Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, reading, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Woodland Adventure Handbook

Review: Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is a book I reviewed for work that I thought some of my readers might like.

It’s a little handbook about family activities to do in the woods. Adam Dove using ideals from UK “forest schools” and makes them approachable for parents and teachers. Learning through play is not a new idea by any means but it is becoming increasingly popular. TInkergarten, Montessori, and others have grown in the last decade. Why? I think the standards and pressures for what children are supposed to know when has become almost excessive. Parents are trying to find alternative ways of teaching that don’t require young children to sit at a desk 8 hours a day.
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Each section has a story, followed by how to set up for the upcoming activities, then games and things to create that go with the story. At the end is a wrap up of what was learned.

For example, section 5 is called “Magic potions and wizards’ power wands”. The story at the beginning is just explaining the ingredients needed to create the potion that can only be used to help others. It says to follow stick arrows and footprints. So, before you go out in the woods with your children you make stick arrows and footprints that lead to the things they need. They follow it, create potions, craft wands, and play a game.

It’s a really cute book with some new ideas for any parent wanting to do more outside and get more involved with your child’s education. I would think the target age range could be anywhere from 3 to 7. Possibly a little older if you make it more elusive for them.

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Posted in Education, Library, literature, Opinion, Poetry, reading, teaching, Uncategorized

Thunderstorm poetry, the best of

I’ve said it before, I’m not a huge poetry fan, but there are some that really stick to me and I just keep rereading over and over. I did a post about “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowing Evening” awhile back and I think nature poems can just move you in a way that a story can’t. I saw this post and wanted to share it.

 

The best poems about storms Weather is a perennial theme of poetry, and not just nice weather: more violent and extreme weather, such as storms, thunder, and lightning, has produced some classic poems, as this list of the best storm poems aims to highlight. Sir Thomas Wyatt, ‘Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei’. […]

via 10 of the Best Poems about Thunderstorms — Interesting Literature

Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
accurate breakfast cereal froot loops box unchanged

This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

Image result for trisodium phosphateImage result for trisodium phosphate

I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

Image result for uh what gif

Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

Image result for jacked up on mountain dew meme

But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

Image result for food labels no sugar percentageImage result for food labels no sugar percentage

I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, parenting, toddlers

Sports and ADHD

 

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it.

School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (Note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive has ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).

It has been proven that children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing too many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.

What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.

What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.

This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work with others. Below are options for both.

 

Martial Arts:

young children doing karateBenefits: teaches self-control, discipline, individualism, accomplishment, respect

You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.

 

Swimming:

Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually

Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.

Gymnastics:

Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well

TImage result for gymnastic toddlerhe only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulse control problems and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers, it may be something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.

 

Horse back riding:

Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal

This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally, but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.

Soccer:

Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment

As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.


Baseball:

Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline

My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children, baseball may not be the best fit.

 

Basketball:

Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment

There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serImage result for basketball elementary schoolious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.

 

One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.

 

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.


By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.


For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.

 

COOKING/KITCHEN

If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.

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You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)

PNK-Header-image1

 

DOCTOR/VET

I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.

 

 

KING/QUEEN/KNIGHT/PRINCESS

Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

10-Beautiful-DIY-Crowns1
Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.

 

 

 

SUPERHEROES 

Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).

 

SCHOOL
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!


This is a great article with some more ideas.

 

Posted in Education, history, Library, pop culture, Uncategorized

Black Cats & the Black Death

Another interesting historical tidbit that will hopefully inspire the desire to learn more. I received a lot of positive feedback about the Mad Hatter post so I thought I would hurry up and do another one.

cats

I am an animal person. Being a librarian, I kind of have to be a cat person. It’s a prerequisite to get into a Library Science program. So, from my research and gatherings of cat history over the years I have learned that cats became domesticated sometime around 7000 B.C. in the Middle East. Wild cats are found all over the world except in polar regions. They aren’t natives to Australia but were introduced by Europeans and are now considered a huge pest. The Australian war on cats is a whole separate post topic to be honest.

Cats were worshiped in many cultures, and even mummified in ancient Egypt. In Africa, Asia, and even in most Germanic tribes, cats were kept as pets to help ward off vermin and for companionship.

They weren’t completely without contempt however; the saber tooth tiger, and other largecats2 cats, created a fear of “man eating cats”. Which, back then, may not have been false. The Celts had legends of shape-shifting cats. Cat Sidhe or Cait Sidhe, could transform into a witch. They could also steal the souls of the dead before they could reach salvation. So, not a pretty picture of them there.

After Pope Gregory IX came to power in 1227, he was considered well liked for the most part, at least in the beginning. He was fierce in his beliefs and started to do some questionable things to cats3defend them. In the 1230s he called Vox in Rama, which expressed that black cats were part of satanic cults and represented Satan. Yes, thee Satan.

At the time, many “witches” and even a few “wizards” had been burnt at the stake for suspicion of witchcraft. Decades of cat killing began.

The Middle Ages, which is about 470-1450 A.D., was rampant with witchcraft accusations and the murder of hundreds of men, women, and children. Women were the most susceptible to the crime and along with them were their cats. More precisely, black cats.

So became of this decree? In 1346 trade ships anchored in Sicily. The ships had just returned from a voyage to Kaffa, which is present day Ethiopia, and were filled with items from Asia. Sailors aboard started to have these large, black, boils erupt on their skin. They were painful and covered their bodies, along with high fevers and (unbeknownst to them) internal bleeding. The pain only lasted a few days however, since most of them died quickly. These were the first European victims of the bubonic plague, or the Black Death.

The plague was spread from a bacteria that lived in the bloodstream of rats. Fleas would bite the rats then spread it to humans. Or, if a rat just bite a human they could bypass the flea altogether. Without as many cats roaming the streets and killing off wild vermin (rats for instance), the rodent population skyrocketed. It took about five days for an infected person to show any signs. Most infected people did not know they were sick. That means they were walking around, talking others, and infecting others unknowingly.

Illustration of Victims of Bubonic Plague from the Toggenberg Bible
Painting shows a scene of people suffering from the bubonic plague in the 15th century from the Toggenberg Bible. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The bubonic plague was one of the worst epidemics this planet has ever had. It killed thirty percent of Europe’s population with its peak years being 1347-1351. This is estimated to be twenty-five to thirty-five million people. The crowded cities of Europe were great breeding grounds for the plague to spread. With no cats around, and no way for people to know at the time that’s how the disease spread, it seemed unstoppable.

The only logical explanation that could be thought of at the time was that the plague was punishment from God for all of mankind’s wrongdoings. First the Jews were persecuted for bringing the plague to kill off the Christians. Because it only makes sense that they would start a disease that also killed millions of Jews. They were expelled from parts of Europe and even killed from this accusation. Pope Clement VI thankfully used common sense and put an end to that. So the next logical explanation were the Gypsies, the Turks, and of course; witches.

cats5With the fear of new outbreaks of the plague, witch hunts ensued for decades after. The most murderous years took place during 1500’s to the 1650’s. The plague did have several small outbreaks arise, which only furthered the ideals of paranoia among the general public and the substantial need to continue these witch hunts.

 

 

Finding a total number of people killed for suspicion of witchcraft in Europe is almost impossible. Many of the court records are long gone, many of the convictions were not documented anywhere at all. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe by Brian P. Levack estimates the total is under 90,000. Depending on where in Europe someone was accused may have meant the difference of life and death. In some areas only 10-15% of the accused were put to death, while in others, like Switzerland, 90% of the accused were put to death.

So how were witches spotted? Basically if you were a single woman over the average marrying age you were probably a witch. If your neighbor didn’t like you, you were probably a witch. If you were succeeding at life, you were probably a witch. If you owned a cat, petted a cat, fed a cat, or just looked too long at a cat; witch. People would claim that black cats would sneak into their homes at night and turned into a witch (someone in their community) to harm them. Many people did confess to this but most were under some sort of physical torture or knew it was coming.

 

 

 

Today, there is still a depleted population of black cats throughout Europe. More visible though, is our association with black cats and witches. Around Halloween you can see dozens of decorations of black cats in witches hats and witches petting a black cat.