Thursday, October 22, 2015

Play-based writing

Sometimes I completely stress out about "unschooling" ... Letting my child lead the way. Sometimes I wonder 

Am I doing enough?

Is she doing enough?

Is she on par?

It seems silly, when I slow down and actually think about it. Silly because all children, reach milestones on their own schedule... A notion that we often refer to in early childhood and development (rolling over, smiling, crawling, walking, talking, etc) and then somehow abandon when children reach more formidable years.

There is variation in any learning task ... It hit me when Layla was almost 5 and "swimming". I had practiced and practiced and practiced with her and she just ... Wasn't getting it. She did it, but it was mechanical and hard and our practice was filled with power struggles. Though she Wanted to swim she just wasn't ready yet. Then, one day, in the pool - Bam. Without much teaching or preparation she swam underwater - from one side to the other - just like that. She has worn not a swimmy or vest or tube since.

Because she was ready.

Just like she took her first steps when she was ready.

Just as she ate when she was ready.

Just as she learned her letters (more than memorizing a song), wrote her numbers, and read .... When she was ready.

Create opportunity, absolutely. Lead by example. Show interest. Listen. Definitely.

But there need not be the struggle to learn.

Children were born learners. 

They are so incredibly adept and amazing at it. Given the opportunity to investigate, question, experiment, fail...and try again .... They learn so so much. 

I always stress out about our planned, unplanned ways .... because it is different than the traditional school of thought I participated in.  

Our #writing lately has been #thankyou notes, #gratitude journals, #lists, and #playingpretend .... Look at alll that information she had in her head she wanted to get onto paper. Not assigned. Not for a grade. Just because she was creating a bed and breakfast at home and wanted to have a restaurant here, too. Not stopping....just going. Just writing. Totally unforced. Unplanned. Un-power-struggled.

This is pages 1 and 2 of about 5. 

This girl likes to #cook, she loves, loves, loves, #lists and she loves to #plan a #party. 

This was after cleaning a bathroom for an hour because she wanted the bed and breakfast to have a nice bathroom for guests; complete with toiletries, soaps, towels, and mouth wash all set out nicely. Oh, and potty books.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gratitude - Teaching Children and Ourselves to be Thankful

What is Gratitude?
- Gratitude is the ability to BE thankful and appreciative.

Why is Gratitude important?

- Gratitude is important because it brings us back to brings us back to kindness. It allows us to BE in the presence of our life's many blessings: however simple or profound.

Why do we need to PRACTICE Gratitude?

- Have you ever had a bad day that seems to spiral worse and worse? The kind where you want to curl back into bed and hide? Sometimes it's not easy to see the positives around us ... And negative energy from others (or ourselves) has a way of trickling into our thoughts and affecting how we interact with the world (which can, in turn, attract more of that same negative energy). By taking a moment to pause, center into kindness, and shift our mindset to that of thankfulness we our training our brains to slow down and notice. We are becoming aware of our state of mind, our thoughts, and momentum in the world. It is that pause and reflection that is so important. 

By practicing Gratitude we are setting an intention of thankfulness. I believe thankful hearts are happy, smiley hearts. It's much easier to breathe when we are filling ourselves with that which we are grateful. 

Why TEACH our children Gratitude?

- I try teach my children Gratitude because I think it is important to their self-care. Just as brushing your teeth is important to your oral hygiene; Just as eating a healthy, balanced meal is important to your physical body's growth and health; Just as exercise builds muscles and strengthens your physical body;  Tuning into the joys and kindness in our world is essential to nurturing your Mind and Spirit. I believe the practice of Gratitude has a huge impact on how we all interact with each other and engage in our worlds. Though embracing gratitude comes more easily to some, it is a practice that becomes more easily accessible over time - with practice - acknowledgment - and pause. At first, the practice might seem daunting or over-thought, but eventually it will be second nature - a subconscious script or internal attitude that shines out towards loved ones, friends, nature, the things around us, and our world.

HOW do you practice Gratitude with kids?

- Practicing Gratitude with your kids and family can be a really connecting time. I love to hear how my own little ones find Gratitude in their own lives...

Here are some ways to practice Gratitude with your little ones.

- In the morning, pause to breathe deeply together and give thanks for a new day.

- On a walk (even a routine walk to school or the grocery store) can turn into Gratitude practice by NOTICING the simple, natural treasures and beauty around you. Pause for a moment to store those mindful photos in your memory bank.

- Write a note to your little one and tuck it in his or her lunch box or under his or her pillow. Write how grateful you are that they are part of your life; how much your happier and fuller your family is for having his or her presence in it; reminding them of a special time you shared together.

- At dinner, pause and give thanks for the food you are sending into your body to nurture its cells and fuel your body and mind.

- Take turns sharing one or two things you are thankful for each day during dinner, bathtime, or right before bed.

- Create a Gratitude Journal where you store drawings, words, magazine cutouts, or pictures of the things you are grateful for. Make it a nightly or weekly ritual to pause and reflect in your journal together. Slowing down to find thankfulness is a practice that really helps build connection.

- Send a Thank You note to someone every week. Pausing to remind yourself is a wonderful practice in gratitude and a positive way to spread that LovingKindness into the world.

- Fill out a Gratitude Blurb Journal sheet ( #MamaMayIMindfulKids FREE Printable). Fill out one blurb, a whole sheet, or a few, whatever moves you. These are Seasonal journal pages so you can collect them in a binder and reflect on your gratitude throughout the year.

- Slow down for some pillow talk before bed and incorporate a thankfulness poem or gratitude-share right before sleep. I love to end our night reminding each other of all the things we are most grateful for in our lives. It makes me feel cozier somehow and feels like the perfect segue into peaceful, happy dreams!

A Grateful Heart is a Happy Heart.

The FREE Printable can be found HERE

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Play Dough Dirt - Mama May I Make

My 2-year old loves dirt. 

He loves digging in dirt.
Diggers in dirt.
To find worms in dirt.
To scoop dirt.
To jump in dirt mixed with water.


He is also infatuated with finding ants and bugs and worms in dirt.

So when I was perusing the Halloween aisle and happened upon some fake worms I knew I had to MAKE dirt for him to excavate, scoop, and find the worms in.

So I made Play Dough Dirt.

I love the consistency of this batch. The combination if oil, flour, cornstarch, and glycerine made for such a wonderful consistency.

The worms live in the dirt. Except for when they don't. They are carried around in pockets, bags, pouches, trays, cars, and hands. These little critters have been on so many adventures with us. I love that my 2-year-old feels inclined to nurture and take care of worms. He is always concerned about his "work or" and is looking for ways to care for them. 

Here are some worm-books to expand your worm-knowledge and go along with your wormy dirt play. 

Wonderful Worms
by, Linda Glasser

Yucky Worms
by, Vivian French

Spider Web Spin Art

Came downstairs to paint and glitter ALL over the kitchen floor ... The floor I had JUST vacuumed. And Mopped. Buuuuut...they had found the #spinart and occupied their own time for a good part of the morning. So I desperately tried to hold in my need to clean and maintain my morning cool - pre-coffee. They told me they made a #spiderweb for #halloween  !! This very well might be pinterested or blogged about somewhere (probably) but... They did this on their own! I was so inspired by their #fall #artwork #kidsart ! They want to hang them in our window for decorations - all different colored webs. #thewebsweweave so simple a project but so imaginative at the same time. As you can see, they didn't have "the paper" so they cut out their own circles for the #rotatorpainter which is an added MamaLove. #MamaMayI #MamaMayIMake #MamaMayIShop #unschool #unschooling #homeschool #homeschooling #unplugged

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Leaf Zentangle Art

We have been collecting leaves for a few weeks now and setting them in our Fall Nature Tray (on our kitchen table). We call them Nature Treasures and it's ONE place we gladly add to our collection (so I don't keep finding crunched up leaf debris at the bottom of my purse or pocket...) 

I saw a project idea from Jean at the Artful Parent about drawing on leaves and was inspired! After having an abundance of leaf treasure, I decided to press and save a few for this project. 

(You can find her project post here:

We have been super into Zentangles lately and I find it great therapy to sit and zen doodle with my 7-year old before bedtime on particularly emotionally charged days. So I decided to try to Zentangle on our pressed leaves.

It was so much fun working on a surface that wasn't paper - a surface that was once part of our Natural Treasures tray.

First we found just the right paint markers. Sharpie makes both an oil based marker and acrylic. We went with acrylic for it's wash-ability and shorter drying time! They make a metallic batch that's perfect for this project. I was most excited to try the white and the gold.

Easy and fun! We like following the veins of the leaves with the markers, too. What natural beauty all around! It definitely made us appreciate the intricacies of the fallen leaves around us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Spread Some Happy - A Lesson Mindfully Shifting Negative Energy into Gratitude

Today I had the privilege of taking my 7-year old (alone) on errands with me. Wow. One. One, older so easy and light to travel with. She's so self-sufficient. Buckling and unbuckling...alone. Helping open doors and carrying things. We actually talked and I was able to listen. Really listen. The way I can't when two other, highly spirited, younger children are around.

We stopped at the coffee shop on our way - an eta of 5 minutes turned into GRIDLOCK traffic due to a parade and it actually took us 45 minutes. FORTY FIVE minutes.

Car horns blaring. People getting out of their cars, scratching their heads. Yelling at each other. No one letting any cars into the line of traffic because they didn't want to get stuck one car further down. More beeping. Finally, I turned the find yet another dead end, another road block, more grid lock and more of the same - frustrated drivers, lashing out at each other - at their passengers - at random strangers in cars in front of and behind them.

Layla starts to get upset.... Feeding off the negative energy of the still chaos around us. And I turn the radio down a bit and ask if she will play the Glad Game with me (you know, like in Pollyanna). It's a game where, when you can't at first think of something to be happy and smile about, you find something to be glad about anyway. 

We came up with:

Glad to have more just us time.
Glad to have Radio-listening time.
Glad the little kids aren't in the car.
Glad we can park and walk to get our coffee.
Glad the sun was shining.
Glad we got to hold hands.
Glad we got to spend one on one time together.
Glad we got to catch a glimpse of a parade.
Glad we had nowhere uber important to be.
Glad we could talk.
Glad we could find something to be glad about.

It's so easy to find yourself trapped in other people's emotions (particularly, I find, negative emotions.)

And we TALKED about that.

There was a Mom with a young teenage boy in the car behind us. I was in a parking space and had to get out, into the gridlock. I had my blinker on, edged my way one let me in. So I kind of (safely) forced my way in. And she laid on the horn. And she was screeeeeaming at me through her car (because, you know - all those things you say to people from behind the wheel that you would never actually say to people in person..) and I just looked in my rearview, flashed her a big smile and waved "thank you" (a genuine thank you as if I didn't know she was beeping at me). 

Layla asked if I was mad at her (for being mad at me).

No, it's not worth my feeling negative and mad about.

I explained that she was just frustrated and, sometimes, when people are frustrated they take it out on other people. That, in fact, most if us have done it. That negative energy has a way of bubbling over and turning into anger. And sometimes that comes out as mean and hurtful words or actions. I asked her if that's ever happened to her before. She said yes. And I asked her how it made her feel. Did she feel better after saying or doing something mean or hurtful when she was feeling mad? And she said, "no, it makes me feel bad too."

I told her how negative energy has a way of trickling down from one person to another. Sometimes parents to children. Sometimes children to other children. Often times it looks like bullying. But it really never makes anyone feel better.

She remarked about how the boy in the car was on his phone - just zoning out. 

And I said ... Can you imagine being in the same car with someone as angry as his mom is right now? He's probably try to get away from the negative feelings/energy by retreating into his phone world. 

What are some things you could do to not let the negative energy trickle down on you? 

She said zone out. Play the glad game. Talk to friends on a phone. Listen to music. Look outside. 


All those things. 

The thing is, the only way to change the energy is to first Notice it and then to CHOOSE a different path. Instead of spreading anger or negative energy (which you told me earlier really doesn't feel good anyway), what are some ways we can spread Happy?

She said... Smile. Hold the door. Write someone a note. Tell someone you love them. And why you love them. Be grateful. Be helpful. Be patient. Play. Ask if someone needs help. Dance.


All of those things.

She looked around at all the people in all the cars and on the street and looked at me in the rearview mirror and said: "you know, Mom. We are the smiley-est people stuck in traffic."

And so we were. 

We turned the radio on a little bit louder. We danced. We sang. We smiled and waved at the other cars along our way (even in our frustration!) Because, sometimes -- there is nothing you can do -- and, in those times, you might as well Spread Some Happy.

Per Layla's loving request .... We ask that YOU (yes, YOU!!) Spread some HAPPY today too! 

If you want to share, she would love to hear what you are doing to Spread Happy in your life <3

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Friday Featured Product - Counting Leaves

One to one correspondence. Early counting.

We have been using these little Counting Leaves in our Sensory Kits since September but had some colored gemstones out today for another project and decided to do some one-to-one correspondence. I love the Fall colors and how easy it was to mesh balance the flat marbles on top of each little leaf. And I happened to have all the leaf colors in marbles too so there was an added color-sorting activity kind of built in!

#math #kidmath #montessori #montessori101 #montessorimonday #MamaMayI #mamamayiplay #MamaMayIShop #fall #preschool #preschoolteacher #totschool #homeschool #Handmade #toys #handmadetoys #fallactivities #mamamayilearn

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Like Me

I am adoring this poms that Layla was inspired to write last night after #teatimetuesday #bravewriter style. It's one of her first "sit down to write a poem" poems and when she came to share it aloud with me I couldn't help but smile. 

I Like Me

To Mom and Dad

Me Me Me I love Me.

I like to run with Me.

I like to play with Me.

I like to do things with Me.

I like the sun and stars and moon. And sky. I like Me.

Me Me Me

I like Me.

Lots of Love, Layla <3

 #kidswrite #kidpoem #poems #selflove

Monday, October 5, 2015

Moments - parenting through chaos

"Mom, this was a really happy day."

Were the words my four-year-old shared with me right after we sang our Loving Kindness and right before she fell asleep.

This was a really happy day.


But, you know what? It didn't begin that way. Or middle that way.

This morning began with several monumental tantrums from my seven year old. About nearly everything from getting dressed (she wanted to wear her super dirty clothes from yesterday), to eating breakfast (she wanted to make her own cream of wheat - we didn't have time for - not eat the already made oatmeal), to not wanting to walk to preschool to drop off her little sister.

The mid morning went something like this: after finding a cute little hurt squirrel, my two-year-old freak-out-tantrumed all the way from the park to home because the squirrel went with a friend, not us. He wanted that squirrel. He wanted to hug it. And love it. And squeeze it so tight. And he refused to get into his stroller. But he also refused to be in my arms - which made it near impossible to carry him in my arms while pushing the stroller so I basically forced him into the stroller because, either way he screamed his HEAD I figured, at least this way my body would be panic-stricken when we finally got home (at least ten minutes away... But feels like forever).

To an afternoon where he FINALLY fell asleep....five minutes before we had to leave to pick up said preschool sister. So I had to try to attempt the  maneuver of getting him (still sleeping) into his stroller for the ride.

To...knowing better than to stay and play at the park, but couldn't reasonably say no when the day was as bright and beautiful as it was today. Promising 15 minutes... Which turned into 30 but right at lunch time. And then an "I have to pee! Now!!!" Threat to rush us home.... Only to have the four year old TANTRUM the same distance her little brother did earlier. And not just throwing a fit tantrum. An all- out-rolling on the ground, stomping feet, not-recovering kind of tantrum that everyone in the neighborhood could hear through their windows and doors on this open-the-windows kind of day. While the two year old Houdini-d out of his stroller and I just couldn't get home fast enough. Eventually just kept walking when no talk or hug or love could bring her down off that emotional cliff. Eventually she would run and catch up, but not before alerting the whole next block of neighbors of her unhappiness.

Ah, yes. 

"This was a really happy day."

I am so grateful to know that days with such rough beginnings, middles, and even ends, can close at night with such calm, peace, love, and happiness. With one sentence she washed away all my uncertainties of royally screwing up childhood somehow - of the chaos and HARDness of today. 

I am assured to hear that a day filled with such confusion and big emotions can still be noted as "a really happy day."

It gives me hope.

Hope on the days I yell. Hope on the days I want to run away. Hope on the days there seem to be endless power struggles and tantrums. 

Breathe. Just breathe. I say.

Tomorrow is another day. But, apparently, so is today. Because moments can ebb and flow so quickly for children. And they don't hold grudges or frustrations the same way we sometimes do as grown-ups.

So I find hope and grace in...the next moment. In letting the beginning and the middle be - exactly where there are meant to be. And in embracing right now - which has the power to right all that went wrong - in the magic of this moment. 

That's fiercely reassuring to know. 


This was a really happy day.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall Into Savings Coupon

Looking for some handmade goodness to set out on your learning table this Fall? Enjoy our Fall Into Savings coupon!

#FallSavings #Handmade #learningtoys #MamaMayI #ecotoys #MamaMayIShop #madebyhand #woodentoys #montessori #montessori101 #save #coupon #promo #couponcode #promocode

Friday, October 2, 2015

Kids Art and Oil Pastels

Fall treasure study

Maize, pumpkins, and gourds

We have really been enjoying the process of oil pastels these last few weeks. I forgot how much I like them! They were my favorite in grade school, high school, university, and beyond. Glad to have them resurface during our art space move <3 

Lillian (4) in particular is LOVING them. She can't seem to get enough. Maybe it's the rich color? Maybe the bold texture? Maybe the "fuzziness" of the end result? Maybe the process itself lends itself to smudgy, chunky, beautiful imperfection. 

The leaves were inspired by Jean from The Artful Parent.

Last year we had made a collection of Apples inspired by our apple tasting at our local garden!

 #kidsart #Fall #MamaMayI #mamamayimake