November 17, 2022 by Sarah Brown 0 Comments

Parenting With a Big Heart: How My Three Year Old’s Comment Helped Us Change Our Family’s Approach to Race

When Auggie was 3, he surprised me with the off-handed comment that “only grownups could have brown skin, and not children.” It really took me aback. We live in NYC after all, a city with so many different kinds of people!

My first impulse was to remind him of the friends he had who were black. But … I could think of one. The more I thought about it, our neighborhood has a lot of white people. Our nursery school has children who speak many languages, whose family come from many different countries, but again, nearly no families of color, or those that look different from him on the outside. He has had black teachers, we have black grown up friends. He didn’t have friends who were children of color, and as preschoolers do, he decided something about the world, based on the information presented to him. 

We spent a lot of Auggie’s daily life in largely white spaces — white neighborhoods, white schools. NYC is so diverse and also so segregated. And we hadn’t really talked about race before, because he hadn’t brought it up.

How We Responded

We made some conscious changes based on this initial conversation: visiting more playgrounds and areas of the city more frequently, where children and families did not all look the same. I realized in choosing early picture books for Auggie, I had told myself that most of the characters were animals anyway, so I didn’t need to worry too much about representation. I realize now that when he wasn’t in an environment where there were children of color, books were a primary place we could surround ourselves with diverse friends. 

Auggie is 6 now, and we talk about race often, with conversations often motivated by him. While I wished that conversation when he was 3 had been the big shift, it was actually the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 that did it. We marched, we explained, we talked about all the ways our country isn’t fair for people of color.

“Fair” is very important for the 4-6 set, and it resonated with him. He points out when books leave folks out, or have “old ideas” now. His elementary school was particularly chosen for its diverse student body, and focus on social justice. It really helps me to have a village of supports around him to bring up these conversations again and again. I’m a progressive educator, and always approached a lot of my child’s learning by letting it emerge from him and his interests.

But I learned that these topics may not emerge on their own, particularly if my son is surrounded by others who look only like him.

It’s our job as parents to provide and build a community who is diverse and inclusive, to provoke these conversations, and to point out and stand up ourselves for things that aren’t fair in the world around us.

November 17, 2022 by Ida Mhunduru 0 Comments

Parenting With a Big Heart: Facing Race with My Toddler

This is not a subject I thought about when I saw that positive line on the pregnancy test. When I found out I was having a little girl, I didn’t think of this subject. Even as they placed her on my chest, and seeing her face for the first time, I did not think about this subject. I didn’t have think about how the world would receive her, if she would be accepted, and loved just as she is. I didn’t because I was her world. However, as she began to grow and enter into new spaces, I did begin to think of this subject, and a lot.

Since we are blessed with a wide variety of trusted friends and family from diverse backgrounds and cultures, I wasn’t prepared for the bias and prejudices children and families can face based on the color of their skin. It wouldn’t be until a couple of years later that I would experience this first hand.

My toddler and I were visiting family and this particular family member lived in an upper-middle class, gated community. Knowing the code to enter the property, I punched the numbers on the keypad, and drove through the opening gate. I noticed a car behind me as I drove through the neighborhood. The car took every turn I took and followed closely. I then entered the driveway of my family member. I had the code to their garage and a key and all I needed to do was unload our bags and my daughter and head inside.

The car pulled in front of the driveway and waited. I immediately knew why this inquisitive neighbor stayed there watching, and why they had followed me. It was because they did not think I belonged there. It was because they thought me to be suspicious.

After realizing they were going to stay there, I began to panic. Within seconds, I thought what if they have already called the police to share their concerns about me? What if the police arrived and my explanation about why I was there was insufficient?  What if my daughter witnessed them handcuff me while they got more information, or something far worse?

I called out to the car and asked if they needed anything. They pulled up slightly. It was then, I realized they were afraid of me. I walked over to the garage and entered the code. As the garage opened, they decided to drive away.

I was distraught and had to hide my tears from my toddler. I have made it my mission since then to ensure my daughter will never be on either end of that horrible experience.

I prepare my child for moments like these first and foremost with teaching her how to affirm, accept, and love herself. We daily celebrate who she is inside and outside! It is also vital that I teach her to love and accept others. We are intentional with regularly learning about people from cultures different than ours.

November 17, 2022 by Rebecca Parlakian, MA, Ed. 0 Comments

When You’re White: Talking About Race with Toddlers

Part of a three-year-old’s job is to figure out how their world works. Of course, people are the most important part of a young child’s world. So it’s no surprise that toddlers are curious about the differences they see in the people around them, including differences related to race. Research tells us that white parents find it difficult talking about race with children. But when children get the message — even inadvertently — that race is something “we don’t discuss,” it teaches them there’s something uncomfortable or even bad about noticing and talking about skin color.

So what should you do instead?

Here are some tips on how parents CAN introduce the topic of race to their young children.

Start with you. 

What’s been your own experience with race and bias? How has your family talked about race? What do you want your child to learn about race and bias? Thinking about what beliefs you want to share with (and nurture within) your child is an important starting point.

Use descriptive, unbiased language.

When toddlers point out differences in skin color, they aren’t being racist: they are observing what they see in their world. You can validate their observations in an unbiased way: Yes, Kira’s skin is a different color than your skin. Her skin is brown, your skin is a pinky-tan color. Everybody’s skin color is a little different.

Correct misunderstandings without shaming.

Three-year-old children approach the world with a growing (but still immature) world view. Children may share an idea they have come up with on their own or perhaps they will share something they have heard people discuss around them. It’s important to clearly correct their misunderstandings without shame or judgment. For example, a white toddler may mistake a black child’s curly hair as messy. He might tell his parents, “Malachi doesn’t comb his hair.” This gives parents an opportunity to say, “Everybody’s hair looks different. Malachi’s hair is curly. Yours is straight. Malachi’s grown-ups help him take care of his hair, just like we help you take care of yours.”

Offer your child access to a diverse world.

When you’re selecting early education programs or play groups, include diversity as an item on your checklist. Did you know: Attending a diverse preschool and building cross-race friendships increases the chance that children will show less racial bias when they enter school — all the way through third grade?

Representation matters.

Choose children’s books with main characters representing different races and ethnicities. Do the same when selecting toys like dolls or action figures. Play music from a variety of cultures. If you choose to share screen media with your child, look for programs that feature diverse characters and settings (consider Sesame Street; Blues Clues & You; Doc McStuffins; Jelly, Ben & Pogo or Bubble Guppies — just a few suggestions!). Local cultural events are also a great way of exposing children to new cultures, languages, and people in their community.

Remember that it’s not “one and done.” 

Discussions about race will happen hundreds of times during your child’s life. Don’t feel pressured to cover every topic in one conversation. Keep the lines of communication open. There will be plenty of chances to return to these issues again and again as your child matures.

The experiences we find hardest in parenting are often the moments that help us grow the most as people. Open, non-judgmental discussions about race, even when they feel uncomfortable, are powerful. They shape our children’s worldview and help them to understand themselves and others. Most importantly, these discussions give children the model and motivation to build a more just and equitable future for everyone.

September 1, 2022 by admin 0 Comments

Build a Kinder World With Your Child!

This month, Big Heart World is joining Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation’s #BeKind21 — a movement that asks all of us to do something kind for the first 21 days in September to flex our kindness muscles and build a culture of kindness and compassion.

Everyone — big and small — can be kind. And kindness matters! Being kind helps others and the Earth — and it helps YOU. Research shows when you do kind things for others, you get happier and healthier! 

Here’s a calendar with ideas to inspire you and your family to spread kindness this month:

Download the calendar and print it out for your family!

This is our second year being part of this important kindness campaign.

We hope our calendar inspires you and your little one, and we can’t wait to hear how you make the world a kinder, braver place together this month!

Please share with the hashtag #BeKind21 with us on Facebook or Instagram!

And please sign up and take the the #BeKind21 pledge yourself:

Born This Way Foundation launched #BeKind21 in 2018 to invite participants to practice an act of kindness for themselves and others each day from September 1st to September 21st to build kinder, connected communities that foster mental wellness. 

July 1, 2022 by Julia Levy 0 Comments

Parenting With a Big Heart: Big Heart Summer

Some families give balloons on the last day of school; in my family, we give binders. Starting a few years ago, on the last day of school, we started a family tradition of giving our kids a binder on the last day of school, full of summer challenges — activities that will motivate them to exercise their brains, hearts, and bodies through the hot summer months. 

From the beginning, my kids’ summer challenges included social and emotional challenges — fun activities that grow their hearts. Their heart activities included:  

  • Write 3 letters to friends or family
  • Make 3 new friends
  • Do 5 little things and 1 big thing to help other people and the planet
  • FaceTime or Zoom with 5 friends who are far away
  • Cook & taste foods from 5 different countries
  • Write 3 poems or songs expressing your feelings and ideas 

Working through a binder full of challenges might not be every kid’s cup of tea — but my kids love paging through their binders and looking for a new adventure, experiment, or project. They love checking things off the list that they’ve accomplished. And as a parent, I love it when they’re learning, trying new things, and growing their whole selves. 

What If Summer '22 Was a Big Heart Summer?

As we jumped into the summer of 2022, I started to wonder: What if we made this a Big Heart Summer for ALL of us and our little ones? Most parents today say that their top concern is making sure children are developing social and emotional skills — understanding themselves and others, being able to manage emotions, interacting with others, making friends, etc. What if our “summer challenges” this year were focused on heart: finding creative ways to grow big hearted kids and practice those all important skills that set us up for success in the world? 

This was how Big Heart Summer was born. It’s a creative workbook that families or caregivers can use with children this summer to spark fun, summertime learning, an exploration with our hearts that will help us use this time to understand ourselves and others just a little bit better. 

If you want, you can print this out and go through, page by page. More likely, you’ll want to pick the pages that speak to you — or adapt the ideas to your child’s needs and passions. Remember: Big Heart Summer should be fun, creative, and inspiring; it’s not homework!

In my family, this booklet is an instant hit. My youngest already made a postcard for his grandma — we just need to take it to the post office. My oldest is planning out a series of lemonade stands to raise money to help a friend who is sick. 

I hope that this can help you to grow YOUR littles’ big hearts this summer. Please share your experiences — or other great ideas you have to inspire families. 

June 13, 2022 by Dana Stewart 0 Comments

Celebrate Freedom While Introducing Your Child to Challenging Ideas This Juneteenth

With Junteenth (a.k.a. Freedom Day) approaching, parents, teachers, and caregivers have the opportunity to celebrate freedom while opening children’s eyes to some of the toughest topics in American history and society.

Juneteenth raises topics — including race, racism, slavery, segregation, and discrimination — that are hard to discuss for adults AND with  children. But these are topics worth discussing. As a mom, teacher, and school leader, I can assure you that the more you have these conversations, the easier they become. 

At two-years-old, my own daughter is still too young to understand many of the big themes Juneteenth raises like racial differences, bias, and U.S. history. She has not yet begun to develop Theory of Mind — the understanding that every individual has their own thoughts, ideas, feelings, beliefs, etc. Without this, she isn’t ready to grasp the idea that someone can believe something that is objectively false (e.g., that people with browner skin are inferior to people with whiter skin). For now, my focus is on helping her get to know many different kinds of people and teaching her words to describe and talk about people through books, music, and interactions with friends and neighbors. This way, when she IS ready to start thinking about big ideas like slavery and bigotry, she will have the words she needs to talk about these (and other) challenging topics, and she’ll know that I am open to the discussion.

When can you talk about racism with your child?

You know your child best. Typically, around age 4 or 5, children start to understand that someone can hold false beliefs about objects, people, or situations. Around this age, children also become very interested in “rules” and “fairness.” They will start to be able to play rule-based games, be very motivated to make sure everyone is following the rules, and talk about things that they perceive as “fair” or “unfair” (“Hey! They got more cookies than me!”) These are good indicators that your child is ready to start thinking about concepts like bias, discrimination, and racism. 

Do I really need to start talking to my child about racism this early?

By the age of 4, your child has likely taken note of some of the many ways that racism, discrimination, and bias influence our lives. In a yearlong study, researchers found that children as young as three, “used racial categories to identify themselves and others, to include or exclude children from activities, and to negotiate power in their own social/play networks,” (Van Ausdale & Feagin, 2001). Talking about inclusion and exclusion, bias and racism will help your child start to understand the societal patterns that they see and help them recognize and call-out racism when they see it. Talking about bias and racism openly is a first step toward raising children who are not biased or racist and will help move society forward.

How do I even begin this conversation?

Before starting a conversation, it is great to find out what your child knows or thinks they know about race and/or racism. Picture books and other media can help parents to create the opportunity to bring up skin color or race. You can also look for relevant moments in your child’s real life, like a child being excluded on the playground or noticing the skin tones of dolls at the toy store. Try saying, “I noticed that most of the dolls at the store have light skin and blonde hair. What do you think about that?” Listen to their ideas without judgment and ask further questions that invite them to say more.

Your child might also raise the topic on their own. The way that you react matters. If your reaction to your child’s questions about race or skin tone sends the message that the topic is taboo, harmful, or shameful, they are less likely to ask again. Instead, think about affirming your child’s observations: “Yes! You noticed that the woman’s skin is different from yours. That’s true. People come in lots of colors. Isn’t that cool?”

Answer any further questions honestly, but resist the temptation to turn it into a lecture. And remember, it’s always OK to say, “You know what, I want to talk about this with you, but let’s finish talking later,” if you need time to gather your own thoughts. Just be sure to circle back when you’re ready.

What are some books that can help parents who want to start the conversation?

Thankfully, there are now many fictional children’s books that feature characters of color, talk about ethnic diversity, and deal with topics around inclusion and kindness. I encourage you to add some (or many!) of these titles to your library to help your child “get to know” people who are different from them and help them think about these big ideas. In addition, there are also several non-fiction books to help young children start to think about race, racism, and skin color, and learn about related American history as well. Here are some of my favorites for 4 and 5 year olds specifically.

  • Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas
  • These Colors are Bananas by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin
  • A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
  • Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier
  • Children of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colón
  • We March by Shane Evans

May 20, 2022 by Winnie Cheung 0 Comments

Parenting With a Big Heart: Using Stories to Deepen and Broaden Children’s Perspectives

In a bustling elementary school hallway in Queens, NY, a fellow six-year-old asked me: “Are you Chinese?” 

“No. I’m ABC!” I replied. I was proud to be ABC, American-born Chinese. The term “ABC” is one I’ve heard other kids use and it was an important part of my identity. Growing up in a diverse neighborhood, there were a lot of Asian people in my life — Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean, Pakistani, Taiwanese, Toisanese, mixed-race Asian; the list goes on. I loved the term ABC because it encapsulated who I felt I was, both American and Chinese. To be honest, I didn’t want to be only Chinese, despite being surrounded by other Asian Americans like myself. 

The benefits of being considered American were clear to me. I learned about heroes in American history in school. I saw movies and TV shows with American people being class clowns, princesses, and superheroes. America was the country that provided opportunities for my grandmother and parents and they reminded me often how lucky I was to be American. We were living the American dream and culture. And yet, I didn’t see myself or the people that looked like me in American history or in the TV or movies I watched. 

Do Asian American Children See Themselves in Children's Media?

I’m now a proud mother of two young kids and am so excited to see the increase of representation in Asian American stories since I was a child. However, there is still work to be done. 

Affirming how I felt about representation, in Nickelodeon’s Shades of Us study, conducted from 2019 – 2021, focusing on understanding race, identity, and the American family, about half of Asian kids shared that it is important to be represented in media. But many (40%) disagree with how they’re portrayed in movies and TV shows currently. The research also found that across top performing shows in kids TV shows, Asian American characters are not frequently supporting characters and even less likely lead characters. This has an impact on Asian American kids. When asked who they would cast in a role of an Asian American character, they chose “nerd” or “sidekick” for themselves, casting white characters as a lead — showcasing an internalization of the stereotypes they see. 

There is an opportunity to tell more stories showcasing Asian American characters as complex and full of nuance, so all children can see those opportunities for themselves, outside of stereotypes. 

Michelle Sugihara, executive director of CAPE, writes in a recent Geena Davis Study: “For the past 30 years, we have fought for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) representation in film and television, because what we watch on our screens should reflect the world in which we live and project a better one.”

In another recent study, Nickelodeon gave kids free range to share stories about themselves, with a prompt to take their “culture” (whichever it may be) into consideration, and they shared beautiful stories centering themselves, sometimes doing mundane things (a Native Hawaiian preschooler wanted to create a show about garbage trucks) to intimate cultural moments (an Indian-Pakistani Muslim 12-year-old wanted an epic tale about celebrating an Islamic wedding and wearing salwar kameez). 

I want my children — and other American children — to read, watch, and experience these stories and more like them. 

We Need to Share Both Vertical AND Horizontal Stories

As I think about ways to honor AANHPI (Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, I am using stories to deepen and broaden my children’s perspectives. There are two main types of stories — and I am using both with my children this month: 

  1. Stories that provide an in-depth look into cultural experiences (these are called “vertical stories”) 
  2. Stories that incorporate characters into stories of daily life without overt cues or a sole focus on their ethnicity/cultural background (these are called “horizontal stories”) 

I love both types (and when they overlap) because, as a parent, I can show them to my children to give them a broad spectrum of Asian American stories. Learning stories about specific Asian American heroes and parts of Asian American cultures helps my children (and all children) gain context and imagine what they could accomplish. And seeing Asian Americans doing everyday things — going to school, playing in the park, etc. — normalizes the Asian American experiences to help Asian-American kids develop a sense of identity and belonging. For non-Asian kids, these stories illustrate a shared experience to build empathy.

How Can We Use Both Types of Stories With Young Children

Here are a few ways vertical and horizontal stories help:

  • Instilling pride: One of the things that connects Asian American culture and many other cultures is food. I love the series of books by Little Picnic Press that celebrate food, language, and cultural diversity. 
  • TV shows/movies with characters that normalize seeing Asian Americans as lead: A favorite show of my 4-year-old is Blue’s Clues and You with Josh Delacruz, a Filipino-American actor, dancer, musician, and singer. He loves finding clues as much as counting bananas to help Blue make Josh’s lola bibingka. Another example of “horizontal” stories is the book Let’s Do Everything and Nothing by Julie Kuo. This story conveys everyday experiences of a mom and daughter with beautifully illustrated scenarios, from climbing a snow-peaked mountain to lying in bed. The cultural nuances of zhuyin books and a rice cooker are in the background and subtle, but present enough for someone who has a similar lived experience to “feel seen.”
  • Stories that feature cross-cultural experiences: I’m always looking for stories that include mixed race/multicultural kids because that is what my family looks like today. My kids have so many mixed race/multicultural kids that are in their lives, either with friends, family, or in their school. I Love Us! is one I appreciate because it showcases all different types of families, getting ready for school, feeling sick, catching a train, and getting tucked into bed. I also seek out books, TV shows, and movies that are outside of Chinese American culture, so my children can get a glimpse of all of the amazing diversity that exists in our world. A great example of this is Noggin’s Celebrate Our Differences video featuring diverse kids.
  • Stories about trailblazing Asian Americans in American history: Analiza Wolf’s Asian Americans who Inspired Us is the “vertical story” I needed as a child to know that Asian American history is American history. It is just as important to learn about Neil Armstrong as it is to know Ellison Onizuka, the first Japanese Hawaiian to go into space and bring with him Kona coffee beans. Now, every time my son sees a spaceship he says “It’s Ellison!” 

As we continue to expose our kids to celebrate and honor Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in our history and our lives, we can also use media as jumping points to start conversations. 

I like to tell my kids they are completely Chinese and completely American. And maybe as they get older, they will  decide to identify as American-born Chinese like me.

May 20, 2022 by Divya Chhabra 0 Comments

How Social and Emotional Learning Can Promote Children’s Health and Wellbeing

Last year, I worked with a six-year-old child struggling to pay attention in school and having difficulty making friends. Like many kids across the United States and the world, he had been in and out of school and had only inconsistently interacted with peers because of the pandemic. The inconsistency of his life and school experience was making him feel sad, lonely, and insecure. One bit of consistency in this child’s chaos was our weekly in person (masked!) visit. Each week in therapy, we played, wrote stories, and drew pictures together.

This is a small story, but it is important: Through our regular visits, this child learned how to express himself in healthy ways, how to ask for help, and how to cope with challenging situations. This very child who was having extreme difficulty interacting with others recently showed me a picture of him smiling next to his group of friends. 

What is social and emotional learning and how is it related to mental health?

The months of playing, writing, and drawing with this little boy as a child psychiatrist were addressing a mental health challenge, but our work together was rooted in the principles of social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is a longstanding educational concept aimed at teaching children skills such as understanding perspectives, coping with stress, identifying and expressing feelings, and resolving conflicts with other people. 

The goal of social and emotional learning is  preparing our children to live fulfilling lives, maintain strong relationships with others, thrive academically and personally, and contribute to the world around them. 

Incorporating social and emotional learning into children’s early and elementary years can help  kids who may already have mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma, or prevent these challenges from developing them down the line. These skills are the building blocks for children to learn to successfully navigate difficult situations that they often inevitably face, no matter how much we try to protect our children, in the context of a complicated world. (Some children will experience challenges and need mental health support, even if they’re learning social and emotional skills; if you ever have a concern about your child’s mental wellness, please consult with your pediatrician.)

Through decades of research, we know that SEL works: One large-scale study that analyzed more than 200 studies in schools across the nation found that SEL interventions improved students’ attitudes around helping others, helped decrease conflicts in school (including violence), increased students’ ability to identify emotions, and even improved academic achievement. Another study of a program called RULER in over 60 schools found that the SEL program caused students to have less anxiety and depression, better social skills, leadership skills, academic performance, and attention, and even led to less bullying. Another study looking at almost twenty schools in Baltimore followed kids for more than 15 years and found that an SEL program lowered the risk of developing suicidal thoughts by age 19. 

Overall, the research shows that social and emotional learning, starting at a young age when the brain is most malleable, can set children up for success years later, as teenagers and  beyond.

Developing social and emotional skills is always important, but it is especially vital today, as children and caretakers across the country are reporting increased feelings of unhappiness and highlighting the negative impacts of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing. Several child mental health organizations declared a national mental health emergency for children in 2021. With mental health challenges on the rise for American kids, children need to develop the skills that will help them to adapt and deal with changing and stressful situations. 

Three ways to help children develop strong social and emotional skills

During especially trying and unpredictable times, it can feel scary and daunting to prepare children for problems and challenges that even adults can’t understand or predict. Incorporating social and emotional learning into children’s daily lives can help them develop skills that will support their long-term mental health. Here are three strategies that I have found to be both easily to implement and also effective with young children:

  1. Modeling and practicing identifying feelings: This is one of my favorites! Young ones are still learning to understand what emotions are, what they mean, and how to recognize emotions in themselves and others, and how to cope with different feelings. I recently worked with a young girl to create cards for each of the feelings; we used the cards to practice identifying and responding to different emotions. This body chart worksheet is great to help a child understand how they may experience feelings in their body — such as a tummy ache or clammy hands. You can also model for your child when you have a certain emotion. When YOU talk about your feelings, this helps your child understand that  all emotions are acceptable: feeling bad doesn’t mean you are bad. Say something like “When I watched that part of the movie, I felt a little sad and my throat felt tight.”
  2. Practicing problem solving: One evening, I got locked out of my office! I used the time with the child I was working with to “solve” the mystery. This empowered him while  helping me to solve the problem of the locked office door. We thought of simple but different ways to get inside the office, such as asking someone for help, looking in my purse for the key, or seeing if we could find another office to borrow. This was an untraditional therapy session, but it showed the child that problems and mistakes are normal, and that even at a young age, he had so much to offer in helping solve the problem! The same goes for solving the problems that come up between people and thinking through how to resolve interpersonal conflicts. You can incorporate problem-solving spontaneously and turn situations that may cause a change in plans as a learning opportunity. 
  3. Building empathy: Children today are growing up during times of conflict and disagreement. Research tells us that the ability to understand and take on others’ perspectives actually helps people to build resilience and can prevent mental health challenges down the line. I often let children lead the way in our play and build in opportunities to grow empathy. For example, when a child I worked with expressed frustration with her baby sister, we practiced role-playing (I was the baby and then she played the baby) and played a guessing game of what the other person was feeling. Using stuffed animals and puppets can often help young children to role-play and can help young kids express themselves more openly. Reading stories or listening to podcasts related to empathy are also helpful in modeling empathy for young children. I love the Little Kids, Big Hearts empathy episode, What is Empathy?, as well as the book lists from Big Heart World related to empathy

At the end of the day, we all want our kids to experience the beauty in the world, to bask in the joys of exploration, to stand back up when they fall, and to follow their big hearts. And in order to do that, we must nurture both their physical and emotional wellbeing. As a child psychiatrist and former teacher, I have seen SEL change the lives of children from all walks of life, in the clinic, at school, or in the home. 

March 23, 2022 by admin 0 Comments

Growing Big Hearts with Noggin’s Big Heart Beats Album

Noggin’s Big Heart Beats Album is a lineup of catchy songs  — all available on the Big Heart World website — that are intended to help children (and grown-ups) grow big hearts. The songs, which deal with themes like identity, friendship, and helping others, can be played for fun or built into social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculums. 

“When we considered how best to introduce SEL concepts and themes to kids, we immediately gravitated toward music,” said Sean Farrell, who leads Noggin’s original content development. “We wanted to create music and songs that families would happily roll down the windows of their car and turn up their speakers or play in the family room and dance together.”

The Link Between Music and SEL

Music — singing and making music and moving to music — with children naturally supports the development of important social and emotional skills, including self-confidence; self-regulation; and interpersonal/social skills like sharing, turn taking, cooperating with others and solving problems together.

  • Newborns are able to identify rhythms and melodies heard in the womb
  • Music creates social connections between grown-ups and children
  • Children as young as 3 can notice emotions in songs. They can notice feelings in clips that are just 0.5 seconds long!
  • Music instruction has been shown to increase self-regulation skills

“There is powerful research from leading scholars on the value of music in creating a healthier and more flexible brain, and in laying the foundation for learning,” said Michael Levine, director of Learning and Impact at Noggin. “The use of music both recreationally and in educational settings helps create cognitive flexibility and enhances other multi-sensory literacies that are critical to help children compete and cooperate in a global community.”

Using Big Heart Beats Album to Grow Big Hearts

Julia Levy, the producer of the Big Heart World social and emotional learning initiative, joined with the team at Noggin on March 23, 2022 at the AFT / Share My Lesson virtual conference to share tips on how to use the Big Heart Beats Album and music and movement generally to support social and emotional learning.

“Music is a powerful tool that educators can use to engage children’s minds and bodies in new ways, introducing and reinforcing important ideas and growing kids’ big hearts,” Levy said.

Big Heart World released a learning guide that educators and parents can use to explore the Big Heart Beats album and use the songs to support children’s social and emotional learning.

Learn From the Artists: Music Grows SEL Skills
Artists behind Noggin’s Big Heart Beats Album — Chris Sernel (Oh, Hush!), Alex Geringas, and Wil Fuller — shared how music helps grown-ups and children develop social emotional skills. You can listen to their songs here.
“Music can absolutely help kids to process, comprehend, and feel their emotions,” said Sernel. Watch the whole interview here!
Learn from the Artists: What Does Growing Big Hearts Mean?

Alex Geringas and Wil Fuller; Flor de Toloache; and Chris Sernel (Oh, Hush!) discuss what growing “big hearts” means to them. Listen to their songs here.

Learn from the Artists: Creating "Real" Music With Toys
Chris Sernel (Oh, Hush!) explains how his 3- and 5-year-old daughters inspired him to create “How You Feel,” one of the songs in Noggin’s Big Heart Beats Album. He created the song using his children’s toy instruments! Hear him talk about his inspiration and demonstrate using toys to create something amazing.
Big Heart Beats Album Learning Guide
The Big Heart World team created a learning guide to help educators and parents learn from the songs and find some ways to incorporate them into playful social and emotional learning lessons. 

March 8, 2022 by admin 0 Comments

You’re Invited to an #SELday Dance Party!

SEL Day — March 11, 2022 — is a day dedicated to celebrating social and emotional education, a topic near and dear to our heart here at Big Heart World! We’re partnering with our friends at SEL4Us to give our friends a chance to show their support for growing big hearts through dance. 

Music and movement supports children’s social and emotional development and this is a great moment for all of us to show our support for growing big hearted kids!
We hope that you — and the families you work with — will dance your way into this special day with us with a social media dance party. This is a party where everyone is invited. No special dance moves necessary. In fact, it’s best if you DO dance to your own beat! 
Dance With Us!
  1. Play “I Love Myself” from Noggin’s Big Heart Beats Album. (Here it is on Spotify or on the Big Heart World site.)
  2. Dance and record!
  3. Share a short video on your favorite social media site between now and 3/11/22 and tag #SELday and #BigHeartWorld.

If you need help making your video, just reach out and we’ll help you put it together!


We can’t wait to dance with you this week!

Do you want to learn more about social and emotional learning? We encourage you to check out our new SEL infographic