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Archive for November, 2018

9 Wholesome Recipes Made Fun for Kids

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Kids will love preparing these foods as much as they will eating them.

Getting your kids to eat healthy can be tricky. Which is why Shannon Seip and Kelly Parthen, the duo behind Bean Sprouts Cafe, created playful and imaginative meals that get children excited about eating healthy. In their new cookbook Bean Sprouts Kitchen, Shannon and Kelly share 60 recipes the whole family can prepare and enjoy together. Bean Sprouts Kitchen comes out November 6, 2018, but you can make nine of their fun and wholesome meals any day.

Grilledzilla

Make sure the ends of googly-eyed Grilledzilla’s mouth are pointing up in a slight smile, so he doesn’t scare anyone away.

Cooking spray
2 slices cheddar cheese
¼ cup (30 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 zucchini rounds
2 olive slices

  1. Preheat skillet over medium heat.
  2. Spray cooking spray on one slice of bread. Flip over and layer one slice of cheddar, shredded mozzarella, and the other slice of cheddar cheese. Top with other slice of bread and spray the top slice of bread with cooking spray.
  3. Grill sandwich in pan until lightly browned and flip over; continue grilling until cheese is melted.
  4. Cut a zigzag line through the bottom third of the sandwich. Place zucchini rounds at the top of the sandwich and top with olives for eyes.

Bean appétit!

Makes 1 Grilledzilla

Bean There, Ate That
Give your Grilledzilla some zip with these additional combos:
• Turkey + Mayonnaise + Cheddar cheese + Apple slices
• Grilled chicken slices + BBQ sauce + Gruyere cheese

Dino S’mores

 

Dino S'mores

 

Your whole family can work together to create this edible prehistoric scene.

Photo: The Quarto Group

We’ve found chocolate to be a much friendlier tar pit for our prehistoric pals.

¾ cup (94 g) whole wheat flour
½ cup (63 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (28 g) ground flax meal
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup (56 g) butter, softened
¼ cup (60 g) packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons (60 g) honey
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 ml) milk (of your choice)
1 cup (175 g) chocolate chips
2 green pears

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Waxed paper
Rolling pin
Dinosaur cookie cutters
Child scissors

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Mix the flours, flax meal, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla extract until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add milk. Stir until blended.
  4. Place dough on a piece of waxed paper. Flatten into a big circle and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  5. On a floured surface, roll the dough to about ¼-inch (6 mm) thick. Press the dinosaur cookie cutters in the dough. Place shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.
  6. Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Spoon 2 tablespoons (28 g) of melted chocolate on a small piece of waxed paper and quickly place a dinosaur upright in each chocolate glob.
  7. Place the dinosaurs and chocolate in the freezer, until the chocolate hardens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully peel off the chocolate tar pits from the waxed paper and stand dinosaurs upright on a plate.
  8. Cut pears into slices, and cut slices into tree shapes for the background. Use the pear slices in place of marshmallows for fruit-filled s’mores.

Makes 10 to 12 Dino S’mores

Behind the beans
Many of the science centers and museums where Bean Sprouts cafés are located offer dinosaur exhibits. We even call our fossil friends Bean Names, like “Pea-Rex,” “Tri-Carrot Tops,” and “Eggasaurus.”

Xylofun

 

Xylofun

 

This sweet tasting dish will have your child forgetting they’re eating vegetables.

Photo: The Quarto Group

Try multicolored carrots to make this dish really ring.

Cooking spray
8 carrots
1½ teaspoons (7 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure maple syrup
⅛ teaspoon salt
12 capers
2 pitted olives (optional)
Cooking spray

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Pastry brush (optional)
Lollipop sticks (optional)
Child scissors

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the carrots. Carefully slice in halves lengthwise.
  3. Mix the butter and maple syrup in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to brush the mixture on both sides of the carrots. Place the carrots rounded side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
  4. Place the two largest carrot halves, rounded side down, turned inwards at a slight angle, like you’re making a “greater than” math sign. Balance remaining carrots flat side up across the two large, angled carrots.
  5. Trim the ends of the carrots with the scissors so they don’t extend beyond the bottom carrots. Place a caper on the end of each carrot key.
  6. If desired, place an olive on the end of each lollipop stick for mallets.

Bean appétit!

Makes 2 Xylofuns

Broctopus

 

Broctopus

 

A fun way to get your child to finish their broccoli.

Photo: The Quarto Group

Place the tot upright and surround with 8 legs. Dip the sea creature into ranch dressing or ketchup or enjoy plain.

2 cups (142 g) steamed broccoli florets
¼ cup (40 g) diced white or yellow onion
2 tablespoons (8 g) chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
⅔ cup (33 g) panko breadcrumbs
⅓ cup (38 g) shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Parchment paper
Pastry brush (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Add broccoli, onion, and parsley to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add salt, egg, panko breadcrumbs, and cheese to the food processor and pulse until incorporated.
  3. Use your hands to roll 1½ tablespoons (17 g) of mixture into a tot shape. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat three times for a total of four tots.
  4. Use the rest of the mixture to create 4 sets of 8 Broctopus legs (32 legs total) on the parchment paper. Form skinny legs and pinch to create curves.
  5. Use the pastry brush or your finger to brush extra-virgin olive oil on the tops of all the pieces. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, without flipping the pieces over.
  6. Place the tot upright and surround with 8 legs. Dip the sea creature into ranch dressing or ketchup or enjoy plain.

Bean appétit!

Makes 4 Broctopi

Under the Z

 

Under the Z

 

A healthy alternative to your typical pancake.

Photo: The Quarto Group

This silly use of zucchini noodles brings the “z” to under the sea.

Cooking spray
2 cups (240 g) spiral zucchini noodles plus 16 to 20 zucchini noodles
½ cup (40 g) shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg¼ cup
(31 g) flour

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Round waffle maker

  1. Preheat the waffle maker. Lightly coat the iron with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, blend the 2 cups (240 g) spiral zucchini noodles, Parmesan cheese, egg, and flour. Pour into the waffle maker and spread evenly across the surface sothe mixture reaches the edges of the iron.
  3. While the waffle is cooking, place the remaining zucchini noodles on the bottom halves of two plates.
  4. Remove the waffle and cut in half. Place each waffle half at the top of the noodles to create the jellyfish.

Bean appétit!

Makes 2 jellyfish

Note
You can use store-bought zucchini noodles or make your own if you have a spiralizer. Or cut zucchini into long, thin noodle-like strips (a mandoline works great for this)

Dare-Deviled Eggs

 

Dare-Deviled Eggs

 

A perfect way to introduce kale into your child’s diet.

Photo: The Quarto Group

If only all deviled eggs had the moxie of these go-getters!

3 large kale leaves
1 tablespoon
(15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
¼ cup (60 g) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
12 thin red bell pepper slices, about ½ inch long (13 mm)

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Child scissors
Toothpick

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Use the child scissors to cut one of the kale leaves until you have ⅓ cup (22 g) little confetti-like pieces. Set aside.
  3. With the other large kale leaves, cut 6 triangle shapes for capes, about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 cm to 10 cm) long. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to coat both sides of the capes with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.
  4. Cut a tiny slice off the bottoms of the wide ends of each egg so they can stand up. Cut off the top third of each egg and carefully remove the yolks and place in a small bowl.
  5. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and kale confetti and stir until blended. Carefully spoon the egg yolk mixture back into the hollowed-out eggs.
  6. Use a toothpick to poke 2 small holes in the top of each egg white and push in 2 red pepper pieces for horns.
  7. Carefully press the short end of each baked kale cape onto the top of the egg yolk mixture so that it’s “flying” straight out. Top with the smaller piece of the hard-boiled egg.

Bean appétit!

Makes 6 Dare-Deviled Eggs

Note
Try serving the Dare-Deviled Eggs on top of tall, clear cups turned upside down, so it looks like they’re flying.

Spagiggles

 

Spagiggles

 

Great with spaghetti or all on their own.

Photo: The Quarto Group

Unleash your inner stylist with these sassy bites.

¼ cup (35 g) cooked spaghetti
2 teaspoons (10 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 turkey-black bean meatballs, warmed (from Mash of the Penguins, page 25)
Marinara sauce or your favorite pasta sauce for dipping

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Child scissors (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Toss the cooked spaghetti with the olive oil, garlic powder, and salt until evenly coated.
  3. Use child scissors or your fingers to pinch off the spaghetti strands into different lengths. Place the noodles on a foil-lined baking sheet in whatever hairstyles you like—curlicues, spikes, etc. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Let cool slightly. Fix the spaghetti hair onto the meatballs and serve with your favorite pasta sauce for dipping.

Bean appétit!

Makes 12 stylin’ meatballs

Bean There, Ate That
Try using the noodles to create stick figures for your Spagiggles.

Crocamole

 

Crocamole

 

A snack that’s delicious and safe for anyone who’s gluten free.

Photo: The Quarto Group

This croc pot is delightful for dipping veggies.

1 avocado, sliced in half lengthwise
½ cup (113 g) hummus
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 zucchini rounds, plus more for dipping
4 olive slices
14 matchstick carrots
Other favorite veggies for dipping, such as baby carrots or celery sticks

  1. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado pulp and place in a bowl. Set avocado skins aside.
  2. Add the hummus and lemon juice to the bowl and use a fork to mash ingredients until smooth.
  3. Scoop the green hummus back into the avocado skins. Place 2 zucchini rounds and olive slices in the hummus at the wider end of each avocado skin for eyes. Add carrot matchsticks at the narrow end for teeth.
  4. Enjoy with your favorite veggie dippers.

Bean appétit!

Makes 2 Crocamoles

Spaceadilla

 

Spaceadilla

 

The jicama adds a little sweetness to this dish.

Photo: The Quarto Group

Silly shapes of crunchy veggies blast this dish to infinity and beyond.

4 flour tortillas
½ cup (58 g) shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup (113 g) shredded rotisserie chicken
¼ cup (65 g) salsa (optional)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 small jicama
12 olive slices
1 each red and orange bell pepper
1 can (16-ounce or 455 g) refried black beans, warmed

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Child scissors
Mini star and moon cookie cutters

  1. Use the child scissors to cut out 8 identical rocket shapes from the tortillas. On 4 of the rocket shapes, evenly divide the shredded cheese and chicken. Top with salsa, if desired, and the remaining tortillas.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add extra-virgin olive oil. Carefully add the rockets to the skillet. Cook until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. While the rockets are cooking, cut the jicama into thin slices. Use the mini cutters to cut 16 to 20 stars and moons. Use the child scissors to cut flame shapes from orange and red bell peppers.
  4. Use the back of a spoon to spread the warmed refried beans across 4 plates. Place a rocket quesadilla in the middle of each plate. Add pepper flames at the bottom of the rocket and olive slices in the center for portholes. Add jicama stars and moons on the refried beans.

Bean appétit!

Makes 4 Spaceadillas

 

Bean Sprouts Kitchen

Bean Sprouts Kitchen

Beat Sprouts Kitchen by Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen

Photo: The Quarto Group

 

This article was written by Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Five Ways to Encourage Children to Give Back

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Part of being a good citizen includes giving back to the community and the world at large. Here are five ways to encourage children to be charitable.

1. Start small. Rake the leaves in an elderly neighbor’s yard, take food to an ailing relative or just hold the door for someone. These deeds show your child that small acts of kindness can make a big difference.

2. Donate clothes and toys. Go through your child’s closet and toy chest and ask him which items he would like to donate, and then take him to an organization that accepts donations of clothes and toys. You can even make this a regular habit.

3. Participate in local drives. Whether it is a bake sale, canned food drive or other charitable initiative, get involved while enlisting the help of your child.

4. Build on your child’s interests. For example, if your child shows an interest in cooking, you and he can volunteer at a soup kitchen when he is old enough. If your child likes animals, you can donate gently used items, such as pet beds and grooming tools, to your local animal shelter. You should contact your local shelter first to find out what items it accepts.

5. Select a charity to support. Ask your child how she would like to change the world. Based on her answer, select a charity to support regularly. If she wants to help find a cure for cancer, you can raise money for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. If she wants to help find homes for people who do not have them, you can volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

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.


Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

 

This article was written by Lindsey Biel from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

GODDARD SCHOOL PRESCHOOLERS HAND-PICK THEIR TOP 10 TOYS FOR THE 2018 HOLIDAY SEASON

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Goddard Systems, Inc. (GSI), franchisor of The Goddard School®, a leader in early childhood education franchises focused on learning through play for children six weeks to six years old, recently conducted its eleventh annual Preschooler-Approved Toy Test. Preschoolers, teachers and early childhood education experts across the United States tested the most innovative educational toys on the market, and GSI is eager to announce their top 10 educational toys for 2018.

 

Fifty Goddard Schools received 30 of 2018’s hottest toys for ages six weeks to six years old that were chosen by Goddard Systems’ Toy Test Committee out of dozens of submissions received from toy manufacturers around the globe. With the help of their teachers, the preschoolers played with, critiqued and selected their favorite toys, and GSI compiled the results.

 

The following are the Top 10 Preschooler-Approved Toys for 2018.

 

  • VTech Touch and Discover: Sensory Turtle (3+ months)
  • Mirari Shellby Snail (9+ months)
  • Leap Frog Learning Friends: 100 Words Book (18+ months)
  • SMARTMAX My First Farm Animal (1-5 years)
  • SMARTMAX My First Tractor Set (1-5 years)
  • Peaceable Kingdom Acorn Soup (2+ years)
  • Popular Playthings Magnetic Mix or Match Animals (2+ years)
  • Popular Playthings Magnetic Mix or Match Vehicles (3+ years)
  • Basic Fun Lite Brite (4+ years)
  • PlayMonster Don’t Rock the Boat (5+ years)

 

“The Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy Test offers a fun and educational experience to help children develop important, lifelong skills through play-based learning,” said Dr. Craig Bach, GSI’s vice president of education. “The children explored, experimented with and evaluated a range of classic, creative and STEAM-based toys from leading manufacturers and then chose their favorites.”

 

The public can now vote for the best toy by visiting The Goddard School’s Toy Test page from Nov. 1 to 12. GSI will purchase 100 units of the winning toy and donate them to Toys for Tots, a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that distributes holiday gifts to less-fortunate children in the community.

 

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 junk. Blocks 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.

 

This article was written by shared by Michelle Woo to Lifehacker and Michelle Woo on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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.

 

This article was written by Jason Kahn PhD from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.