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Gardening with Your Preschooler

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Have you found a summer camp program for your child yet? A high-quality summer camp often has an outdoor classroom or garden. Gardening allows your child to learn about biology through fun, hands-on experiences. Here are a few ways that you can get your child interested in gardening at home.
• With your child, start off by researching which plants will develop best in your area. Let him choose which plants he would like to see grow right in his backyard. Then take a trip with him to purchase the necessary seeds and tools.
• If you want to have a more advanced garden, keeping in mind age appropriateness, help your child plant vegetables. It will be rewarding to eat the vegetables that you and your child have helped grow.
• Talk with your child about the changes and patterns she notices as the plants begin to grow, and ask her to predict what will happen in the future.
• Discuss the different kinds of bugs that she sees in the garden. Determine if certain bugs are beneficial or harmful to the garden and why.
• Ask your child to draw pictures of what he observes happening in the garden and help him write down what he sees.
• Keep track of how tall the plants are, and ask your child to use her math and ruler skills to determine how much each plant has grown each week.
• As your preschooler “digs deeper” into gardening he will retain lasting memories of what he has learned.

National Plant a Flower Day Craft

Materials

  • Construction paper in multiple colors
  • Mixed dry beans (or seeds or beads)
  • Twine or yarn
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Instructions

Cut different flower shapes out of construction paper – stem, leaves and flower. Create the soil by cutting a piece of brown construction paper in half and gluing it to the bottom third of a piece of blue construction paper. Glue a strip of green construction paper where the brown and blue paper meet to create the grass. Then glue a bean or seed just below the grass to emulate planting a seed. Next, glue the twine or yarn below the bean/seed to create roots. Then glue the stem and leaves. Finally, add the flower and glue seeds in the center of it.

Be sure to talk about the growth process with your child as you assemble the craft. “The seed is planted in the soil, and then the roots extend, drinking in water and nutrients. Then the stem grows, which delivers water and nutrients to the leaves and flower. Seeds from the flower can be planted to grow more flowers!”

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?

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.

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!

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?

Executive Functioning: Skills for “Adulting” and How to Help Develop Them at Home

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If reading academic journals isn’t part of your daily routine because you’re too busy chasing your children around, packing lunches, working, picking up your children and making dinner, you might not be aware that executive functioning is one of the hottest topics in education right now. Executive functioning, also known as executive control, includes the abilities to control yourself, plan ahead and pay attention. In other words, executive functions include the necessary skills for “adulting.” Helping children develop these skills prepares them for success in school, careers and life. Here are four ways you can help your child develop these crucial skills at home.

  1. Play memory games with your child. Start with something simple, such as peekaboo, and move on to other developmentally appropriate games, such as hide-and-seek, as your child grows. Playing these types of games will sharpen your child’s working memory, and they’re fun, too.
  2. Develop routines to get your child to help with household chores. Requesting your child’s help with simple tasks, such as taking out the trash, sweeping and helping wash dishes, can help strengthen your child’s ability to focus on one task at a time and filter out distractions. Make sure these chores are developmentally appropriate, of course.
  3. Find fun ways to engage your child’s executive-function skills, such as assembling puzzles. Whether you’re working on a 1000-piece picture of Mt. Everest or a simpler one, assembling a puzzle can help your child develop the abilities to focus, plan and organize.
  4. Talk to your child about your day. A great way to do this is when you’re at the dinner table – each family member can talk about his or her day and highlight any favorite moments. Discussing what you do on a day-to-day basis and how you accomplish various adult tasks can provide your child with insight into how you use your executive-function skills. You can also ask your child how she would handle some of the situations you’ve encountered, which allows her to reenact real-life scenarios in a safe, consequence-free way.

Ten Fun Summer Activities to Help Engage Your Child’s Mind

Have you found a summer camp program for your child yet? A high-quality summer camp can help prevent summer learning loss. These ten fun activities can also help engage your child’s mind during the warmer months!twenty20_93e07c5c-6dba-4320-9c6d-fb1446f53b6d

Ten activities to do with your child this summer:

  1. Ride your bikes around your neighborhood or in a local park to increase family togetherness and to emphasize the importance of exercise.
  1. Have a picnic. Encourage your child to help pack the basket. You can talk to him about the different types of food you are putting in the basket, where the food is from and what foods are best for his health.
  2. Go on a leaf hunt. Your child can learn about different types of trees by their leaves, and she can observe how the trees grow. To create a lasting memory of your wonderful walk, you can collect a few leaves, place them on a sheet of paper and color them with a crayon. This will produce an imprint of the leaf to have for the future.
  3. Volunteer in your community. Many communities have public gardens where children and parents come to plant their own flowers to contribute to the beauty of the community. If your community doesn’t have a garden, consider starting one. This will teach your child the importance of being involved and giving back.
  4. Plan a treasure hunt. For more enjoyment, include the whole neighborhood.
  5. Prepare new summer recipes. Encourage your child to use his skills to help with the ingredients and measurements. Soon, he’ll be cooking meals for you.
  6. Take some of your old clothes and place them in a chest. Now, you can have a dress-up day, which is a perfect inside activity for a rainy day. Your child will love dressing up just like mom!
  7. Create a craft table. Prepare a corner in your child’s playroom or bedroom with a table for craft activities, such as drawing, painting or building. This makes for another great indoor activity for rainy days.
  8. Stargaze. On a warm, clear night, sit outside with your child and observe the various Talk about what you can and cannot see with the human eye. Enjoy the starry night!
  9. Teach your child to conserve water during her daily activities. Since we enjoy pools, oceans and lakes during the summer months, this is a good time to teach your little one about the dangers of pollution and the effects it can have to our oceans and lakes.

To Treat or Not to Treat: Why Rewards and Incentives Work Best When Used in Moderation

Have you ever been tempted to give your child a doughnut to get him to sit quietly in the shopping cart? Many parents have been there.

According to a survey conducted by Hanover Research, an independent third-party research firm, “About three-quarters of parents admitted to using material rewards as a means to get their children to behave in a desired way.”

“Most parents,” the survey continues, “use tangible, non-monetary items as rewards or incentives, but academic literature on the subject largely agrees that incentives and tangible rewards can inhibit children’s long-term development and intrinsic motivation to learn.”

Easy for them to say, right? After all, when your child is squirming in the shopping cart seat, grabbing for packages of candy and wailing to get out, how can you not turn to a reward or incentive? But where do you draw the line?

But first, just what is the difference between rewards and incentives?

Well, a reward reinforces your child’s good behavior. For example, if your child cleans her room without being asked, you might reward her with an extra hour of screen time.

Whereas an incentive persuades your child to do something, such as clean her room. If you were to incentivize your child, you would offer an extra hour of screen time on the condition that your child cleans her room first.

The problem, according to a literature review that Hanover Research conducted before the survey, is that “Among researchers, it is generally agreed that rewards have a negative impact on childhood development. Academics largely agree that providing rewards sets an unrealistic precedent of behavior for young children, which decreases their intrinsic motivation in the long term and gives them poor value systems.”

However, Dr. Helen Hadani, the director of research for the Center for Childhood Creativity and a member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board, says that while research states that rewards and incentives can be detrimental, that doesn’t mean they’re always bad.

In fact, she notes that parents can use rewards and incentives to encourage their children to try something new that they may enjoy, such as riding a bike without training wheels or eating a new food. If they enjoy the new activity, further rewards or incentives won’t be necessary because the activity becomes its own reward. In other words, the feelings of engagement and enjoyment are the best motivators of all.

As with anything, moderation is key. Using rewards and incentives strategically and sparingly – so they don’t become the norm – can be helpful. “As with any parenting tip,” Dr. Hadani says, “there is no one right way to motivate children.”

How to Make a Snowman Mobile

Not enough snow to make a snowman? Make a snowman mobile from the comfort of your home!

Materials

  • Paper plate
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Black pen
  • Construction paper (brown, orange, black)
  • String
  • Hole punch

Instructions

  1. Cut a spiral out of the paper plate.
  2. Use the construction paper to make a carrot nose, a top hat and stick arms.
  3. Glue the nose and hat to the center of the spiral, which is the snowman’s head.
  4. Draw eyes and a mouth on the head.
  5. Glue the arms just below the head.
  6. Punch a hole into the top of the top hat.
  7. Thread string through the hole.
  8. Wait for the glue to dry.
  9. Hang the mobile in your home for a flurry of winter cheer!

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