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A Time for Giving

December 11, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Toy Donations

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the monumental statement of what it means to be human adopted through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This holiday season it’s important to remember those around us who struggle for their basic rights to a standard of living that ensures their health and security. In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that giving doesn’t just mean gifts, but also giving of ourselves to those in need.

Earlier last month, my husband passed a giving tree in the lobby of a building here in Chicago. Each tag had the gender and age of a child and what he or she was asking for. Standing there in that lobby on the way in between workday appointments he read the card for a three-year-old little girl. The request was for sweaters.

This past November, our daughter, Abby, turned three years old. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of clothes, toys, and general things she will be gifted this holiday season, not just by us, but by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here in the same city, though, another little girl will be lucky if a stranger helps her keep warm. My husband saw that card and felt for that little girl, knowing how much we have to be thankful for and remembering his own childhood and the way his mother struggled to raise two boys on a cashier’s pay. 

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness, but mostly, they are a time of giving. We give love and kindness to those in our lives and community who need it. Our daughter is just getting old enough to understand what the holidays are and what she can expect. We want her to always be more willing to give of herself than to take for herself. Such a value can be developed at every age. The following are some of the ways I’ve been able to find to help begin teaching children the importance of giving. 

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Talk to your child about giving to others and why it is important.
  • Work together to choose unused toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
  • Create a special donation bank where children can put loose change and have them choose a charity to give it to.

Elementary Students

  • Have your child pick out a special toy at the store to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar organization. 
  • Send a package to an American soldier through one of these organizations.
  • Visit a nursing home or a hospital.

Middle and High School Students

  • Volunteer as a family at a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Help organize a food drive at school.
  • Sponsor an impoverished child or family.

With each new generation learning to give to each other, hopefully we will help create a world where no little girls ever go cold. For now, at least, our family was able to help one more stay warm this winter. Find out more about what you and your family can do at organizations like Chicago Cares, the United Way, and the American Red Cross

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Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

December 2, 2013

By Stefanie Boron

Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

As you may know, this year in a rare alignment of calendars, the first day of Hanukkah occurred on the same night as Thanksgiving.  Someone even coined the term Thanksgivukkah! Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November. The Jewish calendar determines Jewish holidays so the dates change from year to year. Some years Hanukkah coincides with Christmas and sometimes it is earlier in December, but overlapping with Thanksgiving is extremely rare.

This occurrence might have changed the way some families celebrated Hanukkah this year, but our family chose to keep the holidays separate and celebrate Hanukkah a few days later. We still lit the menorah on Thanksgiving but didn’t combine the dishes or traditions. There wasn’t any sweet potato kugel or pumpkin matzo ball soup at my Thanksgiving table!

Hanukkah is referred to as the Festival of Lights, as we light Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle of the oil. When the flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was out, only enough oil could be found to relight it for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days. Because of this miracle, Hanukkah is a celebration of faith and hope.

Children and adults alike enjoy Hanukkah. Take the time this holiday season to celebrate the miracles in our lives.

  • Make it special. So there isn’t a Christmas tree, but there are lights and presents! Decorate the house, bring out the Menorahs and dreidels and invite family and friends over to celebrate. It is our holiday season as well, so enjoy!
  • Cook traditional food. Traditional foods are potato pancakes with applesauce or sour cream and chocolate Hanukkah gelt, which are chocolate coins. Latkes are fried in the oil that we are celebrating and remembering on this holiday.
  • Spin the dreidel. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for: A Great Miracle Happened There. Players usually play for pennies or Hanukkah gelt.
  • Celebrate all eight days. We celebrate for eight days because that was the duration of the miracle of the oil burning. Each night we light the menorah and say the prayers. We also exchange presents. Some families give presents every night, while some have one big Hanukkah celebration similar to Christmas morning.

After I get my shopping done I always look forward to Hanukkah! My house smells like potato latkes for days, but it is worth it!

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Teaching Your Child Language and Culture

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

ExpertAdvice_TeachChildCulture.jpg

As a parent, you have the power to control most of your child’s education. You can broaden the way your child interacts and learns in a primarily English-speaking school by exposing him or her to different languages and cultures at home.

To help your child understand another language, start by integrating words from the second language into English sentences. Work the new language into your child’s vocabulary by considering: 

  • Same and Different
    Point out similarities and differences in the words. 
  • Fun Sounds
    Sound out words that feel fun to say. Like singing, this helps your child learn the word’s meaning and the reason to use the word. 
  • Use the Senses
    Let your child touch, taste, smell, feel, and see things that relate to the word. It will help your child permanently remember the words better. 
  • Connect to Culture
    Connect the word’s cultural meaning by taking a field trip, leafing through a magazine, or listening to a song.

By naturally incorporating another culture’s practices—not just its language—into your child’s life, he or she develops not only a bilingual vocabulary, but also a comfort in the unfamiliar and a taste for adventure. To help your child learn more about different cultures: 

  • Eat
    Try new foods unique to a different culture. Explain which cultures eat that cuisine and show your child where the food comes from on a map.
  • Dance
    Learn a traditional dance routine with your child and talk about where the culture performs that type of dance. For example, your child can learn the different reasons that people dance by showing your child la plena, where the dance and song act as a live newspaper for the town. 
  • Listen
    Listen to traditional music connected to that language’s culture. Your child will learn different sounds. If you know the instruments that make those sounds, you can also teach them about music. 
  • Surf and Watch
    Many online sources feature videos that teach children other languages. Children’s television stations offer programming that teaches children vocabulary in other languages and exposes them to different cultural traditions, like Dora the Explorer. Start with stations like Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, or PBS. 

Finding cultural meaning expands your child’s worldview. The varied environment you provide at home will establish a strong foundation for the learning experiences ahead.

 

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

New learning opportunities for your children abound on a typical day, but when a special holiday approaches, it can be one of the most memorable ways to teach some of life’s greatest lessons. A holiday such as Thanksgiving can provide abundant ways to learn. From teaching its origin through stories and activities to developing emotional and social activities that, in time, become cherished lifelong traditions, you can use this time to connect with your child in meaningful ways.

If your family or your children were not born or raised in the United States, it is a great way to learn Thanksgiving facts and traditions. Appreciating the intricate details of history makes for a greater understanding of your immediate community and the world.

Here are some ideas of Thanksgiving activities for you and your child to enjoy together: 

Tell Stories
Share the story of the first Thanksgiving dinner with the original English settlers and Native Americans. This story can help even your youngest child remember the true meaning of the holiday. Use words like “exploration,” “feast,” “celebration,” “families,” “neighbors,” and “sharing” when discussing the story. In my family, we pause before each meal, whether it is a holiday or not, to reflect on what we have, which makes it a more natural practice at Thanksgiving. See National Geographic Kids for a brief story, which includes photos of people and artifacts.

Give Thanks with Notes
As the holiday approaches, hide thank you notes for other members of your family to find, and encourage your children to do the same. These notes can say anything from, “Thank you for taking out the trash,” to “Thank you for being a good listener.”  

Draw Pictures
If your children cannot read or write yet, they can still participate by creating a special picture by tracing leaves and then coloring the shapes in. You can leave them notes with smiley faces. These will remind him or her how much you appreciate them. Read this inspiring article of how writing shapes your child in more ways than you may think.

Donate to Charity
It is also a wonderful time of year to make a list of local charities. Your children can help organize a drive for food, toys, or clothing at their school or playgroup. Inspiring them to take action will make them conscientious citizens who aspire to help others. It is exciting to see how these activities awaken a desire to ask more questions.

Share the Cooking Process
Making a list of ingredients, shopping, and finally, preparing a favorite Thanksgiving recipe will give you together time, a learning opportunity, and unforgettable memories. 

Memories are made through these emotional and social activities, but they are most remembered by the hands-on activities during the holidays. By using age-appropriate tasks, everyone in the family can feel they have contributed to the Thanksgiving feast, and when the food is finally served, it will have taken on a much deeper significance.


Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

 

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