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  • Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All
    Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All

    Kids, husbands, and wives all reap huge benefits when couples commit to share equally as breadwinners and caregivers.  Mothers work without guilt, fathers bond with their kids, and children blossom with the attention of two involved parents. - Amazon Review

  • The Iron Giant
    The Iron Giant

    An animated film set in the shadows of the space race.  A robot lands in a small town and is befriended by a boy and an beatnick...great flick!

  • The Robot Alphabet
    The Robot Alphabet

    A toddler's robot ABC book (in Kindle version, for the on-to-go family)!

  • Robot Dreams
    Robot Dreams

    "Graphic novel about a dog and a robot shows us in poignant detail how powerful and fragile relationships are."

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    Cozy Owl's Fav Feeds
    Thursday
    Dec222011

    Deconstructing Christmas TV Specials

    By Jill Simeone -

    One of the things I love about this season is watching my little kids enjoy the same holiday traditions I loved as a child.  Perhaps top of my list was the thrill and expectation of waiting for and watching Christmas Specials on TV.

    Of course in the 70's, it was much more of a high-stakes game.  Every Sunday starting Thanksgiving weekend, I would dig the TV guide out of the newspaper and comb through it for listings of Christmas shows.  My mom marked the shows on the kitchen calendar, and I staked out the TV hours in advance, making sure I didn't miss it.  At school, we discussed upcoming shows, cross-checking our lists to make sure we didn't miss "Charlie Brown" in our ferver over "Rudolph".  And then the night would come...a show would broadcast once...we'd lean into the TV and sing the theme song in earnest...and then in 22 minutes (plus some commercial interruptions) it would, like Santa's sleigh, disappear again into the mist of the night, not to be seen again 'till the next year. 

    The invention of VCRs, DVDs and other recording devices has dramatically changed the experience of watching TV Christmas Specials.  They are now ubiquitous.  Every day I come home and my kids are engrossed in "Frosty the Snowman" or "The Year without a Santa Claus"...there are even some B shows that I never knew existed that have made it onto our DVDs as so-called bonus features.

    One result of watching these shows over and over again is that you actually start to listen to them.  And the underlying messages in a bunch of them is sort of....err....off target for today's sensibilities. 

    The worst is Rudolph.  The Land of Misfit Toys?  The ostracized "different" (read:  gay) elf?  Adult deer (including Rudolph's parents) allowing the young reindeer to bully and humiliate Rudolph?  Even the defeat of the snow monster (by pulling out all of his teeth, instead of, for example befriending him) seems uncharitable in the context of a holiday story.

    The other thing that is odd is how many of these shows focus on proving Santa is real to the doubters.  But my kids are little and had no doubts about Santa at all.  In fact, it had never occurred to them that anyone doubted Santa...until they saw these shows a few times.  Geejsh!

    So what's good in Xmas TV land?

    Once again, I love the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" 1966 TV Special, which was narrated by Boris Karloff and features some fabulous original songs.  The animation expands beautifully on the images in the original book.  The message is that Christmas is about more than just presents, but without heavy-handed religious assertions, a delicate balance.  My heart grows three sizes each time I watch it.

    ***

    On this note, we want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season as well as a safe and festive New Year.  The Cozy Owl team is taking the next week off...to spend time with family, what else!?

    We want to thank all of you for your support, comments...and for coming back and bringing friends too.

    Cozy Owl has more exciting content lined up for 2012...and we are excited to hear your resolutions and what you'd like to see from us too.  We look forward to sharing another year with you...feathering the nest to raise bright happy kids.

    Seasons Greetings!

     

    Monday
    Dec192011

    Teaching Children the Joy of Giving

    By Jill Simeone -

    Teaching little children to share is a very hard lesson.  Little Alex has a fabulous red truck, why would he want to let anyone else play with it?   

    Giving takes sharing a step further...Alex has to part with that fabulous red truck permanently...and someone else gets to keep it!  WHAT?

    Of course, the values of sharing and caring for others are core to teaching empathy, and an essential part of the the larger social fabric of family and community life.

    While I am not one to spend a lot of ink on so-called "family values" (which are often not universal), I do notice that most families struggle with teaching children the joy of giving.  This is especially apparent around the holidays, when little kids get flooded with want-want-want and have a hard time (because of where they are developmentally) seeing needs beyond their own.

    Greatschools.org has some really helpful tips for families trying to instill the value of giving to young children overwhelmed by a season of getting:

    1. Start small when the kids are small.  Your young child might be happy to help bake cookies for a friend but end up wanting to keep the gift herself. Plan for this by baking enough cookies to keep and enough cookies to give. Young children need help in learning to share.
    2. Teach your child that he doesn't need money to give.  Help your child make gift certificates good for "one free car wash" or "breakfast in bed" that he can give to others in the family.
    3. Involve your child in selecting the gift.  You may think that donating to cancer research is important, but your child who is an animal lover may be more interested in making sure the dogs at the humane society have an extra treat at the holidays. Help her find a way to give the gift she feels is important.
    4. Be a role model.  Volunteer your family's time at a soup kitchen or senior center. Gather small-size toiletries, such as toothpaste and shampoo, and pack them in decorated gift bags to take to a homeless shelter. Ask your child if he'll help you baby-sit for a neighbor's toddler so she can do her shopping or help you rake the leaves for an elderly friend. 
    5. Personalize giving. It's faster for busy parents to write a check to a charity, but it has little impact on a child who can't see where the money is going or imagine the people who benefit. Delivering canned goods to a food bank is more meaningful than dropping a check in the mail. Your family could "adopt" a needy family through a community organization, choose the gifts and wrap them.

    Some ideas for giving the gift of giving:

    To find a Toys For Tots donation site near you, check here.

    To find a food bank near you, check here.

    Just Give allows you to give friends or family a gift certificate where they get to choose how to donate the value of the charity gift card...to fight hunger, advance human rights, protect endangered animals...and more.

    Heifer is a great giving organization for children and adults alike.  With Heifer, your donation goes to specific seeds or animals that are donated to families facing hunger and poverty, both in the US and world-wide.  For example, $20 buys a family a flock of chicks, providing not only a food and income source, but also training on how to nurture and grow the flock.  Sit down with your little one and check out the Heifer web site and help her pick out an animal gift for a family with little food...and watch the spark of giving ignite in your child.

    What an amazing feeling.  It really is better to give than to receive.

    Friday
    Dec162011

    5 Things All of us Should Stop Doing in 2012...Maybe 6 Things...

    By Jill Simeone -

    I saw a blog post in my news feed today...Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012, by Dorie Clark, writing a guest post on the Harvard Business Review blog page.  So what does this have to do with parenting or early childhood education you ask?  Well everything.  Let's face it, parents are managers too.  We manage our family life, our love life, our professional life and our own personal lives...(why is that last one always last?).  And we can't do it all successfully if we keep trying to do it all. 

    Here's Dorie Clark's list of what to drop in '12:

    1. Responding Like a Trained Monkey.  By this she means unplug.  Have you started to notice that your family sits around and you all collectively ignore each other as you click away on your pods and pads, as the little ones glaze over to yet another episode of Diego?  What would an tech-free family day feel like?  Would the world end?  What would you do instead?  Try it over the holidays....you might like it.
    2. Mindless Traditions.  It's high season for this category of sand traps (and it is my particular bugaboo).  My parenting spin on this is:  skip the traditions that feel like obligations and keep the stuff that is fun or feels like a quality interaction.  For example, I often make a million Christmas cookies and home made candy...and biscotti.  And pies.  (I'm Irish and Italian...I don't know any other way.)  And while it seems fun at the outset, by the end I am grumpy and exhausted and hate the sight of anything sweet.  So, this year, I am only making Christmas M&M cookies.  My daughter wants to make them for her class cookie swap, they are not hard to make, and one batch of cookies as a parent-child activity feels like fun, not obligation.
    3. Reading Annoying Things.  I am applying this one to both me and the kids.  The kids have a bunch of crappy books that I hate and they insist on re-reading (a princess book with no plot and a high pitched jingle when you push a button, a highly acclaimed book with a main character who is rude and gets away with it), so I'm just going to pull them off the shelf and donate them.  Life is too short to have a sub-par story time.  As for me, I'm buying real books again.  Paper.  I have a stack of them and I need to put them next to my bed so (instead of thumbing through my iphone) I can read a bit of real literature before I fall asleep.  Pure heaven.
    4. Work That's Not Worth It.  Dorie Clark is talking here about choosing clients and work projects carefully.  But this advice applies equally well to home life.  On a Saturday, you have a choice:  organize the family room or head to the park for scooters (or sledding!).  No one ever wrote:  "She had the tidiest family room" on anyone's grave stone.  Schedule free time to maximize quality interactions.  That's what we as parents (and they as kids) will remember.
    5. Making Things More Complicated Than They Should Be.  With this point, Dorie Clark is talking about the LEAN management concept...don't build products that people don't want.  It's a lot easier and less expensive to figure out what your customer wants before you build the product, than after.  In other words, test your assumptions before you invest.  This is something I have been studying myself in some entrepreneurial classes I have taken, and I find it's a lesson that translates easily to many facets of my day.  Over and over, I buy my daughter shoes, bring them home, and she hates them.  They are the right size, right color, but she won't wear them.  We have a huge battle and meltdown as we are trying to get out the door for school.  I make vows to never buy her shoes again. So now, I just take her with me.  She picks the shoes, and if they reasonable, we get them.  Later, if she changes her mind, she knows it's too bad.  She picked them out, and I have removed myself from the equation.  Much simpler.
    6. And this one is mine:  Not taking enough time for YOU.  I've been looking around our neighborhood this week and I've noticed that everyone looks exhausted...already.  These holidays should be a joyous time.  At the very least, an inflection point, where we take stock in what we care about and value.  If they aren't feeling that way, ask yourself:  What do I want for Xmas/Hanukkah/(fill in the celebration)?  And then do that.  Plan a date night sometime in the next 2 weeks.  No, not New Years...something simpler and with less pressure.  Go to a fun movie or ice skating or grab a show at a museum.  And for you, skip the last minute stressful shopping at lunch and grab a pedicure or meet a college buddy.  Hop off the treadmill, hit the pause button, breathe deeply...and enjoy.
    Thursday
    Dec152011

    Reading the Grinch to Little Kids

    By Jill Simeone -

    Looking for an antidote to all the commercialism of this season?  Some holiday books that aren't mind-numbing or trite? 

    How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss,  is a great way to share a winter classic, and also talk with little kids about the "real meaning" of Christmas...sharing time and celebrating the season with friends and family you love.

    My younger daughter (3) is a huge fan of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas story book.  In re-reading it to her this week, I was again reminded of its wonderfully evocative vocabulary and (of course, for Seuss) really fun rhymes.

    But is the book too much of a stretch for a three-year old?  I want to make sure she understands some of the words that are likely outside her vocabulary...so she actually "gets" the story.  What's the best way to do this?

    Jim Trelease' The Read-Aloud Handbook has some wonderful suggestions for how to read to little kids to encourage engagement, increase comprehension, and make your child a lover of books from a very young age.  He says:

    • Set aside at least one traditional time each day for a story.
    • To encourage involvement, invite the child to turn pages for you when it is time.
    • The first time you read a book, discuss the illustration on the cover. “What do you think this is going to be about?”
    • As you read, keep listeners involved by occasionally asking, “What do you think is going to happen next?”
    • Allow time for discussion after reading a story. Thoughts, hopes, fears, and discoveries are aroused by a book. Allow them to surface.  Do not turn discussions into quizzes.
    • Occasionally read above children’s intellectual levels and challenge their minds.
    • The most common mistake in reading aloud—whether the reader is a seven-year-old or a forty-year-old—is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read.
    • Preview the book by reading it to yourself ahead of time. Such advance reading allows you to spot material you may wish to shorten, eliminate, or elaborate on.
    • Add a third dimension to the book whenever possible. For example, have a bowl of blueberries ready to be eaten during or after the reading of Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal.

    Wow.  Great tips.  We're off to re-read the Grinch....and then make some Who hash for our extension activity...er lunch!

    Friday
    Dec092011

    Early Childhood Arts & Crafts: Paste & Glitter lead to Planning & Grit

    By Jill Simeone -

    Had a great conversation last night with my good friend Matt who lives in Singapore.  (Hi Matt!) 

    During the call, he asked about resources for arts and crafts projects for preschoolers.  Matt and his wife work and have a nanny, so he was especially interested in some materials that would make it easy for the nanny to pull together age-appropriate, educational, and fun arts and crafts projects for their 3 year old son.

    Arts & crafts are a great tool for helping young learners because they touch on so many facts of early childhood development.  Dalene Joubert at the Artists Helping Children Organization outlines "ten compelling reasons to use arts and crafts with kids":

    • Creativity
    • Concentration
    • Delayed Gratification (Grit)
    • Social Interaction
    • Task Completion
    • Planning
    • Expression of Emotions
    • Openness
    • Self-Image

    Wow.  Who knew safety scissors, paste and crayolas delivered so much?!

    Here are some Cozy Owl ideas for facilitating Arts & Crafts in your home:

    The Craft Cabinet (or Box...or Drawer):  Set aside a place in your home dedicated to Arts & Crafts.  Put it in the kitchen or family room or someplace that will encourage supervised exploration by your child.  (Probably not in the the preschooler's bedroom, as this leads to unsupervised exploration, will be messy, and can be dangerous.)

    We have our craft cabinet in the kitchen.  It's stocked with supplies and I constantly add to it.  It is messy.  The kids look through it all the time.  We keep both materials and craft idea books it it.  Here's a sample Craft Cabinet shopping list:

    Some good craft books:

    The Arts & Crafts Busy Book, by Trish Kuffner.

    We have a couple of books from this series and they are very good.

    "This book contains 365 creative and educational arts and crafts projects for children ages two to six that provide a great alternative to using TV as a babysitter. It shows parents and daycare providers how to:

    --Stimulate creativity and self-expression with activities that encourage a child to explore his or her place in the world.

    --Encourage the development of a child's concentration and coordination, as well as organizational and manipulative skills, with well-chosen arts and crafts projects.

    --Celebrate the holidays and other occasions with special projects and activities. The Arts and Crafts Busy Book is written with warmth and sprinkled with humor and insight. It should be required reading for anyone raising or teaching young children." -  Amazon

    iParenting Media Awards 2003 Greatest Holiday Winner

    Preschool Art, by MaryAnn Kohl.

    We have this book, too, and have used it often.   In addition to many great activities rated for skill level, it includes recipes to make some of your favorite materials (think play dough) at home.

    "Over 200 activities encourage children to explore and understand their world through art experiences that emphasize the process of art, not the product. The first chapter introduces basic art activities appropriate for all children, while the subsequent chapters, which build on the basic activities in the first chapter, are divided by seasons. Activities are included for painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, and construction." - Amazon

    "Preschool Art is a lifesaver . . . All the activities are easy, all are fun—the emphasis here is on the process, rather than specific results—and none require any elaborate materials . . . a real find."—Sesame Street Parents

    If you like this one, there are some other good art books by MaryAnn Kohl:

    The Big Messy Art Book

    Cooking Art - Easy, edible art for young children

    Math Arts

    Art & Crafts Shopping List:

    • Construction paper
    • Drawing paper
    • Glue sticks
    • Glitter
    • Paper plates
    • Washable poster paint
    • Paint brushes
    • Finger paint
    • Crayons
    • Washable markers
    • Pencils
    • Stickers
    • Foam shapes
    • Googly eyes
    • Stamps & ink pads
    • Elmer's glue
    • Clay &/or play dough
    • Coloring books (for those times when junior is feeling crafty and you are cooking dinner!)

     

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