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Archive for February, 2019

Create a Playday Jar

play-dateHow many times have your children expressed how bored they are on a day off from School? On certain days of the school year, your children may not have school, but you still need to work. A lot of companies are flexible with work from home hours, but this still requires you to focus at home, which can be difficult with a toddler or preschooler running around.

Consider sitting down with your children and brainstorming ideas for the days when your little ones have off, but when mom and dad still need to work. Write the ideas on individual pieces of paper and place them in a jar. On the days when your children complain about being bored, ask them to choose an activity from the jar. When coming up with ideas, keep in mind that these activities should not require much adult attention so you can do your work.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Create a picture book for them to read to mom or dad at the end of the workday.

2. Complete a puzzle.

3. Work on an activity book like a coloring book, a Find the Difference activity or an I Spy activity.

4. Use old shoe boxes or packing boxes to create an invention. Provide various materials for your children to be creative, such as string, glue sticks and crayons.

What are some ideas that you give to your children when they are bored?

Peanut-Free Snacks for School

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A peanut allergy is a serious thing and it’s become increasingly common, so more and more schools are starting to play it safe by prohibiting peanuts in kids’ lunches and snacks. Keeping lunchtime truly safe for all kids requires more than just taking old standbys like PB&J off the menu. But it’s hard to know what’s safe to send, especially when confusing labeling and sometimes unclear manufacturing practices make navigating the murky waters of allergy-safe snack foods especially tricky.

Fortunately, there are tons of yummy lunchbox-friendly packaged snacks on the market that are totally peanut-free, meaning they weren’t made with peanuts OR manufactured in a plant where peanuts have been used.

To make things super easy on you, we’ve taken the guesswork out of figuring out which packaged snacks you can and can’t send into a peanut-free lunchroom, with a monster list of goodies—some tried and true, some brand new—all of which are totally peanut-free and delicious.

Cheesy snacks:

These are so often a hit and the ever-popular Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, Cheese Nips, and Kraft Handi-snacks are all peanut-free and available in convenient single-serve packages. Another cheesy winner is Pirate Booty, a cheese-dusted puffed rice and corn snack made by Pirate Brands, which also puts out several other yummy nut-free snacks, such as Veggie Booty, Tings, Smart Puffs, and Soy Crisps.

Chips:

While we can’t really endorse snacking on potato chips every day, we also can’t deny that sometimes there’s just nothing better than a salty chip. Several varieties of Utz, Wise, Herr’s, Cape Cod, Pringles, and Ruffles potato chips are peanut-free, including plain/original and BBQ (check the packaging on other flavors).

For an equally delicious and super nutritious chip choice, check out Beanfields bean and rice tortilla chips, available in 1.5 oz single serve bags. They’re full of protein and fiber and come in seven yummy flavors (Sea Salt, Nacho, Pico de Gallo, Barbecue, Ranch, Salt & Pepper, and Unsalted). And no need to worry about peanuts—they’re so careful about contamination at Beanfields they don’t even let their team read Peanuts comics in the break room.

Applesauce and Packaged Fruit:

Of course, we all know that fresh fruit is an ideal choice when it comes to healthy snacking, but there are times when prepackaged produce just works better on the go. Motts individual packages of applesauce, GoGo Squeez pouches, and fruit cups by DelMonte, are all sweet peanut-free options. We also love the convenience, crunch, and fruity deliciousness of Crispy Green freeze-dried fruit. With fun flavors like Asian pear, cantaloupe, and tangerine (as well as the usual suspects, including apple and banana) it’s a fun, peanut-free way to snack.

Pretzels:

A school snack staple, pretzels are a great, safe option for a peanut-free lunchroom. Many popular brands such as Newman’s Own, PepperidgeFarm, Herr’s, Utz, Bachman, and Rold Gold are peanut-free and come in convenient lunch-sized packaging.

For a fun twist (get it?) on pretzel snacking, try Pretzilla soft pretzel bites. Available in a 12.3 oz tub or convenient 4 oz single-serve packages, they’re a great choice on their own or paired with a nut-free dip, such as hummus, ranch dip, or alongside Sunbutter’s on the go single cups (it smells like peanut butter, it spreads like peanut butter, it even tastes a whole lot like peanut butter—no wonder it’s the only non-peanut butter that’s part of the national school lunch system). Pretzilla also makes mini buns, which are perfect for snack-sized sandwiches.

Popcorn:

Whole grain, high fiber, and super munchable, popcorn rarely fails the kid test. Individual-sized bags in tons of flavors from brands like Utz, Herr’s, Smartfood, Divvies, and SkinnyPop are handy, school-safe lunchbox toss-ins. And popcorn chips, which are more or less what they sound like—popcorn turned into a chip (well, kind of; they’re corn chips that are air-popped)—are also a great nut-free snack option for popcorn lovers. Look for Popcorners, Safe + Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips, and My Super Pops, adorable mini popcorn chips in Honey BBQ, White Cheddar, and Kettle from newcomer My Super Foods, a company founded and run by two moms, who were inspired to create nourishing snacks for their own children.

Bars:

Granola bars and snack bars are such a no-brainer when it comes to packing snacks for the school day. They’re portable, single-serve, and usually chock-full of fiber, protein, and healthy fat. But, more often than not, they’re a veritable nut fest or, at the very least, are manufactured near other products that contain nuts.

So what kind of granola bars or snack bars are okay for nut-free snacking? Lots, as it turns out! Cascadian Farm Granola Bars (Chocolate Chip or Vanilla Chip), Don’t Go Nuts Energy Bars (Boogie Board Bash, Gorilla Power, Whitewater Chomp, Blueberry Blast, Celestial Campout, Lift Service), Enjoy Life Baked Chewy Bars and Soft Baked Bars (Caramel Apple, Mixed Berry, Sunseed Crunch, Cocoa Loco, Caramel Blondie, Carrot Cake, Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed), Made Good Granola Bars (Mixed Berry, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Banana, Apple Cinnamon, Strawberry), and Envirokidz Granola Bars and Crispy Rice Bars (Strawberry, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate, Berry Blast) to name but a few!

Zego, another company offering tons of snack bars, including Fruit + Chia Bars (Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry), Just Fruit Bars (Blueberry, Cherry, Pear, Raspberry, Strawberry), and Organic Seed + Fruit Bar (Apple Cinnamon, Fudgy Chocolate, Lemon Ginger, Sunflower Date) not only excludes the most common allergens from all of their products, they also test every batch at the end of production for traces of allergens and pesticides. They even include a QR code on all of their packaging that consumers can scan to see results of their testing.

Dairy Snacks:

 Yogurt, cheese, and bottled smoothies are great for growing kids. They’re packed with calcium and are usually peanut-free. Look for string cheese by Horizon Organic, Kraft, Organic Valley, Sargento, Sorrento, Land O Lakes, Tilamook, and Finlandia, all of which are safe for peanut-free schools.

Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel cheese wheels are another convenient, single-serve cheese option worth seeking out. Yogurt in its many forms—squeezable, drinkable and spoonable—works, too, especially when you shop for brands with less sugar, fewer artificial ingredients, and no high fructose corn syrup, like Annie’s Homegrown, Happy Family, and Stonyfield Farms. Keep an eye out for Stonyfield’s newest peanut-free lunchbox-ready snack packs. They’re yogurt and dippers in 5 delish flavor combinations: Strawberry & Chocolate Chip Cookie, Vanilla & Chocolate Cookie, Strawberry & Graham Crackers. Chocolate & Graham Crackers. Chocolate & Pretzel. No spoon required!

Treats:

From cookies to cupcakes to candy there’s actually plenty to choose from in the peanut-free treat universe. Good news if you have a classroom birthday party coming up! Enjoy Life Foods, a leading brand in the “free-from” category, makes popular soft-baked and crunchy cookies in enough flavors to please just about anyone. Fig Newtons, Nabisco Ginger Snaps, Oreos, and Barnum’s Animal Crackers are also safe choices.

Smashmallow has recently introduced Smash Crispy crispy rice treats (Strawberries & Cream, Cinnamon Churro, and Mint Chocolate Chip), a better-for-you lunchbox treat that’s non-GMO and gluten-free. School Safe and Divvies are reliable for cupcakes. And as for candy, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Gummy and jelly bean devotees can look for Black Forest gummies and fruit snacks, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, and Surf Sweets, which offers a lower-guilt product that’s made with natural, non-GMO ingredients, free from harmful additives. There’s good news for little chocolate lovers, too—Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, and Junior Mints are all completely peanut-free as are all of the products manufactured by Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (their chocolate covered pretzels work well as a little lunchtime treat) and No Whey Chocolate, whose products are free from all 8 of the most common allergens. Give their Pea “Not” Butter Cups a try!

Just one note: be sure to pay close attention to the wording on snack packaging, since most brands print a warning statement or allergen list. Keep an eye out for phrases like: “May Contain Peanut or Tree Nuts”; “Manufactured in a plant with Peanut or Tree Nuts”; “Contains Peanut or Tree Nut Ingredients”
 

 

This article was written by Suzy Scherr from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Mindfulness and Meditation Apps for Kids

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Our kids are busier than ever, and practicing mindfulness can help reduce their anxiety, improve focus and memory, and make falling asleep easier, research suggests. These apps will chill your child out and teach him to learn the basics of meditation.

1. Headspace for Kids

The popular adult mindfulness app now has a kids’ series of breathing exercises, visualizations, and meditations grouped into five categories: kindness, focus, sleep, calm, and wake-up. Choose the one that best suits your child’s needs. 5 and under, 6 to 8, 9 to 12; $8 per month.

2. Mindfulness for Children

Developed by a Danish psychologist, this audio-only app offers easy-to-follow breathing exercises for your kid to use any time she’s feeling stressed. Other activities like the body scan will help her relax, and soothing nature sounds can lull her to sleep. 5+ years; $5 for premium.

3. Thrive Global

Here’s another skill set from Amazon Echo. If your kid needs help quieting his mind during the day, he can say, “Alexa, open Thrive” and ask for a meditation. On nights when he can’t sleep, a “power down” will do the trick—and keep screens out of the bedroom. Download for free.

4. Smiling Mind

This app offers mindfulness sessions, developed by a team of psychologists, that start with a quick series of questions to focus the mind followed by simple, easy-to-follow meditation exercises. Download for free.

5. Sleep Meditations for Kids

Perfect app to incorporate into your bedtime routine. Has four bedtime stories that are transformed into guided meditations designed to promote relaxation and contentment. Download for free.

 

This article was written by Jeana Lee Tahnk from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Fly with a Child at Any Age

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Booking your tickets is the easy part. When it comes to flying with an infant or toddler (or, really, any child), stress levels start to rise when you consider the packing, the boarding process, the duration of the trip and how the heck you’ll prevent your next of kin from melting down. We rounded up the best tricks for keeping your cool when you’re up in the air.

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If You’re Flying With an Infant or Baby

Request a seat—and bassinet—in the bulkhead. Did you know that if you’re on a flight that’s longer than five hours, most airlines will provide a complimentary bassinet that bolts to the wall in the bulkhead (the seats in the front row of every section)? To reserve, simply contact the airline and make your request; There are typically just two per flight, so the early bird gets the worm.

Check your car seat at the curb…and stuff it with diapers. Most airlines let you check a car seat for free, so take advantage of that valuable real estate and fill yours with diapers, baby clothes, etc, then stuff the whole thing in a car seat cover. Free checked luggage!

Feed at takeoff and landing. Whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, getting your baby to suck during takeoff and landing helps reduce pressure on their ears.

Bring a nursing cover. No, it’s not for privacy, it’s for when your finally asleep baby (who’s gotten quite used to the blackout shades in his nursery) wakes up to the cabin lights being turned on for dinner service.

And a change of clothes. This goes for mom and baby.

Don’t underestimate the value of the carrier. Yes, you can gate-check the stroller, but we recommend also packing a carrier, in order to walk around the plane, hands-free.

Pack a few “new” toys. By which we mean, items they may have forgotten about due to lack of play. That said, if you’re going to buy something brand-new, this NogginStik Developmental Rattle pulls double duty: It lights up and is great for teething.

Last resort, try headphones. Think of them as the baby version of noise-cancelling headphones—and ones that actually stay on their head.

Twenty20

If You’re Flying with a Toddler

Be the last to board. It sounds counterintuitive, but sitting down as close to takeoff as possible can reduce the feeling of restlessness and length of time before the seatbelt sign goes off. 

BYO snacks…and juice. Yes, you can carry them through security. (In reasonable quantities, formula, breast milk and juice for infants and toddlers is all allowed by TSA—although it may have to go through additional screening processes.) As far as snacks go, it’s great to have healthy options (think apple slices or string cheese), but dry stuff (like cheddar bunnies or puffs) goes a really long way since kids can eat them one by one…by one.

And toys. Our favorites include: travel-sized play dough, a Water Wow, Magna-tiles, lacing toys, and a coloring pad and square crayons (which can’t roll away from you during turbulence).

Last resort, load up your iPad. At 18 months, your kid may start to resist the feel of headphones, but luckily airplanes are loud enough that she probably won’t bother anybody if she watches a show without them. Worried about screen time? Don’t. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that watching Daniel Tiger helped children exhibit higher levels of empathy and confidence.

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If You’re Flying with a Preschooler

Run around the terminal before you board. Instead of letting your kid dive into her toys at the gate, spend any downtime before departure roaming the airport. Ride the people-mover or take laps from one end of the terminal to the other—whatever it takes to wear your child out.

And use the bathroom. Because otherwise you know that little jerk is going to have to pee the second you sit down.

Pack some surprises. There’s a reason the YouTube videos are so popular: Kids love opening up plastic eggs as long as there’s the promise of an unexpected surprise inside. Buy some here, then pack them with small toys or whatever you think will delight your kids. To make it even more time-consuming exciting, wrap each egg in tin foil.

Make a “no electronics” rule until you’re in the clouds. At this stage, you’re probably at least a little reliant on the good ol’ iPad. But make a rule that nobody watches until you’re in the air, in order to cut down on screen time and avoid freak-outs when you have to turn off devices for takeoff.

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If You’re Flying with a Grade Schooler

Ask if your kid can meet the pilot. Just be sure to put in the request before you board, so there’s ample time for the flight attendants to accommodate.

Change up seats mid-flight. Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to ward off the mid-flight whining. If both parents are traveling, switch up who’s sitting next to the kiddo at the half-way mark. Got two or or more children? Have them swap places…so everybody gets a turn at the window seat. 

Ignore screen time limits. At this age, it’s about keeping them entertained and occupied. Pre-load an iPad with their favorite show—or scan the in-flight entertainment system for something you know they love—and let them zone out for as long as you can get.

If You’re Flying with a Middle Schooler

Talk to them about what to expect. At this age, they can fully understand the experience of flying—but they may still feel the boredom and restlessness of younger kids. Before you get to the airport, discuss the length of the flight and exactly how they’ll spend the time on the plane. (For example, movies, a Nintendo Switch, card games, etc.)

Then, encourage them to pack their own bag. You’ll need to double check it, of course, but empowering your 11-year-old to pack activities for the plane will help them get excited for the trip—and all the special things they get to do up in the air.

Have a plan for talking through anxiety. This is a common age for once chill-travelers to begin showing signs of nervousness. Bring it up the night before your flight, and come up with a plan for keeping them calm. (For example, if there’s turbulence, remind them that you’re right there to squeeze their hand.)

Invest in items that can help them sleep. For bigger kids, sleeping on a plane can prove challenging. (Same.) This is where those travel pillows come in—a small investment up front, but one that pays off if it means everyone arrives in Paris well-rested.

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Teaching Diversity to Your Kids

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Studies have found that infants as young as 3 months instinctively categorize people based on their sex, skin color, and the language they speak. Between 5 and 9 months, babies begin to learn about race based on experience, according to a study in the journal Developmental Science. Research shows that 3- to 5-year-olds not only categorize people by race but express bias based on it. Overcoming these types of inherent prejudice will take a proactive effort on your part, and it needs to start early – before your child’s opinions are fully formed.

Tolerance is an absolute necessity in our increasingly global and multicultural society. So-called racial and ethnic minorities now make up the majority of children born in the U.S. By 2043, nearly half of the population will be people of color, according to U.S. Census projections. Our nation is becoming diverse in other ways too. Islam and Mormonism are among America’s fastest-growing religions. Same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states plus the District of Columbia. More than 35 million people now speak Spanish as their primary language at home. And our school system is increasingly placing children with disabilities in regular rather than specialized classrooms.

“Today’s kids are going to have to interact with people from many backgrounds and cultures, as well as with those who don’t look or act like they do,” says Rebecca Bigler, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research focuses on children’s racial attitudes. “Celebrating diversity, not merely tolerating it, is going to be key to their success.” She and others share the steps you can take to teach your child how to be open-minded toward others.

Recognize That Your Child Isn’t Color-Blind

Experts say one big mistake parents make (especially white Americans) is assuming that their children are unaware of race. “We always hear, ‘Oh, my child doesn’t even see skin color,'” Dr. Bigler says. “But kids absolutely do notice.”

As they grow, children look for cues about what different appearances mean and which ones matter. They quickly realize that some things– whether someone wears a hat, for example – are irrelevant while others, such as sex, are significant because we talk about them constantly (“Boys line up on the left, girls on the right”). What about race? Obviously, we don’t say, “Good morning, black and white children,” or “Asians, go get your backpacks.” But even if you never say a word about ethnicity, racial distinctions are plainly visible to kids. “Many communities are highly segregated, which children notice. You’ll be driving through town and your preschooler is thinking, ‘Oh, here’s where the Chinese people live,'” Dr. Bigler says.

Children’s tendency to assign traits based on race accelerates in grade school. So if all the teachers at your child’s school are white while only people of color work in the lunchroom and handle security, the inequity will not be lost on your kid. By age 7, most African-American kids believe whites are more likely to hold high-status jobs, according to Dr. Bigler’s study findings. “If you don’t change your kids’ outlook when they’re young, they’ll come to their own incorrect conclusions,” says Kristina Olson, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Washington, who studies racial attitudes among kids.

Start Talking

Aside from observing skin color, even a preschooler can see that some people are big and others are skinny, that some celebrate Christmas and others Hanukkah, and that certain kids are smarter than others. And if your local gas-station attendant has a thick accent, she’ll notice that too.

Are you talking about these differences? Probably not. A study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology found that approximately 57 percent of parents of white children never or almost never discussed race with them. Black parents, though, are far more likely to bring it up. “People of color have to prepare their children for uncomfortable moments,” says Shauna Robinson, of Thousand Oaks, California, who is black. She broached the topic with her then 5-year-old son, Lexington, by reading him Chocolate Me!, which is about a boy who is teased for having dark skin and curly hair.

With a child who is 3 or 4, you can explain that people come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. “You could even try holding up a green apple and a red apple,” suggests Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama. “Say, ‘They look different on the outside, but they’re both apples on the inside, just like people.'” Seek out opportunities to demonstrate your respect and appreciation for these contrasts. You might say, “Look at that girl. Aren’t her braids pretty?” or, “Did you hear that boy speak Italian to his grandma and then English to his friend? I wish I could speak more than one language.”

If your child asks something that makes you squirm, do your best to respond matter-of-factly. “We tend to avoid these questions,” says Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. “But that doesn’t keep kids from noticing.”

Dr. Tatum recalls a mortifying moment when her then 4-year-old son pointed to a large woman and said loudly, “Mommy, why is that woman so fat?” “My first response was to say ‘Shhh!'” Dr. Tatum says. “Then I caught myself and told him, ‘People come in all sizes. Some people are big and some are little, some are tall and some are short.'”

Explain about Stereotypes and Racism

Kids already have certain biases about other cultures by age 5 or 6. Don’t be surprised if your child repeats something derogatory she heard at school.  When she does, let her know that while some people in a group may seem to fit a certain description it doesn’t mean everyone is that way, Costello says. That’s your cue to introduce the idea of discrimination: “Sometimes people decide that everyone with dark skin is mean or that people who aren’t white are bad. That’s wrong, and it makes me sad. It’s not fair to judge someone without knowing him or her.”

Bring up the stereotypes your child sees in movies and on TV. “If you turn the sound off on cartoon shows and ask who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, kids know instantly by the way the characters appear,” Dr. Tatum says. The solution isn’t to stop watching but to point out the problems you see. For instance, you could watch The Little Mermaid, with its enormous villain, Ursula. Then say, “It’s a shame that overweight characters are depicted as evil. I know lots of nice people who are heavy.”

You should also be honest about the fact that discrimination still exists. “If you talk about past inequalities and then tell your child, ‘We’ve fixed that and we’re all equal now,’ it can actually encourage prejudicial beliefs because children will see remaining inequalities as the result of how hard people work,” says Erin Winkler, Ph.D., a diversity and racism expert at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. “Instead, talking honestly about systematic racial bias – like how wealth inequity is not a reflection of individual efforts, but rather tied to the legacy of discrimination – can help your child understand that these are not individual issues.”

Research bears this out. Dr. Bigler had elementary-school children read biographies of famous African Americans. One group’s stories included details about how the person had encountered forms of racial discrimination; the other group’s didn’t. Afterward, the kids whose books included the true historical context found the subjects more likable and sympathetic.

Lead by Example

For your child to become truly open-minded toward all people, you need to be a positive role model. In a study in Child Development, the lone factor shown to reduce children’s prejudice was whether their parents had a friend of another race. “If you say, ‘We should be friends with all kinds of people’ but the only ones who come over for dinner are those who look like you, what’s your child going to think?” Dr. Olson says.

Lots of parents talk a good game about embracing diversity, yet subtly communicate something very different. Do you laugh when you hear a joke about a racial group? Are you willing to point out intolerance when you see it? “We know that kids learn from what they see more than from what they hear,” Costello says.

Expose Your Child to Diversity Regularly

An analysis of more than 500 studies on prejudice published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the more contact people of all ages have with those from backgrounds that contrast with their own, the less likely they are to be biased.

Rebecca Anderson, a mom in Charlotte, North Carolina, chose a preschool for her son Zach where half the children had physical disabilities. “I believed that exposing him to special-needs kids would make him more accepting of all people,” she says. When it came time for kindergarten, she and her husband, who are white, decided to send Zach to a Spanish-immersion magnet school that was only about one-quarter white. Now in sixth grade, Zach is not only fluent in Spanish but comfortable around all kinds of people, Anderson says.

If you don’t have the option of enrolling your child in a diverse school, look for ethnically mixed sports leagues, libraries, and parks. Attend multicultural festivals. Bring home books that depict kids of various backgrounds. Show interest in other religions and cultures, and build friendships with people who don’t look like you. “If you want your child to become comfortable dealing with all types of people, you have to take her to places where she’s going to encounter them,” Costello says.

Julianne Weiner’s son Ben had already had that type of exposure. So before his first anxious day of preschool, she reminded him about the people he knew and liked who had brown skin. She pointed out that there are many shades of skin, even showing him that his hand is darker than his belly. “None of it seemed to register, and we were worried he’d say something that would offend his teacher,” Weiner says. “Instead, Ben had a great year, and that teacher became one of his favorites.”

Smart Answers to Tough Questions

Field cringe-worthy queries without flinching.

“Why is that man’s skin dark?”
“Skin contains something called melanin, which makes us different colors. Some people have more than others. We’re all part of a beautiful rainbow, aren’t we?”

“Why does that girl talk funny?”
“That’s called an accent. Her family came from a country where they speak another language.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
“Some people’s legs don’t work, so they need a chair with wheels to get from place to place.”

“Why is that woman so fat?”
“People come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what makes the world such an interesting place.”

“Why does that man wear a funny wrap on his head?”
“That’s called a turban. He wears it because it’s part of his religion, like other people may wear a cross.”

 

This article was written by Michelle Crouch from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Make a Heart-Shaped Bubble Wand

Add some bubbles to your Valentine’s Day celebrations with a heart-shaped bubble wand!

Materials

  • 6mm pipe cleaners
  • Scissors
  • Chopsticks
  • Pony beads (any color)
  • Colored tape (any color)

Instructions

  1. Create a loop with one of the pipe cleaners, twisting to create an oval shape. Leave about two inches on the ends.
  2. Thread three pony beads onto pipe cleaner so that both ends go through the beads.
  3. Wrap the ends of the pipe cleaner tightly around the top of a chopstick.
  4. Wrap colored tape around pipe cleaner ends to ensure a secure fit.
  5. Bend pipe cleaner oval into a heart shape.
  6. Repeat steps for second bubble wand.
  7. Blow bubbles using bubble solution!

 

 

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

10 Valentine’s Day Books That Teach Kids How Wonderful It is to Love

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Because February 14 is so much more than red hearts and candy.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and like every other holiday season, it’s the perfect time to captivate your kids through stories of delight. From tales about robotic romantic adventures, to a whimsical story about secret letters, these heartwarming books will teach your child about the many ways to express love, especially amongst family and friends.

I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home, by Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten

Love knows no bounds in this delightful read aloud that sends cows to Mars and has sheep steering ships. Fun wordplay and a rhyming refrain will soon have little ones chiming in. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or saying I love you any time of year. Ages 4-8 ($15, amazon.com).

I Love You, Little Pookie, by Sandra Boynton


I Love You, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton

With an affectionate tale and funny drawings, this book is ideal for little ones.

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Buy

Bestselling author Sandra Boynton is back with a new board book, just in time for the holiday of love. Little Pookie is one of Boynton’s most beloved characters and he is reassured over and over as mom tells him just how much she loves him on nearly every sturdy page. Ages 2-5 ($6, amazon.com).

Robot in Love, by T. L. McBeth


Robot in Love by T. L. McBeth

A robot love story with a splash of color that’ll surely catch your child’s eye.

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It’s love at first sight in this playful picture book about a robot who spots his soulmate, loses her and then finds her again. Love can look different for every one of us, and in this case the robot’s object of affection is a shiny toaster with whom he discovers various shared interests. Including toast. Very sweet! Ages 4-8 ($13, amazon.com).

The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs, by Mark Sperring and Maddie Frost


The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs, by Mark Sperring and Maddie Frost

Nothing is cuter than a snuggly tale from your favorite animals.

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Buy

Bright and colorful, this picture book celebrates hugs across the animal world. From snuggly seals to beetle bug hugs, these little critters are all happy to be with their families, sharing an embrace. Warm, rhyming text opens the door for telling our own little ones how much their hugs mean to us. Ages 3-6 ($13, amazon.com).

How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams and Christopher Silas Neal


How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams and Christopher Silas Neal

A sweet ode to beloved friends and family.

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A delightful reimagining of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnet 43” with its famous opening lines, as a trio of children explore their world and the love of friends and family around them. Christopher Silas Neal’s illustrations carry the poetry of Browning’s words beautifully. A book to keep … Ages 4-8 ($16, amazon.com).

Love, Z, by Jessie Sima


Love, Z by Jessie Sima

Home is where the heart is in this adorable adventure.

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A mysterious message in a bottle and the young robot who finds it spark a remarkable exploration of what love means, and all the ways we can express love for one another. Charming and uplifting, this picture book is a joy to read and share all year round, and especially for Valentine’s Day. Ages 4-8 ($13, amazon.com).

Duck and Hippo The Secret Valentine, by Jonathan London and Andrew Joyner


Duck and Hippo The Secret Valentine, by Jonathan London and Andrew Joyner

This heartfelt story teaches kids about kindness and sharing.

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It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without valentines! A humorous story of secret valentines and speculation that culminates in a delightful heart-filled celebration where everyone is welcomed. An entertaining holiday read aloud. Ages 3-7 ($14, amazon.com).

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines, by Janet Lawler and Olivia Chin Mueller


Mirabel's Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler and Olivia Chin Mueller

A spark of unexpected kindness can bring the best of joy in this story.

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Giving Valentine’s Day cards to classmates can be scary, and Mirabel the mouse is so nervous that she accidentally drops some of her cards on the way to school. Her mistake brings some folks unexpected moments of joy thinking the cards were meant for them. A sweet story about how a small kindness can make a big difference for others and ourselves. Ages 3-7 ($12, amazon.com).

A Caboodle of Cuddles, by Roger Priddy


A Caboodle of Cuddles by Roger Priddy

A visually captivating book with raised pictures for your child to check out on every page.

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Perfect for tiny hands to explore, this board book about cuddles and families has bright, raised illustrations that fit together for lots of interactive fun. A Valentine’s Day treat for little ones. Ages 1-3 ($8, amazon.com).

A Hug is for Holding Me, by Lisa Wheeler and Lisk Feng


A Hug Is for Holding Me by Lisa Wheeler and Lisk Feng

Your child’s curiosity will surge as they explore the meaning of hugs in this lyrical tale.

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A unique way of looking at nature, where hugs can be found nearly everywhere if we know how to look. A nest can be a hug in a tree, a seashell is a hug in the sea; each page is thoughtful and will help little ones see their world in a whole new way. Interspersed between the pages about nature are all the things a hug between this father and daughter mean to them: safety, home, love. A tender tribute to the humble hug. Ages 3-5 ($11, amazon.com).

 

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

Indoor Beach Party

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Getting tired of the cold and anxiously waiting for spring? Not a problem, host an indoor beach party for your family and friends.

Crank up the heat, put on your bathing suit and blast some summer tunes. Get everyone in the ‘warm’ mood by inflating beach balls, adding seashells around the house and offering grass hula skirts for your guests. Consider having a tiki bar with decorative cups, silly straws and fruit punch. Here are a few activities to help get you started:

  1. Get sand from a craft store and fill a bucket with the sand. Hide jewels and riches in the sand, and then have a treasure hunt. Provide mini shovels for your littles to use for digging.
  2. Take a laundry basket and use it as a basketball hoop. Have your children use beach balls to play indoor beach basketball.
  3. Play some beach bowling using a beach ball and empty paper towel rolls.

 

Enjoy the endless possibilities of indoor beach fun with your little one!

How to Take Advantage of Your Neighborhood Library

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Did you know that your local library is a hidden gem right in your backyard? Nowadays, it’s not just a place you go to check out a book or use a computer – it’s so much more. March is National Reading Month and we are celebrating with sharing four ways to take advantage of your local library.

Attend events and programs. Looking to attend a mindfulness meditation yoga class or join a cooking club? Libraries offer so many fun (and free!) options for children and parents. Get involved with fitness groups for children and adults, family music classes, parent-child workshops, story circles, puppet shows, special events and summer programs. Look into what your local library provides and what events they are having in your community.

Use it as a resource for learning. Your local library is a helpful resource that’s available whenever you need it. Many libraries offer tutoring, reading buddies, writing circles and volunteer opportunities. Your child can use the library as a fun way to get involved socially and academically. The staff and the librarian can also be helping hands when you have questions or when you simply need a new book recommendation.

Explore the aisles and stay a while. Many libraries have cozy and colorful sections for children, filled to the brim with books, electronics, games, toys and puzzles. This space is great for sparking your children’s curiosity and getting them stimulated, engaged and ready to learn. Get your children comfortable with going to the library, and teach them that this is their space to have fun with and utilize as a resource. Help them pick out a book, and let them explore from there.

Make it a habit to go often. With a bunch of great opportunities and events provided by your library, you can turn your outing to the library into a fun adventure for your little ones. By creating a routine, soon they will be looking forward to their weekly time spent at the library. Remember to sign up for a library card to make checking out items easier, and so you can have access to other countless privileges and perks that may be associated with your local library.

Boost Your Children’s Excitement to Read

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Being a skillful reader can increase your children’s self-confidence, allowing them to transition into a new dimension. Reading will improve their speech, critical thinking and creativity. Encourage your children to turn off the TV and open their books. Use these tips to transform your little ones from staring at a screen to diving into a world of words.

  1. Designate a daily reading time for your children who cannot read yet, establishing a routine of reading every day. Hopefully, this practice will continue after they can read on their own.
  2. Choose books that feature your children’s interests such as animals, planes or trains.
  3. Keep your children’s attention. Books that include activities such as sensory sections or finding the missing character will hold your little ones’ attention throughout the story. Additionally, consider acting out some of the scenes with your children to get them up and moving while keeping their attention on the storyline.
  4. Ask your children questions about what you have read to ensure the story is holding their attention.
  5. Show your radiant readers how excited you are about story time. Seeing your boost of energy to read will encourage your children to feel the same way. Fictional books can be a terrific way to put reality on pause and delve into a new realm of wondrous
  6. Read books aloud together when your children begin learning to read. To create a feeling of togetherness, switch readers for each page. This habit will leave your children with lasting memories of reading with their parents.

 

What are some ways you take reading to the next level with your child?