Best LGBTQ Books for Kids!

June is National LGBTQ Pride month, which is a perfect time to discuss community, family, tolerance and love with our little ones. Children’s books are an amazing way to start a conversation about the diversity of families. Here are my personal stand out favorites of books adding to the LGBTQ dialogue.

  • A Tale of Two Daddies  or A Tale of Two Mommies

Both of the books in this series takes a look at the roles of parenting and breaks down the everyday tasks of caring for a child. 

Both of the books in this series takes a look at the roles of parenting and breaks down the everyday tasks of caring for a child. 

  • It's Okay to be Different 

No one says it better than my good friend Todd Parr! "Its okay to have two moms. It's okay to have two dads." 

No one says it better than my good friend Todd Parr! "Its okay to have two moms. It's okay to have two dads." 

  • Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon

It's hard to find, but it is AMAZING!!! This coloring books takes the classic nursery tales and puts an LGBTQ spin on them! Amazing and hilarious!!  

It's hard to find, but it is AMAZING!!! This coloring books takes the classic nursery tales and puts an LGBTQ spin on them! Amazing and hilarious!!  

  • I Am Jazz

A true inspiring tale of an activist. Tears people....tears.

A true inspiring tale of an activist. Tears people....tears.

  • Morris Micklewhite and the Tangering Dress

Morris embraces his own uniqueness on his quest for space. Doesn't get much better!!

Morris embraces his own uniqueness on his quest for space. Doesn't get much better!!

  • Families, Families, Families

No matter what your family looks like, family is family.. This is an adorable book!! Children love the colorful illistrations and the message is incredible sweet. 

No matter what your family looks like, family is family.. This is an adorable book!! Children love the colorful illistrations and the message is incredible sweet. 

  • One Dad, Two Dad, Brown Dad, Blue Dad

With entertaining rhythms, we follow Lou as he examines different kinds of families.

With entertaining rhythms, we follow Lou as he examines different kinds of families.

These are just a few examples of amazing books which take on the topic of diversity and inclusion. If you are looking for more, please check out the Association for Library Service to Children. They have an entire lists of amazing LGBTQ books for readers of all ages. Also, don't forget that even though June is National Pride month, these classics are classics year round.

                                        -Ms. Giannini

KooKooKangaroo-4-ever!!

As I looked around the crowded venue I didn’t know what to expect. It was Comic-Con and I was there to see Aquabats. Five minutes into the show, I realized that I had discovered my new favorite band. What I didn’t know was that I had just met a band that would become the center of some of my favorite Yellow Room moments. The year was 2012 and the band was KoooKooKangaRoo.

When I returned to class in the fall, KooKoo became a staple of the Yellow Room. Every Friday we would unwind and celebrate the weekend with what become known as a “raging dance party.” While I’m not sure about the “raging” part, I can say that it was the most hotly anticipated part of the week. Not just for the kids, but for the teachers.

Little did I know that the weekly dance parties were also bonding the class. According to an article by Music.mic, “A new study from the University of Oxford shows that dancing together with others boosts health and wellbeing. Even rocking or walking in step with someone creates a feeling of emotional closeness. The endorphin kick from dancing in sync increases pain tolerance and boosts the sense of connectedness with those you’re dancing with.”

Not only were the dance parties creating friendships, the dance parties were creating synaptic connections. KooKoo inserts a TON of vocabulary, math, and science in their songs. One particular piece which stands out is in their song "No Crust." If you check out the dance video, Neil and Bryan have this sweet dance move where they cross their body as they "slice it and dice it." That simple act of physically crossing your midline is fundamentally developmentally appropriate for children. When a child crosses their midline with their dominant hand they're practicing:

  • Bilateral integration skills (using both sides of the body at the same time)
  • Core stability and trunk rotation: The muscles of the trunk that helps to stabilizing the body so the arms and legs can be moved with control
  • Hand dominance: The consistent use of one hand or foot most often that allows refine movement control to develop
  • Planning and sequencing: The ability to follow multi-step instructions to achieve a defined outcome or end point.
  • Body awareness: The information that muscles and joints send to our brain that tells us about our body position

This is just ONE example! I could go on...and on...and on. But I will just tell you to check out their website Kookookangaroo.com

Although I am no longer a teacher in the Yellow Room, I still thank than the band for giving me one of the greatest teaching years. Koo became such a fixture in our class that on our last day of year we went out in style with our own “Cat Party.” Memories created during those dance parties are still alive and well in those children who are now in second grade. Every time the band comes to play in our city we pull together a Yellow Room reunion, and dance how we did when we were younger.

                                             Ms. Giannini

Get Your Body Moving!

With summer finally here it’s time to get out and move! Physical activity is a crucial component in promoting healthy growth and development. When our little ones are active they are building strong bones and muscles. They are developing their balance and coordination, flexibility and posture.

But being active doesn’t just aid in physical development!

When are bodies are moving we are sending signals to different parts of our brain, improving concentration and critical thinking skills. As our little ones accomplish new physical feats they are gaining confidence. Playing active games with other children strengthens social skills. Children learn how to collaborate, take turns, and problem solve.

Parents, ever notice how your kiddo zonks out after a day at the beach? Well, high levels in activity in children releases stress and improves sleeping.

Too rainy or icky to go out and play? Have a dance party! Make a game out of it by playing Freeze Dance. Rock out until the music stops….then FREEZE. It is a classic. By far one of the most favorite games in the Yellow Room.

 

Not sure how much activity your little one needs? Check out this chart by Parents Magazine.

·  Infants (up to one year): Daily activity is important. Provide toys and simple objects that encourage them to move.

·  Toddlers (1-3 years): At least 30 minutes of adult-organized activity daily. At least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity—especially outdoors.

·  Preschoolers (3-5 years): At least 60 minutes of structured physical activity every day. At least 60 minutes of daily unstructured physical activity is recommended—especially outdoors.

What’s your favorite game to play with your little one? Add it to the comments below and let’s get ready for fun in the sun!

                                             Mrs.Giannini

Green Thumbs UP!

It’s gardening season and if you haven’t started planting seeds in the ground make sure to ask your little one for help. Gardening is a great, amazing, wonderful way to engage in some experiential learning. Through gardening your kiddo will be growing their math, science, fine, and gross motor skills. Did I mention it is a ton of fun? As we all know when fun and learning come together information sticks. Studies show that kids who engage in gardening do better on science tests in elementary school. If your garden is already in full effect no worries, you can still get the kids in on the action. Here are some tips and tricks for gardening with your little farmer.

 

  •  Ask questions! Why do plants need sun? What are the different parts of the plant? How does a plant drink water? Questions are a great way to insert science! From bugs to flowers ASK QUESTIONS! Not a bug or plant expert? No problem! If you’re not sure of the answer yourself ask your little learner where they think you can find the answer, then look it up together.
  • Make predictions! Ask how big they think each plant will get. Ask how many tomatoes they think they will pick by the end of summer. Make sure that you write their answers down and post it where they are able to see their responses. Providing them opportunities to reflect on their original predictions is super important. It is great for little ones to see that they can alter their final predictions based off running results.
  • Get some math in on the action by having your little one measure the plants once they start to sprout. In one of my classes we had a plant race. We each picked a plant and made “bets” on which would get to a certain height first. While it was the slowest race EVER the kids had a ton of fun and loved measuring the plants every day.
  • Play seed detective! This is one of my favorite games. Have the children examine and sort seeds. I would always pick four different seeds. When selecting your seeds think about different colors, patterns and sizes. Have the children work on sorting them into piles (fine motor and math!) then have them guess what will grow from each variety of seed. One, the answers you get are going to be hilarious. I cannot tell you how many candy plants I’ve had over the years. Two, this is a long exploration. As the plants begin to have distinct features make sure to have plant reference books so they can use the plants “clues” like leaf shape, to figure out what kind of plant it is.

These are just a few of the amazing gardening explorations you can dig up. Please make sure to plant your favorite gardening activity in the comments below!

 

                                                            -Ms. Giannini

How Much Does it Cost? And Don't Forget to Tip! - Tattoo Lesson Part 3

Welcome back to our final installment of Teaching While Tattooed. Now that you know the history of this wacky project it’s time to talk about how we managed to link getting a tattoo with learning math.

How Much Does it Cost….Don’t Forget to Tip

Subject: Math

·      Counting, Money Concepts, One-to-One Correspondence, Percentage

Once the mandatory 3-day waiting period was over the children were finally ready to get their tattoos. I would often act at the tattoo artist, as I was mostly likely not to mess up - no one likes a bad tattoo. Anyhoo, I would ask the children to tell me how much they thought their tattoo would cost. For some reason the answer was always $5.00. Occasionally one of the children would ask how much I paid for my tattoos. I would never tell them the exact price but I would always say, “a lot more than $5.00.” The children would often reply with, “Really? You paid too much.” Acting as a tattoo business owner I would tell my “customers,” aka the kids, that the price was a lot more.

I was able to alter the price based off where the children were developmentally. This individualized approached allowed me to create a personalized math lesson. It also provided me the opportunity to do an assessment of where each of the children were with their numbers and set a goal for the next progress report. With the price discussed the children would have to cut out money they designed earlier (working on fine motor, counting, one-to-one correspondence).

With the money in hand the children would meet me in the loft (tattoo station) to get their tattoo. Diving into pretend play the children and I took on the roles of this game seriously. We would make all the small talk normally had in a shop. The children would sometimes pretend that the stick-on tattoo would hurt, all the while giggling. With the tattoo complete the children would take out their money and pay the artist. The same question always followed. “Where’s my tip?” When we first started this exploration the children were unaware of the concept of this additional charge. Many conversations were had about the idea of tipping and how the tip demonstrates satisfaction with the work.

One of my favorite moments happened at the end of this exploration. One of the children asked the price for their tattoo, she went to cut out her money and when I checked her count there was an additional 5 extra dollars. When I told her she had $23 dollars and her tattoo was only $17 she told me: “You did such a good job last time I knew you should have a good tip.”

The tattoo exploration happened almost 7 years ago. It is still in my top 3 of my favorite explorations. It was so rich, so personalized. It provided the children opportunities to express themselves in ways normally not seen in a classroom setting. The children owned that project. Every part allowed them to build off existing knowledge and engage in authentic experiential learning.  

I learned a lot about myself during this exploration. I became more confident in myself and my teaching ability. I learned that it doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside, it doesn’t matter that I am covered in tattoos. My tattoo don’t dictate what kind of teacher I am, my heart does. 

                                     -Ms. Giannini

 

Week of the Young Child

April 24-28 2017 is the Week of the Young Child! Every year the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) draws public attention to the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. Every day during the week holds a different theme supporting early childhood development. While many schools, centers, and museums celebrate the week, the NAEYC website provides tons of ways you can celebrate at home. 

Lets get started!

Music Monday

Music does wonders for little learners' development. Here are just a few examples.

  • Music stimulates language development in infants and toddlers.
  • Through clapping, finger plays, and dancing, music helps with spatial awareness and gross/fine motor skills.
  • Songs help children learn to share and take turns.
  • Music is a great way to work on math skills through counting, patterns, and sequencing.
  • Music has the ability to improve and strengthen memory. 

Make sure to check out The NAEYC website for activities you can do surrounding music and family fun! Also visit my twitter page @gianninirachel for a list of Chicago music activities.

Tasty Tuesday

Cooking is a wonderful opportunity for families to spend time together, but did you know that your kiddo is also working on so many skills?

  • Through using utensils your little one is working on finger strength and fine motor skills.
  • Math and cooking go together like PB&J. Measuring, shapes, and fractions are all present in the kitchen.
  • Verbal communications strengthen when a family cooks together.
  • When a child is engaged in the kitchen they are able to explore their senses and are actually more likely to try new foods.  

What is your favorite meal to cook with you little one ... perhaps, mac n cheese? Share in the comments below! 

Work Together Wednesday

Ahh building and tinkering...one of my favorite family activities! I could go on and on about the benefits of tinkering. Instead, checkout No Small Matter's visit to the Tinkering Lab at the Chicago Children's Museum.

Artsy Thursday

Let's get messy!! It's art day! Art is an amazing way for little ones to explore and play.

  • When your little artist is working they are crafting stronger language and emotional skills.
  • As they use their little fingers they are working on serious fine motor skills
  • Art helps children to develop decision-making skills.

Want to think outside the box? Try making your own paintbrushes! Check out Josh Derbas at the Chicago Children's Museum for some open ended art ideas!

Family Friday

Nothing is better than family time. Check out Saleem and our Power Play 2 spot if you don't believe me! Studies show that children in families who spend time together have less behavior problems and they do better in school. However, it can be difficult to find activities for the entire family. Check out the NAEYC website for tips on how to plan family fun! 

Don't forget to take a picture and share your Week of the Young Child fun on social media! #woyc17 #nosmallmatter

Make sure to checkout No Small Matter's Facebook page for live feeds everyday from the Chicago Children's Museum!!

                                      -Ms. Giannini

 

 

 

 

How to Fund Early Learning, with the Center for High Impact Philanthropy

WONDERING HOW TO MAKE EVERY DOLLAR INVESTED IN ECE COUNT? WE RECENTLY DID A DEEP DIVE WITH MOLLY SINDERBRAND, POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW AT UPENN'S CENTER FOR HIGH IMPACT PHILANTHROPY, ON HER WORK COACHING DONORS ON HOW TO CHOOSE RESULTS-DRIVEN EARLY LEARNING PROGRAMS WITH BULLISH RETURN ON INVESTMENT. 

NSM: Can you describe, in a nutshell, how the Center for High Impact Philanthropy came to be — and why early childhood education is a core issue area you encourage donors to give towards?

Dr. Sinderbrand: Ten years ago, a group of alumni from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania became frustrated that they did not have enough reliable information about how to effectively use philanthropy to achieve impact across a range of social issues. In conversations with the Dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2), they realized that there was lots of relevant information and evidence about impact in the academic world, but that information was not accessible or actionable for donors. The marriage of these two groups—and their interests—yielded the Center for High Impact Philanthropy. We are the only university-based center with a singular focus on how philanthropy can achieve greater social impact.

We understand that donors care about many different social issues, and in that sense, the Center is issue-agnostic: we believe there are high impact options to fund in many areas. That said, early childhood is a core issue for us for two main reasons. First, early childhood stands out because of its strong evidence base. There is a lot of rigorous evidence showing investments in quality early childhood interventions can have life-long positive effects, and that the returns on these investments can be high. Second, both donor and policy interest in early childhood has been on the rise, and that interest has bridged traditional political divides. The existence of many strong and diverse early childhood-related organizations means both that there are great existing opportunities to fund, and that there is willingness to fund further evidence-building and experimentation, which is a key philanthropic role in the social sectors. It is a right thing at a right time.

NSM: Early childhood education is chronically underfunded in many places — which can make it difficult for some programs to invest in measuring and demonstrating their impact, which then makes it harder for them to fundraise. What advice do you have for the funders that are considering investing in programs that may not have the massive datasets, of, say, Abecedarian Project or CAP Tulsa?

Dr. Sinderbrand: If a program is doing something new but promising, donors can fund program evaluation, especially as part of a longer-term relationship between the funder and grantee. Funding for evaluation and fidelity assessments (for scaling) can be difficult to find, so this could be an important way for donors to help. Otherwise, if a specific program does not have a lot of evaluation data, there are a few things to assess before investing:

  1. The model. A program might use a strong, proven model (or a variation of it). If a program has elements that have been proven effective, we don’t need another expensive, long-term study to prove that those elements work. Instead, ask if the organization implements those elements in a high-quality way. This leads to the second point.
  2. The commitment to quality assessment. Even if an organization does not have a lot of outside evaluation data yet, an organizational culture that is data-driven might still be present. Is the organization collecting data? If so, what? How do they (plan to) use the data? Are they self-reflective and committed to improvement?
  3. Organizational strength and structure. Does the organization have other funders? Does it have a strong enough structure to support the program(s) it is running? Does it build partnerships? In essence, is it sustainable, does it have a good business plan, and will it last?
  4. Community engagement. Does the organization work collaboratively with other partners? Does the target group want to use its services? Does it meet the needs of those it serves?

NSM: As a follow-on — why does the Center argue that “all impacts can be measured?” You list “love” and “happiness” as two examples that we actually can measure scientifically… which I think gets at part of the struggle for early childhood. (It’s just babysitting! It’s just soft skills!)

Dr. Sinderbrand: “All impacts can be measured” is a theoretical claim—they can be measured but it could be extremely difficult, or expensive, or we might not have adequate tools to do so. The idea is that we don’t want to dismiss an impact as unmeasurable. That’s letting ourselves (and others) off the hook for not measuring it. Instead, we need to get creative about how we measure—using proxies if necessary—and keep exploring our methods and if those practices get at the core concept we want to understand.

Dr. Sinderbrand's daughter Jocelyn browses the Center's High Impact Giving Guide.

Dr. Sinderbrand's daughter Jocelyn browses the Center's High Impact Giving Guide.

NSM: Back to the hard numbers — many folks have tried to nail down specific numbers for a return on investment for early childhood education — 2:1, 13:1, and so on. What number do you ascribe to, and how did you land there?

Dr. Sinderbrand: We don’t believe there is a single number. We say that “return on investment” in quality early childhood programming is generally high; this is based on the existence of positive estimates for several different programs. Each program often has a range of estimated return on investment, based on differences in populations served, effectiveness of implementation, and other issues. The preponderance of the evidence suggests potentially high returns to early childhood investments. But it is important for people to understand that these remain estimates: there are many different numbers calculated in many different ways, depending on what you choose to include in the calculation. Different outcomes may have different levels of evidence and occur at different times to different people, making them difficult to quantify. And though we do believe that all outcomes can be measured, it may not be possible or practical to monetize them. If they cannot all be monetized, then some impact is effectively “lost” in the final number. Focusing on a single number without understanding both the limitations and the strengths of this kind of analysis can lead to a false sense of precision and accuracy, as well as obscure the actual impacts to real people that are part of the number.

NSM: Every year the Center releases a “giving guide” for philanthropists. What programs would you like to call out for potential donors as worthy of investment — and how do you choose those recommendations?

Dr. Sinderbrand: We choose programs and organizations to profile based on evidence, scale, sustainability, and philanthropic on-ramps. We look for programs with evidence to support them—and organizations with a commitment to using evidence—that are sustainable. For our annual guide, we look for programs that have a scale and structure such that donors across the country (and the world) can get involved in relatively straightforward ways. Some early childhood programs that fit this description and have appeared in our annual guidance are Nurse-Family Partnership (a home visitation program for first time, low-income mothers), Educare (an early education program), and the Children’s Literacy Initiative (a teacher training program to enhance early literacy). We recognize that these particular organizations may not appeal to all donors, so where possible we mention other, similar programs at the national level, and try to give donors a sense of what to look for in a local organization that may be providing similar services.

NSM: We particularly love that you've called out two of our organizational partners — the NFP and Educare! Donors, take note. Thanks so much for taking the time, Dr. Sinderbrand!

Dr. Sinderbrand: You’re very welcome; thank you!

 

My Lunch with Todd

I’ve met a lot of amazing people in my life.  Individuals who have taught, guided, and inspired me. Todd Parr is on this list. As I write this week’s blog I am trying my very hardest not to “fan girl” out, but it’s hard when it comes to Todd.

Let’s start from the beginning, as it’s a very good place to start.

Several months ago Saleem Hue Penny and I shot a spot for No Small Matter about teaching unity, kindness, and peace. During the video Saleem gave a shout out to Todd Parr and his Peace Book, and tweeted a message to Todd. Much to our surprise, Todd wrote back! Within a week we had exchanged several emails and planned a trip to visit Todd in California.

For weeks leading up to the trip I was a ball of nerves. I made Chris, my director, drive around the block twice because I was too nervous to knock on the door. Meeting Todd was a big deal. His writing had impacted me and my classroom so massively that I didn’t want to disappoint him. As I climbed the stairs to his adorable home, all fears were laid to rest.

Before I even reached the door Todd was there. His smile overwhelmed me. All the nerves left my body as he gave me a massive hug. I instantly felt an immediate connection. Over the next few hours Todd was the best sport; having to deal with camera set ups, a cooking segment, and everything that goes into a production. While the videos we made are some of my favorite footage we’ve posted, the greatest moments happed when the camera was off.

We shared tales of Chicago, memories of restaurants past, and the success of our Chicago Cubs. We exchanged stories of our families and the people we love. We talked about life’s paths and the mystery and excitement of the future. Todd told me something during this chat that I’ve thought of every day since our meeting.

Todd explained that life has path, that the people we meet, that the opportunities which present themselves happen for a reason. It is important to take off the blinders and be open to the world around you.

Todd’s wisdom is reflected in his own path. From an assistant manager at a Taco Time, to a flight attendant, to a celebrated author. From sketching Snoopy to It’s Okay to Make Mistakes. Todd is the perfect example of what can happen to you when you follow your passion and are open to the possibilities of life.

“You can do anything that you want to do. It may take a little longer than you want, but don’t give up.”   -Todd Parr

 

                                                -Ms. Giannini  

We asked Chicago: Is there enough access to early childhood education?

The No Small Matter team recently hit the streets in our hometown of Chicago to ask everyday folks — including some educators and parents of preschool-aged kids: do enough families have good access to daycare and preschool?

Watch this quick video to hear what Chicagoans had to say - and let us know in the comments if you've had your own struggles to access childcare and preschool where you live.

You got to your destination...now what?

You finally made it to your destination. You survived the traveling part, but now what? Tring to find inexpensive, fun, family-friendly activities on vacation can be a stress all on its own. Here are some tips passed to me from family and friends that are guaranteed to insure a stress-free extrusion.

  • Go to the library. I know this doesn’t sound like a hot tourist destination, but it is a MUST when traveling with kids. Think about it. They’re free, they’re filled with families and locals you can ask about things to do and see. Plus, you might make some new friends. A friend of mine visited a library with her children on a trip to Costa Rica. Her daughter ended up playing with another girl. The moms got to talking, next thing you know the family invited my friend to their beach house for a playdate. Not saying this will happen to you but you never know. In any case the library has computers you can use to look up or print out materials Also, there’s usually a children’s area so the little ones will be entertained. It’s a win win!
  • Hit up local museums. As a MASSIVE museum fan, it is the first place I visit. Do research before you go. Find out about rotating exhibitions, hours, price, and accessibility. Always check to see if they have a stroller policy. That way you know if you have to travel light. Also, check to see if they offer a city pass. Most major cities offer a pass where you get into multiple museums for a huge discounted price.
  • Take public transportation as much as possible. It’s often cheaper than renting a car and it is a TON of fun for the little ones. Think about it, kids are obsessed with trains and buses. It’s more than a ride to them, it is an adventure. If you decide to take the public transportation, see if the city has an app. That way you can plan your trip out ahead of time and be updated on schedules and delays.
  • You know what’s free and awesome…parks! It is a great pre-nap, post-dinner activity. The little ones will get out ALL their energy and you can burn some calories too. When you are at the library make sure you pull up a list of local parks. The local park district often includes different amenities at each location. Try to find one with bathrooms and water fountains.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. A great time to do this is when you are traveling to your destination. It doesn’t have to be city specific either. It will keep little ones engaged, excited, and energized. Print out the hunt provided. Make sure to add your own objects too!
  • When in doubt, Google. Google is your best friend. If for some reason you have exhausted all the items on the list, simply look up local attractions.

Happy travels!! If you have your own tips please share them in the comments below!

                                                                                    -Ms. Giannini