Cooking with Infants to Pre-Schoolers

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

I find cooking dinner the most stressful part of the day.  I am usually rushing so that I can feed the kids, bathe them, and have them in bed early.  And most of the time, my kids tend to be the least cooperative at this point.  I always aim for it to be their “free play” time with their blocks or legos, but it never seems to go quite as I imagine.  Lately, I have been finding ways to get them both involved with special tasks to help.  Here are some tips for moms who need to get a meal on the table.

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Layaan helping me pan fry a fish fillet.

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Eid Toy Drive: Charity for Pre-School Ages

Assalamu’aliakum & Marhaba!

Last month, as we were shopping for Eid presents and new clothes, my daughter who normally does not ask for anything when we are out, wanted everything “for Eid.”  I realized she was missing the true meaning of Ramadan; a time of worship, increasing in good deeds, and most of all giving.  I decided to organize a toy drive with some of the other moms for a local orphanage.  It was an act of charity my children could actively participate in despite their young ages.

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Preparing the Kids

Mini Discussions

I would have little chats with the kids every couple of days to help prepare them.  Some things we discussed:

  • To share with those who do not have as much as we do
  • To show gratitude to everyone around us and most of all to Allah (swt)
  • Children who do not have mothers or fathers or both (orphans)
  • Children who live in a group home (orphanage)
  • Children who do not have toys, clothes, or are hungry
  • To say and do good and kind things for others (thank you, you’re welcome, please, share, etc.)

Practice Kindness and Giving Daily

We all teach our children to be good to one another and share (I hope hehe) throughout our normal routines.  However, I made even more of a conscious effort to draw attention to the acts of kindness and giving we practice throughout the day that sometimes go unnoticed.  When one wanted a snack, I would ask the other to bring it to them and eat together and consistently repeated “thank you for sharing and being kind.”  When my daughter clears the table, I simply say, “Thank you for helping me clear the table.”  Soon enough, she was thanking me for a delicious meal herself.  If anyone forgot their manners, she was also ready to remind us…kindly of course.

Books about Giving/Charitable Actions

We used the Alhamdulillah for Series to spark discussions about the various things we were grateful to have and made corresponding crafts to represent those ideas in a concrete form.  This series really helped us appreciate everything around us while also teaching the kids not everyone has the same blessings.  We read our collection of Ramadan books which developed the concept of charity further.  The books, Ramadan Moon, Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid al Fitr, and It’s Ramadan Curious George, were our favorites.

Picking Presents

Shopping for Gifts

Truthfully, I was a bit nervous before we set out to buy gifts for our assigned children.  I thought it would be really hard for my daughter, who was doing the actual toy picking, to do it for another child.  She kept repeating, “These presents are for the children who do not have mommies and daddies.”  Before we began, I explained that as Muslims when we give to others,  we give what we would want for ourself or better, so to pick out things that she would like to have herself.  Luckily, our assigned kids were near her age so it was easy.  She picked out a large set of blocks, legos, play-doh, and a set of pre-school balls and cones.  She was ridiculously excited and surprisingly did not ask me for one thing for herself.

Wrapping & Making Cards

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Both of the kids had a great time helping me make personalized cards.  Layaan wanted to make sure it was beautiful and special.  We had a great time wrapping the presents and talking about how happy the kids will be once they see them.  Her genuine excitement and interest made this the highlight of our Ramadan.

Visiting the Orphanage and Distributing the Gifts

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Layaan passing out lollipops.

When we arrived, Muhammad instantly was drawn to all of the children.  I did not have to worry about him one bit.  Layaan did not budge from my side and had a pretty serious look for most of our visit.  The kids at the orphanage seemed as though they were used to visitors which made me a bit sad.  It felt as if they were trained to greet donors in a specific way that was not very personal, so I tried my best to get to know them a little more than the lines they were forced to repeat.

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The smiles though.

The best part was handing out the presents to these incredibly sweet children.  I could tell Layaan was a little anxious, but once she saw the huge grins on the kids’ faces, her anxiety turned into excitement.  I, on the other hand, was totally thrown off by Muhammad!  I was shocked that my 23-month old was handing out these presents with such a mature attitude, Masha’Allah!  Some of the other moms also came with their own kids and were elated their kids were able to take part in this.

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Layaan & Muhammad passing out gifts.

One of the moms present even made goody bags for each of them with her children.  Another mom sent these beautiful flower lollipops along with me since she could not make it herself.  These little acts were so greatly appreciated by the kids, that I definitely underestimated their value.

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Flower lollipops made by one of the mothers and her children.

These children had nothing that they could call their own except for a small amount of clothes, their beds, and their schoolwork.  They could not believe we got each of them their own personal gifts.  It was touching and unforgettable for us all.  Layaan and Muhammad got so much more out of this experience than I thought they would.  Towards the end, all of our kids joined in with the children as they were playing with their new gifts forming new friendships.

For donations, please visit here.

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Rumah Aman, Shah Alam, Malaysia.

Under the Sea Unit Study: Getting Started

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow American readers!  We enjoyed watching everyone’s snaps and seeing all the pictures of the firework displays around the country.

On the other side of the world, we are trying to get back into a homeschool routine post-Ramadan and moving to KL.  To get the ball rolling, we are starting a themed unit, Under the Sea.  The idea was sparked by a visit to an aquarium in Monte Carlo on our last vacation.  Layaan could not contain her excitement when she found “Nemo” and “Dory.”  As we walked along, Muhammad was wide-eyed and repeating, “Wooooow,” the entire time.  So it only felt appropriate to learn more about ocean animals.

Getting Started

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I prefer to organize all of my ideas and plan activities in advance to give myself enough time to gather materials, books, and supplies.  Rather than placing a limit on the amount of time we spend on each unit, I am beginning with introductory activities and allowing the children’s interest to carry us through the unit study.  Furthermore, Layaan’s Arabic tutor is working on the unit during their lesson time.

Books

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I try to get a variety of different types of books.  Eric Carle’s Mister Seahorse was a perfect fit for this unit.  Layaan and Muhammad love his books as much as I do.  It introduces the child to various types of fish, their names, the life cycle of fish, and other sea animal facts all in an engaging picture book format.

There are many beautiful nonfiction children’s books about ocean animals.  My criteria for their age were simple facts and attractive photographs.

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What Lives in the Sea? is an easy to read informational text for young learners.  It introduces basic concepts about different sea animal habits such as feeding and protection.  And then, it goes on to describe a few facts about each animal stated simply for young children.

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The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures is a giant book that I got for a steal at the bookstore Popular here in Malaysia.  I love it because not only is it hard cover, the illustrations in the book are beautiful and giant for each animal.  It provides more information than the previous book, but is still not too overwhelming.  The format is a nice introduction to an encyclopedia-style layout for elementary readers.

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Fuzzy Ocean was another awesome find at Popular.  I knew Layaan would enjoy this book, but I was thinking of Muhammad, twenty-three months old, in particular when I spotted it.  Felt pieces and play scenes are perfect for little toddler hands, especially ones who have a hard time handling things gently.  I plan to use them in matching activities to help build his vocabulary.

Activities

Seashell Transfer (2-3 years)

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This activity is for Muhammad, but Layaan enjoyed practicing it too.  At the local discount store, Mr. D.I.Y., I found bags of little seashells.  I introduced him to the word “seashell” in Arabic, صدف (sadaf).  I showed him how to place the seashells in the tiny basket.  We observed the different colors and textures.  Surprisingly, he came back to the activity with a set of tongs to transfer the seashells with instead.  It was a little challenging at first, but he was determined.  Eventually, he was able to get the hang of it in one sitting.

Clownfish Craft (3-6 years)

As I mentioned earlier, Layaan loves “Finding Nemo”, so it was a no brainer when I found this clownfish texture craft at Mr. D.I.Y.  This one is a bit challenging, and one we did together.  The kit did not include kid-friendly instructions, so she needed my guidance throughout.  I provided her with verbal instructions, and she did the rest. It was a great way to learn the simple parts of a fish such as fin, tail, scales, gills, mouth, eyes, etc while she glued each piece on.  We plan to do extension activities to further reinforce the parts, and read more about clownfish using our informational texts.

Ocean Themed Cutting and Gluing Practice (3-6 years)

Layaan wants to cut everything recently.  She even managed to sneak away the scissors and chopped a small bit of her hair.  Thankfully, it was not anything noticeable.  Thus, cutting practice is at the top of the list.  Learning how and when to use scissors and allowing her plenty of time to practice is helping her become more responsible with them.  After she finished cutting each piece, I extended the activity to include gluing practice.  I found this free printable over at Welcome to Mommyhood where there are plenty of ideas for ocean themed montessori activities.

Stay tuned as we continue our explorations under the sea!

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Plant Unit: Fruit Dissection & Craft

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

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We continued our study of plants by examining seeds.  Two fun activities popped up on my Pinterest feed that were related to seeds.  I decided to combine the two activities together as they were related to one another.  The first activity was posted by the Christian Montessori Network called Montessori Science:  Dissecting Fruit.  The other activity was a beautiful craft idea posted by Pink Stripey Socks called Kid Science:  Let’s Study Seeds.  Both activities can be used in many different ways, not just for seed study.  They are both good for learning about the parts of fruit, using fruit nomenclature cards, etc.   IMG_5774

First, we did the dissecting fruit activity.  I thought this was such a unique idea to introduce pre-school aged children to science tools and the scientific process.  Layaan loved using the tweezers to pull out the seeds.  It incorporated fine motor skills along with science.  IMG_5781Before we cut open the fruits, I asked her to make a good guess as to wat color and how big she was expecting the seeds to be.  We observed all the seeds as we pulled them out and discussed if her guesses matched what we found.  Though I only have an apple and pear pictured, we also did it with oranges, grapes, and tomatoes.  IMG_5780After we rinsed off the seeds, we did the art activity from Pink Stripey Socks.  I drew the outline of the fruit, and she painted the inside.  We then glued the seeds onto the respective fruits.  Once everything was dry, we continued to observe the similarities and differences between the seeds.   This activity was great for comparing sizes of seeds, texture, colors, etc, while also combining art and spatial awareness.

I loved watching Layaan do this activity.  I could see that she was really intrigued by it all.  I watched a little scientist bloom through this.  Check out our other posts from our plant unit listed below.

Plant Unit Posts:

DIY Greenhouse

Taiwan: Part 3

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

If you are just joining the series, Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip through Taiwan are just a click away.  Today, I am sharing days five through seven in Taiwan.  Yushan National Park is right in the center of Taiwan.  We decided not to do a full circle by traveling all the way to the southern tip.  We heard it gets packed during holidays and since we are coming from Thailand, beaches were not a priority.  From Yushan we started our return back towards Taipei.  We stopped at Alishan, Hsinchu, and XinXing Hot Springs along the way.

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