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Archive for September, 2014

Five Simple Ways to Raise a Reader

Child-ReadingIt’s been said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Reading strengthens children’s analytical thinking skills, improves their memories and expands their vocabulary. Reading is also an excellent way to reduce stress. But how do you raise a reader? Here’s how:

1. Establish a story time. Ask your child to pick out a book and read it to him while he snuggles with you on the couch. Make time every day to read an age-appropriate book to him. He will remember the time you spent together even if he forgets the stories. 

2. Share your faves. Have favorite books from your childhood? Pick out a few, read them to your child and see if any of them click. She might not love all of them, but chances are that she will probably go wild for some of them. After all, books like Green Eggs and Ham and Curious George are classics for a reason.

3. Explore an author’s works. Did your child love Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice? Find Maurice Sendak’s other books and read them to him. If you aren’t familiar with the author’s other works, you can ask your local librarian or do some research on the Internet to find additional titles.

4. Let one passion inspire another. Find books that speak to your child’s interests. Does she like animals? Check out a Berenstain Bears book from the local library. Is your little one into trucks? Get some books about construction. Got a baseball fan?  Well, you get the idea.

5. Lead by example. Encourage your child to be a voracious reader by showing him that you are a voracious reader. Planning weekly trips to the library with him, taking him to your local bookstore on a regular basis and designating a special story time will show him that you make reading a priority. 

First Birthday Party Ideas

baby-girlA first birthday is a big deal; well any birthday for our children is a big deal.  First birthday parties can be as extravagant and whimsical as our imagination will allow, but really do not have to break the bank. It is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of our child and their first amazing year of life – full of growth, milestones and fun. Here are some ideas for birthday themes that can be simple to put together.

Ships Ahoy Nautical Theme

  • Grab blue and white thick-striped fabric and red felt. Cut out the letters of your child’s name (or initials) in the red felt and glue or sew onto the striped fabric as a backdrop to the treats table. Affix it to the wall with removable hanging strips;
  • Build a big cardboard box sailboat with items you have laying around at home (cardboard box, old pillow case or leftover fabric, a broomstick, etc.) and let the children set sail;
  • Craft a lifesaver using a white foam craft ring and thick red ribbon for a decorative welcome sign;
  • Use blue and white striped fabric for tablecloths and red and white for placemats or napkins;
  • Spread seashells and miniature sailboats across the center of tables for fun décor;
  • Make shortbread cookies in the shape of seashells, crabs, anchors and any other nautical themed cookie cutters you can find. Ice them with white icing and sprinkle with blue sprinkles;
  • Give small blue or red plastic buckets and shovels as favors. You can use permanent marker in blue or red to write a note or the child’s name on the side of the bucket and include a sample of your nautical shortbread cookies;
  • Have goldfish snacks in a fish bowl with a small sand shovel as the scoop.

Ice Cream Social – for the child who loves ice cream

  • Bake cupcakes, once cooled, pop them out of the cupcake liner and into the top of an ice cream cone (some shaping may be needed to fit the cupcake into the ice cream cone). Then ice the top with homemade icing or dip in melted white chocolate and cover with sprinkles. Let cool in the refrigerator top down on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper so the icing/chocolate hardens;
  • Grab a white t-shirt or onesie and find an ice cream cone iron-on.  Once the iron-on is affixed to the shirt, set aside this cute little T for the big birthday boy or girl;
  • Use small fruit baskets like the ones you see at the farmer’s market as containers for your ice cream sundae station toppings.  Make sure you put a spoon in each for easy scooping. Liquid toppings could go in mason jars;
  • Place waffle cones filled with special treats that won’t melt and place in a favor bag closed with a twist tie.  Send each child home with one.
  • Create a pin the cherry on the ice cream cone game.

Winter ONEderland – for a winter baby or if you’re dreaming of snow and cold, winter air

  • Have mugs setup and ready to go with mini marshmallows and hot cocoa mix (for summer, pre-make iced hot cocoa);
  • Have a large coffee maker ready with a pot of hot water for the hot cocoa. (adult supervision needed here);
  • Make a snowflake garland with white or shiny vellum paper and twine;
  • Play pin the carrot nose on the snowman;
  • Make a snowman sheet cake;
  • Give small, plastic snow globes as party favors;
  • Use small foam craft balls as snowballs on top of fake snow for decoration;
  • Make snowflake and snowman PB & J sandwiches with cookie cutters;
  • Write “Thank you SNOW much for celebrating my birthday with me!” on the favor bags or on a large sign hung on party guest’s way out.

What did you do or do you plan to do for your child’s first birthday party?

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

  • Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.
  • Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.
  • Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.
  • Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year.  Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.
  • Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.

Celebrating Grandparents

National Grandparents Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day every year.  With well over 25 million more grandparents today than in 1980*, it is a holiday worth observing. Grandparents all over the country help care for their grandchildren, and they deserve to be recognized for the support they provide to their families.

Celebrate National Grandparents Day with some creative activities and gifts.

  • Create an ecard online. Ask your children to help you choose the card and compose a message;
  • Help your children write a note or draw a picture for their grandparents. You can also send a photo of your children with their grandparents. Add a stamp and address the envelope, and have your children place the note in the mailbox;
  • Help your little one craft a one-of-a-kind piece of art for their grandparents. You can even buy a frame for the artwork and present it to Grandma and/or Grandpa;
  • Bake something special for your children’s grandparents. If they have a favorite treat or snack, your little chefs can help you whip up something sweet for their grandparents. Wrap it up in a nice tin or container;
  • Schedule some one-on-one time for your little ones to bond with their grandparents. Grandparents love nothing more than uninterrupted time with their grandchildren.

Reading is another excellent way to share stories and bond. Here are some special books to share with your children’s grandparents:

  • Your Mommy Was Just Like You written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by David Walker – Children wonder what their parents were like when they were young. In this story, a grandmother tells her granddaughter what her mother was like as a child.
  • You’re Lovable to Me written by Kat Yeh and illustrated by Sue Anderson – This story illustrates that parents’ love never wanes, no matter how young or old their children are.
  • One Love adapted by Cedella Marley and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton – This story adapts Bob Marley’s lyrics into a story about a family, including a grandmother, that works with the local community to build a park where everyone can play and enjoy the outdoors.
  • You’re Going to Be a Grandma! written by Deborah Zupancic and illustrated by Joel Grothaus – This book lets a grandmother-to-be record important information about her new grandchild.
  • Grandpa Green by Lane Smith – This special story is about a grandfather who may be losing his memory and his grandson bonding over the topiary garden the grandfather has lovingly maintained for many years.
  • Here Comes Grandma! by Janet Lord – This book whimsically illustrates the lengths a grandmother will go to see her grandchild.
  • The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka – This book is written from the perspective of a little girl whose grandparents are her caregivers. This book is great for grandparents to share with their grandchildren, especially if they often look after their grandchildren.

Make celebrating your children’s grandparents and yours an annual tradition.  While we may show our appreciation for them every day, National Grandparents Day gives us a special opportunity to show them extra love and attention and teach our children about the importance of respecting their elders.

*Source: The MetLife Report on American Grandparents