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If your kids think all their food originates at the supermarket, there’s a problem. Learning about how food gets from the farm or the wild to the table is essential knowledge for youngsters. It can inspire them to be more thoughtful about their diet and make healthier choices. But many schools no longer have the time or the budget to teach kids about food, so if you don’t teach them about it, chances are no one will. Check out these ideas for educating your child about how food is produced and why it matters.
If you wish your child ate more fruits and vegetables instead of processed snacks, some food education will definitely help. For many kids, the problem isn’t that they don’t know what’s healthy, it’s that a lowly carrot can’t compete with the marketing power behind their favorite brand of chips. So it’s time they knew just what went into making that carrot. If there’s a local farmer’s market near you, bring the kids along next time. They can meet the farmer who grew that carrot, and perhaps, if you make the effort to arrange it, the farmer will let you visit their farm. A farm visit can be an excellent opportunity to show kids how animals, fruits, and vegetables grow, and how much hard work goes into making what they eat. And if your child is truly interested in farms and farming, there are even some farm summer camps.
Investigating the sources of “real” food – i.e. food that comes from a farm not a factory – is not only fun, it makes that food more relatable to kids. But there’s a difference between relating to a vegetable and relating to a cute and cuddly lamb that’s soon to become a lamb chop. How do you explain meat eating to impressionable youngsters? Ultimately it’s up to you to determine whether your child is mature enough to hear about how animals are slaughtered, but once your child is ready to have that conversation, don’t gloss over the facts. “Why do humans eat animals?” your child might ask. Weigh in with your own opinion on the subject, but point your child toward some books, too. There’s plenty of literature out there about the moral thorniness of food production, some of it meant for younger readers. If you provide your child with some varied sources, it will encourage them to make their own informed decisions about what they eat, an important part of their development.
All this consideration of food might convince your child to consider changing their diet significantly. If they want to try out something new, support them, but also be sure to ask questions about how they feel. If they seem tired all the time or start losing or gaining weight drastically, it might be time to suggest a few tweaks to make sure their new diet is balanced. Consider consulting your child’s pediatrician.
If you can inspire your child to be curious about the origins of their food, you’ve done them a great service. When kids care about food, they automatically care more about eating well; apathy means they’re more likely to eat chips for breakfast. So next time you’re at the dinner table, it’s time to try a new conversation: where dinner really came from.
With sunshine lasting well into the evening, it’s natural for kids to want to stay out and play longer and spend less time indoors slaving over their schoolwork. But the end of the school year often culminates in big projects and tests, so now more than ever it’s critical to keep your child focused on their studies. Here are some tips to ensure your child approaches the finish of the school year running strong instead of strolling casually.
It’s important to establish with your child that enjoying summer fun and activities depends entirely on their grades and behavior at the end of the school year. To drive this point home, it might be a good idea to come up with a tangible reward, like summer camp or a pool party, to be given only once a specific scholastic goal is met. This can turn the end of school countdown into a motivating deadline instead of an excuse to slack off.
But with all this looking ahead, don’t forget about the here and now. As a parent, it’s crucial for you to keep up with your child about school – daily. Engage them with specific questions about what’s going on in each class, what they’re looking forward to, and what they find stressful. These kinds of school-focused conversations do a lot to remind your child what their first priority should be, not to mention the fact that your advice can help them get ahead academically.
It may sound boring, but routine and organization can really help your child stay on track in their studies. By the time May rolls around, it’s entirely possible your child no longer follows the homework routine they agreed to at the beginning of the school year, so now might be a good time to remind them of that routine, and make sure they stick to it. Also, sneak a peek at the state of your child’s school folders and binders. If they look like a total mess, help your child out with reorganization. A well ordered notebook often means a better ordered mind.
If your child sticks to a pre-arranged schedule, and makes sure homework comes first, getting in a little extra outdoor time this spring shouldn’t be too difficult. On a warm afternoon, let your child do some homework outside in the backyard or at a park. It’s a great way for them to enjoy the pleasures of springtime while taking care of responsibilities.
But at some point you child will have to pass up a fun springtime activity to do homework instead. When that happens, let them know you’re proud of them for making the difficult choice to get their work done before play. Meaningful praise like this is one of the best ways to motivate kids to keep pushing until the end of the school year. That first day of summer will be all the sweeter knowing that they earned it.
Fix it or throw it away? It’s a tough question, especially if you’re not particularly handy. But with a few helpful tips and a little ingenuity, even the most fixing-impaired parents can tackle repairs around the house. These tips can help you save important household items – and maybe save a little money, too!
If you want to get the maximum mileage out of your children’s clothing, it’s time to bring a can-fix-it attitude into the laundry room. Removing even the most wretched stains can easily be accomplished with stuff already in your kitchen. Oily stains? Pre-treat them with the same dish detergent that degreases the frying pan. Many tough stains just need a little time and elbow grease – try using a toothbrush for the dirt that’s really ground in. And remember to read those clothing labels closely: washing it the way it’s meant to be washed is the easiest way to keep a piece of clothing looking great. Lose a button? Tear a hole? Don’t worry about a sewing machine; even if you’ve never threaded a needle before you can learn some basic clothing repair skills. A tear on the seam will be easy to fix, and no reason to discard a beloved T-shirt, blanket, or stuffed animal.
But what about the rest of the house? First, think about things that maybe aren’t quite ruined but could really use some improvement: a hinge that creaks, a drawer that doesn’t shut right, a mug without a handle. If you don’t have some already, pick out a few basic tools at a neighborhood hardware store. Get friendly with whomever you talk to there, because they’ll likely be able to advise you on any future projects. Now that you’ve got some tools and supplies, it’s time to start fixing things. Broken bowls and mugs are a great place to start. If it was a clean break and the pieces are big enough to hold in your hand, it can easily be put back together with a little super glue. Fixing a crack in your wall is as easy as smoothing on spackle, then painting over it; if you don’t have any spackle, try some basic white toothpaste. Tired of a doorknob that always sticks or a wonky cabinet door? Adjust the hinge using your screwdriver. The more you experiment with small fixing projects, the more your confidence will increase and soon enough you’ll be tackling bigger and bigger fixes.
Fixing things instead of throwing them out (or at least trying to fix them) sets an important example for kids: be proactive instead of wasteful. And household fixing can be a great way to break down gender stereotypes, too. Moms can settle the handy-“man” hype by showing Dad who really fixes things around the house, and every dad should be able to at least sew a button on a shirt. So next time something breaks, don’t go straight to the trash – fix it!
“Because I said so.” “You’ll grow out of it.” “Do as I say, not as I do.” Ever said any of these to your child? Sometimes phrases like these just seem to come out involuntarily. But just because a phrase sounds pretty snappy and seems to teach a lesson doesn’t always mean it’s communicating the right thing to your child. Let’s take a look at some parenting old saws and see if they couldn’t use an update.
“Do as I say, not as I do” – a phrase designed to forgive you of all your bad habits. If only it were that simple. The fact is, kids’ brains are wired to do as you do, so it’s an uphill battle to prevent them from behaving in a certain way if that’s the way you behave. Instead, try to lead by example, and cop to your faults. If your child calls you out on your hypocrisy – and they might – assure them that you’re trying your hardest to break those bad habits.
If your child asks you why they have to do something, statements like “because I said so” and “I’m the parent, that’s why” may not be the answer you’re really looking for. These dismissive answers can squelch a kid’s inquisitive nature, and if your kid becomes afraid to ask questions, their experience of learning will be seriously compromised. Instead, try to consider a real answer to whatever question your child has. Why does your child have to take out the garbage? There are lots of good reasons if you think about it. Here’s one: when a family divides its chores, it gets them out of the way more quickly and has more time to do fun stuff.
“You’re just like so-and-so” is an offhand grumble that can be pretty toxic. For example, if a child has been labeled as being “just like his dad,” he can potentially feel anger and shame every time Dad is criticized. Next time, instead of reaching for a generalizing comparison, just explain exactly what it was about your child’s behavior that disappointed you.
Tweens and teens are riddled with problems arising from their transition to adulthood. Have you ever tried to put one of your tween’s many problems in perspective with the phrase “it’s only growing pains” or “you’ll grow out of it soon”? While these phrases may be absolutely true to you, they imply to your child that whatever they’re going through is imagined or otherwise not “real” pain. Also, by telling them that they’ll “grow out of” something, it’s basically like saying “wait 2-3 years and get back to me” – nobody is that patient, especially not 12-year-olds. So instead, try littler ways of putting their problems in perspective. Once you’ve discussed the source of their angst, ask them if they think it’ll hurt so bad tomorrow, or next week, or next month. And as for whatever’s getting them down right now, provide the best antidote you can. Sometimes a bike ride or a trip to the movies can be just the right distraction.
When we use worn-out parenting phrases, we’re usually engaged in some kind of conflict with a child. Heated emotions can stir up heated words, so it’s important, as always, to take a few deep breaths and listen carefully to yourself and to your child. This will help you decide which phrases are what you really want to say and which are lame shortcuts. Are there any phrases you use that your child really hates? Think about why. And next time you reach for that phrase, consider a more thoughtful alternative.
Moving can be a monumental task, even if you’re just relocating a few blocks over, and long distance moves can take an emotional toll on kids because no one likes to leave friends behind. But your attitude towards moving and the ways you involve your children in the process will make all the difference in whether they love their new home or resent being there. Check out these tips for making your family move a smooth and successful one.
When it’s time to break the news to your kids, make a favorite snack or order up some pizzas and sit down in a comfy place; there will likely be discussion. Try to convey your excitement for the new place and the new opportunities that place offers for everyone in your family. Tell your children that you’ll depend on them for help and support throughout the moving process. But don’t stop there: make sure everyone in your family has a specific “job” during the move. If kids feel busy and involved, they’ll feel more positive about the experience and they won’t have time to second-guess whether moving is really such a hot idea. If possible, involve your children in selecting a new home, but keep in mind it can be taxing to drag little ones to visit half a dozen houses or apartments in a day. Narrow it down to some top choices before you ask kids for their input.
When packing up, take it slow. If you take your time and pack over the course of a few weeks, it’ll be a lot less stressful and allow you to be more organized. Try to label your boxes with descriptive precision; this is essential if your child is trying to track down a favorite toy on the other end. If you have a lot of stuff to get rid of, have a moving sale and make sure the profits go to something that benefits the whole family.
Before the move, don’t forget to make some memories of the home you’re leaving. Take some photos or, if you have a video camera, create a goofy home tour video with your kids – this can be a great thing to show off at a going-away party. Lastly, leave something behind for your old home’s new inhabitants.
It’s important to do lots of research about the new town, city, or neighborhood you’re moving to, and encourage your children to do the same. When you get there, be sure to set aside some time to explore with your kids. Visit schools, the library, community centers, and maybe a fun restaurant or two. It’s important to make your new home feel homey, so some of the first things you unpack on the other end should be favorite paintings, posters, or objects from the old place. If your kids’ rooms need some extra spark, check out some of our room and nursery décor – this could be a nice surprise for a kid who behaved in an exemplary way during the move.
It’s difficult to leave a home behind, but making moving really fun for your kids can help a lot, and if you look at moving as an adventure, it can be a blast. But throughout the process, make sure your child knows that despite the great changes moving brings, you’ll always be a constant in their life. Done right, moving can only bring a family closer together.
Keep making that face and it’ll freeze that way! Watch out for those cracks in the sidewalk! Don’t swallow your gum or it’ll sit in your stomach till you’re in college! Old wives’ tales, urban legends – everyone’s heard a few. As a parent, maybe you’ve told a few, too. But where do old wives’ tales come from? Are they detrimental to kids, or do some of these old sayings really have a point?
Old wives’ tales originate with myths and oral storytelling. Fairy tales, with their plucky, clever heroines and heroes, were morality tales for children of olden times. Women told stories to teach children lessons and make difficult concepts like death or coming of age easier to understand. Often, these stories tried to teach children not to do certain things that were unsafe or considered immoral. That’s why a lot of old wives’ tales sound like threats. “Don’t do A, or B will happen!” B is usually something really unlikely, kinda scary, and easy to remember.
Thus, many old wives’ tales serve a practical purpose. Gum doesn’t actually stay in your stomach if you swallow it, but that doesn’t mean kids should swallow their gum. Gum presents a choking hazard, so if kids think something bad will happen if they swallow it, they’re actually right. It’s just an issue of substituting a more compelling consequence (“Wow! Gum just stays there? I don’t want that!”) for an actually scary one (choking).
Some parents may feel uncomfortable “lying” to their children with outlandish old wives’ tales. That’s a valid point. Older children can stand to hear that they shouldn’t make funny faces all the time because it’s immature, not because their face will get frozen like that. But for young kids, old wives’ tales can be an effective and fun teaching tool. They’re memorable, and sometimes that counts more than being entirely honest.
Here’s a fun activity to do with your spouse or some fellow parents. You have the formula for the classic old wives’ tale (“Don’t do A, or B will happen!”), so why not make up some of your own? Think of some dangerous or unpleasant thing your child does. That’s A. Now come up with a consequence, B, the weirder the better. Next time you see your child doing A, lay your “new” wives’ tale on them. See how they react. Chances are they’ll give you that wide-eyed look – and think twice about going on an A spree anytime soon.
Of course, if your child becomes truly afraid of an old wives’ tale, it’s time to step in and tell them it’s not true. But for most kids, there’s a sort of pleasure in gradually coming to the realization that nobody’s going to die if they step on a crack in the sidewalk. You could call that sort of pleasure growing up.
Does your child run when you say the word “doctor?” Doctors can be a source of fear, apprehension, and even guilt for youngsters, causing many parents to wonder what the big deal is. Here are some reasons why your child may feel iffy about the doctor and some helpful tips for putting your child’s mind at ease the next time they need a checkup.
Separation is one of the most common fears children face, and it comes into play in a big way at the doctor’s office. Little patients often fear that their parents may leave them in the exam room to be subjected to mysterious examinations alone. While most common in kids under 7 years old, this can be frightening through ages 12 or 13. To combat this fear, ensure your child that you can stay or go as they would prefer – maybe work out a secret signal, like a touch of the nose, to indicate that they’d rather have you in the room.
It’s a good idea to prepare kids of all ages in advance of their visit so there are no surprises that day. Be honest with your child about what their visit will entail – the needle will hurt a little, the blood pressure cuff will not. Talking about the doctor in a positive way can alleviate some of the anxiety created by perceived “stranger danger.” Remind your child that the doctor’s speed, efficiency, or detached attitude doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t care for them. If the upcoming appointment is a regular health checkup, explain that it’s a “well-child” visit: “The doctor wants to see how you’re growing and developing, and ask questions to make sure your body is healthy.” Encourage kids as they get older to ask any questions they have about their body and health.
Stress that all healthy kids go to the doctor; it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. However, if your doctor visit is, in fact, to diagnose and treat an illness or other condition, explain that the doctor “needs to examine you to find out how you can get better.” Apprehensive about the unknown, some kids worry that their health problem may be much worse than their parents let on. Some who are going for a checkup suspect they will be surprised with surgery or hospitalization; some who are ill worry that they may die. In addition, they may harbor feelings of guilt, or believe that needing to go to the doctor for an injury or sickness – and making their mom and dad worry – is their fault. Kids who feel guilty may also believe that examinations and procedures are part of their punishment. Again, be as open as possible in communication with your child, and realistically assuage any fears they may have.
It’s important to remember that not many people look forward to going to the doctor or dentist – not even parents – so your child has a lot of company in their apprehension. But instilling the responsibility to take care of one’s body early and positively is important. Accepting the doctor as a helpful and caring figure is a meaningful step toward that goal, and a great start to a lifetime of healthy habits.
With weather warming, the sun shining, and everything coming back to life, you and your kids are probably getting a touch of spring fever. Why not celebrate with May Day festivities? Here are some fun ideas for celebrating this holiday’s traditions in your own backyard.
May Day has been around since ancient times. Traditionally, the holiday marks the beginning of farmable spring in the Northern hemisphere, and is associated with various Celtic and German festivals. Today, many European communities celebrate May Day by erecting a large Maypole in the middle of town, giving each other flowers and gifts, and dancing. The evening before May 1st, young people head out to find flowers and greenery, especially blossoming tree branches. This is called “fetching in the May.”
For your own May Day celebration, it’s fun to mix and match a variety of crafts and activities, traditional and not. Pretty much any act that celebrates spring is fair game. If you get up early to pick flowers, try indulging in another tradition: kissing the dew, or washing your face in the morning dew for beauty and good luck. Tie your flowers and twigs with some string or yarn to make garlands, or use them to make May Baskets. These are small baskets or cones filled with flowers and treats. Try leaving a May Basket on a neighbor’s doorstep, ringing the bell, and running away. May Baskets make great party favors, too.
Dressing up and putting on a show is another fun May Day tradition. Traditionally, May Day revelers select a May Queen, complete with throne and crown, to preside over festivities and dancing, but you may not want to single out just one person to fill this role; there can be many May Princes and Princesses at your gathering. Offer scarves, hats, belts, and other bits from the dress-up trunk to help children turn themselves into woodsmen, flower fairies, or anyone else who fits into your idea of a nature celebration. Sing songs about spring, and learn a few simple folk dances to really get in the holiday spirit.
The central event of May Day is usually the Maypole. If you don’t have a 50-foot pole lying around, you can make your own mini-May Pole out of a tent pole, tall cardboard tube, PVC pipe from the hardware store – whatever suits your needs. Just tie or glue strands of string or ribbon to the top and let them flutter down. Give one ribbon to each reveler and experiment with dance steps that weave different patterns around the pole. Try this one: circle up with half of the dancers going in either direction, weaving in and out of one another like a figure 8. Make it a game and get the grown-ups involved for a little healthy competition. Who can make the coolest pattern?
May Day is, at its core, a celebration of how nature flourishes again after a long winter. It’s also a great opportunity to remind your kids to leave their screens and get involved in some healthy outdoor fun. So what are you waiting for? Get planning and get outside for a May Day play day!
Is your child spending too much time in front of screens, alone and sedentary? Want to get them involved in some healthy and stimulating activities with other kids? Joining a club or team may be the answer. Group activities help kids develop teamwork and leadership skills, and let them meet friends with similar interests. But with such a wide range of activities out there, it can take some work to determine what club or team is right for your child. These tips can help.
First, start by collecting all the information you can about clubs and teams from various sources, like your child’s school, local library, and community organizations. Then, show your child all the brochures and flyers and ask them what looks good. Don’t rush them into a decision, or put pressure on them based on what you or your other children are interested in. There are lots and lots of options out there, all with their own pros and cons, and one of them is the right fit for your child.
If a certain activity jumps out at them, go with it. If they’re not so sure, help them pick an activity based on what kinds of skills it develops, and what values it enforces. Arts groups, like a marching band or theater production, help kids develop creative and collaborative skills. Scouting gives kids the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and serve their community. Political clubs, student government, and debate teams foster public speaking skills, quick thinking, and competitive instincts. Sports teams keep kids physically healthy and working together.
Whatever you come up with, talk through various options with your child over the course of a few days. When you’re in the deciding stage, it might be a good idea to reach out and meet the coaches and leaders of these organizations. A great coach or leader can be a major selling point to join one team or club over another, and can have a powerful effect on your child’s enthusiasm for the activity.
Many groups and activities, especially sports teams, require a tryout of some kind, and unfortunately not every kid is going to make the cut. What do you do if your child is rejected from something they really want to do? Sometimes just listening and acknowledging their frustration is enough. But also be sure to ask them what they want to do now. If they don’t have any ideas, try to help them identify what they liked so much about the team or group that didn’t accept them. Chances are you and your child can find another sport or activity with similarly appealing qualities.
Once your child finds a club or team they enjoy being a part of, keep tabs on their progress, and praise them for achievements they earn and skills they acquire. Most clubs and teams have opportunities for parents to get involved, and if you can spare the time, this sort of volunteering can be a valuable experience. Just make sure to check with your child first – some kids get embarrassed to have their parent hovering around all the time.
They probably won’t mind it so much, though, when you’re applauding their performance in a play or cheering after they make a 3-pointer. It may not happen immediately, but sooner or later your child will thank you for encouraging them to join.
“Mom, which one of us is the favorite?” Favoritism affects us immensely when we’re young, and can mold us as adults. Kids who were always playing second fiddle to a sibling can grow up to resent both that sibling and the parent who favored them; kids who played the “golden child” tend to be happier as adults, but can sometimes act imperious and entitled. If it’s severe, parental favoritism can even sow the seeds of real psychological problems. Obviously, you don’t want that for your children. So how do you make sure they don’t become the victims of favoritism?
First, take a hard look at whether you play favorites as a parent. Do you take sides in an argument between your children? Do you sometimes tell one child to take their cues from another? These actions may seem benign, but they’re actually subtle instances of favoritism. If you realize that you do play favorites sometimes, don’t beat yourself up about it; it’s a natural instinct. But there are measures you can take to curb that behavior and ensure your children feel equally loved and appreciated.
If you want to stop playing favorites, never compare one child to the other. “Emma finished her homework in under an hour. Why can’t you do that?” Saying something like this to a child only makes them feel ashamed, and probably won’t make them finish their homework any faster. Some parents would argue that fostering competition between their children works as motivation. In the short run, it does. But what that kind of parenting really communicates, especially to young children, is that the winner will gain your love and the loser will not. Try to exempt yourself from being the judge in competitions. In a dispute between siblings, insist on equal punishments. And don’t suggest that one child emulate the other, even if the other child’s behavior is exemplary.
Even if you never play favorites at home, your child’s teachers and coaches sometimes will. If your child reports that a teacher is playing favorites, attend a class yourself. If you notice the same behavior your child did, don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting with the teacher or coach and address the problem in a nonaggressive way. Sometimes there’s a perfectly good reason for perceived favoritism. Teachers tailor their teaching to each child’s unique personality and temperament; perhaps if your child isn’t being favored, it’s because the teacher feels they don’t need that extra attention.
To some extent, favoritism is unavoidable; it’s a natural human behavior, something everyone does. As kids get older, and build self-confidence, they’ll be able to cope with that fact more readily and shrug off favoritism. But until then, make sure the people your children look up to aren’t showing favoritism. Teach your children that appreciating people for their unique qualities is ultimately more rewarding than picking favorites.