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Volunteering together teaches children positive values, like kindness, empathy, and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities. Ideas for December and beyond include: an intergenerational way to support veterans during the holiday season and beyond; a guide on how to self-organize a food drive to promote food security in the region; place to share in the preparation and consumption of holiday meals; collection drives to support food security and senior services; opportunities to help homeless children celebrate birthdays; connection and inclusion with people with IDD; among other ideas.

You may have heard of the spreading of joy and creativity via yarn bombs, seed bombs, art bombs, play bombs … but how about kindness bombs?

In late winter when the days are warm but the nights are still cold, the sap starts to run in sugar maples. Throughout New England, buckets and tubing begin to adorn trees, and the steady plinking of sap dripping into buckets can be heard throughout the sugarbush. This month’s literature guide spotlights titles that can be used to learn about sugaring – both the science behind it and the role that it plays in rural New England culture.

With Valentine’s Day serving as a catalyst, February is a time for practicing kindness in all its forms. Use titles from our library to learn about the impact that acts of kindness can have on the world, and to gather ideas for practicing kindness in your own community.

Gestures of caring and acts of kindness hold a space of sanctuary during shared meals. In this place of refuge, we can fill ourselves with gratitude and appreciation for the gifts of the world, the authentic connections we can make with one another, and being of service to the universal “me” that resides in the stories of our neighbors, the fruit of the land, and the moments of silence in between.

Through curiosity and compassion, we can move from toxic environments we might find ourselves in during our days or in the evenings to a space of sanctuary, areas where we can be generous with one another and ourselves through nonjudgement and acceptance. Let the generous month of November be a starting point, and shared meals your practice.

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, community-based education specialist and Hilltown Families’ Founder, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, May 28, 2018, with Sienna and Lauren talking about how the Memorial Day is the perfect time to show appreciation towards those who have served our country through self-initiated activities while learning via community-based resources.

For some, Memorial Day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have served the people of our country. Participating in Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies can also be a form of placemaking, strengthening ties to community spaces and encouraging social interaction between generations. Memorial Day is also an opportunity to express gratitude and kindness through acts of appreciation and volunteer opportunities. Here are a few ideas to support your learning and acts of generosity through the lens of the seasons this Memorial Day.

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Fun Gardening Activities for Little Hands!

Garden starts like tomatoes, pea shoots and other delicate plants are not something a toddler can easily handle without destroying. However, there are some really great garden prep activities that even the littlest of the little ones can help with. Watering, raking, and weeding may be the obvious places to start, but here are a few more fun early spring garden prep activities for the younger green thumbs.

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, community-based education specialist and Hilltown Families’ Founder, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, April 30, 2018 with Sienna and Lauren talking about how the spring holidays are the perfect time to show kindness and appreciation towards others through self-initiated activities while learning via community-based resources.
Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Monday, May 28th, 2018!

This holiday season, families can achieve the sharing of kindness and meaningful gift giving by exploring mindfulness meditation in order to give the gift of mindful presence. Not only does the gift of mindful presence benefit those around you, it benefits the gift givers themselves by granting feelings of calmness and deeper awareness of the world around them. Read more in our post, The Gift of a Mindful Presence.

For many, this last month ushered in strong feelings of uncertainty for the future. Mindfulness meditation is a useful tool for embracing uncertainty and learning to live fully and compassionately within it.

‘Tis becoming to season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

The fall season offers unique opportunities to give thanks with our families and to expand our circles of gratitude throughout our communities. In this month’s column, In Appreciation: Refletions on Teaching Gratitude & Empathy,” Amy shares three ways we can warm the winter days during the holiday season through the lens of kindness and gratitude.

Bugs of Summer Toddlers love bugs and insects or they are terrified of them! Either way the curiosity that bugs and insects evoke in young children is endless. I am a true believer that a child that is exposed to the natural world around will have a heightened respect and a deep regard for that world. Insect’s can be scary, they are foreign, and they don’t speak, ride bikes, or eat crackers…. Read More

Art Abandonment… the simple act of leaving little works of creativity for others to find; spreading art, joy and kindness. This month in “Let Them Grow: Fresh Ways to Engage Toddlers in Creative-Free Play,” Candice sparks us to engage in creative-free play with our toddlers by making simple art that makes ripples of community connection through creativity!

Celebrated annually as part of National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day encourages people to share writing and connect with others by spreading poems throughout their communities. Celebrated by literally carrying poems in pockets or by sharing words through more creative means, the event presents a unique opportunity to share important writing and to connect with others through the thoughts and feelings that great writing can provoke.

Rather than resolving to change in the new year, we encourage families to explore themselves through mindfulness in 2016. A practice that can support the development of many skills and understandings, family mindfulness practice can lead to a productive, engaged, and mindful new year!

Boxing Day: A Yuletide Tip. While we don’t collectively celebrate Boxing Day in the United States, it is celebrated across Europe and in other parts of the world. And even though you may not have someone nearby celebrating Boxing Day, families can use this celebration in other countries to inspire some new post-Christmas traditions. Read on how you can extend festive generosity into the day after Christmas.

Here are a couple of ideas that integrate creative-free play with thoughtful ways children can reciprocate their love and caring of the elders in their life…

Do you let your kids quit? Do you let yourself quit? In this month’s “Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting,” Ginny Hamilton explores the difference between being comfortable in the deep end and being in over your head.

During this season of abundance, we are afforded the unique opportunity to strengthen our connections through food and togetherness. In this month’s column, “Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection,” Cheryl reflects upon how something as simple as a recipe card can unite us across generations.

Helping to provide much needed support for humans, service dogs are truly some of man’s best friends. Local families can engage in service-based learning by fostering future service dogs, giving them a loving home while helping to support their training. Information sessions are held weekly for interested local families!

Making Giving about Giving This is the time of year to think about not just our families but also for our community. Living in such a small valley makes it easy to make connections that are meaningful and valuable. One easy activity that will help your children understand the value of giving and gratitude are donation bags! At my daycare we have teamed up with Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always in… Read More

Taking place across western Massachusetts, community meals held around Thanksgiving offer opportunities for communities to connect through food and for families to give back to their communities. Families can donate food, volunteer at events, or attend community meals in order to help build community!

Sitting down to the Thanksgiving table, surrounded by the abundance of food and connection, is a humble reminder that not everyone is awarded this privilege. It’s this very awareness that inspires us to host a food drive each year at our family business, collecting canned food and other items that we donate to our local soup kitchen. This year, I invite everyone in our Hilltown Families community to give back in some way. Maybe it’s donating a few canned goods from your own pantry, or making cookies for your child’s teacher, or inviting a friend to dinner who would otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone. No matter what you do or what you give, extend your hand and open your heart. All of it matters

The Dalai Lama says “kindness is my religion.” I was taught how to be polite, not how to be kind. In this month’s Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting, pain specialist and yoga instructor Ginny Hamilton explores rude and kind, polite and honest, in life with a six year old boy.

Celebrate and promote World Kindness Day as a family by participating in a worldwide freezemob/flashmob event! The local installment of the event will take place in Northampton on Nov. 8, and families are invited to join in on the celebration – committing to help spread kindness by dancing and by living a life filled with kindness.

This Halloween, give back when receiving candy from your neighbors. Here are 4 easy handmade crafts kids can make before Halloween night to carry with them and to give back to neighbors.

According to Puritan superstition, black cats carry with them demons and sorcery. The notoriety black cats have gained through this superstition has landed their silhouette on many a Halloween decoration, but otherwise, it hasn’t worked out well for them. And according to the superstitions of other cultures, black cats actually bring much more good than harm! Scottish folklore tells of black cats bringing prosperity to homes they visit, and British and Japanese folks are quite fond of black cats as well.

Westfield State students collect shoes to help in fight against global poverty Attention anyone with a closet:  Those shoes you no longer want are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.  That’s the message  delivered by Westfield State student and Circle K member Rebecca Talamini ’15, who organized a Soles4Souls shoe drive and collected over 880 pairs of shoes to help the poor, and 35 single shoes to donate… Read More

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