The Peacemaking owl shows how to stop and breathe in The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace

STOP and breathe! World Leaders Need the Same Tools as Children



“Stop and breathe” is a way to start at home, at school, and even internationally

As we watch with worry the escalating rhetoric between the United States and North Korea it’s easy to see that the two leaders involved are not working to gain the trust of each other and to de-escalate the conflict. They are refusing to become conflict “partners” committed to working out their disagreements in a way that preserves the dignity and safety of each nation. Neither Trump or Kim Jong Un demonstrate that they know how to stop and breathe. Instead, they are putting the two nations on a collision course.

We have all experienced the unhappy, frightening, or even dangerous situations resulting from conflicts where one, both, or all parties is clearly dangerous. If we reflect on those times, they usually are very similar: someone won’t STOP his or her actions, and therefore the possibility of physical harm increases. 

Even in early childhood classrooms, children learn that conflicts can’t be addressed til all are calm. In the new children’s book, “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace,” the Barnyard Buddies start with the letter S – which stands for “STOP and breathe,” and then go through a complete conflict resolution process using the letters S-T-O-P. This simple process, which works equally well for adults, starts with stopping

Every conflict resolution process has a slightly different twist. “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace” demonstrates an approach focusing on safety first. The first step is “S” for STOP and breathe. But it could be S for safety. When people stop and breathe, it derails violence and conflicts shift. This happens in the classroom, the home, the community and even between countries.

Prepare for conflict and practice the skills

Conflict is a part of life that we can plan for, like having a baby, getting a new job, or retiring from a job! It can be hard, and stressful. It also can be life-changing, even wonderful! But one thing is for sure, it’s so much easier to handle if we are prepared! We form our conflict resolution styles very early, some say as young as 18 months! Any changes we can make, in our own behaviors, and/or in specific skill development for children, can bring benefits to our shared future. In a classroom or home where peace is intentional, children practice learning to stop and breathe, and then they learn the rest of the conflict resolution skills. With practice, they develop a habit of using them. Finally, they will be able to access those wonderful tools, independently, for life.

A Story

STOP for Peace process

I STOP for Peace conflict resolution process

We were told this story by a woman who attended one of our family programs: “My husband and I were arguing in the kitchen after we each had put in a long day of work. Neither one of us were at our best, which led us to yelling at each other with our six-year-old son standing by. After turning around from putting something in the oven, I noticed neither one of them was there. Puzzled as to where they could be, I went looking. Lo and behold, I found them sitting at the low-lying breathing table, on the cushions, slowly breathing in and out. I was so moved, I sat down with them. We breathed and the tension eased. Eventually, we talked.”

Developing the skills to stop and breathe

Defining a space is one way to make the action of stopping to breathe very concrete for children. But even with nothing designated as a location, the practice can be internalized by repetition. The sentiments of this woman have been echoed over and over throughout our years of working on conflict resolution education. When people learn to stop and breathe — to just stop the tirade, the outburst, the angry or abusive word or action, the path to a better tomorrow can emerge.

Rushing to solve a conflict when emotions are hot, is a recipe for disaster!

Child kicking another child's work over

“Stop and breathe!”

The four steps in our conflict resolution process spell the word STOP. We chose this acronym because it is extremely important to emphasize this important key: if emotions are hot, before acting or trying to work anything out, just stop and breathe. That way the brain has time to reset from its fight and flight mode. During the fight and flight time the emotions are not in any kind of balance and people can get emotionally or even physically hurt. It takes several minutes for this reset to happen. So, after we experience our initial anger or other strong emotion, we need to stop, breathe, and wait to talk. This allows the higher cortex to take over from the limbic brain.

A Simple Way to Share the STOP Process

One benefit of children’s books, is that they also reach adults who may not otherwise explore these topics! When parents read to their children, they learn too. Teachers can click this link then download the FREE coloring page. This provides the entire STOP process outlined in the book. One benefit of this page is it can be instrumental in educating adults at home. Students can color it in the classroom and take it home, asking for it to be posted on the fridge so the easy process is right there whenever something comes up at home.

The process doesn’t end at step S, Stop and Breathe.

If working with children in a classroom or home, tell them, “We stop and breathe first, then we are going to work this out and everyone can talk who has something to share.”

Children at a peace table

After we stop and breathe we can sit at a peace table and work it out.

If you have a special location in the classroom or home for problem solving, that helps make working out a conflict a growing time and not a feared event. You may even want to have a small table designated “Peace Table.”

When you provide a place to “work it out” children become much more engaged in learning and practicing their conflict resolution skills. After a while, children are so good at this they can do it anywhere. We went into some detail on this in a book we wrote years ago called “Peacemaker’s A,B,Cs for Young Children: A guide for teaching conflict resolution with a peace table.” 






STOP and breathe. The Barnyard Buddies breathing

In the book, “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace,” the Buddies practice breathing.

Who is responsible?

By taking the responsibility to STOP ourselves, every time, instead of lashing out, hitting, screaming, saying hurtful things, we are taking a huge step FOR peace. We also are role modelling for children what we want them to do. When we guide them to stop and breathe, we create a generation of people who can support and sustain a culture of peace. We are demonstrating respect and care for ourselves and others. This is an essential place to start for all peacemaking efforts.

Choose a time when there is no pressing conflict to learn new skills for solving them.

When everyone is calm, in a classroom or a home, that’s the time to learn new skills – like how to breathe in and out, slowly and peacefully. This link will give you some ideas. Breathing helps us center ourselves, and provides a wonderful tool for children’s entire lives! Keep in mind the learning styles of the children. Encourage them to share what helps them calm themselves. Combine that with writing or drawing, and now you are creating the culture as the children become peace authors or artists! You could even do it at circle time by asking each child to introduce him or herself and say a way that they like to calm down. Posting these pictures can provide reminders if needed.

Stop and breathe with “The Barnyard Buddies!” 

I have heard many breathing and cooling off ideas from children, learned in their preschools and schools. It’s terrific that many have started working on this important skill!

What we contribute in the book, The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace and it’s companion music, I STOP for Peace, that we think is particularly special, is the way we tap into children’s emotions, not just their intellects. By incorporating skill-building into a children’s book with engaging, indeed, loveable characters with real emotions, kids begin to think, “What would the Barnyard Buddies do to solve this?” Or, “What would Mrs. McCloud (the peacemaking owl who serves as the Buddies’ coach) do?” That’s when we are getting to their hearts and not just their minds. At that point STOPPING becomes a tool for life and we have a chance to reduce domestic violence, and other forms of violence, as these kids grow up and self-identify as peacemakers with statements such as: “I STOP for Peace.”

Work FOR something. It feels better and you last longer!

We need to remember to spend our time working FOR something. That’s a great way to keep our energy up for a long journey. If we only think of being against the angry outbursts, for example, we will become exhausted. Instead, we can be for stopping and breathing or for peaceful conflict resolution where all are heard. It takes three times more energy to be against something than to reframe it and be for something else. 

We are gathering children’s stories

The Power of Story Gathering Conflict resolution stories from kids

The power of story telling — children as peace authors

We can prompt children’s journey into the world of sharing, caring, getting along and practicing peaceful conflict resolution by encouraging them to write, tell, or draw a way they stopped for peace! When we publish that story, children can celebrate becoming peace literate. Children who are for peace have begun to create a new world, one in which we all want to live! Sharing those stories with others, is a powerful, inspirational step for peace. Encourage children to share their work FOR peace in written stories, art, or even music. Here’s the link.


Our next book, “I Can See Peace,” (coming soon!) introduces the concept that peace is all around us, it just gets interrupted. It shows how children in any socioeconomic group, with any kind of family, with any level of mental or physical health, can still find peace, somehow, every day. Both books are wonderful support for mindfulness programs.

Next time, Step T — Tell how you feel!


World Peace Day is about learning about others and celebrating diversity

World Peace Day is September 21, 2017. Here are 10 Ideas for Action

World Peace Day is a wonderful opportunity to focus on peace at home and at school.

On the heels of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, comes World Peace Day, September 21. This is the day people in schools and homes across the world will sit down with their children and talk about peace. According to the United Nations website, the International Day of Peace this year “. . . will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants.”

How is World Peace Day Relevant?

Those who are not suffering from a war-torn environment can sometimes push aside this day as irrelevant for them. However, so many of our actions have world-wide implications. We need to remember we can do something in all communities to bring people together and enhance their safety and dignity. For young children, we can introduce them to child-friendly conflict resolution and peacemaking materials, and much more. Keep reading for some ideas.

The Smart Tools for Life project, “I STOP for Peace”

The Smart Tools for Life project, “I STOP for Peace”, focuses on drawing attention to the peaceful conflict resolution techniques and acts of kindness and caring already present in the child’s world. It invites children to share a story of how they worked out a problem with someone, or spent time playing with the new child in school, had a child from a different country or background over to their house, or brainstormed a solution to a problem that worked for all.

Cover of upcoming book, The Barnyard Buddies Meet a Refugee

upcoming children’s book, “The Barnyard Buddies Meet a Refugee”

The “I STOP for Peace” campaign compiles and celebrates the individual acts children do to make “World Peace Day” everyday!

At the Smart Tools for Life website people can currently find out more about this campaign and how to submit a story. Smart Tools for Life is compiling them and will share them in an upcoming book. Those chosen as contributing stories for the book will be sent a free copy, and many of the stories will be featured in this blog.

Celebrated across the globe every year as the International Day of Peace, the goal of World Peace Day is to bring nations and people together. The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”. The upcoming book, the second in the Barnyard Buddies series, “The Barnyard Buddies Meet a Refugee” will make this topic relevant to all young children as they watch the unhappy, lonely dog find acceptance and purpose in the group of Barnyard Buddies.

World Peace Day is especially timely and relevant this year

The subject of immigration and the refugee crisis have become a political battleground in the US, effectively splitting the population into two camps – those for and those against. It is urgent that we, as a society of global citizens, learn to resolve our conflicts, on this topic and others, in ways that enhance dignity, respect, and safety for all involved, rather than pursue ways that divide us.

But how do we do that? As Gandhi said, “We must begin with the children.” As we age, we can get set in our ways and less open to new or different ideas. Our children, however, are sponges that absorb new things easily. That’s why introducing children to a discussion of world peace through a discussion of peace in their classroom and home is so key to our shared future.

Our New Future

Our New Future

Smart Tools for Life creates children’s books, children’s music and other state-of-the-art resources that teach children how to problem solve in creative, respectful, and peaceful ways.

These materials provide practical and inspiration tools rooted in the latest concepts in neuroscience, social and emotional education, and environmental education. The materials are catchy and fun, and are a great way to introduce young learners to the idea that developing these skills and caring for themselves, others, and the planet, is not only fun and engaging, it’s a normal part of their learning process.

By sharing these tools with children, influencers help kids become the leaders of tomorrow, capable of co-creating a culture we all want to live in.

The children easily grasp the skills for conflict resolution and anger management when they are presented in an engaging story like “The Barnyard Buddies Stop for Peace.”

This link is to Barnes and Noble. You can also find it on Amazon. They will refer to the Barnyard Buddies long after the story is read in the classroom or home. The book is available on Kindle and other electronic formats, so you can get it right away to read and share with children on World Peace Day.

The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace in Action

I heard a wonderful story from a parent who told me they went to the zoo after reading the Barnyard Buddies book and the four-year-old child said, “Oh look! The zebras are not sharing their shelter! They need to have Mrs. McCloud (the peacemaking owl in the story) help them learn to be peacemakers.” The four-year-old-child easily made this connection. With a little adult coaching, children can find how they are like the characters in the book, too.

Everybody remembers the Dr. Seuss stories they read to their children, or heard as children. That’s because this type of story sinks deeply into the hearts and minds of kids, often for life. At Smart Tools for Life, we create similar stories: fun, engaging, rhyming, with great art, that have a message. We recognize it’s not just what we teach that matters, but how we teach.

When Rebecca Janke and I co-authored Peacemaker’s A,B,Cs for Young Children in 1995, we were happy to see it go into approximately 13,000 locations. Though we have changed from an A,B,C,D,E process to S,T,O,P, the material in that book is still very useful. Since you can get it so inexpensively used now, you may want to get a copy for your reference. Here are some ideas from that book.

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10 Ideas for World Peace Day

  1. Guide children to start seeing peace. “Peacemakers look to create peace rather than waiting for peace to happen. Peace is an active process! It can be fun and exciting, and more entertaining than violent images. . . The most powerful act anyone can do for peace is continue to see it, share it and live it.” (from “Peacemaker’s A,B,Cs for Young Children” page 9). To get this concept across to the child/ren, play “I Spy With My Little Eye Something Peaceful and it’s _______________” as a circle activity, or driving in the car, etc.
  2. Tell a story to your child/ren about how you were a peacemaker, a way you worked for peace, or a way you cooled off and didn’t explode when you were angry.
  3. Listen to the stories they share. Write them down (and submit them with their permission-of course. Only first names will be used when we share it).
  4. Read and be inspired by a book about a great peacemaker. Share a short summary with the children, or find an age-appropriate book to read them.
  5. Take an action for peace, like encourage your local library to have a peace section for children’s books.
  6. Ask the children for ideas of how to make the classroom or home more peaceful. Record their ideas. Agree by consensus on an idea to try.
  7. Rewrite a story with alternatives to violence. Pick a children’s book or movie they know, and experiment with rewriting/reimagining it as a peacemaking/creativity exercise.
  8. Make a peace mural featuring children’s artwork, pictures of people of different cultures working together, peaceful images of nature, peace flags, and quotations.
  9. Take time to think about refugees and those suffering from migration challenges, floods, hurricanes, and so on. Write a poem or a letter of encouragement and hopefulness to someone.
  10. Share a food from a country where war is causing disruption and discuss with the children how the kids in that area of the world are living now, and how they might not be able to have their favorite food right now.

World Peace Day is Everyday at Smart Tools for Life

Smart Tools for Life is an ongoing project of the nonprofit, Growing Communities for Peace. It serves parents and educators by providing children’s books and children’s music, and makes it easy and engaging to bring state-of-the-art social skills like peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, to young children, thereby encouraging more harmonious, sustainable relationships with others and the planet.

The materials are designed to develop peace literacy as they educate, entertain, and empower all those involved to strengthen families, classrooms, and neighborhoods. They also provide other teacher and parent education to support and maintain a culture of peace.

World Peace Day is a wonderful opportunity to focus on peace at home and at school.





Every Child has unique, diverse learning styles

Diverse learning styles offer challenges and opportunities, in a classroom or home!

My friend Sam, was an ADHD student going through elementary school in the 60s. He had a miserable experience. The structure of a sit-down classroom was impossible for him, and soon he felt isolated and alone. He was sure that no one cared about him, that he belonged alone in the hall, and that school was a place to be hurt, embarrassed, and maligned. And he didn’t learn a thing. By 8th grade he was so lost and behind that there was no catching up. 

Dropping out early impacted Sam’s entire life. He couldn’t hold a job and had terribly low confidence. His defensiveness resulted in explosive, even violent outbursts. Sam’s life was forever impacted by the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) he encountered. After he succumbed to the lure of drugs, he couldn’t hold a job, and ultimately ended up incarcerated for larceny. Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, provides extensive additional reading on this topic. We highly recommend it!

There are many classrooms and families where Sam would not thrive. If children’s learning styles are not the same as the teacher’s or the parents’ it can be difficult for all. And since Sam has some adverse early childhood experiences such as I describe here (this topic, including what constitutes an adverse childhood experience, will be addressed more thoroughly in subsequent blogs), it becomes even more challenging for him.

Honoring diverse approaches to learning is a critical ability of a parent and/or a teacher

Yes, ACE training is now being provided more often for educators. Instead of harsh discipline, we are learning we must draw in closer to our children and follow their lead. We need to demonstrate love and care for the unique person each child is. By honoring each child’s unique needs and diverse learning styles we can make those critical connections that provide a different outcome from what happened in Sam’s story. If Sam’s teachers had known his family story of neglect, and how vulnerable he was in 3rd grade, after numerous moves from town to town, and the murder of his father, how might Sam’s life and the lives of those he touched, have been changed?

Julie Penshorn, MBC (left) and Rebecca Janke, M.Ed.

Two parents and teachers working to be the best we can be.

This is where Smart Tools for Life comes in. We provide smart tools for classrooms and homes for today’s children!

Hi, my name is Julie Penshorn. I am the author of the Smart Tools for Life children’s books on this site, with content editor and co-author, Rebecca Janke, who blogs at Children’s Peace Education Company (coming soon!). We’ve been working together over the years since 1992 with the nonprofit organization, Growing Communities for Peace.

Developing as a Teacher or Parent Educator

Though I didn’t have any ACEs growing up, I was, and still am an active learner. I evolved into an intense, driven riding teacher, following in the footsteps of my own teachers. It took some time for me to evolve my teaching toward facilitating. Only after I gained some age and perspective did I figure out that the best way for learning to occur for many of my students was to help them feel, learn, and become aware of an experience, on a deep level. I couldn’t “teach” it or “explain” it. The student had to find it. So, it was the horse that did the teaching, and I found my role as a facilitator and a guide. The capability of the horse was important, since heavy, dull, or lame horses gave bad lessons.

Learning to be an effective facilitator drove me to become a children’s book author. I thought maybe here was an opportunity to engage with the Sams of the world in a different way.

Bumper sticker: Life is Short: Ride a Good Horse! or Life is Short, Read a Good Book!

With limited time for children’s stories in classrooms and in homes, adults need good tools. I felt we needed smart tools for children’s lives, specifically stories and music that could educate them that being a loving, caring, participating, peacemaking person, capable of dialogue when in conflict and working out problems, was “normal.” They needed to become “peace literate.”

Valuing diversity all over the world

Children in a classroom are gathered around a globe to show they value all our Earth’s people and value diversity.


I saw that children were inherently filled with compassion for others and the planet, and that when they were in close connection with their families and teachers they learned better. With the help of Rebecca Janke, I discovered that I could create a unique learning experience for children by using the illustrations and words to bring a “feel” to the children, much like the way I learned to ride.

Stories and music provide the learning in a memorable way, and we can empathize with the animals or other characters in the story, and share their experiences vicariously. When children read our stories, or are read to, they can feel the characters’ pain and angst, their satisfaction, and their successes. They can see that the story has a given outcome because of the choices that were made along the way. The teacher or parent only must facilitate, which is easily done by reading the children’s book!

Children as the leaders in co-creating a culture of peace.

All our current and upcoming children’s books provide some suggestions for extending the learning in the back of the book. They meet state standard curriculum needs, but each book will also stand alone. So, just read them. Again. And again. Read them until the children recite passages from memory. Then it’s deep in their hearts. Then they “feel” it and you know their lives will be changed as they become the leaders in co-creating a culture of peace.

We need each child. No one is a “throw-away.” We need each flower, each butterfly, each bee, each tree, each ocean. Caring for the most maligned, the lonely, the hurt, the sick and the poor, the displaced, and the miserable, is the only way to bring peace to the planet. The way we raise our children has huge consequences — not only for the children — but also for our society! The children need us, as adults, to facilitate their journey into adulthood.

Smart Tools for Life makes teaching peacemaking skills easy for you, even if you’ve not been focusing on this in the past. We need these skills for our children’s future! Worried that you’re not a Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, or Mother Theresa? Don’t worry! We make the road by walking. Let’s journey together!

Read news about our books and music. Please investigate the gofundme campaign and support this work! Share with others!


A key to Life Success? Starting Early with Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution: New Children’s book for ages 3 to 9 shows how

Without skills for peaceful conflict resolution and problem solving, children are often labeled “bad,” “acting out,” and “disruptive.” But what are they to do when they have strong emotions and no social skills for working out their problems? And what are adults to do to cope with violent behavior at home or at school/preschool?


Boys fighting over toys need conflict resolution skills

Boys in conflict over toys can cause injury.

Conflict over limited resources can be an opportunity!

Is this a picture of life at your house or in your classroom? There will always be limited resources in our worlds, whether it’s a classroom or a nation. It’s simply not possible to provide everything every child wants all the time. And, this gives us opportunities for learning as we guide children. But children need tools and skills for managing their anger and staying in community when faced with limited resources and other situations that prompt their frustration, anger, or other emotions. Without these tools they may feel compelled to lash out and potentially hurt themselves and/or others.

As we watch how people are sharing resources as they recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we can be inspired to believe that people can make smart decisions that are good for all, their relationships with each other, and the planet.

Skills for peaceful conflict resolution provide key social and emotional skills!

Over the years, recognition of the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) has swelled. Now, we have governors of several states talking about their goals for educating preschoolers in SEL, based on research showing its importance for adult lives. Hanna Melnick, Channa M. Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond recently wrote in “Encouraging Social and Emotional Learning in the Context of New Accountability” (2017 — provides numerous links and references for further reading):

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) . . . provides an important opportunity for states to broaden the definition of student success to include measures of students’ social-emotional, as well as academic, development. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a broad and multifaceted concept, which the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Well-implemented programs designed to foster SEL are associated with positive outcomes, ranging from better test scores and higher graduation rates to improved social behavior. 

Of course, children will continue to be significantly impacted throughout their lives by many challenges! But the tools we provide in our children’s books and children’s music are useful for navigating the world safely, with self confidence and joy. We call our tools, “Smart Tools for Life” because it is smart to learn them! Further, they are memorable and engaging, and sink deeply into children’s hearts and minds — often for life. 

“I STOP for Peace” music and “The Barnyard Buddies Stop for Peace”

Our first children’s book is called, “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace.” In it, the characters experience a conflict over resources, and work it out peacefully. They don’t stop there, however, they regain their trust in each other, renew their relationships, and celebrate their success.

Songs for Peace children's music

Share social and other peacemaking skills with children and build a culture of peace!

The book is enhanced by two music CDs: “Songs for Peace,” by Julie Penshorn with Rebecca Janke, and one that specifically supports the learning in the book: “I STOP for Peace,” also by Penshorn with Janke. The children on the music CD refer to the book and connect the dots for you! You can purchase all at Here’s the link for I Stop for Peace music on Amazon, or get it at Smart Tools for Life.

Conflict resolution songs for ages 3 to 9

Children’s music, conflict resolution songs for ages 3 to 9. I STOP for Peace, by Julie Penshorn

Tools in your “smart” toolbox!

When you have a tool like The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace, in your parenting and teacher toolbox, you can connect it to any ongoing program you have, or it can be a freestanding program. It’s especially appropriate to the needs of young children ages 3 to 9.

Children develop relationships with the characters that can be used to enhance their learning in a variety of ways. For example, when children are in conflict you can ask: “Now how would Mrs. McCloud (the owl, and the key peacemaker in the story) solve that?” The end result in the story is better relationships, more community, and no blame, shame, or harsh punishments. Why shouldn’t all our conflicts end that way?

A Story

A friend brought a four-year-old to the book reading (partially shown on the video above). After the book reading, she, her boyfriend, and the child went to the zoo. It was a rainy day like in the book. My friend told me later that when they walked by the zebras the child said, “Look at that zebra! He’s just like King! He’s not sharing the space under the leanto!” Already, she was connecting the characters in the book to her daily life and to others in it.

Teacher and parent guide in the book

An added benefit of the book, “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace,” is that it contains a teacher and parent guide, plus the music for the “I STOP for Peace” song. You don’t have to struggle to integrate this book with your curriculum. It effortlessly flows into it. In fact, it can BE your conflict resolution curriculum! With the music to enhance memorability, children will soon be conflict resolution experts!

There are as many ways to be peacemakers as there are people. The joy of finding a resolution to conflict that enhances our lives rather than detracts from it, is sublime! So, we learn the skills, we practice, and it becomes easier and more natural every time.

Next time we’ll talk about the most important step in that conflict resolution process: STOP and breathe.
See you next time!

Songs for Peace children's music

Smart Tools for Life Announces: New Children’s Music, “Songs for Peace” 

“If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children,” said Gandhi. But how do we begin with the children if there are very few materials that specifically are designed to build the social skills so important in today’s world? Worse yet, today’s children can’t count on adults to role model these skills. At Smart Tools for Life, and our sister site: Children’s Peace Education Company (coming soon), we are making sure you have the materials to make learning the important social skills of peacemaking, peacebuilding, and peacekeeping fun and engaging for the children in your lives and you also have the support you are looking for to be effective role models and coaches for the youngsters.

The sessions you spend with children sharing our materials will not be boring lessons! You’re likely to find it’s the best time of the day and surely it’s the most important one! Check out this recent article: from Here’s an excerpt from this article where Evan Porter’s talking about a recent study:

“. . .  the 19-year study paints a pretty clear picture: Pro-social behavior matters, even at a young age. And because it can be learned, it’s a great ‘target for prevention or intervention efforts.’

“The bottom line? We need to do more than just teach kids information. We need to invest in teaching them how to relate to others and how to handle the things they’re feeling inside.

“Ignoring social skills in our curricula could have huge ramifications for our kids down the road.”

And that’s why we think it’s SMART to share our TOOLS!

The mission of our nonprofit, Growing Communities for Peace, is to create communities capable of peace. At Smart Tools for Life we are constantly developing children’s books, music, and other materials specifically to develop, maintain and support this culture. While children are enjoying the books and music, they will learn all sorts of “smart tools” that they can use throughout their lives. These smart tools include: peaceful conflict resolution, anger management (or how to use their anger wisely), and how to show caring, kindness, and compassion for themselves, others, and the Earth.

And thanks to your efforts, it will be the children that really change the culture, as their lives reflect the new “normal.” A normal where dialogue is used instead of violence, where care and kindness for “others” is commonplace, where people know how to work out their conflicts peacefully, and violence is so far down the list of possible choices, it is rare.

Between the ages of three and nine, children are sponges. The way they learn is different from how they will learn as adults. It’s a perfect opportunity to set in motion the wheels that will eventually turn the heavy load: our entire culture!

Songs for Peace

Our new music, Songs for Peace has 3 to 9 year-olds in mind. This upbeat music, geared for even those youngsters with short attention spans and a lively nature, includes movement on “I Can Make Peace All Over the Land,” (with feet and hands stamping and clapping) and on “Stretch High and Round.” There is dialogue between the songs that shows children that other children embrace this music. Children celebrate themselves on “I Smile at Myself,” “I’m Always the Right Age,” and “The Good Heart Journal.” They learn why it’s great to have diversity on, “Hurray! We’re Different (And Alike).” Downloads and CDs available at, or go to our products page and purchase it here. Also check out our other new music “I STOP for Peace.” More in the next blog.

The Power of Story Gathering Conflict resolution stories from kids

Charlottesville, VA — Hope for Peace in the World Today

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance,” said Robert Kennedy, in South Africa in 1966 at the University of Cape Town.

This quote came to mind today as I was reflecting on the tragic, violent events on August 12 in Virginia. I was thinking how after, and even during, the grief, the mourning, and the anger, there will be acts by people, young and old, that will inspire hope. “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

Charlottesville, Virginia, is a result of learned hatred, as Obama said in his recent Tweet

Children are not born hateful and intolerant, Obama reminded us. They learn it. And we must have hope that there is positive energy enough in our country to “build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Toward that end, my hope has always been with the children. They are naturally forgiving, inclusive, and tolerant. Often, children have ideas and insights about how to improve painful situations that are surprising and inspiring.

Where is our hope for the future?

Sadly, the violence in Charlottesville probably won’t be the last we see, but we still must find space in our hearts for hope.  Traumatic events are likely to interrupt peace on a regular basis for years to come. Bully behavior and domestic violence also are stubbornly hard to eradicate. But, when we are ready, we can have hope that we can contribute a ripple that will build a current! To allow hope in around the edges of our psyche, and help us stay focused on finding the peace that is still all around us, is a step toward healing.

Many acts of kindness, cooperation, and community-building, and all those things we call positive social behaviors, nurture a culture of peace. By focusing on them, perhaps we can have more of them! At Smart Tools for Life our goal is to move past today’s divisiveness by working for dialogue when we disagree, and demonstrating that we as a species have the capacity to care for all our diverse people.

We Collect Children’s Stories!

Because we all can benefit from the insights of children, we invite the children in your life to share their stories. Stories can be about how they cared for or kindly treated someone that wasn’t just like them. Then, we all will celebrate our children’s efforts and be inspired and stimulated to take up the mantle. Please send art as well.

Children in different locations and with different points-of-view may need more time to process and may be more or less directly impacted by Charlottesville. But while children are trying to understand why something like this happens, the dialogue you create with them about caring for others is a wonderful way to nurture their need to contribute and to love. Yes, children need our love and support. They also need to be presented with ways to give back — ways they can show love and demonstrate hope. It is healing.

Together we can enhance childrens’ peace literacy and support a culture of peace!