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16 ALLERGY-FRIENDLY TREATS THAT ARE TOTALLY SAFE TO TAKE TO SCHOOL

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Whether you’re revving up to dominate the class bake sale or just looking for something sweet to slip into your kid’s lunch box, here are 19 nut-free options that are safe to take to school. Bring on the cupcakes, cookies and hand pies (and don’t forget to save some for the baker).

 

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Hand Pies

Finally, a toaster pastry that tastes as good as it looks. Plus, they’re egg-free.

Get the recipe

Well Plated

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Whip up this whole-grain, egg-free dessert in one bowl.

Get the recipe

Super Healthy Kids

Healthy and Fun Yogurt Snacks

Playtime meets snack time. Gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free if you use coconut or almond-milk yogurt.

Get the recipe

The Busy Baker

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookie Bars

Way faster than rolling out cookie dough balls.

Get the recipe

Paper& Stitch

Homemade Cereal Cannolis

Shh, these start with pre-bought shells.

Get the recipe

Aww Sam

Colorful Terrarium Pudding Cups

Up the ante on gummy worms.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Watercolor Doughnuts

Mom might want to taste test these first.

Get the recipe

Chew Out Loud

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bites

Just the right size for tiny hands.

Get the recipe

Erica’s Sweet Tooth

Mini Banana Pancake Skewers

Cutest-ever morning snack.

Get the recipe

Dessert for Two

Strawberry Rice Krispies Treats

The secret ingredient? Strawberry fluff (and no eggs in sight).

Get the recipe

Hello, Wonderful

Easy Apple Fruit Doughnuts

You won’t find eggs or gluten on the ingredient list.

Get the recipe

Thirsty For Tea

Waffle Fortune Cookies

The cutest way to write your kid a note.

Get the recipe

Hungry Rabbit

Rainbow Cookies

They’re our favorite color.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Samoa Cupcakes

Best birthday ever.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Glazed Doughnut Cookies

So cute, they give the doughnut emoji a run for its money.

Get the recipe

Femme Fraiche

Galaxy Whoopie Pies

They’ll vote your kid class president.

Get the recipe

FIVE WAYS YOU CAN HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH HOMESICKNESS

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When children spend a night away from home at a sleepover or on a family vacation, they may experience feelings of homesickness. Here are five ways to help them cope with these feelings.

 

  1. Talk about being away before your child is away. Some children might not even be aware of how homesickness feels, so it’s a good idea to have a conversation about what homesickness is and how you will be available if your child needs to talk.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open. Your child can keep in touch with you through text messages, phone calls and emails while she is away from home. This provides a comforting connection.
  3. Remind your child that it’s only temporary. A sleepover is only one night; a vacation may only last a week. The time away from home will not last forever, and neither will the homesickness.
  4. Encourage your child to do things that will take his mind off being homesick. Suggest that your child read a story, play a game or play with friends or siblings. Having fun is one of the best ways to cope with homesickness.
  5. Suggest that your child take something comforting along. A favorite stuffed animal, a blanket, a pillow or a familiar item that reminds your child of home can soothe him if he is homesick.

9 INVESTMENT TIPS FOR PARENTS WHO ARE SETTING UP A COLLEGE FUND

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We’d all love to remain in denial where our kids are concerned. We have so much time left. They’ll be my baby forever. They’ll never move away. The hard reality, though, is that we’ve got 18 years from the moment they enter this world until they are technically considered adults themselves. So we wouldn’t find it one bit surprising if you were already looking into setting up a college fund for your progeny’s future education. In fact, we’d say it’s a smart move.

When your child is born, you are flooded with so many feel-good endorphins that the only things on your brain are cute little baby toes and that sweet squishy baby nose. Then you wake up one morning and that tiny bundle is waddling into kindergarten with an oversize backpack, and it hits you: college. Before you know it, your child will be trading times tables for an undergraduate course load. And then it hits you that a college education doesn’t usually come cheap.

If the mere thought of your baby decorating their dorm and pledging a sorority or fraternity makes you want to break out in hives, just breathe. To help lighten your load, we tapped three investment experts to weigh in on tips for parents who are ready to set up a college fund. Here’s what they had to say.

1. START A 529 COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN ASAP

“A 529 college savings plan is the best way of saving for college because 529 plans provide tax and financial aid advantages over other college savings options,” Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and VP of research at Savingforcollege.com, tells SheKnows. Kantrowitz recommends investing after-tax dollars into a 529 plan, noting that earnings accumulated on a tax-deferred basis are totally tax-free if used to pay for qualified education expenses, and the money in a 529 plan is treated favorably by financial aid formulas.

Plus, there may be additional tax perks. “Almost three dozen states offer income tax deductions for contributions to the state’s 529 plan. So, you should consider your state’s 529 plan(s). You should also consider the 529 plans of states with low fees — under 1 percent — since minimizing costs is the key to maximizing net returns,” says Kantrowitz.

2. THINK INCREMENTALLY

College Aid Planners‘ Joe Orsolini likens college savings to a marathon. “You can’t go out and think you are going to complete 26.2 miles without a little practice. You have to build up, run around the block, do a 5K, etc.,” he tells SheKnows, suggesting that parents should start saving in small amounts and increase the amount over time when feasible.

“Saving for college is a lot easier in smaller pieces,” Orsolini advises. “Ultimately, you are going to write checks. Do you want to write a lot of small ones along the way or a big one when college starts? Slow and steady wins the race when saving for college.”

3. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO SOON

We’ve already established that college is expensive, right? And that if you don’t save a little along the way, you’ll wind up staring down a possibly prohibitive lump sum. For these reasons, Student Debt Warriors founder and editor Tim Stobierski stresses that there’s no time like the present to start saving.

“Start as early as possible, ideally from the day of your child’s birth. Even if you don’t currently have a child, you could open a plan in your own name if you plan to have a child in the future, make contributions and allow the money to grow. Then, once your child is born, you can move the plan to their name and Social Security number,” Stobierski tells SheKnows.

4. SHOOT FOR SAVING AT LEAST ONE-THIRD OF TUITION

So, how much are we talking here? Well, per Kantrowitz, college costs triple over any 17-year period from birth to college enrollment. Therefore, you should shoot for saving about a third of future college costs.

“Like any major life-cycle expense, the costs will be spread out over time, with a third coming from past income (savings), a third from current income and financial aid and a third from future income (loans),” Kantrowitz explains. “Combine the two rules, and your savings goal should be the full cost of a college education the year the child was born. That’s the equivalent of $250 per month for a child born this year who will be enrolling in an in-state public four-year college, $400 per month for an out-of-state public four-year college and $500 per month for a private four-year college.”

5. GET LOVED ONES INVOLVED

Stobierski says a great way to get your college fund to add up even more over time is to think outside the box — or rather boxes, as in gifts. Getting family and friends to pitch in provides a practical opportunity to grow those savings.

“One easy way to do this, especially when the kids are younger: forgo expensive parties and gifts (especially for infants and toddlers) and instead funnel the extra funds to their 529 plan. Though parties are fun, your child most likely won’t remember them; and I’m willing to bet they’d be happier in the future without student loans than they would be now with another toy,” said Stobierski.

6. MAKE IT AUTOMATIC

As with many things in life, establishing a routine leads to results that are more consistent. In that regard, Orsolini recommends making savings contributions a habit. And the easiest way to do so is by having it done for you.

“Sign up for a monthly auto-payment plan,” he suggests. Thanks to today’s automated technology, it’s easier than ever to set up monthly transfers from your bank account to go straight into your savings account or 529 plan.

7. KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARKET

Of course, what you don’t want to do is play it fast and loose with all the money you’ve saved for your child’s college education — and end up taking a major financial hit when the market dips.

Cautions Stobierski, “Remember that investing always involves risk. As your child ages and gets closer and closer to graduating from high school, make sure that your 529 plan becomes more conservative to offset the risk of a market decline. It would be really counterproductive to have saved money all of your child’s life just for it to be wiped away right when they need it most.”

8. PLAN SUPER-STRATEGICALLY

If you’re just starting to grow your family and you’re a type A when it comes to planning, you might want to consider this particularly interesting tidbit from Kantrowitz: college can actually be more affordable if your children are close in age.

 

Here’s why. “Financial aid application formulas, such as the one used by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, divide the parent contribution portion of the expected family contribution by the number of children in college at the same time. So, going from one child in college at a time to two children in college at a time is like dividing the parent income in half,” Kantrowitz elaborates.

9. REALIZE THAT YOUR COLLEGE FUND MAY NOT BE NECESSARY

At least not how you thought it would be, that is. “It’s important for parents to realize college isn’t right for every child, and while parents should encourage education, they should not pressure their child to earn a degree,” Stobierski says, adding this could ultimately lead to a child not graduating and yet still being saddled with expensive debt throughout their life.

This doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t prepare by saving and investing, says Stobierski. If your child decides college isn’t a good fit for them, 529 college savings plan funds can be diverted toward trade or professional school and even transferred to a grandchild or other relative.

10 QUICK & EASY PLAYROOM ORGANIZATION TIPS

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Is your playroom the one room in the house you skip when giving your friends “the tour”? Do you have a closet you haven’t opened in literal years for fear of the inevitable avalanche of headless Barbies and puzzles with one piece missing? Are you used to finding infant teething toys in your 6-year-old’s playroom? Have you accidentally taught your kids some curse words because you stepped on yet another pile of Legos barefoot? Fear not! It is possible to have a clean, organized playroom that you *gasp* actually enjoy spending time in with your kids. Wait, does that mean the kids will play happily while you… get an actual break? I think it does. We’ve got 10 quick and easy tips for creating an inviting, creative and tidy playroom that will guarantee it becomes the favorite room in the house. Now, if only this worked for the bathroom…

1. KEEP IT OFF THE FLOOR

Playrooms are a space for playing, learning and creating — none of which can be accomplished if there’s only a little bit of floor space available. Instead of subtracting space by covering the floor with bins and bookshelves, try wall-mounted storage, like these shelves with bins from Ikea.

Trofast wall shelves

Trofast shelves, $51.99 at Ikea

2. BOOKSHELVES ARE POINTLESS

Most playrooms have a traditional bookshelf with all the books crammed onto the shelf. But in that, all the child can see is the spine of the book, which unsurprisingly doesn’t inspire them to read. In a survey conducted by Scholastic, 91 percent of children say their favorite books are the ones they’ve picked out themselves, and 90 percent say they are more likely to finish reading a book they have picked out themselves.

So use cheap picture ledges like these to display books on. Voilà! A library wall where you can actually see the books covers, therefore making it more likely your child will actually want to read them.

Picture ledge

White book ledge, $25 at Crate & Barrel

3. CREATE A DESIGNATED SPACER FOR EACH ACTIVITY

Instead of having your playroom be a room where organization comes to die, try to create a specific designated space for each activity that together make a cohesive play area. Paint a wall with chalkboard paint for an art corner. Keep a stack of comfy pillows or beanbags by a wall-mounted bookshelf for a fun reading nook. By designating areas for each activity, it also makes it easier for your child to recognize each area, so when you say, “Let’s clean up the art corner!” you won’t get a blank stare as they try to figure out if the sticker covered couch or the jar of lidless markers under the stairs is the “art corner.”

4. ROTATE TOYS

At the beginning of every month, or every couple of months, look around the playroom and see what toys just haven’t been played with very much recently. Take a bin, put those toys in it, and put it away. At the end of the month, bring those toys out again and put the un-played-with toys from that month in the bin. Repeat. You’ll be shocked at how excited your kids get when you pull out their old toys they haven’t seen in a while — it’s like they’re brand-new toys! If you bring them out of storage and your kids aren’t that excited, it’s time for those toys to be donated. This might seem a little tricky (who can remember to take a vitamin every day, let alone swap out bins of toys), but have no fear — set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

5. DOUBLE DUTY

Nothing in a playroom should serve only one function. There are countless ways to double up on an item’s functionality. Use storage boxes that double as seating, use a hanging pocket organizer to house both art supplies and small items that would get lost in bigger bins. Lastly, use picture-hanging wire and some clothespins to display your child’s handiwork (which conveniently doubles as a means of drying their painted works of art without taking up table space or floor space with a drying rack.)

6. KEEP IT OPEN

It’s tempting to keep everything in bins out of sight, but “out of sight, out of mind” is a saying for a reason. If you keep everything hidden away, it’s not very inviting for your child, and isn’t the point of a playroom to, well, play? On storing all those markers, crayons and pencils, interior design guru Emily Henderson tells SheKnows, “…the original packaging tends to get damaged pretty quickly and can make it tricky for little fingers to pull out pencils and crayons. Storing art supplies out in the open can create a more inviting creative space, but the containers will help keep the space organized yet fun.”

7. STICK ’EM UP

Is your child one of those kids who leaves toys strewn all over the floor for weeks because they’re “not through playing with them?” Well, now your carpet won’t be covered in cars. Make a part of one playroom wall magnetic with a magnetic board like this one from Amazon. It doubles as a dry-erase board, so you can draw roads, maps, etc., on it for your child’s cars to traverse. And if they insist you don’t move a thing, the cars will stick to the board for the maximum play with minimum cleanup.

Steelmaster magnetic board with dry-erase pad, pen and magnets, $29.19 at Amazon

8. GIVE EVERYTHING A PLACE

This is a simple enough tip that you (more so than your child) will find hard to follow. Take everything off a shelf. See how much stuff you’ve shoved into such a small storage space? Things stacked on top of each other, bins on top of bins — each shelf is most likely packed. Put three things back, and only three. By limiting the number of items on each shelf, you’re allowing each item to have its own space with plenty of space between each toy, which allows your child to really focus on what’s available.

9. GET DOWN

The thing about a playroom is that it’s meant for tiny people. You might not realize it, but we’re willing to bet there are a few bins you’ve unknowingly placed out of your child’s reach. Or a chair that’s just a little too daunting for your little one to climb up in comfortably. Sit down on the floor and look around the playroom from your child’s perspective. Make sure things are accessible to them and they are comfortable in the space. Foster independence — if they don’t like getting messy, keep a container of baby wipes next to the paints so they can clean themselves up without your help. If they insist on reading the books on the shelf that is just out of their reach, keep a stool nearby. Get down on their level and see what changes you can make.

10. DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION

It’s not going to happen. The caps aren’t going back on the right color marker every time, there will be days that, despite your best efforts, it looks like an artistic, tower-building hurricane ripped through the playroom. You have too much going on in your life to stress out about one room in your house. These tips may be helpful, but might also seem overwhelming. Don’t panic. Choose what works for you and your family. Start small. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

SNOWFLAKES: A GREAT ANALOGY FOR TEACHING CHILDREN THAT IT’S GOOD TO BE UNIQUE

In today’s world, we worry more about fitting in than sticking true to ourselves. Peer acceptance is an especially strong concept among young children. When children are starting school, their priority and the thing they may fear the most is simply making friends. Instead of wearing their favorite shirts and risk having other children make fun of them, our children may be holding back and wear something less themselves to fit in with others. Instead of sharing their favorite movie, they may give in and share a friend’s favorite movie so no one laughs at their opinions.

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It’s important for our little ones to understand that they are talented and what they like or dislike does matter. Their other opinions matter too. Our children should feel comfortable expressing themselves; just as each snowflake is unique, so is each child different from the others. Completing a snowflake activity is a good way to explain this concept.

Gather a stack of white computer paper and cut each sheet to form a perfect square. Once in a square, fold the paper diagonally and then diagonally another three times. Next, cut the tip off, cut out shapes and slits in the paper and then unfold for the final product. Repeat and see how each snowflake is different from the others while each snowflake is itself beautiful.

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We see that no two snowflakes are the same. It’s similar with people; even twins are not exactly the same. Teach your children that it’s okay to be different and to be confident in being different. Your children are more likely to become leaders when they’re confident in themselves, their likes, their dislikes and their overall decisions.

What are some ways your children openly express themselves?

SHARING IS A SIGNIFICANT SKILL FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

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Demonstrating the act of sharing with young children helps them build friendships and create a peaceful playtime with others.

Your children will learn best from what you do, so remember to practice the art of sharing. You are a role model for your little ones. Incorporate sharing in your daily activities with your children by using small examples.

1. Show your children that there is one granola bar left in the box. Explain how all of you are hungry and ask your children what they think you should do.

2. Play games that require taking turns with your children. Watch how well your children do with waiting for their turn and explain how important patience is.

3. Be proactive with your explanations. Instead of waiting to witness that your children are not sharing with a friend, talk with them about how they will need to play nice and share their toys when a friend comes to visit.

Depending on your children’s answers and actions, be sure to explain that all the children may not get what they exactly want, but sharing creates a compromise for everyone involved.

You also could explain the consequences of not sharing. If your children are caught hiding toys from their friends, they should know the consequences. Explain that not sharing may result in not being able to play with any toys for the entire day. However, if they share, although they may not get what they exactly want, they will have more than they had when they started. If they do not share, they will end up without any toys.

5 SIMPLE WAYS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR YOUR SENSITIVE KID

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Sensory smart parenting made easy.

Jayden, an active preschooler, loves the playground. After a few minutes, he’s so revved up that he starts running around, bulldozes over other children in his path, and then digs into the sandbox, spraying his little sister, Jenny, nearby. Jenny starts crying because she hates sand on her skin, and it’s sticking more than usual because she refused to let you properly rub in sunblock. She can’t stand that either. You manage to calm both kids down and head to the supermarket because you forgot to buy frozen spinach cakes, the only vegetable they’ll eat. You bribe them with cookies to behave and grab another brand of spinach cakes because they’re out of the usual one. Maybe they won’t notice? Fortunately, your spouse bathes the kids so you can make dinner, turning up the music to tune out the complaints:

“The bath is too hot!”
“You’re pulling my hair!”
“My pajamas hurt!”
“That music is too LOUD!”

Then you serve dinner. The kids are pleased with the mac n’ cheese at exactly the temperature they like but … the spinach cakes are WRONG. Jenny starts to wail and Jayden calls her a baby. And the nighttime battles begin.

Quirks vs. Sensory Issues?

Do your child’s likes and dislikes make you feel like you’re catering to a cute but impossible dictator? All of us have preferences and intolerances. But there’s a big difference between the endearing quirks that all kids have and sensory issues that make living with children SO very difficult at times.

We all learn through our senses, both the familiar ones—touch, sight, sound, taste and smell—and some that are less well known: vestibular (our sense of movement), proprioception (our internal body awareness), and interoception (our sense of physiological well-being or distress). Sensory processing refers to how we transform all of these sensory messages into useful information so we know what’s going on in the world and with our bodies so we can respond proportionately.

Some of our kids, and some of us, are wired differently. When people have sensory processing issues, their brains do not interpret sensory information accurately and reliably, so their responses may be out of proportion. They may overreact to certain sensory experiences that don’t seem to bother anyone else. They might be hypersensitive, feeling things too intensely and thus overreacting to a tiny scratch or to getting messy with glue or paint. The hypersensitive child might be fussy about clothing or food textures. A child can also be hyposensitive (underreactive), needing a lot of input for it to register in his brain—stuffing his mouth with food to feel it in there, sprawling on the floor during circle time to feel the floor beneath him, or playing too roughly at recess. Many kids have sensory meltdowns when there is too much input to process, as can happen in a busy classroom or crowded store. Fortunately there are “sensory smart” parenting hacks you can use to minimize the effect of these sensitivities.

1.Keep a journal to help you predict and prepare for sensory-related problems.

Write out where the problem happened, what preceded it, the problematic behavior and what seemed to help.

2. Create a visual or written list of the day’s events so your child knows what to expect.

Children (and many adults) feel more confident and capable when they know what’s ahead. If a disliked activity is planned, collaborate on ways to make it more tolerable such as downloading favorite music on your smartphone for your child to hear while she’s sitting in the doctor’s office.

3. Bring a bag of tricks to help your child stay on an even keel.

If you know your child gets fidgety when waiting in line, keep a supply of calming items: an unbreakable show globe, a container of putty, chewing gum and so on. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring sound-reducing earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.

4. Get them moving! Kids need to move, some more than others.

If your child is bouncing off the walls when it’s time to sit down for dinner, plan ahead and have him get intense movement before dinner such as climbing a few sets of stairs, jumping on a mini-trampoline with a safety bar (or a mat on the floor), running laps and so on. If your kid loves screens, put on a gonoodle.com or other online activity that encourages movement. Exercise keeps kids healthy and also generates those feel-good chemicals that keep kids happy too.

5. Take breaks and don’t over-schedule.

We’re all overworked and overbooked these days. We mighy be used to it, and lots of kids thrive on being busy, but sensitive kids need downtime. Keeping it together at school all day among active kids and all of those academic, social and behavioral demands is a lot to ask of a sensitive child. Taking a short restorative break in a quiet, softly lit room or taking a peaceful walk in a park after school can make all the difference!

When to Get Help

Some kids, teens and adults have sensory challenges so significant that they interfere with learning, playing, working—and the ability to parent confidently. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of children have what’s called sensory processing disorder (SPD), including those diagnosed with autism and attention deficits, as well as kids who do not have any other developmental issues. The Sensory Checklist in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which you can also download from sensorysmarts.com, will help you better understand your child’s sensitivities. A pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory challenges can help you create more sensory-friendly environments and routines while, even more importantly, building your child’s ability to better process everyday sensory experiences.

HOW TO UNSCHEDULE YOUR CHILD

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It’s come to this: Doctors are now being told to prescribe play. The American Academy of Pediatrics details the urgency of the matter in a policy statement. There is a play deficit in this country, and we know it, don’t we? In articles about parenting, it seems that there’s no breed dissected more than that of the bubble-wrapped child who’s shuttled from Mandarin to fencing to organic cheese making classes until bedtime. We love reminiscing about the days when we could hop on bikes and meander for hours with the neighborhood kids (few of whose names our parents ever took the time to learn), and yearn for our kids to have that experience. We’ve learned that play enhances brain structure, helps kids practice empathy and makes them more creative and innovative.

And yet it’s strangely difficult to crack some of the structure of children’s lives. I know that I feel some pressure to add more adult instruction to my daughter’s days when I’m handed an inch-thick packet of extracurricular activities by her school teacher (“Ooh, robotics fight club”), or when other parents ask me what her schedule looks like for the fall (“Um, we’ve got Halloween?”), or when I read interviews by musicians and dancers and athletes who mention they started their paths to mastery at age three (“Argh, we’re already too late!”). To back off, it takes some real willpower and planning. Here are some tips for unscheduling your child in today’s overscheduled world.

BE REALISTIC

You don’t need to move to the woods so your kids can frolic in streams all day to give your family more healthy play time. There are benefits of having scheduled activities—higher self-esteem, lower rates of drug and alcohol use over time and social bonds. Some parents of middle schoolers told me that having their kids deeply involved in extracurriculars they love is what has kept them mostly safe during a time of peer pressure and emotional disarray.

The goal here is simply to protect your kids’ downtime. Denise Pope, one of the authors of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, tells the New York Times that young children need an hour of play time (which does not include dinner or homework or baths) for every after-school scheduled hour. You might set a rule for your kids such as one sport or activity per season. (I’ve decided to put my daughter in another voice class, which she absolutely loves.) You have to find the right balance for your family.

START WITH A GOOD PLAYTIME SETTING

Dr. Robert Murray, the lead author of the AAP report The Crucial Role of Recess, tells me, “Parents can absolutely help their child find safe, interesting environments for them to explore—but it’s important to let him or her self-direct.” He suggests playgrounds, beaches and streams, woods and parks, fields, the zoo, local farms or indoor spaces where kids can pretend play with peers. Wherever you choose to go, step back and give them some “BE Time,” which he describes as the antidote to parent-directed activities.

At home, give kids access to open-ended materials to tinker with, even stuff you might see as junkBlocks are always awesome, but so are random pieces of string, aluminum foil, masking tape, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and emptied shampoo bottles.

PREPARE FOR THE SUCK

Realize that it’s sometimes hard to give kids downtime. On weekends, the first thing my daughter asks when she wakes up is “Where are we going today?” When I tell her nowhere, she whines and declares that is so boring. And then parent-friends will start texting me: “What are you up to today? Wanna bring the kids to library story time? Or princess ballet class? Or go watch a movie?”And I often want to say “Yes!” It would be easy to strap my kid into the car and do any one of those things. But it’s good to sometimes say no. I know that my daughter’s groans will eventually turn to silence, and as I do my own thing around the house, I’ll often find her cheerfully playing with her dollhouse or making something out of a cardboard box or drawing with chalk in the backyard.

Put white space on your calendar and prepare for some protests. Then find something to do and let your kids do the same.

CONNECT WITH OTHER BACK-OFF PARENTS

Some parents are finding that as much as they want to unschedule their kids, there’s a problem: Their children have no one to play with. Playgrounds are barren as every other kid is off at chess or tae kwon do at 3:30 PM. A project called Let Grow is addressing that issue, connecting local parents who want to give their kids more independence by doing less for them. You can sign up to find nearby families.

Once you find other likeminded moms and dads, you might consider setting up a play street, in which community members transform a residential city block a car-free space for children and families to play together, say, either weekly or monthly, or lobby schools to start their own play clubs, in which they keep their gyms or playgrounds open till dinnertime for self-directed free play.

It’s true that unscheduling kids takes a lot more work than it did years ago. But after doing it, you may very well find that your family will be less stressed and happier. And plus, it’s the doctor’s orders.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR KID’S TEACHER WANTS TO TALK ABOUT BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

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Be ready to listen and help create a plan.

A creeping feeling of dread comes the first time the teacher reaches out. Early in the school year, the teacher pulls you aside or sends an email saying,“Can we find some time to talk?” Most parents know in the back of their mind some behavior challenges are on the horizon, but don’t know how they’ll manifest in school. As a parent, the conversations that follow can be daunting. But you can do your child, and yourself, a world of good if you hone in on what your child’s teacher is saying. Here are five steps to engage with your teacher in the most productive way possible.

1. Don’t Panic

The teacher isn’t judging you. She isn’t judging your child. In fact, everybody involved is aligned on the same goal: how can we create the best possible experience for this child? Of course, you’re going to have anxiety over the wellbeing of your child, so it’s not easy to put it aside. But in its place, view the conversation as an invitation to start a dialogue. Until you have more information, you don’t want to make assumptions about the road ahead.

2. Listen

Your teacher spends a lot of time with your child, especially in the early grades. Teachers know your child and want to see him succeed. As the conversation begins with your teacher, gather as much information as you can. Ask her to be specific about the behaviors that have been observed, and why they are concerning. Here are some specific questions you can ask:

  • How big of a problem is this? The teacher could simply be telling you about a single challenging episode, just so you know, with no long-term plan of action necessary. Or, they could be clueing you into a more significant problem.
  • What is the nature of the problem? It could be things like trouble with transitions, or aggression.
  • Should we be pulling in more resources? There are many things a school can do to help a kid who is struggling, including specific supports at school (sometimes called Response to Intervention or RTI) all the way to arranging for an evaluation for your child. An evaluation is a more significant step, but also opens up doors to increased aid and professional services your child may be entitled to. Schools are responsible for creating learning environments for all students.
  • What supports might help at home? The teacher will have some ideas about tools and methods that might work at home. Even better, they can match the system at school.

3. Build a Team and Stay Positive

Everyone wants your child to succeed. If you get defensive, it makes the team less productive. If the teacher is helping you understand the onset of more complex issues, the two of you are going to have to work together to communicate with doctors and insurance. You’ll want to plot out strategies and understand how you can navigate your specific school to create the best environment possible for your child. Your teacher isn’t blaming you and wants to work with you. Complex problems are going to mean stepping into a world of increased supports with a catacomb-like vocabulary. Your teacher and the school staff have been there before. At the point you get here, you’ll also want to turn to your pediatrician, and start thinking about additional professional services (like a psychologist or clinical social worker).

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to talk to school staff with trust. While you shouldn’t give up on re-establishing that trust, there are members of your community you can turn to. Many communities will have a SEPAC (special education parent advisory council) that can help. A special education advocate can also be a starting point, since they’ll know the system. Finding a local advocate is usually as simple as turning to your local parent community (a Facebook group in your hometown) and asking for recommendations.

4. Follow Up

Once a teacher alerts you there’s a problem, try to check in after you first talk. This is going to be the first clue on how seriously the teacher takes the problem. If the check-in suggests everyone has moved on, that’s great. If the teacher is talking about supports that have been put in place and how everyone is responding to them, then you have a clue they view the challenges as something that will persist. If supports are ongoing, try to keep checking in, and see how things are progressing. Even if your child is receiving supports, you should still expect progress. Schools are getting better about taking data and should be able to tell you how things are going.

5. Find Ways to Support Your Child in the Home

You can extend your child’s learning into your home. What this looks like will depend on what challenges you’re facing. Your teacher might have some recommendations, or you could echo the supports being used in the classroom. If you’ve reached out to your doctor, then they might have some ideas as well. I personally tend to recommend methods that reward kids’ innate drive to learn through exploration. At some level, we all know we’re not going to be able to reason kids through behavioral challenges. But we can tap into experiential learning. Sports can do this; some kids find a place where they latch onto the teamwork aspect. Surprisingly, video games can sometimes pull off the same trick, especially if the family can play together and develop ways to cooperate.

Jason Kahn PhD is a dad, Researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Co-founder & Chief Science Officer at Mightier. Mightier uses the power of bioresponsive games to help kids build and practice calming skills to meet real-world challenges.

MY TOP 5 SCHOOL STAIN REMOVAL HACKS

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Marker pen, gravy and glue. If I had $1 for every time the oldest comes home from school wearing one or all three of those items I would be significantly richer than I am now.

The question is: how best to remove them?


stain removal hacks

If you’ve got one or more kids at school like me you’ll know stains go with the territory – ranging from the innocent to the best-not-think-about-it downright suspicious. My attitude to these stains ranges from the ‘must remove said stain immediately’ to the ‘it can wait until the weekend’ sort of a stain, depending on where we are in the working week, and indeed the school year.


stain removal hacks

I’ve acquired quite an armoury of products to deal with these stains, and I’m a sucker for new ones to help in the constant battle too. So, what’s in my armoury at the moment? A month into the new school year and with half term rapidly approaching I thought now would be a good time to share my top 5 school stain removal hacks.

My top 5 school stain removal hacks

1. Whiteboard marker

Now blackboards have been superseded by whiteboards there’s a new stain in town: the dreaded whiteboard marker. They come in every colour of the rainbow and in our school the kids are allowed and even encouragedto use them. Who in their right mind lets a child loose with a marker pen? Sadly, they don’t simply wipe off their school uniform like they do the whiteboard, either.

The solution:

Hairspray. Put kitchen roll under the item of clothing and area of the stain, then spray it within an inch of its life. Blot the stain and repeat the process until the stain is gone, then wash as normal.


stain removal hacks

2. Code brown

Yes, I am talking number twos (not whole ones, but marks left by them). I don’t know what it is about school compared with home (I’m pretty sure tracing paper loo roll was outlawed years ago) but I regularly find tyre marks in undercrackers (don’t worry, I’ll spare you a picture).

The solution:

ACE for Colours. I love a new find and ACE is one of my latest – if you haven’t heard of ACE for Colours before it’s a liquid stain remover (£2) with an ‘8+ system’ designed to tackle stubborn stains including ‘body soils’, which is a polite way of saying code brown. Just fill the dosing cap with ACE, stick it in the machine on top of the offending item and bingo: tyre marks have vanished.


stain removal hacks

3. Gravy

What do they put in school gravy? My goodness the stuff sticks! Roast dinner is on Thursdays where we are, and you can put money on the oldest coming home with a splattered front and dipped cuffs. Owing to the fact it’s Thursday you could just leave it (no-one’s spotlessly clean on a Friday, right?) but if you really can’t stand it or gravy is served up earlier in the week there is an answer.

The solution:

ACE Stain Remover, which I discovered alongside ACE for Colours. There’s no need for a full wash and dry for this one, a simple sponge down will do: just spray some ACE stain remover directly onto a sponge or cloth and apply it to the gravy stain. As well as taking away the stain it also takes away the smell – leaving a fresh one in its place!


stain removal hacks

4. Grass

If they play on a field grass stains are inevitable, the question is what’s the best way to tackle them? Forget washing uniform over and over again in the vain hope the stains will eventually fade – there’s a far easier solution.

The solution:

White vinegar and baking soda – and a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease. Pour the vinegar into a bowl, soak the stain (or stains – there’s never just one, is there) for 10 minutes, then remove from the bowl. Dip an old toothbrush in the vinegar, and then dip it in the baking soda. Using a circular motion scrub the stain with the toothbrush until it’s gone, then wash as normal. It really works, I promise!


stain removal hacks

5. Glue

Remember that glue we used to have when we were at school that peeled off when it dried? Well they don’t appear to use that anymore. I don’t know what type of glue it is but what I do know is that they use it a lot and it doesn’t come off easily. Even worse, it sometimes contains glitter (and I hate glitter).

The solution:

Cold water and liquid laundry detergent. Make sure the glue is completely dry, then scrape off as much as you can. Soak the item of clothing in cold water overnight, then massage liquid laundry detergent into the stain. Wash as normal at your usual temperature, et voila!


stain removal hacks

Do you have any school stain removal hacks? I’d love to know what they are – the weirder the better!

 

This article was written by crummymummy1 from Confessions of a Crummy Mummy and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.