Saturday, December 28, 2013

Winter Books and Play Ideas from The Kid's Co-Op

Living in a climate where snow is really rarely makes me even more appreciative of winter books and play. Snow-inspired play and stories are sometimes the only way to really experience "winter" as a family, and so we love reading our favorite snowy books and exploring creative winter play. Here's 5 picks from last week's Kid's Co-Op featuring fabulous winter books for children and some awesome winter play ideas. We can't wait to make our own pinecone winter fairies. 

Now it's your turn to link-up and play!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Spreading Joy from California to Texas and Back!

Our Kindness Countdown to Christmas (and G'Ma's house!) officially ended yesterday, of course, with a prompt to share candy with individuals working at the airport on Christmas Day. We certainly brought smiles and happiness to many faces as the boys handed them candies and wished them a Merry Christmas or said thank you. 
On the plane, too, Caterpillar ran up and down the aisles (when it was safe to do so, of course) saying hello to people and also wishing them a happy Christmas. Again, this brought smiles to many faces. What amazed me the most is that my youngest (Caterpillar) rarely talks to anyone he doesn't know and sometimes avoids talking to even people he does know. He's my introvert, but on Christmas he was spreading joy and cheer!

I must admit I'm a bit sad for our Kindness Countdown to be done. Watching the boys wake up each morning eager and excited to see what our adventure for the day would be and happily undertaking each task is something I will miss. I'm already planning 14 days of loving-kindness in February! 

What I also noticed was that this daily practice, focus and emphasis on kindness and caring for others spread --- just like joy. For example, one day when Wild Thing was organizing all of our shoes (that's one of his "jobs"), he noticed that there were some shoes that were not really worn by any of us anymore and asked if we could share those shoes with "brothers and babies that didn't have any shoes." And this is just one example of many. 

I've loved being a part of A Season of Giving: 31 Days of Joy not only because the joy I've seen it spread in my family and beyond, but also because I've drawn inspiration and joy from the other participants, so I hope you'll check out what others have been doing to spread joy too.  For more inspiration, also check out our Acts of Kindness post from last January too!

Wishing you joy and peace in the new year -- from our family to yours! 
Caterpillar and Wild Thing with fruit and bagels to give to a homeless man in our community.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Things That Go: Christmas/Winter Edition 2013 {Kid's Co-Op}

Car and train play happens regularly at our house, and I often create transportation-themed activities for Wild Thing (4) and Caterpillar (2). They love all "things that go"! My husband and I love the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, so I often think of that when I write about my transportation-loving little ones.  If I want to keep the boys occupied and happy, planes, trains and automobiles (play experiences, not the movie), does it every time!

Last year around this time, I was in the middle of a Things That Go series on the blog and decided to do a fun Things That Go: Christmas Edition featuring our favorite Christmas-related transportation books, a milk jug sleigh (pulled by dinosaurs instead of reindeer), sensory snow plow play and much, much more -- check it out

While looking through the Kid's Co-Op last week, several transportation-themed activities caught my eye, as did some unique homemade gifts that would work well for little ones who love things that go. 

My Nearest and Dearest shared a fabulous list of the 20 Best Christmas Sensory Bins, which included some fun construction and train Christmas play. 

P is for Preschooler also shared Christmas Sensory Play that featured some fun transportation-relation options as well as 10 Unique Gifts to Make for Kids at Christmas, including our DIY Train Table (that can be made for under $50) and her very cool catapult! (Our train table is almost 2 years old and the boys STILL love it!) 

Pink Stripey Socks has a DIY Felt Board that would be another wonderful  homemade gift. I love her cute car and Christmas tree! 

Buggy and Buddy shared two ideas that my boys would love: A Snowy Toy Car Ramp for Indoor Play and an awesome Marble Run.

Bonus Share: If you have a train lover, you have to pop over to Play-Trains for so many wonderful ideas for Christmas and winter-themed train play, as well as gift ideas! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tot School: Letter K Through the Five Senses

Our Tot School approach has involved focusing on one letter each week and exploring that letter through all five senses with preschool level activities integrated into the learning experience so that both of my boys (Wild Thing - 4 and Caterpillar - 2) can participate. We've been having lots of fun, and I'm excited to share all we did for the Letter K last week. 

Let's start with things we can see -- Kites! Since we live relatively close to beaches, Wild Thing and Caterpillar love kites, which we almost always see when we go to the beach. I checked out Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand, which is our Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge pick. (I should have shared it last Saturday or this past Sunday, but am a bit behind, so I'm just mentioning it here). The boys love reading this book, and it went quite well with their Letter K color by number sheets.

For Wild Thing, who sometimes does not nap or naps for much less time than Caterpillar, I also drew a simple additional color sheet and wrote a short story to go with it tracing some of the letter K words so that he could get some writing practice. He absolutely loved it! 

Our story: Mom kindly kissed Sky as he flew his kiwi-colored kite as his kid brother kicked the ball at the park. 
Lots of letter "k" words and lots of fun for Wild Thing. 

I love that when he colored his kiwi-colored kite, he colored the kite kiwi green and the flags on the string of the kite brown, since the outside of the kiwi is brown. Too clever. 

Speaking of kiwis, I bet you can guess what we focused on for taste and smell: kiwis as well as kohlrabi, which came in my Abundant Harvest Organics farmshare basket that week -- perfect timing. 

We did a tasting of both and loved that both offered interesting textures and scents as well as flavors, since both the kiwi and the kohlrabi needed to be peeled before they could be eaten. The boys discovered that they liked kiwi, which they had never tried. I discovered that I liked kohlrabi, which I had never tried. I also discovered that I could make a yummy smoothie that used both. (To me kohlrabi tastes a bit like a mix between an apple and carrot). 

Kiwis are also wonderful fruits for practicing real life skills as they are soft and easy to cut. Wild Thing did some practice with a safe knife and Caterpillar LOVED using the egg slicer to cut his kiwi. 

As for what we could hear, well for that we had to do kisses! The boys loved it, and we had lots of fun giving each other kisses. 

Wild Thing also pointed out that K is for Kindness as we went to our special calendar each morning to do our Kindness Countdown to Christmas. They are certainly getting into the spirit. 

They were so excited about the fruit and bagels we prepared to give to a homeless man who lives in our community. (Oh -- and sorry to those of you in cold weather climate. Yes, I did take these photos in the middle of December. Yes, my boys are barefoot).  

We're on to letter L this week and are almost done, so I'm hoping to be sharing those explorations soon! 

You might also like:
Tot School: Letter B
Sibling Play: Kitchen Time!
Tot School: Letter G

Monday, December 16, 2013

Compassion: My Word for 2014

I've been thinking about the importance of compassion for awhile and the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy this past Saturday certainly brought it to mind again. At first, I thought my word for 2014 would be "listen," but I've realized that it will be compassion, which can only be nurtured in myself and fostered in the world through listening, so the two go hand-in-hand. 

So many words and thoughts and emotions were stirred up over the weekend as people remembered the events at Newtown in their own ways. I "listened" as people shared acts of kindness done to honor the event, shared calls to action, and shared thoughts and data about continued gun violence. As I listened, I thought about grief. Right now, I find myself thinking about 367 days of grief. For surely, for the families, grief must still overcome them. I look at my own two young sons and cannot even bring myself to imagine what my life would look like, feel like, if I lost them. 

Numbers kept circling in my mind, particularly those shared by Slate -- 26 children killed at Sandy Hook, 27 school shootings since then, 310 million guns in America, somewhere between 11,437 and 33,137 gun-related deaths in the last year (it is estimated -- firm numbers are hard to verify), $231 million dollars spent by the NRA, $2.8 million by the largest gun control organization, 6 -- the number of votes that kept a bill to expand background checks from passing (60 yes votes were needed, 54 yes votes were obtained), despite 77-91% percent of Americans agreeing with the need for this bill. (Many more numbers fill my mind). 

But even without reading those numbers, my mind already swirled with the continued loss of life that happens daily in connection with anger and hate. My mind kept circling back and back to the importance of compassion, empathy, kindness, community. Surely, those traits are part of the solution. Surely, we can create a more kind and compassionate world. Surely, we can reduce hatred and anger, from which such acts stem. 

As I looked at the numbers more and more, I realized I didn't even need the numbers. I only had to look at my immediate community. Last week, in the suburb closest to our tiny town -- a suburb named as one of the safest cities in America (#37, I believe), two people were killed in a shooting related, it seems, to a domestic dispute, and just a day before the Sandy Hook anniversary, there was a school shooting at the high school in the community of a writer I know personally, in which the result seemed lucky -- only the shooter died that day, turning his gun on himself. A young girl is in a coma, and I cannot imagine the suffering of her family right now as they wait to see if she will awaken.

I wish I had concrete suggestions, guarantee solutions, firm "answers," but I have none. 

I decided a few years ago while running an after-school program, that when I didn't have the "answer" -- when I didn't know how to "help" a student, how to deal with a child who carried around, already, way too many burdens -- that I would always just give more love.

I figured that, when in doubt, the world could always use more love. I find myself again circling back to that idea, understanding the need and value and importance of more love and compassion in the world.

I was recently moved by some very personal shares over at The Good Long Road on Facebook, and it reminded me of the burdens so many of us carry in life, of the struggles and challenges so many have faced, of the suffering so many have experienced. For some, it is the loss of a parent at a young age, or sexual abuse, or the loss of sibling -- or a child. The list goes on and on. 

It reminded me that I must face the world full of kindness and love at all times -- even when my own burdens feel heavy, or I am simply tired or have a headache that won't go away, or a child who won't cooperate. I still must find a way to be a compassionate force in the world. I cannot know what suffering, what pain or even what demon the person I interact with is carrying with them. I cannot know where their anger or disinterest or bitterness comes from, and it is unfair of me to judge. 

It is easy to respond kindly when others are kind or to spread joy when others are cheerful. 

The challenge is to be kind and compassionate when others are not. Responding any other way only fuels the fire, makes the burden heavier, intensifies the negativity. Responding with love offers the possibility of a shift, even if I never see that shift or even if it never happens. A seed has, perhaps, been planted. 

When you act in kindness, when you act from a place of compassion, for a brief moment, at least, you spread love to those you encounter -- perhaps something they have not experienced for a long time, perhaps something they did not have even from their own parents, or perhaps something they lost through a tragic event like the one that happened in Sandy Hook. Perhaps a little bit of kindness, compassion, love or hope is something they are trying desperately to find. A small gesture might just help them along their way. 

And the bonus? When I respond with kindness, when I live my life from a place of compassion, I feel better. I see beauty and joy around me. I feel my own burdens, my own past struggles and pains diminish. It's actually quite amazing -- in fact sometimes it feels like a small, personal miracle, and isn't that what the season is all about? In the face of so much loss and so much pain, I found myself realizing that I must, now more than ever, focus on compassion. 

I'm ready to make 2014 a year of compassion. Are you? 

(P.S. You'll be seeing a shift here on the blog in 2014 that will reflect this emphasis on compassion. You'll see many more posts that carry this more personal type of writing and a shift away from activities. I'll still be doing activities with the boys and plan to share photos of our educational fun on my Facebook and G+ pages, but I want much of my writing time and blog sharing to be focused a bit more on words from the heart. I hope you'll keep reading or, even, subscribe so that you can join me on my journey to focus on gratitude, love (compassion) and responsibility in the new year! And, if you're still reading this right now -- thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me that you took the time to listen).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Building Strong Sibling Relationships Through Unsupervised Play

{Sibling Play Tips}

Sometimes it is the simplest moments that seem the most magical. 

We have a few calming, quiet and short videos that we will put on for the boys every now and then in their room in the evenings. They crowd onto one of their small mattresses together, cuddle up under a blanket and then we shut the door. What happens next is the magic -- no, it's not they are quiet and captivated by the video. It is quite the opposite. It is that I hear them babbling together -- sometimes about their show, sometimes not. The point is, they are all alone in their room, without toys even, sharing a very small and tight space together with NO fussing, fighting, pushing, or arguing. They are simply enjoying each other's company, and it always brings a smile to my face.

I love hearing them giggling together and whispering their little secrets to one another, and I love thinking that maybe, just maybe, my husband and I are doing something right! 

Our boys are just under 2 years apart in age, and they can have their moments. They can quarrel with the best of them, and there have certainly been toys and activities that they've lost privileges to enjoy because all they seem to do when they have them is argue. But, they are also learning to work it out. We try and make sure we give them opportunities for (safe) "unsupervised" play -- opportunities to feel that they have some privacy and the power to problem solve situations together and to learn to cooperate. It is not always easy to do this, but we're learning that it is important. 

Sometimes, they'll come ask me to intervene (or tattle), but I'll insist that they work it out. Sometimes, they come running to me for comfort, but I'll put them back together and gently encourage them to comfort each other. Sometimes, I simply shut the door. It sends a message -- that I trust them. I'm empowering them to help each other and forgive each other. Hopefully, this allows them to build a strong relationship with each other. It is likely that many, many years from now they will not have their father and I, but they will have each other.  

I started this sibling play series in April to replace my popular baby play series and what I appreciate about the series the most is that it encourages me to take note of what activities encourage positive play and cooperation between Wild Thing and Caterpillar so that I can nurture those experiences. It helps me to listen, and if I can listen, I can learn. 

Do you have more than one child? How do you foster a strong relationship between your children? Do you feel that providing children with privacy is important? Please share. 

Thanks for reading -- You might also like: 
Learning Empathy Through Sibling Play
Sibling Play + Letter I Learning Activities
Jell-O Sensory Play 
Pinecone Painting     

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jolly Jell-O Christmas Sensory Tray & 70+ Holiday and Winter Sensory Play Ideas from The Kid's Co-Op

Sensory play experiences offer engaging learning opportunities for children, especially toddlers and preschoolers. For Tot School, we're focusing on a Letter of the Week approach and exploring all five senses with each letter. Instead of sharing ALL of our Letter J activities on the blog, I've been sharing some on my Facebook page and on G+. We smelled and "painted" with Jasmine tea, had a fun juice tasting experience, and listened to jets on a recent trip. For sight and touch, I'm sharing our Jumble Jars and Jolly Jell-O sensory tray today, as well as "lots and lots and lots and lots" (as Wild Thing would say) of Winter Sensory Play Ideas from the Kid's Co-Op. Enjoy and then share your favorite holiday sensory play idea with me!

I made red jell-o and put it on a tray with jewels sprinkled in for the boys to find. Underneath our clear tray was our felt letter J. The boys loved touching the squishy jell-o, especially Caterpillar (2). We also added in some green fish-shaped ice cubes with Wild Thing squealing with delight that J is for jellyfish! Our jolly tray was complete as the boys explored the red and green mixture full of hidden gems. (And, yes, they went straight into the bathtub afterwards as they were sticky!) 

We also created and explored jumble jars. Our jumble jars and the jewels were the letter J items we could see as we explored the letter J through our sense of sight. This also gave us a chance to introduce a new vocabulary word to the boys: jumble, which is such a fun word to say!
Caterpillar, particularly, enjoyed emptying and filling up the jars over and over.
The J jar on the right was initially filled with milk caps with letter J stickers on them.

Now for all of the wonderfully fun and creative winter sensory 
play ideas from The Weekly Kid's Co-Op last week! 

Gift of Curiosity shared 12 Christmas Sensory Play Ideas, including our very popular Dollar Store Christmas Sensory Bin

Baby Play Winter Themed Sensory Explorations and a Simple Winter Tot Tray from yours truly!

Another baby sensory play idea from Natural Beach Living: Santa's Treasure Basket.

Christmas Sensory Play and Small World Train Play from Little Bins for Little Hands.

Fantastic Fun and Learning shared a fabulous Decorate a Tree Toddler Sensory Play Activity.

Another great Christmas Tree Decorating Activity was shared by Buggy and Buddy,  who also shared Snowy Christmas Tree Small World Play too. 

Living Montessori Now highlighted December Themed Activities for Kids and Montessori-Inspired Christmas Cards. For more Montessori-inspired sensory activities, also check out Racheous' round up of DIY Montessori Christmas Activities.

Another great round up is Mamas Like Me's Hands-On Holiday Sensory Activities.

For play dough and cloud dough play, check out Peppermint Cloud Dough Sensory Box from Kara's Classroom, Eggnog Cloud Dough from My Nearest and DearestCandy Cane Play Dough from KC Edventures, Happy Hooligans' Cookie Activity Tray with Christmas Play Dough and Play Snow from Danya Banya

My Nearest and Dearest also shared some Simple Christmas Sensory Play too. 

Fun-A-Day shared a fun Candy Cane Sensory bin and Christmas Contact/Sticky Paper Art

Christmas Sleigh Exploration - a fun sensory bin alternative from Suzy Homeschooler, and 10+ Snowman Activities shared by Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails. 

Bonus Share: Sensory Play Ideas for Extending Stories from Growing Book by Book for anytime of year! 

I'm sharing this post at Montessori Monday and Tuesday Tots

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What We're Reading Now: An Animal Strike at the Zoo! {Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge + Virtual Book Club for Kids}

I loved putting together my Indie Book Gift List and sharing some fabulous gift guides recently. One of my favorite gift guides that I shared is from Stir the Wonder, who shared Experience Gifts for Kids such as museum memberships or camp experiences. These our the types of gifts our family loves. As I finally get caught up on both my Virtual Book Club for Kids post and Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge, where I share what the boys and I have been reading this past week, I realized that one of our favorite library books this week would be a great gift to give alongside a zoo membership!

Animal Strike at the Zoo (It's True!) by Karma Wilson is a book we discovered through the Virtual Book Club for Kids, which we absolutely love being a part of because we've discovered so many wonderful authors through it. 
This book is lots of fun and, as always with our VBCK books, we found ways to Move, Eat, Draw and Learn with this book. The boys loved moving like the animals in the book, including refusing to move like the animals do when they are on strike! 

We also had a fun snack time in which we ate peanuts and pecans (like the elephants) and oats like the zebras. 

For our art project, Wild Thing and Caterpillar created their own zoo! I love this activity for the way it encouraged the boys to practice using scissors. This animal alphabet wrapping paper that I got at a garage sale for 25 cents is a big hit at our house! We also get Ranger Rick Jr. magazine each month, which the boys love. We often use those for projects too, like the zoo collage you see here and our Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? art project.

Our learning activities with this book were literacy games and activities focused on the word: Zoo. Wild Thing loves finding double letters in words. Any time he sees two of the exact same letters next to each other, he gets very excited. We've already discussed that the double "O" often makes an "oo" sound, as in boo, zoo, noodles and oodles. So, we played rhyming games with the word zoo and practiced spelling it. I think I might have a future spelling bee competitor on my hands because already at age 4, Wild Thing loves to spell a word for me and then take a bow! 

The other half of Project 101 involves me sharing what book I've been reading from the library. I am terribly behind in sharing the books I've been reading. In fact, I'm so far behind that I've decided to just wait and do an end of the year post where I share many of the books I've been reading lately altogether to get caught up and as a way to share some inspirational reads for others to consider for the new year. 

In the meantime, I'm sharing a book that is currently at the top of my "TO READ" list: Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy by the fabulous Deb Chitwood of Living Montessori Now and Bits of Positivity. This eBook is not only at the top of my list because Wild Thing and I are on the cover (though that is really cool, isn't it?), but because I truly believe in the value and importance of teaching children to be gracious and courteous. 

You better believe I'll be reading this book soon -- I've already snuck a few bits from it and love it! I hope you'll check it out too. It just came out yesterday and is already the #1 homeschooling book on Amazon! (OMG - Maybe Wild Thing and I will be famous!) 

It's your turn. What are you reading? Do you have a favorite Karma Wilson book? Please share and check out all of the other great activities and Karma Wilson books shared through the Virtual Book Club for Kids! 

Psst...I also shared this at the Kid Lit Blog Hop

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Holiday Tradition: Spreading Joy Through Random Acts of Kindness - Kindness Countdown to Christmas 2013!

Plus Fabulous Christmas Countdowns from The Kid's Co-Op

Better late than never...with 19 days left until Christmas (or until we see G'ma again, as my boys will tell you), we're finally sharing our Kindness Countdown. An important family holiday tradition for us is spreading joy through acts of kindness. Last year,  we had a Random Acts of Kindness Adventure. This year, we're doing a kindness countdown. Our family's daily act(s) of kindness bring us together and remind us of the importance of spreading joy and cheer during the holiday season, rather than focusing on wants or getting caught up in the "Gimmes," (pop over to Imagination Soup for more on limiting the gimmes). 

I came up with the acts of kindness by asking friends on Facebook, through my personal profile and The Good Long Road page, and loved the responses I got. Plus, you can see from our "Kindness Countdown Tree" that it doesn't take lots of fancy stuff to make a fun countdown tree. We used simple items we happened to have at home (a large apple produce bag and holiday cupcake liners) and the boys love it. As a fan of recycled materials and simple crafts, I love it too! 

December 1 - Smile at everyone you meet 
December 2 - Give fruit to the homeless shared by ALLterNATIVE Learning
December 3 - Buy coffee for a stranger
December 4 - Help someone (we turned on our "magic eyes" that day to find people to help).
December 5 - Give a candy bar(s) to construction workers 
December 6 - Open doors shared by Creative Family Fun and The Educators' Spin On It 
December 7 - Help someone in a wheelchair
December 8 - Make eye contact with others/acknowledge others 
December 9 - Leave water and a snack for the mail carrier shared by Sow Sprout Play 
December 10 - Make and give out paint chip message cards/happy notes - a fabulous idea from Sidewalk Blessings
December 11 - Wear silly masks or make funny faces while stuck in traffic - another fun idea from Sidewalk Blessings
December 12 - Clean up around the house
December 13 - Bake and Mail cookies to the troops
December 14 - Give Hugs (this was Wild Thing's idea)
December 15 - Send or give encouragement to a mother 
December 16 - Make a homeless care kit - inspired by Pennies of Time

As for the rest, well, I wrote them on the cards and stapled the cards shut before I wrote them down for me to share here. Oops! I'll be sharing those acts everyday beginning December 17th on The Good Long Road's Facebook page, so make sure you've liked the page.

I do know our final act, though, on December 25th - give out candy canes to employees we encounter at the airport, since we're traveling on Christmas Day we thought we would spread some holiday cheer! 

If you're inspired to do some acts of kindness of your own or have a holiday tradition that involves serving others, I'd love to know. Share it with me in comments and if you've written about it, please share it as part of A Season of Giving: 31 Days of Spreading Joy hosted by Kids Stuff World

I also loved these Christmas Countdown shares from The Kid's Co-Op last week: Christmas Book Advent from House of Burke and Christmas Countdown Activities and Free Printables from Living Montessori Now

Don't worry about the date if you haven't started a countdown yet and still want to, just go for it! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

{Ten for #GivingTuesday} Ten Ways to Kick Off the Season of Giving!

I have a dream that one day Giving Tuesday will eclipse Black Friday. I've shared my dream of people camping out for a cause and have revisited last year's popular Black Friday confession poem for a local newspaper. I've also (happily) discovered that others share my vision! Check out this video of families lining up to donate the $200 they saved on Black Friday to a favorite charity on Giving Tuesday. 

I hope you're inspired to join the movement. Let's spread some joy and make this holiday season truly a season of giving. I'm excited to share ten ways to get involved as a family and love that I'm sharing this as part of Kids Stuff World's inspirational blog hop: A Season of Giving: 31 Days of Spreading JoyEnjoy my "Top 10" below and then tell me what you'll be giving.  

1. I'll be obvious with this first one: Just Give! Yep, pick a charity, go to their website, click donate and give. It's super simple. Select the charity together as a family and ask everyone in the family if they would like contribute some of their personal money. Many organizations have large companies or donors promising to match donations today, so you're $10, $25, $50 donation can go a lot further. This can be encouraging for children who may think their money won't make a difference. You can share this simple (and real) example of how something that starts small can grow. Today, I'm donating $42.45 to No Kid Hungry, which will be matched by Tyson, so my donation becomes $84.90 or 800+ meals for children in need. Neat, huh? 

But, that's just the start. Actually, my $42.45 is also being matched by my husband and my kids who raised that much through our coffee can challenge for Hunger Action Month, which is how I arrived at that amount, so my gift is really spreading its wings for a grand total of $254.70 for No Kid Hungry all because the boys and I collected spare change for one month. Not bad, especially when I consider that this will provide almost 2,500 meals for kids in need.

2. Do something cool! I have lots of friends who run for charity. Why not decide as a family that you'll do a run for charity in 2014? It could tie in well with a "get fit and healthy" New Year's Resolution. Need some other ideas? Take the plunge, like Stacy whose jumping into an ice cold pool on Saturday to raise $100 for the Special Olympics (if you click through you can support her). Another friend is cycling from Toronto to Montreal in support of Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (click through to support). You can also play games. is a favorite site of students I've worked with who love to show off their skills while also earning rice to be donated to those in need and has loads of ways for children to get involved and give back.

3. Cook - I love cooking and baking with my sons. When I heard from a fellow "giver" that their family always bakes extra homemade bread and pasta dishes to have on hand to give to tenants, friends, or colleagues in need, I was sold. Perhaps who know a family with a loved one who is ill or someone who recently lost a job, giving them a meal or even a batch of cookies made at home with love can go a long way. For me, Giving Tuesday is about showing you care and not necessarily spending money. 

4. Commit a Random Act of Kindness - Buy a stranger coffee. Give candy canes to everyone you see until you run out. Take the time to acknowledge and respond to those you encounter in your day to day actions. Encourage your child to eat lunch with someone who is sitting alone. It matters. The possibilities are endless! 

5. Invite others to give too - I love the way that Pennies of Time made one of their family service projects a community engagement activity by creating posters and asking neighbors to join them in supporting Captain Hope's Kids. It worked. This allows two levels of giving: 1) giving more to Captain Hope's Kids, 2) giving others the opportunity to give. (People really do enjoy giving and helping others. It is literally proven to make people happier). 

6. Swap out the Elf on the Shelf for Kindness Elves like the Imagination Tree did (you have to pop over and see how cute her elves are too!) - These elves leave notes of kind acts that children can do and encourage kids to help others and to practice kindness and generosity. I personally prefer this emphasis on acknowledging good behavior, rather than threatening to tell on kids that are bad. Celebrating your children's kindness nurtures their interest in giving to others -- and you might be surprised at their own desire and ideas for helping those in need!

7. Hang Out - Join the Google Plus Giving Tuesday Hang-Out-A-Thon happening from 9 am - 9 pm EST to share ideas and ways to give and spread joy! 

8. Volunteer - Even if you can't jump up and volunteer today, contact a local non-profit in your community and see how you can get involved and help. My mom is ringing the bell for The Salvation Army this year! (There are definitely organizations that can accept families and children as volunteers, so don't be shy to ask and find ways for your kids to be involved too). Also, think about your specific talents. My husband has taken photos and video footage of community events for free. 

9. Shop - If you are a shop-a-holic, that's cool too. Check out this guide of Gifts that Give Back. I personally love TOMS shoes, one of my fave gifts that gifts back, and definitely see the joy in giving (and receiving) One Hope Wine. What I love most is seeing more and more companies committed to giving back. Another spin on this? If you have a child that loves to make hand-made items or create art, work together to arrange for a sale of their hand-made goods with the proceeds (all or a %) going to help others. I've been inspired by young people in my local community doing this recently. 

10. Share - Sharing and giving go hand-in-hand. Children understand this. The Giving Library's Share to Give Campaign encourages giving through sharing. You share a video on Facebook or Twitter and the organization whose video you've shared will receive a donation. Simple! Don't forget to also share about the ways you're getting involved with Giving Tuesday because it will encourage others to give. Tweet/Instagram/Facebook share an #Unselfie - it's simple. Just take a selfie that includes a sign stating why you're giving, then share, share, share! 

Bonus Idea: Go Global - If you have a child interested in the world/maps/geography, head over to the Global Giving site to find a project to support that is in a country or area of the world of interest to your child.

Need more ideas? Check out last year's Ten for Giving Tuesday post where I shared inspiring blogs about teaching children to give, follow my Season of Giving Pinboard, and check out and follow along with A Season of Giving: 31 Days of Spreading Joy for family service projects, inspirational activities and simple ways to make a difference this holiday season. 

Before wrapping up, here's three quick picks. I'm supporting these organizations for Giving Tuesday: No Kid Hungry (as mentioned above), The American Cancer Society in honor of a brain cancer survivor who made a difference in my world this year, and p.h. balanced films because I truly believe that media matters. I'll also be tweeting and FB sharing and #SpreadingJoy all day too!