Kids Books & Movies: Reviews on Vegbooks.org

Kids Books & Movies: Reviews on Vegbooks.org

Last June, Kathy Freston of Veganist fame wrote an article for The Huffington Post called “Vegan: Great for Kids!” The focus of the article was on simple ways parents might be supportive of their children’s choices, in addition to reassuring them that it can be perfectly healthy for kids to abstain from eating animal products. Vegbooks is an online resource for parents that also can help them guide children along the path they’ve chosen for themselves. Offering reviews of books and movies for kids of all ages, along with relevant articles, the site enables parents to know what books their children might be interested in. And, if the kids haven’t articulated a desire to become vegetarian or vegan but parents are looking for ways to instill an appreciation of our fellow earthlings, here’s the place to find out about great books and movies that the kids not only will enjoy, but also will serve as great conversation starters. Even before my nephew was born, the book-lover in me started building his reading collection. Naturally, some of the first I selected were old childhood favorites of mine. In addition, I sought out more recently written books — fiction for children has come a long way since the days of my youth! Which is exactly why I’m so delighted to discover this resource: I’ll be using Vegbooks frequently throughout the next several years to find new books my darling nephew and I can experience together for the first time. I’m looking forward to having many story-times together. And don’t forget about the movie reviews, too. Nicky just turned five, so we...
Educating Africa: Children in the Wilderness program

Educating Africa: Children in the Wilderness program

As a former educator, I’m especially enthusiastic whenever I discover programs that focus on younger generations, inspiring them to be independent thinkers and compassionate do-ers in this world. By offering an environmental and life skills educational program to children in Africa’s rural communities, Children in the Wilderness fosters an appreciation in these children of their natural heritage and, importantly, instills in them a sense of responsibility for taking care of that heritage throughout their lives. During the year, Wilderness Safaris closes some of its camps in Africa so that it can host groups of rural children, ages 10-17, for a five-night program. The groups range in size from 16 to 45 children each time. Children in the Wilderness originated in 2001, when actor Paul Newman traveled to Africa with his family and connected with Wilderness Safaris. With his help, Children in the Wilderness held its first children’s camp in Botswana in December of that same year. Now, there are camps held in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, the Seychelles, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (at Hwange National Park, one of the national parks I visited during my own safari adventure!). According to its most recent annual report, the Children in the Wilderness program: practices and teaches sustainable environmental education develops leadership qualities in Africa’s children exposes the children to new experiences and new friends helps to build  self-esteem and teaches life skills inspires the children to continue with their education focuses on everyday issues pertaining to their particular situation, including topics such as HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and poaching provides the children with a sense of hope and opportunity As of December 2010,...
Kids Love Mochi for Breakfast!

Kids Love Mochi for Breakfast!

My four year-old nephew Nicholas has been visiting this summer from San Diego. During his stay in Tucson, we’ve had so much fun together. With lots of  pool time, he’s been learning to swim, we’ve been practicing our Italian together (Nicky the pesce!), and he even created his first song, inspired by a recent thunderstorm. Before his return to California this week, we asked Nicky what he thought about spending a night at Aunt Sharon and Uncle Seth’s house. He liked the idea, and together we planned the activities. First, we baked a cake together using Cherrybrook Kitchen mix. Then we had a “movie theater night” with air-popped popcorn (drizzled with Earth Balance); Nicky shared his popcorn with his canine cousins Otis and Galileo while we all watched Tangled. After the movie, the whole family piled onto the bed for storytime — we read Olivia, the story of a little pig with big dreams. In the morning, we made mochi for breakfast. Mochi is a kind of Japanese rice cake: you can buy a small block of mochi, made by Grainassance, at Whole Foods. Although Alicia Silverstone has a great recipe for Pan-Fried Mochi in her book The Kind Diet, we baked the mochi in the oven because I thought it would be fun for Nicky to watch how, in a matter of minutes, the squares of dough puff up like magic. We kept the oven light on for him to see. To make the breakfast experience extra fun, I put out little dipping bowls of agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup. Mochi-dipping was a...
Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

In addition to choosing cruelty-free alternatives for the chocolates and candy in the Easter basket, there’s the tradition of the Easter Eggs that needs a little makeover… Coloring Easter Eggs Rather than dying a bunch of eggs that most people wind up throwing away a few days later, painting and decorating wooden eggs can become a new family tradition. Year to year, you can add to a collection of your child’s handiwork– extra-special keepsakes to have around when they no longer believe in you-know-who. Use a clear coat sealer when the painting’s done so that the creative masterpieces will stand the test of time. Don’t forget to have the kids paint the date on their eggs! Easter Egg Hunts Even when I was a young child, egg hunts made use of the hollow plastic eggs that opened in half. These are great for public egg hunts as well as those you create in your home. What’s fun about using these eggs is that you can get really creative about what to put inside: you can fill the eggs with a few jellybeans or a Jolly Rancher or two; or, I remember a few Easter holidays when a couple of “select” eggs had dollar bills inside; or maybe the Easter Bunny will leave a special little note inside one. A super-cool option — especially if you’re planning an Easter Egg hunt for a bunch of kids in the neighborhood: ready-made assortments of  plastic eggs by Bee International. I love the “Noah’s Ark” eggs that are shaped like animals and filled with Smarties and bubble gum. They also have “Sports Buddies” eggs —...
For the Easter Basket

For the Easter Basket

Yesterday, in celebration of my friend Denise and also Passover, we were talking matzo ball soup. But I know some of you already are thinking about Easter, which is just a couple of weeks away. So today and tomorrow, it’s all about the upcoming visit from the Easter Bunny. Here’s the cruelty-free scoop, in time for all your holiday basket shopping. Chocolate Goodies Chocolate Decadence Dairy-free (and gluten-free!) Easter chocolates, including the larger-sized bunny for the basket’s centerpiece. Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates Sjaak’s makes all kinds of delicious dairy-free chocolates, including a vast selection of Easter goodies!  The Dark Chocolate Sitting Bunny is perfect if you’re going to be making up an Easter basket for someone. For a more “grown up” Easter indulgence, I’m thinking the lavender truffles are the way to go. Whizzers Speckled Eggs Miniature chocolate “eggs” in a speckled candy shell to make the contents of the basket as colorful as they are tasty! Candies: Jellybeans Jolly Ranchers Now & Laters (my fave!) Pez Sweet Tarts Swedish Fish Dots Sour Patch Kids (always my brother’s fave!)...
Stella McCartney Kids

Stella McCartney Kids

Although I don’t have any human kids of my own, I adore my four year-old nephew Nicholas and, for that matter, all my friends’ children. I just love hearing about the latest adventure at the All-American Girl store, the sleep-over for a half dozen ten year-olds, and the latest scoop on someone’s developing ZuZu Pet village. Not to mention the pictures from the dance recitals. So… “Aunt Sha” is always on the lookout for animal-friendly alternatives for our little ones, too!  I have so much (too much) fun shopping sometimes. This past weekend, I made a couple of purchases for Nicky from Stella McCartney Kids, and I wanted to let you all in on the fun. I’ve already written about Stella McCartney: I love her designs, and that she’s created a design house that is leather-free and fur-free. Not only are her designs animal-friendly, but they’re also eco-conscious, often incorporating biodegradable and recycled fabrics. I love that whenever I wear something by her I feel like a million bucks. I love that she is one of the founders of the Meat-Free Monday campaign. Ms. McCartney has had other endeavors that have made her fashions more accessible to the mainstream; her previous efforts include one for kids, through Gap stores. But last November she launched her own children’s line, which officially makes her a super-stellar Stella. My weekend purchases? I bought my favorite little four year-old the Leo sweatshirt ($36), which is made from organic cotton. And a dollar of each sweatshirt goes to the Meat-Free Monday campaign. I also couldn’t resist buying the Days of the Week underpants collection ($68), also made of organic...