All Posts By:

Jenna Mugridge

  • DIY Fall Themed Story Stones

    While I’m sure you’ve heard of painted rocks, the question stands: Have you heard of story stones?

    I had not, until a few short weeks ago while searching for ways to paint fall themed rocks. My son and I have been planting painted rocks around our neighborhood for people to find, and we stumbled upon the idea for story stones during a quick google search.

    Now, we’re having so much fun telling stories with our stones, that we’ve been creating them nonstop. So naturally, I’m ready to share the untold benefits of playing with story stones, and how EASY they are to make!

    story stones

    For some clarity, Story Stones are pictures painted or glued onto smooth pebbles, used as an aid in storytelling.

    They can either represent a known story to be placed in order, or they can be a themed selection of images that prompt children to create their own stories.

    Storytelling through story stones can be an excellent tool for developing skills such as social communication, creativity, logical thinking and support learning through play objectives.

    Stories are an inclusive way to help children learn no matter what their abilities!

    Fall themed Story Stones Printable

    For our homemade stones, we coat the printable images in modge podge to seal to them to the stone. So far, it’s been working great! And, it’s a craft my 4 year old can do alongside me.

    I decided to create a Fall themed printable to inspire stories about all the exciting pieces that make autumn such a special season. Watch this imagination running wild!

    Simple directions:

    1. Cut the images out
    2. Use Modge Podge to glue the image to the stone (the entire image should be glossed over, front and back)
    3. Let dry for an hour or so
    4. The fun begins!

    The modge podge we use for our stones is linked above!

    There are so many ways to enjoy these creative pebbles and promote imaginative play. Try adding them to a sensory bin, or categorizing with flashcards. We like to create narratives with our stones outside under the sunshine.

    Let us know how you use your story stones in the comments below!

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    For more nature based learning, check out these 7 Nature Activities and Ideas for Outdoor Exploration for kids!

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  • Activities for Teaching Gratitude – FREE Printables!

    In a world where everything is at our fingertips, and a feeling of privilege and entitlement can come natural – it can be difficult to instill an “attitude of gratitude” in our children.

    And while exercising manners and being courteous are expected behaviors, teaching gratitude to young minds can have lifelong positive effects. However, learning this practice takes time and effort; after all gratitude is a mindset.

    teaching gratitude

    Thankfully, there are techniques you can establish with your child today to begin cultivating feelings and expressions of gratitude – and what better time to develop an “attitude of gratitude” than the start of this holiday season?

    Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness.

    I started practicing intentional gratitude after my first was born in an attempt to ease anxiety. I learned quickly that when I regularly took time to give thanks and share a sense of abundance around me, I attracted a goodness that elevated my mood and carried me through the day.

    So now, instilling the practice of gratitude in my kids is extremely important to me as a parent. What better time to emphasize gratitude than the month of November, when Thanksgiving is at the forefront of our of planning.

    There are many benefits to exercising gratitude, and introducing this practice early on in a child’s life may increase mental strength, boost empathy and augment overall well-being.

     This week we have put together a collection of activities you and your child can both do together. We encourage using these techniques daily as a way to make gratitude a meaningful part of the day.

    1. Write in a Gratitude Journal

    Gratitude journals are great for both children and adults. Taking time to reflect and report your positive daily experiences can increase your overall happiness.

    In a 2003 study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, participants who kept gratitude journals for 9 weeks resulted in exercising more regularly, reporting fewer physical complaints, expressing optimism concerning the upcoming week and had higher ratings of joy and happiness.

    We have created a simple and fun gratitude journal print-out with both morning and evening prompts your child can use to build a healthy habit of gratitude starting today. Download the FREE printable below.

    2. Go on a Hunt!

    Make learning fun with a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt! We’ve created the perfect list to find the little things to be thankful for – and it’s perfect for adults to play along too.

    3. Serve Others

    An easy way to teach gratitude is by exposing our children to different perspectives. By serving those around us, we are reminded to be grateful for what we have, while also learning to be more empathetic. There are plenty of ways to actively serve others. See some ideas below!

    Image showing different ways to show gratitude by serving others

    4. Turn it into a Conversation

    One of the best ways to express gratitude, is by simply talking about it! By carving out a few minutes of your day or week and playing a conversation game, you and your child will exercise feelings of gratitude and also open up dialogue for deeper and more meaningful conversations.

    And since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, why not start a Grateful Tree? See our post on how to make your own here.

    We hope these activities will help your child to understand and foster feelings of gratefulness into their lives, but its best to remember that leading by example is what makes it stick!

    If you have a favorite activity or tips on instilling an “attitude of gratitude,” feel free to share in the comments below.

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    gratitude
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  • Parenting Styles: Guidance vs Control

    In today’s unpredictable world, the route to raising kids who are kind, cooperative and happy can be hard to navigate.

    For parents, there’s an underlying pressure to bring up well-behaved children that meet societal expectations, while also providing them the space to become who they are meant to be. At times, these two concepts seem to be at odds.

    While doing research on the subject, I discovered a method to parenting that emphasizes guidance over control.

    As a positive parenting advocate, I have to say the distinction is a game changer, and I’m a huge fan of the guiding approach. It was a real eye opener to discover that most of my parenting was done via control!

    Guiding a child (rather than controlling) encourages their autonomy and agency as an individual, while allowing the parent to be in control of the situation. 

    Guidance can improve relationships and offer kids the room to explore their own choices within clearly defined boundaries.

    Guidance vs Control Parenting Styles Defined:

    Guidance: Encouraging a child to be their best self, while allowing them to make choices and decisions, with parental support and love.

    Control: Can be coercive, authoritative, manipulative or critical. Controlling a child may hinder their ability to build important decision making skills and impede self identity.

    A critical aspect of guiding a child is respect. Remember, your child is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Respecting their autonomy will instill trust in your relationship.

    It’s also important to have discussions with empathy. Get down on your child’s level to better understand their behavior, before immediately reacting and inflicting consequence. Follow the positive parenting mantra, to share calm, without contributing to escalation.

    Let’s break it down via conversation styles.

    Ordering vs Explaining:

    Examples:

    Order: Clean your room right now.

    Instead, try this:

    Explain: When your room is clean, it’s easier to find things when you need them. It also sets the tone for a good day, to wake up in an organized bedroom. Want to give it a try?

    Cooperation vs Coercion:

    Examples:

    Coercion: Clean your room or I’m going to take your tablet away.

    Instead, try this:

    Cooperation: Let’s clean your room together, and get it done faster.

    Criticism vs Feedback:

    Examples:

    Criticism: Your room is a disaster. You’re messy.

    Instead, try this:

    Feedback: I’ve noticed that your room is a little messy. You may find that you feel more organized if you keep your room clean.

    Dictate vs Discuss

    Examples:

    Dictate: You better have your room cleaned by the time I get home.

    Instead, try this:

    Discuss: Let’s come up with ways to organize your room so it is easier to keep clean.

    Notice the difference?

    Talk to kids about the “why” of what you are requesting. Help them understand, for example, why having a clean room will positively affect them, without criticizing for being messy.

    It’s important to note that yes, while controlling a child, temporary results are possible. For example, most children will act swiftly when a parent threatens removal of a favorite toy or game.

    However, if we place emphasis on raising kids with a growth mindset, control no longer fits in the equation.

    Children with a growth mindset know they can overcome challenges and learn new ways to accomplish things. It is resilience that we want to build, not concession. Ask yourself, do you want your child to comply out of fear? Or because it is the right thing to do?

    If guidance is the key, kids will come to their own conclusions about making good choices, as it is what they’ve been trained to do.

    positive parenting

    Lastly, use your best judgement to determine when control is absolutely necessary. In dangerous situations control over a child becomes paramount. If the behavior is risky or malicious, guidance may not be the correct approach. 

    There are times when controlling a child is the natural parental reaction, and that’s okay too! It’s not practical to assume guidance will always be the go-to method. These tools are meant to guide, not to guilt us into feeling like bad parents.

    And remember, we’re all in this together. 

    For more positive parenting techniques, read up on Positive Language Alternatives

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  • The Colors of Nutrition

     

    Lately I’ve been catching myself using the “You need to eat healthy foods first,” phrase often. My son has a fervent sweet tooth, and like most kids, prefers sugary snacks to the vitamin rich foods he needs for solid growth and development.

    But to a child, what is this “healthy” term, and why must it be the barrier to the tastier things in life? After asking myself this question, I decided it was important that I break it down for him.

    A colorful diet is a healthy diet, and fruits and vegetables are the gateway. In this Colors of Nutrition printable learning activity, kids will first color the produce page. Next, they will cut and glue each fruit or veggie on the corresponding “color” page.

    For every color page there is a quick passage about nutrition. It’s important for kids to grasp what healthy means, and understand how colorful foods impact the body in different ways.

    Get started with our Colors of Nutrition printable download below!

    Directions

    Have your child or student fill in the fruits and vegetables on the produce page. This can be done simply with crayons, pencils or markers. Another option is to use construction or tissue paper for more color and scissor practice.

    Then, have them cut the pictures out and glue them to the corresponding color page. While gluing each fruit and vegetable, read the nutrition excerpt on the page. Be sure to emphasize the importance of a colorful diet!

    Excerpts:

    • Red colored fruits and vegetables keep our hearts strong and healthy. They also contain antioxidants, which lower the risk of diseases such as cancer.
    • Orange colored fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A, which keeps our eyes healthy and Vitamin C, which strengthens our immune system and keeps us from getting sick.

    • Green colored fruits and vegetables support our liver and contain disease fighting antioxidants. Cruciferous green colored foods such as broccoli or brussels sprouts are a good source of Vitamins C, K, E and fiber.
    • Purple and blue colored fruits and vegetables keep our brains healthy and support memory function so we can remember things. They also contain those disease fighting antioxidants.

    • Yellow: Much like orange, yellow colored fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A, which keeps our eyes healthy and Vitamin C, which supports our immune system. Yellow foods also help our bodies heal cuts and scrapes.

    • White colored fruits and vegetables protect us from certain diseases and contain nutrients that help us digest food. Cruciferous white colored foods such as cauliflower are a good source of Vitamins C, K, E and fiber.

    nutrition printable

    In addition to this learning activity, have your child assist in shopping for produce and meal prep. This way it’s possible to have organic conversations about nutrition and the value of a healthy diet. Feel free to supplement this activity with more on the affects of colorful foods on the body here.

    The finished product! 

    We hope this introduction to the colors of nutrition will inspire your child or student to consume more fruits and veggies! For more excellent learning activities, check out more printable content HERE!

     


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  • First Day of School Book Favorites (+ activities too)

    We all know that the first day of school can be an emotional time for parents and kids alike. This year brings its own challenges, with virtual learning, social distancing requirements, and block scheduling planned for students across the country.

    This is new territory for everyone, and children are not immune to the uneasiness surrounding reopening schools. However, by staying positive and proactive, it’s possible to carve out an optimistic outlook for the upcoming school year.

    One of the best ways to ease a child’s anxiety is through literature. By introducing characters with feelings and situations resembling their own, they are able to ascertain insight and expand their perspective.

    And by forming character connections through literature with your child, you will be able to affirm their feelings and create open dialogue on topics of concern or excitement.

    Below we have listed some of our favorite first day of school books you can read to prepare your child for the new year. With comprehensive subjects such as first-day jitters, meeting new friends, learning the new school rules; we’ve listed a book for it all.

    You will also find some post-reading activities to stimulate follow-up conversations and engage your child even more with some of the characters and topics.

    See Our List of Favorite First Day of School Books and Activities Below!

    1. Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? 

    Through sweet, simple prose and vivid illustrations, this book encourages positive behavior as children see how very easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis.

    Activity:

    How Full Is Your Bucket childrens activity picture Have you child create a bucket of their own by thinking and writing down the things that make them happy and placing them in their bucket.

    Clickable link to download How Full is Your Bucket book activity

    2. First Day Jitters

    Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. First Day Jitters is sure to be treasured by anyone who has ever anticipated a first day of school.

    Activity: 

    Picture of boy holding First Day Jitters book activityHave your child make a “Jitter Juice”. Cut out all the emojis that your child feels about starting school and put them in the jitter juice. You can also make a “Jitter Juice” of your own with Hawaiian Punch and Sprite!

    Clickable image to First Day Jitters book activity

    3. Llama Llama Misses Mama

    It’s Llama Llama’s first day of school, and he’s not too happy about it. Still, he trudges along and makes his bed, brushes his teeth, and eats his breakfast.

    But once he arrives at his classroom — with so many new faces, new names, and new games — little Llama doesn’t know what to do. And when Mama Llama leaves, the little guy feels even more shy and alone. What will this lonely llama do? Will Mama ever return?

    Activity:

    Boy holding up Llama Llama paper plate craft

    With two paper plates, make an outline of Llama Llama’s head, ears and scruffy hair. Cut out the eyes, color and glue together to create a Llama Llama mask!

    4. Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books

    It’s the first day of first grade! Gilbert is looking forward to learning how to read and making new friends, but . . .

    Will the teacher be nice? Will first grade be too hard? Will he like his classmates? Will they like him? Gilbert is excited and nervous at the same time and maybe your littles will relate.

    Activity:

    What's in My Backpack book activity exampleDownload the below activity to help your little one prepare their backpack. They’ll need more than just books and pencils!

    Clickable image to Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books book activity

    5. David Goes to School

    In this sequel, young David heads off to school for the first time and David’s teacher certainly has her hands full! From running, yelling, and pushing with abandon to chewing gum in class, David’s high-energy antics fill each day with trouble. David’s unruly romp through school is sure to bring a smile to the face of even the best-behaved reader. Read along as David learns the school rules.

    Activity:

    Picture of David Goes to School book activitySchool rules are very important. See if your child knows the difference between good school behavior and what is not allowed with this “Yes, David – No, David” activity.

    Clickable link to David Goes to School book activity download

    Our List of Back to School book FAVORITES!

    Interested in more back-to-school posts? Check out this post to download a free first day of school printable!

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  • The ABC Guide to Allyship – Printable for Kids!

    As a parent with progressive values, raising kids with big hearts, open minds, and critical thinking skills is extremely important to me. I didn’t learn the true meaning of allyship (and I will always be learning) until I finished college, and for my kids, this simply will not do.

    As they go through life in its many phases, I want them to understand what it means to be an ally, so they can best support their friends and others who are not treated fairly in society, simply based on who they are.

    I believe most parents/teachers/caregivers grapple with when to start having difficult conversations about societal inequity with their kids.

    Yet research indicates that starting from a very young age, children are taught who has power and who is valued in society, through media, interactions with family members and friends, etc. Knowing this, it is never too early.

    Teaching kids about allyship

     

    Want to learn more?

    Let’s first define an ally as a partner who works in solidarity alongside members of marginalized communities to correct the systems that obstruct them from advancing in society. Allies work for everyone to be treated fairly regardless of race, ability, sexuality, socioeconomic status, etc.

    Anyone can be an ally if they put in the work. Some of us are born with benefits specific to the groups we belong to. For example: A white woman can be an ally to indigenous groups, a straight person can be an ally to LGBTQIA members, a man can be an ally to women.

    Most importantly, being an ally means working hard to move everyone forward. 

    Why is this work important? Let’s dive deeper. Download our Printable!

    I created this printable guide to help kids do just that. Dive deep! The goal is for them to feel adequate in their understanding of the terms and concepts that accompany allyship work, and to learn to celebrate diversity, which provides them a more worldly perspective.

    In doing so, my hope is that overtime, they will acquire the skillset necessary to recognize injustice when they encounter it, and the confidence to challenge intolerance when it presents itself.

    Help Kids understand the importance of social allyship with this inclusive parent/teacher/caregiver resource on how to become an ally in solidarity with marginalized communities. Together we can make the world a brighter place.

     

     

     

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