Spiritually Preparing to be a Parent

Wise words from Nia House parent, Pearly Tan.


Becoming a parent takes more spiritual preparation than physical preparation. These little bundles require pretty little material things to begin with. We found a cheap crib we never used, acquired a changing table and playmat someone else was throwing out, and got lots of clothes and diapers from people who had an excess. I was lucky to be able to nurse our child and never used bottles or pacifiers. Just as well that our little person was so minimalistically needy, since we didn’t have a baby shower, and didn’t have a fat bank account to reach into.

Instead, what needed more adjustment was our lifestyle and mindset. My husband is a business owner, and I am an investigative journalist and book writer. We love our work and work a lot, and even take pleasure in working beside each other on our own work. Here are some of the things I had to think about to prepare spiritually for parenthood:

Take time and take space to reorganize your priorities:

As soon as I had a child, I knew she would come first. I’ve always wanted a family, but what it meant to put the child first meant having to do research.

I knew I’d still have to help out at the family business, while continuing to work on my book, but still caring for my new human. As capable as I wanted to think I was, I knew I needed to look at resources. That was when I found out about portable pack-and-plays, baby carriers, and baby hammocks, all of which she used in our store while we worked and integrated her into our everyday life.

She ate with me, slept with me, and played with me. But when I needed space, or when my husband recognized that I needed space, he took over. Occasionally even, the child didn’t come first, my partner did. He taught me this. He reminded me that my health was as important as the child’s, and had a great influence on our new creation.

The grand ambition of reading:

Like most first time moms, I thought I would read. I promised to read. I gathered books on motherhood, childhood illnesses, breastfeeding, being a good partner, responsible parenting, how to raise a grateful child. I didn’t read a single one. They cluttered my windowsill and made me alternate between anxious nervous and calm. When my daughter turned one, I gave them all to the next first-time mom.

It’s ok not to read. But, be resourceful.

Instead, I prepared my heart for the unexpected. I began looking at articles about what not feed the baby, when to introduce solids, and how not to believe Dr. Google implicitly.

Part of the spiritual preparation of being a mother is being comfortable not knowing it all. Accept that you can be surprised, that you don’t know everything, and that it’s ok to ask. But set up a support system you trust to help you with answers, place your advice nurse on speed dial, and be prepared to acknowledge that your mother was right in many ways.

Prepare your spirit:

You’ll think you’ve got it down. Prepare your spirit.

You’ll plan to be a Montessori parent. Prepare your spirit.

You’ll believe your friendships won’t change at all. Prepare your spirit.

The bottom line is, remember that your little person has a spirit of their own. They’re changing even as you change. What works for one child, may not work with another. You may have no allergies, and your child have several. You may be a daredevil, with a cautious child. You may be an extrovert that enjoys dinner parties, while your child would rather read quietly in their room. There are many ways in which your child may be quite different from you, and if you’re not prepared for all the differences (that will exist even where there are great similarities), you may feel disappointed in your child, and this will affect your family.

You may have dreamed of continuing your path as a career woman after having a child, your company may not think the same way. Prepare your spirit.

You may have plans to nurse your child. Prepare your spirit.

One of the biggest lessons we learn as parents, is that there is no one way to do anything. There isn’t a single way to be a parent. A stay-at-home mother doesn’t have an easier job than a working mom, a bottle-fed baby is not better or worse off than a child who is breastfed.

Before the arrival of your child, it’s important to come to an understanding of your beliefs, and the loopholes in them. Identify the people around you who truly have you and your family’s best interests at heart, and hear their words and offers of help in a constructive manner.

Fear of Missing Out

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If you haven't bought/sold any raffle tickets, I want to incite your sense of FOMO on this raffle.

The prizes are really good! 

Even better that the prizes- the cause! Nia House. 

If each family sells 3 books, we raise over $4000 for Nia House.

If you you haven't sold your tickets- DO.  $3 per ticket, or $20 for a book of ten tickets. 



One Acupuncture Treatment or Two Shonishin (pediatric)

CorePower Yoga: One Month of Unlimited Yoga

FUTURE Vanity/Novelty Haircut


Albany Bowling Party

5 Studio Visits to Brushstrokes

Pier 39 Family Fun Pack


Oakland A's, 2 Plaza Outfield Tickets

Grand Lake Theater, 2 Matinee Admission Passes 

Berkeley YMCA, 1 month membership

Juan's Place Gift Certificate

Shotgun Players, two tickets

Bay Nature Magazine, 1 year subscription

Sticky Art Lab Gift Certificate

Bay Area Discovery Museum, Family Pass

Smuin Ballet, two tickets

FUTURE Vanity/Novelty, Blow out (wash & style)  

Oriental Trading Company Gift Certificate

East Bay Nursery Gift Certificate

Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Family Pass

Habitot, Family Pass

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, two tickets

San Francisco Electric Tour Company, tour for two

Oakland Ice Center

Ruby's Garden

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Gaumenkitzel Gift Certificate

Downtown Berkeley YMCA one month membership 

Pet Food Express Gift Certificate

Arbonne Goody Bag

Favorite Family Hikes

We have three small kiddos (ages 5.5, 2.5, and 4 months) and these are our favorite places to hike:

  • Montclair Railroad Trail (Oakland, CA):

This path is mostly paved (we brought the stroller), super flat and really scenic, with several benches along the way to stop and rest at. It’s about a mile in either direction from the road just behind Montclair village (park on Lasalle Rd or in the parking lot next to the road). If you go on a Sunday you can stroll down to the Montclair Farmers Market for a post-hike snack!

More info here: http://www.montclairrrtrail.org/

  • Sibley Regional Park (Oakland, CA):

If you park at the main entrance where the bathrooms are located and hike up it is a slightly steep climb but super scenic! Less stroller-friendly and lots of dogs (could be a plus or minus depending on your family). Off path are beautiful hills and vegetation and so much space for the kiddos to explore. Also, my oldest thought it was pretty cool to be hiking up an old volcano, and by the bathrooms in the main parking lot there are some cool fossils and an opportunity to learn more about the history of the park!

More info here: www.ebparks.org/parks/sibley

  • Big Trees Trail in Joaquin Miller Park (Oakland, CA):

This trail is mostly flat and you feel like you are in an enchanted forest surrounded by the redwoods. My girls loved exploring the ferns, trees and little off trail hiding places. It is also very dog-friendly and can be hiked as a loop. Total distance is under 2 miles and we made it almost the whole way with all the kiddos. We brought the stroller but unless you have a stroller with good tires like a jogging stroller it is probably easiest not to bring it

More info here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/big-trees-and-sequoia-bayview-trail

  • Inspiration Point (Berkeley, CA):

The best hike for strollers, skooters, and kids on wheels. Parking can be a pain, but it is worth the struggle, because the views are amazing and the path is completely paved. The trail can be really busy on the weekends but it is a nice, easy, family trip with young ones in tow.

More info here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/inspiration-point-berkeley

  • Point Pinole Shoreline (Pinole, CA):

Worth the drive and a scenic fun place to spend the day. This place has it all: beach, a bridge to watch trains over, hiking trail, and playgrounds. The beach here is rocky but shallow and fun for the kids, on the San Pablo Bay and the hike starts with a small hill but is fun and can be done as loop overlooking the San Pablo Bay. My girls loved exploring all areas, including the playgrounds which are sand-based and surrounded by grass to lay in.

More info here: https://bahiker.com/eastbayhikes/pointpinole.html

Picture Day is May 2nd

The fabulous Roots & Shoots will be taking portraits for Nia House again!

Picture Day is on Wednesday, May 2nd

In an effort to be environmentally conscious, we are offering electronic order forms this year. 

You must pre-order using THIS electronic order form and submit it NO LATER THAN WEDNESDAY, 5/2.  If you prefer a paper order form or need to use cash, the office has paper forms for you to fill out. Any late order forms will incur a $10 late fee.

You are welcome to choose the $8 proofs option if you wish to view and choose your portrait prior to receiving prints. (You will receive your choices via email.) 
Otherwise, Roots & Shoots Photography will choose the portrait they think is best.

If you have any questions, please contact Roots & Shoots Photography directly:

  grow@roots-shoots.com// 510-859-4148.

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Easy Art

Mom of Nia House toddler, Kaya (and also Sienna and Evangaline), Morgan knows how to make art engaging and easy. Thanks for your blog post, Morgan!

I don’t know about you but I love a low prep, fast, and easy project that keeps my little ones occupied and learning. Here are some of my favorite art projects for toddlers and preschoolers.

No Mess Water Painting


  • 1 container of water

  • 1 paintbrush

  • A surface that changes color when wet such as concrete, wood, colored construction paper

This is my favorite type of art project because it is waste-free, can be done outside and is mess free! All you do is dip the dry paintbrush in water and then “paint” using the water on the ground, fence, or sidewalk. Here’s a picture of Kaya in action:

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Non-paintbrush Painting


  • a few q-tips

  • paint

  • Construction paper or paper plate

Using something other than a paintbrush to make art is extra fun for kids. Just dab the q-tip into paint and then dab on paper. In the past, I have used white paint and used this method to make “snow” for a fun winter art project or, like my oldest daughter (who is much more methodical), use this method to make more of a mosaic style picture.

Other Variations on tools to paint with:

  • An apple cut in half (it will make a cool star shape if sliced the right way)

  • A carrot

  • A fork (you can make lines like you’re raking the picture)

  • An old sponge cut into cool shapes

  • A lego (use it like a stamp)

  • A  marble (roll it around in a container that has paint and paper in it)

Here’s a cool link with other creative painting tool ideas:


Recycled Paper Collage


  • Any and all scrap paper materials

  • Gluestick

  • Cardboard or sturdy construction paper to glue to

Feeling guilty about all the wasted paper during art time with the kiddos? Use scrap paper (we love to use old circulars, junk mail,  or any other materials we find in the recycling bin), and get your fine motor on by tearing up the paper into small pieces and turning it into a work of art using a glue stick to glue the pieces onto a new piece of paper. You can also stick with the recycled theme and simply glue onto a paper towel roll or toilet paper roll for an awesome telescope! If you want to get fancy and not so “green”, tissue paper is a great material to use and can make awesome gifts like this one:

Image from: https://www.flashbugsstudio.com/valentines-paper-collage/

Image from: https://www.flashbugsstudio.com/valentines-paper-collage/

Aleishall, Nia House Board Member and Alumni Parent, Hearts NH

I heart Nia House because it gave my child a sense of herself as an individual, in her community and the world at large. I heart Nia House because the incredible teachers taught her independence, courage, strength and compassion. I heart Nia House because it represents what is possible in the world if we all commit to caring for ourselves, our work, our peers and our environment. I heart Nia House because it is committed to educating and empowering the next generation of kind, curious, industrious, responsible, global citizens.                                   Aleishall Girard Maxon

I heart Nia House because it gave my child a sense of herself as an individual, in her community and the world at large. I heart Nia House because the incredible teachers taught her independence, courage, strength and compassion. I heart Nia House because it represents what is possible in the world if we all commit to caring for ourselves, our work, our peers and our environment. I heart Nia House because it is committed to educating and empowering the next generation of kind, curious, industrious, responsible, global citizens.

                                 Aleishall Girard Maxon

"I Heart NH" is an opportunity to give small monthly donations to Nia House's scholarship fund.  It gets you a cool bumper sticker to show your love of NH and love of equity in early childhood education.

Donations can be directly withdrawn from your bank account or added to your monthly tuition. 


Bonding Time

Pearly strikes again with a very thoughtful blog on how to make quality time with your child, partner and family happen, even when time feels scarce. Thank you, Pearly!

Bonding with a child is much easier said than done. It isn’t always convenient. In fact, combining work, household maintenance, self-care and bonding is an act that usually isn’t perfected until we drop the ball on something or everything all at once.

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Our family unit includes my husband, 2-year-old, and myself. We own two small businesses, which can make bonding with our child a little more difficult, or a little easier, depending on how you look at it.

Here’s our take:

Little pockets of time -

We added a little girl to our family because we wanted to. We were not tricked, we had no delusions, and we knew it’d be challenging. So we integrated her into our lives with plenty of bike rides.

With two businesses, people were constantly telling us how wonderful it was, that we got to spend all our time with her, when in fact, I felt like I wasn’t getting any time with her. My husband saw it otherwise. He had clearly designated pockets of time with our daughter, whether it was in the bath, walking to the shops, or going to pick up food. But for me, I didn’t consider 15 minutes as bonding time. Then it occurred to me that the problem was how we defined bonding time.

To begin with, understand that to a 2-year-old, a walk to the park is VERY far, and 15 minutes IS bonding time. I learned that as I watched my husband’s relationship with my daughter develop, and I found myself trying to multitask while trying to give my child some attention. I managed to carve out larger sections of time to spend with her, but I wish I had not neglected the tiny, valuable pockets, that can and do remind children that they are loved, and never forgotten (sometimes placed aside because we need to pay bills, but not forgotten).

Share routines -

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my husband, it’s the preciousness of routines. Routines don’t just help children practice independence, they also let children know when they can expect your full attention.

A large part of bonding is about sparing space and time with your child. A child that knows they will get your full attention as you walk to school with them, or when you have lunch as a family, can better learn patience as they have something to look forward to.

Setting a mutual understanding that there's a time and space every day or week that’s reserved for family is important. Growing up in Singapore, no matter how busy my family’s days were, my parents, my brother, and I always made time to connect. When all of us were busy working professionals, sometimes we waited up, other times we didn't. We wrote notes to each other that we left on the bathroom mirror or front door. I’ve even stuck notes to the handle of my father’s briefcase. Sundays were designated family days, and because our family made it precious, we valued it and seldom allowed interruptions unless absolutely. Difficult days can be easier to breathe through knowing you will have the full attention and care of your family soon.

Show, don’t tell -

Once we become parents, life seems a little more hectic. We read up ways to bond with our child and try to convince them to engage with us. But when our partners need us, we often have a lunchbox to pack, a bag to prepare, or a child to run after.

It’s important to show your child how to bond, by spending bonding time with your partner. Set aside time to bond with your child, where your partner takes space to self-care, and set up bonding time with your partner, where your child learns to engage in their chosen work or acceptable mode of self-care.

In the end, children imitate many things in order to grow, they learn the ways we take care of ourselves, which for our family is taking long, hot baths. They also learn how to bond, by seeing it happen. So, if our children are bouncing off the walls, brushing us off, and fiddling with too many things at once, it’s probably because we need to show more, not tell.

Bonding doesn’t have to cost anything. Try these. -

I’ve been there. I’ve felt like there’s nothing to do, and my husband suggested we take a walk. We couldn’t afford to bring our kid to indoor gyms and museums that other parents seemed to be bringing their kids. Then my husband reminded me that the world was just outside our door.

Children love walks, especially if they’re going to a playground. They can both learn from nature, and engage in nature; the earth is a playground. Attending free concerts and festivals just means planning ahead (bookmark events on social media, and set up reminders).  


Because we have a child who loves orchestral events, and we can’t always pay for full price tickets, I’ve approached orchestras and concert halls to ask if there are any discounted tickets available. Event planners are usually understanding and some will point you in the direction of cheaper tickets (E.g. student tickets when you’re not a student) and some may even offer you free tickets. The worst that could happen is that they’d say no, and then you just turn to another event!

And if you’re a family that can afford a little more, buy another family an experience where they can have a bonding experience that they usually can’t afford.

Oh gosh, it’s raining -

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. If you don’t feel like playing in the rain or jumping in puddles with your kid, what can you do?

There are plenty of home activities you can do to engage your child, whether it's simple baking, building a bedsheet fort or playing “cleanup-throwout” (anything that hasn’t been touched in over 3 months either finds a home or is packed for donation).

Want to head out, but scarce on pennies? If you’re not afraid of the crowd, IKEA’s always a fun place. Learn about plants, look at funky arm chairs, and pick up those batteries you needed all at once. Make sure you’re spending time with your child though, and not just going on a shopping spree. Feeling less adventurous? Check out a library, free museum, or your nearby pet/ aquarium store.

Of course, there’s the option of settling in with some microwave popcorn and a family movie, but how about settling in with a game of Pictionary with a toddler? Don’t have Pictionary? Again, all you have to do is plan ahead and borrow a board game, this one will even help build up your little one’s vocabulary.

Do nothing -

In closing, it is possible to bond even without an activity. Set aside time to share space, cuddle, and just enjoy each others presence quietly.

As business owners, we talk to people all day long. Sometimes, talk is frivolous and we, as a society, have forgotten the value of non-verbal communication. We can often tell how a person’s day has gone by sharing an embrace. Science has also shown that hugging for longer than 20 seconds helps us reduce anxiety and stress, and in today’s busy world, where hugs can easily be misconstrued, perhaps we should all relearn how to melt into the arms of our families.

Planning to Travel Over the Spring Break, or Ever? Get Toddler Travel Tips Here.


Every year, my family travels from San Francisco to the sunny island-country of Singapore where I’m from. We first made this trip as a family in 2016, when my daughter, Katherine, was 2 months old. For those who don’t know, the first leg of the plane ride is 16 hours long, and the second is 4 hours long. We had planned a one-hour layover in Hong Kong that would give us just enough time to walk at a reasonable pace from one gate to another.

At that time, social media was ablaze in conversation about a mother who had prepared little Ziplock baggies containing earplugs and conciliatory candy to prepare them for her toddler whom she was sure would be a screaming mess. She even included a handwritten note of preemptive apology to calm the angry fellow travelers.

As amused as I was with that viral post, I neither had the time nor finances to produce those little packages, and went on my first flight unarmed. Surprisingly, nothing much happened. My small person barely cried, never screamed, and slept through all the take-offs and landings.

We had survived 10,000 miles, and an 18-hour time difference. Hurrah!

Since then, we’ve done this trip another two times with our daughter, at 14 months old, and more recently, when she was slightly over 2-years-old. Here are our family’s tips:

1. Know what you need, and what you can get.

  • Milk - For nursing mothers, just bring yourself. Don’t forget to wear something that’s warm (planes can get cold), but nursing friendly. If you’re bottle-feeding, pack milk powder into pre-packaged compartments. If you’ll use regular hot water, you can always approach a flight stewardess for that. But if you need bottled water, whether hot or not, prepare them beforehand, and prepare for accidents. (I saw a mother lose half a bottle of water, and her sanity, when turbulence happened.) Some airlines also have milk powder if you run out with an unusually hungry child, but you’re better off bringing extra.

  • Snacks - Bring some snacks for your child, by all means. A mouth that’s eating is usually quiet, but find out beforehand what kinds of snacks your airline provides. Some airlines provide everything from crackers and granola bars to fruit and sandwiches for travelers, while others charge for water. Don’t let your child load up on sugar, especially because there isn’t much space for your toddler to run off their energy. Combine that with the compressed cabin air and sugar can make a flight more stressful than ever.

  • Cost & Value - We have only done this flight by Singapore Airlines. It is usually more pricey than other airlines, but not only are we familiar with the quality of service we are paying for, we also purchase our flights more than half a year in advance. Buy your flights ahead of time if you can because this not only usually means spending less on tickets for the whole family, you’ll probably also be able to choose the best seats for the team without spending more. Got an infant? Ask for a seat with a bassinet the airline will provide, or for a seat with more legroom.

  • Priority & Benefits - If you’re traveling with a child, most airlines will also announce to let your family board before other travelers. So, alert the airline staff at check in, and while you’re waiting to board the plane. Your family will be able to secure cabin space overhead for all your carry-ons, grab a few magazines from the shared magazine rack, and take the time to settle in while other travelers engage in the chaos of finding their seat and hustling for overhead space. Airlines also usually have small toys and gifts for children on board, ranging from stuffed toys to coloring books, so ask away for a little piece of memorabilia if you don’t yet have enough toys to step on at home.

2. Entertainment: What do you need?

You know your child best. For some, visual media whether from a digital device or in-flight screen provides great entertainment. But for those of you, who like us, don’t own televisions, and have a child who has little interest in screen time, here’s what helped:

  • Books - Be prepared to have to engage your child, read to them, and/ or make characters come alive for her.

  • An Amuse Box - Days before flying with our 14-month-old, I picked up a fabric box laying on the sidewalk that had a soft toy airplane, flower, elephant, fish and frog. My husband added any and all small toys he could find to the box, including wind-up toys, a lego figurine of Darth Vader, bouncy balls, finger puppets and dollhouse dolls. This kept her entertained for quite a while. When the trip was over, our daughter forgot about it, and we put it aside. One year later, when we took it out again on the plane, it kept her entertained for a while with renewed interest.

  • Busy Bags - Toddlers are prone to dropping things, so I wouldn’t advice handing your toddler any activity with little pieces. This means no marbles, buttons, or beads. But there are tons of busy bags you can prepare for your little person. Your child can practice lacing cardboard, dress up a doll, or match colors to clothe pegs while remaining in their window seat. Check Pinterest for busy bag ideas and stock up for use even on rainy days. They can contain affordable materials such as ice cream sticks and knitting yarn.

  • Coloring books - Maybe your toddler can color a picture. But mine just colors. This means spreading color over as much surface of a picture as possible. I’ve found that while Melissa & Doug Coloring books didn’t really keep her busy at 14 months, it definitely did at two years. What’s great is that it uses just water, so there’s no need to worry about a mess.

  • Take a walk - don’t be afraid to let your child go on a walk down the aisles. The biggest issue we encountered was that my child wanted to touch the leg of every person she passed, regardless whether they were awake, at 14 months. At two years of age, other travelers either ignored us on our way to the galley to find another snack, or wanted to engage her in play. In most cases, the plane was stable enough for her to loosen those leg muscles, and a toilet break helped her refocus on being in her seat.

    • Get That Window - Katherine loved having the window seat. Not only did it allow us to point out landmarks as we took off and landed, pointing out boats and other planes, she could also lean her head on a pillow against the side side of the cabin as she fell asleep. It also allowed us to separate her from other children who were crying or screaming due to changes in air pressure and other issues. In cases where the window seat isn’t available, consider purchasing an inflatable leg rest after checking with the airline if they are permitted. The legrests allow toddlers to lie down for better sleep.

3. The Toilet-Trainers Dilemma

Our two-year-old was just a sophomore at using the toilet when we had to take her on the 20 hour journey. So what we decided to do was put her in diapers, but make the effort to bring her on bathroom trips regularly. However, it gave us the reassurance that if she needed to go number 1 or number 2, and our plane encountered some turbulence, we wouldn’t be stuck pretending that the smell wasn’t coming from our row.

4. Preparing for the flight back

Other than doing the usual stuff mentioned above, my husband and I usually refresh the items in our Amuse Box mentioned above at our destination. The items then also serve as a reminder to the toddler of the things they have seen, and becomes a sort of Montessori Continent box, that contains objects and photographs from the country.

For example, a trip to Japan could involve a child creating a continent/ country box that includes a small Japanese doll, a scrap of fabric commonly used to make traditional Japanese kimonos, a postcard of a Japanese ceremony the family may have seen, a map of Japan, a picture of the family at Mount Fuji or at a hotspring, a keychain in the design of a Japanese bento box or other similar items.

5. Don’t fight the jet lag

When you move back and forth across 18 time zones, it’s inevitable your body is confused. Fighting it is will only drag it out. Instead, here’s how you can make the transition back home easier:

  • Sleep - Sleep as much as you can on the plane. Adults, take it from an international journalist who spent too much time in airports and on planes, your body doesn’t need that glass of wine or liquor. Skip that, drink lots of water and hydrate.

  • Plan your recovery - Be kind to your bodies. Airplane rides are stressful on the body, nevermind trying to squeeze everything into your luggage and hoping they aren’t overweight and getting through customs. We tend to forget that we need at least a full day of recovery to be our best selves again. So, even before traveling, tell your bosses and your kid’s teachers that you guys will be back at least a day after getting off that plane. There’s no point in showing up tired, grumpy and generally unpleasant as you struggle with the lethargy.

  • Vitamin C - Take some, and give some to your child, before boarding that plane. My husband and I estimated that we shared 10 bathrooms with about 500 people over 20 hours. There’s really no place to hide from that person with the dormant virus or the flu without symptoms. What you can do, though, is prepare your body for battle.

And finally, as a closing piece of advice for this blog post on how to survive a plane ride with your toddler, always check your food. No matter how careful airlines are, they sometimes serve food that’s bad. I once received chicken that was not properly cooked. As I picked through the pink, my husband kept secret that he had not checked his. 20 hours later, he was quite ill after just arriving home. Food poisoning can happen anywhere, especially while traveling, and the last thing anyone needs, during or after a trip, is a sick partner or toddler.

Bon voyage!

Blog Written by Expert Traveller with Toddler, Pearly Tan

Gratitude Practices at Nia House

[Schools] must foster a new understanding of the real values of humanity and gratitude must be felt for those workers upon whom human life depends. If man is not appreciated... how can we expect or hope that men will become friends and work in peaceful collaboration?”
— Montessori, A New World and Education, p. 3
In the images above, Ryder and Sara are offering Lamont, our mail carrier, a certificate of appreciation and hand drawn pictures as an expression of gratitude. He was expressively touched, with his hand on his chest, he said, "We need more moments of love like this." 

In the images above, Ryder and Sara are offering Lamont, our mail carrier, a certificate of appreciation and hand drawn pictures as an expression of gratitude. He was expressively touched, with his hand on his chest, he said, "We need more moments of love like this." 

Vanessa Callaghan presented to the parent community her work with gratitude practices here at Nia House. The preschool children were exposed to stories, art projects, and theatrical expressions, all in the framework of bringing gratitude into the consciousness and vernacular of our children. 

Here is a link the presentation Vanessa shared. It is full of resources and gratitude practices to incorporate at home. 

Key Gratitude Concepts

(from Vanessa's presentation):

  • Practice Everyday Gratitude: You can choose to be grateful in different ways everyday. 
  • See More Good: You can notice more things to be grateful for and train your brain to look for good things.
  • There Are Many Ways to Show Thanks: Saying 'thanks' is just one way to show your gratitude.  
  • Expressing Gratitude is an Act of Kindness: You can fill up other peoples 'buckets' with gratitude.
  • It Feels Good to Thank Community Friends: You can build good friendships and happy communities with gratitude.
  • Gratitude Feels Good and Builds a Friendly Community

A note for the parents from Vanessa:

Get your free pdf of the Youth Gratitude Project’s preschool curriculum as soon as it is released!

Vanessa apologizes because her email was somehow disabled last night.  

If you sent her an email request for the preschool curriculum, she didn’t receive it.  

Please resend your email address to vanessa@gratitudeworkshop.com and she will be sure to add you to the list!

Additional resources:

Family Yoga at Nia House this Saturday!

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Love and Live Yoga

Family Yoga at Nia House 

Saturday March 10th


Nia House Yard

Suggested donation: $30 per family  

*All proceeds go to Nia House! We have space for 6 more families. 

Support Nia House and join Kerstin on a journey of creativity, self-acceptance, personal awareness and most of all fun!

Family yoga teaches yoga through age and developmentally appropriate yoga poses, partner poses, creative movements, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques. And Kerstin LOVES science, you will see science learning points woven into every class.

Nia House is Eco-Healthy Child Care Endorsed!


Nia House Learning Center is an endorsed Eco-Healthy Child Care. This endorsement verifies our commitment to provide a healthy, safe and green child care setting.

Eco-Healthy Child Care is a program of Children's Environmental Health Network. 

What is the Eco-Healthy Child Care® Program?

Eco-Healthy Child Care® (EHCC) is a national program that partners with child care professionals to eliminate or reduce environmental health hazards found within or around child care facilities. Forty-two percent of young children spend at least 35 hours a week in some form of child care. Therefore, creating an environmentally healthy early learning environment is key to the health of our nation’s children. Emerging science is linking chemicals commonly found in child care settings to asthma, lower IQ, and developmental disabilities. Environmental exposures can cause, worsen, or contribute to these conditions. Children are at risk, because their systems are still developing; and, their behaviors, such as hand to mouth and crawling on the floor, increase their exposure.

Through the EHCC endorsement, child care facilities (center and family child care) qualify as “Eco-Healthy” by complying with 24 of 30 simple, free or low-cost environmental health best practices. These changes immediately benefit the well-being of young children.
— http://cehn.org/our-work/eco-healthy-child-care/

I Heart Nia House Sticker: Get yours. & Thank you, Farm Burger!

A heartfelt thank you to everyone that came out to Farm Burger to celebrate their Nia House love. What a beautiful turn-out! The line was out the door for a solid two hours. 

Thank you to Farm Burger for supporting communities coming together and for giving to local schools. Stay tuned for a summer night at Farm Burger. 

Get your Nia House Sticker!

Thank you to all who signed up for for "I Heart NH" and got their bumper sticker! 

This bumper sticker, designed by Jordan (Parker's dad), can be yours!

You can give to Nia House's scholarship funds through small monthly giving. Sign up for $5/month (or more!), get this sticker and the satisfaction of making quality education accessible to all families.  

84 families giving $5 each month raises $5040 in scholarship funds. 

Sign up online for automatic monthly withdrawals from your bank account. For more information click here. niahouse.org/i-heart-nia-house

We can not control children. We can control our adult actions.

For those that missed the last parent meeting, here is your crash course. 

Well, you missed a skit by Katy Love and Monica Parran. There is no blog that can capture the magic of that. 

Eve also shared some very important parent preparation skills from trusted teachers, Marin Schmidt and Dr. Jane Nelson. 

Maren Schmidt, is a Montessorian who offers sound teaching and parenting advice. She urges adults to Think Before You Talk- a newsletter piece outlined below.   

Dr. Jane Nelsen writes on positive discipline. She poignantly asks, "Do you expect your children to control their behavior when you don't control your own?" In Control Your BehaviorNelsen offers 3 parenting tools to help us feel controlled in challenging situations. 


Kids and Bikes: Advice from The Family Bike Collective

When I was 8 and my brother was 12, my dad took us to a park and rented us bikes to learn to ride on. Both our bikes were bigger than they should have been, but after a few falls, scraped knees, a tumble into a nearby drain, and a few dented trees, we learned to ride.

Back then, balance bikes weren’t a thing. I don’t think my father even knew what a balance bike was. It’s a wonder he hasn’t told me and my husband we’re crazy for setting up the Family Bike Collective, a non-profit bicycle organization teaching children and adults how to ride bicycles.

So, here’s how to help your child learn to ride a bike without falling at all. 

●      Start them off on a balance bike

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Our daughter, Katherine, started riding her balance bike when she was 16 months-old. Two months later, she was a daredevil and we took her mountain biking in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park above Berkeley.

The key is to get your child a bicycle that fits them. If they’re under 3 years old, a lightweight, size-appropriate balance bike will do the trick. But if you’re helping your older child to learn, look for a bicycle that fits them, remove the pedals, and you have a balance bike that fits them.

We’ve taught even adults with trauma to learn to ride this way.

The key lesson that we learn from a balance bike is… balance. Without pedals, our body begins to realize and remember that leaning to each side tilts the bicycle in that direction. This is essential so we don’t “drive” our bicycle by steering the handlebars later on as it is the number two reason we crash.

What’s the number one reason we crash then, you ask? Here it is:

●      Don’t learn on a bicycle without working handbrakes

Many children’s bikes come with coaster brakes. Those are the brakes that work when the rider backpedals.

Our shop works with many cycling teams and mountain biking teams throughout the East Bay, and in many cases, having a coaster brake habit can be trouble. In some cases, bicycle chains can be dislodged when a cyclist back pedals and the cyclist then needs to know how to replace the chain. Our advice to parents: Don’t let your child develop a habit they must later kick.

There are many children’s bikes that come with handbrakes. Pick those. Don’t let your children convince you that handbrakes are too difficult. Our daughter began using handbrakes effectively as she gained speed on her balance bike at 18-months.

Before our daughter could fit on her current bike, we made the mistake of allowing her on a little plastic bike with no handbrakes. We learned from our mistake when she rode the bike down the front steps of our house and scraped her lips and nose. But no worries, she was back on her bike within three minutes, just not down the front steps.

●      But how light is light?

 As a good gauge, a bike should be light enough for your child to be able to pick up if he/she falls on it. The child should not feel helpless because they have to wait for you to run over and help them.

Teaching a child to ride a bike is about empowerment. We want them to experience the freedom and independence they get from being able to ride a bike, as well as from the learning process, which is relatively fast and they can see success quickly (pedaling on a bicycle), unlike other endeavors such as learning a language or sport.

●      So, what bike brands can you recommend?

 Our Family Bike Collective in Berkeley specializes in lightweight, size-appropriate bikes for children. Our aim is to get more children on bikes that fit them.

In store, we carry Woom bikes, Cleary bikes, Frog bikes and Islabikes. When customers come in, our job is to help the child find the bike that they feel most comfortable on, and in many cases, it’s like trying out shoes. We highly recommend that the child get on the bikes and ride rather than stand around and look at them. In most cases, children are quick to express which they prefer.

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Join our Family Biking Demo Day this Sunday: 

February 11th (Sunday)

9.30am - 12pm

King Middle School parking lot (1781 Rose St, Berkeley, CA 94703)

Every second Sunday of the month, we hold a Family Biking Demo Day where we help kids learn to ride. Since we started about three years ago, we’ve taught about 350 kids to ride in Oakland and Berkeley.

On average, about 15 to 20 children and their families show up, and almost all of them learn to ride within the session. Whether you have a toddler who may be ready for a balance bike, or you have a youth cyclist who would enjoy trying out some bikes, join us this Sunday morning!

We recommend that you bring some snacks and drinks for the children as learning to ride can be hard work. There is also a water fountain on site.

If you can’t make it for the class, we also help kids learn right outside our store. Come visit us at 1409 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley. We are open from 11am to 6pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays, or reach out to us at (510) 545-2203/ brian@familybikecollective.org

Alumna, Anise Fernandez, is off to the Dominican Republic!

We have exciting news to share about Nia House alumna, Anise Fernandez. 

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Anise, currently an 11th grader at El Cerrito High School, is going to the Dominican Republic as a member of Global Glimpse, a summer service program. For two weeks, Anise will live and volunteer with the local community of San Juan. Anise shared that she is interested in pursuing sociology or psychology in college. A trip to study abroad will give her the opportunity to experience another culture and interact with new people. 

Anise, Nia House is proud of your adventurous spirit and commitment to volunteerism. We can not wait to hear about your travels! 

Represent Nia House Love


My car bumper is now adorned with a hot new "I Heart NH" sticker! To get this, I am giving $5 monthly to Nia House. As much as I would love to give more, making large donations is never an option for me. Yet, $5 directly withdrawn from my bank account or added to tuition, that is doable. 

As fresh as the sticker is, I do not make this small donation for the sticker. I make a little donation, each month, because I know it can make a difference. Nia House makes quality early childhood education accessible to families of every economic background. I want to give to this. 

My donation will only make a difference if we do this together. Many folks giving just a little bit more can have a big impact. Join in! Get your friends and family to get on board with grassroots giving.  

Ways to give: You can donate monthly online by clicking the button below. You can add $5+ to your tuition. We will also be signing up for "I Heart Nia House" at Farm Burger on Tuesday, February 13th

Festival of Lights

Thank you community for celebrating at the Festival of Lights last Friday night. If you have pictures, please share. 

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I Heart Nia House Love Launch


We hope you can come out and celebrate your Nia House love on the eve of Valentine's Day.

A little from our hosts, Farm Burger.

Our burgers are made from grassfed beef, dry-aged and ground fresh. Our cattle are fattened and finished on sweet grass, never fed antibiotics or growth hormones, and always humanely raised and handled. Our menu is chef-driven, seasonal, and sourced from local farms. Our space is convivial and comfortable – because eating is a celebration to be shared. Our food makes ethical eating easy.

Farm Burger will give 10% of all proceeds from the evening to Nia House. Spread the word! Help raise money for Nia House by eating local, ethically, deliciously, in a kid-friendly environment, and with the best company (us)! 

This event will also launch our I Heart Nia House monthly giving campaign. Stay tuned.  

Check out this new sticker that Jordan designed (Click the sticker to learn how to get yours):

Nia House is a Green Certified Business



We are proud to share that Nia House is now a Bay Area Green Certified Business!

What does is mean to be green certified? Ultimately, it means we are creating an environment that is healthy for children, adults, animals, and the earth. 

These are some of the ways we go green:



  • We purchase paper products with 30-35% post-consumer waste.

  • Though not a part of the certification- Thanks to you, we also use reusable containers in children's lunches!

Recycle & Compost

  • We recycle all paper, glass, metal, cardboard and plastics.

  • We provide recycling and composting containers. 

  •  We comply with state and local requirements by composting all organics, including food discards, compostable paper such as paper towels, and plant debris from landscapes.

Reduce & Reuse

  • We don't use styrofoam or plastic bottles. Children and staff have access to reusable cups, plates, and silverware. 
  • Our copy machine prints on two sides and we use recycled paper. 


  • All our lighting is green approved. (Ex. Replaced incandescent bulbs with efficient compact fluorescents.)
  • We use Use ENERGY STAR® appliances an office equipment and enable energy saving features.


  • Our irrigation is season sensitive and we use drip irrigation, mulch, and have drought tolerant plants.
  • Everything plumbing from water flow at the sinks to water volume in toilet flushing has conservation standards. 


  • We joined the Air Districts Spare the Air program and notify employees and families of Spare the Air days.

  • We encourage biking with ample bike parking and we are an energizer station for Bike to School Day!

Environmental Purchasing

  • We purchase green cleaning supplies and organic, fair trade foods. 


A heartfelt farewell to Steph

Steph made the Nia House gardens grow. She brought tap dancing, story, song, Hamburger, art, the ukulele, deep respect for the children, and an embodiment of Dr. Maria Montessori's teachings. Steph will leave a deep imprint on the Nia House community as the first teacher to many children, a trusted colleague, and a dear friend.  

Today, Steph will share with the children that this Friday, December 22nd will be her last day at Nia House. Steph will read The Invisible String by Patrice Karst. This story reminds us that even when we are not together, a bond, or invisible string keeps us connected in our hearts. 

People who love each other are always connected by a very special String, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.

We love you, Steph. We wish you and your family an easy transition into your life's next chapter. All are welcome to join in a Goodbye Circle at this Friday's Birthday Party at 4pm.