Happy New Year 1439! Here are a few thoughts on marking lunar birthdays with children

The New Year is often a time to look forward, and also look back at how time was spent. We often find ourselves thinking about what goals we may want to plan forward too. Although some families may have traditions around the New Year, some families may not have a sense of what those are or if they are valued and important for your family system to participate in.  This may be true for you whether you participate in the solar or lunar New Year, or both. Having a sense of why the calendar is important and why you may want to mark this occasion is useful to take more control over your own family routines, traditions and cultures. If you are curious about the lunar calendar and what it means for those in the Muslim faith take a look at some of the following links :

https://www.faith-matters.org/2017/09/21/this-year-sees-alignment-of-the-jewish-muslim-calendars/

https://www.aquila-style.com/focus-points/spirituality/significance-of-islamic-new-year/83108/

http://ourmuslimhomeschool.com/2015/06/islamic-calendar-for-children_14.html

[This article is part of a blog hop with Multicultural Motherhood and other bloggers. For more relevant links please read to the end. Links will be added through the ‘blog hop week’].

Planning lunar birthdays:

In this article I will write about the idea of lunar birthdays. A lunar birthday is a family tradition that you can choose to introduce to your family. The idea relates to encouraging the sense of cultural identity development in children and a sense of understanding of themselves in relation to the lunar calendar. It is a fun, practical and relatable way in which children can become interested in the lunar calendar and therefore open up opportunities for them to learn about history. If your family already comfortably celebrates birthdays it will not be too different. However if you have a family tradition of not celebrating birthdays this may not feel like it is something for you.

Some reasons to consider celebrating a lunar birthday – children naturally will be interested in the lunar calendar because they will want to know which month their lunar birthday falls. For older children you can set a task that they need to track the lunar months in a diary and calculate their birthday in order to remind everyone about it. Small scale it so that it does not become burdensome. Keeping it to a small family event will help to keep it boundaried. You can usually work out your child’s lunar birthday using an app like Muslim Pro which calculates the lunar months according to the Hijri calendar. Alternatively for each age year of your child move their birthday 10 days back.  For example if you have a four year old born on the 10th of December, move the date approx 40 days earlier than the 10th December. This will give you an approximation of their lunar birthday.

Things to try on a lunar birthday:

Connecting with your child:

A letter to your child with key messages you may choose to write to represent the year before and the year ahead. Read the letter and keep it positive – include the new responsibilities that you feel your child is now able to take on. Also acknowledge the special role of siblings. This small ceremonial process allows the family to connect in ways that may not be possible in a busy family life. What you write in the message may reflect family transitions or age transitions for older children. For younger children it may be more focussed on the things you noticed about them in encouraging their character development and how they are valued as a special part of the family.

Showing appreciation:

The gifting process. Create a rule that for the lunar birthday you will all offer something either handmade or from within the home (or arguably from your imagination like gifting an idea or dream). Baking a lunar birthday cake at home and decorating it with the lunar date can help reinforce their learning about the calendar. The birthday is a qualitative family experience different from traditional western style birthdays. If that is not practical and you do want to give a monetary gift, I would suggest setting a tight limit for that and keeping it very boundaried. You may choose to gift all the children the same thing rather than giving only one child something. It depends on how you usually manage gifts and the siblings’ level of understanding. In this scenario the first child to receive the gift would be the child who has the lunar birthday – followed by the others being told on this lovely day all siblings receive a gift too. In which case you may ask how is the child defined – well the letter is what keeps the focus on the ‘lunar birthday child’ and the games or activity could also be chosen by that child as explained in the next section.

Family bonding and making memories:

The fun – decide with the child from a list of three options of ways they can enjoy the lunar birthday.  Examples could include  – A New experience, a movie night or a games night. A new experience may be a family trip to the woods you have not explored yet, or something you were planning as a family anyway such as a visit to a clay modelling workshop. I think a movie night does not need much explanation but do try to make it feel different – rearrange furniture – put up fairy lights and bake some yummy snacks together. The movie of course is what is acceptable in your family. If you enjoy watching nature or history documentaries go for that rather than the usual array of Disney movies aimed at kids. A games night – let the child choose 2 games and the parents choose 2. Again allow them to rearrange the house within reason for this. Spend the day making any special props for the games.

Keep focussed on the objective:

Lunar birthdays can help prime children ready for the events in the lunar calendar, for example, they will work out whether their birthday is before or after Ramadan and Hajj. They will naturally become curious about why the moon needs to be sighted and what the difference is between the solar calendar and the lunar calendar.

You may choose to only mark lunar birthdays up until a certain age or you may decide to swop traditional birthdays for the lunar birthdays. My advice is to be very clear about it so that you don’t end up having 2 birthday ‘burdens’ as the children grow up. In essence the process is not about being materialistic or accumulating expense.  Lunar birthdays move throughout the seasons and so children will get a sense of how the two Eids will also move throughout the year too. Of course you can teach all this without using lunar birthdays no doubt. What a lunar birthday offers is the lunar age of the child which may be useful to calculate as it will be older than the legal age of the child. This may be useful for them to know especially in matters of understanding religious jurisprudence relating to age. Curiosity about the lunar calendar will also hopefully teach them that the night precedes the day and, therefore, seeking Laylatul Qadr requires it to be calculated accordingly to avoid disappointment!

BLOG HOP LINKS WILL BE ADDED HERE SOON!

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Ali-Huda online TV REVIEW by Dr Mumly and Sons!

We were invited to review Ali Huda (www.alihuda.com) and were happy to take this up in exchange for preview access. Ali Huda is an online pre-recorded TV site with an array of educational shows aimed at Muslim families with children. We did not get around to watching everything in the time we had but the kids were satisfied that they watched the shows that got their attention. I asked the kids to watch, make notes and rate eye-catching shows over a week under my supervision, and this is what they came up with.

Top shows

The two shows that came out on top were –

Once upon a time and Activ8! These shows scored 5/5 and my children were glued to the screen! Once upon a time is a story telling show where an adult reads an engaging story.  It is aimed at a younger audience. My children love to be read to and really liked the choice of stories and the manner in which the stories were read. Alternately, Activ8 is a series aimed at older children and follows a group of teen boys on bush craft adventures. The show highlights team work and problem solving skills that the teens navigate in the challenges set for them to complete. My 9 year old described the show as ‘excellent and amazing’.

Other shows that my children really enjoyed were:

Scrap book Island – rated at 5/5. ‘You get to see kids learning and the show is set over different parts of an ‘island’ set up which is interesting and fun’.  This was something my kids felt they could watch every day for fun and learning. Episode one was downgraded, however, to a 4.5/5 when my kids felt some of the props could have been better formed. For example, an animated waterfall with more realistic sound effects was suggested for the ‘Sunnah’ waterfall.  The voices for the bird and the character ‘croco’ were loved and my children also found the narrator/presenter fun and engaging.

Baba Ali – This was rated 4.5/5! My children are familiar with Baba Ali from Youtube and were really excited to see how Baba Ali had been developed with the addition of a new character called Mu Mu. At the moment there is only one Baba Ali show about friendship. They found it ‘funny and cute’ – they watched it repeatedly! My children always enjoy a good laugh!

Talkies – This was rated 4/5. This show is about an animated robotic cat and penguin discussing Islam. My kids found the characters funny and also liked the way that the Arabic alphabet and Quranic verses are read at the end.

Brainy Bunch – My children rated this show 3/5. This show is an animation series which looks at a child’s understanding of different developmental themes, including emotional, intellectual, spiritual physical and creative. This series was described as ‘good for learning’.

General points for parents

Some shows aimed at younger children are short and as Ali Huda is relatively new there is new content added at intervals. Therefore, some series are sparse but I assume will build up shows in the future. Ali Huda is a nice addition to family learning resources or religious studies curriculum whether you are a home educator or not, especially if your children are visual learners. Generally I found that my children found most enjoyable the content that was less focussed on direct learning, and had elements of fun or adventure. In a home education environment some of the shows would make great topic based learning, however I have not been able to explore the shows as fully as I would like to in order to specify in more detail. In general, the shows called Muslims around the world, activ8 and brainy bunch caught my eye to explore further and use in topic based learning projects. The biggest bonus for Muslim families is the aspect of normalisation of seeing familiar cultural and religious vocabulary used in the shows. There is a good range of diversity within the shows and for my children it was nice to see a story time show hosted by a Muslim bearded man with a traditional long garment on. This is not something they see every day on TV and positive depictions such as this are arguably an important part of healthy identity development. It is positive to see someone who looks and dresses like people in their family doing ‘normal childish stuff’ on TV.  I do recommend taking up the trial to see how Ali Huda will suit your family so you can decide for yourself how it could enhance your family’s screen time!

Recommendations for Ali Huda from my kids

My children are boys aged 5 and 9.  They are crazy about Lego and they really wanted to use this review as an opportunity to express how they feel that a show based on LEGO (construction/building block projects) could enhance Ali-Huda further to all the boys and girls who have a passion for the brick and STEM activities. They would really like to see Lego projects based on festivals around the lunar calendar or the use of Lego in learning the Arabic alphabet is another idea for Ali-Huda!

If you would like to try ALI HUDA…

If your curiosity is tickled and you would like to try Ali Huda, you can actually get a free trial before you pay the subscription fee. You can also get the first month half price if you use the code DRMUMLY.  The Ali Huda website also states that they donate 10% of subscription fees to a UK based charity for orphans. Finally, my children really enjoyed the content and loved the challenge of doing a review. Thank you Ali-Huda!

You can reach Ali Huda at www.alihuda.com and https://m.facebook.com/alihudatv/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah could be your second shot at doing the last 10 days of Ramadan again with your kids!

This is what i am trying to remember as we have approached the month of Dhul Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar). Social media users are catching on to this concept and more and more videos, blog articles and downloads have been circulated this year all aimed at encouraging the season of ‘another go at the last ten days’ – except they are the first 10 days this time round! That’s all good! I do actually welcome that! Why not be prepared and upbeat! The second Eid of the year always does seem to fly by too quickly and so the buzz of articles and videos on social media can certainly help for parents to get into the mood and help set the scene they actually want in their homes for this beautiful new season in the Islamic lunar calendar.

So what’s the plan this time round? Well, remember the empty feeling at the end of last Ramadan? Here is a chance to ‘redo’ and prolong those 10 days all over again! So you can do many things together to bond, get spiritual, get learning or sharing just as you tried to in Ramadan. Celebrating festivals, rituals, and seasons are all very important for emotional, spiritual and identity development. So don’t overlook the opportunity to involve your children. Here are some ‘short and sweet’ ideas – I know you are already inspired and i’m probably wasting my time with my super organised readers, but just incase there’s someone out there who is feeling a little stuck – here it is –  Enjoy!

1). Make a Count down Kaba poster. Easy – just cut 10 black squares and add a gold strip and rectangle for the kaba features – Kaba voila! Now add a number on each Kaba door. If you want to get really adventurous, the last door could open with a clue behind it for something fun planned on Eid day. My advice is to not put the clue behind the Kaba door till the actual day of Eid to prevent it being torn out beforehand 🙂

2). Watch Hajj live or prerecorded as a family. Make a special viewing area in the house  -for example – place the screen/ laptop on a low table and then the colourful prayer mats arranged to form a carpeted area to sit on.  Use a special bowl for prayer beads. Go further and  drape white, black and gold scarves around the area. this depends on the space you have and if you have a wall stapler 😉 Hang sparkly battery lights that you may have used last Eid. When the family is not watching Hajj live you can play the Quran or set up everyones Qurans to sit in a circle to read together in the mornings and evenings. Whereas the build up was to laylatul Qadr in Ramadan, in the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah the build up is towards the day of Arafat (day 9) and Eid (day 10). The day of Arafat is the day pilgrims stand on mount Arafat all day making dua. It is strongly recommended to fast for those not at Hajj and of age/physical ability. Therefore, day 9 may include extra special activities such as suhoor and iftar, and elongated dua between Asr and Magrib.  Remember to read up on all the sunnahs for the day of Arafat and day of Eid so you are not caught out.

3). Create a playlist of historical educational programs about the Kaba. Use this as an opportunity to understand more about the Holy mosque and what changes have been made over the centuries in Makkah and Medina. Do post a link in the comments if you find some good ones to recommend to others.

4). Revisit stories of how and when the Kaba was built and by which prophets. Use childrens’ stories of the prophets books available in audio or book format.

5). Set up another table for crafts. You can colour a Dhul Hijjah journal together as a family, doing a couple of pages each, or an entire journal each! There are plenty of journal  ideas found on the ilmaeducates blog.

6) If you have been on Umrah in the past,  look at the pics/ videos and talk about what prayers you made and make a new dua list to use in these ten days. (If you are planning to go on Umrah after the Hajj season with your kids – you may want to also read our short article featured in the Muslim Travel Girl blog .

7) Let the kids try on Ihram! Either borrow one from someone you know or use scarves.

8) Don’t forget the usual list of good deeds –  fast, read your personalised dua lists, perform night prayers, and giving to charity are all important. Allow the children to participate according to their age/ability. Sometimes families may also encourage their children to participate in a sponsored fast to raise money for a big charity.

9) Qurbani – the story behind this will have been told via the prophets stories mentioned above. If you are doing qurbani locally, try to distribute it as a family. Kids will remember actions better than explanations, therefore, involving them wherever possible in good deeds and ‘giving to the needy’ is important.

10) Eid plans – be sure to make  gifts and visit or invite family and friends that you may not have been able to see last Eid. Making gifts is more fun than buying them! How about air-dried clay tiles with hand designed geometric patterns (with the name of the person you are gifting to in the centre).  Don’t forget to make two holes at the top of the clay tile to thread ribbon through so the tile can be hung. You will need to get making now so they are dried and decorated in time for Eid!!!

Did i miss anything? Let me know in the comments 😉

This post is part of the Eid al Adha and Hajj Blog hop by Multicultural Motherhood. Join us as we share Eid and Hajj related posts. Hop over to see related posts from other Muslimah Bloggers.

BLOG HOP LINKS:

Eid Party Crafts For Kids by Multicultural Motherhood

Ever Wonder why Hajj is Once in a Life Time by Jeddah Mom
Hajj/ Umrah Products by Ayeina.Com
Dhul Hijjah Best 10 Days by Christal Joan
Eid Ul Adha crafts/activities and celebrations in a homeschool by The Fire Fly
The activities of the big day of Eid al Adha we need to know by Ummu Kulthum
Get organised for Eid ul Adha – printables, activities and more! by And Then She Said
Free Download: My Dhull Hijjah Journal by Ilma Education
The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah could be your second shot at doing the last 10 days of Ramadan again with your kids by Dr Mumly

Author Interview – Ramadan without daddy

It is a great pleasure to interview the author of Ramadan without daddy! Welcome Misbah Akhtar!
1) Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and bred in London although I lived in Dubai for a while. I love chocolate and all things horror whether it be games, movies or novels! I’ve been writing from a young age and was inspired in particular by Christopher Pike who remains my favourite writer. I’m a busy mum of 4, founder of Single Muslim Mums; and editor-in-chief of Mumspiration – my blog documenting my journey to become a more positive, mindful me.
I felt there was a need for it within our ummah (Muslim community). A story about different types of families to promote awareness about single motherhood and the challenges these mums face. It was an extension of the work I do for Single Muslim Mums. I believe it will aid parents in explaining the concept of divorce to their children, and I hope it is also a wake up call to all the absentee parents out there who don’t see the sadness left behind when they abandon their children.
2) What has been the reaction to the book before and after it was out? 
It’s been good. A lot of mothers have been calling for a book like this for a long time. They like the straightforwardness of the book in an easy to understand way for children and appreciate the honesty of how parents may behave and feel when going through a divorce/newly divorced. The book hasn’t been out that long and I’m hoping in time we see more titles like this in Islamic book shops and mosque book shops also.
3) What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my debut novel entitled: The Jinn Within. It’s a horror story (of course!) about jinn possession and the impact that it has on one family. It has a lot of real elements to it based upon a true story; again, the aim is to promote awareness, this time about the the spiritual realm. It isn’t just a story but also a form of creating awareness for others about the different kinds of spiritual beliefs people have, in this case the belief in Jinn.
4) What other challenges have you faced in the writing industry?
Promoting and marketing your work as a Muslim author is certainly hard because we are only now starting to see fiction books written by Muslims for Muslims. I haven’t come across a published Muslim fiction book that deals with the horror the jinn can inflict on humankind (yay, I can be the first 😉),  or many books written for children talking about sensitive Islamic issues either. It’s therefore hard to gauge what the  reaction will be to such books, but I remain hopeful. Writing is also a lot of hard work  which I only now fully appreciate!

Over a year without school…

So i have not written on the main site for a while but there have been things going on behind the scenes! I now more regularly write on the facebook for Dr Mumly which i have tried to link to the website page (this is all still a new world). We did a travel review article and there is a book review article coming soon. In and amongst other things, home education has been cool! We are starting to turn a corner now and buckle down a bit more into our own home ed groove. I am still working on the emotional development resources, however i have generally allowed a more relaxed pace to allow our gazillion missions to gently evolve if that makes sense. Ok i am going to test if i can still work this button and press publish 🙂

Emotional development resources 1: Puppet led communication.

Sometimes a storm may hit the family. It could be a bereavement, a change of routine or a general increase of stress when the winter months turn in. Children are sensitive beings and often pick up on stressful changes but may still be unable to communicate clearly about the emotional turbulence it’s creating for them, especially for under 5’s.

Sometimes trying to talk too directly about the source of stress or the emotions can feel a bit daunting or result in ‘nothing’s wrong’ responses. These can feel like you are at a dead end and not addressing anything.

At times like this, especially with younger children, it can be useful to use an in between distraction to take the focus off the child you are trying to get to open up, and focus onto something else. This slowly takes off the pressure to talk about something they may not yet even have the vocabulary to express.

One method I have used is family puppet making. The butterfly puppets above represented different family members. We coloured them in and played with them. Flapping the wings around. Then the free play evolved into a more specific game led by the child. Free flow non directed talking through puppets was part of the game. We had a pencil pot and added colours when we felt like it. Each night for about a week we played with the puppets in our pyjamas before bed. Allowing the child to lead and the parent carefully responding when needed.

We actually used this technique when the children’s grandfather died from cancer and everyone was feeling very overwhelmed in the household. It allowed our eldest son at the time to play different emotional roles, and the adult butterflies to nurture, rescue and play protecting roles in the butterfly in danger adventure game that was slowly created. Over the weeks and months, finally we all felt able to add more expressions on the butterflies faces and talked about why the butterflies were now smiling and what their colours and patterns represented. The puppet time had helped to gradually scaffold an emotional language, metaphors  and scenes that helped our then little boy talk about his loss and questions about the future for himself and his granddad.

What you need:

  1. Uninterrupted time 30 mins a day
  2. cardboard from cereal boxes, scissors, colouring pens or crayons.
  3. selotape and a puppet stick or old pencil.

How to make butterflies:

fold the card and draw half a butterfly and cut out , open up to get a full butterfly shape. Colour in and sellotape down a puppet stick to hold in place.

Name them and play. Remember for this to work best it needs to be mostly child led play. The parent puppets role is to be nurturing and responsive when needed. Do this regularly to bond and develop a common emotional language from the sceneries enacted. Sometimes children can find it easier to talk about a puppets feelings and feel OK to talk about what a puppet could be thinking and feeling, then actually talk about their own worries. Using a puppet can help break down the steps of communicating needs and worries till eventually they feel more equipped and able to share directly.

We still play with our puppets many years later and it’s lovely to see how their colours and patterns have changed, and how our perceptions about them have evolved. Of course , you could make anything – dinosaurs, monkeys, cats, or cars!

Remember if you struggle to offer a nurturing role, because maybe you are still working through your own emotions or are juggling too many things, do get support for yourself. Go into the games with an open free mind. The aim is to spend quality time together.

 

 

Ramadan is here! Festivals and celebrations

Well, we are on day 6 of Ramadan – the holy month of fasting for Muslims. I had been meaning to write a bit about the importance of festivals and celebrations in childhood, and how they contribute to the growing minds’ conception of self and the understanding of ones place in the world. Children use their early experiences as reference points to draw comparisons with later on. My children often came home from school having learnt about Christmas and Devali – buzzing from the crafts and fun activities they had been doing that day.  Ramadan is also a festival – it is the festival of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. The spirit of Ramadan is to fast from dawn till dusk, in order to obey Gods command. The focus of the Month is to celebrate the Quran through recitals in groups or in solitude, to draw deep reflections on the messages and to set goals for personal change.  Some Muslim cultures place importance on providing feasts to fasting people within their family or communities, and the month is perfect for offering a lot of charity to the needy too.

I will add more to this page throughout the month of Ramadan.

Coming soon…

Activities with the children:

Here are some ideas that we have tried this year..

  1. Ramadan calendar – We created a lunar calendar in order to track the days of Ramadan.  See gallery for the photo.  We filled them with sweets and made a routine of counting down the days and sharing the sweets amongst the children after the late noon prayer.  This time is our family marker of reflections and reviews of what Ramadan is, and what we are learning and gaining so far. We use this time to gather on the prayer mats and read our prayers aloud, to read out the Ramadan posters we created, before finally allowing the children to count the days till they reach the day that is due to begin at sunset (the lunar calendar day begins at sunset).  This has been a wonderful experience this year and has become a natural habit for the family to gather to pray, reflect and do the calendar!  You can fill the calendar with messages, jokes, small games too.  We went for sweets this year.
  2. Ramadan treasure box. My eldest son generously donated his hand made treasure box and pirate treasures for a Ramadan game to keep us entertained.  He wrapped up old pieces of treasure (my old bits of jewellery and other things important to him) and provided us with a dice. Each night, usually after calendar time, one of us rolls the dice and whosever number it falls on gets to choose some treasure.  Sometimes we practice sharing or giving the treasure to eachother as gifts [don’t worry, he donated thinsg he was comfortable with giving away in the game].
  3. Ramadan daily Goals and wishes cards.  I made a set of sparkly cards to write 3 goals and 3 prayers inside.  Each night my eldest son brings everyone their card and we individually reflect on how we are doing with our goals and if we have remembered to pray for the three special things we chose.
  4. Ramadan Banner and moons decorations.  there are lot of youtube videos on how to make your own decorations for Ramadan and eid. we chose to cut out stars and moons and string them around the stair case .
  5. Quran tent for children.
  6. Iftar baskets and  lamps.

Celebrating Ramadan/festivals and nurturing identity development:

I am writing a separate article about this topic. See archives soon!

 

A father’s voice: Cooking with my boys [RECIPE 2]

Orange Almond Cake – Soft, moist and delicious!

By Muhammad Po.

My little boy loves the mixer. Sometimes he will just run to me and say lets make food with the mixer.  It’s a delight to see his eyes light up to see the mixer in action. I learnt to cook much later in life and I think the earlier children can become involved in cooking the easier it is for them to try new tastes and learn this important life skill.  This morning, still in pyjamas, the boys sat at the kitchen worktop, ready for cake action!

Warning – this recipe requires some preparation- you will need to boil oranges before hand, but once that is done, the rest is easy! You could use any kind of mixer or egg beater for the mixing, obviously it will take longer by hand and the oranges will not blend smooth by hand mixing and may likely be lumpy –  but more fun in the process. I got the oranges ready the night before so we could get going without having to watch the oranges cool down.  You could make the orange boiling process a part of a science experiment with older children and talk about heat energy and changes in solids if you do not get chance to prepare the oranges beforehand.

Ingredients:

2 large oranges or 3 medium/ 6 eggs/ 250g caster sugar/ 250g grounded almonds [peeled]/ 1tsp baking powder.

  1. Boil oranges till soft (about an hour). cool.
  2. Cut the oranges into slices and blend till smooth or whatever texture you prefer if u like to taste bits.
  3. Beat 6 eggs. Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Now add the egg mixture to the blended oranges. Fold in well.
  4. Spoon in to a greased baking tin and sprinkle caster sugar on top.
  5. Place in a preheated oven at 190 celcius- cook for one hour or till golden brown. The cake needs to cook slowly. If you find the cake is browning too quickly you could move it to a lower shelf in the oven or turn the temperature slightly lower.

You can add chocolate buttons to decorate while still warm for a chocolate melted orange flavour for the children who are not keen on fruit flavours, but in our house this soft and moist cake is a definite winner! Also, you could add a spoon of vanilla ice-cream if eating cold.

We decorated our cake with a dusting of icing sugar, sliced strawberries and slices of orange pulp from a left over boiled orange. We scooped some double cream on the slices of fruit and ooh so delicious! Yum yum. Even the fussy eater finished all on his plate!

Photos coming soon…