Red Hats for Little Hearts

This post was originally published in December 2017


The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone and for those of us who craft, we tend to use that crafting skill as a cathartic outlet. For me, I have a lot of energy and so I crochet as a means to keep my hands busy and out of trouble.

It works most of the time.

I really enjoy making something for another person. I’ve made a Griffin, Phoenix, the Lorax, and Scrump (from Lilo & Stitch) dolls for various friends and family members. The look of joy that comes on the receiver’s face always thrills me considering the time, thought, and effort put into the project.

Because this week’s theme is about generosity, I wanted to highlight a personal project my mom and I did with our crafting. The campaign is in February, so I wanted to provide enough time to raise awareness and give readers a chance to create something.

This year my mom mentioned that there is a program that collects handmade hats for newborns to raise awareness for heart health. February is heart health month in the United States, so this campaign is meant to raise heart health awareness for mothers and their newborn children by providing handmade hats for the little ones.

These hats will be distributed to local, participating hospitals to all babies born during the month of February.

How to Participate

This page provides all the necessary information, but here’s the quick run-down.

  • Find your state and select a group participating in the cause
  • You may need to contact the coordinator to get more information on how they want to receive the hats and their personal deadline
  • Make as many hats as you want and send them out before the deadline
  • If you are not a crafter or don’t have the time, consider donating to the American Heart Association

Restrictions

  • Hats will need to be simple, so please do not add any bows, pom-poms, or flowers to them (these pose choking hazards)
  • Currently, this program is only in the United States, but I have a couple of links below for other yarn-craft donation programs outside the States

Knitting Patterns

Crochet Patterns


Other Crafts for a Cause

If you make some hats (or participate in another project) be sure to post a picture of it in the comments below. I would love to see how they turn out!


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Photo Credit: Michelle Melton

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Early Childhood Education Blogs

For any parent wanting to teach their toddler at home, an essential resource is the variety of education blogs on the internet.

Twenty years ago it would be a trip to the bookstore to find a book among whatever the store had to offer. The publisher would vet a resource before printing to ensure the information was accurate and achieved a specific goal. Now we can search what we might need/want on our phone within seconds because anybody can put anything out there.

Therefore, finding a reputable resource can be difficult. Some blogs use tactics to shoot up to the top of the search results, which means that just because it’s on the front page of your favorite search engine doesn’t mean it is a quality resource to use. Often you have to dig to find meaningful results.

Not all parents go to school for early childhood education, so we aren’t familiar with the milestones necessary to teach before preschool. The researcher training I received means that I know that I can’t stop at the first set of results. I need to be sure whatever information I walk away with is credible.

I don’t want to be teaching him incorrectly or placing an expectation on him before he’s cognitively ready because the blog has their months/priorities wrong.

What you’ll find below are some tips for vetting your research to determine if a blog is worth following or if they are spreading misinformation. Operating under the belief a child should be learning something before they are ready can make the task of preparing them for school frustrating.

How to Vet a Blog

There are several steps I follow to determine if a blog or article is credible, especially if it’s on a topic I am unfamiliar with, like childhood education. Many of these suggestions seem like common sense. Still, even I’ve been guilty of skipping a step or two, only to find a resource isn’t credible later.

Pre-Research Steps

  • Go to the experts first. Determine what your national standards for a particular age and their recommendations are. I find these sites can be a bit stuffy for their ideas, which is why I branch out into the wilds of the internet.
  • Decide what you are looking for: activities or material for teaching.
    • Activities do not need as much vetting. Before you start the project, you can determine if it will be age-appropriate or doable.
    • Material for teaching is where it gets dodgy. If your child is interested in Space, you may find that you stumble upon a set of blogs that advocate for alternative theories on planet shapes. Even the ones that promote mainstream ideas may have incorrect facts that you inadvertently teach your little ones. 

Vetting a non-scholarly/non-expert blog

  1. Search for the activity or material you want to do with your little one. Read the blurbs underneath the site header on the search page to determine what the site will offer before you click on the link.
  2. Once you click on the site, make the following observations. These are all meant to help you determine the resource’s motivation for getting you to visit their page:
    1. What is at the end of the domain address? Is it a “.com,” “.edu,” or something else? My blog is a “.blog” for reference. This observation will determine the type of site you are visiting. Anything that isn’t .edu/.gov/.org (though .org can be problematic at times) means that the site is commercially run. It doesn’t mean they aren’t an expert, just that they may have other motives to draw you to their website ($$$).
    2. What do you see when you first visit the site? Are you met with pop-ups to join a newsletter? A bunch of ads (if you don’t use ad block)? Cluttered layout? None of these are bad on their own, because they earn the blogger money. Still, it helps you determine their monetary motivation. If you have to join a newsletter to get the resource, the blogger may spam you or try to sell you something.
    3. Is the resource sponsored? Many bloggers who want to remain reputable will disclose the sponsored post. If the post is sponsored, is it a company you are familiar with? If it isn’t, again, not a bad thing, but you may want to do a more thorough check to determine if the product is worth getting or if you’re going with an analog. If the blogger does not disclose sponsorship, but it is clear that’s what is happening, then consider finding another resource.
    4. Check to see if there is a clear bias on the page: this can be a belief system, lifestyle, or product recommendation. Again, none of these are bad, but it might affect the material or activity you want for your little one. It is just something to be aware of as you set it up/do your research.
  3. Check the length of the post. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, but I do find there is a healthy balance in some of my favorite resources. If a post has too many pictures before getting to a very short blurb on the activity, I am less likely to stay and use that specific resource. Likewise, if the post is too short, and I need more information, I’m going to go elsewhere.
  4. Does the information match up with the pre-research you did on the actual expert blogs? If not, but it looks like something you could use later, it would be worth bookmarking until then. But be mindful of all the other information posted on the blog.
  5. See if they link out to other resources within the post, especially if you are looking for teaching information. I try to link out to other blogs/resources as much as I can to demonstrate my ethos and commitment to quality blogging. This isn’t super important to your vetting process, but it may mean that they are a blog worth following for future ideas.

It may seem like a lot of steps to go through to determine a blog’s relevancy, but it’s worth it because it can weed out the bad information. Many blogs you stumble upon on the first page of a search are there because they deserve to be, but sometimes you manage to get a less reputable one in the mix.

Below are my current recommendations for some favorite childhood education blogs.

I was not compensated in any way to include these blogs. These are purely my recommendations from my research and experience.

Expert Blogs (US Only)

How to Teach Toddlers at Home

Preparing Toddlers for Preschool

Fun Educational Activities to do at Home

What are some of your favorite bloggers out there? I am always looking for more recommendations to add to my reading list. Leave a link to your blog (or someone else’s) in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Canva


Outdoors for Urban-Dwellers

Living in a major metropolitan area makes having daily access to nature a challenge. While we’re lucky enough to have a wooded area near our house, but I know that not everyone is so lucky and wanted to compile ways to increase one’s exposure to nature.

Growing up in a rural area I learned to appreciate all that nature had to offer, but because Jai is going to grow up either in an urban or suburban location (unless something drastically changes), he’s not going to have the same amount of exposure I did. So bringing nature inside will be one task I will want to do as much as possible for his sake.

Bring Nature to You

Here are some simple and easy ways to bring nature to you to help you with reconnection. I didn’t want to limit it to adults with children, so you’ll find all of these suggestions work for adult-only households:

  • Container Gardening: a great way to create your own produce, especially if you live in a food desert or want to know the origin of your fresh vegetables. You don’t need a yard to have a container garden, as a window or balcony can afford you enough space.
  • Potted Plants: you don’t have to have a green thumb to grow and maintain potted plants. If you are worried that you’ll kill a plant, buy a succulent. They tend to be really difficult to kill.
  • Nature walks & classes: find a local nature preserve and check their class schedule. Most have outdoor classes for adults and children on the weekends with a suggested donation fee. Learn a new skill and get yourself out in the wild.
  • Remove the blinds and curtains: if you can, keep your blinds/curtains up all the time to allow for maximum sunlight in your space. Choosing to use the sun for light sources can also be soothing.
  • Picnics in the park: have a park nearby? Why not bring some food and blanket for a quick picnic. Perfect for any day, especially if you work on the weekends or have a tight schedule.
  • Wading pool: For adults and children. Nothing feels better than filling a wading pool in the heat of summer and dipping your feet in.
  • Centerpieces and home decor: If you spend enough time outdoors, consider creating a centerpiece for your table of the interesting sticks, rocks, or leaves you find interesting. Dry flowers and arrange them according to the season with found river rocks in the vase bottom.
  • Companion animal: this is pricier and more time intensive AND dependant on allergies, but consider adopting a companion animal. Animals are known stress-reducers and their wild natures can bring the outside in for you (especially walking the dog). Reptiles are great for places that might have pet fees or those with allergies.
  • Fruit picking trips: If you can, look to see if there is a local farm where you can pick-you-own fruit. It’s a fun experience and a great way to discover fun recipes with the leftovers.
  • Nature Arts & Crafts: I have a flower press that my dad made me when I was a child. I used to press the flowers and leaves I found to make cards or bookmarks. Finding a cheap flower press and making art with dried pieces is a great way to reconnect with nature and a fun gift for a friend.

What do you do to bring nature to you when it’s hard? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography


Make a “Day of Service” a Year-Round Event

In the United States, today is a day of service meant to honor the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many people have the day off, so it’s easy to coordinate events for people to volunteer and do good within their community. There are plenty of opportunities to go out and do something specifically for the day. These tend to be small time commitments meant to make the most of the volunteers’ work.

Yet, it is only one day out of the year set aside for helping others. Consider expanding commitments to be a year-round thing if capable, double/triple/quadruple the good throughout the year. It doesn’t need to be every week or every month; if committing once every other month is possible, it still goes a long way to help others.

Making the commitment to do something more has its place, specifically for your health. I’ve already mentioned that there’s a lot of positive health benefits for a person who is generous with their time for others. And being generous to themselves. It also sets a great example for your children to do more within their community when they get older.

Below are some ideas for honoring Dr. King’s legacy throughout the year.

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