Learning about the Planets and Stars

New Year's Eve and even New Year's Eve eve are great times to teach the kids about stars and planets. Why? Because this year, for much of the country, Venus will be visible just below the moon in the southwestern sky. A short time later, Mercury and Jupiter will be visible on the horizon to the south-southwest. Find out how and why HERE.

My son is a toddler and loves the Planet Song from Blue's Clues. We don't know if he's connecting the dots, but it's a start. See this segment from Blue's Clues (sung mainly by the show's original host, Steve Burns) by clicking on the thumbnail.

"Well the sun's a hot star.
Mercury's hot too.
Venus is the brightest planet
and Earth is home to me and you.
Mars is the red one
Jupiter's most wide
Saturn's got those icy rings
Uranus spins on it's side.
Neptune's really windy
and Pluto's really small.
Well we wanted to name the planets, and now we've named them all!"

Of course, poor Pluto has been downgraded since this song was recorded. But think of it as another chance to explain what separates a planet from a moon. More dazzling images at http://www.theskyinmotion.com/

Merry Christmas from Beautiful Brown Babies!

We hope this Christmas brings you and your family all the blessings of the season.

Christmas Songs For the iPod: African-American Classics

A couple of weeks ago on the wedding blog, we talked about couples who are basically DJ'ing their own weddings by putting the songs they want on an iPod (or another digital player). So why not use the same idea for your holiday gatherings? If time is short, there is absolutely no reason to run all over town looking for Christmas music. Just sit down at your computer and download Mp3s of your favorite Christmas songs for your digital player. Play your songs at dinner or for cider-and-conversation after dinner. And just to make sure you wow everyone with your musical know-how, below is a teeny-tiny list of what's out there to get you started. (Some songs are free, others are .99 to download at Amazon.com)

African-American Christmas Classics

This Christmas (LP Version) by Donny Hathaway

Santa Claus is a Black Man by AKIM & Teddy Vann

Give Love At Christmas By The Temptations

Kung Fu Christmas

Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

Christmas In Hollis by Run DMC

Silent Night by the Temptations

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by the Pointer Sisters

My Favorite Things by Luther Vandross

Merry Christmas Baby/Please Come Home For Christmas by Charles Brown

Please Come Home for Christmas by Charles Brown

Do You Hear What I Hear by Whitney Houston

Get Here by Oleta Adams

Someday At Christmas by Stevie Wonder

Little Drummer Boy by Jackson 5

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer by the Jackson 5

I'm sure I left some out, so please feel free to set me straight! And Happy Holidays!!!!!!

Making the Holidays Truly Special for Little Ones

Think back to when you were a tiny tot. What do you remember most about the holidays? Psychologists say children mostly retain memories that appeal their senses. That means, you probably recall the sounds, smells and sights from your childhood holidays. What music was playing during Christmas season when you were a kid? What did your home smell like? What made your eyes light up?
Being just days away from Christmas, many parents rack their brains for ways to help their children enjoy the hustle and bustle. But the answers are already all around us. It may sound cliche, but supportive family and friends, great food, and a warm, inviting atmosphere are the keys to a wonderful Christmas. Everything else is just "wrapping". It really is.
How are you making the holidays special? How are you getting the children involved in any holiday preparations?

Crowd-Pleasing Holiday DVDs

We all know about the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But there can also be a little downtime between events like opening presents and preparing dinner. Here are some great "old school" Christmas DVDs that are guaranteed to bring back the warm-n-fuzzies for those of us over thirty and introduce the little ones to new characters. We're not breaking any ground here. These are classic crowd-pleasers.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Fat Albert's Christmas Special

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Wiz

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remastered Deluxe Edition)

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (50th Birthday Deluxe Remastered Edition)

A Christmas Story (Full-Screen Edition)

The Muppet Christmas Carol - Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition

Can you think of any others? If so, please share them!

Celebrating Santa Claus?

With the Christmas subject upon us, many parents are preparing to play the role of Santa Claus. But more and more parents are deciding not to include St. Nick in their holiday plans. Let us know what you think? Is Santa just harmless fun? Or is it an unnecessary lie? Or somewhere in the middle? The topic has been heating up message boards around the internet. By now we've all heard about the historical figure behind "Santa".

"Santa Claus is a Black Man" on Youtube

Music You and Your Kids Will Love- Really!

My 2-year-old son loves music. And we enjoy exposing him to songs from different artists and genres as long as they don't contain any bad language or imagery. Fortunately, he's at the age where any veiled references to bad behavior go right over his head.
I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb hearing lots of R&B, which was perfectly fine at the time because music was a lot less sketchy back then. Now, though, just listening to the radio with your kids can be dicey depending on the station and the time of day. That situation alone leads to what we consider a drastic separation in many households: Music for the kids and music for the adults.
It doesn't have to be that way. This separation of parents' music and kids' music -while sometimes necessary- doesn't have to be the norm in your house. Believe it or not there's lots of music you can listen to with your little one that isn't necessarily kiddie music, as long as you're willing to broaden your musical horizons. We do a little R&B, old school hip-hop, indie rock, "kindie rock", house music, classical, lounge (is that a category?), music from TV shows, whatever works. Real music is for EVERYBODY.
So let's hear it for tunes that are good for the kids and don't make you want to knock yourself unconscious. Here are just a few of the kiddie and non-kiddie selections we have in heavy rotation:

Jack Johnson "Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George"

Songs for Dust Mites (Steve from Blue's Clues)
Raphael Saadiq "The Way I See It"
Jazz for Kids: Sing, Clap, Wiggle and Shake

Jamiroquai "Travelling Without Moving"
Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"

Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin"
Cuban Lullaby
Best of Schoolhouse Rock

Just a few of our recent MP3s

Yolanda Adams "The Me Dance"
Aquabats "Pool Party"
Dirty Sock Funtime Band "Music Everywhere"
Jack's Big Music Show "Space Explorers"

*Also, various old school Hip-Hop tunes - This week it was (Monie Love, UMCs, Stetsasonic)

Other artists/collections I've been told to check out but haven't listened to yet:
They Might Be Giants
- Amazon actually has a nice collection of TMBG CDs that the band made for children and their parents. Band members say their kids like to "rock" so they made rockin' music for kids.
Barenaked Ladies
Beethoven's Wig (was just nominated for a Grammy)
Dan Zanes
Justin Roberts

We would LOVE to hear more options from you! If you have music you like to listen to with your kids, we beg you, PLEASE share by clicking on comments.
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