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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Nine Ways to Stay Relaxed during the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a lot of fun, but it can also be stressful. Here are nine ways to stay calm during the most wonderful time of the year.

  1. Exercise. Going for a run or brisk walk can make a huge difference in your outlook. Embrace those endorphins and allow them to do their job of taking the edge off.
  2. Try holiday emails instead of greeting cards. Holiday greeting cards are a time-honored tradition, but that doesn’t mean they have to be your tradition. Send out a holiday-themed email instead, which will save you time and money. Or, if you want the best of both worlds, send out a few greeting cards to family and close friends, and send an email to everybody else.
  3. Accept imperfection. Some things may not work out the way you would like. That’s okay. Laugh it off and move on.
  4. Eat healthily. All those yummy holiday treats are great, but don’t forget to eat fruits and veggies. Maintaining a proper diet can help you keep your energy levels up and keep you in a good mood.
  5. Take a few minutes for yourself. Plop down in a favorite chair, read a book, enjoy a warm beverage or simply breathe.
  6. Breathe. A few deep breaths can help you to decompress. If you can, sit quietly and concentrate on breathing for a few minutes. This mini-meditation can help you relax and refocus.
  7. Sleep. The holiday season can be both fun and hectic, so getting enough sleep is important. After all, you need enough energy to enjoy all the holiday fun.
  8. Learn to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” You and your family may be invited to some holiday celebrations. Don’t feel like you need to commit to every one of them, though. It’s okay to say, “Maybe next year.”
  9. Remember what the holidays are all about. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday excitement. Just remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and being thankful for that time. So smile and enjoy yourself!

Five Ways to Encourage Children to Help with Chores

Motivating children to help out around the house can be challenging. Here are five ways to encourage them to lend a hand.

  1. Start your child young. Ask your child to help out as soon as she is able to. Making chores a normal part of home life as early as possible can foster helpful behavior.
  2. Keep tasks small. Break up larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. For example, instead of asking your child to help clear the table, ask him to bring each plate over to the sink. Remember to keep each task age appropriate.
  3. Establish a routine. Being consistent can help your child adjust to assisting you with household duties. If you make helping out a regular part of your child’s routine, then she is more likely to do his chores without being asked.
  4. Offer praise. Phrases like “good job” and “you’re so helpful” can be excellent motivators. Try saying, “I can never fold the towels as nicely as you do,” which can make your child feel important and needed. This may inspire him to make it his mission to fold the towels.
  5. Make chores fun. Have a contest to see who can dust the shelves the fastest or who can dry more dishes. You could also put on music and dance around while you clean. The key is to make work enjoyable.

Five Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Disappointment

Disappointments happen to everyone, and there is no way to avoid all of them. Here are five ways to help your child cope with disappointment.

  1. Be there, but give him space. Children react to disappointment differently. Depending on Girlwhether your child is extroverted or introverted, he might want a hug and a pat on the back, or he might want to be left alone for a little while. Wait until he comes to you to comfort him.
  2. Turn a negative into a positive. Reframing a setback in a positive light can help to alleviate your child’s disappointment. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” (Elkhorne, 1967, p. 52). Looking at a mistake or disappointment as a learning experience can benefit your child’s development.
  3. Try to take your child’s mind off it. Suggest an activity that your child enjoys to help cheer her up. You could also suggest going on an outing. If these don’t appeal to her, let her know that the offers are on the table if she changes her mind.
  4. Set a good example. If your child sees you handle disappointment with dignity, he might, too. Taking responsibility when you make mistakes shows your child that you’re okay and that disappointment happens to everybody.
  5. Watch what you say. Try not to downplay your child’s disappointment or say something like, “That’s life.” Instead, ask your child questions about how she’s feeling or about what happened. Offer to talk through it if she wants.


Elkhorne, J. L. (1967, March). Edison: The Fabulous Drone. 73, 46(3), 52.

Language and Literacy Series: Reclaiming the Joy of Reading in the Age of Distraction

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog

My own love of reading was cultivated in an era with fewer distractions than today. At that time, all of our play was physical and concrete – we played with hands-on toys and games, we rode bicycles and played outside (which held opportunities for all sorts of mischief). I recall putting on plays, having visceral experiences with art supplies, some television, and boys readinglots of books. Reading offered both privacy and companionship, an opportunity to focus and contemplate, but also indulge the imagination.

I realize now that there was a special kind of innocence wrapped up in these memories. During my own childhood, distraction was the murmur of the radio or television, or the sight of something fleeting that simply “caught your eye.” Things are different today. Adults and children are caught in a blizzard of digital noise streaming from various devices that constantly compete for our attention, disrupting our focus. There is no doubt that this new reality has impacted the way we read and engage with books.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist best known for spotlighting emotional intelligence, has noted that the deluge of distractions can have far-reaching effects. Speaking to KQED’s Forum, he explained “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, [and] we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.”

According to Goleman, the neural circuitry that registers attention in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is identical to the circuits that govern executive functioning, which includes the ability to manage distressing emotions and to feel empathy.

Medical research has identified clinical conditions that may interfere with a child’s ability to focus, but to tackle real-world distractions, there are things we can do at home and in the classroom to minimize the noise and create an environment conducive to experiencing the magic of reading.

With this in mind, what can we do to foster a love of reading in our children that stems simply from the sheer pleasure and joy that a great story provides?

Here are five easy ways to create a distraction-free reading zone for kids.

  1. Create a Dedicated Reading Space: Create a reading environment free of clutter. The fewer objects that can capture your child’s attention, the better.
  2. Get Comfy: Have a comfortable chair or cushion for children and adult readers to sit on. The physical comfort helps kids relax their bodies, which in turn facilitates attention and focus.
  3. Start a Reading Ritual: Ritualize the opportunity to read. For very young children, the ritual of a bedtime story is the enchanting portico that leads to more reading. Consecrating the event early on acknowledges that reading time is special, even as children get older and read on their own. Having a special hat to wear or a pillow to sit on just for reading designates that reading time is distinct from other activities.
  4. Take Time to Share: Give your child ample opportunity to share what they have read. Remember, a joy shared is doubled! Ask some simple questions about your child’s reading experience to encourage engagement: Who was your favorite character? What did you like about the story? How did the book make you feel?
  5. Be a Reading Role Model: Model a love of reading. Whether you show your kids the stack of books on your night table, or point out how much you love to read the newspaper with your morning coffee, highlighting the ways that reading enriches your life will help them understand the importance and enjoyment of literacy.

It is important for adults to find some quiet space amidst the distractions as well. I heard a story the other day that offered a vivid reminder of this concept: A four-year-old girl learned how to make the color green in school, mixing yellow and blue paints to create a series of green hues. With carbonated excitement, she couldn’t wait to show her father. But when he came home, he was concentrating on his cell phone. He finished a call and then began to text. The child’s efforts to capture his attention were futile until, with her art work in one hand, she gave a good, hard tug on the leg of his pants. Her father then looked down and said, “Sara, what are you doing down there?” To which she replied, “Daddy, I live down here.”

To create an environment that is conducive to concentration, young children need our undivided attention. By finding and nurturing those simple moments of focus, we can enjoy “living” in our children’s worlds and be present as they share in ours.

Ten Little Ways to Say I Love You

Telling your children you love them is one of the best things you can do as a parent, but showing your children you love them is also important. Here are ten ways to show you care.

  1. Write a note to your little one. It can be a simple note that says “I love you,” just something to let your child know you’re thinking about her. Put the note in her lunchbox, under her pillow or in a place where only she will look.Father and Son Hug
  2. Say yes to an unusual request. Did your child request donuts and ice cream for dinner? Does he want to wear his pajamas all day? Relax the rules occasionally.
  3. Keep a record. Recording your child’s early days in a baby book or journal can be a great way to remember all the wonderful little things he does. You can also share this keepsake with him when he’s older.
  4. Listen to her stories. Stop what you’re doing and listen to her recap her day or a recount a game she played with a friend. This simple gesture helps you stay connected with your child.
  5. Ask questions. When your child talks to you, engage her and ask follow-up questions. Creating a dialogue can show her that you’re truly interested in her world and what she has to say.
  6. Share your stories. Your child is just as curious about you as you are about him. Talk to him about what you did for fun when you were his age, or tell him about your first day of school.
  7. Ask her to play her favorite songs. If you’re in the car or at home, ask your child which songs she would like to hear, why she likes that particular type of music or where she first heard the songs. This is a fun, easy way to find out what makes her tick while showing her that you’re interested.
  8. Start a daily tradition. Read a story at bedtime, have an after-school chat or play a game every day to ensure that you two have a special bonding time.
  9. Display her doodles and drawings. Your child pours her heart into every piece of artwork she makes. Hanging up these creations at home or in your office can encourage her creativity while showing your child how important she is to you.
  10. Show him how to do things. If your child wants to know how to bake cookies, teach him. If he asks how to inflate a bike tire, walk him through the process. Your child will remember and cherish those lessons.

Citizenship Day

Citizenship Day is September 17. You can use creative ideas and activities to celebrate the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787 and help your children understand what being a good citizen means.

  • Talk about the definition of good citizenship or illustrate good citizenship with images or books;
  • Share stories about exhibiting good citizenship. These might include stories about welcoming a classmate to the classroom, helping to recycle, donating their unused clothes and toys to charity or cleaning up a neighborhood park;
  • Seek out opportunities to experience civic events with your child. Go to hear a local politician speak, attend an event or fundraiser that your local fire department or police department holds, etc.;
  • Talk about the American flag, what it means to us as citizens and how we are supposed to care for and display it;
  • Find volunteer opportunities that allow you to participate as a family.

Five Benefits of Teaching Children to Garden

Break out the seeds and bulbs because gardening season has arrived! Here are five benefits of showing your children how to garden.

  1. Gets children outside and active. Digging, planting and watering on a sunny afternoon are _72O8441_terrific ways to get some exercise while enjoying the beautiful weather.
  2. Children learn about science and the environment. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your child some basics of biology, such as how the sun helps plants to grow, how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis and how vegetation contributes to a healthy environment.
  3. Teaches children how vegetables and fruits grow. Growing fruits and vegetables gives your child a look into small-scale farming and may encourage an appreciation for the process that brings produce to grocery stores.
  4. Encourages healthy eating. Planting a vegetable garden can lead to healthier meal times because children are more likely to try vegetables they have grown and veggies usually taste better when they are fresh from the garden.
  5. Inspires responsibility and a strong work ethic. Maintaining a garden can help children understand what the rewards of hard work are and how taking care of something requires diligence and persistence.

Tips for Your Baby’s First Days

Your baby’s first days can be quite an adjustment, especially since you might not be getting enough sleep. Remember to do the following:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps;
  • Keep scheduled activities to a minimum. Settling into a schedule with a new baby takes time;
  • Accept help when it is offered. You can’t do everything yourself, and that’s okay;
  • Leave baby with a trusted family member or friend so you can get a few minutes to yourself;
  • Eat properly and drink lots of water. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy you need to take care of your newborn;
  • Let non-essential household chores wait. Give yourself a little leeway and enjoy your baby’s first days;
  • Set limits with visitors. This may mean insisting that visitors wash their hands before holding your baby or asking anyone who is ill not to visit until he or she feels better. Also, let friends and loved ones know the best times to visit and how much or how little time you have for these visits.

Diving into Dad Duties: Five Tips For New Dads

Fatherhood is a profound, wonderful journey full of moments that you will cherish for a lifetime. Here are five tips for dads who are new to the experience.

  1. Master the art of diapering. Diapering is part of Fatherhood 101. Changing a diaper is a simple Get%20Set%20Girl%20and%20Father_jpgway to help keep your baby happy while bonding with your baby.
  2. Work as a team to handle baby duties. You and your spouse are a team, so try to share all the responsibilities. Make sure to help out when your partner is tired or busy.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you’re part of a team, communication is key. If you’re going to be late coming home from work, call your partner. If you’re not sure how to handle a baby-related task, ask someone. Opening the lines of communication can work wonders.
  4. Be patient. Fatherhood isn’t an exact science, so remember that becoming the best dad you can be takes time. Enjoy those moments when you’re still figuring things out and remember to laugh.
  5. Take care of yourself. Being a good dad means being there for your child. Make sure you are staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary risks. Exercise, watch your diet and drive carefully.

Five Ways to Fend Off Your Child’s Boredom

Sooner or later, your child may utter the phrase “I’m bored.” Should that time come, here are five ways to help your child learn how to entertain herself.

  1. Make a boredom box. Sit down with your child and brainstorm a list of different things she likes to do. Then, write each idea on a different slip of paper and put them all in a shoebox or jar. If your child gets bored, take out the box and ask her to pick out an activity (without peeking).Puzzle_jpg
  2. Play a game. It doesn’t matter whether you play a card game, a board game or a word game as long as you play it together. It will help to alleviate his boredom and strengthen family bonds.
  3. Ask your child to help you with chores. Some children love to help with housework, such as dusting and cleaning. You can make a game out of seeing who can fold the laundry the fastest or who can sweep up more dust.
  4. Head outside. Take a walk, go on a geocache hunt or play catch if your child is old enough. Just remember to bring water and use sunscreen.
  5. Let your child be bored. Some artists and writers say that boredom inspires creativity. Boredom might inspire your child to try an activity she hasn’t explored before. Who knows? Boredom may bring out your child’s inner Picasso!
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