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Archive for December, 2010

Activities to Keep Your Kids Busy During School Break

December 21st, 2010 - Category: Family Time

Although there are many family activities inherently connected to the holidays, there will most likely come a time during the school recess that your child utters the dreaded words, “I’m bored!” Many of us think how could this be after they just acquired all that new ‘stuff’? Yet it seems to be an inevitable consequence of time off from school. Here are a few activities that your kids can do without leaving home to keep them creative and active inside on a winter day- other than turn on the TV or the computerized games.

Make your own play dough: This is a two part activity because not only is it fun to make, but then they have something to play with afterward. Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of water, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar, and a few drops of food coloring in a large pan over low heat. Stir until combined and allow to cool.

Create a family newspaper: Talk to your children about newspapers and magazines and show them examples. Ask older children to create their own family newspaper featuring stories, advertisements, cartoons, and more. Newspapers can be written, feature pictures, or both. You’ll be surprised at the day-to-day family events that your children will turn into newsworthy articles!

Employ your older children: If you have a group of children of mixed ages, let the older children plan and teach an activity to the younger ones. Give the older children a selection of art or craft materials and ask them to come up with a project to teach. You’ll be surprised how seriously the older children take the responsibility of designing a project of their own, and the little ones who already look up to the big kids will enjoy working on a project with them.

Create a treasure hunt: This is another activity that can be designed based around your child’s age. A little guy just needs a simple map with some pictures whereas an older school-age child could use codes and clues to figure out where the treasure is. The treasure doesn’t have to be anything major. You could get something at the dollar store, or if you feel like there are enough new items in your home the treasure could be something like being able to pick what to have for dinner that evening.

Have a talent show: Another two part activity is to hold a talent show. First your child needs to come up with a ‘talent’ and practice his/her routine. Then there is the actual performance. You could even make invitations for other family or friends, or prepare special seating or snacks. You could have every member of the family participate. Make sure you have the video camera batteries charged.

Challenge their taste buds: The purpose of this activity is to make your child more aware of the sense of taste. Gather a variety of foods in small amounts. Have your child close her eyes while tasting each one. After each food, discuss the taste. Begin to distinguish between the main taste bud differentiation: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Ask your child to say which are his favorite foods and why. Try combining foods of different tastes. How did the taste change when the foods were combined?

Make a collage: Save old magazines and catalogs and store them in a cabinet just for this purpose. Have the kids cut out pictures and paste them onto a piece of cardboard or construction paper. You can let them cut out whatever they want, or assign each child a letter of the alphabet or a theme to go by for a more challenging project. Keep a trash can close by for the scraps and be sure to keep a stock of glue sticks on hand!

Play Sardines (Reverse Hide-n-Seek): One child is the hider, everyone else is a seeker. The hider hides while the seekers seek. However, when a seeker finds the hider, instead of pointing him out, he joins him in the hiding place. Soon, the children will all be stuffed in one place, like a box of sardines!
The key is to not whine back to their whining, to try to think outside the box and search for an activity that you know would be great for your children’s ages and creativity. Taking a few minutes to plan an activity might lead to lots of great treasured memories. Enjoy!

2011 Parenting Resolutions

December 16th, 2010 - Category: General Parenting

Every year people make vows to change at the start of the new year. It is the nature of a new beginning. This year why not think about ways to improve your parenting? Perhaps in past years you have made a resolution to be a “better parent,” but what does that consist of? You need to set yourself some measurable goals.

  • Tell your kids you love them. Maybe you do this already, but try to take more time to do so. Let them know each day so there isn’t any doubt.
  • Try to laugh more. As a parent we tend to lose our ability to find the silly in situations that might cause our children to giggle. Try to not always be concerned with what is coming next and take the time to stop and laugh.
  • Remember time isn’t always on our side. We get bogged down as parents with lots of busy schedules – ours and theirs. We can’t however slow down how quickly our children are growing. This year my 5 year old son is so into decorating for the holidays that it is making my husband crazy. His enthusiasm for the preparation is intense. We need to appreciate the phase he is at because in a few short years he may not even be interested in participating in the process.
  • Listen to your gut. There is a plethora of parenting advice in this world of technology we live in. We can read about what is the best way to get our kids to learn to sleep, or to eat healthy foods, or to hang out with the right crowd. However, at some point you need to just relax and go with what your gut tells you for that particular child. Remember that your instincts are usually pretty good. Trust yourself.
  • Purge some of the old stuff to make room for the new. This always makes everyone feel better in the long run, even though most likely your children will grumble and complain as you go through the process. Explain that now that they have new gifts they need to weed out some of the old things they no longer use. They can sell things at a yard sale if you want to turn it into a budgeting experience, or they can give things to charity. Either way it is a good lesson to experience. Do this with your own things as well.
  • Make time for you and your spouse. It isn’t healthy to put all your time into your kids whether you are married or single. You need to carve out some time for YOU! Set it into your calendar. It will make the whole family happier.
  • Remember that your children are blessings not chores. Ever hear the expression “Life is how you look at it”? The same is true of parenting. There are plenty of people who view parenting as work rather than joy. It is both no doubt, but try to concentrate on the rewards. There is no greater love than parenting.

Avoiding Holiday Stress

December 9th, 2010 - Category: Family Time

If holiday time is stressful for you as a parent, then it is possible that some of that stress is rubbing off on your children. Here are some ways to keep your children from burning out during the craziness of the season.

  • Don’t make your children feel that they have to be in the spotlight at performances or at relatives’ houses. Just let them be themselves and try not to show them off.
  • Try not to do too much in one day or one weekend. There are so many parties and events to attend at this time of year. Try to be choosy about which ones are really important to attend. Try to avoid visiting more than one party or event in a day.
  • Try to keep bedtime and eating schedules as consistent as possible. Allow them time to stick to their chore charts and their routines. This isn’t always possible, but the more routine the less stress, especially for little ones still requiring naps.
  • Try to keep them loaded with healthy snacks. It is easy at this time of year to load kids down with sweets and treats, but just as we hit a wall when all we eat is junk, overindulgence will lead to many more meltdowns.
  • Help them figure out their best relaxation technique. When it is time to settle down after a busy, high-energy stimulated day, figure out if music or stories work best to get them the rest they need.
  • Spend some time explaining your traditions – if you have a spiritual faith explain how your religion is part of the season. Or perhaps you have family traditions that have been passed down through the generations – explain to your children why these are important to you. It helps children to know why they do certain things at this time of year.
  • Find some time for fun with just your immediate family. Perhaps you could bake cookies, watch a holiday movie or read some Christmas stories.

There are some stresses that effect parents more than children – one of the big ones being the stress of added expenses. The first thing we have to do is let go of perfection. Try to see the holiday from your children’s eyes. Most of the time they are not as concerned with the things we think they “have to have.” Perhaps during this time you can give your children a few additional chores to add to their job chart in order to help you prepare for extra guests or celebrations. Express to them that their extra help will make the holiday more special for all involved. All the extra work doesn’t have to be on your shoulders.
Happy Holidays!

Teaching Good Habits

December 9th, 2010 - Category: Teaching Kids to Work

It is said that you must do something for 21 days to turn it into a habit. How can we help our children to stick with something that long in order to develop good habits in them? There is the incentive in to stick with your chores, but first you need to help your child develop the habit of checking the site every day and following through on their tasks. This is a conditioning phase.

What is a habit? When you learn something, your brain makes connections that create pathways for neurological activity. When you routinely perform the same actions, your brain learns this pattern of behavior and sets up a pathway. This pathway is a more efficient way for the brain to process the routine, as opposed to a new series of tasks. That is a habit.

Start by finding the best time of the day to have them log on to their chart. Try to make it a consistent time of day. It should be a time that they have enough time to check their chart and also to accomplish the chores. When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in each case -it is easier to stick to. In the beginning you will have to remind them. You need to be their focus until they have learned to create that focus in themselves.

Make sure they are involved in picking their incentives. Of course as the parent you have the final say in their rewards, but it has to be something that they desire or they are going to fight you to do the work. At the same time, don’t try to do too much at first. You don’t want your child to be overwhelmed with the amount of chores. It is better to start light and add more tasks later on after the habit has been set.

Forgive them and yourself if you miss a day or two at the start. They aren’t perfect – neither are you. Just get back on track as soon as you realize you’ve forgotten. No sense in taking time to berate yourself or them. It takes time to become a habit. Punishing them for not following through teaches them about their faults not about how to make the habit stick.

Is there a habit you are trying to start? Maybe you could work on improving yourself in some way at the same time that you are helping them to form better habits. In this manner they are seeing you as an example. The best way to teach children good habits is by setting a good example. Setting good habits for kids and instilling values in your children go hand-in-hand, you can’t do one without the other. Good habits for kids will ensure that your child grows up to be a loving and caring person who is self-disciplined and thus will succeed in life.