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Five Benefits of Taking a Staycation

StaycationTaking a vacation with your family can be challenging, so try taking a staycation instead. Here are five benefits of enjoying time off at home.

  1. Give your wallet a break. The beauty of a staycation is that you don’t have to spend money on gas, air travel or hotels. An added bonus is that you can use some of that cash on day trips or activities, instead.
  2. Get to know your town. Taking a staycation gives you the chance to explore your community. Take your child to a local restaurant you haven’t tried yet, visit a nearby park or simply go for a stroll through your neighborhood.
  3. Reduce your stress. Staying at home means you and your child don’t have to sit in traffic, wait in line at the airport or adjust to different lodgings. You can simply relax.
  4. Enjoy the comfort of your own home. You and your child can sleep in your own beds, lounge on your own couch and cook up some treats in your own kitchen. The comforts of home are what make it “home, sweet home,” after all.
  5. Maximize your vacation time. Staycations reduce the amount of time spent traveling, checking into and out of hotels and planning an itinerary. The minute you’re home, you’re on vacation.

Sufficient Hydration is Necessary for a Healthy Lifestyle

20120920_goddard_TN_0207Most of us are concerned that our children have good eating habits to ensure proper growth; however, not many of us put as much thought into the amount of water our little ones consume. What is the proper amount of water for children?

Water is not a one size fits all commodity. The amount of water children need depends on their age, weight and gender. Although there is not an exact number, we all could use a little more H2O to keep us on the go.

Here are some tips to increase your child’s water consumption.

  • The most efficient and effective way to boost your child’s water intake is to always have it available. Whether she is at home, at school or playing outdoors, make sure your child is always within reach of water.
  • Encourage your child to drink water by simply placing it in front of her without any alternative options. If she does not have soda or other sugary beverages around her, she will be more likely to drink the water without a fuss.
  • Increase your child’s consumption of fruits and vegetables that contain large volumes of water, such as strawberries, oranges, watermelon and cucumbers.
  • Be a good example; increase your water intake as well. This will not only keep you on track with how much water you consume, but watching you drink water will ensure that your child will want to drink it too.

Staying hydrated helps children focus better in school, brightens their mood and improves their performance in day to day activities.

Grab a glass of water for you and your little one, and start increasing your intake today.

Baking with Children

  • twenty20 - BakingPut on aprons. The mess is part of the fun;
  • Older children can crack the eggs and measure wet and dry ingredients, while younger children can participate by pouring the pre-measured ingredients into the mixing bowl;
  • Show children that oil and water don’t mix by letting them stir the mix;
  • Create cut-outs with cookies cutters;
  • Be sure to encourage creativity and imagination when decorating your creations. Use festively colored frostings, sparkly sanding sugars, gumdrops, pre-cut fondant or homespun shapes. These are perfect for little fingers and make wonderful cookie decorations;
  • Don’t forget to taste test your creations;
  • Go with your children to deliver a plate of cookies to a neighbor or the local senior center. Giving and sharing can make children feel good.

Why and How to Let Your Child Fail

A growing body of research has shown us that grit, determination and resilience are strongly predictive of a person’s success in academics, careers and projects. What do these characteristics look like in children, and how can a parent support the development of these characteristics?

Consider this mother’s story:

My daughter tried out for the second time this year for “stage crew,” a group that assists with school plays. For the second time, she was not picked. It took everything in me not to call the school and try to get her a spot. I began to blame myself, “Do we not give enough to the annual fund?” I felt a strong need to fix this for her – but I thought about it and decided not to call because then I would be the parent who “fixes it” for her children. Later that evening, my daughter said she was upset, but, then to my surprise stated, “There will be another opportunity and I can apply again next year.” And there they were – grit, resilience and determination. They might not have come forward had I solved this problem for her.

How can you help your children become resilient? Here are some things to consider.

Let them develop their natural resilience. Children are born as little scientists. They explore the world and constantly try to make sense of it. When Determinationsomething fails or when children have difficulty getting something to work, their natural instinct is to keep trying to find a solution. This natural proclivity to work through problems and to find solutions demonstrates grit, determination and resilience.

Let them fail. It is tempting to help your children after every misstep and to provide solutions when they fail. However, creating successes for your children prevents them from creating their own successes. It is better to have your children experience disappointment now under your guidance and care rather than later in life when they do not have you to help guide and coach them. If you let your children try to work things out on their own, they will naturally begin to innovate and find solutions. During this process, you can provide emotional support for them. You can pick them up, dust them off and help them understand what just happened while encouraging them to keep going.

Avoid teaching irrational optimism. It is tempting to tell children that everything will be better. However, irrationally optimistic adults are shown to falter first. The healthier message is that they can sometimes make bad things better. Give your children some responsibility for improving bad situations. Help them learn that sometimes life’s negatives are within our control and we can fix them, and at other times they are not in our control, and we need to understand what our perceptions of them are and what we can do. Give your children a vocabulary to identify and explain their emotions while teaching them coping skills to manage their emotions.

Instill strong values and the belief that it is always worth making things better. When adults face tough times, those who make it through with the least damage and most growth are able to separate what really matters from what seems to matter based on their values. Give your children a strong value set to strengthen them during hard times. Help them to understand what is important and model it. For example, the next time you are in a traffic jam, take the opportunity to have some family time in the car and demonstrate that, while the situation is frustrating, it is insignificant in the big picture. Point out the humor in frustrating times; resilient people can often find humor in tough situations.

More than anything, make sure that your children feel supported and loved. Attachment and security at a young age are paramount in developing these skills.

Fourth of July Fun

It’s the time of year when family and friends join together for barbecues and fireworks. Whether it is a publicly held event or a celebration in your own backyard, twenty20_685fa3e1-fa9e-4338-9905-001d04b7affathe Fourth of July allows for lots of fun and various activities for all ages.

When searching for that perfect spot to lay down a blanket to view the fireworks, consider that fireworks may not be suitable for all children. While many adults enjoy this holiday, loud noises and bright lights can be frightening and overwhelming for young children.

Before attending any event that involves fireworks, discuss with your child what fireworks are and why people enjoy them. Show him videos of fireworks going off so he has a better idea of what to expect. It is normal for children to have a natural fear of loud unknown noises, and some children may also be afraid of fireworks falling on them. Be prepared to help him cope with his concerns.

While waiting for the sky to get dark enough for the fireworks to start, some children may become bored. Here are some activities that will help her stay occupied:

  • Play eye spy with her. In this way you can incorporate learning through play by asking her to find items that are specific colors and shapes;
  • Bring paper and crayons, and ask your child to draw pictures of what she thinks the fireworks will look like. This also may make her feel more comfortable about the anticipated display;
  • Provide outdoor equipment for games and activities such as balls, kites and jump ropes to keep your child engaged while she is having fun. Do not forget the snacks and water.

What are some activities your family does on the Fourth of July?

Family Vacations: Keeping Your Child Occupied While Traveling

For many of us, summer means family vacations, which often include long car rides.

When we talk about our destination and all the fun activities we have planned, everyone gets very excited and counts the Little Travelerdays until departure. Finally, the day arrives, and our whole family is finished packing and is getting ready to leave the house. The car is loaded and we pile inside. Half an hour later, we hear the inevitable: “I’m bored,” “I’m hungry” and “Are we there yet?”

It is normal for children to feel this way. Sitting in the back seat with little to do can make a long trip seem endless. If we, as adults, sometimes have a hard time sitting in the car for too long, how can we expect children to enjoy it? The answer is to plan fun activities that will help pass the time.

Keep your child occupied for the duration of the car ride by bringing headphones for music and movies, books, stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons, pillows and blankets. Bring a variety of snacks and drinks. Depending on how long the ride will be, you should make a few rest stops along the way so your child can stretch and use the restroom. This breaks up the journey so the ride does not seem as long.

Interact with your child so she does not feel isolated in the back seat. Talk about how much fun she is going to have and what she is going to do when you arrive. Child-friendly podcasts can encourage conversations among all family members and help pass time quickly.

You can also practice the alphabet. Ask your child to point out signs with words that start with each letter of the alphabet in order, such as A for Applebee’s, B for bus stop and C for church. This game is fun and challenging, and it takes up a lot of time.

What are some ways you pass the time with your little ones on long car rides?

Beach Scavenger Hunt

The beach is a perfect stage for playful learning. You can develop a scavenger hunt for your family to enjoy at the beach. You may decide to see how many items you can each check off in one day or consider extending the hunt for the length of your trip.

Here are some ideas to get you started:Beach Girl

  • a blue beach towel
  • pink sandals
  • a kite
  • a beach ball
  • a sand castle
  • a sail boat
  • a jet ski
  • a seagull
  • a green bathing suit
  • a dog
  • seaweed
  • a striped beach towel
  • a beach umbrella
  • a blimp
  • an airplane
  • a shell

You can alter your list depending on where you are vacationing and what items are age appropriate for your child. The possibilities are endless!

The Importance of Father’s Day

Each year, the third Sunday in June is a day dedicated to showing our dads just how important they are. We should twenty20_0ebc9527-d7cb-434a-86e1-6d4a3039c5a8remember to appreciate our fathers for everything they do for us year-round, but Father’s Day is a great opportunity to make sure they know how much we love them. While it is important to spend this day with Dad, however, don’t forget to show Grandpa and your uncle some love, too. This can be done with a phone call or by sending a card or small gift.

If you cannot be with Grandpa or your uncle on Father’s Day, plan a trip to make up for it. Fishing and camping trips are wonderful ways to step away from reality and focus on family bonding. As for Dad, ask him how he would like to spend Father’s Day with the family. Some ideas include mini golfing, a child-friendly construction activity such as building a bird house or simply playing catch in the backyard. And lastly, be sure to tell Dad how much you love and appreciate him and everything he has done for you.

What are some activities your family does to celebrate Father’s Day?

Gardening with Your Children

Even as an adult, I am awed by watching seeds germinate. I check my pots every morning in case a squash plant has grown an inch overnight.

As you begin your spring planting this year, plan ways to include your children. They will also be amazed by how seeds Boy Gardeninggrow into plants. You can talk about life cycles, nutrition and the environment. This helps them learn concepts in science, but you can also help them learn about math, language and other subjects.  Some specific examples of these lessons include the following:

Let them get dirty.

Let your children play in the dirt, especially if they are under three years old. It is important for children to explore the texture of the soil and the plants. They will learn how to mold soil, to change its shape and volume and to contain a mess within a safe space for free exploration. These types of hands-on experiences help children make concrete connections to words and experiences.  Sensory based play and exploration will cultivate your children’s physical development, especially the important small muscles in their hands and the tendons in their fingers.

Teach them how to nurture.

Your children will love taking care of plants and watching them grow. Preschool age children enjoy jobs that create a sense of responsibility.  Working in a garden helps them see the fruits of their efforts, leading to a sense of pride and accomplishment. Talk to your children about the needs of the plants including food, water and sunlight. For children who are three years old and older, you can begin a conversation that compares what plants and people need to live. Your children can learn fundamental social and emotional skills like empathy, communication, cooperation and learn to identify and express feelings while gardening.

Incorporate math.

While gardening, your children can learn fundamental math skills like patterns, sequences and numeracy. Consider the following activities.

  • Patterns
    You can plan the garden with your children by grouping similar seeds together. You can plant the vegetables in rows or you can plant the flowers by color. Once the garden is growing, you can help your children to notice patterns by asking questions like these: “Which plants have thick stems? Which have thin stems?” and “How are these two plants the same?”
  • Sequences
    Track the growth of plants with your children over time. Ask them questions about the order in which parts of the plants grow. You can ask, “Which leaves grow first?” or “What grows before the flower blooms?”
  • Numeracy
    While observing your garden, ask your children to count the different parts of a plant as it grows. For example, you might ask, “How many leaves are there now?” Model and use comparison words like bigger, more than and faster.  Measure the plants with your children and talk about how much they are growing.  You can graph the height of plants over time together. Clear flowerpots can let you observe and measure the growth of roots, too.

Develop literacy.

Always engage in conversations with your children. Read books about gardens and teach them new words about plants. Teach them the language necessary to speak about how plants grow. Ask open-ended questions like “What do you see happening?” or “What do you think the garden will look like next week?” to encourage them to think and communicate about their surroundings. Use a photo album or a three-ring binder with page protectors to create a book about your gardening experiences.  You can review past experiences and encourage verbal and written language skills by reading it together. Your children can also use their creative skills to draw illustrations and decorate the cover.

At the end of the summer, we hope that you will have a beautiful garden and an enthusiastic, blooming gardener.

Popsicle Stick Puzzle

With Father’s Day right around the corner, here is a craft that is not only fun for children, but fun for dads, too!

Puzzle Collage

Materials

  • 8-10 large Popsicle sticks
  • White glue
  • Tape
  • Small utility knife (for the adult helper’s use only!)
  • A copy of a favorite photo of daddy

Instructions

  1. Lay the Popsicle sticks side by side so they align at the top and bottom.
  2. Place pieces of tape along the top and bottom of all the sticks to hold them together.
  3. Flip the sticks over, center the photo and stick it to the Popsicle sticks using white glue.
  4. Place a few heavy books on top and let it dry completely.
  5. When dry, remove the tape on the back and have the adult helper use the utility knife to separate the Popsicle sticks and cut through the photo.
  6. Mix the sticks up and wrap them or bundle them together and tie a ribbon around them and give to Dad on Father’s Day!

*An adult should oversee all activities. Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.