Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stone Barns Center on Gardening with Kids

Gardening is a favorite activity of ours with the kids, whether simply digging up weeds in the dirt or growing a garden. So naturally, we focus on family gardening for the final week of our Summer Activities month. Family gardening can mean so many things so find what is most enjoyable to you and your kids. We reached out to Jack and Shannon Algiere, Four-Season Famers at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture for their thoughts and suggestions. Having spent lots of time at Stone Barns with the family, I knew they would be ideal "helpers" for this story yet it is beyond what we even expected. Enjoy and get out and dig in the dirt with your kids! You may see the feature story on tada! shop here.

Why should we garden with kids?

Gardening with kids is a great way to maintain a connection to nature as a family.

The sensory learning that we experience in the garden through texture, form, smell, and taste supports developmental cognition in early education. Gardening can articulate many educational subjects and themes—science, social history, cultural identity, technical systems, math.

When kids become part of the process, they develop an appreciation for healthy food. As a personal example, our kids may be picky at the table, but when they are in the garden, they’ll graze all day on berries or spinach. Being in the garden and involving kids in the process of raising food brings a level of respect and appreciation to food and a working knowledge of food sources and whole nutrition.

Gardening builds confidence through seeing the process from seed to the final result. It is also community building on an intra- and interpersonal level. Nature, food, spiritual elements and human interaction come together. Even more so, we’re acknowledging our place within a greater ecosystem.

How do you get started? What are specific projects to do with children, from container projects to full-on gardening?

Projects are so place-based dependent. First, assess your environment. What are the growing capabilities, where are the light sources? Kids can get actively involved in making observations about their environment. Second, choose what is best for you. Are you going to start your garden in-ground, in raised beds, or in containers? (If so kids can help choose containers). Third, test your soil. Soil tests are a great kids activity from collecting the samples to reviewing the results. Fourth, source your soil. Whether you are using soil or compost or a combination of both, get kids actively involved in choosing what you will use and make sure to explain way. Fifth, make a garden plan. Decide what you and your family want to grow in your garden. Kids can read seed catalogues and help place orders. They can also help create a map for how you hope your garden will look once you get started.

Are there garden tools you recommend for kids?

Rubber containers in different fun colors (rubber is not too hard or dangerous for little hands), little garden rakes, leaf rakes, hoes, a watering can, labels, a little wheelbarrow, wagons, a magnifying glass, gloves and dump-trucks—our kids love to load them up with weeds or vegetables and find areas to deliver and dump them out. (see Jack and Shannon's complete list of products here)

Any advice for parents looking to include gardening into their summer activities?

Some great activities that kids love are:

· Taking a trip to a local farm or greenhouse and sourcing seedlings for your garden.

· Making labels for different plants in the garden.

· Planting seeds and watering.

· Using a magnifying glass for bug identification (beneficial/pest).

· Harvesting plants and placing things into a bucket.

· Look for local farms like Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to volunteer, take a class, or just take a look at what we have.

· Start a group and go berry picking together.

Jack and Shannon are our guest editors on tada! shop this week. Be sure to read their story and shop their thoughtful list of recommended gardening products for kids. The list includes everything from rain boots ("sometimes the wet summer days are the most fun") to the perfect set of kid's garden tools.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Julia Samersova, Planet Awesome Kid

We love The Sartorialist's photos and wish he would do more kids, so we were so excited to find Planet Awesome Kid who tracks...well...childrens' street style! We met up with Julia Samersova, a founder of Planet Awesome Kid, to hear more on what they look for in a look. "Anything can make an outfit, a hat, a scarf, a scooter, a sticker, a ball, a musical instrument, a hairstyle, a barrette, a pin, a smile.
Planet Awesome Kid is not about pristine perfectly matched, but rather self expression at its best. Our Q&A with Julia...

1. What do you look for when photographing children? What makes the outfits stand out?
Organic Chemistry! I just know it when I see it! It can be a child's energy or the way they put something together that an adult would never even dream of! It is so awesome to find and endlessly inspiring!

2. What combinations have you seen on the street that has caught your eye?
I love a mix of patterns, fabrics, femme with tomboy, playing with proportions! I saw a girl at the park last week rocking the coolest faux hawk made out of her own braids and rocking the coolest neon yellow t-shirt and a floral skirt. It just made me stop in my tracks. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera that day.

Also, I am really into 1990's baggy jeans on girls right now, so cool after years of skinny jeans! Also, love a neutral, 80's Japanese Designer inspired look on a kid. Maybe a black asymmetrical skirt and cool black turtleneck for this Fall. It comes down to personal choices.

3. Is there one item you see on the street that parents must have in their kids wardrobe, or should splurge on as it can be worn a million different ways?
You must have GREAT outerwear! Blazers (for girls & boys), you can rock it with skirts, dresses, pants, shorts. It’s timeless, yet so cool! I would splurge on a good blazer! Love when the sleeves are rolled up, Miami Vice-style :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Reading

As we settle into summer, we are trying to figure out how to make reading part of our day. We want it to be that our kids want to read, not a chore (as it is summer!) but fun. We asked two sources who are experts in the kids reading field to help us. The kids department at Powell's Books (the most amazing bookstore in Portland, OR where my cousin worked and I literally had to stop myself from buying due to luggage space!) and the wonderful Brooklyn Public Library. We hope you find their tips as insightful as we do and they help get your kids reading!



How would we encourage kids to read this summer (and forever more)? As the mother of a toddler, I say, "Monkey see, monkey do." Parents who read for pleasure themselves set the best example.

Go to the library or the book store with the goal of picking out one book for each member of the family. Unplug the TV, take off the iPod, and turn off the computer for a pre-determined, set time and make this your "Everybody Reads Hour." Read to the little ones, or have older children read with them. Let everyone pick his or her own special chair, pillow, nook or spot in the yard to read, and provide a simple snack & refreshments. This doesn't have to be every day, just as long as everyone knows when it will be and the preparation is a family endeavor. The important thing is to make it fun & let kids decide as much as possible about their reading time. Putting reading on a "to do" list or making it a contest may backfire: nobody likes chores, and contests are usually only fun for the "winners."

Making individual charts, goodreads profiles, or reading journals can be fun, but talking about what you've all read will probably make a more lasting impression. Maybe a meal-time round-robbin in which each family member talks about what he/she is reading?

Pick out a chapter book to read aloud as a family in the evenings or on long car rides. Plan to do something to celebrate the end of the story, like a meal with dishes inspired by the book. Get friends or extended family members to read the same book & have a party with the book as a theme. Holidays and vacations are good sources of interesting subjects. Look into fiction & nonfiction about your destinations. Do some literary sight-seeing: visit authors' historical homes or see places described in favorite books and keep a literary photo-journal. Karen B. and I have traveled a lot together & we always make it a habit to visit the local independent book stores & libraries in small towns. Libraries (and librarians) frequently have information on local points of interest, and independent book stores usually stock local authors.

In terms of choosing books to interest your kids, my motto is "guide, don't decide." Autonomy is really important in building a kid's interest in reading. Here's a common scenario: the parent wants the kid to read Roald Dahl, the kid wants to read Pokemon. I say compromise. Sure, the Pokemon books are fluff, but if that's where the motivation to read for pleasure is, let the kid pursue it without comment or judgement. Then, read the Roald Dahl together.

As for recommended reading lists, we don't have specific summer ones. We have many bookmarks divided by age & interest, but for summer recommendations here in the store, we tend to fly by the seat of our pants.


Tips for parents of school age children:

* Ask the Children's Librarian to recommend books based on your child's interests and reading level. Encourage your child to try the book, but don't force it.

* Let your child browse in the library and choose her own recreational reading. Remember that we all like to relax with some light, fun reading sometimes.

* Encourage your child to look in the nonfiction section. It's ok to prefer books about real things rather than stories.

* Continue to read aloud to your child. Hearing new vocabulary and stories will help him or her grow as a reader.

* Providing books is not enough. Talk about what they are reading. Studies show that discussion is essential in gaining comprehension skills.

* Join the library's Summer Reading program. New Yorkers of all ages can post book reviews, create an avatar, and earn virtual badges. The Brooklyn Public Library also has a game children can play all summer long, collecting stickers and winning prizes for reading and visiting the library.

Tips for early childhood, from our website:

In Your Home

* Read with your child every day in the language in which you're most comfortable.

* Keep books and magazines handy for your child to play with and read.

* Be a model reader. When your child sees you enjoying books and magazines, she'll be eager to read too.

* Talk to your child when you read together. Ask questions like, "How does the boy in the story feel?"

* Make reading come alive with funny voices, sound effects and gestures.

In Your Neighborhood

* Read cereal boxes and other labels with your child in the supermarket.

* Read the signs on buses and trains.

* Go to story times at museums, zoos, botanic gardens and the library.

In Your Library

* Borrow audiobooks and CD kits, and listen together on-the-go.

* Join the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program at your library to receive free books.

* Go to early reading programs like Babies & Books, Preschool Story Time, Story Play and Toddler Time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Guest: Carina Scott, Nonchalant Mom

We have been obsessed with Carina since seeing her in Domino magazine ages ago and love her approach to life, the products she stocks her store with, and well, her! She fills her blog with inspiring ideas for kids activities so we figured what better person to weigh in on the SUMMER ROAD TRIP!


Last year we took the time to go on an extended car trip around the Great Lakes, our destination was an Island on a lake in Northern Minnesota and then back to Rhode Island in two weeks. We drove the Trans-Canadian Highway through the tops of the Great Lakes, it's kind of funny even when you look at the map, there is ONE road through Canada and while you are on that road it certainly feels like it's the only road for miles around. We stopped to eat from 'chippie trucks' whenever we could and then we hit local diners and such for dinners. As soon as you come down through Thunder Bay, Canada and back in the USA it's an immediate change of scenery, and instead of just driving through beauty, you can feel the change in the United States. Roadside stops in Grand Marias really stood out for their smoked fish sandwiches and small health food stores.

Just in case you think that you need to prepare yourself for a trip like this, we are here to say that you don't! (although it IS a good idea, it's not necessary). So if you find yourself with some time this summer, without plans, and not much money I would completely suggest a car trip. And don't worry, your kids will be so excited about the trip that you won't need to plan for entertainment as much as you think you do! Let them in on the map directions (I would even get a map so that the kids can follow the progress on their very own), finding signs for directions, exits, and number of miles to the next stop. When things start to get rowdy in the back seat, make a pit stop, let them help clean the windows on the car, take a bathroom break, and even take the moment to chew a stick of gum, you will be amazed at the troopers that you have along with you!

Our drive took two weeks and we had to hustle it on the way back a bit, so give yourself time to relax and drive at a good pace so that when you stop you can enjoy yourself a bit and not have to take off early in the morning. We planned a mix of camping and staying in small hotels along the way and this broke things up a bit and worked out very good. We found the camping in Canada really amazing, beautiful and natural, while in the USA it was slightly more crowded. But if you do your homework on the towns in which you would like to stop, I am sure there would be a treasure in each day! The point is to not expect too much and just plan on keeping it cool with your family and rolling with the punches.

Wovenplay's Sun Suit is Carina's "favorite summer piece of all time!" and on her packing list!

As for what to bring, don't pack all the practical stuff you would 'think' that you would want on a car trip. In that I mean have some fun and bring the crazy stuff... On a road trip, this is where you are out of your element and have a good time! I have a friend who is an amazing Womens Clothing designer, she is super chic, always... when we traveled to Sicily together she would wear Prada to the beach, I thought she was nuts but really... if you have the stuff you just have to wear it, don't let it sit in your closet! This is especially true for kids clothes, they will outgrow it anyhow and you don't know how cool a totally worn out Makie dress can be while camping or playing at the beach, why not look completely amazing all the time instead of just for a wedding! (expensive also means that it's made well in my book!). We also don't bring along tons of games and things on road trips, yes, I think that the correct games and learning apps loaded by a parent onto an iPod touch is great, but on the other hand a slinky bought at a gas station in Des Moines, Iowa can become all the rage! (if you brought it along it wouldn't have that appeal). Our kids both have an old fashioned radio with earphones (we use these wonderful ones by iFrogz that are colorful and the kids LOVE!).

Good Luck and maybe we will see you this year as we plan to camp our way through the Grand Canyon... somewhere around there... let us know if you have any ideas!

Very warmly - Carina