Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Book Review: Fifteen Minutes Outside by Rebecca P. Cohen

AuthorRebecca P. Cohen
TitleFifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids
Publication Info: Sourcebooks (2011)
Summary/Review:

This book exists because parent Rebecca Cohen asked herself: “What if I got outside every single day, and what if I could get my kids to come along? It would be easier to pull this off in the middle of summer, but what if we did it all year round, no matter what the weather was like?”

This book provides a different activity for children and parents to do outdoors for each day of the year.  The book presumes one has a large yard and a mild climate (the author lives in Virginia), so one may have to adapt a few things to one’s own circumstances.  Cohen is also really into gardening so probably about a quarter of the suggestion have to do with planting, weeding, and harvesting vegetables.  Nevertheless, this book is chock full of creative suggestions to make spending time outdoors a fun daily activity varying by season.  As a parent, it’s good to have a reference to help get started because sometimes you just can’t think of a convincing reason to go outside, especially when it’s too cold or too hot.

I listed some of my favorite suggestions below.  One may also download  “50 Outdoor Activities for Busy Families” from Cohen’s website (email required).

Cohen also provides a number of websites to go to for more ideas:

Favorite Passages:

“While your kids are outside enjoying sunshine and physical exercise, why not have them exercise their imaginations as well? Encourage them to climb a hill and pretend it’s Mount Everest, build a fort with tree branches, or prepare a pretend feast using leaves as plates and wild berries as the main course. Ask them about stories they are reading at school and at home, and join them in acting out their favorite parts. Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series is perfect for this, but there are hundreds—even thousands—of great children’s books (and movies and even video games) to draw on. Folk tales like “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and “The Gingerbread Man,” or children’s favorite board books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury are a great place to start.”

“Close your eyes and have your child lead you to a tree. Use your senses—touch, smell, and hearing—to learn all you can about your tree. The bark will have its own texture, tiny buds may be forming on branches, and the trunk will be easy or hard to get your arms around. With your eyes still closed, have your child lead you back to where you started. Open your eyes and try to find your tree. Now it’s your child’s turn!”

“A female entrepreneur once told me that when she was a kid, her mom would tell her to sit under a small tree and have small thoughts, and then sit under a big tree and think big thoughts. Try it with your kids, and have fun discovering what each of you thinks about.”

“Some days are so dreary, you find yourself wishing for even a little brightness and beauty. Trust me, even in February, it’s out there—but sometimes your family has to work together to find it. Bring in everyone’s perspectives and head out to find something that is beautiful. Each person’s job is to look until they find something in nature that they like and to share why.”

“Red-tailed hawks mate in March and April and usually make their nests in the tallest trees, and they might even take over a nest that a great horned owl used in January and February. I learned this tip from David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. And sure enough, for several days in March I heard loud and unusual birdcalls. When I looked up, there were hawks locking talons in flight. Find out from your local nature center when to look for hawks.”

“As the leaves fill the trees, it may not be as obvious that there are large sections or large branches that have fallen from trees. As you walk, notice fallen branches; see if your child (perhaps with your help) can find which tree a specific branch fell from by looking.”

“A cousin in France once said that she did a sociology experiment in college and asked people to purposefully look up and around for a day. What she found was that it not only opened people’s perspective to the physical beauty around them, but also to a more psychological openness of possibilities. Take this idea into play with your child when you walk outside and start looking at what is above your eye level, and take turns pointing out what you see.”

“This one is adapted from a tennis camp game, and it works whether you have two people or ten. The “coach” throws a tennis ball across an imaginary line to each person standing and lined up in a row facing the coach. If you do not catch the ball each time the coach throws it to you, you lose a limb (e.g., put an arm behind your back, then stand on one foot or sit down, until finally you have no limbs left and are out). The last person left wins and becomes the coach.”

“Pick a day every week to go out to the same spot with a notepad and pencil and write about or draw the changes you notice that are taking place in nature. Or keep a notepad and colored pencils in the car for your child to sketch the changing landscape as you travel around. Have them present their art to you, and write down their story beside their art if they can’t do it themselves.”

Recommended booksGet Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland
Rating: **

Book Review: Get Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland

Author:  Judy Molland
Title: Get Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland
Publication Info:  Minneapolis, MN : Free Spirit Pub., 2009.
ISBN: 9781575423357
Summary/Review:  This book is a short reference book with a list of 150 suggestions of what children and families can do to experience nature and participate in environmental conservation.  I was a bit disappointed that the book is literally a list with just a few paragraphs per item and that it is less about “what kids can do outdoors” than “things you can do to save the Earth.”   Not that that is a bad thing, it’s just there are many other books on that topic.  Still, this could be a good reference to keep on hand for parenting ideas regarding nature and the environment.
Rating: **

Lilac Sunday

Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum.  We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals.  Here are a few photos.

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Concert Review: Alastair Moock

Today my family & I attended a special performance by singer/songwriter/folk troubadour Alastair Moock at the Children’s Music Center of Jamaica Plain.  Moock, himself a father of four-year-old twins, entertained both his young audience and their parents with selections from his album A Cow Says Moock, some new songs, and some timeless children’s classics.

I have some of Moock’s albums and from his gravelly voice I imagined he would be a grizzly, gruff-looking type, not the clean-cut man we saw before this.  His voice is still pretty incredible though with a lot of expression.  He an easy manner performing for the children and did some clever tricks like singing “The Alphabet Song” backwards.  He was very receptive to his audience whether it be the boy who asked him to play a song on the banjo next or my own son’s insistence that there be a kitty cat on the bus saying “meow, meow, meow!”  Moock’s original songs are folk ditties with clever word play.  Highlights include a song about “Belly Buttons” set to a Latin beat and a song about “Spaghetti in My Shoe” that name checks various forms of pasta and footware and then is repeated as Ramones-style rave-up.

The audience was up and dancing for the most part.  My son chose to quietly contemplate the music but sang along with the familiar standards like “Old McDonald’s Farm,” “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”  Moock fit a lot of music and a lot fun into a one-hour show.

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Book Review: Young Children and Spirituality by Barbara Kimes Myers

Author: Barbara Kimes Myers
Title: Young Children and Spirituality
Publication Info: New York : Routledge, 1997.
ISBN: 0415916550

Summary/Review:

This book disappointed me mostly because it was not what I expected – namely a book that would help me as a parent understand my child’s spiritual needs.  This book is more of a psychology and childhood development book.  Kimes Myers has a broad definition of spirituality within the realms of family life, community, school and multicularism.  It’s an interesting book, but not being in the author’s intended audience I didn’t find it easy to comprehend or apply to real life.

Rating: **

Sesame Street at 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street which debuted on November 10, 1969.  I’m dedicating my posts for the rest of this week in tribute to this pioneering children’s show that is one of my all time favorite television programs of any genre.  I was part of the first generation to watch Sesame Street back in the 70’s and now I’m watching it again with my son.  The show has changed much over 40 years as has the way we watch it.  Peter & I have never watched an actual full episode together but rely on clips from the Sesame Street website and YouTube as well as Sesame Street DVD’s.

Related post: Book Review: Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

Here are some clips of Sesame Street’s finest moments:

An early opening with the famous theme song shows some distinctly urban scenes.  At a time when cities were falling to ruin and thought to be scary it was nice to see how fun they still were:

The Muppets are the stars of the show and some of the best segments are when they interact with ordinary kids.  Here is Herry Monster counting with John John:

Of course, the Muppets were great all on their own.  Grover teaches us the difference between near and far in this famous skit:

Sesame Street also is the source of many a memorable song.  My son & I sing Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” pretty much every night at bath time:

When actor Will Lee died in 1983, Sesame Street acknowledged the death of his character Mr. Hooper in what may be the saddest six minutes in children’s television history:

Kids who grew up in my generation were endlessly frustrated that the adult characters on the show would never believe Big Bird when he talked about Mr. Snuffleupagus.  Snuffy was finally revealed in 1985 at a time when Elmo was first becoming a prominent character:

Speaking of Elmo, Big Bird, and Mr. Snuffleupagus, my son loves this song.  I admit it’s rather catchy:

More posts and more memories to come this weekend.

Alternate coverage on the Sesame Street anniversary:

Book Review: The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.

Author: Harvey Karp, M.D.
Title: The Happiest Toddler on the Block
Publication Info: New York, N.Y. : Bantam Books, 2008.
ISBN: 9780553805215

Summary/Review:

Karp’s follow-up to The Happiest Baby on the Block offers very practical advice to parents for dealing with the toddler years of 1 to 4 years old.  I think it’s an even better book partly because it avoids the “infomercial style” of writing and is a more practical manual.  The basic gist of the book is that when a child starts to throw a tantrum the parent should acknowledge what is upsetting by repeating back it back (“the fast food rule”) and to use a simple vocabulary of words called “toddlerese” that toddlers will understand most when they are upset.  This book doesn’t have all the answers, for example, what to say to your son when you have no idea what is making him upset.  Overall though I found it a book with useful advice and practically organized.

Rating: ****

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