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Sneak Peek of the Virtues Tree (Tender Sapling’s newest product-in-development)

SAMPLE-The Virtues Tree-blog fileHere it is! A sneak peek of a labor-of-love product we’ve been working on over the last year – The Virtues Tree!

Back when our first son struggled to help us clean up toys and to smile at strangers (or we struggled with his efforts to do so), I searched far and wide for any concrete and fun tools to help us. After finding a suggestion for a felt board one in The Virtues Guide, my son and I set out to create our own Virtues Tree with paints and poster board. We hung it in our dining room/kitchen area, integrated some activities, and started on a fun path of growing character, one Virtues Fruit at a time!

Inspired by our family’s eight-year journey creating and using a homemade painted Virtues Tree, we at Tender Sapling recently commissioned an artist (Scott’s amazing aunt, Marg Bucher) to paint what we think is a gorgeous and whimsical tree that will capture the hearts and imaginations of children! It comes with beautiful full-color and black-and-white versions of 12 Virtues Fruits that a family (or class) can attach to the tree as part of learning about and practicing each virtue. Plus, we’re working on an e-book that will be chock full of creative and concrete ways to help children of all ages explore each virtue!

We’re excited to share this low-resolution image with you and to get your input as we prepare to launch it via Kickstarter! If you’re familiar with crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, then you know it’s a great way to share your dream with others and join together as a community to make it a reality. But before we get to that stage, we want your thoughts on the Virtues Tree via this survey. You can see previews of the fruits there too. Respond by October 1 and submit your information to enter a chance to win a $25 Tender Sapling Gift Card as a thank you for participating in the survey!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


oceans of gratitude,

emily & scott

(the team at tender sapling)


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Acorn Wisdom Revisted

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a repost of Acorn Wisdom – my own father’s magical way of sharing insight into life with his children and grandchildren. Wishing all the dads and granddads a Happy Father’s Day! Thanks for all you do to bring light to the lives of your children and grandchildren!

Baba holds out two acorns.

Baba holds out two acorns.

Every childhood hike with my father inevitably led to the pivotal acorn moment. Baba, as we call him, would hold out his fist and ask us kids if we knew could guess what he was holding. He’d gently open it to reveal the little treasure and we’d shout with glee (or years into this, roll our eyes and mumble):

“An acorn!”

“No,” he’d wisely respond. “This is a tree. A great big oak tree.”

“No way!” “Come on!” We protested. He was obviously holding just a wee little acorn.

Then he’d remind us…

–> continue reading Acorn Wisdom: A Gem Worth Passing Down the Generations

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Celebrating Mama: Ideas + Encouragement

BBMaternity13-KSBMT1In the spirit of helping you mamas and those supporting you to carve out some special time and ways to take care of you, here are some simple ways to celebrate mama this weekend (Sunday, May 12 is Mother’s Day in the U.S.):

* Check out 5 fun DIY ideas to make Mother’s Day special

* Enjoy this poem about the magic mamas bring to the world

* Browse these gift ideas for mamas and use coupon code ANNIV20 at checkout to get 20% off your entire purchase through the month of May

Here’s sending a supportive hug and high-five out to all you awesome mamas!

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Tender Sapling’s Best of 2013: Top posts from the year

IMG_0221We hope you have all been enjoying the end of 2013 – pausing to spend needed time with family & friends, rest, eat, reflect, and so on.  We sure have (and thus haven’t been blogging much lately)!

As we bid 2013 farewell, we thought it’d be fun to review the top ten visited posts from 2013 on the Tender Sapling blog. These don’t include all our favorites, but are the ones that attracted the most readers. If you missed one, here’s a chance to catch up.

Happy reading!

1)   Homemade Yogurt Grows Good Cultures + Character too!

2)   May Day Fun: Dandelion Soup Recipe

3)   Gratitude Giveaway – What Are You Thankful For?

4)   Acorn Wisdom: A Gem Worth Passing Down the Generations (This one was included on the Moments a Day list of 100 Kids Activities to Build Character.)

5)   Mama – Magic in the World

6)   Japan: Cultural Reading Adventures + Fun Food and Crafts for Kids

7)   Take-off to Norway: Explore the Land of the Midnight Sun

8)   Migrate to Mongolia: A Tender Sapling Travelers Cultural Adventure – Part 2 (Prayer Wheels)

9)   Migrate to Mongolia: A Tender Sapling Travelers Cultural Adventure – Part 3 (Food)

10)   Sunshine Award – Not Just a Chain Letter (?)

Thanks so much for reading along this last year. We appreciate your visiting and love your comments! See you in 2014!


Gratitude Giveaway – What Are You Thankful For?

Nov 2013 GiveawayWe’re delighted to offer a Gratitude Giveaway during this season of thankfulness!

It’s one way we can partner with other wonderful folks to support you in raising your kiddos (or grandkids, nieces, nephews, friends’ kids, etc.) to grow noble – cultivate their inner virtues, world citizenship, and green living.

We have two wonderful treats for you:

* Playing with Purpose, an ebook from Moments a Day creator Chelsea Lee Smith with over 100 fun and simple activities to help your children learn about a range of positive character traits such as helpfulness

* A Tender Sapling adult tee – pick from four styles in either men’s or women’s cuts. We had many requests for larger youth/adult tees and they are available now!

All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments below:

What are you thankful for?    

(you’re welcome to simply list one thing you’re grateful for today or this month, etc.)

Comment by 11:59 pm PST, Monday, December 2, 2013 (the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S.) to enter. Entrants must have a U.S. mailing address. Winner will be randomly selected and announced here and on Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday, December 3, and must reply within 3 days or prize goes to the second name drawn.

NOTE: This Giveaway has ended. The winner of a copy of Playing with Purpose & a Tender Sapling adult tee is 1955nurseCunningham, who has received details via an email from us. Congrats, 1955nurseCunningham! Many thanks to all who entered and shared what they are grateful for. The thoughts in the comments below were very moving to read and we hope everyone enjoyed them as much as we did.

Bonus entries will be provided for those who do any of the following.

  • Bonus Entry 1: ”Like” Tender Sapling on Facebook. (Leave a separate comment if you have done this.)
  • Bonus Entry 2: Follow Tender Sapling on Twitter. (Leave a separate comment if you have done this.)
  • Bonus Entry 3: Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter using @tendersapling and #giveaway in your tweet. (Leave a separate comment if you have done this.)
  • Bonus Entry 4: Sign up for Tender Sapling newsletters (sent usually 1-2x a month, a bit more during the holidays). (Leave a separate comment if you have done this.)

If you haven’t already, visit Moments a Day and sign up for email newsletters to get access to her free ebook 30 Cooperative Games for Preschoolers. We hope you enjoy discovering Moments a Day as much as we have. We’re grateful for Chelsea’s inspiring blog and resources and are sure you will be too. (We also appreciate her sweet review of Tender Sapling’s products as part of a giveaway she offered when her ebook launched earlier this month. You can read it here.)

Disclosure: All opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated at all for this post.

We invite you to also check out our Gratitude Challenge and Thankfulness Tree craft recommendation we shared last week.

We can’t wait to read your thankfulness thoughts! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week!


Gratitude Challenge: Words + Actions

Piglet & Pooh sketch      “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

– A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

With Thankgiving around the corner, tendersaplingdada and I have been reflecting on the many blessings in our lives, foremost among them — our children. As any parent with sleeping children has experienced, it’s in those precious moments of peacefulness that we pause and can most easily see the incredible gift in our hands.

We’ve also been feeling incredibly thankful to have a wee business and blog that is gradually growing and developing (psst – we’re so excited to have lots of new products coming out this week!). While we don’t post quite as often as we might like, we appreciate this cozy space where we can meet you and hopefully support you in your path as a parent, educator, grandparent, or friend of children. And we are thankful for the opportunities to learn from you along the way.

Here is a favorite post from last year about gratitude. It shares a simple but powerful learning we had as a family last year. In math terms, it might be expressed: giving thanks = words + actions 🙂 As a mother, I’ve found it incredibly helpful this last year to guide my little ones not just to say words of thanks, but to show thankfulness through their actions.

I also love this post because it presents a Gratitude Challenge:

1)   Words – Strive to feel the gratitude in your heart when you voice your thanks to someone. Make sure the soul is truly speaking.

2)   Deeds – Try to express your gratitude with an act of service of some sort. When a direct action related to your thought of thankfulness is not easily attainable or obvious, you can always start with a smile and a prayer in your heart to be directed to act in a way that shows your gratitude.

I’m glad to have reread it as it reminds me to practice this regularly with my children. I invite you to try it too!

But let’s go back to the beginning of the post, so you can read a bit more and find a fun and simple activity to do with the kids – collect leaves on a nature walk and then create Gratitude Leaves for a Thankfulness Tree:

Thankfulness Leaves

Thankfulness Leaves

“This time of year my soul feels as if it’s sipping a mug of delicious hot apple cider – there is so much heart-warming thankfulness floating in the air from everyone around me. For all our readers around the world, this Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, so we’re neck high in turkeys, Pilgrims, and, most wonderfully, lots of giving of thanks. It’s one of my favorite American holidays as I always find joy in the communal act of pausing to give thanks for the simple things, past and present.

“This year I’ve tried something new with the children. We directed our thankfulness thoughts to the future as well. Nah, we don’t have a crystal ball. I wasn’t suggesting that the kids be thankful for an unknown future – though there’s value being thankful for the promise of tomorrow, a brighter future ahead.

“Instead, I shared with them something I’d been reflecting on lately. That thankfulness is of two kinds – words and deeds. There is giving thanks through one’s words by saying “Thank You” and the like. And then there is showing gratitude through one’s actions.

This became the theme of an activity we did –> Read more here!

What ways do you like to cultivate gratefulness in your little ones? You might like this list of ten ideas my friend Chelsea created at Moments a Day.

Happy Thanksgiving to your and yours!

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Celebrate Malala Day by Supporting Girls Education!

What a great response we’ve had to the launch of our new pink tees and bodysuits and the way we chose to give back with these new products. If you missed it, on the International Day of the Girl (Oct 11), we introduced our pink tees and bodysuits in two styles and announced that 9% of all sales through Malala Day (Nov 10) would go to support girls education via The Malala Fund. Thank you to all who have made pink purchases or shared this special fundraiser via their blogs or social media outlets!

It’s been great to hear the nice feedback about the new pink products  – “gorgeous” from Chelsea at Moments a Day and “adorable” from Homa at Growing Up Global, for example. But even more, we’re grateful for all those who embrace the idea of promoting education for girls as a basic human right. You don’t need to have a girl in your life or to buy pink to support girls education. Direct contributions can always be made directly to The Malala Fund or another organization working to improve opportunities for girls worldwide.

With 65 million girls worldwide unable to attend school due to discrimination, poverty, and violence, this is a huge issue that truly holds back the world. After all, as the African proverb says it best:

Educate a boy, and you’re educating an individual. Educate a girl and you are educating an entire village.

Many people who have heard me talk about Malala this last month aren’t sure who I’m talking about at first. But when I describe the girl who was shot in the face last year by the Taliban for attending school; the young woman who, once recovered, addressed the UN, authored a book, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the education of girls, pretty much everyone remembers. Most everyone has heard of Malala.

So, in the spirit of celebrating girls and raising funds for girls education, here are a few fun things to share:

As mentioned in our first pink launch blog post, we thought the illumination of world landmarks in pink light on the 2012 International Day of the Girl by Plan International rocked. Here are a couple images from Plan International‘s website of 2013 landmarks glowing pink:

The Empire State Building lit up pink for the International Day of the Girl, 2013 (photo: Plan International)

The Empire State Building lit up pink for the International Day of the Girl, 2013 (photo: Plan International)

Festivities at the fountain in Central Park, Guatemala City - lit up pink for the International Day of the Girl (photo: Plan International)

Festivities at the fountain in Central Park, Guatemala City – lit up pink for the International Day of the Girl (photo: Plan International)

Pretty wonderful, huh?

Here are a few favorite pictures of Malala confidently wearing pink that helped inspire us to design the launch of our first pink products to benefit her foundation. We love that one of the designs on our new pink tops is our “Love All the World” theme which fits a global initiative like this “to a tee.” 🙂

malala with pink backpack

Malala Yousafzai with a pink backpack. Getty Images.

malala addresses UN july 2013

Malala Yousafzai addressing the United Nations, July 2013. photo: Reuters

Malala Yousafzai, in pink, received a Glamour 2013 Women of the Year Award.

Malala Yousafzai, in pink, received a Glamour 2013 Women of the Year Award.

On another note, did you know that in just the last hundred years, pink has gone from being a primarily male-associated color to being the female-associated color we know today? Perhaps in another decade pink will be embraced equally as a male and female color, as everyone looks good in pink, right? 🙂 We are parents of three boys, who have at various stages loved (some still love) wearing pink, as this picture shows:



There is less than one week left for 9% of the sales of our new pink tops to benefit The Malala Fund, so if you’ve been meaning to get an order in, please do so by Sunday.

Tender Sapling Pink Launch Benefits Girls Education

And certainly, if you wish to directly support The Malala Fund or any of the many great funds in support of girls education, please do! Here is the link again to The Malala Fund!”

If you have a connection you’d like to help us make in promoting our Pink for Girls Education special, please email us at: theteam@tendersapling.com  We’d love your help to get the word out these last few days of the fundraiser!

Happy Malala Day! May the educational opportunities for girls worldwide be dramatically improved this time next year!

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Support Girls Education with Tender Sapling’s New Pink Line

We’re so excited to launch our new pink line today – the International Day of the Girl – and to announce that 9% of all sales between today and Malala Day (Nov 10) will go to The Malala Fund to benefit girls education projects around the world!

But before going further, a little morning humor. In my excitement this morning, I said to my three boys,

“Do you know what we’re launching today?”

“A rocket?!” said our middle tender sapling. lol! 🙂

Gotta love living life with boys! And as a mother of only boys in this world and someone who has been keenly interested and invested in supporting women’s and girl’s issues over the last couple decades, including via the Tahirih Justice Center and Best for Babes, it’s so wonderful to find a way to help advance the situation of girls with our new pink bodysuits and tees. It’s our rocket to support girls! 🙂 Continue reading


Japan: Cultural Reading Adventures + Fun Food and Crafts for Kids


Our oldest son’s oil pastel version of Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print.

This post is part of the Tender Sapling Travelers Series.

Passports ready? Let’s go to Japan!

Our recent “visit” to Japan via our monthly homeschool studies as part of Culture Club was not our first. We have turned our focus to Japan many times over the years, in part because my husband was born in Japan. Can you believe my mother-in-law even kept a beautiful Japanese outfit from his babyhood which each of our boys has been able to wear too? Sweet and a lovely connection to the place of their father’s birth.

This past year during early modern history, our oldest son became fascinated with the artist and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai and created his own version of the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa with oil pastels, which turned out to be his contribution at Culture Club a few months later. If you are a fan of Hokusai, share this book as an introduction to this colorful man, who was known by some thirty names throughout his life, and his work with your elementary aged children.


Miniature origami samurai hats. Same folds as the ones the kids used to make life-size ones at our son’s samurai birthday party.

As as result of our family’s independent studies of Japan’s early modern history, our middle tender sapling asked for a samurai-themed party for his sixth birthday. No, not power rangers. Real samurai stuff. That turned out to be a blast, with the birthday boy teaching everyone how to make life-size origami samurai hats and me donning a lovely kumata (like a kimono, but made out of cotton), thanks to our friend who started Culture Club. Thank goodness for helpful hands, as I couldn’t figure out how to get the beautiful cloth to lay right and not look like I was wearing a jumble of sheets. The samurai hat folding fever continued for months, so our son was jazzed to teach dozens of kids at the Japan Culture Club how to make these smaller ones.

As you can see, Japan is one of those countries that is easy to explore. There are resources and experts readily available – museums hold amazing artifacts and works of art and our local Japanese steakhouse offers a memorable meal experience along with a chance to stand next to a life-size replica of samurai armour – not a bad option if the Met’s amazing Hall of Arms and Armour is too far to visit. Everyone can take a quick trip to the local library or an internet search, which yields a wealth of material.

Here is a list of books we loved reading as we re-explored Japan for Culture Club. We recommend these as a portal to Japan for preschool through upper elementary ages:

ChibiChibi: A True Story from Japan by Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya (authors),  June Otani (illustrator)

If you love Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings, you will love this true story of a mother duck and her ducklings who take up residence in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace moat and capture the hearts of the people. After a scare when the beloved smallest duckling – Chibi – goes missing after a storm, prompting search parties and media attention, a special duck house is built to keep Chibi and family safe.

The Origami Master by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (author), Aki Sogabe (illustrator)

This book introduces the reader to the ancient Japanese art of origami or paper folding through an imaginative moral tale of an origami master and a bird who copies his origami. The colorful pictures engaged our youngest. The older two ran off to fold origami birds as soon as the book was finished.

Since we have three boys who always seem hungry, here are three books that deal with food and introduce aspects of Japanese culture or creativity:

Tea with Milk by Allen Say

This is a sweet tale of how the author/illustrator’s own parents met in Japan and crossed cultural divides, both personal and interpersonal. The book starts with the main character’s move from the United States, where she ate spaghetti, to Japan, where she had to wear a kimono. It then follows her on her path of independence, finding a sympathetic soul and her future husband along the way.

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman (author), Allen Say (illustrator)

This is a another touching story of a young Japanese woman and a young American man who meet in Japan and become friends, bridging their cultural gaps as they eat food from each other’s culture.

Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa (author), Junji Koyose (illustrator)

Our big-machine-lovin’ three year old isn’t the only one who enjoyed this humorous Lilliputian-like story of little people with big machines who make a cake. Everyone in the family got a kick out of it. The Japanese connection? The author/illustrator is Japanese, as is the family celebrating a birthday with the help of the little people and their cake-making efforts.

As with all our Culture Club adventures, we tested out recipes. These are two simple and fun favorites from Japanese cuisine:

  • Our rice balls alongside Japanese dishes brought by other families to our Culture Club potluck lunch.

    Our rice balls alongside Japanese dishes brought by other families to our Culture Club potluck lunch.

    Rice Balls (Onigiri) – super easy, fun and yummy! The kids love getting their hands messy as they mold rice balls in their salted hands. Eating the tasty rice balls is the icing on the cake. The recipe I used is evading me, but it’s similar to this recipe, except we skipped the nori and umeboshi. We simply made sushi rice in the rice cooker and once it was cool enough to handle, the kids got their hands wet and salted and made balls from the scoops of rice I dropped in their hands.

  • Fun-shaped Hard Boiled Eggs. Yes, we shaped hard-boiled eggs into cars & fish using molds such as these. Again, fun, fun, fun! Gotta love modern Japanese whimsy! We pressed fresh hard boiled eggs into these molds and ended up with fun shaped eggs. Processed food? Not really. Fun? Definitely.

At our monthly Culture Club meeting, some of the other families brought these terrific crafts that are worth repeating:

  • Daruma Dolls – Daruma or Dharma Dolls are a good luck symbol with Zen Buddhist roots that the Japanese people tend to make wishes on by coloring in one eye of the doll at the new year. Once the wish comes true, the other eye is filled in. Cindy over at One Part Sunshine brainstormed these creative crafts the kids could take home and make a wish on. Basically, the kids used cut up egg cartons, red tape, masking tape, and sharpie/permanent markers to create these clever dolls.
Daruma doll created by our oldest son at Culture Club - Japan!

Daruma doll created by our oldest son at Culture Club – Japan!

Supplies used to create the above Daruma Doll.

Supplies used to create the above Daruma Doll.

Play Sushi

    – This homemade sushi set may rival a Melissa and Doug set. Our Culture Club founder, Sarah, gathered sushi boxes, chopsticks, and a collection of textile craft supplies for the kids to create their own sushi rolls, wasabi, and more. She then got busy with a glue gun, making their creations more permanent so they could take them home and play sushi chef or restaurant owner.
Creative sushi sets the kids made.

Creative sushi sets the kids made.

What are your favorite books, recipes, or crafts that bring Japan and its rich culture into your child’s life?


Celebrating Peace Day with Tender Sapling

Origami Peace Crane

Origami Peace Crane

We are so excited to be headed momentarily to the Green Festival in Washington, DC, where we will be hosting a Peace Day Celebration tomorrow! We will also have a booth with a small shop set up all weekend featuring our products already available online, as well as many new offerings. Come visit!

The Green Festival DC blog shared this about tomorrow’s Peace Day Celebration – which we hope all your DC area people can attend:

   “Green Festival attendees are invited to celebrate International Peace Day this Saturday at 12 noon in the Green Kids Zone. Participants will join in a worldwide Peace Wave at the start of this fun program by Tender Sapling that includes a little yoga, a little storytelling, a little origami, and a lot of fun.

   “Kids and the young at heart will engage their minds, hearts, and bodies to practice peace and create a symbol of peace to take with them. Kids will like that the origami craft will be led by a 10-year-old boy who will walk peacemakers through the steps to transform a square sheet of paper into an elegant crane – a Peace Crane. A simpler craft will be available for smaller hands. Messages will then be written on the peace symbols, to send wishes for peace out into the world. Plus, attendees will be offered complimentary “Love all the World” temporary tattoos and stickers, which feature Tender Sapling’s original take on the continents as interconnected hearts.

   “Enthusiastic origamists of all ages are invited to fold and donate additional Peace Cranes throughout the weekend-long Green Festival as a contribution to the Children’s Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, where some 10 million cranes are offered each year by people the world over. Tender Sapling will collect these cranes at their booth (#743) next to the Green Kids Zone.

   “This interactive peace program was designed especially for the 2013 Green Festival DC by Tender Sapling – Charlottesville, Va, creators of fun, inspired, eco-friendly products and resources for kids and the young at heart. The peace program captures Tender Sapling’s motto “Have Fun. Grow Noble.” What does it mean to grow noble?…”

–> Read more here.