.

A meal of Bratwurst and mashed potatoes (WITH toppings from the mashed potato bar) make a great meal for kids. Just add mustard!

Super Easy Oktoberfest Food For Kids

Here’s the list we came up with, which we easily assigned to family members to bring the day of the party.

  1. Bratwurst Sausages cut up in small bites and a gluten free pretzel stick to use as a handle to dip each bite in stone ground mustard
  2. Slovak breaded and fried chicken thighs
  3. Pierogies (stuffed noodles and butter)
  4. Spaetzle Fake-Out: Instead of fried noodles, just make noodles of any shape and add melted butter and kraut
  5. Pretzels and dipping sauce
  6. Mashed potato bar with toppings including kraut, both organic cold garlic and hot, diced sausages, cubed brats, butter, salsa, cheddar cheese, and pulled pork goulash.  Serving glasses were available to make the mashed creations look like ice cream sundaes!
  7. Pulled pork goulash (Instant Pot)
  8. Hot dogs wrapped in dough (what some call Pigs in a Blanket)
  9. Cucumber Salad (Slovak style with vinegar and paprika)
  10. Apple cider and water to drink
Sausage or hot dogs are always a weiner!

Sausage in dough clothes make a fun food for kids at Oktoberfest! They are always a wiener!

Now most of these foods are easy to make and with a quick internet search they are easy to create from a good recipe. But our family has some true favorite recipes to share. Here is one my cousin made that was AMAZING!

Simple Instant Pot Pulled Pork Goulash

This recipe was made using the Instant Pot manual function.

Ingredients
2-3 pork loin or butt roast (bone in optional, cut in half if too large for pot)
2 T ghee
½ onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Sliced white mushrooms (12 oz)
Penzey’s Steak Seasoning
2 T Hungarian Sweet Paprika
1 can diced tomato (14.5 oz)
3 cups organic beef broth
1 jar roasted red pepper strips (drained)
Ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Set Instant Pot to Sauté function.
2. Trim all visible fat from roast. Cut in half if too large for pot.
3. Add ghee to instant pot when ready.
4. Sprinkle pork with steak seasoning.
5. When ghee is hot, brown pork on each side until nicely browned, could take up to 10
minutes. Brown in batches if halved.
6. While pork is browning chop onion, prepare mushrooms, and mince garlic.
7. Remove pork to a plate.
8. Add onions to pot and sauté for 3 minutes. Sprinkle paprika over onions and add garlic.
Stir and brown for another 3 minutes.
9. Stir in mushrooms and brown another 5 minutes.
10. Return pork and add diced tomatoes, roasted pepper strips, and beef stock to Instant Pot.
Lock lid and cook on manual function for 60 minutes at high pressure. Let pressure
release naturally.
11. Shred pork using two forks. Set pot to keep warm until serving time.
Suggestions
Add ½ t caraway seeds in step 9 optional
Roast your own red pepper
Serve over mashed potatoes with dollop sour cream
Cook in slow cooker for 8-10 hours on low, or high 4-6

How Our Family’s Oktoberfest Celebration Helped the Next Generation Eat Better.

After the celebration, it was clear we had some solid new food our whole family enjoyed. My daughter told me she had a blast, and loved all the amazing and wonderful food. She said this to me the next day without me even asking. So a shout out to my family -“You are one Oktoberfest inspiration for the next generation of kids! I am proud to be Frau Melissa in this group of Eastern European Foodies!”

Kids’ Food Winners for Oktoberfest

The sauerkraut and black forest cake were the clear winners at our Oktoberfest celebration, but the Goulash came in a very strong Third.

Sauerkraut, sausage, and black forest cake are all foods our family loved!

Octoberfest food that our family loved. Sauerkraut and sausage took first place.

Chocolate cake is an easy and delicious Octoberfest food!

The Black Forest Cake was delicious and an easy new food for kids to explore. It took 2nd place this Oktoberfest!

Soup is warm and an easy new food for kids to try.

Kids love soup, so this goulash was an easy new food for kids to try. It took 3rd place, but it was so good I took seconds.

Sausage, breaded hot dogs, black forest cake are all food kids love at Octoberfest!

Visit Swami Mommi on Pinterest to share a pic of what easy food you cooked for Octoberfest, or let us know how it went! Hopefully your family and especially kids found it wonderful!

A Better Way To Make a Sensory Bin!

“Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy it is but instead by the response you get from baby.”

“Use the basics to get great results. Sand. Rice. Leaves. Water.”

“Use nature to help you build a sensory bin. Create it with nature. Then put it in nature!”

Easy Sensory Play that calms kids.

Baby’s are ready to explore! The more sensory experiences they get in calm environments the better. Why a calm environment? Because they can become master sensory regulators! That means a calm kid now and into the future!

And as a mom and developmental therapist, I follow my instincts and keep it simple when it come to calming sensory play!  I have found that the simpler the better.

Why simple?

Simple sensory play set-up for us moms keeps moms calmer. If mom is calmer, that helps the child to be calmer.  Additionally, the simple set up, in my experience, allows for a calming affect. Simple setting. Simple materials. Items like rice, sand, water, and leaves for example might seem to plain, but they pack a big sensory load on a child’s developing sensory system. They are all you need to create mindful sensory play.

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So baby and I are doing just that these days, exploring simple textures at our home where it is calm and free of distractions and chaos. (These activities can be done with babies, preschoolers, or older kids.) We often do these activities out in nature to make an even more serene environment as the backdrop for our sensory fun.

I am mindful of the calming environment I choose to complete the activity in, and also enjoy the environment when we are doing the activity. This allows for low distraction for baby and for me to be aware of the sights and smells and sounds. This is mindful parenting in planning and also mindful parenting when playing. The result is s sensory bin that is not only fun, but calming!

This activity works for older kids too, or kids that might need to learn to tolerate sensory textures with greater ease. By building experiences that are exploratory and fun, children create confidence in dealing with sensory information, knowing they can handle it, simply because they have been successful in the past.

So let’s dive in!

Today we chose rice!

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Materials: Clean bin or bucket, 1-3 bags of dry rice, bowl for pouring, paper towel rolls, and a basic ring stacker toy

That’s it! Super Simple.

This activity lasted about 15 minutes, which I felt showed good attention for baby. Within the first few minutes, baby was in the bin and exploring! She needed my help to step over the rim of the bucket, but otherwise, she was in her sensory play zone!

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When we got started, baby needed to touch and feel and EAT some rice. I figured this would happen. It’s new, and baby always explores new things with her mouth. I figured rice would be fine, and made sure to watch her 100% of the time to make sure not much of the raw rice could get eaten. I told her each time that she should not eat it and to take it our of her mouth. She did.

I don’t recommend beans or other larger items until baby isn’t mouthing anymore. If a grain of rice gets by my patrol, no big deal. It would get digested and expelled easily within the day. Larger beans like pintos or lentils are NOT what I would want to use. I certainly would not want to have to go searching for beans in baby’s mouth when I can easily use rice. Plus, if I stay calm not worrying about chocking hazards, baby stays calm, and we have more fun.

*As an added note, kidney beans should never be used with kids in sensory play no matter what the age. Kidney bean have toxins that need to be boiled off when cooking so they can be eaten safely. If kids get hold of them and eat them, or the dog decides to have a few, it won’t be good.

Once I knew baby was tolerating the rice on her feet and hands, I thought I would increase the challenge by sprinkling rice down on her. She got rice in her hair and didn’t seem to mind at all. She actually found it interesting and tried to “rain” the rice onto me too! The perfect time to sing a rain song such as “Rain, Rain Go Away” or “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, Baby is Snoring”.

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Baby decided to make up her own game up too. Peek-a-boo is a great game in such a big bin! Can anyone find baby?

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Sensory Play Can Be Over-Stimulating

I keep it simple with the toys on purpose so baby could enjoy the rice and not get over stimulated. Some babies actually find the rice to be too much sensory input on the skin, so be mindful if baby needs a break. Other kids don’t mind rice at all.  It just depends on each kids sensory needs.

It’s easy to get over zealous, putting all kinds of texture combinations together with sensory play. But remember, we are trying to provided sensory input in an environment that lets baby stay focused and regulated. The more calm and focused, the better baby will process the sensory input and tolerate it in the future.

The most important sensory play rule when dealing with new textures really comes down to this: Don’t bring chaos, bring calm.

Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy but instead by the response you get from baby. Baby should enjoy the task for several minutes, attending to the different parts, taking in the new and unique textures, all while being calm. Such observations are good indicators that the new sensory input was processed well. It’s a sign you have done a good job planning.

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We learned to pour too!

The bowl made a great scoop to show baby how to pour. This activity is a great way to introduce pouring before getting out the Montessori pitcher and practicing with beverages. Even better, tomorrow I am going to include the pitcher and  let baby practice pouring rice from the pitcher to the container. Added fun!

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So, give this sensory bin a try! We had such a great time! I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes! No kidding.

Share your own experiences if you give this a try or if you have tried something similar.  Here at Swami Mommi want to hear all about you and your baby’s heart warming sensory play!

 

Auditory Sensory Play: Good St. Patrick’s Day Songs for Your Little Leprechaun!

Auditory Sensory Play On St. Patrick’s Day!

Finding good music for St. Patrick’s day should not be as hard as finding a pot of gold this St. Patrick’s day. So we put together a treasure of resources for good St. Patrick’s day music for kids and the whole family. I assure you, it’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Good songs for kids can be hard to find. Not just songs, but good songs. Can you easily find songs and music that your kids like, and that you like too? Nope.

A little mindful parenting can make this easy, and this Little Leprechaun Music Guide does the work for you. As a musical family, and with years of developmental understanding as a pediatric therapist, this guide will rock your green socks off this St. Patrick’s day, as well as your kids. Auditory sensory play is always fun, but on St. Patrick’s day it super relevant too.

The music of St. Patrick’s day has been popular for centuries, and it’s easy to incorporate auditory sensory play into the fun day’s activities. With good music, you can play hot potato, have an Irish dance contest, or paint to music. All these auditory sensory play ideas work well, but good music is the key to making it go off without a hitch.

We’ve put together an original song to help your kids actively engage and participate in auditory and imaginative sensory play, a nod to Montessori based play. We also included our favorite artists and albums that you can look for and play during your St. Patrick’s Day mayhem.

Your mindful parenting work has been done for you. Cheers!

St. Patrick’s Day Song for Preschoolers and Toddlers!

I really don’t think this song has an actual age range, as I have heard moms and dad and kids singing it after they heard it just a few times. So that tells me the age range is pretty diverse.

If you want to use it at home I suggest taking a video and sending it to friends and family. In school you can make little beards and St. Patrick’s Day hats as costumes for a St. Patrick’s day parent performance or party. In the community, this works great for play-dates that are screen free. It’s a real Montessori based activity, with kids doing and being part of the fun on St. Patrick’s Day.

All these ideas are really just combinations of auditory sensory play with other senses. Facilitated by good music, kids can learn about their environment and at the same time train their musical ear.

Here are some great dress up resources to turn you kids into Leprechauns all while they engage in auditory sensory play:

Leprechaun Hat Craft

Simple Leprechaun Dress Up

Play dress up, pull out the guitar, or sing as a group. Just follow the words for “Jiggidy Jig Kid” to the familiar kids tune “Grand Old Duke of York”, and let the sensoryfun begin.

“Jiggidy Jig Kid” by Melissa S. Misra

copyright February 2018

St. Patrick's Day song for preschool

St. Patrick’s Day Music Resources for Mindful Parents:

It seems that good quality music went out of style years ago, except in the circles of musicians that meet in homes, smaller venues and in smaller online groups. There are usually just a couple of hundred people at these community music meet ups, as is the case for the below artists. So ironic, because most of the time, the musicians at these meet ups are at the top of their game! Good quality music is simply not pushed through the radio channels like it once was, so we are parents have a harder job locating good quality music.

That’s why a mindful music planning can make a big difference in the fun factor and musicality of our musical experiences as a family.

I assure you that the resources below have been tested, happily listened to, and seen live with great excitement. If you listen, enjoy and share these tunes with your family, you are in for a good time. St. Patrick’s day is usually about bar songs, but these are pure art, from the best musicians in their field.

Auditory Sensory Play Aided by Good St. Patrick’s Day Songs

Our first grouping does have one of the world’s premier fiddlers on all three albums. Wherever you go, and fiddling is happening, chances are Alasdair is there. Enjoy all these albums without a second thoughts. They are exceptional and a must play on St. Patrick’s Day.

Dawn Dance by Alasdair Fraser

Return To Kintail by Fraser and McManus

Fire and Grace by Hass and Fraser

The Best of Irish Fiddle by Florie Brown

Appalachian Waltz

Try a sample of Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Waltz here.

Give Good Music for Kids a Try for St. Patrick’s Day This Year!

Wishing you all the musical luck your heart can hold this St. Patrick’s Day.  Music is often called the language of the heart, and what a more beautiful holiday than St. Patrick’s Day to indulge. Irish music is deep and rich and intoxicating. This is one thing this St. Patrick’s Day that you can never have quite enough of.

Happy St. Patrick’s day to you and your whole family!

 

 

 

 

 

Calming Songs for Kids: Valentine’s Day Music Guide for Mindful Moms!

Music and Activities carefully selected this Valentine's Day can calm your kids and help them feel loved.

We are so busy these days, that if we aren’t careful we might just miss our on the fun of the best holiday around- Valentine’s Day. A holiday all about love is just what both families and kids need around mid-school year, winter chilled time of year. To make it easy and practical, we put a high quality Valentine’s Day Music Guide together so you can make memories this year that count.

The music selections are accompanied by kid and family friendly activities such as snuggling under warm blankets, baking, and giving hugs. As a goal we focused on the more cozy offerings.

Why more cozy activities?

We are working off the principle that more hugs equal greater feelings of calm, social connection and happiness. The hormone in our brain that increases these positive feelings is oxytocin. It’s made naturally, but only when we activate our sense of deep touch. For example, when we give hugs or snuggle. Babies and moms achieve higher levels of oxytocin all the time during the early years when nursing and naps actually increase the oxytocin levels in both mom and baby.

But as kids grow, we need to be more mindful of how much we hug each other. We need to remember to snuggle, and hug to help our kids thrive and know they are safe, secure and loved. As grown ups, we can get a message to feel better which raises oxytocin levels as well as other calming neuro-transmitters, but kids need us to help them out.

It sounds simple, but in our house, we actually have to check to make sure we hug enough! We are all so busy! So this guide is a music, activity and good neuro-transmitter stimulant. All natural and so effective to make sure your Valentine’s Day is jam packed with good feelings and great memories. Give it a try!

Music Guide for Valentine's Day
Cozy music for kids and families for a memorable Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Music Guide for Mindful Parenting–Make Memories!

A Mindful Song About How Kids Love Their Parents

This is a jazzy song to teach toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten age, or early elementary age. It can be learned in circle time over a couple of days, or in music class for a Valentine’s Day presentation. The words can even be changed, so “dad” is put in the place where “mom” is written, to create a Valentine’s gift for dad too!

Whatever you choose, have fun, and put a smile on someone’s face this Valentine’s day! Love is too good not to share!

This is an easy song for kids to sing for Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day Song for Mom can be sung to your own melody or “The Farmer In the Dell.”

Jazzy Valentine’s Day Music for Kids -and the Whole Family

One of the best songs for Valentine’s Day, and one of the most famous as well, is “My Funny Valentine” from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms which first debuted in 1937. It has appeared in over 1300 albums by various artists since then.

If taken for it’s lyrics outside of the musical itself, it can be a dear song to apply to just about anyone in our lives that we love. Our kids are no exception.

“You make me smile in my heart, your looks are laughable….and she’s my favorite work of art……..is your figure less than Greek, is your mouth a little weak, but when you open it to speak….are you smart?………stay little Valentine….stay……Each Day is Valentine’s Day!”

Of course our kids make us smile in our heart, and their looks are sometimes laughable. The things they say are often smart beyond their years. And we always want them to stay small and adorable. Stay little Valentine we say when we are quite and aware of the deep love we have with our kids.

Check on this jazzy trumpet version of My Funny Valentine, where Sting sings to his wife. Play it for the one you love, and enjoy the rich sounds of the exceptional arrangement. Kids will benefit from listening to this good song, and they will begin to know a jazz standard as well!

 

 

You can use this song to have kids relax to during the chilly inside days of February. A cup of hot milk and a heart shape cookie could make this song come to life and stay in your kids ear long after the warm milk has been finished. Fireside and under cozy cuddly blankets could make this song into a family memory or Valentine’s tradition. Couldn’t we all benefit from more chances to love each other while listening to some good music. No question, this jazzy song gives us all the chance for more love this Valentine’s Day.

Good Songs for Kids for Valentine's Day

Singing Simple Valentine’s Songs During Cozy Valentine’s Day Activities

During the holidays there is often many activities that kids engage in that involve crafting and baking. Often, little rhymes and songs are sung as part of the fun. Make sure this Valentine’s Day you are ready with you song list. Make sure your activities always have a hug or snuggle portion too! It makes everyone more calm and happy by increasing the oxytocin hormone levels in the brain. Here are some easy and cute songs to help you get started.

I am Making Valentines ( to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)

I am making valentines,
Valentines, valentines.
I am making valentines,
For the ones I love.

Watch me as I cut and paste,
Cut and paste, cut and paste,
Watch me as I cut and paste,
My special valentines.

See me mail my valentines,
Valentines, valentines,
See me mail my valentines,
To the ones I love.

 

 

A Hug from You (to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)

It’s nice to get to a hug from you,
Hug from you, Hug from you.
It’s nice to get a hug from you,
So, let’s give one right now.
(Hug a friend)

Pair these songs with a cup of herbal tea, coco or fresh stove-top popcorn bowl, as well as a big blanket snuggle or a Valentine themed book, and you have made magic this Valentine’s Day, despite being so very, very busy.

Keep your cool. You got this covered, mama!

Don’t Be Left in the Dark: Teach Cultural Diversity with the Best Hanukkah Music For Kids

Hanukkah Music for cultural diversity lessons.

Hanukkah is always celebrated in our house, despite not even being Jewish. We decided a long time ago that teaching cultural diversity was a lot more important than what culture, or religion for that matter, we were as a family. Not bound by preset norms, we dove into many different cultures quite easily, along with their foods, music celebrations, and history. One of our favorites is Hanukkah.

Mindful Planning for Hanukkah Music and Fun

We do try to celebrate this holiday when it is celebrated in December along with our Jewish friends, but it is OK to teach about Hanukkah anytime. We are all very busy, so I suggest celebrating whenever the calendar opens up. Actually, January is always a slow time in our family, and I can confidently say that our menorah is still on the family room table. I can bet you within a few days, the kids will be requesting some Hanukkah time. Of course, we will be happy to meet there requests with more Hanukkah food, music and fun!

Mindful Parenting Resources for Hanukkah

Given a Jewish Godmother, my kids have been greatly blessed with many gifts and resources to understand the Hanukkah holiday. Also, with both myself and my husband being musicians, we have been blessed with good ears for finding the best music. This has led to very musical multi-cultural learning in our home.

Many of our friends and family have asked over the years, for recommendations on what music resources we recommend for a variety of different topics. Hanukkah is one holiday that gets the most requests for music resources from us. I am always excited to help when asked about music for Hanukkah, as mindful parents planning mindful learning activities is so inspiring! I love to see it happening in families I know.

Our friends often ask how to use Hanukkah music resources to teach cultural diversity to their families and students. Many tell us that they feel like they don’t understand the culture and don’t want to get it wrong. They feel silly for even trying and don’t want to offend anyone or mess up!

The advice I give is to “give it a try”, take it slow, and add new concepts each year.

Kids can listen to music anytime to learn about cultural diversity.

Even Busy Homes Can Teach Using Great Music. It’s Easy.

Hanukah For the Non-Jewish Family: Cultural Diversity Lessons

Cultural Diversity is really best taught through real life experiences. Books are a great way for us as parents to learn a little about the culture first. Even kids books work for parents in this area, as they teach the basics quick and effectively. Two books we recommend are The Complete Guide To Hanukkah Book and My First Hanukkah Board Book. Also, a trip to the library is recommended for deeper understandings of the culture through various resources they have there.

Briefly, Hanukkah is the holiday of lights. The Menorah is the main symbol of the season and the Menorah celebrates the miracle of light filling the temple from the oil lamp, despite there not being enough oil for the lamp to stay lit. Many foods of the Hanukkah season therefore are full of oil. The music sets the scene for nightly celebrations where food, candle lighting, and gift exchanges occur. For a full article on ideas to have your own cultural experience through a Hanukkah party, Don’t Be left in the Dark: Teach Kids About Diversity with Mindful Hanukkah Activities for the Curious. is a good place to start.

Mindful Parents Choose Good Music for Their Hanukkah Celebrations

Weather you are Jewish or not, we all know that good music sets the scene for a good party. Just like a movie with a good music score in the background, life is so much less without beautiful sounds to make it all the more vivid. Choose the Hanukkah music resources below and you can’t go wrong teaching you kids about music and culture, simply by listening to great music.

Kids learn eaily with music leading the way!

Mindful Parenting for a Great Hanukkah with great music! Kids Love it!

Here are our top 5 pics for Hanukkah music, weather you are new to this holiday or a seasoned participant. We personally love them all! Truly, you will never need another Hanukkah CD if you get all of these. We started with 1 or 2, then grew our collection. Now we listen to these 5, and feel we are musically blessed beyond belief!

Top 5 Resource Guide: Hanukkah Music for Kids

Memories of a Winter’s Night by Jazz Sax player David Koz is perfect to spice up dinner. Typically, you here David at weddings and fancy events, so putting this in while eating dinner, or getting set for family and friends to come over, heightens the senses for a celebrations. It just makes me want to check my hair and throw on a fancy outfit. This CD will work well for Hanukkah, as well as setting the scene for holiday event sin general. The song on the Album “Memories of a Winter’s Night ” is specifically for Hanukkah.

 

The Acoustic Jewish Holiday Collection by Mama Doni is simply fantastic. Both my husband and I were grinning ear to ear when we first heard the lyrics on this CD. The musicianship is also top notch, and the use of mandolin, guitar, and banjo make the CD very Americana and hip. It gets the kids dancing, and tells a story at times. Great for background music to get kids excited to participate, great to get them listening. Another first rate CD I could not live without. Check out the video to Mama Doni’s song “Honey, This Ain’t Money” here.

Chanukkah In Story and Song is an excellent narrative and music combo. This music compilation teaches about the story of Hanukkah with lessons paired with real authentic music. It can’t get better than this! Lessons anchored by emotions elicited by the very well performed music. If you get this CD, your cultural diversity lessons for your family or students will be more than mindful! They will be simply exquisite!

The Child’s Hanukkah by The Jewish Wedding Band is really great for kids and teaching families that might not understand Hanukkah or never experienced it for themselves. It takes the listener on a journey through a night of Hanukkah and shares the joys, the music and the emotions of this celebration of light. Great for kids and parents, it is a must have to get the basic songs and concepts covered, in a way that is just purely magical.

 

Mah Tovu was given to us by my friend who is Jewish, who is also the Jewish Godmother to my kids. If you want the real deal of a Jewish Godmother bringing music to your celebration table this season, pick up this music. It is real, contemporary music you would hear and enjoy only in a household that was Jewish. We happen to love it!

Blessings of Light and Music to You This Hanukkah

So why is Swami Mommi so interested in cultural diversity this time of year? We at Swami Mommi know how important it is to understand different cultures, but also because different cultures enhance our lives here on the earth. It goes back to the old adage, “Would life be boring if we were all the same?”.

Music is an easy way to bridge the gaps in cultural understanding. It is fun, and magical, and something most of us can relate to. So weather you are a teacher, therapist, homeschool family, a family with a baby, toddler, preschooler,  kindergardener, or elementary age kid, make music, culture and Hanukkah a part of their winter season. The simple act of coming together can warm all of our hearts when it is so very cold outside this time of year.

Happy Hanukkah!

Make sure to check out the following article for more ideas for Hanukkah celebrations and cultural diversity lessons! Don’t Be left in the Dark: Teach Kids About Diversity with Mindful Hanukkah Activities for the Curious.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be left in the Dark: Teach Kids About Diversity with Mindful Hanukkah Activities for the Curious.

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Experiencing Hanukkah Teaches Strong Cultural Diversity Lessons

When we experience things, we internalize them and make them our own. Growing up in a home where Christmas was celebrated, it would be impossible to ever lose my sense of what Christmas means to me. It is a wonderful, joyful, sometimes hectic, time of year, that I just love. I feel comfortable in the Christmas season, and all that comes with it.

As an experiment, I decided that I would teach my children the same Christmas traditions that I followed, however I wanted to add cultural diversity to the mix. So, from when my first child was born, we added in Hanukkah as a traditional family celebration. Long story short, the experiment turned out positive.

Starting small and adding each year, my kids are comfortable with Hanukkah as a holiday and won’t hear of not celebrating it. They have internalized Hanukkah, and with it have internalized cultural diversity and greater respect for Jewish customs.

If my kids had only read about Hanukkah from a book, I don’t think they would have gained the richness and deep understanding of Hanukkah, that they have by experiencing it each year.

Timing: When Should a Family Learn about Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is typically celebrated in the winter during the month of December. There are 8 nights to celebrate with the dates changing each year. However, if we miss a night, or even if we miss many nights due to family scheduling needs, we simply adjust the holiday to meet our time constraints. Of course, we try to honor the precise dates, but if that doesn’t work out, we would rather celebrate than miss out on the celebration and quality family time.

Finding time during the winter months is tricky, especially around the holidays. Family bonding can be a way to help kids and parents alike with emotional development and emotional regulation. Kids are often needing down time, and time with family during the holidays at home, and Hanukkah is a perfect island in the sea of presents, Santa activities, and general holiday hectic atmosphere. A lesson in cultural diversity can be a fun way to experience something new, open up communication between parents and kids, and decrease screen time. All great ways to sooth the senses this time of year.

If your family missed out on the exact dates for Hanukkah, try to catch them next year, but enjoy a few days of Jewish holiday excitement this year. During the month of December, the “celebration of lights” will bring a feeling of warmth to your home. Try my suggestions and I bet you and your family will have fun too.

Mindful Holidays: Hanukkah in Our Family Each Year

I have made it a point to teach our kids about diversity from the very start of their little lives, and being blessed with a Jewish Aunt, we couldn’t have been more gifted with various resources to make Hanukkah an enjoyable holiday to learn about. We really feel that in addition to our regular Christmas fervor, we have embraced Hanukkah with confidence in recent years.

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We started with the basics and so can you. Here is what you need to get started:

  1. Menorah: a picture, a felt one, a crafted one or a solid one.
  2. One book that explains the holiday in pictures (kids like this format!)
  3. One book about a Hanukkah that tells a story
  4. Easy Hanukkah food
A good way to enjoy Hanukkah is to try Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

Easy and Mindful Hanukkah Resources For The Busy Family

You might feel like you don’t know enough about Hanukkah to actually create activities for celebration with your kids, but a few basic concepts will allow you to do so in no time. It’s like opening a door to a dark room you know nothing about. But have no fear, as somewhat slowly you can peek into the doorway, and then enjoy a look at the wonderful light the holiday of Hanukkah brings forth.

To get started, here are a few of our most favorite Hanukkah tips and tricks. These easy and mindfully chosen resources will help you understand this cultural and religious holiday. You will be well on your way to helping your curious kids enjoy some fun with cultural diversity.

Resources for a Mindful Hanukkah that Teach Cultural Diversity

Using these materials will help you get you and your kids celebrating the holiday quickly, and that is the goal. Experiencing the holiday is the easiest and most fun way to learn about it!

Menorah Resources:

First Kids Menorah Soft Toy

Menorah Coloring Page

Paper Plate Menorah

Noah’s Ark Menorah

Picture Book About Hanukkah:

My First Hanukkah Board book

The Complete Guide To Hanukkah book

Hanukkah Story Books:

Oh Hanukkah

Curious George Hanukkah

Cultural Diversity Dreidel game for Hanukkah

Dreidel is a game played by children during Hanukkah. Mindful planning can making cultural diversity easy. Dreidel is a fun game that teaches cultural diversity in a fun atmosphere.

Hanukkah Activities:

Dreidel Game

Gelt Coins Candies for Dreidel Game

Jelly doughnuts are a Hanukkah treat

Jelly doughnuts are a Hanukkah treat! A little mindful planning makes it easy.

Foods to Enjoy:

Hanukkah Treats Cookbook

Hanukkah Cookie Cutters

My Easy Vegan Potato Pancake Recipe. Get to it here.

We cook with the kids to make these pancakes each year. Toddlers love to wash the potatoes, and the older kids love to push the buttons on the food processor (with supervision for safety always). Baby can even try mashed potatoes with some sauteed and pureed veggies an butter mixed in for color and taste. Whatever age your child, cooking and eating these Potato pancakes is easy to adapt to include the whole family.

Music for Kids at Hanukkah (even if they never listened before)

Mah Tovu CD – “Only This”

A Child’s Hanukkah

Hanukkah Party with the Neighbors

This year we decided to have an impromptu party with the neighbor kids who came over for a play-date. We started off with a story about the meaning of Hanukkah from our Complete Guide to Hanukkah book, then a little dancing to Mah Tovu Music CD. For a full description of our favorite Hanukkah music click here.

After a pretty good dance session, we went into the Kitchen to make Easy Vegan Potato Pancakes. Also, known as Latkes, you can save time if you buy frozen ones at the grocery store. Dipping Latkes in apple sauce, ketchup or sour cream all add fun and taste to these little potato wonders.

We made them as a group, with the neighbor watching with interest.  First seeing how the Potato pancakes were cooked, then watching how much our kids liked them was all our neighbors needed to give them a try themselves. Next time we all voted on Jelly doughnuts!

Make sure to check out more easy ideas to make your Hanukkah great by visiting our Hanukkah Music Guide Resource Don’t Be Left in the Dark: Teach Cultural Diversity with the Best Hanukkah Music For Kids.

I hope you try some of these ideas! please share how it went. Here’s to a fun lesson in cultural diversity and a Happy Hanukkah to you all!

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Frightfully Fun: Halloween Sensory Play and Photo Shoot for Toddlers

halloween cute bug

So it’s super easy, indoors or outside.

Outdoor sensory fun!

Grab these materials for some fun and some great Halloween pics. Smiles are easy with all the sensory fun!

Materials: Box, Blanket, Halloween costume, nature toys, pumpkins, different texture fabrics, camera

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It’s good to pick a cozy blanket. This makes for a warm and nurturing base for exploration. The spandex costume makes for great deep pressure input, but costumes of any kind make for great new sensory experiences. They are wonderful to use more often than just on Halloween night.

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Toys and blankets should be baby safe, meaning they are safe to explore with their mouth. Babies need input to their mouth and tags and strings are a real treat!

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It’s even great that they explore all the parts of their costume. Babies are learning not only about their body and how it works, but also how it works in relation to the world. Let your baby explore her costume.

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Different textures are a sensory explorer’s dream! Give your baby several different fabrics to explore.

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Different toys are also great! This little bug had the chance to explore some stuffed nature critters. I went with a nature theme. A quick visit to the plush animal bin and we had all we needed.

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We thought we would head outside for more fun and photos. I was amazed how curious baby was about this big pumpkin. Grass, cooler air, more texture, more colors. Nature based sensory play brings its own advantages.

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Baby was happy for a long time out in nature. I was happy because she was happy AND I got some cute photos!

Happy and Calm Sensory Play Baby!

One good way to know your little one has enjoyed their sensory play, is to see them calm and eventually tired. We’re not talking about being over-stimulated from too much sensory input. Calm, fun, new exploration. That’s the way to go.

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As a mom, I hope you use these ideas to get some great photo ops. As a developmental therapist, I hope you get the idea about great sensory play. It’s fun and exciting for baby, but in the end it’s calming as well.

Sensory play is simply the “work” of our kids!

Halloween sensory play for toddlers is fun!

Kids are so much fun! They are easy to engage in sensory play, and make a great photo-op easy!

Mindful Halloween Ideas: 2017 Blog Hop

Halloween blog hops make it easy to be mindful of spending quality time with your kids.

Being Mindful of spending time with your kids this Halloween is easier than ever!

 Hope you got the chance to visit the other excellent blogs involved in this Hop. It has been a pleasure working with so many talented bloggers on this project. Happy Halloweening!

Take a look at these Halloween activities from my blogging friends!

Neon Halloween Banner by Projects with Kids

Halloween Sponge Painting with Ghosts by Preschool Toolkit

Counting with Halloween Board Books by Homebound But Hopeful

Halloween Activity Pages by Mosswood Connections

Halloween Teacake Spider Treats by the Gingerbread House

X-Ray Exercises Free Printable by Growing Play

Cardboard Tube Monsters by The Joy of Sharing

Spooky Eyeball Brownies by Moments At Home

If you have a picture of Halloween fun please share it in the comments section. Activities, recipes, or just Halloween mayhem! We’d love to see what your up to this fall!

Mindful Music: Jazz Up Their Day With Fun Kid Songs!

songs for kids resources

Mindful Parenting With Music and Songs

The yoga of everyday life includes music. Growing up as a musician and still enjoying my musical gifts, I can’t help but think about what my kids and family listened to each day.

When we really get down to the truth of it, mindful parenting is actually aided by the presence of certain music and music of a certain quality. Karma yoga, the yoga of daily action, would suggest that we select music in a thoughtful way.

For example, when I want to create a calming background for my kids while they are drawing, yoga music for calming such as chanting, ocean or nature sounds, or music consisting of certain musical tones is what I would select. When I want a more upbeat background for activities such as cooking, I play some cultural music such as salsa or swing music from the 30’s.

One of my most-loved musical experiences comes from a beloved collection of music under the Guess How Much I Love You CD/book title. The 3-CD set came along with the book. The CD includes author Sam McBratney’s audio reading of the book, as well as a selection of lullabies, soothing classical music and nature sounds.They are designed for baby or child to play and rest while listening, but they really affected me the most!

When I first got these CD’s my little baby would sleep or play and I would just cry and cry tears of joy that only these sweet little songs could bring up. I couldn’t help myself!  They tugged on my heart-strings so wonderfully, and made me aware of the immense love I had for my baby. I wouldn’t miss out on all this wonderful awe thanks to the music, even if I did feel a little silly for all the tissues I went through. The music helped to bring me to a mindfulness that I might have missed in all my daily busy-ness. It was a gift when I still didn’t know how important it was to be mindful. It allowed me to stop and realize joy. This music would not let me miss out on the love in those moments with my baby.

If you want to listen to this book with some of the music in the background to help your little one unwind or get ready for restful sleep, click Guess How Much I Love You Kids Story with Music

mindful listening to music

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Check out these musical resources when mindfully selecting music and kids songs for your family.

Music Together is an organization that provides organic music experiences for families and children through classes and online. It gets the family involved in music enjoyment, and just like a language, when the family speaks the same language, in this case music, the child is sure to learn. Even if you don’t know a thing about music, this organization will allow you to be an example for your child.

Putumayo Kids is the best resource I have found for the classroom and home world music. They pick songs that are easily accessible to both the newly-trained and the seasoned ear. The tunes are fun and very well produced. Putumayo kids has been my favorite and go to source for world music for the past 10 years.

Jazz at Lincoln Center We Bop Program

Kindermusik is a valuable educational music resource.

Calming Music and Songs for Kids:

The Earth Spirit music by R. Carlos Nakai is so focusing it could be used to calm for yoga sessions, used as a meditation, or background music to create a calm home or classroom environment. I listen to this CD even when my kids aren’t around. It is fantastic!

Multi-Cultural Music and Songs for Kids:

The Gipsy Kings are a easy transition to Latin Music. Kids and parents can enjoy their music quickly even if Latin music is unfamiliar.  The GK’s are from Europe and draw from many traditions, including flamenco, salsa, Cuban music and even rock and roll, with an energetic and driving sound.  We listen to The Best of the Gypsy Kings in the car all the time and cook tacos with it on in the background.

A great CD for African music is African Playground. We absolutely love this CD and have some favorites the kids can’t help but dance to. For a more African to American transition in music, we listen to Jazz and Blues Cd’s we pick up from the Library.

Teach Me German is a fun book and music combination that has kids’ songs in German and short reading lessons in an easy format. Kids can color each lesson page, and a few pages can be done at a time. Teach Me More German is the next book in this series. We used these books around the Christmas holidays as their are special holiday sections, but it takes kids on an adventure through the year, so it could work in any season.

In the same vein is Teach Me Everyday Spanish, a book we’ve used year after year. The songs are fun and they have a mix of English and Spanish so even the kids who are listening for fun won’t get lost! It’s really easy and we have also used Teach Me More Spanish as supplement to the other Spanish-language resources we use at home to encourage our kids to learn multiple languages. Fun coloring, story-telling and kids’ songs!

Exploring the Senses with Music and Songs for Kids:

Explore music through the senses, SEEING the universe as never before, with great songs from  The Mighty Sky musical experience. These songs for kids have been awarded the “Smart Media” and “Notable” medals by the American Library Association and Academics Association. This collection rocks and creates a beautiful picture of the universe through music.

A great CD related to all things food and also for all the Barenaked Ladies fans out there! Snacktime is BNL’s take on a kids’ CD that does not disappoint. Whether you have a picky eater or kids who love to eat, this CD makes food a feast of musical fun. We play this in the car just for giggles! Then we sing it in the kitchen because we know all the lyrics.

Auditory Meditations for Kids:

These are tracks I love to use in my work with kids and with my own family. My favorite is Mermaids and Fairy Dust.

Yoga Songs for Kids:

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids. Music and mindful activities can help!

One of the best yoga recordings I have found is by Kira Willey. Her music in Dance for the Sun takes kids on yoga adventures they can listen to AND do! It is really a ton of fun for the whole family.

Folk Songs for Kids and Families:

John McCutcheon’s music in Howjadoo is down-home fun with a level of musicianship that kids can understand and grow into, while still having fun!

Try the Johnny Cash Children’s Album for a grounding experience for the whole family. Johnny’s voice in it’s booming bass style wakes us up to the grind of daily life but in a fun way which kids can grasp. Great songs.

Family Music and Songs for Kids:

Ziggy Marley does a great job with his album, Family Time. It’s upbeat and a great listen to put the whole family in a happy mood!

music for kids, kids songs about the moon

Coconut Moon is a master music compilation for silly family fun. The Green Chili Jam Band rocks these kids’ songs, so parents can just sit back and laugh. Here is an example of just one silly song called Lard. It’s sure to bring laughter.

Holiday Music for Kids:

An amazing CD that creates the a feeling of warmth and love around the Christmas Holiday is Christmas Folkjul. I cried when I listened to this music in my car, driving home once late holiday evening alone from work. This has become a consistent request for the whole family.  Don’t let one more holiday go by without this true musical gem.

De-stress This Mess Challenge: Parents Reduce Distraction and Increase Joy!

Beautiful place inspires mindfulness and joy.

Out On the Edges of Life Is Where There Is So Much Joy To Be Found.

The “De-Stress This Mess” Challenge:

I want to challenge you to turn your own spiritual practice and mindfulness up a notch in your own personal life. Why? This will undoubtedly trickle down into your therapy practice and family life, with not only you benefiting, but everyone around you benefiting as well.

You will find that spark of childhood wonder again. I promise.

Mindful parenting can bring a sense of childhood wonder back to your life!

The Sparkle of Childhood Wonder Isn’t Far Away. Find Your Wonder. De-Stress.

De-Stress This Message 7 day Challenge

Try these simple mindfulness and stress reduction activities for 7 days.

If you try these simple activities for just one week, you will notice a difference.

  1. Limit device use. Reduce your engagement on your device by half. I recommend telling you family and friends you will be checking your device 3 times a day. Morning, afternoon, and early evening. Return messages, texts, and social communication at that time. If they need you right away, tell them to call you.
  2. Stop 3 times each day and focus on your breath for 1 minute. I recommend lumping breath check-in  with device check-in. Three times a day.
  3. Take a walk for 10 minutes. To get a healthy snack, to buy a magazine, to observe a garden or get fresh air and sunshine. Do something you enjoy. No device.
  4. Call one friend during the week. No text.
  5. Set aside one evening, approximately 2 hours, to relax. Prepare to relax ahead of time by brewing tea or coffee, getting a good book from the library, taking out cozy blankets, or setting up a bath. You may find that by reducing social media engagement you will actually have more time in your day to relax. This week, commit to relaxing one evening only.

If you miss a day or a few days just add more days until you get to 7. Be easy on yourself, but try to do it for as many days in a row that you can.

My experience: “De-Stress This Mess” Challenge.

De-stress this mess, is all about the mess in my thoughts, house, and schedule. It was starting to look like a tangle, chaotic and overwhelming. I needed to focus. I needed to de-stress. Life was not working well.

Of course, everyday, I strive to be mindful of my choices. It’s easiest, of course, when I turn off the devices and don’t over-schedule. As a mom, if I am grounded and centered, the day goes better. As a occupational therapist, it’s the same deal. I can work with my clients more efficiently when I am calm, centered and focused.

I started to wondered if other moms and therapists used spirituality in their daily lives to de-stress. IF they did, how did they do it? In an age where religion and spiritual practice is markedly less evident than the generation of our parents, how were we making it through the day as grounded as our parents? Were we really doing the work as occupational therapists from a grounded place? Was I doing a good job at mothering?

I was looking for answers to some of these very questions when I saw that the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association was hosting an upcoming workshop titled “Spirituality in Occupational Therapy.” So I went.

I was amazed when I got to the workshop! As it turns out, I am not the only mom, or for that matter, therapist, that thinks spirituality is an important part of the daily grind. In fact, many of us use it as a coping mechanism, a regular component of our dealings with family and clients alike, and as a buffer to the outside world. When surveyed at the Duquesne University Annual Celebration 2017, during the presentation by clinical scholars studying “cultural responsiveness in current occupational therapy practice”, greater than 80% of therapists reported that they used some form of religion or spirituality during their daily therapy sessions.

As a mother, I often see and hear moms talking about being calm and having the ability to deal with difficult parenting situations. One of the biggest topics on mom blogs and during play-date water cooler talk is how to motivate their kids without yelling! Moms want to know how to live with intention, be more efficient, and be more helpful for their families. They want to feel grounded instead of scattered in a thousand directions. Moms want answers – even moms who feel they are doing a good job. They want to know how to be most efficient, creative and calm.

Moms want to enjoy the bonds they have with their kids. Sometimes, parents are so over-scheduled that they barely remember the amazing connection they once had with their children when they were smaller. There is just so little time and so many more distractions than ever before. Parents want to make life simple. They want to hug their kids, before their kids are grown.

Mindful parents have time to hug their kids.

A Hug Is So Simple, But It Means So Much.

I started to ask the questions about my daily spirituality.

Do we engage with Spirit?

Do we allow ourselves the time to relax and have our ease?

Are we addicted to stress ?

Do we force our patients to do exercises and programs simply because they are billable?

Do we ask our  know what gives our kids meaning in their daily life?

In all of these questions I have a hunch that as therapists we do remember spirit in our work. Actually, it’s what drives to help others!  We are quite smart when it comes to all things spiritual as a profession in general. However, it’s always good to get a reminder to engage with our own spirituality on a daily basis in our lives outside of work as well. This type of self-care is an ever-present need for us to attend to, so we don’t burn out.

The same goes to all of us as moms. We work and work all day, and need to keep our ease about things. It prevents burn out, health problems, and yelling. Our whole family benefits when we take some time to de-stress and feed our spirit.

The workshop “Spirituality and Occupational Therapy” strongly affirmed the basic need for spirituality in daily life. Occupational science is based on the mind-body-spirit paradigm with whole theoretical models based on this paradigm. The presenter, Rebecca Austill-Clausen, drew attention to this basic premise in occupational therapy, much to my delight. It’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.

Mindfulness and connection to spirit brings good days.

Decide That You Are Going To Have A Good Day! Connect To Your Spirit!

The Rewarding Results of De-stressing the Mess!

What results is joy. More joy with family and friends. More joy at work. More joy in our heart! And choices that result in even more joy!

To tell you a little about what I do for a mindful practice, each morning I start my day with a calming CD. Honestly, without it, I don’t have very productive or calm days. I have noticed a true quantifiable difference. I have also set device limits. I check no more than 3 times a day. My thoughts are more present and not in cyber-mind space. I have time to give hugs and kisses to my kids.

A mindful mom giving her kid a kiss!

A Simple Kiss Goes A Long Way Through the Day!

Finally, I have worked to reconnect with nature and relax as a part of my weekly routine. To take a walk, stop near a stream or enjoy a sunset. Less distraction overall has allowed me to experience nature in a more vibrant way.

The results have been wonderful. I feel like I have regained my sense of direction, with more time in each day, more hope that things will be good, and more self care.

There’s no need to journal. You’ll feel the difference and it won’t be easy to forget. You might even decide that you want to continue your 13 Minute “Feel Good” practice well into the future.  I hope it will help you as much as it did me.

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About Rebecca Austill-Clausen:

During the workshop, Ms. Austill-Clausen further reviewed AOTA’s definition of spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way an individual seeks and expressed meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connection to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Additionally, the 2005 AOTA Position Paper states that “occupational therapy can use complementary modalities in preparation for an occupational therapy treatment session.” In terms of Occupational Therapy, we are literally swimming in a sea of possibility in how we engage with spirit as therapists.

……… Living from a place of authenticity makes her an obvious example of spirituality in action.

To learn more about Rebecca or her new book,  click learn more.

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