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!

 

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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.

Mindful Music: Jazz Up the Day With Good Songs for Kids!

songs for kids, activities for kids, songs for babies, music for kids

“Is it possible to be mindful when listening to music?”

“Where can a mom or dad find good songs for kids?”

“Since when have good listening activities for kids been so hard to find? “

I hear these questions from parents all the time. I’m glad they ask because it’s easy to direct them toward good resources so their children can learn through listening.

Being mindful when choosing what our kids listen to is important. Kids are ALWAYS listening and learning. The lyrics of the songs they hear inform them about what people outside the family are doing. Hopefully, they are wholesome. Exposure to music when our kids are young weaves them a tapestry of understanding and processing sound that they will compare future music to and will influence their choices. Let’s hope the musical tapestry to which they’re exposed is complex and beautiful.

Most important, who they listen to music with as they grow will affect who they listen to music with when they are older.  Let’s set family musical listening and engagement happen as a part of the daily routine!

Did you know being mindful about music is easier than you think? If your kids have ears, you’re in business. Well, kind of.

As a musician since the age of 6, I knew music was my calling. I went to school many years later, specializing in sensory play to help kids of all ages and skill levels learn. Then several years after that, I was certified to teach Music Together, an organic way of bringing music to kids through the family.  You could say I’ve come full circle.

In all these endeavors, it became clear that in order for kids to learn and use music in the long term, it has to be seen as a family activity. I’m not suggesting that every parent pick up a new instrument, but even the most tone-deaf of parents can select music to listen to and enjoy as a family.

So you might be thinking: just turn on the radio, right?

Nope.

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Sound Advice on Music for Kids

If you turn on the radio today, many stations play the same kind of music. There doesn’t seem to be much variety. The music industry is primarily about selling music, and music that has “different” doesn’t make many sales. So this leaves us as parents with fewer choices and less say in the quality of music we get to choose.

Many radio stations play music with a specific signal frequency. The idea is to make it not different, but mostly the “same”, within a consistent set of frequencies. All of the frequencies are compressed down into a very narrow listening range (or ‘band’). It’s like taking a mega-sized soup pot of clam chowder, with all its diversity and goodness, and compressing it into a sardine can. Not all that exciting.

These days, Radio is controlled by a handful of huge media companies, and when they realized that the music that people buy is basically “more of the same”, they decided that originality and sonic variety weren’t qualities they wanted to emphasize.  The effect of this is that when you turn on the radio, yours and your kids’ ears don’t develop to nearly their potential to be avid listeners and develop deep appreciation of music, let alone carry a tune or play an instrument.

Below I have a sample of 6 songs in the current genre of modern country music  (which, I admit, I used to like a lot) that, when mashed up together, actually sound like one song. This means that not only are the frequencies used in the music compressed to exactly the same levels, but also that the words and themes fit together topically. Just watch as the song scrolls and the different songs are played simultaneously. Amazing.

Develop Your Kid’s Musical Aptitude:

Musical Aptitude: refers to a person’s innate ability to acquire skills and knowledge required for musical activity, and may influence the speed at which learning can take place and the level that may be achieved. (Wikipedia)

Knowing that kids have a “window” of musical development that hits its peak between 0-5 years of age, what they’re listening to is important. Educational pioneer Maria Montessori refers to this window of opportunity as the “sensitive period.” There are other schools of musical thought that say this period can go well into the 7th and 8th year of a child’s life, and beyond.

Regardless of the age of your child, the answer here to developing musical aptitude is to get your kids listening to good music. Be thoughtful about what music you choose for yourself and your family.

songs for kids, music for kids, songs for babies

Start Early With Family Music

 

Are you ready for some good music?

Your kids are ready!

You think “Where can I get some good old-fashioned music?”

Here are a few ways to be more mindful in your selection of music as a parent:

1. Try visiting your local library’s music section. By that, I mean the grownup section, and check out some CDs! Don’t check too many out of the children’s section.

Kids’ music is so often very basic.  There are exceptions, of course, but it generally means that if your kid listens to very basic music, their ear learns very basic skills. If that’s what you want, then listening to “kiddie” type music will work.

2. Listening to more complex rhythms, sounds, instruments and tonality will develop kids’ ears so they can understand and enjoy these qualities. Adult music in the classical, Jazz, folk, and world music genres will provide you with great choices. If you pick music you like, so much the better. Just make sure the lyrics are age appropriate.

Here are three resources I use all the time. The first two use kids’ songs in complex ways. The third is a masterpiece all on its own, good for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others.

For little ones, here is an example of Jazz used to teach babies a greeting that can be used when you arrive home or anytime you and your family is up for some fun and singing! It’s called Welcome My Baby.

A resource for kids specifically that utilizes folk, blues, classical, and a variety of cultures is Music Together. This is one of my favorites, and you can find many resources on YouTube for free!  It called Ridin’ in the Car.

This resource my kids heard for the first time at a free symphony concert. They could not be distracted! It’s great for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others. In The Hall of the Mountain King

3. Being Consistent with Music Engagement teaches children to be mindful of what they listen to on a daily basis as they grow.

Make family music time a priority. When you hit the library for books, hit the CD rack too. Go to YouTube and see what you like. See what your significant other likes. See what your kids gravitate to. If your kiddo likes the idea of a trumpet, google search “top trumpet players” and see what you can find out.

There is no doubt that your musical ear will be developing on a growth curve if you take this approach. And remember, even if you don’t love a particular genre at first, music has a way of growing on you.

Just make sure to start the habit of Music Mindfulness-and keep it going. If you should break out into random singing and dancing as well, so much he better! If you start singing in the shower, more power to you. Just have fun.

Your kids will surprise you if you give them the chance.

Your children deserve a good shot at a lifetime of good music.

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Different cultures mindfully chose to expose their children to culturally relevant music and teach them how to be a part of it.

We hope this was informative for you and your family. Let us know if you tried some of the ideas shared in this article. We love your comments, because they help us learn what your needs are and what we can do to make Swami Mommi even more relevant.

A baby playing a drum while listening to good music.

 

 

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Baby Sensory Play: Don’t Make the #1 Mistake (I did!)

how to do sensory play with kids without mistakes

As a developmental therapist, Montesssori homeschool teacher, and mindful mama, I frequently think of how to set things up so they go smoothly. This time however, it went all wrong. Hopefully, this learning moment for me will help you avoid the same mistake with your little one!

So the scene is set.  My little cutie is ready to play and I have all my materials and a whole bunch of space in the family room. Perfect! Let’s do sensory play!

Montessori-based Sensory Set Up

I set up my special textured rug first. It was soft to the touch, with fringes throughout, and vertical lines and love bugs all over it. After that, I put our a soft red blanket, a winter bear, and Montessori inspired toys including wooden balls, wooden snowflake cutouts, wooden bowls, spoons and little non-edible puff balls. Lastly, I went with the soft and warm theme and had a basket of hats, gloves and scarves.

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Before we even got onto the rug, baby was ready for sensory play. She wanted the puff balls and pushing them into her sock made her giggle. She enjoyed the added sensory feeling on her toes and liked the challenge of using her thumb and pointer finger to get them out!

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The room was quiet, the sun was shining and baby was headed for the center of the carpet. First the bowls were interesting and the snowflake cutouts attracted her attention. Unfortunately, her attention didn’t remain on these items long, and I was a little curious as she usually spent 5-10 minutes with these items when seated at the table. She moved on to the bear and then the hats and gloves, then onto the puff balls again, and then back to the bear!

After several minutes of baby switching toys every other second, I realized I had made a sensory play mistake, one commonly made, but still, not one I thought I would make as a developmental therapist. I should know better!

#1 Mistake in Sensory Play: Set up too many items, or items that are over-stimulating. Baby loses attention and instead of exploring, they just go wild!

Result of Mistake: After sensory play, baby is all charged up, and hasn’t seen or processed any of the toys designed for exploration and learning.

Rule of Thumb to Avoid This Common Mistake: Make play balanced so that the sensory items are not over-the-top stimulating. If you have all the senses involved or too much of one sense at one time, baby can lose focus. We call this “shutdown” where the growing nervous system shuts down and focus can’t happen. Baby goes wild, or at the very least gets quite hyperactive.

In this case, I overdid the visual and touch senses. Too much color, too many toys, too many things to touch and explore.

 

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After a few more minutes of play, as I tried to figure out how to correct my mistake, baby just about lost her marbles. Well, at least her puff balls. She went back and forth between snow cutouts, wooden balls and puff balls till she just couldn’t stand it any longer.

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She handled it well for the most part, crawling off the rug and sitting her bottom in the basket for a giggle. I wish I could be so calm and jovial in times of stress!

 

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Sensory overload! Too much visual stimulation with too many “feeling” toys on top of it all!

So I regroup and try again after a few minutes pass and baby calms down. I let her just crawl it off in her natural play space. Good thing she is a pretty good self-regulator.

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Simple Montessori-based Sensory Play Set Up

My new sensory play set up, was much simpler. I scrapped the overly visual rug and went with the soft blanket. Still red and alerting, but just one tone. I also focused on the winter wear, thinking her positive experience with them in play would help when she needed to actually wear them, when we were headed out the door into the cold winter weather.

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After spending 10 minutes with the winter gear, she approached the wooden cut outs behind her. She attempted to get them herself, and explored them for 10 minutes as well. Now I feel like I am doing something right. She is able to focus and learn within this new sensory set up.DSC_0019

After a few more minutes, she went back to the winter gear and showed me her skill at combining. Combining is a developmental milestone where babies take one toy they know about and put it with another toy they know about. You know, to see how they might work together, or not!

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So after a total bomb at the beginning, this time, winter sensory play went well.

After working with thousands of kids, developing sensory plans and playing with them directly, I can only hope you realize as a mindful parent that there is a bit of trial and error that has to happen when it comes to your specific kids sensory play needs. My baby needed it toned down, but your baby might have been just fine with the original set up.

Mindful Parents Sensory Tip to Avoid Mistakes:

Simply look to see if your baby is able to focus on the items presented in the sensory activity. If they can’t, the set up is too much for them. If they can, you probably nailed it.

Our little ones learning through sensory play is the idea that we as mindful parents are trying to create. The very idea that you read this article till the end says you are well on your way to preparing a great sensory and Montessori play time for you child.  Most importantly, have fun! Remember, you are loving you baby when you spend time playing with them! Hopefully this little tutorial will help!

 

Make Homemade Rice Milk With Kids (Without the Arsenic)

 

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I make my own rice milk. My whole family enjoys it, but because I am lactose intolerant, I have to drink rice milk.

One day I tried to make my own and it tasted 100% better than anything you could buy in a box. Just a little time investment makes for great rice milk, and I can by organic rice to make sure it doesn’t have high levels of pesticide.

Why an I concerned about rice milk and pesticides? The pesticide that is used most frequently is arsenic. High levels of arsenic in any food or water are not a good idea to eat.

Even organic rice may have arsenic, but Lundberg Family Farms does test their rice for arsenic and reports to the FDA. So, I choose Lundberg as my rice supplier. If you click the Lundberg Family Farms link you will find a detail description of their position and test results on arsenic. (I do not have an affiliation with Lundberg Family Farms).

Many rice supplies don’t check for arsenic. Many boxed rice milks don’t either.

But, it turns out that it is really simple to make rice milk, and making it with kids can be another great slow food experience. Slowing down to show our kids how to make great food is a lesson in mindful eating. It can teach them how to be mindful with their own food in their future as well.

Making rice milk with your kids is a lesson in mindful eating. Making your own rice milk keeps out arsenic

Fresh milk without arsenic!

Plus this milk is great on ice or in our morning cereal. It can be used anywhere a milk substitute is used. It really can’t be beat!

The boxed rice milk in the stores don’t stand a chance in our house. Once you make it yourself, you will say “Bye Bye Box” too!

How to Make Rice Milk At Home without Arsenic

4 cups organic white rice
1 gallon filtered water
2 cinnamon sticks
Anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/4 of a cup of real maple syrup

Toast the cinnamon sticks until fragrant.

Soak the rice, water and cinnamon sticks over night.

Next day cook the rice.

Then in your blender or food processor, blend soaked rice 1 cup at a time, with about 2-3 cups water. You can add more filtered water if you like. Strain the pureed milk into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer. Try to get all the liquid out of the puree.

Add maple syrup to taste.

Let us know if you tried this. We would love to get your feedback.

Mindfully Spending Time with Our Kids is Better Than Spending Money On Our Kids.

Chapter 3 in Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life  by Peter Gray helped me put together my own view of how we currently treat children, and how we teach them. The history of education as presented in the book, from hunter-gatherers to the present, explained how our culture, economic prosperity, or lack thereof, religions and political climate all interact to produce our societal treatment of children. Taking all these factors into account to create my own current snapshot of how we treat and teach children, I have become quite thoughtful. My thoughts have required some diligent observation of my daily life.  Here is a look into what I saw.

Kids have so much to jugle when it comes to money and messages that they should buy, buy, buy.

How Can Our Kids Be Mindful Of All The Messages They Receive About Money?

Parents Being Mindful: Buying Our Kids Too Much Stuff

As in the days of classic agriculture, when animals and kids were both “raised” and horses and children were both “trained”, I gather that kids are now “bought”. We buy our food, we buy our clothes, corporate is king, and our economy revolves around big business. And yes, I think we love our kids through buying too.

When agricultural lives turned into modern working families, at least in the cities, parents learned to buy what they need for the home and lost the skills to make things of their own at home. This would explain why we buy our kids so many things as well. What can we possible give them?

One day several years ago, I had the thought that I was a “good” mom because I bought my daughter a toy piano for Christmas. I now realize love is the best gift, but it was probably not that far off from what many parents raising children in the industrial world think.

Another day more recently, my daughter Gigi told me she would rather have time with me than more stuff. Looking around our house, I understood. We are filled to the brim with games, and paints, and books. We just don’t use them in proportion to the time we spend shopping.

We shop till we drop, and our children see it. This example is somewhat embarrassing for me, so I have decided to stop. No more TJ MAXX. Ouch!  By the time our kids are in their teens, our children make up the biggest demographic as cash consumers. They are whom the marketers market to. I no longer think this is a recipe for happiness.

On the flip side,  my daughter and I went to the grocery store recently, and after a long discussion on how the kids’ sports balls with super heroes were more expensive than the plain ones, how the hot dog buns were not actually a “necessity” since we already had some good bread at home, and how we couldn’t just go and buy baseball tickets given our current budget, I felt tired.

These conversations with my daughter were a sign to me, that it was time for a change.

It's time for a change if you spend little time being thoughtful with you kids.

Being Mindful of Our Kids Makes Sense.

Being Mindful With Money Makes a Difference To Our Kids

On the car tide home from the grocery store, our conversation continued. I told her that if I bought her all she asked for, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. She asked me, “Mama, do you love me that much, that you would buy me everything?” I told her I would love to buy her the world, or rather give her the world. Her immediate response to my generous words was “Wow, how could I have needed those hot dog buns so much! We already have bread!” A softer, more centered child for sure.

Just taking the time to discuss money and how we might not need all the things that were being sold to us, helped Gigi to be more mindful about money as well. Talking about money is one way to take our minds off the obsession to buy, and spending that time with our kids will influence them in the long run.

Parents AND Kids are Told to Buy, Buy , Buy

When young families move into a new town, the real estate agent is sure to point out the schools in the area, if they are good. Blue ribbons hang down the entry way doors of these good school districts, voted “best school 1000 years in a row”. What everyone knows, and some sometimes say, is that the best and smartest thing you can do is to buy a house in that blue ribbon district. Buy the house, buy the school, buy the education, buy the right clothes for the children to wear, by the right enrichment programs, buy the right sport shoes for soccer……gosh darn it, just buy it!

These messages erode our kids ability to just be happy with what they have. A family, friends, healthy food, laughter, and joy, just to name a few.

My friend, a mom to 4 kids,  sent out an e-mail this week that read: “Spending time with kids is better than spending money on kids.”  If we spent more time with our children, which I believe is all they really want, I wonder if they would stop craving “more and more” things. I wonder if we as parents would stop buying so much as well.

Being Thoughtful With How We Spend Time With Out Kids

After all these ideas hit home, I decided to stop shopping. I would still get the essentials, but not the extras. After seeing The True Cost movie, it was easy to stop looking for clothes for myself as a weekend get away from the monotony of the home grind. If you don’t know what is going on with fast fashion, the movie might move you to do the same.

The True cost left the  image of the mom in India that just about broke my heart. She was leaving her young daughter a day trip away with family so she could go work in the factories to make fashions that sell for cheep in the United States and Europe. The chemicals are bad in the factories, and all kids can do is lay on a mat next to their mom’s day after day. I realized I had enough clothes for a lifetime once I understood what was going on.

Being mindful of how we spend our money as parents, and how we teach our kids, effects kids all over the world.

Every Child Deserves a Good Future, No Matter Where They Live.

The idea that fast fashion in taking advantage of women on a global scale (80% of sweat shop workers are women) made me generalized the lesson to all things made in China, India, Vietnam, Mexico and South America. This cut out 90% of my favorite shopping venues. I felt free and much better about no contributing to the sweat shop culture. Kids, no matter where they live deserve care and the possibility of a good future. So do their moms.

Without my regular stores to provide what I needed for my family, I started visiting re-sales and rummage sales. To get the essentials, I bought clean, gently used item. They were headed to the land fill otherwise, and if some woman made the item in a sweat shop, and it never even got used, that felt unbearable to me.

Rummage sales were my way of taking action and still get the basics for my family. I was able to value what was going to be thrown away. I was able to at least communicate across many millions of miles that I would be mindful of what those moms in sweatshops did each day and nod a “Thank You” in their direction.

With all my free time, I started sitting around the house more, being more available for my family. I pulled out board games, and puzzles, and old books. In essence, I was thoughtful about how I spent my day, talked to may kids, and actually started using all the stuff I had bought and stored over the past years. I didn’t so much as plan my day in excess, but took it slower.

Gratitude Finds Parents That Are Mindful of Time With Their Kids

When I didn’t go shopping very much and started being available for my kids, honestly, I got uncomfortable at first. I felt a little silly and then just totally unproductive. Nothing to achieve. No where to go. How could I feel like I accomplished anything? How much time could I really spend with my kids? AND when I wanted to have down time for just me, where in the world would I go?

And this is where you find me now, a little lost, but more comfortable, and satisfied with more time overall.

Time has slowed down, and for that I am ultimately grateful.

By the way my daughters took ease this weekend when I spent quality time  at home, I am pretty sure she is grateful  too

Kids are grateful for parents who are mindful of the time they spend with them.

Mindful parents encourage their kids To be mindful in life. And they are!

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Can You Be a Calm Mom When You Feel Stressed Out? (The Story of How I did it!)

Devices, work, the grocery store, the classes, the dishes, the house, the yard-honestly I have no idea where to begin with the never-ending list of daily chores. With all our modern conveniences, why was I so stressed out? Could I ever be a calm mom?

Being mindful with out kids can help them be calm.

Will I Ever Be A Calm Mom For My Kids?

Do you feel stressed out but want to be a calm mom too?

Do you want to be more mindful with you kids but just feel too busy?

After reading Chapter 2 of Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life , by Peter Gray, I felt a lot more knowledgeable on the ways kids learn naturally. After reading the extensive research on societies that let children learn freely, through free play, adult example, and oral tradition, I wondered what in the world I was doing spending so much time on my device these days? That in addition to the daily grind makes me basically an absent parent to my children in terms of parenting with real thoughtfulness. Am I really providing a good example? Can my kids be calm if I am not?

This chapter really challenged me to think deeply about education, or “cultural transmission” as Gray calls it. “Cultural transmission” means that each new generation of human beings acquires and builds on the skills, knowledge and values of previous generations” is content dependent.

This means that what we show our kids is what they learn. We are in the position of great influence because to our kids we are their heroes.

As a parent, such an understanding can be unsettling. No one taught us how to be parents, and our only lessons come from our own childhoods growing up in our own families. Only one source to reference.  For the next generation, being truly mindful of our actions is so important because as parents their are often things we would like to do differently than our own parents.

So what lessons are we teaching our kids?

What example are we showing them in order to be Calm Kids?

Our children model our daily actions as parents. Calm parenting results in calm kids.

Your Kids Watch What You Do Every Day As Their Parent. You Are Their Hero.

Stressed Mom vs Calm Mom

Once I started looking at my own day-to-day schedule, I was shocked at my lack of awareness. I felt like I never had time to sit down and regroup. I felt as though less achievement and commitment would be a breath of fresh air. Slowing down would be bliss. And I wondered how it must feel to actually be quite and still.

I also felt like becoming a bit more low tech. I have to say “lower” tech, because the idea of not being on near my device sounded a little scary. Still, it might be worth it as long as it I was calmer.

As a challenge to myself to really look at what goes on in my day, I stopped what I was doing one afternoon and watched my thoughts. What I found was shocking! I found quick thoughts running thought my head, meal plans for the next day swimming in my head, all while wondering where the garden should be placed this year in our backyard. Yikes!

Not Quite the Calm Mom.

Once I saw my high paced thoughts, I understood why my body was always in motion. It was just doing what it was told to do.

So how could I slow down and be more mindful?

Usually I get things done with a list, so I decided to make a list of things that would calm me down. Maybe even calm my kids! Here’s what it looked like:

Top 10 things To Do to Be A Calm Mom

1. Get rid of the lists-they are always too long and make me angry when I can’t get them done. (OK, so much for that………)

A walk in nature can help calm moms remember that we really do have all the time in the world if we are mindful of how we spend out time.

Disconnecting to Reconnect

All The Time In the World

All That Time In The World is a movie that changed me for the better, at just about the time I got rid of lists. It was great timing to say the least. My husband heard about it from a podcast he was listening to and we got so curious we bought ourselves a copy to watch.

Suzanne Crocker, from Vancouver, Canada was asked to make this documentary as a wasy to “disconnectin order to reconnect” with her family of 5. And how she set out to do this was nothing short of a super hero effort. She embarked with her family into the Yukon Wilderness for 9 months, part of which was in the dead of winter. Check out the trailer for All The Time In The World here.

Suzanne Crocker and her husband bravely took their family on a journey to a cabin in the deep woods without running water and  electricity, one so remote that the only way to get to it was by boat or snowmobile. A place that has bears and temperatures that dip well into the -40’s and -50s. A place where there are no modern conveniences.

Setting out, she thought her kids would want to strangle each other by the end of it all, but she found the exact opposite to be true. Despite all the wood chopping, homemade fires and food, and just plain work, they bonded. They bonded so much that they didn’t want to leave.

However, Crocker’s movie made a huge impact on me too!

Seeing what it means to take time with each other, to have nowhere to go and nothing to do, was eye-opening. Having seen the movie gave me some real life ideas on how I could create some down time for me and my family in our very own suburban bungalow.

Finally, daily choices like putting the devices away, not making plans, cooking meals together, not going shopping, and taking a walk in nature all made sense.

Being mindful of our family means taking time to be with them in a connected way. Nature walks help families bond.

Walking In Nature Can Help Kids To Be Calm. That Helps Mom To Be Calm Too!

I had always imagined I would cook more food at home, take walks in nature, and spend long days of quality time with my kids. I just never saw a real life example of it so I didn’t know how to be a calm mom. Now I did. I knew enough to get started, even without trekking to the Yukon Territory in Canada.

Being mindful of how I spend my time with my family became a driver for me and I did begin to feel like I had All The Time In The World. We took 4 days of park walks over the Christmas holiday, we spent a whole weekend indoors in January, and cooking began to be more fun than going out to eat.

Life began to feel more orderly.

I began to feel like I just might be a  Calm Mom.