12 All-Time Favourite Kids’ Movies with Black Characters

It’s been a long summer and although we spent quite a lot of time outdoors, our evenings were quiet, stay-up-late-and-sleep-in-the-next-day kinds of summer nights. Mostly spent cuddled up in front of the tele watching movies.

We got through some of our favourite childhood 80’s flicks but more importantly, we watched some amazing movies with black characters.

Representation matters… but why?

Our children notice colour from as early as age 2 and if you don’t think they do, go ahead and ask your child who is most likely the princess in the fairy tale. Then hold up a brown skin doll and and a white, blonde hair doll. *This experiment was done as part of a 1970’s university research project. It has been replicated many times since then and can be replicated even today amongst my own daughters.

Unconscious bias seeps in so early we almost don’t notice. And because of that we know, as parents of mixed race kids, that seeing characters and role models that look like themselves is essential. It gives them a reflection of who they are and who they can be.

So without further ado, we have compiled a list of our favourite summer kids’ movies featuring black or mixed race characters (for kids around 3-10 years). These are in no particular order as you’ll see many of these described as our favourites!  Be sure to tell us any others that we’ve missed!

Drumroll please…

THE ALL TIME BEST KIDS MOVIES WITH BLACK CHARACTERS

Annie (2014)

Movies with black characters

No, not the 1970’s flick. The newest remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, amongst others. It’s still the Annie story but a more modern version for a kid in foster care who meets hard-nosed billionaire and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). Stacks believes that he’s Annie’s guardian angel, but the plucky youngster’s confidence and sunny outlook may mean that Annie will save Will instead. One of our favourites!

Home (2015)

Movies with black characters

A sweet movie featuring a friendship between the last girl left on earth and her alien friend. Another favourite of ours, we love the curls in this cute flick. After a hive-minded alien race called the Boov conquers the Earth, they relocate the planet’s human population — all except for a little girl named Tip (Rihanna), who’s managed to hide from the aliens. When Tip meets a fugitive Boov called Oh (Jim Parsons), there’s mutual distrust. However, Oh is not like his comrades; he craves friendship and fun. As their distrust fades, the pair set out together to find Tip’s mother, but, unbeknown to them, the Gorg — enemies of the Boov — are en route.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Movies with black charactersOne of our ALL TIME favourites! Not only because it features a mixed race family, a female black curly girl heroine and some famous names like Oprah Winfrey, but also because she’s a science geek who’s able to blend magic and theory. It’s got all your kids will want in a  movie.

 

 

Cinderella (1997) Featuring Brandy

Movies with black characters

Another remake of the classic fairytale, this version is more modernised and representative of the real world. And it’s packed with stars we all recognise and love. Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night.

Karate Kid (2010)

Movies with black charactersYet another remake but again one of our classic 80’s favourites so who could complain when it’s a story of a black kid who learns martial arts to fight off the school bully? When his mother’s career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying.

Black Panther (2018)

Movies with black charactersI’m not into superhero movies that much but I could recognise the importance of this movie. Loaded with powerful characters and a plot line to boot, it’s the movie ever child has been waiting for featuring black superheroes. After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people. Definitely not one to miss.  

Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

Movies with black characters

This is a really sweet movie, (or so I’m told). We’ve not actually seen it yet but it’s on our list of favourites given the reviews. It’s about Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, who discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother’s objections, Akeelah doesn’t give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dream come true.

Moana (2016)

Movies with black charactersCan I say that we have several favourites? This is definitely high on that list!! Everyone in my family (from hubby to 3 year old) love this movie. It’s got a wonderful story about a daring teenage girl who wants desperately to be independent and prove herself to her father. A funny demigod, Maui whom she meets along the way in her quest to save her people and an action-packed voyage. A beautiful story to boot that is about identity, nature, spiritualism and culture.

The Wiz (1978)

Movies with black characters

Featuring an all-black cast and with the soundtrack borrowed from the 1975 musical, this classic movie couldn’t be more groundbreaking that it is. Featuring Diana Ross as little Dorothy from Harlem and one of the last appearances of Michael Jackson in his ‘natural youthdom’, this movie was bound to steal hearts. Sit back and enjoy an absolute classic.

Are We There Yet? (2005)

Movies with black characters

This was a a laugh out loud funny story about Nick, a guy (Ice Cube) attempting to win the favor of the newly divorced Suzanne (Nia Long). Nick offers to accompany her children on a flight from Portland, Ore., to Canada to see their mother. With a load of mishaps and obstacles in their way and one accident after another, this is a cute movie with a happy ending.

 

Dr DooLittle 3 (2006)

Movies with black charactersThe third and sequel to the famous Dr Dolittle played by Eddie Murphy, this is an interesting change to cast Maya Dolittle, the youngest daughter of the man who can talk with animals. She has inherited her father’s amazing gift. However, the ability has brought only trouble. She heads to a summer camp to get in touch with her gift, then realizes that she holds the key to helping the financially strapped camp win an upcoming rodeo. Tell me what you think because the jury’s up on this one though we do love the preteen drama in the script. 

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Movies with black charactersOf course we couldn’t leave out Disney’s one and princess movie featuring a black princess. A good attempt at keeping it diverse and the story line was good but there were bits that were a bit stereotypical. But it was a cute movie which my daughters enjoyed and which yours will love I’m sure.

 

 

A Ballerina’s Tale (2015)Movies with black characters

A documentary of Misty Copeland- the first black ballerina at New York’s American Ballet Theatre. Not only is Copeland a significant role model for any young girl who dreams of a career as a dancer, she’s also emerged as a important example for the black community, showcasing the ways the rarified world of classical ballet is evolving and becoming more diverse. Featuring lots of amazing dancing, the film is excellent for any young girls who are fans of ballet.

For more from Mixed.Up.Mama

Talking to children about RacismCurly Hairstyles for Biracial BoysBlack dolls

  • 122
    Shares

Mixed Race Book Review: Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon. But I’m glad I did.

Stand Tall Molly Lou LemonFrom the first page, it gripped my kids because it paints the picture of a little girl who stands out. Not because she’s popular but because she is the ‘shortest girl in first grade’. But that doesn’t stop her.

 

She has buck teeth, she’s short, has a voice like a bullfrog and she has wild curly hair. But she doesn’t care. She holds her head high and uses her limitations to stand tall no matter what.

Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon

But one day, she has to leave her friends and her supportive grandma… and start a new school.

 

 

 

She got called “Shrimpo” by the school bully and “Buck-tooth Beaver” but she doesn’t let that get her down.

An absolutely adorable book for children nervous about going to back to school, changing schools or facing bullies.

Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon
Click to purchase on Amazon

Molly Lou Lemon shows us that bullies will never win. That if you hold your head high, people will see the light within you. What a character and a lovely story. Perfect for ages 3-8 years.

 

What are Parabens anyway and Why Should I care?

What are parabens anyway?

We’re all pretty aware of the harmful toxins and chemicals we’re not meant to put inside our body. Organic, fresh, local ingredients are what dominate our thinking when it comes to food.

Therefore, doesn’t it follow that what we put on our skin and hair should also be fresh and organic- free of chemicals?

When it comes to hair products, we’re much less informed. And though we seem to understand that ‘no parabens’ and ‘no sulphates’ is a good thing, not many of us (myself included before researching this post) are informed about the reasons why.

How many of you have seen the popular signs indicating ‘no parabens, no toxins, no sulphates’ popularly painted across the packaging of our favourite kids’ products?

Admittedly, I have actively searched them out not knowing exactly what these can do to my kids and what harmful effects they could actually have. I’ve also not really sought out alternatives if I’m honest and just simply accepted that ‘paraben free’ means what it says on the label.

Well, if you’re like me, you may want to become more informed before you buy your next hair product so you know exactly why you’re paying the extra £6 for the ‘vegan-friendly’ stuff over your favourite drugstore brand.



What are Parabens?

Parabens are a family of chemical preservatives that are used to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold in perishable goods. They basically prolong the shelf life of our products.

Most of our beauty products contain parabens: toothpastes, deodorant, shampoos, skin lotion and makeup amongst other things.

So go check the ingredient list on the back of your beauty products and you’ll see parabens go by multiple names: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. But don’t just go by the label ‘no parabens’. Look at the packaging in detail to find out what are parabens and what do they do. Sneakily, these toxins can be disguised by names such as : Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates but they’re still every bit as much a paraben.

Why do parabens have such a bad rep?

In short, parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and our ability to reproduce. How? Well, numerous studies have shown that parabens can mimic the activity involved in the production of estrogen in the body’s cells which can lead to an increased risk of tumours. A 2004 British study even found the presence of parabens in 9 out of 10 breast tumours sampled.

Okay so the situation isn’t as bad as it could be. The amount of parabens in each product is safely controlled by the EU safety standards. And children under three especially are targeted.  But it’s the cumulative effect of multiple products that can be harmful.

Are there alternatives that aren’t harmful to us?

Nowadays, many natural and organic health care products have found alternatives to prolonging the shelf life of their products. But sometimes, these can be even more harmful to our skin or hair.

In general, never take marketing and adverts at face value. With so much information available, it’s easy to educate ourselves on the label content of our beauty products.

If you’re looking to steer clear of products that contain parabens, opt for ones that use ingredients such as ethylhexylglycerin (which is plant-derived) or phenoxyethanol, another alternative to parabens, a naturally derived ether alcohol.

For your information, the Breast Cancer Action group has compiled a list of approved paraben-free companies.


What are Sulphates?

The most common sulfate-based ingredients found in personal care products are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth ether sulfate (SLES), commonly known as sodium laureth sulfate. You can find them in soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents, dish detergent, toothpaste, bath bombs and more. Anything that gives you a lather.

Because that is the main use for SLS and SLES. It’s to create lather, giving a stronger impression of cleaning power. While sulfates aren’t “bad” for you, there’s a lot of controversy behind it.

Why are sulphates bad?

The highest risk of using products with SLS and SLES is irritation to your eyes, skin, mouth, and lungs. For people with sensitive skin, sulfates can also clog pores and cause acne. In the 90’s sulphates got a bad rep because they were believed to be carcinogenic because they are petroleum-based. This has since been disproved and the most harmful effect that has been proven is still skin, eye and mouth irritation made worse after prolonged exposure.

Some of the controversy also has to do with how sulfates are disposed of because they get washed down the drain through our sewage systems and can affect marine life.

Are there alternatives?

Going sulphate-free depends on your concerns. If you’re worried about skin irritation and know that sulfate products are the cause, you can look for products that say sulphate-free or don’t list SLS or SLES in their ingredients. How sulphates affect your skin may also depend on the brand and manufacturer. Not all sources are the same.

It’s important to remember not all sulphates are bad. When they’re used in conditioners, they can actually help make hair smoother, softer, and visibly healthier.

Also, manufacturers haven’t been able to find proper alternatives for the foamy action that sulphates give to say, toothpaste. You can still use alternatives such as oils, olive oil, coconut oil etc to eliminate bacteria but you still won’t get the soapy-suds effect.

Still, there are alternatives.

For cleaning skin and hair: Opt for solid and oil-based soaps and shampoos rather than liquid. Some products to consider include African black soap and body cleansing oils.

For cleaning products: You can make cleaning products using diluted white vinegar. If you find vinegar unpleasant, try lemon juice. As long as you can ventilate your space while cleaning, there should be no irritation.


So, there you have it. Parabens no. Sulphates, you can be choosy. Stay informed. Don’t just accept the labels you see which claim to be ‘free of everything and its brother’ but know your ingredients and what you can accept to be applied to your skin and hair.

biracial baby curly hair products
Best Mixed Race Curly Baby and Toddler Hair Products

What are parabens anyway?

How to Teach girls to love their curly hair

curly hair cheatsheet
GET YOUR FREE CURLY HAIR CHEATSHEET NOW!

Book Giveaway! Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way

Book Giveaway Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way

Do you fancy a free book? One that teaches your multiracial or biracial kids to love their curly hair? Mixed.Up.Mama is giving away two copies of Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way, the much-celebrated third book from best-selling author of Daddy Do My Hair.

book giveaway kechi's hair

My daughters love this book and we all had the pleasure of meeting the author Tola Okugwu just this summer. Her book is a repetitive, delightful book that is beautifully illustrated and explores the joys and challenges of having curly hair through Kechi’s relationship with her Daddy.

We’d love to give YOU the chance to win a copy of this book. Simply sign up on our website and receive our newsletter, choose to receive 10% off Curly Ellie hair products or a free curly hair cheatsheet and you will be entered to win!

** Giveaway ends 15 September 2018**

Help! How to do Mixed Race Curly Hair

How to Teach girls to love their curly hair

curly hair cheatsheet
GET YOUR FREE CURLY HAIR CHEATSHEET NOW!

My Biracial Curly Hair Care Routine

There’s a lot written about curly hair care and how to take care of it. But I find there’s nothing more real than seeing what curly hair care routine the average Jo Mum does with her kid’s curly hair.

I have 3 mixed race daughters (mixed Iranian, Nigerian and English) and they all have different types of curls, length, texture and thickness.

mixed race curly hair care routine

So we use a myriad of different products- some that change with the season, some that I use on one girls’ hair and not on the other, and some that are absolute staples in our house.

Here is a look at what we do as part of our daily mixed race curly hair care routine.

My oldest daughter has the longest, perhaps loosest curls and her hair grows down as opposed to up. biracial curly hair care routine

biracial curly hair care routine

biracial curly hair care routine

Because her hair is made up of looser curls, I find I don’t need to apply thick gel or creme. I can get away with this Argan oil styling mousse which makes her hair both shiny and slippery to comb my fingers through. I do need to get her hair quite wet to be able to comb through though. And the thicker the hair, the more oil you’ll need to really penetrate all of the hair. My daughter’s curly hair care routine (for reference) takes me about 7-10 minutes to brush through and put into a protective style.

 


mixed race curly hair care routine3b curls

This is my middle daughter. She has the shortest, most afro type hair. Her hair grows in tight curls and gets dry the easiest. I usually wet it (a lot) before applying a generous amount of leave in conditioning cream.

I use a one or the other of these products to allow my fingers to comb through her hair easily. The wetness combined with the moisture from the products allows me to finger comb it easily but her hair is also quite fine so you may need to separate thicker hair into sections to get the same effect.

biracial curly hair care routine After this, I apply half a bottle cap amount of argan oil to give it shine and to keep it moisturised all day. **Note: always apply oil to wet hair or it won’t be absorbed into the hair. Her curly hair care routine seems shorter somehow but still takes about 5-7 minutes.

 


My youngest daughter has a combination of both types of hair. It grows fast and down but it still has an afro-type texture in the front and in parts of the back.

Her hair requires a lot more moisturising as it’s also the thickest of all my daughters’ hair and gets the most tangled. I can’t usually finger comb through it after wetting it so I use a hair brush

(pictured above) with lots of Cantu conditioning creme.

Because she’s the youngest and has the thickest hair, I usually spend about 10-15 minutes on her curly hair care routine , combing through (without too much pain) and putting it into a protective style.

Here is the result after combing it through and moisturising it.

biracial curly hair routine
The result

I will soon post about my wash day hair care routine as I know this can be a bit trickier. For insight, I generally use the Curly Ellie products as these are very gentle on the hair.

If you want to know where you can buy the best products for curly mixed race hair, hop on over to Best Online Shops to buy Curly Hair Products.

And don’t forget to download your curly hair do’s and don’ts that will give you a few more tips and tricks you will swear by!

Raising Mixed Kids in a Colourism World

Best Online Shops to Buy Curly Biracial Hair Products
Antidote Street

Best curly baby hair products

curly hair cheatsheet
GET YOUR FREE CURLY HAIR CHEATSHEET NOW!

 

A Step by Step Guide to Talking to Children About Racism

Talking to Children about Racism

My oldest daughter, aged 7, recently learned about Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But not from me. In school, with her teacher and amongst her classmates who are majority white.

For her, I knew this was her first introduction to the concept of racism. Not only that, but injustice, discrimination and hatred based on skin colour- not in a playground but rather, played out in the adult world causing pain, violence and in some cases, death.

Some heavy lessons in there I’m sure. And though I’m glad she learned about some of the bravest and most heroic names of our time, I’m also sad that she’s had to take this in at such an early age.

My fear? That her belief and naivety in a world where everyone is treated equal was shattered. In her world, bullying doesn’t and shouldn’t happen to grown ups. Ashamedly, I hadn’t actually thought talking to children about racism was possible at her age.

It’s worse than that. It’s not just bullying, it’s actually denying people the same things for reasons that she’s been taught thus far, don’t matter. Things that make no difference and shouldn’t feature in how you judge a person’s character.

Do Children Actually Understand Racism?

It’s good that her teacher is talking to children about racism and as part of this, she performed an experiment (you may have heard of it). Half the class were let out for playtime early, that same group were given chocolate treats, iPads and new markers while the other group were told to get on with what they had or were given old markers and broken toys.

The kids without were outraged and the kids given everything understood it was unfair. The experiment showed that kids do get injustice. But did they truly understand the power context behind racism? Racism is not simply denying group x, it’s about actually creating and maintaining a system of power to maintain it.

It raised the question, could I have had a chat with my daughter earlier so that her first introduction to the subject would be with us, her parents? And was I naive to think she wasn’t already seeing signs of how privilege and prejudice work and who benefits? Should I have been talking to my children about racism a lot earlier?

The answer is yes. Our children are never too young to have these discussions. Because they are noticing difference no matter how much you want to sugar coat it. And if it’s you who first broaches a discussion, your child will most likely feel comfortable later on to discuss the more complex aspects of race that inevitably need exploring.

So if you want to have an open door about discussions on race and racism,  here’s a guide to get you started,

Kids are never too young to begin talking about race

If you think your children don’t see colour and that racial differences are taught and not noticed by children, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Children as young as two or three start asking about differences, such as disabilities, gender, skin colour and physical characteristics like hair and body shape. Surely you’ve been out with your children and they’ve loudly and rather unininhibitedly asked about the woman with the limp, the man dressed up as a woman or even as mundane (as in my daughter’s case) as the man with “hair all over his face!”

These moments are opportunities. And that’s just it. Opportunities to introduce difference, to explore how we’re all made in different shapes, genders and sizes. Use other differences and topics to start talking to children about racism. Start a discussion reminding them how some of us may have parts of us that work differently or look slightly different but  what’s important is how we act and behave towards others.

If you don’t live in a diverse area, use books, magazines, tv shows and ads to introduce diverse characters. Be intentional about seeking out diversity- not the books that talk about difference as its main subject but diverse characters doing everyday things.  So kids can see that these differences aren’t that important.

Point out all the similarities, like the fact they both like playing football or wearing pink. The differences are there but they’re not more important than what brings people together.

Talking to children about Racism: The Early years

Somewhere around 4 or 5 years old, children begin to make conscious decisions about who they play with based on things as arbitrary as ‘he wears glasses’ or ‘she funny hair’.

These are based on what we call unconscious bias which they would have already begun to have absorb. They’re based on their idea of what is ‘normal’ in the world around them and unconscious characteristics that they assign to certain things.

So, brown skin can be perceived as ‘dirty’ or a child with brown skin born to a white mother (as was the case with my daughter’s friend at this age) was not possible.

It’s important in these discussions not to scold or shush a child who questions but rather, ask them why they might think this and gently explain why that is not the case. Talking to children about racism is never going to be comfortable. And though I was initially alarmed by the child who told me I couldn’t be my daughter’s Mum because I didn’t have the same skin colour, I realised it was just not in her consciousness that families could look so different.

We talked about how each child is a mixture of both their parents and that DD1’s Dad was black and I’m white so our children came out a light brown colour. With that, she was off. She got it. Made sense in her world: colour mixing.

Don’t feel alarmed when children voice such assertions about the world but again, try to look at them as opportunities to ask them why they think this. And explore whether there is more you can be doing to show them why their assertion was not true.

I spoke to the teacher about possibly looking at how families look different and that this could be an opportunity to explore more than just race but single parent families, same sex parents or adoption.

Talking to Children about Racism: The School Years

Like a lot of things at this age, the fairytales about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have become just that- tales. Children have started becoming more discerning about the world around them and questioning why things are the way they are.

Part of this shift includes absorbing the not-so-subtle messages of power and privilege surrounding them. You could choose to ignore it or you could use their questions to spur in depth discussions about privilege.

To start a discussion, try talking to them about some of the subtle messages we get in our everyday lives. Are there particular people who never seem to be the superhero or princess in your books or movies? Who always seems to ‘save the day’? And who is often the one who needs to be ‘saved?’ Who is considered ‘pretty’?

My middle daughter recently expressed a dislike towards a doll we had that happened to have darker skin. The instant she told me she didn’t like her anymore, I knew why.

For all the work and positive images we try to surround her with, we know we’re up against it with all of the ads, images and messages she gets in her school and around. For her, it amounted to one kid in her class that was consistently bothering her and who happened to have darker skin. She had reconciled it in her head that perhaps that was why he was unkind- because of the colour of his skin.

When we talked about it however, she realised that people behave in all sorts of ways, and it doesn’t have to do with their skin colour. Luckily she has enough positive black role models around her that we could reinforce this message. The door is now open for further discussion because I know this is likely only the beginning of what she’ll take in.

Sometimes these discussions can stir a lot of empathy and emotion so it’s important not to leave your children with that sunken feeling of helplessness. Talk about the heroes of our time who have worked to influence change and what kinds of things they can do if they see someone being treated unfairly. Talking to children about racism doesn’t have to be a depressing discussion, try to let it end in hope.

Our children don’t have the luxury or privilege to ignore race. So what other choice is there?

What Happens Next?

If we don’t talk to our children about race and racism, they will go elsewhere to get answers.

In the end, I’m glad my daughter’s teacher introduced the subject because it has spurred ongoing discussions that have branched into gender and class. I don’t always have it spot on and I’m certain these discussions will get more difficult over the years but our children don’t have the luxury or privilege to ignore race. So what other choice is there?


For more from Mixed.Up.Mama about talking to children about race and privilege, read on… 

10 Things to Consider Before Having Children in an Interracial Relationship10 Things Every Parent Should Do When Raising Mixed Race Kids

Raising Mixed Kids in a Colourism WorldInterracial Relationship

Meet the Author: Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way is the perfect book to introduce your child to loving their curly, thick, and wonderful hair.

But even better, I got to meet the author, Tola Okugwu who shared her story and what inspired her to start writing about afro hair.

Known even more for her blog about natural hair, when Tola had her first daughter, she noticed (like many of us) the lack of books to inspire her daughter to love her curls.

Daddy Do My Hair
Author Tola Okugwu reading from “Daddy Do My Hair”

A book lover and journalist by nature, Tola decided she would write about it. But she didn’t just want to write any book. Every morning she went to work and her partner/ husband was the one doing her daughter’s hair. In her household this was normal. But where were the books that showed the beautiful relationship Dads and daughters can have doing hair??

Soon after, Tola wrote her first book Daddy Do My Hair and after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher, she soon started her own publishing house and self published Daddy Do My Hair, along with Hope’s Braids and now, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way.

I have to say though her latest is my favourite. It’s a fun book that still explores the relationship between Daddy and daughter poking fun at the way afro hair can’t be ‘contained.  Curly hair’s ability to go “this way, that way and every which way” is a celebratory repetitive rhyme throughout that makes every child want to turn the page eager to see what happens next.

You can see from the videos below, Tola Okugwu is inspired by her daughters and truly believes in what she is doing. Her chat with the children in the audience encouraged them all to examine their own hair and see which way their hair curls, and if it does, does it go every which way?

Illustrated with lovely pictures throughout, Kechi’s Hair is one to look out for. And I’ve even got a few signed copies to give away to a few lucky readers! I will give details this week about how you can enter to get your free copies!

Interracial Relationship10 Things to Consider Before Having Children in an Interracial Relationship

curly hair cheatsheet
GET YOUR FREE CURLY HAIR CHEATSHEET NOW!

Mixed Race Book Review: The Name Jar

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

I grew up in mostly-white Edmonton, Alberta, Canada right smack in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Awareness of difference was low and I remember fantasizing about having a name just like everyone else.

The name calling and the teasing was too much at times.  “Arriba, Arriba, Undalé, Undalé!” was called after me every time I was around. Adults too would struggle. And although they tried, I eventually shortened my name from Fariba to Fari. It didn’t help.  “Fairy? No. Fiery? No. Ferrari?”

My chosen name? Jessica. In all of my fantasies, I was Jessica. Because Jessica was like everyone else, Jessica’s parents weren’t from somewhere else and best of all, Jessica didn’t stand out because of her name.

In Yangsook Choi’s book, “The Name Jar”, Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hye) moves from South Korea to America. She starts her first day of school having to explain her new name to all of the other kids and, inevitably, they laugh and tease her about how it’s pronounced. “You-hye, bye bye!”, they tease her.

The story develops with Unhei wanting to choose a typical American name like Laura or Amanda. But she’s reminded soon enough about what her Grandmother taught her about her name. Unhei means grace. And her name’s meaning is far more important than fitting in.

Through a boy she becomes friendly with, he discovers her real name and it shows her she can be proud of her name- even in America.

the name jarWith beautiful illustrations throughout, The Name Jar has inspired conversations with my children about how and why we’re different as a family. How we might ‘stick out’ and why it’s important to embrace those differences because they make up who we are.

I wouldn’t change my name for the world. But I only discovered that as an adult. I wish I’d been able to stand tall and correct the teasers and conformists who desperately tried to make my name sound english.

This book is about immigrants, about fitting in, peer pressure, multiculturalism and third culture kids. Definitely one for your bookshelves if you’d like to inspire conversations about diversity.


More Book Reviews…

Mummy, I’m Bored!: Why Boredom is Good for Children

Why Boredom is Good For Children

The end of the school year has been amazing with a flurry of end of year activities: sports days, end of year shows, global fairs, summer fairs, and endless activities showcasing the work my children have been doing all year long.

It’s been tiresome but fun. And sometimes, me being a stickler for structure, I forget it all gets a bit gruelling- even for my most organised of daughters.

We finished sports day yesterday and I was exhausted. I thought the kids would be too. But afterwards, the request was- “can we just go and play a little bit?”

“What??”, I asked, incredulous. “You’ve been playing all day!”.

But what they wanted to do wasn’t structured. It wasn’t organised. They wanted to be silly and laugh and spontaneously splash into the nearby pool fully clothed.

I got it. Because  like other parents out there, I get lost in that mode of desperately wanting them to have fun in a contained environment where we can predict the results. Being spontaneous and silly are moments we lose.

Plans for summer?

With the summer coming up, my instinct was to make a list of all the activities we’d like to do this summer. A lot of these require organising, booking, scheduling and ticket buying.

But I’m hesitating this year. Because deep down I know they just want to relax. And really, I should be giving them a chance to be bored.

This summer I want my girls to experience boredom. To have days upon days of unstructured, no-entertainment-pleasure.

What? No Entertainment?!

If we were to just not schedule anything… what might happen? They’d eventually get bored, right? Why does that prospect fill us with dread? 

Boredom is uncomfortable and our instinct is to ensure constant stimulation. Let’s be honest, how many of us have thought about ensuring our kids do homework everyday so they don’t slow down?

When I’ve let my children just be, they’ve come up with some of their most memorable moments- pillow fights, pretend sports days, forts, and creative art projects. I look back and realise why wouldn’t we want them to have this time?

Okay, so it’s in our human nature to see a vacuum and try to fill it.  Most of the time, when children have nothing to do, they rely on the tele, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. Even we, as parents are guilty of it. Our go-to if we don’t have some sort of entertainment planned for them or can’t gather enough energy to entertain them 
ourselves, is screen time. 

So what might happen if our kids are ‘bored’?

Studies have shown that when people don’t have anything to do, their minds wander, they daydream. Creativity happens.

In a grown-up world where creativity is perhaps the only skill machines cannot replace, it’s an important skill our kids need to develop. Boredom lets our kids see the world through their own eyes and pursue that train of thought. Ever heard another parent (or yourself) say, “my kids are all so different”. Isn’t it great to see how they create something through their own lens? Letting them pursue that thought process is part of leaving them alone- bored or not.

When our children grow up, we won’t be there every moment of every day. We won’t be able to entertain them or fill their schedules with educational camps and activities. In fact, research has shown there is no link between how much time we spend with our children and how they turn out.  At some point, we have to let go and hope for the best. They need to learn how to handle different situations themselves. And that means leaving them alone. 

Learning to motivate themselves is part of growing up.  And letting them be bored helps them build up that skill.  Searching their environment to find things to do and make key decisions about what to do next is a great thing. 

Top tip: Make up new games

Take an example from our everyday lives. We were in the line at the store and it was quite long. The kids started to get bored and restless. Instead of trying to contain them, I encouraged them to think of new games they could play in line to entertain themselves. First, we started with the obvious eye-spy but eventually they thought up a game that involved counting all the chocolate bars, pink sweets and chewing gum. Not hugely complicated but self-motivated nonetheless.

How can we cope with Boredom?

Although we all double-down when we hear the ubiquitous “I’m bored” from our children, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can actually be a motivator for kids to find a goal- to focus themselves.

Parents shouldn’t present the solution, like suggesting exactly what they should do next. It’s not our role to be providing that constant stimulation. Instead, we should be encouraging children to find ways to entertain themselves, to learn to deal with it and escape it. A lifelong skill.

Top tip: Instead of suggesting “why don’t you play UNO?”, why not just suggest a game and let them run with that idea?

Don’t set the bar too high. Sure, go to museums and organise days out to circumvent the days when there’s nothing going on. But this summer, encourage your children to know what it’s like to just be. To use their imaginations, run around in the garden, be creative and just be.


changing schools
A Parent’s Guide to Changing Schools

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO TURN DOWN A KIDS BIRTHDAY INVITE?

It’s birthday party season again. That time when kids (and their parents) are invited to countless parties eating into every weekend and spare minute of family time you have.

I shouldn’t say that. Parties are wonderful for the kids. A time to get together with their friends outside of school, where they can play, eat and generally be on a two hour sugar high. Great, huh?

It’s just that the end of the summer somehow warrants those born in both July AND August to schedule their parties just at the point where life is beginning its frenzied scheduled chaos. So, for some reason, it feels like a lot after a spring that was relatively party-free.

But seeing as the kids look forward to it and many of the kids are my daughters’ good friends, when is it okay to turn down a party invitation?

  1. First, ask yourself how close are they really? If dd1 was invited because the whole class was invited and you know your kids don’t really hang out, take that as a free pass to turn it down.
  1. How busy are you? If it means you’ll have to go from dance class to picking up dd2 from football to your hair appointment and then to the party, I think it’s safe to say that you’re busy. Don’t stress yourself to the point that you’ll resent being there the whole time.
  1. Check if you can share the pick up/drop off with another Mum/parent. Even better, if your kids are at the age when you can just drop them off, this is definitely the best option. It gets more complicated when you’re expected to stay and help supervise but still worth a shot to take it in turns.
  1. Family time always trumps birthday parties. If weekends are your only days to spend as a family and this is at a premium, it’s okay to turn it down. Spending time as a family is important and children crave that time (more than time with their friends-despite what they might say). Otherwise the weekend can just fly by. Alternatively, make it a family event. Enquire whether siblings are welcome and come with your whole brood!
  1. What’s the activity and is it difficult to get there? Again, check how convenient it is for you and whether your child will actually enjoy it. If your child hates heights and they’re headed to GoApe!, it’s probably a miss for her.
  1. Make it enjoyable for you! Yes it’s a party for the kids but heck, you’ve given up your afternoon as well so if beer or alcohol is on offer, take it! You deserve it!

Hopefully this list helps to reassure you there are legit excuses to turning down a party invitation… Send me your ideas and what’s worked for you! Good luck!


sick kids
Sick Kids? How to Maintain Your Sanity

 

%d bloggers like this: