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It's Read Across America Day! We thought today would be a great day to share Second Chance Books with you. Though we're unaffiliated, we certainly share a lot more than our similar names. Second Chance Books works much like Second Chance Toys, only with donated used children's books. Consider checking them out and donating books your children no longer need! 

Founded by Nancy Dean, a retired librarian, Second Chance Books is a children's book donation group. In other words, the non-profit collects gently-used books and recycles them to communities in need. Ultimately, Second Chance Books is an on-going collaboration between parents, students and teachers.

"Recycling is important to me for the sheer fact of cutting down on landfill waste," said Karrie Dean, the organization's co-founder and daughter of Nancy Dean. She added: "So many items, like books and toys, can be 'upcycled' to kids in need. It's a win-win." When recycling like that happens, books are kept out of landfills while also getting a "second chance" to reach new readers. As 47% of fourth graders from low-income families read below the basic level -- while 26% of materials entering landfills is paper-based -- book-recycling expands access to books and spreads the joy of reading to more young minds.

Second Chance Books encourages groups to have book drives, and is able to pick up books in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York; books can otherwise be shipped to their headquarters for distribution. For more information on Second Chance Books and how you may get involved, click on over to


We posted earlier about the successful toy drive that Chobani had at its Idaho facility, but they were also massively successful at the company's New York headquarters! The employees in New Berlin and Norwich, NY collected enough toys to completely fill up a truck, inside and out. The toys were delivered to the non-profit Roots & Wings, which provides household goods, food, and clothing to 225 families going through emergencies or hard times.


We love when different groups work together, especially when it's centered around a collection of toys for children in need! The Enivornmental Club of Pascack Valley High School got together with Daisy Girl Scout Group #96970 of New Milford, NJ for a successful toy drive this holiday season. Thanks to everyone involved!

Evergreen School in Scotch Plains, NJ conducted their annual gently-used plastic toy collection for the holidays. In one hour they collected 450 toys that were, thanks to 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, delivered to Community Coordinated Childcare in Rahway and to Hopes CAP in Plainfield. The children worked hard to clean the toys and make sure that no parts were missing and batteries functioning. New batteries were swapped out for old, and the plastic toys were as good as new. Thanks Evergreen for helping less fortunate children who depend on your kindness!

We were excited to partner with Chobani for the first time last year. At their facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, they collected hundreds of wonderful used toys for children at One Church One Child, a state-run organization that helps place foster children in their forever homes. Chobani has industrial-sized scales, so they decided to weigh their donation. It tipped the scales at 541 pounds of donated plastic toys (see photo). Amazing!

Thank you, Chobani!

I never fully understood the idea that a toy can change a child’s life – until I met Anthony.
Anthony was one of the first children to receive a toy from Second Chance Toys – back in the early days. He and his brother were living in a homeless shelter in Newark, NJ at the time.  Anthony picked the plastic dinosaur from the pile of gently loved toys we dropped off that holiday season.  Like hundreds of thousands of other kids, Anthony was the recipient of one of our toy drives where we collect, clean and redistribute plastic toys to children in need. We do our part to help save the earth from non-biodegradable plastic – and we recycle love for kids.
Anthony’s mom recently told me that Anthony’s plastic dinosaur is still at the top of his toy pile today. You see, Anthony is really interested in science and the way the world works. And that toy dinosaur is inspiring him to pursue an education in the animal sciences – and become a scientist – to buy his mother a beautiful home so that she will never be homeless again.
This year, Second Chance Toys will mark its 10th Anniversary. I can’t believe it has been ten years since Sasha collected her first pile of toys off the curb one autumn day. It changed our lives forever. And it has changed the lives of more than a million disadvantaged children.
We now have requests from more than 650 recipient organizations for over 250,000 toys. We’ve come a long way from that first pile of toys but we still have so much more to accomplish. And we hope more businesses and families join us in this mission that could really change the world – and make a real difference in the lives of children.
Our Road to 10 kicks off this month.  It’s a 10-month countdown where we’re asking for your help to keep efforts at Second Chance Toys going full throttle these upcoming 10 months.
So please donate $10, 10 x $10 or whatever you can afford. Tell 10 friends or colleagues about second Chance Toys. Think of 10 new ways you can help a child in need. And join us on our Road to 10 as we unveil a series of events, activities and funding opportunities.
Wishing you and yours – and all the children we serve through SCT – a fabulous 2016!
Shelly Lipton, SCT Board Chairman

Tashua Elementary School in Trumbull, CT held its 5th annual Second Chance Toy Drive this year and it was--once again, hugely successful! Families from the school and surrounding area (especially the 5th graders, who tied the toy drive into a service project) collected close to 1,000 toys. Below are some photos of their efforts, which also grabbed the attention of their local newspaper. Well done, Tashua!




A big thanks and congratulations to our partners at Kidville (and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?--who delivered the toys) for collecting more than a thousand toys at its multiplie collection locations across the NY Metro area. Way to go! 

Another successful Toy Drive from Kidville!

Members of Johnson & Johnson's EarthServe Team from Raritan, NJ hand-delivered hundreds of toys to Refugee House Community Development in Bound Brook, NJ. Pictured below are some of the organization's employees with portions of the donation. Thanks, Johnson & Johnson!


Established by three school psychologists in New York, The Successful Child was created to help children become successful individuals, both academically and behaviorally. Providing an interactive approach to learning, The Successful Child team provides instruction related to reading, writing and math. Their curriculum is collaborative with schools and families, further customized to meet each child's particular abilities and needs.

In this SCT blog submission from the The Successful Child staff, it is explained how toys can actually prepare a child for long-term success both in and out of the classroom. A variety of skills can be developed from a play session, which emphasizes how learning is something that happens in more places than we realize. More information on their wonderful organization can be found at

Photos from The Successful Child NY's first toy donation this holiday season,
delivered to the NY Council on Adopted Children


Toys: Kids’ Tools for Success
Guest post by The Successful Child NY

Why are toys so important for children? Often, they are simply used to keep kids occupied, but in reality, there’s so much more toys can do than “babysit.” Toys are actually instruments that can help children learn and discover the world! They are vital tools that stimulate child development, including cognitive, social, emotional and motor skills.

Here are some areas in which toys can play a crucial role in a child’s development:

Cognitive: Toys offer an opportunity to increase one’s concentration skills, promote problem-solving strategies, encourage imagination/abstract thinking and develop language skills. Items like board games and puzzles can also help increase dialogue and improve math skills.

Social: Toys help teach children about the society we live in and facilitate social skills. Playing with peers or adults helps to promote respect, cooperation, negotiation and sharing. Toys also allow children to actively explore many other important societal rules in a natural and safe environment.

Emotional: Toys offer children an opportunity to openly express themselves. Through playing with toys, children may gain the ability to identify, navigate, understand, process and work through feelings. By using pretend play with toys or creating a fantasy world, children are provided with an outlet to act out feelings and emotions. As a result, there is potential to increase emotional stability.

Motor: Beginning at birth, toys are used as motivators for children to use muscles and develop fine and gross motor skills. Toys assist children in discovering balance and coordination. Dolls and figures offer an opportunity to increase fine motor skills, by engaging in dressing, undressing and pretend feedings. Children also enhance their sense of touch and sight, which increase fine motor skills.

Tricycles, walkers, cars and playground equipment increase gross motor skills. These toys work on strengthening arms and legs. As a bonus, these activities give children further motivation to begin exercising at an early age, potentially avoiding the risks of childhood obesity.

In addition, a single toy can help children develop in a variety of areas. 

For example, crayons and plastic blocks can enhance a child’s well-being in three areas at the same time. 

Cognitive-Providing a creative outlet
Emotional- Insuring a visual outlet
Motor- Enhancing hand-eye coordination 

Plastic blocks:
Cognitive- Promoting mathematical concepts
Social- Providing an opportunity to build and create with others
Motor-Using fine and gross motor muscles to build

When your child is “just playing” with toys, please understand that they are doing so much more -- they are learning and developing all at once!

Since it’s clear that toys may be crucial for a child’s development, it’s important that children play with toys beginning at an early age. Unfortunately, not all children have easy access to toys; those that do often outgrow toys quickly. Instead of tossing out perfectly good plastic toys that could be valuable to other children, consider sorting through old toys with your child. Explain the importance of giving back to others by recycling those toys to Second Chance Toys. They can go a long way in helping another child maximize his or her development.

The Successful Child offers a holistic and integrative experience in addressing behavior, social and academic skills.  We offer custom-tailored services and fun classes that engage your child in learning and give them a competitive edge. For more information visit:


Thanks goes out to two of our tremendous corporate sponsors, Viacom and 1-800-GOT-JUNK, who've been working with us for many years. This year the Viacom Controllers Team collected close to 150 toys for Room to Grow NYC, a non-profit organization that provides support, supplies, and an inviting space for babies born into poverty. Our transportation partners at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? are generous enough year-after-year to provide their trucks and manpower to deliver toys all across the US, and they were on hand to deliver the toys to Room to Grow NYC.

Thanks again to Viacom for their collections and to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for their support!

Part of the reason people donate toys this time of year is to make room for new toys aquired during the holiday season. Since recycling and toys is our specialty, we thought we'd put together some thoughts on what to look for as you're shopping for your little ones!

1. Materials matter. Look for toys that use recycled plastic, paper, or eco-friendly woods. Some of our favorites are toys from Green Toys. They are made from 100% recycled plastic (mostly milk jugs) and are made in the USA. They've got a great selection of new sure-to-please products for 2015, including a block set. Shop here.

2. Look for toys that give back. Toys have come a long way in teaching children the imporance and relevance of giving back. Some companies do it as a portion of sales, and some include special codes and online portals that allow children to log in and choose who recieves their donation. We like ShelterPups, adorable plush 100% wool animals, made in the USA using cruelty-free and flame retardant wool. Kids can login and choose where to donate their Rescue Points (earned with purchase) to one of the 5,000 SPCA shelters on their website. 

3.Recycle and DIY! You know the joke about kids loving the box that toys come in more than the toy itself? It really holds up. Kids love cardboard boxes! We bet you'll have a few after holiday shopping, so make good use of them. There are a ton of really fun ideas on Pinterest if you search "DIY Cardboard Toy." A car wash, mailbox, rocket ship, doll bed... the possibilites are endless! We thought this guitar DIY was pretty clever! 


Happy shopping (or crafting)! And remeber to donate your used toys at a local drop-off site.

Thanks is a word we use and hear a lot at Second Chance Toys. Every year, we get thank you cards, emails, and photos from the appreciative organizations that have received more than 215,000 toy donations to-date. We also give lots of thanks to the amazing volunteers and sponsors who collect toys and support us. Especially now, right in the middle of our holiday toy collections. We couldn't do it without your hard work!

And collectors, don't forget about all of the resources we have on our website. One tool that people sometimes forget about is our free, downloadable activity booklet for kids. It helps reinforce the good that donating toys to children in need does. Below is an example page from the booklet. Download it today!


The work that 1-800-Got-Junk? does for Second Chance Toys is nothing short of amazing.  For more than 7 years the 1-800-Got-Junk? franchise partners and their teams have been the glue connecting toy collections with the toy recipients.  They have transported over 150,000 toys to deserving girls and boys. And for all their contribution, we want to thank them immensely for being such an integral part of the Second Chance Toys mission. 


So when you need to make room in your home or garage, the guys (and gals) from 1-800-Got-Junk? will know what to do. 


Happy Holidays!!

This Sunday, November 15, is America Recycles Day from Keep America Beautiful. An annual event since 1997, the day aims to educate Americans on what can be recycled, and encourage them to do so. It is the only nationally-recognized day for promoting and encouraging recycling. So, let's recycle. It's what we're all about!

Plastic toys are easy to recycle with Second Chance Toys. They don't have to undergo any process or become something new, just donate perfectly good plastic toys through Second Chance Toys, and a child in need will be able to use that toy right away! Here's a link to our growing list of places to donate this holiday season.

SCT volunteer, Lauren Slinger, took some time to write down ideas to help get the ball rolling on donating unused toys with your children. Take a look and set aside some time this Sunday to recycle those toys!

Decluttering the Toy Shelf with your Child’s Consent 

You walk into your child’s bedroom and grimace? If you’re lucky, you haven’t tripped over anything or bruised your foot after stepping on that action figure toy. It’s a mess and new toys only make the mess worse. So what do you do? 

Time to consider donating the old to make room for the new!  

Just by donating a gently used plastic toy, you can make a world of difference in the life of a disadvantaged child and at the same time help keep non-biodegradable plastics out of our landfills. However, the question remains, how can you get your child to accept giving up his/her toys? 

When it comes to donating their own things, it's common for kids, especially younger ones, to put up a fuss. Children often grow attached to their possessions, so it's natural for them resist parting with them. But even preschoolers are old enough to learn about generosity, compassion, and the importance of helping others. Donating their old toys is a great way to begin that lesson. 

After introducing the idea, get your kids involved in the process as much as possible. Here are some tips: 

1. Get Your Kids Involved

One mistake parents often make is gathering up toys for donation when the kids aren’t home as a sneaky way to get rid of the clutter. This can be problematic since your kids might be upset when they find out by surprise that their possessions are gone. Most importantly, you missed the opportunity to teach your kids about charity and the joy of helping others.

There are several ways to get your kids on board:

Ask for Help. Let your kids know that you plan to donate some toys to a charitable cause. Try explaining where the toys go and who receives them. Let kids decide which toys stay and which ones go. When they can't yet seem to part with a favored item, try to encourage them to look for other toy options to give instead.

Set a target. Make it fun by turning it into a game. For example, for every two toys they keep, see if they can give up one or work with neighborhood parents to turn it into a local drive where kids can compete and help clean and pack to give to charity.

2. Donate Toys that Work

Explain to your children that broken toys or toys with missing parts should not be donated. Ask them how would they feel receiving such a toy? And if a toy’s battery no longer functions, have your child help you replace the battery to give it new life before donating. 

3. Take Pride in your Donation

Spruce up your gently loved toys before donating. Make cleaning the toys a family activity. This is a chance to do something together and work towards the same goal. You can divvy up the tasks  and ask your children to decide what part of the process they want to lead.  

4. Consider the Beneficiaries

This is a great opportunity to sensitize your kids to the fact that so many children go without toys. Ask them if they would like to go with you to deliver the toys and see how happy they are going to make others feel. These are the teachable moments that can potentially stay with them for life.

You can use Second Chance Toys to find out where to donate. If you have just a few toys, find out where they list  Drop-off Locations near you (in April for Earth Week or in December for the holidays). If you cannot find a drop off in your area, consider collecting 50 or more plastic toys and Second Chance Toys will arrange for you to donate your toys directly to a local organization. 

5. Praise your Child

Consider that your child has just parted with a once prized possession. Give him/her the credit they deserve and let them know what a difference they have made in someone else’s life.

Continue to encourage your child to give and volunteer and this will surely help strengthen their moral compass and empathy for others less fortunate.  

-Lauren Slinger works in Content Distribution at Viacom Media Networks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means it's toy collecting season! Information and the sign-up can be found here. Below, we've got some wonderful tips from a seasoned toy collector on just how to go about it--and more importantly, just how easy it can be!

Be sure to share your toy collection photos and updates along the way by using the hastags #toysforgood and #secondchancetoys on social media. We'll see you out there!

My Experience Running Second Chance Toys Collections – If I can do it, so can you…

Last year I organized three collections for Second Chance Toys. They were three different experiences not only in terms of different tactics and timing, but also location – one was at a school during the winter holiday season, one at a community center on Earth Day, and one in a corporate office.

In spite of those differences, all three collections went well. And in all three cases, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this was to do; a relatively small effort generated an outsized return in terms of educating children, keeping plastics out of landfills, and giving back to local communities.

The following are some quick tips I’ve taken away from my experience organizing SCT collections. I hope these help those of you who are already planning to run collections this year – and I hope they encourage those of you who are intrigued by SCT but might be thinking, “I don’t have time to do this myself. I wish someone else would organize one in my community.” If I can do it, so can you

(A quick point of context – I am a mother of three young children, and I work full-time in a corporate management position. Thus, my emphasis on keeping this simple. You too can do it, really!).

Don’t overthink it, and don’t be daunted by the task

Running an SCT collection does not take months of planning, nor a committee of volunteers. In fact, two of my collections were organized with just a few weeks of lead time. Sure, it would be better to have a little more time to publicize an event, and in some cases (see point #2 below) you’ll need to get school permissions much earlier, but the point is that it can be done with whatever time and resources you have available.

Take advantage of the kits that SCT makes available – they have flyers, e-mail messages, and toy tags already crafted. They can also help to line up the recipient organization and trucking/logistics. They also provide instructions for how to run an event and which supplies to bring (As far as supplies go, I believe I boiled it down to large garbage bags and wipes. Again, pretty simple!).

Ping the PTA, School Director, or Facilities Director early

They get a ton of requests for events at the school, so even if your PTA or school administrators think it’s a great idea, they may have to say “no” if the schedule is already full for the upcoming year. On the other hand, don’t stop if they say “no.” You can run a collection with or without them.

For one of my collections, I was fortunate to get the school’s director onboard as a very enthusiastic champion (despite the fact that I contacted her just one month before the holiday collection event!). She really took over from there, organizing the space, bringing supplies, and publicizing the event.  

In contrast, at my other event, the school/PTA had to say “no.” So I quickly shifted gears, and set up the collection at a nearby community center (it took just one e-mail to someone in the community to get permission). We did that event before school on the morning of Earth Day with coffee, hot chocolate and donuts as a treat for the attending parents and children. It was a fun gathering, and a novelty for the kids to see one another before school.

P.S. It helps to have a playground next to your collection area!

Recruit your friends, make it personal

In addition to publicizing your collection event via mass e-mail lists and flyers posted in prominent community areas, lock-in some participation by recruiting your children’s friends and their parents or some of your co-workers – I sent quick personalized notes that did the trick.   

Unlike other fundraisers, this is a pretty comfortable ask; after all, you’re not asking anyone to shell out money or buy your kid’s cookies (I’ve always felt uncomfortable obligating friends and co-workers to participate in those fundraisers). But in this case, you’re simply asking them to donate items they no longer use or need; in fact, they may even thank you for giving them impetus to finally de-clutter that old playroom.

Follow the truck if you can

At the end of my first collection event, I decided to follow the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? truck to the site of the organization that would be receiving our donated toys. And boy was I glad I did! It’s one thing to know that you’re donating to children in need. It’s another to see it first-hand. I was moved, to say the least. It gave me pause in what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill day, consumed by frivolous work issues and artificial stressors. I was blown away by the Director of the Mission, who invited me in for a tour and showed me around with deep pride and with a humbling story about how he worked his way from homelessness to holding the keys to this great facility. He assured me that our toys would be greatly appreciated by the families and children who depend on the mission.

I first came across Second Chance Toys about one year ago, by chance, as I was searching online for something else. I loved the premise of SCT from the moment I read about it.

Over the years, with each passing birthday and holiday season, I’ve watched as my children unwrap far too many toys -- and while I appreciate the generosity of our friends and family, I also cringe at the piles of plastic parts accumulating in my home; toys thrown astray after their fun has worn off.

I know these toys have a longer life to live, and Second Chance Toys is an opportunity to take action; we can all reduce environmental impacts while also bringing the joy of toys to children in need. 

-Sherry Marin Altman, SCT Volunteer

Second Chance Toys is blessed to not only have a lot of supporters, but many long-standing people who regularly contribute time and other resources to the organization. One such supporter is Alan Branfman from Temple Shaaray Tefila, located at 250 Est 79th Street in Manhattan. The congregation can also be visited online.
Alan, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, first learned the importance of community-oriented volunteer work during his college days. He was a volunteer at the University in a 4-year recreation program for mentally challenged adults and teens.  After his college years, he moved to Roxbury, Mass., where he was a paid teacher-coach-facilitator for Volunteers In Service To America (V.I.S.T.A.). He worked daily in a Head Start Center and then in the afternoons he coached young teen boys in athletic programs and took them all around Boston, acquainting them with various cultural institutions that are so much in abundance in the city of Boston.
Whether this is all rooted within the concept of "tikkun olam", Alan has proven to be someone who helps others on a regular basis.
I had the pleasure of conducting a Q & A with Alan for the SCT Blog. Alan explained to me during our exchange that the movie "STAND AND DELIVER" was especially inspiring to him. When pairing that film's message with the mission of Second Chance Toys, he felt as if had found a new mission in life.


How did you find out about Second Chance Toys?
Alan Branfman: I initially found out about SCT from Alan Goldberg, also a member of Shaaray Tefila. About 9 years ago, he asked me if I would be interested in collecting gently-used plastic toys from members of the temple, in order to donate them to children in need, and keep them out of recycling dumps as long as possible.
We collected a great amount of gently-used plastic toys. I always enjoyed doing this around the holidays each year, for sure. Alan Goldberg moved out of town, and I have been doing this project on my own, with the splendid guidance and assistance and contributions from the people at our synagogue. I expect to continue in this vein, hopefully, for much time to come!
What is your favorite thing about working with our organization?
Alan: my favorite aspect of working with SCT is that they do what they say that are going to do--always! They tell me when to expect the pick-up truck on or around Dec. l9th each year, and the truck invariably arrives always precisely on time. We load the toys onto the truck sent by l-800-GOT-JUNK? and they take the items to the destination so designated.
In the past few years, I opted to travel to a school on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where the toys were distributed at a ceremony presided over by an inspiring NY Giants football starting player. I enjoyed this piece of the ceremony immensely. I then traveled the next year to a Head Start Center in East Harlem, which was great. This past year, SCT found a very suitable Head Start Center that was quite responsive and, the distribution ceremony was very moving. I hope to interact at this facility many times in the future! Great, good people!
It has been a very on-time, well-selected time frame that these events have unfurled around the Chanukah/Christmas season. Second Chance Toys has never failed to set things up professionally and be quite responsive to the needs of the place where the children receive the toys.And, they have coincided wonderfully with Shaaray Tefila's collection schedule.
Do "Green Initiatives" factor into your daily life at all?
Alan: Green initiatives are all around us, for sure. Whether it be discarding waste products in a recycling situation, or working to improve a street's appearance or a building's facade- outside and in-- with newer technologies. I am totally in synch with these types of undertakings. I don't specifically claim to have innate knowledge of the many facets of green technology that is abounding more loudly and distinctly in our environment. But, the fact that the new technologies are predominating more and more in our society augurs well for a cleaner, healthier environment that we all strive to have and hope for in the decades ahead.
Our children and future grandchildren deserve to have the cleanest atmosphere possible. I would expect that Second Chance Toys, with its emphasis on cleaning up the world we live in by putting off the disposal of plastic toys through their collection activities-- will flourish more and more in the short and long term, as its stated goals become even better known.
Does the Shaaray Tefila Synagogue have other causes that it champions?
Alan: Shaaray Tefila has many, many other causes is advances very well. Firstly-- they do also collect items a few times a year for Jewish soldiers who are stationed overseas. They are in areas in which the U.S. military has placed these men and women all over the world. Such items as clothing, toiletries, books, are all shared with these brave soldiers throughout the world.
Secondly, they have a "Mitzvah Weekend" at least two times a year. I have done some volunteering in this area-- where people fan out throughout the 5 boroughs. We visit some senior centers, and spend time with seniors in their home environments at the centers.
Thirdly, the synagogue is embarking on a very significant program that will provide meals for school children who experience a deficit of food here in the city each and every day. This has been named "Backpack Buddies", which will be working diligently to include more and more meals each year ahead for these students.
Another program is a soup kitchen, which has been operational for years and years at the synagogue. Volunteers work once a week at the temple in one of the main rooms on the ground floor, providing meals for neighborhood people that are served with no strings attached. 
I could go on and on about what the synagogue does on a yearly basis. Suffice to say, it is a strong community-oriented place , with many outreach programs of all stripes and varieties. We look forward to many more years working alongside Second Chance Toys!

Thankfully, my three-year-old son doesn't have a very strong opinion about what to dress up as on Halloween. This year he/we decided that he'd be one of his favorite book characters, Waldo of Where's Waldo fame. A pretty easy costume. Just needed a knit hat from a very talented family friend, some round glasses, and the most essenital item--Waldo's trademark red and white striped shirt. We had to order the shirt and glasses online. Thought it'd be no big deal, but we had our first Halloween party today (10 days before Halloween) and we were short one item. The shirt. There's really no Waldo costume without the shirt. So, after didn't come in yesterday's mail, we had to scramble and find something from what we already had at the house. 
My son's reused costume came together quite nicely. He was a skeleton paleontologist. Just as cute as Waldo, I think! As we searched through the house, I realized just how many potential costumes we had lying around the house. A pretend play doctor outfit, a fleecy one-piece lion/bear outfit, a train conductor hat and overalls. But the skeleton sleep outfit that's a size too small combined with the dress-up paleontologist set proved the perfect combination. 
Next year, instead of ordering new, I'm going to try to take a look around the house and see what clever and fun costumes we can come up with. It's a good challenge and there's certainly more pride of ownership when you create it on your own!

My son in his "Skeleton Paleontologist" outfit
Author: Kate Bevins, mom to James (3)

Author: Shreya Shankar, mother and SCT Volunteer



The notion that the world is becoming a smaller place is not a new one. Nevertheless, having lived and worked in three different continents and now bringing up our toddler in New York, some of the questions my husband and I find ourselves asking each other are:

-How can we best prepare our son for this new interconnected world?
-How do we raise an empathetic, globally-aware child?
-And, in a world filled with prejudices, how do we teach him to appreciate different countries, cultures and people?

I would love to share with you some ideas that we have read about -- or come up with -- and hope to incorporate in our home.

1. Develop empathy through books and toys

From a board book for your toddler to a novel for your pre-teen, try and be thoughtful about the books you select. Look for stories that incorporate diverse characters from different countries, cultures, religions and races. Look for anthologies that compile fairy tales and folk tales from around the world. Your local library could prove to be a great resource as well. We are still building a library for our little one, but a few books I have come across and liked are:

The Cat's Elopement
The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor
How the Tiger Got His Stripes
Tom Thumb
The First Strawberries
The Tortoise and the Geese (from the Panchatantra)
The Old Man and the Fig
Swan Lake

As your child grows older, there are some wonderful board games from around the world that you could incorporate in your family game night or slumber parties like:

Pallankuzhi (like Mancala)
Chinese Checkers
LudoAchi (think: cross and knots)
Fox & Geese
Carrom (a table game)
Yut Nori

2. Global Gourmet

Another wonderful way of introducing your child to different countries is through food. For special Friday night dinners, plan (well!) ahead of time. Let your children choose a country, visit a grocery store that carries a variety of ethnic groceries and prepare something different from your usual fare. Think falafels, sushi, chicken (or vegetable) tikka, injira, dosas, tapas or pierogi!

If cooking is difficult for you, dine out at ethnic restaurants every few months and talk about the country whose cuisine you are sampling. You can ask questions like these:

-What's the weather like?
-What animals would you find there?
-If you visited, what would you pack and what would you do there?

3. Familiar customs with a twist

Another fun way to introduce your child to different countries and cultures is by incorporating them in various customs that they are already familiar with. For instance, take the tooth fairy custom, with each subsequent tooth, I'd love to replace the American Dollar with currency from a different country along with a letter from the tooth fairy with information about the country she just flew in from!  

4. Infuse your home with global music

"Where Words Fail, Music Speaks.” I believe it was the very beloved storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen, who once said this.

Pandora, Spotify and other musical outlets today have a host of beautiful music from around the world. Expose your children to the beats, rhythms and instruments of different worlds. Dance around the house, Attempt to learn the chorus and sing along!

If you'd like, go the extra step and buy some simple instruments from different countries. Let your kids enjoy the sounds that will hopefully transport them to another time and place.

5. Languages

This one is fairly straight-forward -- make learning a second language a priority. There are few better ways to immerse oneself in a different country (from your own home!) than learning a new language. Duolingo is a free app for smartphones and tablets with more than a dozen languages to study.

6. Causes

For slightly-older children, build awareness about the issues that different countries are facing today. Talk about them at dinner-time, listen to their viewpoints, encourage volunteering for different causes that they might feel strongly about, try and incorporate ones that transcend borders and are global in nature.  

7. Watch a foreign film

There are some beautiful movies from filmmakers around the world available through Netflix. This is better suited for older children, but a few of the titles that I hope to introduce to my son once he is older are:

Au Revoir Les Enfants
Cinema Paradiso
Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Kirikou and the Sorceress
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
Life is Beautiful
Goodbye Lenin
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Lives of Others