Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Make Someone's Day Today

We lost a very special person in our town this year when our superintendent, Dr. Steve Mayer, was taken from us too soon.  He was a man who was in some ways larger than life, yet in other ways so completely down to earth.  And while many lives have been devastated by his death, maybe even more have been touched by the powerful ideas and movements that have come forth since the tragedy.

Within the days following his death, we learned of the many ways he touched people's lives beginning with his life at home.  Every morning when he said goodbye to his family, he would tell them he loved them and ask them to, "Make someone's day today."

Whose day needs a little brightening?
What a beautiful mantra to instill in your family and those around you.  And to him, they weren't just words- he truly lived by that ideal too, always looking for ways to improve his community by uplifting others.

At Moonlit Minds, we've become so inspired by this message that we've been repeating it to our own children everyday too.

October 5th is National Do Something Nice Day.  This got us thinking about how we could share the "Make Someone's Day" message with our readers too.  So tonight's activity is a simple one.

How can you make someone's day?

Like all of our activities, start by lying quietly in bed with your child at bedtime.  Take turns thinking of small ways in which we could brighten the days of the people around us tomorrow.

Every day we come into contact with a variety of people.  As parents, it might be our customers, store cashiers, managers, bankers, even total strangers.  Our children interact with their friends and teachers.  And we all see our families (hopefully) every day.

Could we...
  • give our little brother an extra turn on the swing?
  • let someone go in front of us in a long line?
  • greet the UPS driver with some cookies?
  • offer to help a neighbor with some yard work?
  • give up a parking space to someone who looks tired?
  • let your coworker know you appreciate their effort?

There are lots of ideas for simple acts of kindness, but tonight try to really visualize these acts actually happening.

Where will you be?
What will you say?
Whose day will you make?

Did your child have ideas you hadn't thought of?  What did this tell you about what might make his or her day someday?

Often, it's the simple ideas which might have the most impact and which are often overlooked.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

Share and inspire

We want to hear from you.  Leave a comment below with ideas for how you or your child made someone's day.  Also, you can always find us on Twitter or Facebook!

More importantly, if you like this activity, please share this with others using the buttons below.  Imagine the difference it would make if everyone began treating one another with kindness. 

This is the legacy of Dr. Mayer.

Please enjoy this short clip of him speaking about this idea he was so passionate about:


Have a great night, make someone's day tomorrow, and...mind the nap!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Imagine Yourself Into a Better Day

How will you envision your day?
Hello again, Moonlighters!  We're now in full swing of the back-to-school season.  Hopefully, the transition back has been smooth for you.  Things are exciting here in the MM household with a 2nd grader and a new kindergartener.

Tonight's activity came about during the ride to school on the morning of our second day of kindergarten. Although our DS seemed to really like his new school, he kept repeating that he didn't want to go back.  I knew it was probably just some nervousness about the new experiences, but I wanted to do some active listening to make sure he felt like he was being heard and to avoid putting my own bias into what he was feeling.  But while the active listening technique is usually very helpful, it didn't seem to help him shake his nervousness that morning.  He sounded really upset and he kept saying that he didn't want to go.

So while sitting in traffic (feeling quite on edge myself) I decided to improvise.
Me: Hey Buddy, I have an idea.  I have noticed that the way I think about something can change how I feel when it happens.  Like if I think a food will be yucky, oftentimes it tastes yucky.  Or if I think an activity won't be fun, then it might not be.  Some people call that "negative thinking."  But if I think I might enjoy something, it can make me feel really good and I do enjoy it.  Even if a few bad things happen, I might feel really good about how the whole day is going.  Some people call that "positive thinking."  So how we think can change how we feel.  Would you like to try a "positive thinking" game with me?

DS: Okay.

Me: Great.  First let's each take a few minutes and imagine each other having a great day. I'll imagine you at school having a great day and you imagine me at work having a great day.

<60 second quiet pause>

Me: Okay.  Now, can you tell me about my day?  What was it like?

DS: You see your friend, Tom, and go for a walk at lunch, and fix some people's computers.

Me: Yes, that sounds like a great day!  Now, I'll tell you about your day.  First, you get to school and have your yummy snack.  You do some art projects and read some good books.  You see your new friend and play blocks with him. Then you go for a hike with your class and play in the stream.  You play in the sandbox and then you go home.  Does that sound good?

DS: Yeah!

Me: Okay, now let's switch.  You imagine your own day and I'll imagine mine and then we'll share it.

<Long pause>

Me: I'll go first this time.  I start off with a nice bowl of cereal while I check my email.  Then I talk over a hard problem with Tom.  I get to fix some people's computer problems which really makes their day.  My boss is really happy with my work.  I get to take a walk and the weather feels great.  Your turn now.

DS: I build a castle with blocks and find some crayfish in the stream.  Then we play in the outdoor kitchen.

Me: Wow, now that does sound like a great day!

<Short pause>

DS: Can we do this every day?

Me: We sure can.  Why?  Do you feel better about going to school?

DS: Yeah, much better!

Reframe your tomorrow tonight

For tonight's activity, try this kind of thought experiment with your child.  Is there any part of the day that makes them nervous or that they feel negatively about?  How can we reframe how we think about our days to make us feel better about them?

There's a great article about how the Danish people are great at reframing their lives to see things in a positive light.  From the article:
If you ask a Dane about the weather when it is freezing, gray, and raining outside, they will unwittingly answer: ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothing’ or ‘I am glad we can get cozy inside at home tonight.’ If you say, ‘Too bad it’s the last day of our vacation,’ they might reply, ‘Yes, but it is the first day of the rest of our lives.’ If you try to get them to focus on something really negative about any topic, you may be mystified at the way they can reinterpret it. Danes are what psychologists call ‘realistic optimists.’ They don’t negate negative information like overly optimistic people with rose-colored glasses. They tend to be brutally realistic about life, but they are also incredibly gifted at finding angles of reality that aren’t so dark, upsetting, or negative.

It's important when reframing not to negate the negative because you want to make sure your child feels heard (a critical piece of active listening).  Instead of telling them how to feel, try to focus on other details to help lead the child to seeing the situation more positively.

This is an important contrast with our Your Best Day Ever activity, which was just for fun and imagination.  Instead, in tonight's activity, we focus on reality but try to visualize it with a positive mindset.

I also wrote a little rhyme to help you remember the activity the next time your child needs a little help with a transition.
I'll imagine your great day
Then you'll imagine mine.
Next we'll imagine our own great days
To help us to feel fine.
We hope you find this post useful.  Please share with your friends and leave a comment about your experiences.  Also, you can always find us on Twitter or Facebook!

Have a great night and...mind the nap!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Name That Tune

When we at MM were growing up, records were on their way out, CDs were being developed, and for a long time we recorded our songs on cassettes.  During the heyday of cassettes, we thought we had the ultimate in music variety!  And while (sadly) our kids will never know the magic of the "mix tape", they have access to more music than we ever thought possible with today's streaming services.

Audio cassette tapes
Be kind, please rewind.

With so much music in our house, we find ourselves having impromptu dance parties with Justin Timberlake in the kitchen or mellowing out with some Bach at bath time. It has such a big impact on our family's mood and provides a lot of amazing bonding moments.

John Denver put it best:
Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.
Dr. Suttie at Berkeley lists 4 amazing ways music strengthens social bonds:
  1. Music increases contact, coordination, and cooperation with other
  2. Music gives us an oxytocin boost
  3. Music strengthens our ”theory of mind” and empathy 
  4. Music increases cultural cohesion 

Since music is connecting us so wonderfully, let's extend it's effect right up to the end of the day!

So, Moonlighters...are you ready to rock?!?

For tonight's activity we're going to play "Name That Tune!"  This is a simple game that can be a lot of fun.  The object is to pick a song and then hum or whistle the song to your child.  The child then tries to guess the song.  Then you switch and continue taking turns being the guesser.

This has always been a favorite in our house and always gets some good laughs!  :-)

Tonight we have a very special treat for you because the Moonlit Minds crew has hummed, whistled, and "scatted" a few examples for you. 

See if you can Name That Tune!

One.  More.  Song!


Remember, as with all of our activities, it's about connecting and helping children ease into sleep time.  If your kids are having trouble calming down, try to pick slower, more relaxing songs.

James Hetfield live in London 2008-09-15 2
Metallica counts as relaxing, right?
As always, we'd love to hear from you.  Send us some of your hums or whistles.  Comment below or message us on Twitter or Facebook!

Have a musical night and... mind the nap!


  1. Darth Vader's Theme
  2. London Bridges
  3. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Ba Ba Black Sheep / The ABCs
  4. Star Spangled Banner
  5. The Twist
  6. Hello (Adele)
  7. Yellow Submarine
  8. Puff the Magic Dragon

Friday, August 19, 2016

Where Do You Stand?

A Parent-Child Activity For Navigating an Election Cycle

Hello Moonlighters!  Tonight's activity is going to be a little different than our other ones, but stays true to our mission of helping to connect parents and children at bedtime through quiet, thoughtful activities.

We're going to go somewhere we had hoped we'd never have to go...

   But it's all around us these days.
      You simply can't escape it...
         and our kids are hearing things.

We're going to talk politics.
You didn't just say "politics" did you?

Wait!  Don't leave yet!


We promise to stay impartial.  (This isn't going to be easy.  We definitely have an opinion on this year's election and the candidates!)  We won't even use any names, ok?

I'm sick of politics!  Do I have to talk about it?


Well, it would certainly be a lot easier to ignore this and hope that after November, we can go back to our regular lives like none of this ever happened.  The problem is, it never really stops.  The minute this election ends, they'll already be talking about the next one.  There's always a another primary, midterm, or general election.  Whether it's national or local, the cycle continues.  But elections can be a confusing subject for children.  Every day we hear:

  • Offensive language
  • Name-calling
  • Accusations
  • Half truths
  • Outright lies
  • Racial tensions
  • Class wars

The list goes on; elections have it all!  And our kids are picking up on these things.  They are continually hearing people around them talk about the candidates and issues in very passionate ways.

On way we can help children interpret all the chaos around them and to navigate these issues later in life is to talk with them about where we stand on these sensitive issues.

Just the other day, our daughter said, "I hate <Candidate>.  <Candidate> is so stupid."  Hate and stupid are very strong words which we discourage in our house, but it was evident that she was feeling some strong emotions about the candidates and the election.  (She actually has some good reasons for her statement, but definitely does not understand everything that is going on.)

It's time to talk with our children about our values and let them know where we stand on the important issues.


So let's talk

Tonight's activity is very open ended, and it could span multiple nights if you want.  The goals is to take the time to talk very plainly about some of the core issues that an election can bring to the forefront of our (and our children's) minds.

Be sure to discuss the issues which:
  1. are child-lead.  If the issue hasn't come up yet with your child, maybe it's not the right time.
  2. you yourself have taken the time to consider from different perspectives.  Can you see the issues from both sides?  This will help children understand and become more empathetic.
  3. you feel your child is cognitively and emotionally ready to discuss.  Many children will not be ready for some of these topics.  Use your best judgement.
Here are some of the many issues from which to choose:

Wow that's some heavy stuff!

Example 1: On lying

In our house we make the truth a paramount issue.  Talk about what it means to you.  Give examples like this one:

You spent the afternoon with Daddy and had some ice cream.  When you came home, your younger sibling asked whether you had eaten any special treats.  We don't want the younger child to feel jealous and start begging for ice cream too.  It would be easy enough to lie and say "No" to avoid the battle.  Or should we tell the truth, even when it's not convenient?
Talk to your child about scenarios like these and come to an understanding about the importance of telling the truth, the loss of trust when lying occurs, and when and whether (if at all) it's OK to lie sometimes.

Here's a great video from the Rio Olympics in which a player gives up a point by telling his opponent to challenge the call.  He demonstrated great honesty and sportsmanship, even when it wasn't convenient for him.

Does this kind of honesty matter to you?

Example 2: On Matters of Race

Talk to your children about how you feel about diversity and discrimination.  If you're not a minority, talk about what you believe your responsibilities are in combating racism.  Here is a great article on how and why to talk to your kids about race.

Example 3: On the Environment

Teaching children the science of climate change can be a daunting task.  Instead, focus on what's important to you.  Do you care about the preservation of wild places like national parks?  What about clean air and water?  Is it important for you and your family to connect with nature?

Ask your child what he/she thinks about the earth and what things he/she thinks are important to conserve.  Talk about what you can do at home that can make a difference in the environment.

Final Thoughts

Don't forget to use active listening techniques when talking to your kids.  This isn't meant to be a lecture time, but rather a conversation (one of many) to help them better understand the world around them and all of the complex issues at play.  Feel free to present opposing ideas, even if you don't agree with all of them, but let them know how you feel.  You may even discover you and your child don't agree- that's ok!  Let your child know that our world is made better by diverse people and ideas.  Even when we disagree, we usually find that people come from a good place and have good intentions.  People aren't always one thing, good or bad.  They are set of choices they make.

The best way we can guide our children is through our own actions.  How will you treat the earth?  How do you treat yourself?  How will you treat those around you who are both the same as and different from you?  This is what our children will use as an example.

We'd love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook!  Tell us about the issues that matter to your family!

As always, enjoy these special moments with your child and... mind the nap!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bedtime I Spy

Bedtime "I Spy"

Hello there Moonlighters!  It's been a busy summer so far, but we're going to try to keep the posts coming!  We hope you've been finding ways to connect with your kids.  Tonight's activity is a simple one, but it can be done with a few twists to keep things interesting.

I Spy With My Little Eye


The basic idea is to find something in the room and give a clue to your partner so that they can guess what you're thinking of.  Many of us have played this game since we were kids, but when you're in a dark room, it can be extra challenging.

In the fading light


When there's still a little light left in the room, you can play the traditional way, using a color as the clue.  Example: I spy something yellow.  The child looks around until they find the yellow item you were thinking of.  Then you can switch and the child will "spy" something for you to find.  Variations might include spying things of a certain texture (rough/smooth), certain shapes (square/round), or things that start/end with a certain letter or sound.

In the darkness

When the room is completely dark, you can still play as above but it requires memory skills, rather than looking skills.  For example, if there was a penny on the nightstand, you might say, "I remember something shiny and round."  Or for a picture frame, "I remember something in the shape of a rectangle that is very smooth."

This might also be a good companion to one of our other Afraid of the Dark activities because it helps children remember what's in their rooms (and what's not!).

In Conclusion

We hope you enjoy this activity and that it helps you and your child connect before bed.  Please leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and tell us about your experiences with this activity or anything else!

Happy spying and...mind the nap!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Math Monster Story 3 - The Case of the Mixed Up Seeds

Math Monster Story 3 - The Case of the Mixed Up Seeds

When you last saw Marvin, the Math Monster, you had just finished feeding his cute dragon friend, Digit.  Then after some fun math questions, you headed outside for the day.  Where Marvin lives it's springtime and finally warm enough to start sowing the seeds for his vegetable garden.  You walk together until you come to some beautiful rolling hills on the far side of the castle where a small plot of ground has been tilled and looks ready for planting!

Marvin bounces excitedly and asks, "Ready to get to work?  I love fresh veggies in the summer, and now is the time to start planting the seeds!"  You nod enthusiastically, and Marvin hands you some tools and gloves.

Then Marvin reaches into his pockets and pulls out a handful of seeds in all different shapes and sizes.  It looks like a complete mess!

You groan loudly, and Marvin asks, "What's wrong?"
"The seeds are all mixed up!  How will you know which seeds are which?" you reply.
"Don't worry!  I have a system!" Marvin says, confidently.  "You can help me sort them all out and plant them.  We just need to do a little math!  Some of these are going to be tough, but let's take our time, have fun, and work on them together.  Take a deep breath of that fresh air, feel the warm spring sunshine on your face and the cool soil between your fingers."

Sorting Them Out

Warm-up: For my climbing vines, I have the same number of seeds as letters in the veggie's name.  I have 3 pea seeds because there are 3 letters in "pea".  How many bean seeds do I have?  How many cucumber seeds?  Which do I have more of?

Jog: For my red veggies, I know I have 5 tomato seeds.  I have twice as many radish seeds as tomato seeds and twice as many red pepper seeds as radish seeds.  How many radish and red pepper seeds do I have?  How many red veggie seeds do I have all together?

Sprint: For my root veggies, I know I have an odd number of potato seeds, an even number of beet seeds, and an odd number of carrot seeds.  I have 1 less beet seed than carrot seeds, and the number of potato seeds is exactly half the total number of all three kinds of seeds combined.  The total number of seeds is 18.  How many do I have of each?

Row, Row, Row

Warm-up: I want the tallest plants in the northern rows so they don't cast shadows on the shorter plants.  Which is taller and by how much?  A 40" tomato plant or a 30" pepper plant?

Jog: I want to have 3 rows of corn with 10 seeds in each row.  How many corn seeds will I have planted?

Sprint: My beans will grow ½" per day.  How tall will they be in 8 weeks?

Just For Fun: Germination rate means how many seeds out of a group of seeds will actually sprout.  If watermelon seeds have an 80% germination rate, how many seeds should I plant if I need 12 watermelon plants?
Wow, that was a lot of math, but now all the seeds are sorted and planted!  You and Marvin give everything a good watering and head back to the castle for lunch.

The end...for now!


Stay tuned for more activities, including more in this series by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

Good night and...Mind the nap!



Sorting Them Out
WU: 4 bean seeds, 8 cucumber seeds.  More cucumbers than beans.
J: 10 radish seeds, 20 red pepper seeds.  35 seeds all together (5+10+20).  30 if you know tomatoes are actually fruits!  ;-)
S: 5 carrot seeds, 4 beet seeds, 9 potato seeds

Row, Row, Row
WU: 40" tomato is taller by 10" (40-30)
J: 30 corn plants (10x3 or 10+10+10)
S: 8 weeks has 56 days.  At a rate of ½" every day, it is 1" every 2 days.  After 56 days, it would be 28" tall.
JFF:15 plants needed.  80% is the same as 8 out of 10, which is the same as 4 out of 5, which is the same as 12 out of 15.  Also the opposite of 80% (8/10) is 10/8 which is 1.25, so if you take 12 and add .25 of 12 (which is 3), you get 15.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mindful Easter Egg Hunt

Mindful Easter Egg Hunt

Hello all and to those who celebrate: Happy Easter!  This post may be a bit late in coming but that's because we just invented it last night!  :-)  But this activity would be fun at any time of the year, not just on Easter.

The idea of the game is to think of an actual place that your child knows well (e.g. your back yard or inside your house) and "hide" Easter eggs around it.  Then have your child try to "find" the eggs.  Remember, as with all our activities, both of you should be lying quietly in bed next to each other.  This is a calming, mindful activity to connect with each other at the end of the day.

Here's an example of the hider's thought process:

Ok, I'm hiding 5 eggs in our back yard.  First one on the swing.  Second one in the flower pot.  Third one next to the mailbox.  Fourth one under the bird bath.  Fifth one up in the crook of the maple tree.

Now, remember where you hid everything?  OK, now your child tries to find the eggs!

Grown-up: Ok, I hid 5 eggs in our back yard.
Child: Ok, I'm walking down the porch steps now.  Am I getting warmer?
Grown-up: Yes, you're pretty warm with 2 eggs now.
Child: Ok, I'm walking toward the patio now.
Grown-up: Getting very warm with 1 now.
Child: Is there one on the picnic table?
Grown-up: No, but keep looking around the patio.  What else do you see?
Child: There are some flower pots. I'll look in the bigger one.
Grown-up: No egg there, but you're REALLY hot now!
Child: Is it in the smaller one?
Grown-up: Yes!  You found one.  It's blue and has rainbow jelly beans inside.  4 more to go!
The child continues "looking" until all the eggs are found.  Then you can switch and let the child "hide" the eggs now.  You might suggest hiding less eggs, depending on the age of the child because remembering where they are all hidden is tricky.  You could even do this on a smaller scale, such as in their bedroom, to help when children are afraid of the dark.  It can help to "illuminate" parts of their world and make things less scary.  Feel free to adjust what's inside the eggs too; maybe they contain extra kisses and hugs!

Please leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and tell us about your experiences with this activity or anything else!

We hope you enjoy the hunt and...mind the nap!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Types Of

Types Of

Hello and welcome back, Moonlighters!  If you haven't noticed, we're now the proud owners of a spiffy new domain name: MoonlitMinds.org.  It has been so fun writing sharing these activities with all of you and building a little community one person at a time.  If you know people who would be interested our activities, please send them our new link or share us on Twitter or Facebook

Tonight, we're happy to share another great quiet, thoughtful activity for connecting with our children right before bed.  This activity is like a simple, open-ended version of Scattergories® with a lot less rule.

While lying down together, take turns picking new categories and naming as many things as you can think of in that category.

Here are just a few examples:

vehicalsanimalsbreakfast foodssportsfruits
cars, boats, planes, trainstigers, fish, bears, turtleseggs, cereal, toast, pancakessoccer, baseball, cricket, rugbybananas, oranges, apples, pears

But you can add some more difficulty to the activity by constraining the categories further, e.g. only red fruits, or only vehicles which ride on land.  You can limit it to 10 answers or play a category until one of you can't think of another answer.

We hope you have fun thinking of fun new categories and objects to fill those categories.  Share some of your best in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook

Further reading

There have been a huge number of academic studies on how, when, and why children categorize object in the world around them.  See for example:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Celebrate Your Name

Celebrate Your Name

Hello again! Did you know that this week is International Celebrate Your Name Week and today is Unique Names Day?

Did you know... Before we selected "Moonlit Minds" as our name, we considered dozens of others, including: Bedtime Brain, Mindful Bedtime, Brain Before Bed, Think Before Bed, Moonlight Mind, Mind Under the Moon, Tucked in Thinking, Bedside Brain, Mighty Night, and Nite Nite Brain Bite!  It was so hard to choose, but in the end, we're really glad to be Moonlit Minds!

Tonight, let's celebrate our names and connect with our children before bed!

What's in a name?

Start by sharing and discussing what your and your child's names mean.  Use a site like this to find out!  You will also learn the country of origin too.  Don't forget to look up these names too:
  • Your spouse
  • Your child's sibling(s)
  • Your pet(s)
  • Other special people
  • Middle names
  • Last names 

Is your name tough to pronounce?  Give your child some strategies for how to say it right and how to teach others to say it right.  Teach them to be proud of their names and say it with pride!

Story of your name

Next, tell your child the story of how you chose his/her name.
  • What would it have been if they had been another gender?
  • Were there any other "runners-up"?
  • Was it easy to decide or was there a lot of debate?
  • Who chose it first?
  • Were they named after a family member?  If so, tell them the family story too!

If you know how you got your own name, share that too.

A rose by any other name...

Now for a little guessing game.  Think of a person and try to get your child to guess who.  There are lots of variations that all start with "I'm thinking of a person who..."
  • has the initials L.F.
  • has 2 L's and 2 I's in her name.
  • has a name which rhymes with "planet"
  • has a name which is a kind of flower

Or think of your own spin on the game.  Take turns guessing and have fun!

Share us with some names you know

We're so proud of the community we're starting to grow.  We love connecting with people who love to connect with their kids.  If you know someone who might enjoy Moonlit Minds, please send them a link or share us on Twitter or Facebook!  Have a great night and...mind the nap!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rhyme Time

Rhyme Time

An activity in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday

We've been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss books lately in preparation for National Read Across America Day.  The kids have had "Dr. Seuss Night" at school and our local high school is even performing Seussical the Musical!

In keeping with the theme, we've been trying out a new Moonlit Minds quiet, thoughtful activity before bed.  We call it "Rhyme Time" and it's essentially an improvisational word-play game.  Here's how it works:

Warm up

Start by picking a random word and take turns finding its rhymes until you run out.

Repeat with another word.  Take turns picking the starting word.

Get a little Seussy with it!

Now do the same thing, but the rhymes need to be a made-up "Seuss" kind of words.


Poetic finish

One more fun idea for the activity is to build a poem together.  We really enjoyed a "setup and knock down" approach.  In other words, the parent would start the line and the child would finish or the other way around.

Parent: I woke up today and went to the zoo
Child: It was all the way in Kalamazoo
Parent: When I got there I made a friend
Child.  It was an elephant.  The end!

Switching the order...

Child: I like to climb up really high trees
Parent: Except when the trees are full of bees
Child: The bees make honey that is yummy
Parent: But I don't want to get stung on my tummy.

You may be a poet and not even know it

This activity gives you a real appreciation for the poetic art and how challenging it can be.  We had so much fun creating and playing the game before bed and we hope you enjoy playing too.  Please share this activity with your friends and family and let us know some of the wacky rhymes you create!  Leave a comment below or hits us up on Twitter or Facebook!  Happy rhyming and...mind the nap!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fingertip Letter Writing Activity

Fingertip Letter Writing Activity

Hello again!  Here's quick post to share a wonderful activity we just discovered on PBS Parents written by Jeff Bogle.  We've been trying it out with our kids for a few days now and they really love it.  It's a perfect quiet, thoughtful activity to connect with your child at bedtime.

Summary: While your child lies calmly in bed, try "writing" letters and numbers on their back with your finger and having them quietly call them out to you one at a time.  Then you can move on to writing words, sentences, math problems, etc.  It's a lot of fun and really helps to calm their minds and bodies before going to sleep.

Check out the entire article for all the details.

  1. Try drawing pictures and guessing what was drawn.
  2. Switch roles, and have the child write on the parent's back too.

If you have any suggestions for other activities for connecting with children at bedtime, let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Lost Ball - A Social Skills Story

The Lost Ball - A Social Skills Story


Dr. Daniel Goleman writes about the value of social intelligence (SI) in leadership and business.  Nicolas Humphrey believes SI, rather than quantitative intelligence is what defines us as human.  And at Moonlit Minds, we value a child's SI over IQ any day of the week!

Both Dr. Laura Markham (How to Raise a Socially Intelligent Child) and Janet Lansbury (4 Best Ways To Raise Children With Social Intelligence) encourage modeling and practice to help build these skills.
Of all the skills we encourage our children to develop, social intelligence may be the most essential for predicting a fulfilling, successful life. -Janet Lansbury

Tonight we're introducing a new "Social Skills" activity series to give children a chance to think critically about different social situations and help them develop these important social skills.  We will provide the context of a social situation which you will convey as a story to your child.  Then, through a series of open ended questions, let your child explore the situation, people, relationships, and interactions.

Today's Story

Ball over the fence
Imagine you are at a friend's house playing with a ball in his/her back yard.  One of you accidentally throws the ball too far, and it lands on the other side of the property fence.  You both really want to get the ball back.  Here are the problems:
  1. The fence is too high to climb over and there is no way to reach the ball (even with some kind of tool).
  2. Neither of you know the neighbors and they are not outside to help.
So the question is: How will you get your ball back?


The scientifically-minded child may try to engineer her way out of this situation.  You may need to respond to statements like "just get a very tall ladder" or "get a long stick with a net."  Parents should definitely celebrate and encourage this creative thinking!  Those are great examples of problem-solving, but that kind of solution is for another post.  Tonight we're trying to solve the problem with social skills.

The goal is to guide the child on a journey toward recovering the ball through social interaction. An example solution might include informing a parent, knocking on the neighbor's door, explaining the situation, apologizing for the inconvenience, and retrieving the ball.  How the child arrives here can happen in many different ways, but it's the personal interactions that matter in this activity.  Highlight the language skills used that would be important when asking the neighbor for help.
  • How might the neighbor react to the problem?
  • Were you polite?  What kinds of words would you use?
  • Did you look the neighbor in his/her eyes?  
  • Did you smile when you thanked him/her?  
  • How would you introduce yourself?
  • Is it important to tell a parent first?


Remember, there are no wrong answers here.  Keep asking open ended questions and see where the child leads you.  Enjoy and... Mind the nap!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tales of Your Roots

Tales of Your Roots

This week Moonlit Minds suffered the loss of a dear grandparent.  And while in the days following there has been sadness in our hearts, there was also a lot of joy.  For one thing, we got to spend time with family members we hadn't seen in years.  We looked through a lot of wonderful old photos.  And most of all, we told a lot of stories.

Humans have been telling stories about their ancestors for thousands of years as a way to pass this history on to the next generation.  Before written languages, this was the only way.  However, these days it feels like the telling of these family stories is somewhat of a lost art.  We have a lot more ways of entertaining ourselves than ever before, and it seems like less and less time to do so.  But I can remember as a child sitting at the dinner table listening to my parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents tell these stories again and again.  I've always been fascinated by our connection to the past and loved hearing how similar or different I was to these relatives.  The stories were like a window into the past, and it was a thrill to look through it.

For many years now I've been working to capture stories, documents, and photos for our family tree.  (We use Geni.com, a collaborative online family tree.)  With our recent loss, I'm even more invigorated to keep gathering all these artifacts.  But there's still something extra special about the word-of-mouth preservation of a family's history.  And I have found great comfort in knowing I can keep part of a loved-one alive by retelling their special story.

Tell Your Tales

For tonight's quiet, thoughtful Moonlit Minds activity, tell one or two of your favorite family stories to your child.  Some ideas to get you started:
  • Family stories range from funny to exciting to tragic to the mundane.
  • Find a story that you really connect with and your child will probably connect with it too.
  • Describe the people as you remember them or how you've heard them described.
  • Explain what they mean/meant to you.
  • Talk about how things were different back then.  Paint a picture with the details.
  • Help your child understand his/her roots by connecting the people back to him/her.
  • If you can't think of any stories, ask a relative for some ideas. 
  • Tell your child what your family and family history means to you.

Related Thoughts

First: We love this poem from Listening to the Littlest, by Ruth Reardon:
Where did I come from?
And you?
Knowing there were grandmas far, far, back
(and grandmas I can be with now).
Knowing there are cousins, aunts, and uncles
gives me a feeling of belonging.
Of being a part of something older,
something wider,
something safe.
I feel important.
Second: These two articles are about how important it is to tell family stories because according to research done by Bruce Feiler, having a higher level of family knowledge is "associated with higher levels of self-esteem, an internal locus of control (a belief in one's own capacity to control what happens to him or her), better family functioning, lower levels of anxiety, fewer behavioral problems, and better chances for good outcomes if a child faces educational or emotional/behavioral difficulties."

Third: Sparkle Stories has a fantastic series we highly recommend called Martin and Sylvia's Family Tree of Stories.  "This audiobook will inspire your children (and you) to seek out and collect childhood stories from all generations – so they can not only see where they come from, but bring family lessons into their own life."

Final Word

We just wanted to end tonight by thanking everyone who has been reading and sharing our blog and activities.  It's been such an honor to become part of your family traditions.  Tell us about your experiences with telling family stories in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

All the best and...Mind the nap!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Math Monster Story 2 - Feeding the Dragon

Math Monster Story 2 - Feeding the Dragon

Welcome back!  Tonight we're excited to bring you the next part in our Math Monster series.  And in honor of Appreciate a Dragon Day, today we'll meet Marvin's pet dragon named Digit!  (Honestly, we just discovered that there's really a "holiday" called that, so we're going to roll with it! :-)

And now, let the story begin!

If you'll recall, when we last left our new friend Marvin, the Math Monster, you had just dined with him and fell peacefully to sleep, but not before crossing the Sea of Learning and climbing to the top of Math Mountain- and not to mention solving some great math problems along the way!

Tap, tap tap.

There's someone tapping on the door, but you're soundly sleeping and don't stir.

Thud, thud, thud!

Now someone is banging on your door, but you're sleeping like a baby and still don't wake!

Bounce, bounce, bounce!

You're awake now, as Marvin is now jumping on your bed to wake you up!
"Time to wake up!" he shouts, grinning from ear to pointy ear.
"Why so early?" you ask with a raspy morning voice.
"Because we need to feed Digit!" Marvin replies, clearly excited.
"Who is Digit?" you start to ask, but before you even finish the question, Marvin has you by the hand, pulling you out the door.

You're running hand in hand, back down the hall and out the castle doors.  You run along the edge of the steep mountain pass with the early morning sun just peaking over the horizon.  Just when you think you can't run anymore, Marvin lurches to a stop at the entrance to a cave.  You're about to ask again who (or what) "Digit" is when Marvin puts his big green finger up to his big yellow lips and says, "Shhh, you don't want to scare him!  He doesn't know you yet.  There's no telling what he might do!"  Now you're getting a bit nervous, but for some reason you feel safe with Marvin.

"I'll go in first and let him know you're here," Marvin explains.

You mind is swirling with what could be in the cave, and after what seems like forever, he comes back out.

Ok, we can go in now," laughs Marvin, "but Digit needs to ask you some questions first."
"Wait, first tell me who Digit is," you demand with a hint of frustration in your voice.
"He's my pet dragon, of course!" giggles Marvin, clearly enjoying this.
"A dragon?  Really?  Is he...uh...safe?"
"Of course, silly," Marvin says confidently.  "Now go on in!"

You step tenderly into the cave and walk through a narrow passageway.  Then you step down, down, down some windy stairs and right into a massive underground room.  It's warmer and cozier than you expected, and right in the middle of the room sits a wonderfully friendly looking dragon next to an easel with some paper.

Marvin introduces you.  "This is Digit.  He's very friendly, but in order to really trust you, he's going to ask you some math questions first.
Then Digit, in a most unexpectedly silly voice says, "Well hello there!"  You have to stifle a giggle- it's just that silly!  "I'll give you some questions to get to know you.  Then once we know each other, you can feed me breakfast and we'll go outside and play, OK?"  You don't feel like you really have a choice, but you nod your head just the same.  [Parents: Digit asks these questions in just as silly of a voice!  Don't be shy, now!]

Warm-up: If you're 1 person and I'm 1 dragon and Marvin is 1 monster, how many of us are there now?

Jog: If dragons lay 5 eggs a year and I'm 3 years old, how many eggs have I laid so far?

Sprint: Dragons warm up their breakfasts by breathing fire onto their food. The fire is 2000 degrees and they wait to eat it until it is half as warm. How hot would the food be then?

Just For Fun: Dragon babies lose their teeth just like people (and Math Monsters). If I have 9 baby teeth now and I have lost 17 so far, how many baby teeth did I start with?

Digit pauses for a long time, considering your answers carefully.  Then suddenly he lights up and gives you a great big dragon smile!

"You love it too!" he shouts with glee.
"Love what?" you ask, confused.
"Math!  Math!  You love it too.  I'm so glad you came to visit us!"

You smile and nod.  You feel really glad you came.

You and Marvin help get Digit's breakfast ready and then stand waaaaaaaay back when he warms it up.  When he finishes breakfast you all head outside for a day filled with play and exciting adventures together.  You can't wait to find out what else awaits you in this mathemagical land!

The end...for now!

Stay tuned for more activities, including more in this series by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

Good night and...Mind the nap!


WU: 3
J:15, but it's a trick question because Digit is a boy dragon so he doesn't lay eggs!
S: 1000 degrees
JFF: 26 teeth

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Your Best Day Ever

Your Best Day Ever

Welcome back and happy new year!  We hope you had a great holiday season.   This time of year people like to think of ways to improve themselves through resolutions.  This got us thinking about how we love spending our time and what we want to do more (or less) of in the new year.  Reflecting on how you spend your time is a very mindful thing to do, and often you'll find you're grateful for many of the things you're already doing.  You may resolve to continue doing those things or maybe do them more often.  You may decide to stop doing some things you aren't enjoying.  And finally you may opt to start doing something you've never done before!

Tonight's activity is essentially describing your perfect day to each other.  Think about what you love doing, where you love doing it, and who you want to be with you.  Here are some of the areas we contemplated with our kids last night:

  • Where would you wake up?
  • What would be your favorite breakfast?
  • What's the first thing you do?
  • Who will you spend the day with?
  • Would you make an art project?
  • Where will you visit?
  • What will you eat for lunch?
  • What songs will you hear?
  • Will you dance?
  • What's your favorite outfit to wear?
  • Will you play with a pet?
  • What favorite toy or game would you play with?
  • Would you read a favorite book?
  • Would you go for a swim?
  • Would you get pushed on the swings?
  • Would you see you friends?  Make a new friend?
  • Where would you eat dinner?  What would you have?
  • A special treat for dessert?
  • Would you get to stay up late?
  • Would you sleep in your own bed?

We had a lot of fun adding more and more fun things into the day.  (It turned out to be a very long day!)  But the conversation was a lot of fun and filled with delight.  I would imagine it helped facilitate some very pleasant dreams too.  It also got us thinking about how we want to spend our time this year, since all our ideas couldn't really all fit into one day.

We hope you'll give this a try tonight with your child, and leave a comment here or on Twitter or Facebook with some ideas for your perfect day.  Have fun and...mind the nap!