“The Half Mermaid” by Carol Krueger: Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

The Half Mermaid is the latest book written by magical Dunedin children’s author Carol Krueger.

Ondina appears to be an ordinary fourteen year old girl who lives with her Mum, step Dad and two younger brothers. One day, however, she discovers something extraordinary about herself… something which appears whenever she gets wet.

The Half Mermaid is a magical tale for children and young people and Krueger’s style is very accessible.  The book is also packed with colourful, engaging photographs.  My eight year old daughter and ten year old son spent an afternoon transfixed by the magic of Krueger’s tale (or should I say “tail”?).The story also has an environmental message and gives us practical ideas for how we as individuals can keep our oceans clean and habitable for sea creatures.

I highly recommend this book to all who love mermaids, mystery and magic.

 

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10 Simple Ways to Build an Unbreakable Bond With Your Child, by Angela Pruess

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Our connection to our children means everything.

It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.

We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.

Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.

Reading

We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.

This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.

Art

Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.

When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.

Music

Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!

It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.

Nature

Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.

Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.

Play

Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-simple-ways-to-build-an-unbreakable-bond-with-your-child/

20 Adorable And Easy DIY Valentine’s Day Projects For Kids, by Vanessa Beaty

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you have kids – or grandkids – and are looking for projects to keep them busy and help spread the love, I’ve found a great collection of adorable crafts that you can make together. All of these are so easy that even toddlers can help with them, and they are all so cute your kids will love them.

I love Valentine’s Day. From the candy and flowers to the wide array of crafts, there’s just so many ways that you can show someone how much they mean to you. I also love DIY, which is why this collection of Valentine’s Day projects is perfect. Whether you want to make cards for teachers or grandparents or you and your little ones love baking together, I promise there’s something in this collection that will thrill you and your kids.

From marshmallow pops to homemade heart ornaments that you can display all year long, these projects are as lovely as they are simple to complete. Looking to dress up your little one for the holiday? There’s a great homemade heart barrette, or you could do her nails with these gorgeous Valentine’s nail art designs.

Whatever you and your littles are planning for the day, you don’t want to miss these projects. Let your little one make a Valentine box to hold her special treasures or help them create butterflies from doilies. There is something in here for kids of all ages, and several that we parents will love, too.

1. Bee My Valentine Mailbox

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Remember making those great Valentine’s boxes when you were in school? This project is very in keeping with that tradition, and is really easy for kids of all ages. Kids will love putting their Valentines in their own little “Bee My Valentine” mailbox, and you can customize the cards that they pass out at school to match this great little box. I love the bee theme, and you only need a small handful of supplies to make it.Tutorial: momendeavors

2. Valentine’s Day Countdown

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I simply love this idea! It’s 14 small hearts that you use to countdown to Valentine’s Day. Just create the hearts with little messages of love on the backs and they look great displayed in a vase or mason jar atop lollipop sticks or straws. This gives kids a way to spread the love for two entire weeks before the big day, and they will adore decorating their hearts and choosing their messages

Tutorial: makeandtakes

To read more of this post, please follow the link below…

http://www.diyncrafts.com/22787/crafts/20-adorable-easy-diy-valentines-day-projects-kids

Also, check out this Valentine’s Day Post, which also has ways to teach kids about the history behind Valentine’s Day…

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/valentines-day-celebrating-love-with-our-kids/

“The Ruby Sceptre”, a new fantasy novel for children. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“When a simple game of Hide and Seek ends unexpectedly with being kidnapped by a dragon-like creature, Xuen, princess of her village, is thrown into an adventure she never saw coming.
Carried off to the northern land of Shardonia, Xuen learns that the ruthless and power-hungry King Xolleran intends her to be nothing more than snack food for his pet, the Halaveel Monster.
A fortunate escape brings her into contact with Sus, a boy who always carries a mysterious ruby sceptre. Together they seek to unite those who have suffered under Xolleran and to bring about the end of his evil reign.”

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A map of the lands of Shardonia and Angdoodle, where “The Ruby Sceptre” is set

“The Ruby Sceptre”, recently published by Ngaio Publishing, is a fantasy adventure story for children by New Zealand author Kirsteen McLay-Knopp (me). 🙂

A number of people have asked me what age group “The Ruby Sceptre” is suitable for.  Long ago at a writing workshop I was told not to put an age on my characters for children, as this encourages a wider  audience age range.  A 13 year old who is a reluctant reader may be put off if he or she thinks, for example, that the characters are only 10.  So I’ve left the characters ages open.  Another tip I learned from the writing workshops was that kids love food and if you read “The Ruby Sceptre”, you will see that there are a lot of references to food:  Xuen, the main female character, loves marshmallows and Sus, the main male character, loves chocolate-covered bananas.

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

I love the fantasy genre (as well as many others) and have been privileged throughout my life to have read (and had read to me) some of the best.  I don’t think we can ever have too many books in this genre (or too many books of any sort) and anything that keeps our kids engaged and reading is a plus.   Let’s face it, we all need a bit of magic and escape in life at times too.    My hopes are that “The Ruby Sceptre” will provide joy and magic to many for years to come.

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 “The Ruby Sceptre” is now available on Amazon… please follow the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Ruby+Sceptre&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3AThe+Ruby+Sceptre

 

 

“What do you See?”: Unlocking kids’ imaginations through art, by Sharon Reynolds, Redemptive Artist

 

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I was asked to write to you about how art in particular has been useful for my whanau, so let me start by saying that art has been an enormous part of our journey as a family and I’m not sure that all of that can easily be conveyed in just one article but I will try to share with you in this short article the synopsis of my thoughts and experiences thus far.

One of the greatest gifts I believe my mother installed into me was the gift of imagination.  I hear you already cringe and think hmmmm…. how is that a gift, isn’t it just something we have?

It is at this point that I share my opinion that it may have been at one time something we just produced naturally however over time I have seen imagination become so repressed that children are no longer able to tap into their ability to create, as they simply just don’t know how.

I was raised with imagination at the forefront of my childhood and I have taught my own children and grandchildren to imagine which has in turn developed their creative side and abilities to problem solve.  Many a morning my neighbourhood got to see my toddlers, laden with backpacks full of tasty treats and teddy bears, launch into a huddled pack as they peeped from behind trees on the sidewalk venturing forth on dangerous adventures and explorations and a bear hunt or two!

Sadly following procedure and doing things a certain way is often more of what is taught and makes for very rigid thinking and they get locked into a prescriptive way of doing almost everything.   What happens when things don’t go according to plan? Meltdown after meltdown!

The prescribed step by step process is not always what’s needed and often it is said that the journey is far better than the destination.  The process of art making rather than the focus on the final product often brings greater satisfaction and many more benefits that can be seen externally.

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Allow me to give a brief demonstration of exercising/releasing creative imagination.

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Figure 1: “What can you See?”

I picked a limited number of colours as seen in Figure 1: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Black. I then choose the word CONNECTIONS and invited a group of children to use fingers, brush, fabric wipes in whatever way they wished, with any movement they choose to freely express  themselves in response to this word.

Most of the class drew pictures of animals, people, houses, landscapes.  It was all very orderly. They basically drew what they knew and saw every day.  I then began to do squiggles, lines, flicked the brush, wiped the colours across the page, moved myself and the paper in different ways and angles.

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As this took place the children began to ask if they could have another piece of paper and I watched as they then took what had been modelled in front of them and with great glee let the freedom of their imagination and creativity flow!

At the end of our time together I held up my artwork (Figure 1.) and asked – “What do you see?”  Some of their answers are below…

  • A galaxy
  • Spiders
  • Under the sea, like a coral reef place
  • Explosions
  • Ribbons
  • Birds flying through a storm

These were just a few of the ideas that came from the children as they engaged with the artwork.  Then I turned it and many new creations began to emerge from what they could see.

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Once we begin to value the gift of imagination I believe we will see the creative ability emerge more and more.  This is just one example of a very quick work with a group of children who were struggling with a number of complex issues in their lives who were able to dive in deeply to the seabed of imagination and surface with a tangible feeling of achievement in making something fantastic!  They all felt their day had brightened and that for me is what being a Redemptive Artist is all about, taking something not so good and seeing it transform into something great.

CREATIVITY,   CONNECTIONS,   IMAGINATION

That’s what I see.

These words embody the very essence of what it is that I want to communicate to children when I teach them about the power of their imagination and work alongside them to discover their ability to create.

(Please feel free to explore for yourself and replicate the session I’ve described here.  I’d love to know, “What do you See?”)

SHARON REYNOLDS, BIO:

sharon2Sharon Reynolds and her family live in Christchurch, New Zealand.   She is a mother, grandmother and an artist.  Sharon works in community within a variety of roles as a Redemptive Artist and delivers her gift of creativity to bring hope and healing to those places that need it most.  This has taken her around New Zealand to Papua New Guinea and USA to date sharing her experiences and helping others bring their stories to life in their own unique ways.

How To Improve Your Child’s Mood With Colors, by Sandi Schwartz

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For thousands of years, color has been thought to have power over our emotions. Artists, interior decorators, fashion designers, and advertising agencies utilize the meaning of different colors to influence human behavior and attract customers. By considering the lessons of these experts, how can we as parents use the science of color to guide our children’s mood? Does the color we paint their rooms really affect how happy they feel or how soundly they sleep?

History of color psychology

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, used color for healing purposes as far back as 2,000 years ago. This type of therapy is called chromotherapy, light therapy, or colorology, and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.

It is believed that color therapy uses the visible spectrum of light and color to change a person’s mood and their physical and mental health. Each color is part of a specific frequency and vibration that can affect certain energy, or chakras, in our body.

Practitioners also believe that certain colors entering the body can activate hormones causing chemical reactions that ultimately influence emotion and help the body heal. Red, for example, is used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation. Orange heals the lungs and increases energy levels. Blue treats pain, while indigo cures skin problems. Finally, green relaxes patients who are emotionally unbalanced and yellow invigorates those suffering from depression.

How color impacts mood

Psychologists have found that color can influence how we feel and can even cause physiological changes in our body. Keep in mind, however, that there are different interpretations of color’s impact on emotions depending on culture and circumstance.

Research shows that certain colors can increase blood pressure, metabolism, and adrenaline. Other studies have found that certain colors can improve sleep habits, boost memory, and enhance academic performance. One study discovered that seeing the color red before taking a test can hurt performance. Students who were shown a red number before taking the test scored more than 20 percent lower than those shown a green or black number.

Just as color influences our mood, it can also be used to describe how we feel. A study reported in the journal BMC Medical Research indicated that people with depression or anxiety were more likely to associate their mood with the color gray, while happier people preferred yellow.

Researchers at the University of California determined that young children chose bright colors to represent positive feelings and dark colors for negative feelings. They were even able to identify how specific colors made the children feel: red is for mad, blue is for sad, yellow is for happy, and green is for glad. Color can therefore be a very helpful tool in accessing children’s emotions instead of relying on them to tell us how they feel.

Institutions like the American Red Cross, St. Jude’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Scholastic incorporate this ability to connect feelings to colors as a way to better understand the emotions of young children. So if our children tell us they feel gray or blue, are seeing red, or feel green with envy, we will know what they are talking about can guide them through their emotions.

What each color means

Over time, studies have shown how different colors impact us in unique ways. Warm colors, such as red, yellow, and orange, stimulate emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger. Typically, warm colors make us feel happy and cozy. Bold shades of warm colors also help stimulate our mind and energize our body.

On the other hand, cool colors, like blue, green, and purple, relax us, but can also make us feel sad, especially if they are too dark. Despite their soothing nature, cool colors are not always welcoming and can leave people feeling removed and distant. Here’s a bit more about the impact and symbolism of colors:

Red

  • Excites and energizes the body, increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration
  • Creates alertness and excitement
  • Encourages creativity
  • Increases appetite
  • Can increase athletic ability, causing people to react with greater speed and force
  • Associated with increased aggression, an inability to focus, and headache
  • May be disturbing to anxious individuals

Pink

  • Evokes empathy and femininity
  • Creates a calming atmosphere
  • Can become irritating over time, leading to anxiety

Yellow

  • Associated with positive feelings of happiness and motivation
  • Encourages creativity
  • Soft, subtle yellows promote concentration
  • Bright shades stimulate the memory and increase metabolism
  • Too much can lead to anger and frustration

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

How to improve your child’s mood with colors

All you need is Love Bombing, by Oliver James, psychologist

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In March 2010 I received an email from Miranda. She wrote that her son Tim, nine, “seems to not like himself and has no focus. He says he hates himself and that he’s rubbish at everything”. A bright boy, Tim refused to do his homework and was prone to temper tantrums.

The solution I proposed was love bombing, a method I developed to reset the emotional thermostats of children aged three to puberty. It entails spending a period of time alone with your child, offering them unlimited love and control. It works for a wide variety of common problems, severe or mild; from defiant – even violent – aggression to shyness, sleeping problems or underperformance at school.

This is not the same as “quality time” – just hanging out with your child. When you love bomb, you create a special emotional zone wholly different from normal life, with new rules. More than 100 families have tried it, nearly all with positive results.

So, how exactly does it work? First, you explain to your child that, sometime soon, the two of you are going to spend time together, one to one, and have a lot of fun. Your child is going to decide what they want and when they want it, within reason. You give the message that this is going to be a Big Event: It’s Coming Soon … How Exciting! The child then draws up a list of things to do. It doesn’t matter if it includes lots of SpongeBob SquarePants: the key is that your child has chosen it.

Throughout the experience, you are trying, as much as possible, to give them the feeling of “whatever I want, I get” – of being in control and of being gratified, as well as bombed with love.

You may be thinking: Is he mad? My child is a tyrant – rewarding him like that is just going to make it even worse! This is understandable. Love bombing seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which often recommends more control, not less, when a child is not complying, and stricter, firmer reactions to undesirable behaviour.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/22/oliver-james-love-bombing-children

Autumnal Crafts to do with Kids, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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There are numerous positive effects which come from encouraging our kids to be aware of nature and the seasons.  Recently in our house we have done some Autumn related crafts, which I will share with you below.  Some of these were my own ideas, while others came from a book we borrowed from the library: Art for All Seasons, 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children inspired by Nature and Contemporary Artists, by Susan Schwake.  (For more information about this book, please follow the link here…   http://www.amazon.com/Art-All-Seasons-Kids/dp/0991293592).

Some of these Autumn crafts require coloured Autumn leaves, so they are also a great excuse to go for a walk in nature.  Teach your kids words such as “deciduous”  and “evergreen” and draw their attention to the different shapes, colors and textures of the leaves from various kinds of trees.  You may also like to create a box or tray of “Autumn things” at home, such as nuts, berries, various leaves and fruits.  (NOTE: make sure that none of the things included in this are poisonous and always supervise kids when they are examining these things).

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  1. Autumn Poems

Find some Autumn poems, preferably ones which are not too long and which appeal to children.    Read the poems aloud for your kids or have older ones read them out to younger ones.  You could also do an “Autumn Brainstorm” of words they associate with Autumn.  After this, the kids can write out the poems and decorate them with Autumn leaf pictures or actual leaves.  One of my sons found what he called a “skeleton leaf”, a leaf which was nearly completely  decomposed, and was quite fascinated by the appearance of it.  I was lucky, two of our children came home from school with poems.  Another fun activity would be creating your own Autumn poems.  If you have more than one child they could make up a line each of a poem, so it would be a “family Autumn poem”.

Poems our kids brought home from school and wrote out and decorated

Poems our kids brought home from school and wrote out and decorated

2. Photos of Autumn Leaves and Trees

While you’re out on your walk, have your kids take photos of Autumn leaves and trees.  You can follow this up by making an “Autumn Gallery” or Collage of their pictures and these can inspire drawings and other works of art too.

Autumn Collage FY

3.  A Seasons Chart or Poster

Drawing a poster or chart showing the four seasons and characteristics of each one is another good activity.  This can be incorporated into learning about any one of the four seasons.  You can also link it to learning about space, if you’re wanting to explain why different countries have different seasons at different times.  We live in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, so we have put the months of our Southern Hemisphere seasons on our poster.  For those operating in two or more languages, this offers an opportunity to use season and nature vocabulary in each of the targeted languages.  We have written our seasons’ names in English and Te Reo Māori… this could be extended to months and words associated with each season (hot, cold, colourful etc).

Our family's "Seasons Poster". The kids drew a season each. There are lots of variations on how you could do this, Looking up photos on things from each season ore cutting them out of old magazines would work too.

Our family’s “Seasons Poster”. The kids drew a season each. There are lots of variations on how you could do this.   Looking up photos on things from each season or cutting them out of old magazines would work too.

4. Autumn Trees At Night

These pictures of Autumn trees at night look really effective, but are easy and cheap to create.  Get some black paper and white crayons, as well as some colourful leaves picked up on your “Autumn walk”.  The kids then draw a tree trunk and branches in white and stick the leaves to it.  You can make individual trees or a whole “Autumn Trees at Night” forest.

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“Autumn Tree at Night”

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5.Leaf Rubbings

An “oldie but goodie”: doing leaf rubbings with crayons always looks interesting and effective.  Variations can include turning the leaf shapes into leaves on “trees” or using them to make shapes of other things (animals, houses, sailing ships… let your imagination take a walk).

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6.  Autumn Leaf Mobiles

Using “Autumnal” coloured paper, have kids cut out leaf shapes.  Fold the “leaves” down the middle, then fold them in a pattern so the folds look like the veins in a real leaf.  Thread the “leaves” onto cotton (older children can do this themselves, you use a needle) and hang on an old coat hanger.

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Folding paper leaves for an “Autumn Leaf Mobile”

Mobile FY

Autumn Leaf Mobile

7. Autumn Models

Make models of “Autumn stuff” out of clay or fimo.  “Autumn stuff” could include leaves, acorns, animals, worms… anything you can think of.  This idea came from Art for All Seasons, the book mentioned above.  Another idea is that your “Autumn stuff” can later be hung on a “tree” made of twigs.  To allow for this, paper clips can be put into the figure while the clay is still we, or a hole can be made and cotton put through for hanging later.  When your items are dry, you can paint them and, once the paint is dry, hang them or use them as Autumn ornaments.

"Autumn stuff" drying on a plate.

“Autumn stuff” drying on a plate.

We’d love to hear from you if you have any other great Autumn craft ideas to do with children.  There are probably lots more good ideas out there.  Have fun with these ones and enjoy Autumn!

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