Yoga for Children Is More Than Just Movement

My-Daddy-is-a-PretzelStretch and bend, cross over and reach! With spring  on the way it’s time to get limbered up for outdoor activities. Children can have fun while forming their bodies into the shapes of animals, letters, and geometric shapes with kid-friendly yoga.

Along with getting the blood flowing, yoga also helps clear the mind and is a way to work out feelings. If your child is happy, sad, mad, or sleepy, ask him how he can show that in the way he holds his body. Working out feelings through movement is a great life skill to carry into adulthood!

Here are some movement books that show children yoga positions you can do at home. Most books also tell a little about how yoga can help children with concentration and patience.

“The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story” by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran. Meena was worried about how she would perform in the school play. She felt like she was clumsy and would trip and stumble on stage. But, when Meena started taking a yoga class especially for children, she learned how to quite her mind and feel in control of her body. What she really learned was how to have peace of mind no matter what happened.

“Alef-Bet Yoga for Kids” by Ruth Goldeen, photos by Bill Goldeen. Photos of children superimposed onto Hebrew letters show how each letter can be made by bending this way or that. Learn the Hebrew alphabet in a very experiential way, while stretching, bending, and lengthening the body.

“Babar’s Yoga for Elephants,” based on the characters by Laurent de Brunhoff. This is a silly book for mid-elementary aged children. According to this story, elephants invented yoga! Here are 15 positions that you can do as a family or that children can do on their own. After giving instruction on the poses, the book shows all the places that an elephant (or human) could practice yoga during a regular day such as a department store, the subway, a park, or in Times Square, and at any number of world tourist destinations.

“My Daddy is a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids” by Baron Baptiste, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Written by a world-famous yoga instructor, this is an introduction to yoga positions that will resonate with children. The name of each position in English is related to a real-life object so children can pretend and imagine as they contort their bodies into different shapes. Diagrammed step-by-step instructions show how to form “Tree,” “Dog,” “Triangle,” and 6 other poses.

“Can You Move Like an Elephant?” by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Manya Stojic. Although this isn’t specifically a yoga book, it is a wonderful introduction to yoga-like positions for young children. The book suggests movements that are similar to different animals, like slithering like a snake or scratching like a monkey. Slide slow like a snail, spring in one bound like a tiger. Do the motions with your child and both of you will benefit.

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Reading to an Animal Builds Confidence

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

MadisonReadingtoJack3

Madison Deljoo, age 8 of Ithaca, reads to her cat Jack, who looks on with great interest. Reading to an animal is a non-threatening way for children to practice reading aloud.

Read to a dog? Read to a cat? Yes! That can be just the thing for a beginning reader. Animals love the hugs and petting they receive when they are paired up with early readers. And children love having a non-judgmental audience when they practice reading.

If you have a pet at home and a child just learning to read, see what happens when they are together sharing a book. Pick a time when your pet is relaxed and resting and your child can sit nearby and read aloud. If you don’t have a pet, try a stuffed animal sitting on your child’s lap, “listening,” without interrupting or correcting.

The Cornell Companions, based in Ithaca, NY, are a group of pets accompanied by volunteers who have been listening to children read aloud for years. These animals, who are mostly dogs, visit area schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals and other venues to enhance the lives of children and adults. At schools and libraries they become “reading dogs.”

For an animal visit, kids usually choose books from what they have at school, because when the children read what they are already know well, it helps build their confidence. If a child needs help with a word while reading to their animal, they can skip over it or the animal handler, classroom teacher, or aide can offer a suggestion.

One volunteer, John Martindale, regularly brings his show-dog, a Rottweiler named Tank, to listen to children read at area schools. Martindale says that when children first see Tank they are a little intimidated by his 110 lbs. size, but then the children get to know him and some even lie down with their head on him, using Tank as a pillow when they read.

Sometimes Tank pays attention, but other time he rolls over on his back and falls asleep. When Penelope the rabbit comes to schools she sits very quietly; and when the llama visits on special occasions, she gets a lot of petting before children settle down to read. It’s all part of the read-aloud experience and helps children see that reading is fun to do.

Of course a child can read any book to a pet, but it’s fun to read a story about animals and imagine that maybe the furry friends understand just a little. Here are some books to try:

“Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat” by Sara Swan Miller, illustrated by True Kelley. “The Rainy Day,” “The Yummy Bug,” and “The Good Day” are three short stories about all the things that could be a part of your cat’s day–nibbling plants, sharpening claws on the rug, diving into the garbage, and stalking insects. The humorous text accurately portrays the finicky, quirky nature of felines.

The “McDuff” books by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, are about a little Westie dog that will steal your heart with his adventures through seasons and situations. The expressions of McDuff, with head cocked to the side in an inquisitive look, will be familiar to anyone with a lap-sized dog.

“Biscuit Goes to School” by Allyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, is an “I Can Read” book especially for beginners. Biscuit is a little puppy who wants to do everything like his owner, including going to school and listening to stories! Very few words on each page help keep the attention of young children practicing reading.

 

 

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Words of Love

There are few words you can say to your child that are more important than simply saying, “I love you.” With these three words you can bring a smile to a face, warmth to a heart, and joy to your child. Saying “I love you” gives you a chance to change the course of an entire day, and the power to imprint love and security in your child’s heart forever!

Saying “I love you,” or other words that show you care, gives your children the confidence and strong self-esteem that is the foundation of good emotional health. They will learn how to ask for what they need, express how they feel, and respond to others with compassion. You can give your children positive words in your everyday family life by talking, writing, and reading. Here are some ideas to try at home:

Talk. There are so many words that say, “I love you.” Hearing these nurturing words lets your children know that they are important, they are cared for, and they are loved. When said with a snuggle or a hug, these words mean even more! You can say: I am so happy you are _____ (my son/ my daughter/ part of our family)! • I love to watch you _______ (play, draw, hear you sing, see you run, etc.) • You are so smart in so many ways. • It is okay to make mistakes. • I know you can do it! You did it! I love how you did that! • There is no one like you in the whole world! • You make me smile.

Write. “I love you” messages can bring happiness to your child over and over again when you write them down. • Tuck an “I love you” note under your child’s pillow. • Pin one to a backpack. • Write a message with soap on the mirror. • Keep a jar of “I love you” messages to use any time. • Make mailboxes out of empty cereal boxes for each person in your family to send messages back and forth. • Help your child write down an “I love you” message to a friend or loved one.

BookHeart

Read. Snuggle up with your child and read one of these picture books about love and kindness and talk about what happens in the story. • “How Kind!” by Mary Murphy • “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney • “I Love You Little One” by Nancy Tafuri • “All Together Now” by Anita Jeram • “I’ll Always Love You” by Paeony Lewis • “Because of You” by B.G. Hennesy.

Giving your child words of love has a huge impact. In the words of Peggy O’Mara, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” For more ideas, download a Words of Love bookmark at www.familyreading.org.

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Wrap Up and Read!

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

How are you staying warm this cold winter week? How about wrapping up in a cozy blanket with your young children and reading some favorite books aloud? Make it a daily routine to choose some books in the late afternoon when everyone is home. Find a spot on the couch or floor and then pull a blanket around everyone and enjoy your time imagining, exploring, and traveling through the stories. Here are some authors that write engaging stories that make great read-aloud:

Pat Hutchins writes stories that each answer a simple question. What happened to the cookies in “The Doorbell Rang”? What is the fox going to do next in “Rosie’s Walk”? Will everyone get the right message in “The Surprise Party”? Her writing style creates suspense that will keep your child wondering what will happen next.

Time-to-SleepDenise Fleming writes for the very young, but in a way that entertains grown-ups too. Her stories have things to find on each page if you look closely. There is rhyme, alliteration, and onomatopoeia that will tickle your tongue and make your child giggle. “Beetle Bop,” “Lunch,” and “Time to Sleep” are just a few of Fleming’s many books, all with illustrations created with her beautiful, colorful handmade paper.

Margaret Wise Brown’s stories have stood the test of time. Her main characters are usually animals that do people activities. “Goodnight Moon” and “Runaway Bunny” have the child-like sensibility of magical realism. Her books often have things in the illustrations that aren’t mentioned in the story but are fun to discover. Look for the little yellow butterfly in “Big Red Barn.” Can your child find the 5 sleeping kittens “Goodnight Little One”?

Mem Fox, an Australian author, has a book for every occasion. “Time for Bed” is a sleepy story that introduces animals. “Where’s the Green Sheep?” is a humorous hide-and-seek story. “Koala Lou” tells about a mother’s never-ending love.

KatyandtheBigSnow

Virginia Lee Burton wrote books in the 1940’s, so you and your child may be surprised by some of the “old-fashioned” ways of living shown in the illustrations. There were no cell phones or computers in those times! These stories will delight children with the constant action and determination of the main characters. There is a tractor in “Katy and the Big Snow,” a steam shovel in “Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel,” and a family’s home in “This Little House” that all have personalities that are brave and unselfish.

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Celebrate Creativity Month!

by guest writer Suzie Brache, Family Reading Partnership Program Coordinator

January is International Creativity Month. How inspiring for families! Even though the weather has grown colder and snowier, and sunlight is just a bit dimmer, what a great time of year to start something fresh and new.

How can you celebrate this unique time of year? The beauty of creativity is that there are no rules. The possibilities are endless. You can start a new project or craft, or try your hand at sewing. Create art of all forms, including painting, drawing, and sculpture. And don’t forget writing. Have you written any poetry lately? How about a song or story? Launch a brand-new invention. Make a kite to fly in the spring. Plan your garden. Build castles in the snow.

Creativity is heightened when you create as a family. Your family can become inspired by visiting museums, signing up for a class, or simply appreciating others’ creativity. It’s never too early to play games or make up new songs to sing together with babies and small children. Being creative increases vocabulary. Write a family book together with older children. Cook together. There are numerous ideas in books and online to help guide you.

Another way your family can celebrate creativity is by reading together. Any books your family likes will do. To spark imagination, consider Peter Reynolds’ “Creatrilogy,” including “The Dot,” “Ish,” and “Sky Color.” These wonderful books invite children’s self-expression, and remind everyone there are no rules. The sky is the limit when it comes to inspiration.

TheDot

Also, be sure to check out Barney Saltzberg’s “Beautiful OOPS!” which tells children it’s okay to make a mistake, and that every “mistake” is actually a fantastic opportunity to make something new and amazing. And isn’t this is a message both children and adults need to hear?

It is vital to nurture creativity in ourselves and our children. Starting when children are very young, encourage their new ideas and creations (even if it gets messy sometimes!) Tell them creativity is a gift in all of us.

Take your newfound creations even further and extend International Creativity Month throughout the whole year. Use January as a leaping-off point to continue creative endeavors for months to come. Create things together as a family! Read together! Share your creations!

So, what are YOU going to create?

 

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A Renewed Dedication to Reading Aloud

In this new year, make a resolution to yourself to read aloud to your young children and make books a daily part of your family’s life. As Dr. Seuss says in “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut,” “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Reading with children gives them new ideas, new hopes, and new dreams. Most importantly, reading aloud helps your children develop a lifetime love of books and reading to give them more choices and opportunities as they grow older.

Here are a few easy ways to make books and reading the center of your family’s life and help your children be comfortably at home with books.

Read aloud together every day. Reading to your children gives them a diet rich in words. It feeds their brains! Sharing books together regularly gives your children a sense of security in the routine and time spent with you. They will come to associate books with your love and attention, which will only strengthen their own love of books.

Have books at hand, many places in your life. When children can reach books, they will pick them up, open them up, and enjoy them. Take your children’s books off of the top shelves in your bookcase and put them down on the floor in baskets, in little spaces between furniture, or on lower shelving. Take them in the car, in the stroller, on the bus. Get books at the library, at yard sales, trade with friends, or buy books at your local book store. Don’t worry if a book gets a tear or smudge; they can be repaired and cleaned. Books are better well loved than not read at all.

Show your children that you value books and reading. Read books, newspapers, and magazines yourself. Read signs, cereal boxes, and cookbooks to your children. Read special books on holidays or events. And talk about what you have read. You’ll be showing your children how words are used in every day life.

GreatBooks4BabiesToddlers

Learn more about read-aloud by checking out the tips, techniques, and children’s book suggestions in some of these books: “The Read-Aloud Handbook,” by Jim Trelease, “Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever” by Mem Fox, “How to Get Your Kids to Love Reading” by Esmé Raji Codell, Baby Read Aloud Basics” by Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez, “Great Books for Babies and Toddlers: More Than 500 Recommended Books for Your Child’s First Three Years” by Kathleen Odean. Start early and read often. Happy New Year!

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Holiday Family Reading Traditions

There is something quite magical about reading one book with your family at the same time each year. I’m thinking of “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore read each December when I was young by my mother or father. I have fuzzy memories of sitting on the sofa, leaning up against a parent, looking intently at the pictures and listening with comfort (and excitement!) to the story that I knew so well. I still have the worn copy my dad had when he was young, with the familiar illustrations. It was a peek into another world where men wore nightcaps to bed, mice slept soundly at night, and Santa’s sleigh really landed with a clatter on people’s roofs.

The Night Before Christmas

We have so few traditions in our hustle-bustle world–so little of any common culture in society today–it is heartening to think that we can, as parents, hand down this small gesture, the tradition of reading the same story each year, to our children. With this tradition we hand down the feeling of being part of a family and being included in a common family culture; we all know this same story.

A book reading tradition doesn’t have to be holiday-based. I have a friend who used to read “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” by Dr. Seuss, each year at the first real snowfall and then went outside and made a snowperson with her children–that they colored with watered-down red food coloring of course! (You have to read the book to see the significance in that!)

A good book for creating a tradition is one that has a generous helping of wonder and that stays special because it is appropriate for just a certain occasion. Imagine reading the same adventure book each year on vacation or a keeping a birthday book to be read just around that day.

This time of year, you may want to read about the holidays you observe or the change to new weather. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Muharram, Winter Solstice, or hot chocolate season, add a children’s storybook to your family’s traditions.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson reading to her granddaughter Sahela

Once you have chosen a book, you can make it even more memorable by presenting it to your family as a gift. Family Reading Partnership and nationally syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson of “Ask Amy” have teamed together for the fourth year promoting “A Book On Every Bed.” The idea is that after you choose a new book for your family or choose a book for each child, you wrap it up and place it at the foot of your child’s bed one evening. Then in the morning, there is a special gift to unwrap and read together!

You can do this with a new book or a book you have read year after year. You can use a seasonal book or a book you know your child will enjoy based on his or her interests. Get adults in the family involved too and put a specially chosen book at the foot of every family member’s bed, young and old. Have a warm and wonderful December filled with happy family reading!

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