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"Peace begins in the home. This is precisely why parents and caregivers are so very important in the healing of our planet. If we teach our children love, acceptance, beauty, kindness and truth, they take it with them when they go out into the world as adults. Focus on your words, your actions and your environment. Slow down the pace. Make your home a place of peace and love this season and throughout the year."~Eileen Straiton
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(Advent begins Sunday, November 29th this year)
Today we will be using our regular bread recipe to make Advent Spiral Bread!
Be sure to cover children's clothing with aprons or smocks.
2 ½ Cups Unbleached Flour
1 Package Dry Yeast
1 ½ Cups Milk
½ Cup Water
3 Tbsp. Margarine or Butter
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 ½ Tsp. Salt
2 ½ Cups Whole Wheat Flour
In a large bowl, mix flour and yeast. Heat milk, water, margarine, brown sugar and salt on low. Add to flour mixture. Stir several minutes (remember to let children help during this entire process... have them take turns and be patient - the goal is not to have bread, it is to enjoy the process of making the bread) Add whole wheat flour until dough forms. Knead on floured table until smooth and elastic (children love this part!). Place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until it doubles in bulk.
Have children clean up what they can (you will return later to finish); wash hands and go for your nature walk.
After the dough has risen, you will need to punch down the dough. The best way to do this is to let children pound the dough with their fists. After you have done this, shape your dough into a Spiral. If there seems to be too much, make more than one Sprial!
If you have star shaped cookie cutters, have the children cut stars out of excess dough and decorate their spiral with it.
Cover and let rise to double.
After Lunch and Before Rest Time let the children watch you place the bread into the oven in a pan and set at 400°F for 30 minutes.
Tell the children that when they wake up from their nap, they will have a warm and delicious snack to enjoy for Advent. The smell of bread baking in the oven is a very soothing way for children to fall asleep. Older children who leave home to go to school will be greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread as they enter your home after a long day at school.
You can add candles to your Advent Spiral bread and light before saying your Mealtime verse today.
|Natural Gift Giving for the Holidays
by Eileen Straiton
Watching our child's eyes light up with excitement during the holiday season is one of the many joys of parenthood. With our love, each year, many of us go to the ends of the earth, wait in long lines for hours and spend more than our budget permits in an attempt to create a magical experience for our children.
More often than not, we return from our shopping trip overwhelmed and over budget. And when the holiday arrives, we are understandably disappointed to see our carefully found treasures thrown into a pile of accumulated things while our children move on to open the next package.
Not long ago, the holiday season was a simple time of family traditions, gratitude, and gift-giving from the heart. The magic and beauty of the season did not come from how much one could receive but from how much one could give.
Decorating was beautiful and modest with candles and branches of evergreens draping the doorway. Family and friends would gather together, bringing along homemade treats and small gifts of appreciation.
Most gifts were made by hand and simple. Mothers would knit sweaters for their children and fathers would search local shops for the perfect gift. Children would receive much less but appreciate much more. A new set of blocks, a special doll, or a set of books would be cherished for years to come.
Toys were natural and open-ended, leaving room for hours of imagination and free play. They did not blink, flash, need batteries, or keep children indoors for most of their day.
How, in a world that is much different now, do we recapture the truth and surround our children with warmth, simplicity, and peace this holiday season?
The Benefit of Natural Toys
Toys of today are much different than the basic and sturdy toys of our past. In addition to the more recent concerns of lead paint on some foreign-made toys, some of the components that are added to products made with PVC plastics have been linked to cancer and other serious ailments. "A recent Greenpeace study revealed that PVC softeners known as phthalates have been found to cause liver and kidney damage and disrupt hormonal systems in children (see "Teething Toxins," In Brief, March/April 1998). In response, several European nations have banned PVC toys altogether. U.S. toy distributors are still debating the issue."
With the very safety of our children's playthings in question, many parents are choosing to buy natural toys and products for children this year. But safety is not the only benefit of items made from natural materials such as wood, cotton, silk, or wool.
Children, like sponges, absorb their environment and the world around them. The quality and essence of the things that we surround our children with can have a direct effect on their behavior, health, and ability to learn. Holding something beautiful that is made from the earth has tremendous positive psychological effects on human beings.
In fact, natural materials teach children correctly about the world around them. When a child picks up a rock that is made of plastic, it feels light and weightless. In nature, rocks are heavy and solid.
Toys that do not require batteries invite open-ended play. This type of play sparks children's creativity and requires them to finish the story on their own. Many electronic toys have a predetermined ending - leaving little room for imagination causing the child to lose interest quickly.
More often than not, loud toys over-stimulate young children. Blinking lights, loud sounds, and so much going on muffles the child's ability to hear his or her imagination speak. We must quiet the noise in order to allow our children to listen to the true magic that is within.
Equally important is the fact that natural toys are better for the environment. Plastic can sit in landfills for hundreds of years and is not biodegradable.
If you have a skill such as sewing, knitting, or woodworking, consider making your child something special this year. Not only does this send a message of love, but it also teaches patience. The time spent on creating something from hand is a wonderful way to show your children the benefit of working toward a goal.
If you are not particularly crafty, there are plenty of retailers that sell natural toys online. Before purchasing, be sure to ask the retailer where the toys are manufactured and what materials are used during production. Here are some wonderful places to start shopping for natural children's products.
Fair Trade, Organic and Green Gifts and Products
A Broad Selection of Open Ended, Natural, Creative and Fun Toys for Children. Fair Trade and Made in the USA toys as well.
Waldorf Inspired Dolls and Toys.
Natural Crafts, Toys, Supplies, Dolls and Books.
Waldorf Home and School Supplies - Many of the art supplies are imported from Europe.
Natural Playthings and Waldorf Toys.
Earth Friendly Non-Toxic Toy Store
Every product sold at Planet Happy must meet or exceed current US and European safety standards.
Traditional wooden toys and children's gifts.
European Waldorf toys, natural wooden toys, Montessori toys and dolls that are educational and encourage open-ended, creative play.
Waldorf dolls, children's books and natural craft supplies to stimulate creative play.
Natural and Wooden Toys and Products.
All of The Wooden Wagon's toys comply with the rigorous European testing standards.
Quality over Quantity
Let us keep in mind that it is not only the quality of the gifts we give this year but also the quantity. How much is really enough?
Before holiday shopping, take a good look around your home. How loved are your child's belongings? Gifts lose their value when children are surrounded by so many things. It is unfair of us to expect a child to cherish a new toy when they are surrounded by so many of them.
When deciding to purchase an item for your child, be selective and ask yourself the following questions: What purpose will the toy have? Does your child already have this type of item? Does it engage all five senses and encourage imagination? It is much better to offer fewer, higher quality toys that your child will get more use out of than an abundance of toys that will go unappreciated.
This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to teach children the lesson of giving this holiday season. This year, many children around the world won't even have a holiday meal, let alone presents. Talk to your child about this and then spend a day sorting through items that are no longer cherished or age-appropriate to donate to others. If the charity only accepts new toys, considering selling your items and donating the money earned to a worthy cause.
Simplify and Reduce Stress
Much as young children take in the aesthetics of their environment, they also absorb the feelings and emotions of their caregivers. We must be mindful of the message we are sending to them during the holidays and throughout the year. Here are a few ideas on how to limit stress and create a more peaceful celebration for yourself and your children:
Try to limit the number of commitments you make. When possible, combine functions to avoid excessive travel or entertaining. Consider scheduling some events for after the holidays so you can relax and truly enjoy the company of your family and friends.
Create beautiful traditions with your children. String popcorn, make ornaments, or go caroling. Allow even the youngest child to assist with preparing the holiday meal, setting the table, or baking cookies.
Demonstrate kindness. Visit a nursing home, adopt a needy family, or write letters to those who may be alone this holiday season. Children can add so much to the lives of others who have so little.
Consider shopping online for many of your gifts this year. This is a wonderful way to save gas and reduce your stress by avoiding busy stores and shopping malls.
Above all, let us remember that true happiness cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree. When we teach our children this, we have already given them the greatest gift.
***Feel free to share this article with others - just please include the following bio at the end of each posting:
Eileen is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes monthly nature guides for parents and caregivers of young children at http://www.littleacornlearning.com and has many ideas and activities for parents on her blog at http://eileensplace.blogspot.com
Children's Yoga Fun :: Star Series
As we turn our attention to the light found within the darkness of winter, twinkling stars in the sky above us or as decorations within our home become a lovely point of focus. Star Series offers many options that vary from a quiet and inwardly focused pose to a high energy group game.
Basic Star Pose:
Begin standing and have children jump their legs open wide.
Next invite them to extend their arms out wide (parallel to the ground and at shoulder height).
In this pose, the four limbs and the head become the five points of the Star.
Imagine that you are a star floating peacefully in the dark night sky. What do you see when you look down at the Earth? What does it feel like to float in the sky?
Variation One: Twisting & Turning Stars
From Star Pose, invite the children to move very slowly and twist their upper body from side to side allowing their Stars to twist and dance around in the dark, night sky.
Next invite them to turn their Stars by bringing one of hand to the ground and releasing one foot into the air. (Imagine pausing a cartwheel mid-motion with the right hand and the right foot on the ground and the left hand and left foot stretched out into the air.)
Then switch to the other side. (Some children may want to do this pose up against a wall or with a partner's support.)
Finally, if space permits, and it is age-appropriate for your group, you can invite the children to turn their Stars upside down by exploring cartwheels.
Variation Two: Shooting Stars
Similar to the game "Red Light, Green Light" children begin this game standing in Star Pose facing Mother Earth (the leader).
When Mother Earth turns her back, the children move towards her, rushing like shooting stars. When Mother Earth turns back around everyone must freeze in Star Pose. If the Stars move or fall down, they must start back at the beginning. Whoever touches Mother Earth first becomes the next leader. (Or you can simply take turns.) Continue playing until everyone has had a chance to be Mother Earth.
Erin Barrette Goodman is a writer, yoga teacher and mother of two in Southern Rhode Island. She blogs at exhale. return to center. (www.eringoodman.com/blog
Felt Jingle Bells
Different Colored Wool Roving
(can be purchased at many yarn shops or online)
Take a very small, thin piece of your wool roving and place your jingle bell inside of it. Bring the wool around the bell so it is covered completely. Roll between your two palms to cover the bell (you may have to try this a few times until it covers fully).
Wet the ball with a small amount of warm water and add one drop of dish soap. Roll the ball faster between your palms helping it to felt. Roll until you feel the layer is tight and felted. Add another layer of wool roving by wrapping it around your entire ball and repeat the above process. Do not add too much soap and water, only use it when your ball begins to get dry or if it is not felting well.
Continue to add layers to your ball to create the size you want. Remember to use the color you want your ball to be for the last layer. Rinse the ball in warm water and squeeze out gently to release extra soap. Place ball in an old cut pantyhose and tie a knot. Place your ball into the dryer on hot to complete the process.