Friday, September 30, 2011

China album

Here's a recap of all of our China activities.  Click on the photos to follow through to a detailed post. 




paper lanterns


 dragon puppet

stuffed panda

Chinese calligraphy

rainbow rice


pop-up Chinese city and Great Wall


Find us on Goodreads for book reviews and lists of all the books we've read. 

picture books

grown-up book



Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations

Lantern Walk


 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Mandarin



donation to The Library Project


China reflections

I'd been looking forward to our China month because I knew it would get us out into our local community in Singapore, which is heavily dominated by Chinese culture.  We were active participants in the Mid-Autumn celebrations around Singapore.  We learned more about the foods that we've been eating since we moved here.  And we learned a couple new Mandarin words along the way. 

Did you find any resources in your local community?  A Chinese restaurant selling mooncakes?  Or a community center with festival celebrations?  A neighbor with a lantern in their window?

Just as The Whirl Girl and I have been discovering parts of our local community, Whirls and Twirls has been connecting with members of its global community.  In addition to all of our crafty-cooking-musical goodness, I've been working on trying to spread the wings of Whirls and Twirls to reach a bigger audience.

I get an almost daily reminder from The Whirl Girl about how Whirls and Twirls is changing her perspective.  When she's not asking to do another project - which she frequently is - she is remembering something that she's learned in our "travels."  It is inspiring to me as a parent, and as a global educator, to see how her worldview is expanding through our adventures.  And when you feel inspired, you want to share it!

This month, we made two steps in that direction.  We were featured on Modern Parents Messy Kids, one of my favorite crafty parenting blogs, in a thoughtful 9/11 post on raising kids with empathy and global perspective.  And I wrote a guest post on the Barefoot Books Living Barefoot blog about how we bring life to their fantastic books with crafts and cooking projects. 

These collaborations reminded me of one of the best parts about writing Whirls and Twirls - the discovery of new communities of people that share my passions for travel, creativity, and global education.

I've been sharing some of these amazing resources here and there in posts and by adding links that I find useful down the right sidebar.  From here on out, I'm going to try to be a bit more systematic about it.  Each Monday will feature a resource that I've found that relates to our efforts here.

If you are a like-minded soul out there, let us know what you're working on.  Or if you've found a website or organization that you think we should know about, please share it with us.  Likewise, please share our website with those who think might be interested in joining us for the ride.

But what you really want to know is where are we going next month?!  Without further ado, for October, Whirls and Twirls will be traveling to....


Thursday, September 29, 2011

China donation: The Library Project

It's my favorite time of the month - when we make our donation to an organization doing good work in our country of focus. 

Our donation this month will be going to The Library Project.  It's an organization that donates books and libraries to underfunded schools and orphanages in China.  They have donated over 350 libraries - and in them more than 300,000 Chinese language children's books.  Books and reading are such a big part of Whirls and Twirls that this was a natural fit. 

It was also something that The Whirl Girl could relate to.  We talked about how lucky we are to have a full bookshelf of our own and access to a library that has lots and lots of books.  And we talked about how some kids don't have any books at all.  We looked through The Library Project's website together, which has some great photos of kids receiving and reading books. 

And then for our card to send with the donation, we made a little book of our own.  I cut out some pictures from old cards and The Whirl Girl glued them onto paper, added some "words" of her own, and we stapled it all together with a note from me about our donation and our project. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kenya donation: Remembering Wangari Maathai

I received the news of the death of Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Kenyan environmentalist on Monday night from BBC.  It brought tears to my eyes. We were part of the large community of people whose lives she touched and inspired.

We were introduced to Maathai when Whirls and Twirls went to Kenya.  A number of the picture books we read were about Maathai's work and life.  When we read these books together, they imparted an understanding of the importance of helping others, protecting our environment, and standing up for what is right.  The Whirl Girl asked lots of questions as we read them.  She learned that some people in the world have less than others and we talked about what kinds of things we can do to help. 

At the same time, I read Maathai's memoir.  I was moved by her story, and especially, of her description of how her courage grew over time.  She did not set out to be such a force in Kenyan society and politics, but rather kept responding to the great needs that she saw in her country.  It was a good reminder to me of the importance of fighting injustice on scales small and large.

We gave our first donation to her organization, The Green Belt Movement, with a card made by The Whirl Girl.  The Whirl Girl still asks me out of the blue - four months later - if Wangari got her card. 

That isn't the only way Wangari is remembered in our house.  Each night when The Whirl Girl takes a bath turns the water off quickly instead of playing so that she doesn't waste water.  She tells us that doing so "makes Wangari happy."  And as we were driving around Singapore last week, we noticed that they were cutting down a row of trees near our house to widen the road.  The Whirl Girl told us that Wangari wouldn't like that, as she remembered the description of Maathai planting trees in the books we read.

One of my main goals for starting Whirls and Twirls was to encourage The Whirl Girl's capacity for empathy and to develop her sense of responsibility to the wider world.  Learning and talking about Maathai was our first "experiment" in actively doing so.  It was just as good of a lesson to me as a parent as it was to The Whirl Girl.  I am grateful to see firsthand that there are age-appropriate ways to expose my daughter to the harsher realities of the world and to nurture her ability to care for others and our environment.  

Thank you, Wangari, for sharing your story, your dreams, and your determination with us.  Thank you for inspiring our family to make the world a better place. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chinese crafts: Pop-up Chinese city and the Great Wall

As we know, more people live in China than anywhere else: about 1.3 billion.  At least 1/3 of them live in cities.

I've loved these paper city and vehicle templates at Made by Joel ever since I saw them and have just been waiting for the occasion to use them.  What better way than to build our own "Chinese city"?  In addition to the city buildings and cars/buses/bicycles, I added a Chinese temple and the Great Wall of China from the Rainbow Kids China resources. We also looked at pictures and video of the Great Wall on National Geographic to get The Whirl Girl's imagination flowing.  And later in the day, we read Good Morning China, one of our books, and used her toys reenact some of the typical activities in a Chinese city park (tai chi, badminton and waltzing!). 

To make the city pieces, I printed them out on cardstock.  The Whirl Girl colored them and I cut them out.

Then we set them up in her room (on a convenient city Ikea rug). Her "little friends" all lined up to see the Great Wall and the temple, with the cars, bikes and buses on the roads. 


Friday, September 23, 2011

Chinese crafts: fan

We did made just about the simplest fan that you can make because, well, we were in that kind of mood.  You can find ideas for more elaborate (but not that elaborate) fans on Activity Village.  Afterwards, we watched this YouTube video to inspire some fan dance moves.


  • paper (we used construction paper)
  • clear packing tape
  • wooden stick (we used a wooden chopstick, could also use a popsicle stick)

Step One: Decorate paper.  We used crayons to color. 

Step Two: Fold like an accordion.  Smaller folds are better.

Step Three: Tape the chopstick in the middle and tape the bottom of the fan together. 

So easy we made two!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chinese crafts: Rainbow rice

China is the world's largest producer of rice.  And rice was first cultivated in China 8000-9000 years ago.  To find out more than you ever wanted to know about rice, check out this UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2004 Year of Rice website

I'd come across a handful of rice crafts in the last few weeks and this was a perfect opportunity to try them out.  The two biggest inspirations were these posts on Momtastic and Mommy Labs.  We made colorful rice and then used it for a couple of different projects.  For the first, we made rice designs on paper.  And for the second, we made a rainbow jar, filling up a glass jar with the rice.  

  • rice (we used white rice)
  • food coloring
  • vinegar
  • wax paper
  • paper and glue and/or glass jar 

Step One: Put 1 cup of rice in a baggie.  Repeat for however many colors you want to make.  

Step Two: Add a couple drops of food coloring and 1 TBS of vinegar.  

Step Three: Mix until you all of the rice is covered and you have a color that you like.  

 Step Four: Dry on wax paper. 

We transferred ours to bowls to make it easier to work with.  Plus moving the rice around is half the fun!

For the rice designs on paper, we did a mix of different papers, first applying glue and then sprinkling the rice all around.  Warning!: the glue stick we used was not sticky enough to hold the rice so many of our designs were temporary.  Maybe Elmers glue would work better?

 some on China coloring sheets that I had printed out

 some design-your-own, where The Whirl Girl "drew" with the glue stick...

...sprinkled it with rice and then we shook off the rice to reveal her design.  

We tried black, white and yellow papers to mix it up.  

For the jar, The Whirl Girl filled up the jar with different layers of colors.  

This was a great project.  It was almost all hands-on and The Whirl Girl loved playing with the rice before, during and after she made her creations.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

China crafts: Chinese calligraphy

I love the way languages look.  Different alphabets and characters have always felt like artwork to me.  And of course, there is a long tradition of artisanry in Chinese calligraphy.  So I really wanted to do a calligraphy project with The Whirl Girl.  

One of our books this month is In the Snow, a quiet story about a boy whose mother is showing him how to draw Chinese characters in the snow.  It shows 10 Chinese characters related to nature and the boy notices how the characters can be a pictorial representation of the word.  I used those words for our calligraphy, and did my best to draw them on pieces of paper so The Whirl Girl could trace them with paint.  One of them was our word of the month: (moon).

  • paper with Chinese characters drawn on them
  • paint
  • paintbrush

We looked at each page of the book that corresponded with the character that we were painting.  Then The Whirl Girl used her brush to paint over the pencil lines that I had drawn. 

"tree" and The Whirl Girl taking some artistic license of her own
"sparkling" on pink, "tree" on green, "sun" on yellow, "rain" on blue, and "moon" on purple