Introduce Kids to Poetry During National Poetry Month

Fun Books, Movies and Activities to Try

April is National Poetry Month, a great time to introduce children to poetry through books, movies and activities.

Books

“Pocket Poems,” selected by Bobbi Katz, illustrated by Marylin Hafner, is a great start for young children. The collection features short poems from famous and lesser-known poets, with child-friendly illustrations.

“The Usborne Book of Poems for Young Children,” selected by Philip Hawthorn, illustrated by Cathy Shimmen, includes poems from dozens of poets, with full-page color illustrations.

“The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry,” edited by Martin with Michael Sampson, is a terrific overview of poems on a variety of subjects, colorfully illustrated.

“Splish Splash” by Joan Bransfield Graham, illustrated by Steve Scott, is a collection of concrete poems (poems in specific shapes), all relating to water.

“A Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by NCTE Award-Winning Poets,” edited by Bernice E. Cullinan, highlights the best modern children’s poets.

“April Bubbles Chocolate: An ABC of Poetry,” edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Barry Root, contains 26 short poems with realistic art.

“Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World” by Jeanette Winter uses fanciful artwork to introduce children to Dickinson’s work. “Grassroots” combines poems by Carl Sandburg with nature paintings by Wendell Minor.

Movies

“Classical Baby: The Poetry Show” (2008) is a lovingly animated 23-minute video with poems by Shakespeare, John Keats, Gertrude Stein and more, read by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Susan Sarandon.

“Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who” (2008) is a playful feature animated film, with the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carrel and Carol Burnett, based on the children’s classic.

“A Child’s Garden of Poetry” (2011) is a 27-minute collection of poems by greats like Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Frost, performed by readers like Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, with animation and live footage of children.

Activities

Create and decorate a paper pocket to carry a short poem, using this handy template. Our librarian had children do this as well as writing rain poems by putting words inside the droplets of a printed-out picture of an umbrella in the rain.

Grade-school children may be inspired to write poems by reading “Ten-Second Rainshowers: Poems by Young People,” edited by Sandford Lyne, illustrated by Virginia Halstead. The collection features free-verse poems by children in grades 3 through 12.

Look for online interactive National Poetry Month activities for grades K-12 from ReadWriteThink.org, helping kids to write and appreciate poetry.

Originally published on the Yahoo! Contributor Network

Art Helps Philly Dad Connect with Autistic Son

As a father, Ron Schwoyer was frustrated with his inability to connect with his autistic son: “I would point out something beautiful, neat, funny, or whatever, and Kevin would often react in a contrary or negative way. Almost like he was closing himself off from the world.” He worried that Kevin, the oldest of three children, was “missing the good things in life.” But all this changed, thanks to a painting and a vision.

Ron, 45, of Richboro, Pennsylvania, described Kevin’s painting titled “Why Does My Head Feel This Way?” as “a Van Gogh-ish depiction of what he felt like. In a way, it was unsettling to me, with swirling dark colors … almost like an angry-looking storm cloud.” The painting was a revelation.

For Ron’s wife, Robin, the painting offered a way to connect. She related, “In 2005, I started having ‘flashes’ and visions of me riding around in a blue van covered with colorful puzzle pieces and doing art shows.” When she met Svetlana Gradess that summer, Robin shared her vision of doing art with Autism Spectrum children . Gradess, who loves children and artwork, felt called to help. HeARTS for Autism was born.

HeARTS for Autism , Ron said, differs from other programs for ASD children, because each event offers activities for the ASD person, the siblings, and the parents. The program has branched into other areas, such as dance, movement, and yoga .

Ron is essential to the program’s success. During the initial flurry of activity, Robin said, “Ron would joke that if you stood still in our house for more than a few seconds, you got painted and turned into an art display.” When they began the family programs, Robin was constantly busy with phone calls and emails. Ron helped with the kids as she tended to the needs of other families. His work as an engineer made it possible for her to volunteer.

Gradess added that Ron does everything from volunteering with the kids during monthly events to hauling needed supplies. She said, “He has a wonderful, peaceful, and grounding presence.”

In addition to his job and volunteer work, Ron plays in a Beatles cover band , Shabby Road. He said that he “Forrest Gump”-ed his way into the band, practicing on drums in the studio when they showed up to rehearse. They mentioned they were looking for a bassist and had a bass handy. So, he jammed with them and was asked to join.

Life is very busy for Ron, now that the kids have moved out of diapers and into recitals, concerts, and softball games. “It’s great to be part of this, watching them grow, watching them playing violin or cello with their school orchestra.”

He’s a different sort of father from his dad, who worked shift work : “I was ‘in sync’ with him only about once every three weeks. Thankfully, I am home every night. I am fortunate to be present and to help them with homework (sometimes I feel so smart ), helping them get through a difficult musical passage, going ice skating, or getting a big hug after a long day.”

Thanks to HeARTS for Autism , he’s finally managed to connect with their eldest son. Ron said, “Happily, Kevin in the last few years has matured into a curious, scholarly person. I had been concerned that he would never know who I was.”

Alyce Wilson is a Philadelphia-area mother who writes about people and events in Greater Philadelphia.

Originally published on June 10, 2011 on the Yahoo! Contributor Network

Philly Area Mom Fights for Adoptees’ Rights

Imagine not knowing who your mother is, what your genetic heritage is, or how you might be connected to history. Imagine having difficulty getting a passport or driver’s license. For adopted individuals, this is an unfortunate reality, since many states prevent them from accessing their original birth certificates. But if mother and activist Amanda Woolston, 26, can do anything about it, that will change.

Woolston, who lives in the greater Philadelphia area, is a stay-at-home mom, part-time student, and activist by night. She takes care of blogging, corresponding with other activists, letter writing, and other activities after her sons, 2 1/2 years and 4 weeks, go to sleep. The issue is personal to Woolston, who was adopted, but it was because of her children that she became an adoptee rights advocate.

Her birth state allowed access to her original birth certificate, but she was aware many do not. Soon after her first son was born, she decided the issue was too important to be silent about. She explained, “If I lack access to the document that connects me to my roots and ancestry, they’re missing out on part of their roots and ancestry, too.”

Woolston founded Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights Advocates with several friends and fellow advocates to promote change in this portion of adoption law in Pennsylvania. She is also the Pennsylvania state representative for the Adoptee Rights Coalition.

She said, “Most people may be aware that President Obama recently released his original birth certificate for public view and that there are about 12 states that are considering or who have considered requiring a candidate running for public office to show their original birth certificate. This is something most adopted people cannot do. While everyone can now see President Obama’s original birth certificate, there are six million people in the U.S., the adopted, who cannot even see their own.”

Woolston explained that “upon decree of adoption, an adoptee is given a new birth certificate with their adoptive parents’ names on it, and the original is sealed.” This often takes place even in the case of open adoptions, regardless of the birth mother’s wishes.

Through her activism, Woolston supports legislation and provides education. She also has participated in annual adoptee rights demonstrations at the National Convention of State Legislators.

In her work, Woolston has heard stories about the children of adoptees and how not having access to their heritage has impacted them. She said, “While my children and their children will have knowledge of their heritage through me (a good friend of mine traced us all the way back to the Revolutionary War and the Mayflower!), many other descendants of adoptees cannot say the same.”

As a mother and a woman, Woolston said she fights “alongside and for all of the mothers who have surrendered to adoption who want people to know that they do not want to be hidden in shame. I fight alongside the mothers, both those who have surrendered and those who have adopted, who believe strongly that their sons and daughters should be treated like everyone else.”

She says her activism has taught her to value justice and equality for everyone. Woolston hopes to pass those values along: “My hope is to raise my children to be strong individuals who will advocate for what’s right, no matter what cause is that is important to them.”

Alyce Wilson is a Philadelphia-area mother who writes about people and events in Greater Philadelphia.

Originally published in 2010 on the Yahoo! Contributor Network

The Best Attractions for Kids in Historic Philadelphia

There’s more to see in historic Philadelphia than the Liberty Bell. Kids will love these attractions in the historic district, also known as Old City.

Franklin Square

If you have small children, make Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street, part of your visit. Within easy walking distance of other attractions, such as the Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street, the park is packed with activities. Ride the Parx Liberty Carousel, play miniature golf at a course filled with miniature versions of historic Philadelphia buildings, or play on the playground, which includes a toddler section. There are fees for the carousel rides and the miniature golf, but the playground is free, as are the storytelling benches around the central fountain, where you can hear a tale from real-life raconteurs. The park also features food stands and (thankfully) restrooms!

Independence Seaport Museum

Whether your child loves transportation, history or science, the Independence Seaport Museum is guaranteed to entertain. Admission is $13.50 for adults; $10 or children, free for ages 2 and under, and AAA discounts are available. The museum houses attractive, well-lit exhibits on topics ranging from sea exploration, to ship building, to a hands-on exhibit about how boats work. For my 4-year-old, the main attraction were the numerous intricate models of real ships. Admission includes a self-guided tour of a World War II submarine and a steel warship, first launched in 1892.

Fireman’s Hall Museum

A museum dedicated to firefighters was an easy sell for my preschooler. The Fireman’s Hall Museum, 147 N. 2nd Street, packs centuries of history into a relatively small space, a former firehouse. For my son, the highlight were the firefighting vehicles, ranging from 19th-Century hand-pumps to a 20th century gas-powered engine. There’s also an exhibit on fire safety, firefighting coats and boats to try on, and oodles of info about Philadelphia firefighting history. Admission is free; donations requested. The gift shop offers some great toys and souvenirs.

National Museum of American Jewish History

The National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E. (at the corner of 5th and Market streets), features state-of-the-art exhibits on the history of Jewish-American citizens. Admission is $12 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Kids can pretend to ride west in a covered wagon, sit in turn-of-the-century school desks, and don masks for a ballroom dance. We visited for the current special exhibit on baseball, a must-see attraction for both boys and girls. In addition to focusing on Jewish players, the exhibit addresses other “outsider” groups, such as women and African-Americans. A family guide at the exhibit entrance includes activities and discussion questions. A computer interactive game allows visitors to field balls from baseball’s greats, and a pitching mound in the concourse invites you to pitch like Sandy Koufax.

Originally published on the Yahoo! Contributor Network

A Busy Mom’s Guide to Exercising

Getting Them Involved Makes You Both Happier

 

As the mother of a 4-year-old boy, I know how challenging it is finding time to exercise. Not long after bringing him home, I learned the easiest way is often to get him involved.

Infants

Babies love to be held; it’s great for bonding and helps them feel secure. As an infant, my son loved riding in a baby carrier as I shopping, walked or engaged in household tasks. While he cried when I tried to do one of my exercise DVDs, he giggled and lit up when I engaged in workout moves similar to these exercises from SheKnows.com. Even though he weighs a lot more nowadays, I still sometimes lie on my back and do “baby presses” with him, as he shrieks in delight.

Another activity started then was taking walks around our neighborhood, pushing him in the stroller. I’ve found this to be a great way to coax him into taking a nap, especially on a warm summer day. Of course, for babies too young for sunscreen, you’ll want to be sure to use a hat and clothing to protect against harmful rays. I found a sun shade that would attach to our stroller, which provided additional protection. A friend of mine, an amateur athlete, bought a jogging stroller and has even participated in a 5K with her little guy!

Toddlers & Preschoolers

As my son became more mobile, our options increased. I rented several kids’ exercise videos to find the ones he liked best. Our favorites are now a permanent part of our routine and a fun way to exercise together. I’ll ask my son if he wants to “have a party,” and we’ll groove to “Sesame Street Get Up and Dance” or “Curious Buddies: Let’s Move.” Thanks to that video, my son grew interested in yoga, so we got the Gaiam video, “YogaKids 3: Silly to Calm.”

Any activity that involves movement is great for you both. In addition to dancing, we go to a park and kick or throw a ball; play tag; or go swimming. He loves playing hide and seek, happily racing around the house for a half an hour or more, trying out new hiding spaces or searching for me. Remember: even though playing may not be as intense as an aerobic workout, movement of any kind helps you burn calories and helps your little one to tone muscle and improve coordination.

originally published in 2005 on Yahoo! Contributor Network

Help Rescue Homeless Pets

My son, KFP, age 7, has now joined his Daddy’s videogame streaming marathon, playing “Plants Versus Zombies” right now. They are trying to raise money to help the Animal Coalition of Delaware County, a no-kill shelter that helped us find out kitty 12 years ago.

They are getting close: 65 percent of the way there! Only a few donations will help them make their goal.

Please check it out, donate to help homeless pets, and listen to KFP getting silly with his daddy!

https://tiltify.com/@toanstation/thank-you-acdc

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Thanksgiving Safety

Family at Thanksgiving dinner

A family enjoys Thanksgiving dinner.

Just in time for the holiday, I’m happy to share a guest post by Amy Patterson.


Thanksgiving is synonymous with family and food. It is the season of holiday feasts. Usually every person in the house is involved in the holiday preparations, including the little ones. While this may be a festive time, it can also turn dangerous. Safety in the home is especially important during this time, since there are many people and activities going on around you. Distractions can lead to disaster. Being prepared and aware is essential.

The kitchen is the heart of the house

Safety in the kitchen is more important than in any other place in the house. This is because there are many unseen hazards that can lead to a hazardous results. Hot pans, boiling water, and other food preparation equipment can cause injuries if not attended to properly. More serious injuries can also happen here, such as kitchen fires.

Because of this, everyone should follow some basic safety measures while preparing for Thanksgiving gatherings.

  •  Those cooking should not wear dangling sleeves and loose clothes. That type of clothing can easily catch on fire.
  • Always turn off the gas/stove when you are going out of the kitchen. Always stay in the kitchen when you are boiling, frying or grilling food. Remain in the house while cooking and check food regularly.
  • Keep items away from the gas which can catch fire such as oven mitts, paper and plastic items, wooden utensils, food packaging, curtains, and towels.
  • Keep your children away from the kitchen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at your house so that you can access it quickly if required.
  • Always check the regulator of gas before going to sleep. Make sure that all appliances are turned off.
  • Install smoke alarms that can alert you if anything catches fire.
  • Keep knives and sharp or hot objects out of the reach of children.

Having friends and family over for the holidays

Prepare your house so that is it is ready to welcome your friends and family. Make everyone feel at home by creating a nice atmosphere. A clean and decluttered home is essential in making guests feel comfortable, as well as helping to prevent injuries caused by a trip and fall accident. Make sure rugs are properly placed, and that floors are not slippery if there is rain. Be sure to prepare a list that can help you remember the tasks that need to be done ahead of time. This can be a hectic time if you are unprepared. Organization and preparation ahead of time can help you stay focused on the day of the festivities, thus helping to avoid distractions that can lead to mishaps. If you are creating a festive entry for your house, or using lights and garland as decoration, be sure that they are not placed in a manner near flammable objects or in the path of young children. Avoid candles and opt for battery operated lighting. Help keep things out of the way by providing plenty of options for your guests to hang and store personal items. Purchase a coat rack as well as some storage baskets or bins to collect gloves, scarves and hats. You can also arrange a basket for the storage of car keys. By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can help to avoid a potential disaster and focus on enjoying this time with friends and loved ones.


Amy Patterson is an avid reader on trending topics and a writer in her spare time. On the beautiful coast of North Carolina you will usually find her catching up on the latest news with locals or on the beach. She loves to write pieces on health, fitness, and wellness, but often writes about families and safety.

Halloween for Your Child with Diabetes

Halloween on Harrison Court
“Halloween on Harrison Court” by Kevin Dooley from Flickr

Today, I’m happy to share a very timely guest post by Amy Patterson.


Halloween poses some unique challenges for kids with diabetes. Halloween is about many things: costumes, ghost stories, jack-o-lanterns, and late-night fun with friends. It’s also about candy. Lots of candy. Kids, costumes, and candy. If your child is diabetic, that last item will pose a problem.

If your child has diabetes, you’re likely familiar with the hazards of candy. Pure sugar with nothing else to balance it out. Halloween is probably the most intense celebration of candy in the United States these days. Halloween is also a wonderful night for children, giving them a chance to get outside in the night with friends, dress up in wild costumes, and generally celebrate their imagination.

So what’s a parent to do? You don’t want your kid to miss out on a special night with friends. You don’t want your kid to be alienated by the neighborhood kids. You don’t want your kid to feel like diabetes makes her feel like an outsider. You do, though, want your kid to learn to manage diabetes at an early age. Here are some basic tips that you, as a parent, can take to ensure your child’s Halloween is safe AND fun this year.

Communicate Ahead of Time

Speak with your child about his condition ahead of time. Speak clearly about proper diabetes care, stressing the concrete dangers of hyperglycemia. He’ll understand your concern, learn self-dependence, and be thrilled to earn your respect by getting the opportunity to take care of himself. Plan ahead. If you’re comfortable with this, tell him he can bring home anything he wants, as long as he waits until coming home to eat. This will ensure you can observe what exactly he eats on Halloween. Also, this plan will allow your child to have a normal, fun Halloween with the neighborhood kids.

Trick or Treat With Your Kid

If you would rather have a hands-on Halloween experience with your child, go along for the ride! This will allow you to observe your child as she has safe, spooky fun. You can build memories, speak about pedestrian safety, and get an interesting perspective on her imagination. You’ll have fun and get to make sure you see what your kid eats. Remember that diabetic care be difficult for a child, both intellectually—it can be difficult to understand what the proper care actually consists of—and as a matter of willpower. Throwing off her blood sugar may make it more difficult to treat her; and improper use of diabetes meds is a common reason for emergency room visits. Your presence as a parent can help her with understanding as well as keeping her on task.

Ration the Night’s Find

After you’ve gathered the sweet, precious hoard, gather it up and organize portions. As a parent of a child with diabetes, you’re aware of your kid’s blood sugar and eating patterns. Diabetic children can, of course, eat sweets. But diabetic children, even more than other children, need to be careful. Rationing candy can help your child keep track of her sweets. This will also allow her to eventually eat all of that good candy WITHOUT overindulging. Wrapped candy can last a long time, after all. You could even make your Halloween harvest the entire year’s candy ration, doling it out in small doses when the occasion calls for it.


Amy Patterson is an avid reader on trending topics and a writer in her spare time. On the beautiful coast of North Carolina you will usually find her catching up on the latest news with locals or on the beach. She loves to write pieces on health, fitness, and wellness, but often writes about families and safety.

Mommy Files: The Apprentice

My son, a kindergartner, has to do homework four times a week. While that might sound excessive, the assignments currently consist only of a page or two of simple number recognition exercises in his math booklet. In addition, the teacher sent home about 20 optional activities designed to reinforce letter sounds, sight words and vocabulary.

Last week, KFP and I did one of the activities, creating silly sentences, where each word started with the same letter. We agreed that anything starting with “B” (balloon, boy, bus), should bounce, and that anything starting with “T” (train, tiger, truck) should travel or trip.

After we’d done a series of silly sentences, KFP suggested we sing some silly songs. No rules; just improv, the sort of thing we’d done before while taking a long drive. He started us off with a song called “The Elephant Drives a Truck.” We took turns singing lines, with no real rhyme scheme, telling a rambling story of an elephant who crashes into everything and then gets in trouble.

“Now let’s sing another one,” KFP said.

“Sure, I’ll start this one,” I said and began a song about leaves falling off a tree.

KFP interrupted me. “That’s not funny,” he said.

“It’s only the first line,” I told him. “You set up the joke, and then you have a punch line.”

“What’s a punch line?” he asked.

“The part that’s funny.”

“Ohhhh!” he said, and I could see enlightenment sweep across his face.

I realized at that moment that most of his humor is conceptual, about the ridiculousness of the premise. I explained that humor can also come from playing off expectations. The unexpected can be funny, I told him, and hammered the idea in later when one of his shoes fell off while he was walking.

We started again, creating a silly country-western song inspired by the upcoming Farmer Fun Fall day at KFP’s school. We even rhymed occasionally: “Come down to our jamboree, where we’ve got cows and pigs for free!” At the end, we both called out “Yee-haw!” in unison.

If we’d have been on the stage, that would have been a great blackout moment.

But since this was real life, and he is five, he kept trying to recreate the magic of that silly elephant truck song. In the coming days, we sang about a rabbit driving a tractor, about a mouse driving a bus, all essentially the same rambling saga of animal-wrought destruction and chaos.

Then, as we were sitting on the grass, waiting to pick his friend up from his bus stop, KFP asked if we could write another silly song.

“OK, but let’s make this one different,” I requested.

“I’ll start,” he offered, and began, “The elephant took off in his rocket…”

I chimed in, “And blasted into space.”

KFP continued, “And he crashed into the Milky Way…”

He had to stop singing then, because I laughed uncontrollably for minutes. My pupil.

Mommy Files: The Reinstall

The other day, when he got home from kindergarten, my boy, Kung Fu Panda, wanted to play the new LeapPad game we’d just downloaded as a reward for earning enough stickers on his sticker chart.

I was out of the room, doing dishes or putting things away — it’s always at least 30 minutes before I get to sit down — and returned to find KFP looking upset. “It won’t let me do anything,” he said.

I took the device from him to have a look. Sure enough, the LeapPad was doing something I’d never seen before: instead of starting up, the display showed a LeapPad with an alert symbol on it and a white cord connecting the LeapPad to a computer.

“Guess we have to connect it to the computer,” I mused aloud and pulled the white cord out of the cabinet.

Once connected, the screen directed me to download the LeapPad Connect software, which I soon surmised was a diagnostic tool for finding and fixing problems. After a couple false starts — including moving from my dinky notebook to my husband’s laptop in order to see the full screen of the application — the program began a lengthy process which seemed to involve a complete reinstall of his LeapPad’s software. Uh-oh.

Gently, I explained to KFP that, when his LeapPad was fixed, it would have the programs but not the settings. I didn’t go into detail, for fear he’d be upset, but I was fairly sure that all of his photos and drawings, his stickers and badges earned from playing his games, would have disappeared into the ether.

When the process ended, I handed the freshly-repaired LeapPad to my son and graced myself for the worst. Would he shriek or wail? Would he cry inconsolable tears as I vainly tried to explain I could do nothing to restore those files? (Perhaps a computer genius could recover them, but I don’t work for “CSI.”)

And then the most amazing thing happened. Nothing.

“I guess I need to take a new picture for my profile,” he said. I tried to walk him through it, but he didn’t need much help. He chose a new background — a tropical fish tank — and opened the virtual pet game to recreate his little brown monkey, Bimbie Baby, completely redecorating his apartment. “Look, he has a flatscreen TV now!” he told me.

Later, opening up the logic game where you build a town by solving space puzzles, KFP was delighted to see the town completely empty. “I’ve been wanting to rebuild it,” he told me.

If only he was always this flexible. If only I was.

An eon ago, in my pre-child days, a yoga instructor tried to explain the principle of attachment. At the time, I’m not sure I understood him as well as I believe I do now. No zen koan can teach the principle of attachment quite as well as motherhood. For I challenge you to find another experience where you are so deeply attached to someone, and yet where you are constantly reminded of the need to let them go.

From the instant he began to smile at ceiling lights — we said he was laughing at his guardian angel making silly faces — I knew the full realization of his life and being would one day lead away from me. From his first steps, to putting him on the bus to school, I couldn’t deny that this kid was going places.

As a friend once told me, everything is a stage. Crying at the top of his lungs every time you go to the grocery store? A stage. Peeing his pants because he can’t stand to tear himself away from his toys? A stage. But so, too, are the good stages, such as when he sits close to you, cuddling your arm, just because he feels like it.

It’s all a stage, and everything is always new again. I hope I can learn from KFP how to look forward to all the new challenges ahead, to build things anew.