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The novelty of the first snow has long worn off, and your kids are starting to wonder if their T-shirts and shorts have been put into permanent storage. Sometimes winter can seem…long. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to make winter an exciting time for everyone, whether you decide to embark on a weekend getaway or enjoy a “staycation” at home. With a little bit of creative thinking and planning, beating the winter blues can be easier than you think.
Some of the simplest – and most fun – winter adventures are ones you can have in your own backyard. Building snow forts and snowmen, sledding, and making snow angels are some perennial favorites. Ice skating can be fun, too; if there’s a rink nearby, enroll your children in a beginner’s class or sign up for a family skating session, and reward yourselves afterward with some hot chocolate and marshmallows. If the weather outside is truly frightful, a movie marathon is a great way to liven up a wintry weekend. Have each child pick a film according to a theme (such as animals or adventure), and make popcorn with special toppings (try M&Ms or chili powder) for an extra-special movie treat. If you’re in the mood to get out of the house without going far, checking with your local library or community center can yield many low-cost and free entertainment options: chances are, there are others out there in your area looking for stuff to do.
Another big part of winter’s fun is taking part in mountain sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. There are lots of ways to plan a winter sports trip without breaking the bank. Driving to a local resort is a lot easier on the wallet than paying for airfare to a megaresort. Plus, smaller resorts often have better lodging and lift ticket rates, saving you money on expensive amenities you most likely wouldn’t use if you’re out hitting the slopes. If you’re just starting out and unsure about investing in $350 skis or a pricey snowboard (and even less sure how you’d store them), a great way to save big is to borrow expensive gear from family and friends. If borrowing equipment isn’t an option, renting will save you time, space, and money. The one thing it does pay to invest in is a good snowsuit or other winter clothing, since you’ll be able to use it year after year. And nothing spoils a vacation like a kid whining the entire time because they’re too cold. So bundle up!
A snowy winter vacation may not be seem as exciting as a hot, summery one, but it offers its own unique opportunities for family fun. Simply taking the time to think about what activities your family enjoys can lead to a vacation full of fun memories and happy kids. Get planning today! And if you’re looking for winter gear, check out the selection at CookiesKids.com!
From getting messy with Mom’s flour to sneaking licks of frosting off the spoon, being a kid in the kitchen is a lot of fun. And although your little one’s first attempts at cooking dinner may not win them a place on Top Chef, encouraging their culinary curiosity now can reap delicious rewards later.
There are as many reasons to get your kids cooking as there varieties of potatoes (over 500, to be exact!). Reading a recipe strengthens their vocabulary and comprehension skills, while prepping food and cleaning up afterward reinforces cleanliness. Math plays a huge role too, from measuring ingredients to calculating substitutions and cooking times. And cooking with a partner encourages organization, teamwork, and sharing. From gathering ingredients to knowing if Dad already added the eggs to the flour, it takes concentration and effort to see a recipe through from the stovetop to the dinner table, and the rewards to this process are better than tangible: they’re edible!
If your little one has already discovered the joys of banging on pots and pans, it’s easy to get them involved in a more meaningful (and less noisy) way. For younger kids, start off with a simple recipe, such as fruit salad or cupcakes, then take a trip to the grocery store and have them pick out the ingredients. Back in the kitchen, clear off a space for them to help out with kid-friendly tasks like washing fruit or measuring flour. Establishing clear rules about what’s safe (the sink) and not safe (the stove) to touch is also extremely important, and make sure that whatever utensils you give your little one to work with are safe for their age and experience. Lastly, patience is key when cooking with kids, so don’t expect 30-minute meals to actually take 30 minutes.
Once your child has experienced the basics, move on to other kid-friendly dishes like soups and stews, and easy baked goods such as cookies and cakes. Take the time to explain each ingredient, noting its color, smell, and texture; it’ll take the mystery out of new foods and dishes, engage kids’ curiosity, and make them feel more connected to the act, and art, of cooking.
As kids get older, you can delegate more tasks and responsibilities in the kitchen. Try assigning older kids one night a week to plan and cook a meal for the whole family. Not only will this boost their confidence, it’ll also serve as an outlet of creative expression.
Getting your children involved in the cooking process can be a source of fun and inspiration for the whole family. Learning essential kitchen skills, and understanding the connection between food and the world around them, will help kids make smart food choices later on in life. And who knows – maybe they’ll pass Grandma’s super secret apple pie recipe on to their own children someday!
It’s been a wonderful holiday season here at CookiesKids.com. Our warehouse was bustling, our website was filled with holiday deals, and we worked around the clock to ensure that toys and clothes got to you in time for the holidays. But this year we also did something more. As a member of the NYC community, we knew we had to do something to assist those affected by Superstorm Sandy, so we found seventy-five lucky kids whose holiday seasons had been darkened by the storm’s devastation. Then, in partnership with American Express and the Brooklyn Nets, we gave each of these kids a $250 American Express gift card to spend in our store. Players from the Nets were on the scene to take pictures, sign autographs, and offer the occasional toy-related advice. The day proved a memorable one for these kids, who pushed huge shopping carts full of toys to the register with even huger smiles on their faces. But for a young basketball fan, there’s really no toy that can compare with a high-five from Deron Williams or Kris Humphries.
Call us sentimental, but we find that times like these make all the stress of the holidays worthwhile – the little moments of giving back. Did you or your family have the opportunity to give back to your community this holiday season? If so, we want to hear about it! Tweet us @CookiesKids or visit our blog.
If charity might have gotten lost in the shuffle this holiday season, we have a few suggestions on how you can still make things brighter for those less fortunate around you. Vacations from school are a great time to sort through kids’ closets and your kitchen pantry. See if you can put together some lightly used clothes (especially coats) and non-perishable foods to donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or another community organization.
If your child receives some holiday cash from you or a relative, ask them to consider donating it to a charity of their choice. Try discussing with your family the charities and organizations you might want to support, based on your family’s unique values. Maybe there’s one organization you can all agree could use a few extra dollars for the New Year.
Lastly, consider those in your community who might not have anyone to visit them this holiday season, like the elderly or infirm. Try to spend some time with these folks. They could probably use some extra holiday cheer.
Charity doesn’t have to mean giving a down-on-their-luck kid a shopping spree in a toy store (though doing that was pretty fun!). It’s the littlest gestures that make the biggest difference, and they’re always twice as appreciated this time of year. Talk with your family about what giving really means to you. You might find some extra meaning in your holiday this year.
Are your kids always on their best behavior in public? Do you wish they were? Public places can sometimes bring out bad behavior even in normally well-behaved kids. Check out these tips to make sure that when your child goes out and about, they’re on their best behavior.
Preparation begins at home. If you don’t set high standards for kids’ behavior at home, they won’t know how to behave outside. As children grow older, and places like skating rinks, shopping malls, restaurants, and the movies become age-appropriate for them, start thinking about how you can prepare your child to transfer good behavior tendencies at home to good behavior in public. Point out positive things they do – like saying “please” and “thank you” – and tell them that in places like a restaurant they should do that stuff as much as they can. Any little way you can prepare them goes a long way. Next time you’re peacefully watching TV with your young child, try this line: “When we go to the movies together, I hope you can be as quiet as you are tonight.”
If you know you have an outing planned that might be a challenge for your child – like a fancy restaurant or a holiday party – take steps to prepare your child beforehand. Give them a little synopsis of what you think will happen at any given event – “the bride and groom will kiss, then we’ll hear some speeches, then we can dance” – just so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Explain that fun outings are a privilege that’s only earned by good behavior – and be specific about defining exactly what “good behavior” means to you.
Despite preparation and coaching on your part, it’s still possible your child will have a meltdown in public. Instances of bad behavior or tantrums flare up more frequently outside the home for many reasons; most often, it’s an instance of kids testing the boundaries. If your child starts throwing a tantrum in public, take some deep breaths. Remain calm and don’t argue with your child, because if you lose your cool, it can make their tantrum worse. Next, drop whatever you’re doing with your child and get them to an appropriate timeout zone. A public timeout can be a little different than a timeout at home, but try to select a quiet area to wait with your child until they’re calmed down and ready to behave. If timeouts don’t seem to work for your child, try other activities that calm them down. If a favorite toy or game seems to have a soothing effect on them, make sure you keep that item close at hand.
For a period of your child’s development, every trip outside the house will be a learning experience for them: how not to bump into strangers; how to deal with a world of unfamiliar faces and objects; how to react when other people around them prevent them from getting their way. It can be a lot for some kids to handle, so be patient. Make sure you note improvement in your child’s behavior, and reward them with praise – and the promise of more public outings – if they keep up the good behavior.
As kids get older and begin to go out on their own, they’ll apply what you taught them about good behavior, and see that things are a lot easier for them when they’re respectful of a certain behavioral code in public. It may not happen immediately, but someday they’ll thank you for showing them how to behave.
Was Halloween a little too scary for your little one? Or does your child have fears that extend past the season of ghouls and goblins? Small children tend to be more afraid of things not based in reality, such as monsters and ghosts, than older kids. Big kids aren’t immune to fear, though; their fears often reflect real circumstances, which can be even scarier. So what can you do to help your child conquer their fears? Check out the tips below!
First and foremost, remember not to label feelings of fear as ‘wrong.’ As trivial as monsters seem to you, they might feel very real to your child. Make sure to talk to your child about their fears in an understanding and sensitive way. Don’t assume you know how they feel. Instead, ask what they think will happen or what exactly they’re afraid of. Gently correct any misconceptions, and then offer assurance.
Ignoring a child’s fear in the hopes that they’ll just get over it can make things worse. Statements such as “big kids aren’t afraid of the dark” can shame kids into silence, and won’t fix a fear of the dark. Instead, try validating kids’ feelings: let them know it’s permissible to have and to express fears. Let them know that these feelings make sense, and that it’s OK to feel whatever they’re feeling.
But validation doesn’t mean catering to a fear. If your child’s fear is dogs, don’t cross the street deliberately to avoid one. Instead, use an encounter with a fear as a teaching moment. Suggest coping strategies like taking deep breaths or saying “I can do this” out loud. Ask your child to approach a feared object only one or two steps at a time, acting as a home base your little one can retreat to if they become too scared. Handle things like fear of the dark in steps, transitioning from a big lamp to a small nightlight until your child is comfortable trying lights out.
Lastly, the way you handle your own fears has a great influence on your kids. When a parent is afraid, kids sense it, but the example you set by managing your fear shows your child what a positive response looks like. Think hard about what you might be afraid of, and how you face it. Share this experience with your children. Once they see that Mom and Dad are scared of things too, not only will they feel okay about their fear, but they’ll know that if you can handle it, nothing is stopping them.
Every kid needs a hero, and it’s not always the kind with a flowing cape. Children are constantly on the lookout for role models of all kinds, and it’s important for you, as a parent, to help your children choose the right ones. Idolizing celebrities, fictional characters, and other kids is natural, but it’s fraught with the potential for disappointment and can easily get out of hand. Check out these helpful tips for helping your children choose positive role models.
Kids sometimes look up to actors, pop stars, and characters just because these figures happen to be on TV or the Internet a lot. You may think these kinds of role models are meaningless, but should you tell your child that? Probably not. Better to emphasize the positive attributes of the hero your child has chosen. Say your child’s role model is a pop star with killer dance moves and really annoying songs. You can still point out the hard work the star must have gone through with all those dance rehearsals. Better yet, ask your child to identify the qualities they admire in their role model. Their answer may surprise you.
What do you do if your child’s role model goes down in flames? Sometimes celebrity role models make poor personal choices, landing them in court, rehab, or worse. Remind your child that everyone makes mistakes. Ask what your child thinks of their role model’s behavior, or what they would have done differently in the same situation. Ask if they think their role model has learned anything, or become a better person from the experience. Most importantly, tell your child they shouldn’t feel they must do everything the role model does – only what they admire.
Many children look up to a schoolmate, friend, or older sibling. It’s great for kids to actually know their heroes, but it’s also important to keep peers off too high a pedestal. Occasionally, a school bully or class clown can become an object of admiration for their power or popularity. If you have concerns that your child is emulating the lesser qualities of a peer role model, work with your child to identify why those qualities aren’t cool. Explain that a role model should make them feel good about themselves, not afraid or lame by comparison.
Despite all the heroes out there, parents still have a tremendous influence as role models. Even if your child won’t readily admit it, they probably look up to you a lot more than anyone they see on TV. So make sure you’re offering an example they can emulate with pride. That way, when kids go looking for a hero, they don’t have to look very far.
We know your kids get up to some pretty interesting stuff every day. Don’t you wish they kept track of it all? Maybe it’s time they started keeping a journal. Keeping a journal is as simple as putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), and it’s a fluid activity that can be tailored to any child’s specific interests and personality. But journaling isn’t just fun – it can aid your child’s development more than you might think.
There are lots of reasons to encourage your child to start journaling. Not only does it help strengthen vocabulary, grammar, and penmanship skills, it also promotes an introspective thought process that can be beneficial when kids are stressed or upset. Knowing that they have an arena in which to explore their interests, or a safe haven for their most private thoughts, will also help kids develop confidence and healthy coping strategies.
So how do you get kids to start journaling? First, make sure they know it’s an activity for everybody, young and old, boys and girls. If your little boy thinks diaries are “just for girls”, make sure to dispel that notion by telling him about all the important men, from political figures like Thomas Jefferson to explorers such as Benjamin Clark, who kept a journal. Try starting younger kids off with a focused idea, such as keeping a journal about an upcoming family vacation. Set aside a few minutes each day for them to record their thoughts about the trip; once you’re home, have them paste maps, ticket stubs, and other keepsakes into the back of the book. Of course, not all journals have to be so specific. Freeform writing is extremely beneficial to kids, whether it’s one sentence or one page a day.
One of the best things about journaling is its privacy, but sometimes it takes a conscious effort to keep a journal away from prying eyes. For older kids who are on social media sites like Facebook, it’s tempting to post lots of personal status updates and photos, which is cool, but it’s not quite the same as a journal. Be sure to remind budding social media mavens that what goes on the web stays on the web – permanently. They should carefully consider the differences between what they write for the world to see, and what stays private. And always remember: your child’s private journal is off-limits unless they give you permission to read it.
Everyone needs a space to reflect, and as children grow older they’ll realize more and more the value of creating a journal all about their interests, hopes, and ambitions. If you kept a journal when you were younger, dig it up and check it out. Better yet, share it with your child. Perhaps this will inspire them to start their own.
The sun is setting earlier, the grill is in storage, and you’ve swapped out tank tops and shorts for cardigans and corduroys. There’s no doubt about it – summer is officially over. And though your kids may be counting down the days until they can jump in the pool again, the cool days of autumn are packed with their own kind of fun. From pumpkin picking to easy arts and crafts, here are a few autumn activities the whole family can enjoy.
The transition from summer to autumn is a visible one; leaves go from vibrant green to an array of fiery reds, oranges, and golds, and once-blooming flowers go dormant until next spring. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a nature walk with younger children to explore all the fascinating changes taking place, from birds migrating south to animals storing food in preparation for winter. Take turns collecting leaves, pointing out the differences in them as you go along. Decorate the house with rubbed drawings of the best leaves you find – just place a piece of paper over the leaf and gently rub a crayon or pencil until its outline appears.
With Halloween right around the corner, older children may want to experience some of fall’s spookier activities. Find a haunted house with a reputation for mild scares, or, if there isn’t one nearby, take a trip to a craft store for supplies to turn your own home into a ghostly residence.
Just like summer, half the fun of fall is being outside. Want your kids to help out raking leaves? Tell them whoever rakes the biggest pile gets to jump in it afterwards. Many towns have local harvest festivals or autumn fairs, so check if there’s one nearby and make it a fun afternoon trip. Visit a pumpkin patch and see who can pick the biggest one; afterwards, you can scoop it out and carve a jack-o-lantern, and roast the seeds for an extra treat.
Apple picking is another great outing for the whole family, especially since many orchards also have fun rides and activities for younger children. Use the apples in pies, cakes, and other fall desserts that you can share with family and friends. You can also take advantage of the cooler weather by trying out recipes for hearty soups and stews, many of which are kid-friendly, one-pot dishes. Fall can be the perfect time to spark kids’ interest in cooking and have some fun times in the kitchen.
With a little planning and creative thinking, these next few months can be about a lot more than just Halloween and Thanksgiving. And after enjoying all the fun that only fall can bring, your kids may find themselves wishing it could last just a little bit longer.
Halloween is one of the most fun times of the year – when else can you spend an entire month eating candy and dressing up in costume? Since Halloween parties are a great way to get friends and family together for a night of scarily good food, fun, and fashion, here are a few simple ideas to make your eerie get-together the best yet.
Picking a Halloween costume is a childhood ritual whose enjoyment lasts well into adulthood. Buying a costume ensures a quick and speedy transformation into whatever superhero or fantasy character kids may choose, but if you have the time, making a costume from scratch can provide a lifetime of fun memories. For no-sew costumes, use an oversized sweatshirt as a base on which to draw, pin, or hot glue a variety of accessories and decorations. But whether you decide to buy or DIY, make sure the costume is easy to get on and off, and fits properly – too-loose costumes can pose a safety hazard.
Half the fun of Halloween parties is making your home look as spooky as possible. Carving a pumpkin is a traditional Halloween activity for a reason – it’s fun! Think you’re pretty handy with a pumpkin carving knife? Use your imagination to create one-of-a-kind pumpkins that reflect the personalities of your children and family members. If you need other decorations, visit your local craft store for supplies like plastic spiders, string, and glitter. Loop the string around a pumpkin like a cobweb, and pop on a few spiders for a creepy crawly table centerpiece, or carefully cover the pumpkin in glue and glitter for a glitzier look.
No party is complete without a spread of snacks, and Halloween is a great opportunity to give some of your kids’ favorite foods a ghoulish makeover. Turn a familiar hot dog into an unearthly “mummy dog” by wrapping it in thin slices of crescent roll dough, and baking until the dough resembles a mummy’s bandages. Pipe a cobweb of sour cream onto a bowl of salsa or nacho dip, or make a “candy corn” pizza with mozzarella in the middle and cheddar around the edge. Black and orange cookies (instead of black and white) and pumpkin cupcakes are easy desserts that everyone is sure to love.
Trick-or-treating is another Halloween rite of passage, but make sure kids know your ground rules. Young children should never go out unless accompanied by an adult. All treats should be examined before consumption, and no matter how delicious they look or smell, homemade items should be ignored in favor of wrapped, store-bought candies. Wearing reflective tape on a costume will alert drivers when kids cross the street, which they should always do with the help of an adult.
Celebrating Halloween can create long lasting memories of family bonding and excitement. And with a little planning, patience, and organization, you can make your annual Halloween party a treasured family tradition.
Maybe it was a few bad test grades. Maybe they’re in a big class and not getting the attention they need. Whether your child is struggling in school or just looking to boost their academic performance, it might be time to consider tutoring options. There are now lots of different ways kids can seek help outside of school, perhaps more than when you were a student. Check out these helpful ideas.
If your child shows signs that they’re not as confident in a subject, don’t wait to start a tutoring program. Just like adjusting to a new teacher, it can take time to develop a relationship with a tutor, so the earlier you choose your child’s tutor, the better. Finding a tutor when your child is already failing a class can sometimes cause more stress.
Should you or another family member be your child’s tutor? Maybe. But keep in mind educators today may teach a subject very differently than the way you learned it. Also, though you may not mean to, parents can put pressure on kids about grades, and this can be discouraging for a child whose personal goal is just to “get it” not necessarily to get an A. Sometimes it’s best to leave tutoring to people outside your family, because outsiders are more likely to teach the subject in a no-pressure kind of way.
For older students and complex academic subjects, professional tutors might be right. Just know, they can be expensive, so you may want to save this option for serious academic problems. If you wish to hire a professional tutor, make sure they’re from an accredited service. Not sure about which tutoring service is best? Ask your school or local library about programs and methods they might recommend – perhaps there’s even a free community group or afterschool program you didn’t know about.
Many kids find peer assistance the right solution. College students make great tutors and mentors for teens, and high schoolers can help middle school kids. Consider the older kids in your family’s social circle, especially ones your child looks up to. If you think one of them might make a good tutor, don’t hesitate to ask them. They might do it as a favor to you, but consider giving them a fee (could be money, could be dinner) for their tutoring assistance – just to let them know it means a lot to you and your child.
If your child finds other classmates who are struggling with the same subject, they might prefer group work or “study dates” to more formal tutoring. Be sure to give this a chance, because some kids really work better in a group. Just make sure that if kids say they’re doing work, video game breaks are kept to a minimum.
Whichever tutoring option you choose, keep apprised of your child’s progress. Make sure to check in with them after their tutoring sessions. Be patient, but if progress is really slow, don’t hesitate to try another tutoring option. Most importantly, make sure your student knows you’re proud of them for giving some extra attention to their studies. It can take guts to say, “I need help with this class.” Make sure they get the help that’s right for them. \
It probably started at your baby shower. If a girl was on the way, you got piles of pink; if a boy, you got bundles of blue. And from the moment your little one was born, their gender has influenced how people treat them. Studies show that adults describe a newborn wearing pink as “sweet” or “feminine”, but that same baby in blue is “sturdy” or “vigorous.” But your little one is unique, so how can you make sure they aren’t defined by narrow gender stereotypes?
Remember, kids are learning from you at all times, which means the biggest influence on kids’ ideas about gender is what they see at home. If you and your partner enact traditional gender roles, get creative! Show your child that men cook and women fix things. Spend time with friends whose households are different from yours. Comment positively on people who do jobs not typical for their gender, such as male nurses. And ask your child what they think: “That boy grew up to be a nurse. What do you think you’ll grow up to do?”
When it’s time to play, consider gender neutral options. Keep toys like blocks and crayons in rotation with dolls and trucks. Read books together with a child of the opposite gender as the main character. Invite a child of the opposite gender over to play – both kids will be amazed how much they dig each other’s stuff!
Did you know that the compliments you give kids can affect how they perceive gender? Girls in particular receive a lot of specifically feminine encouragement. Adults are more likely to compliment a girl on her looks, clothes, and hair than they are a boy. Similarly, boys are often encouraged to be less emotional because “big boys don’t cry.” Try to compliment children on what they do or say rather than how adorable they are (that’s the hard part!), and help them feel safe sharing their feelings. As kids get older, they’ll probably be thinking a lot about what being a boy or a girl means to them. As always, encourage them to be open and honest with their feelings and questions.
Shopping trips can be a great opportunity to explore what kids feel good wearing, regardless of the garment’s “intended” gender. Some stylish choices, like skinny jeans, can even walk the line between genders. Keep in mind many kids clothing brands offer unisex styles – check out our selection! And remember, it’s great to be a tough guy or a girly girl if that’s what your kid desires. It’s all about encouraging them to be whatever they want to be.
It’s a tale as old as time: your toddler borrows her older brother’s toy truck without asking, and – whoops! – breaks it. Tears flow, shouts fly, and finally your angry son declares his sister can never, ever play with his toys again. As the adult, you know she needs to apologize and he needs to forgive. But these are big concepts for little ones. It takes effort on your part to teach kids what goes into a sincere apology and what forgiveness really means. If you put in the time now, these skills will help your children resolve conflicts for their entire lives.
As anyone who’s received a half-hearted apology can attest, there’s a lot more to apologizing than just saying, “I’m sorry.” An apology is most effective when it comes from a genuine understanding of how the other person’s feelings may have been hurt, and a willingness to accept responsibility. For the person granting forgiveness, accepting a sincere apology is the healthiest way to release negative feelings and move on.
Talking with your children about how their actions affect others is an important step in developing the empathic attitude required to apologize and forgive. Make your child aware of others’ feelings by asking questions like, “How do you think your brother feels?” and, “Why do you think she did that to you?” Being constantly considerate of others’ feelings is the surest way to prevent the kinds of situations that require an apology.
But everyone has to apologize and forgive at some point. Whether you’re playing the role of mediator, or talking with kids about these situations afterwards, be sure to give the right advice. Apologizers should know that accepting responsibility is the most important step, and forgivers understand that when apologizers really mean it, forgiving is the right thing to do. Also, remember that it’s okay for kids to be temporarily angry, or sad, or frustrated. Letting these feelings out is healthier than bottling them up. But screaming and yelling is rarely a clear way to get feelings across, so let tempers cool before the process of apology begins.
Asking someone for forgiveness can be risky. It means admitting you made a mistake, and opening yourself up to further hurt or embarrassment. But holding onto resentment or anger can be emotionally draining and make it difficult to form healthy, long-lasting relationships. As your children get older, understanding their responsibility in any given situation, and knowing how to let go of negativity, will help them stay sincere, increase their confidence, and lead to stronger, more fulfilling connections with family and friends.
It goes without saying that getting good grades is important. Parents and teachers know they’re the key to everything from college admissions to important scholarships – even future careers. But since explaining all that to your 4th grader who’d rather watch iCarly than do her math homework is easier said than done, here are a few simple strategies. Following these tips will make this school year the Year of the Great Report Card.
First off, it’s important to define just what a good grade means for your child. They should strive to do their best, and realize that they shouldn’t compare their scores to anyone else’s. If they put a lot of time and effort into homework and studying, a B on a particularly hard test can be just as rewarding as an A.
Kids will find it easier to grasp the practical implications of good grades when you put the issue in terms they understand. Instead of telling them how a high score on this week’s math test could mean admission to a great college later on, show them how studying now means they’ll have free time later to watch a movie. Knowing your child’s motivations for doing well will help you establish guidelines for homework and studying that will result in better grades and a happier child. Consider implementing a rewards or bonus system to honor their hard work; it could be anything from an extra hour of TV to a special day out with Dad. Whatever you choose, though, be sure to follow through promptly.
Creating consistent conditions and clear expectations will go a long way in helping kids achieve their goals. Establish a “homework zone” that’s free of distractions, and set a specific time every day for kids to work on projects, test preparation, and take-home work. Getting them to into a habit of doing their work when it’s assigned has several benefits; not only will it help prevent the dreaded “night-before” scenario, it’ll also help them become more organized and confident. Showing an interest in their studies and keeping tabs on their performance is a small but significant way to communicate the value of good grades.
Instilling positive work habits in your kids will take some time, but talking about it right now is a good way to get them thinking about how they want to approach the new school year. They already have new clothes and maybe a new pair of shoes or two – why not better grades to go along with them?
Sleepover, slumber party, pajama party – it goes by many names, but the idea remains the same. Children get together at someone’s house, have fun, and go to sleep – or don’t. The sleepover is a rite of passage for kids, and a chance for them to taste a new kind of independence. But if it’s your turn to host a sleepover, it’s up to you to define when lights-out comes.
Preparation will go a long way in making sleepover night a success. The first thing to determine is how many children you want to have over. Eight is the generally recommended maximum, and sometimes the fewer kids, the better for your sanity. Before you commit to a larger number of guests, make sure you have room to fit them all.
Once you have your guest list, call guests’ parents to invite them. Make sure parents know when your party begins and ends, and where they can drop off and pick up their child. Also, get each parent’s cell phone number, and ask them about dietary restrictions or other specific issues their children might have – have a notepad handy to keep track. Once you know how many kids are coming and what they’ll need, stock up on supplies. Make sure you have extra linens, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. A grocery run should cover snacks, drinks, and breakfast items, but might also include plastic plates and cutlery for larger groups.
You might also consider working out a rough activity schedule before guests arrive. Talk with your child about what they’d like to do at their sleepover. Watch movies? Paint fingernails? Play flashlight tag? Also, make sure your child knows what playing host or hostess entails. Explain to them that they can have some extra say in what they and their friends do on sleepover night, but that this also means they have to take responsibility if a rogue attendee decides to finger paint the pool table.
When the big night arrives, there are two things to do right at the beginning. First, give all your sleepover guests a tour: show them where all the bathrooms are, and where you’ll be should they need you. Second, lay down the rules. These are up to you, but might include no leaving the house, no using dangerous appliances, and no “ganging up.” Rules should definitely include a specific time for lights-out. In fact, you might step in about a half-hour before lights-out to remind everyone.
Even with all this preparation, be ready for some typical problems. Be available to comfort kids who are homesick or otherwise upset. Try to imagine what it’s like to sleep somewhere strange, to adhere to another family’s rules and quirks. On the other hand, be ready with stern warnings for out-of-line behavior, and don’t hesitate to call parents should kids drastically overstep your rules.
That said, staying up all night is par for the course for many sleepovers. It might be best to just let it happen and accept that you probably won’t get the best night’s sleep either. Take a nap the previous day or the next. And take solace in the fact that while you might miss out on one good night of sleep, your child’s sleepover memories will last forever.
Splash! Swimming and playing in the water is one of the great joys of summer – good exercise and great fun. But before your little ones dive in head-first, take some time to explain the risks of oceans, lakes, and pools, and know what you need to do to ensure your children’s safety. A few water safety precautions can prevent drastic consequences.
When introducing young children to swimming, it’s important to instill in them a healthy fear of water. You don’t want to scare them away from it, but take steps to illustrate the power of water: “See those boulders? The ocean can move them.” Make sure your child knows that water is something they need to respect by following certain rules.
The most important rule to tell young swimmers is this one: never swim alone. Make sure your child knows that if there aren’t adults around to supervise, kids shouldn’t be swimming, even if there’s lifeguard on duty. Watch your child whenever they swim. And when kids go swimming in a lake or the ocean, make sure they swim with a buddy.
If you have your own pool in the backyard, it’s a good idea to come up with a list of specific rules that are appropriate for your children. Whatever your rules are, they should be clearly explained, or even written up and posted somewhere near the pool. Some standard pool safety rules might include no running by the pool, no swimming without an adult, and no diving head-first. You can also take certain precautions to make your pool especially safe. Be sure the drain is fitted with an anti-entrapment cover. Pool noodles and inflatable toys are fun, but they’re not flotation devices; have a life preserver on hand in case of emergency.
At the beach, another set of rules and precautions applies. The ocean presents many hazards to swimmers, and it’s best to prepare your children by making sure they know about them ahead of time. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but any kid who goes in the ocean must already know how to swim – don’t let a weak swimmer paddle in on a raft and assume they won’t fall in. Even for strong swimmers, currents and rip-tides can present a risk. Tell your child to pick a permanent landmark on the beach and swim near that – better yet, they should choose the lifeguard chair as their landmark. Sharks and toothy, tentacled creatures of the deep can scare some kids a little too much, but make sure children have some idea of the sea creatures that can harm them. Stinging jellyfish and the sharp shells of oysters and mussels are important to avoid; bring a first-aid kit just in case.
Once your little swimmer demonstrates they know and observe water safety rules, consider rewarding them with a pool party or trip to the beach! Introduce classic pool games like Sharks and Minnows, or throw coins into the pool for an underwater treasure hunt. Beach towels and bathing suits make great gifts for responsible swimmers – check out our selection at CookiesKids.com!
For many children, the phrase “school uniform” conjures up images of monochrome outfits that reveal little about the budding personalities wearing them. There are lots of reasons why school districts implement uniform policies, from boosting student achievement to fostering school spirit, but many kids still see it as one less way for them to express themselves. Cookie’s Kids understands how important it is for children to be individuals, which is why we’ve worked hard to make our school uniforms anything but basic.
Like snowflakes, no two Cookie’s Kids uniforms are alike. Cookie’s Kids provides schools and parents with three customizable uniform options: embroidery, screen-printing, and plaid. Custom colored logo embroidery is available for dress wear such as polos, button-downs, and blazers, while screen-printing is offered on casual pieces such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, and spirit wear; an on-site facility in ourBrooklynwarehouse ensures quick turnaround and speedy delivery.
And for schools that require plaid uniforms, Cookie’s Kids works with a New York City-based factory to develop custom plaid fabrics that can be manufactured into skirts, jumpers, pants – even ties! Our program makes it easy for schools to create a unique look, while giving parents the ability to mix and match with as many or as few pieces as they need.
In addition to all our personalized options, Cookie’s Kids carries a wide variety of accessories to help kids upgrade their school uniform from standard to stylish. For girls, tights and knee socks are an inexpensive way to liven up even the most basic dress or skirt. Changing jewelry or hair accessories from day to day is another easy way to refresh a well-worn outfit. And for boys, swapping out ties and belts can liven up a daily routine of polos and slacks.
From our individually-tailored selections to our wide variety of accessories, Cookie’s Kids’ winning combination of great clothing at affordable prices makes shopping for – and wearing – school uniforms easier and more fun than ever!
Do your kids have enough music in their lives? Numerous studies have shown that steady musical exposure, whether it’s listening to a song or mastering a difficult solo, can boost children’s reading comprehension, improve their motor skills, and even increase memory retention. Following a rhythm or melody requires the same kind of abstract thinking and patience used in problem-solving, while learning how to dance and keep time helps young kids gain control of their bodies.
In the past, kids might have been exposed to music in school. But with tight school budgets all over the country, many school music programs have been cut back and even eliminated, leaving parents to pick up the slack. So what can you do to get your kids engaged with music?
There are lots of ways to make your home a musical one. You can start off by playing soft music during downtime and upbeat tunes when it’s time to play. Kids will start to pick up on the emotional cues and associate certain kinds of music with specific moods. Singing is another great way to keep little ones musically engaged; you can hum the tunes at first, and then add the words once they’ve mastered the melody. Exposing children to a variety of sounds, rhythms, and musical styles enriches their senses and encourages their curiosity.
A great way to further young kids’ musical experimentation is by adding instruments to the mix. Try keeping a basket of simple percussion instruments handy, like tambourines and rhythm sticks, and play a Simon Says game; you tap out a pattern and your little one has to duplicate it. As they get older, make the patterns more complicated by adding new sounds and rhythms. And if they express an interest in pursuing a particular instrument, such as guitar or violin, try finding one at a secondhand music shop and hiring a musical tutor.
But it’s not just about making music; taking time to listen and appreciate music is also beneficial. Many parks have outdoor concerts in the summer, so try organizing a family outing to see a musical performance, and lead a discussion with your children afterward. Getting them talking about what they enjoy, what they don’t, and how a particular type of music makes them feel is an important critical exercise that will help them in school and beyond.
From nursery rhymes to pop radio hits, music is an integral part of our lives. Encouraging your children to understand and engage with music in all its forms will lead to more than just treasured memories of dancing around the living room with Mom. It’ll help them build an identity and set them on a lifelong journey of learning and discovery.
Last week, in honor of Cookie’s Kids’ 40th anniversary, we brought you the story of how a humble children’s clothing store inQueens became a chain of family-run superstores. This week, we’re bringing Cookie’s history full circle by sharing the history of our e-commerce site, CookiesKids.com.
In 2007, Cookie’s Kids celebrated its 35th anniversary. With six successful stores throughoutNew York City and legions of loyal shoppers, it was hard to imagine how much bigger the family-run business could become. But even though it had stores in almost every borough, there was one place where Cookie’s mix of low prices and great selection was still missing: the Internet.
Online shopping had grown exponentially since Amazon.com shipped its first package in 1995, and Al Falack, Cookie’s nephew, realized that opening a website would be a great way to expand the company’s steady school uniform department. Since starting out in the late ’90s with just a handful of schools, Cookie’s had become a major name in the uniform business because of its ability to deliver a wide variety of styles at reasonable prices in the large quantities schools needed.
At first, CookiesKids.com sold only school uniforms. As longtime uniform buyer Joe Beyda remembers, “The website allowed us to reach even more schools, and became a very important part of our business.” But after seeing how quickly traffic to the site grew,
Al realized the site could be a lot more. Six months later, with the help of several dedicated employees, the website began selling infant clothing and accessories; a few months later, the entire Cookie’s Kids inventory went online.
Five years later, CookiesKids.com is selling to customers all over the country – and the world. From a massive office in downtownBrooklyn, a team of over 100 employees made up of customer service representatives, writers, photographers, and warehouse employees strive to make CookiesKids.com a virtual extension of the Cookie’s experience.
We think 40 years of success in our stores and 5 years online are milestones worth celebrating. This month we’ll be announcing a series of email-only anniversary promotions and introducing you to members of the Cookie’s staff, so keep an eye on your inbox.
The success of Cookie’s has always rested upon its customers, and we’re grateful for your support. From our family to yours, thanks for making this happen.
What do afternoon walks, playing in the backyard, and bike riding all have in common? Besides being summer activities kids love, they all expose children to the sun’s powerful – and potentially harmful – rays. Sunburns and other types of sun damage can happen any time kids are outside for prolonged periods. Practicing sun safety is as important as wearing a bike helmet – and just that easy, too.
While our bodies need sunlight for Vitamin D, which helps promote strong bones, too much of it can be harmful. Sunlight is made up of 3 kinds of ultraviolet rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays can’t reach Earth, but UVA and UVB can. Too much exposure to them can lead to long-term health risks like skin cancer, eyesight problems, and more. Though their strength varies depending on where you live, UVA and UVB rays are always strongest during summer (between 10am and 4pm), so now’s the time to make sure your kids are properly protected.
Sunscreen is one of the best tools you have in your UV-fighting arsenal. A sunscreen’s SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is crucial. Higher SPFs mean stronger protection, so kids can play longer in the sun without getting burned. Children 6 months and older (and especially those with fair skin) should use at least SPF 30; check the UV index to see if you’ll need something even stronger. Apply liberally 30 minutes before heading out to ensure the sunscreen is fully absorbed, and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours, or even sooner if your little ones are especially active. For kids with sensitive skin, look for formulas that contain titanium dioxide, a natural mineral compound.
Besides sunscreen, there are lots of other ways to ensure that outside play is as safe as it is fun. Sunglasses and hats are a great way to protect young eyes from damaging UV rays, so pick a pair with bright colors or fun characters from their favorite TV show. Some bathing suits have a UV lining to protect skin in and out of the water, and you can pair them with a cover-up for even greater protection. And don’t forget the shade. Taking a break under an umbrella or tree can help prevent a trip to the drugstore for aloe vera gel to treat sunburnt skin.
Summer is when children are most likely to be outside from sunup to sundown, so teaching them sun protection tactics is especially important now. It’s just another small step in making summer vacation as fun as possible.
A Few Questions with...Cookie, Founder of Cookie's Kids
What was the first Cookie’s Kids store like?
In 1972 I found a small store I could afford in Jamaica, Queens. 16,000 square feet. Our first day open was the day after Thanksgiving. All we had was toys. I put them on the rack myself. We sold every single toy on the shelf. And we made enough to start buying clothing.
Why do they call you Cookie?
When I was born my aunt called me that. Everyone else always called me it, too.
What’s your favorite kind of Cookie?
What do you like about working in a family business?
My brothers and I – the three partners in Cookie’s Kids – we all respect each other. And each one of the brothers has a certain talent that complements the other. It works.
What have you learned from your customers?
Everything we’ve accomplished today we owe to our customers. They dictate what’s on the shelf.
What stands out as an example of the success Cookie’s Kids has achieved?
I value it when customers tell me how much they appreciate the stores or the website, but for me it’s how people in the industry look up to us. When a big wholesaler talks about you as one of the best children’s retailers, when guys from the big chains come visit the stores to see what we do – that’s how I know we’re doing something right.
What makes you proudest about Cookie’s Kids?
I take pride in the fact that in all the neighborhoods where our stores are, we give back. We give to local charities and donate uniforms to underserved students. We’re not just a company that takes. We take pride in giving back.
Since opening 40 years ago, Cookie’s Kids has grown in wonderful and unexpected ways. Who could have imagined at the beginning that we’d be here now, shipping kids clothing and toys across the globe? On our 40th anniversary, we’re taking time to remember where we started, and what it took to become the #1 Children’s Department Store. We’d like to share some of this history with you.
In 1972, a young man named Cookie and his brother Marvin went into business together. They rented a 16,00 square foot store in Jamaica, Queens, fixed it up and bought inventory all summer and fall, and opened a day after Thanksgiving with a full stock of holiday toys. The toys were a success, and they put the extra money toward buying children’s clothing for the next season. When that did well, they bought more clothing. The business was on its way.
The goal to build a children’s superstore was always close at hand. “It was amazing how much they had in that little store,” says longtime employee, John. “You ask for a turquoise bowtie, the saleslady would reach into a bin and there it’d be.” With this combination of selection and service, Cookie’s Kids was able to pursue new territory. As the brothers Cookie, Marvin, and Sonny, who had come in as a third partner in the business, began to open new stores in new locations, inventory expanded. Besides the latest fashions, our customers wanted shoes, toys, backpacks and accessories, and we were prepared to deliver.
By the late 1990s there were six superstores throughout the NYC area, and though they previously had different names, by that time they were all named Cookie’s Kids. Also in the late ’90s came an important addition to Cookie’s Kids’ inventory: school uniforms. Most school uniform suppliers at that time were unable to support the demands of new schools and new uniforms, or unwilling to sell uniforms at prices parents could afford. Cookie’s Kids was able to solve this problem by selling a wider selection of uniforms at lower prices than anyone else. It was this steady success in uniform sales that paved the way for the founding of CookiesKids.com, in 2007, which originally sold only uniforms. Soon after, we put our entire inventory online.
Looking around the 120,000 square foot flagship store, it’s hard to believe it all started with a couple shelves full of toys. And when you think about the six other superstores, and the fact that it’s all available online, it’s easy to see why Cookie and his brothers are pleased about how their business turned out.
We think 40 years of excellence is an achievement worth celebrating. So for the month of June, we’ll be sharing a series of special anniversary promotions – keep checking your email for more.
And to honor the people who have made Cookie’s Kids such a success, we’ll be profiling staff members. Stay tuned!
Of course, there wouldn’t be any anniversary – or any Cookie’s Kids – without you and your support. Thanks for making this happen. We hope to serve you for many years to come.
For kids of all ages, summer is basically glorified recess; they’re running around outside from sunup to sundown, discovering and exploring their surroundings, and having lots of fun doing it. And if your toddler suddenly decides that finding a new bug is infinitely more interesting than any of their Elmo toys, it might be good idea to start thinking about a family camping trip. More than just a way to encourage kids’ interest in the outdoors, camping is a terrific introduction to the joys of traveling and a surefire way to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Depending on how old your children are, there are several ways to approach an outdoor excursion. For families with infants and small children, car camping is the easiest way of enjoying the great outdoors; you simply pack up your car with all the supplies and gear you’ll need, drive to a campsite, and pitch a tent. Many campgrounds offer family amenities like bathrooms and kitchens, making it the perfect mix of familiar comfort and outdoor exposure. More adventurous families or those with camping experience might try hiking to a site in a more remote location – just make sure the whole family is up for it first.
Like most activities involving children, advance planning is essential. Get everyone involved in the most important piece of preparation: picking a destination. Do some research and find out what national parks, forests, or campsites are in your area. Keep in mind that some of the best places will be booked by the time summer rolls around, so start thinking now. Once you’ve decided on a place, use a checklist for supplies, such as extra clothes, first aid kits, camping stove utensils, and sleeping gear. Planning meals ahead of time will help keep growly stomachs to a minimum – no kid wants to remember their camping trip as “that time I went hungry for four days.”
Once you’re at your destination, establish safety rules right away, such as no going anywhere without telling an adult, no running around cars, and no touching strange plants. During the day, pack a bag with snacks and drinks and take them on a nature walk, pointing out flowers, trees, and animals along the way. If there’s a river nearby, see if it’s possible to rent a kayak or canoe. Bring pails and shovels for younger kids, since they often can’t resist digging in the dirt. And, though it may be hard for little ones to grasp, emphasize the importance of Leave No Trace, the camping philosophy that one should leave only with what one came with, and never leave trash behind to spoil nature for others.
With a little planning and creative thinking, camping with your family can be fun and rewarding – and make the dreaded “What I Did Over the Summer” essay a no-brainer. Happy trails!
There are lots of reasons to love summer – weekend barbecues, no school for three months, fireworks on the Fourth of July – but one of the biggest is spending the day at the beach. Many children have fond memories of afternoons spent building massive sandcastles or painstakingly assembling a souvenir seashell collection. Whether you’re planning a family vacation to the shore or just a quick day trip to your local beach, knowing what to bring and what to expect will help make the day as easy and fun as possible.
If you’ve ever traveled with children, you know that at-home preparation is key. Sunscreen and hats are an absolute essential, even if it’s slightly overcast; clouds are no match for the sun’s most powerful rays. Pick a waterproof sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and apply generously before you leave to ensure it sinks in. All that running and jumping into waves can work up a mighty appetite and leave kids dehydrated, so pack a cooler full of their favorite snacks and drinks. Resealable bags are a handy way to keep things like phones, jewelry, and other important items from getting sandy, plus they’re an easy to way to store wet clothes and bathing suits on the way home. Bring a few folding chairs or pack oversized beach towels that can double as blankets.
Once you’re at the beach, it’s time for some activities. Bring out your children’s artistic side by having them make sand angels; draw frames around them to create pretty portraits. Plastic shovels make it easy for younger kids to dig holes and use the damp sand to build sandcastles, while plastic buckets are great for collecting seashells and other beach treasures. It’s usually windy by the water, making it the perfect place to fly a kite; try making one at home beforehand as an inexpensive arts and crafts project. Older kids may stay in the water more than younger ones, so boogie boards and skimboards are a great way for them to have fun close to the shore.
Even if you don’t live near a beach, there are lots of ways to enjoy a day by the water. If you have a sandbox in the backyard, fill it with seashells from a local craft store and set up a kiddie pool nearby. Or take a trip to the local swimming pool – many offer special children’s swim classes and lessons.
Fun by the water is easy to find, but try hard to avoid things that can potentially spoil a beach day. Walking across hot sand can be a painful trip, so make sure kids’ feet are protected with sandals or water shoes. Going to the beach early in the morning or later in the afternoon is a smart way to cut down on heat-induced temper tantrums and general crankiness. Rash guards can help protect their soft skin from sandy irritation. And remember: sunscreen should be reapplied often, especially if your kids are active in and out of the water.
With a little planning and creative thinking, this summer’s trip to the beach will be fuss-free and fun-packed. Anticipating kids’ needs and keeping them cool and comfy will go a long way in making sure your family’s day is one they’ll remember forever.
Does bathtime in your household involve screaming, crying, hiding in closets, or elaborate methods of faking it? From bath-shy babies to shower-dodging tweens, many kids go through a phase where they just don’t seem to want to bathe. But unless you’re content with your kid smelling like an old sock all the time, it’s up to you to teach kids the simple joys of baths and showers.
Fortunately, most babies tend to like bathing – at least they won’t actively resist your efforts to bathe them. But be sure to observe certain safety rules. Never leave the room while baby’s in the tub. Always test the temperature (it shouldn’t be over 120 degrees Fahrenheit). Do your best to make the bathroom free of drafts and chills: close that window; save baby’s hair for last, as the head loses heat quickly. A slip-free bath chair or free-standing tub is also a good idea for safety.
Around toddler stage, kids can start to become wary of the bath. Some children think baths are boring, others dislike the sting-y shampoos and scary drains. If your kid seems bored in the bath, be sure to provide toys and games – the bath can even be a good setting for story time. Be sure to select shampoos, soaps, and conditioners that are tear-free. And be sensitive to kids who are truly afraid of the bath. Always be prepared to hop in to show your child everything is alright.
Being prepared for your toddler’s bath is also a good idea. Plan a 30-45 minute block of time for your child’s bath, and have all toys and towels set up before the bather arrives. This will help you avoid rushing your child through their bath, which can upset them.
During grade school, as most children transition to showering on their own, some get the idea that showers are not worth their time. If your goal is to get your child showering or bathing once a day, there are plenty of incentives that will help. Part of getting your child on a regular bathing schedule is picking a time that works for them, and getting them to stick to it. If your kid is a late riser, for instance, don’t force them to take a shower in the morning; let them take evening showers. Another time-tested technique is illustrating the consequences of being smelly. If your kid is beginning to go on dates, assure them that no boy or girl is going to stick around for long if they smell bad. If all that doesn’t work, try some positive enticements. Persuade girls with cute bath gear, like a robe, slippers, and fancy soaps; let boys pick out whatever body washes, shampoos, and scrubbers appeal to them.
Getting kids to use the bath or shower isn’t hard, but it can take some understanding on your part. Whatever you do, listen to your child and try to tailor a bathing solution just for them. Before you know it, they’ll be using up all the hot water!
Do you remember your childhood room? Sure you do. Whether it was a wonderzone of imagination and fun or a clothes-strewn mess, it was memorable. And now you have the opportunity to give your child a room as cool as they are. From room rules to décor choices, these tips will help you make sure your little one appreciates their room and respects the privileges that come along with it.
Some kids move into their own bedroom as soon as they outgrow their crib. When your child is ready is your call, but once you decide to give a child their own room, make sure you can take the steps to make that room a safe and comfortable place. A first bedroom is a lot less lonely with a princess bed or some posters of their favorite characters, and a lot safer with a bed rail and socket protectors. Try to get a sense of what sorts of things your unique little one might like in their room – don’t deck the room out in Spider-Man if they seem more into Batman. For young kids, be sure to leave lots of floor space, which is ideal for playing and learning.
Having their own room can be empowering for children, as they can feel in charge of what goes on in there. Even kids who share a room soon learn that they have certain spaces that are just for them. But with this empowerment comes responsibility. Make sure kids know your rules concerning cleanliness and lights-out time, and know the consequences should they fail to obey these rules. But don’t expect kids to put their things away if they don’t have organizers, bins, and hooks. Even something as simple as hand-drawn labels designating drawers and bins by what they contain can work wonders for organization.
The most important thing you can do for your child’s room is to help them make it a reflection of their uniqueness. Try some redecorating projects with your child once school lets out. If you have some leftover paint in the basement, enlist your child to help you come up with some fun patterns and repaint the walls together. Home décor projects with kids can be inexpensive and fun, and can sometimes outlast character-oriented décor that might be just a phase. If your child does want character décor, try and choose changeable touches like wall decals, which are easily removable. And be sure to provide the essentials: a workspace for homework and other projects, a comfy bed that’s appropriate for your child’s height and weight, fun lamps and lights, and a hamper.
If you help your child create the ideal space to learn and play, they’ll learn more effectively and enjoy themselves all the more. And as fun as it may be to help your child decorate, make sure they can put in some touches of their own. It’s their room, after all, and they’ll always remember what made it theirs.
It’s happened to everyone. You’re in the middle of the grocery store and your little guy just won’t let go of that box of Double Chocolate Sugar Puffs. Or you’re trying to buckle your toddler into the car seat and they’re so adamant about sitting up front they start tearing patches out of the upholstery. They’re screaming, crying, whining, and kicking – there’s no doubt about it, you’ve got a Level 3 temper tantrum on your hands. What can you do?
First, breathe. Remember, it’s completely normal for children to have temper tantrums. They’re just starting to develop control of their emotions, and haven’t yet figured out that while it’s okay to be frustrated at not getting a toy they want, it’s not appropriate to start kicking over displays in the toy store. Besides lack of emotional development, there are many more specific reasons kids act out. Toddlers who are just learning to speak can become angry when they can’t express themselves. Some children act out for the attention.
Whatever the reason for a tantrum, show the tantrum thrower that their actions are NOT the way to get what they want. Immediately caving in to Hurricane Mikey’s demands for an ice cream sundae may work in the short term, but over time he’ll figure out that all he has to do is throw a fit and Mom and Dad will rush to reward him. But what should you do instead?
Ignoring the outburst may be the quickest and easiest way to handle their behavior. Kids learn best by example, so if you make a point of keeping calm they’ll quickly see that their efforts are wasted, and maybe even calm down themselves. Of course, if their temper turns destructive, then it’s time to step in and give them a time out.
Tantrums are preventable. Take advantage of young kids’ short attention spans by distracting them with a toy or game when you see the tears coming on. And praising kids when they’re being good is a great way to reinforce and encourage positive behavior, which should lead to fewer incidents.
Each time your child throws a tantrum, try and ask yourself why it happened. Understanding the reasons behind your child’s mood swings will go a long way in successfully defusing the situation. Showing them healthy, effective ways to work through their emotions will help them learn valuable lessons in self-control, acceptance, and tolerance. Letting them know it’s okay to be upset but encouraging them to stay in control will help turn the Terrible Twos into the Terrific Threes.
Is your smartphone moonlighting as your child’s favorite portable gaming device? Has your living room become a zone for video gaming and little else? Advances in technology have made playing video games easier, more portable, and more fun than ever before, so it’s critical to ask – are your kids playing too much?
There are many reasons why kids love video games: they’re an important piece of social currency among their peers, and provide a shared experience that can strengthen friendships and help develop new ones. Mastering a difficult level or mission provides a healthy boost of self-confidence – who hasn’t felt a rush of pride at finally defeating a particularly challenging level boss? Gaming can teach important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and eye-hand coordination. And for some kids, it can help shape their identity, much like how sports, the arts, and other pursuits have defined many a childhood.
But like so many pleasures, moderation is key. It’s fine for them to spend an hour or so plotting ways to collect the maximum number of stars in a tough race on Super Mario Kart; it’s not okay for them to lose track of how long they’ve been playing. Studies have shown that playing video games excessively can lead to irritability, decreased social activity, and shorter attention spans. The rush that comes from playing a game well is an addicting one, and it’s easy for children to want to skip homework and chores in favor of racking up points on a global scoreboard.
Establishing clear guidelines from the start is the best way to stave off problems. Try instituting a ‘no playing until homework is done’ rule, or ‘chores are done, time for fun’ policy. Making video games a reward will help your kids keep their gaming in perspective and help you keep tabs on how much they’re really playing. Setting time limits can work too, but be aware of how long it takes to complete a mission or level. Location is another tool in your monitoring arsenal; try keeping the console in the living room or other family area to prevent your kids from becoming too isolated during play. Multiplayer games, especially those on the Wii, are an excellent way to turn a solitary effort into one that encourages family bonding.
It may not be as traditional as playing sandlot baseball, but kids develop fond memories of their experiences with video games. Trying a hundred different ways to attack a heavily protected fortress on a screen can keep the smiles coming and even teach kids a thing or two. Being aware of your child’s motivations for playing, and taking steps to keep their play fun and social, will help make their gaming adventures healthier and more rewarding.
Your daughter’s school just emailed you a reminder that tomorrow night is the annual parent-teacher conference. Your toddler is tugging at your pant leg – she wants to watch “Finding Nemo” for the umpteenth time. Dinnertime is in ten minutes, and of course you forgot to run the dishwasher. Is it time to scream yet? Maybe. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by life’s constant balancing act, so sometimes taking a “parent time-out” is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
When you get stressed, it shows. You’re a lot more likely to have trouble sleeping, eat poorly, and lose your temper. There’s lots of pressure to be SuperParent, and guilt when you feel you don’t live up to what you think that should be. But it’s unhealthy to pursue such an impossible goal, since it can cause you to lose sight of yourself. Remember: taking a break every now and then to rest and relax is NOT selfish; it’s smart. And necessary.
You don’t need to visit a five-star hotel to get some rest and relaxation. Look for those little breaks in the day: try cozying up with a book while your little one is down for a nap, or pick up that long-neglected scrapbooking project while they’re finishing their homework. Try to establish a routine with your children so they know when you’re going to be “on break.” Anxious kids will want to know exactly when you’ll be back, so give them an accurate estimate (not “whenever”). Once they realize that you’re happier and more engaged with them after a short break, they’ll be less likely to interrupt your quiet time.
A weekly night to catch up with friends and fellow parents can help give you perspective and strengthen relationships outside the home. Other parents go through the same problems, so there should be no shortage of commiseration. Try trading baby-sitting duties with another mom or dad one evening a week, and settle in for a movie night, complete with candy and popcorn. Or have a kid-friendly get-together at an art studio, where you can catch up with a friend and the kids can go crazy with the finger-paint.
For many parents, it’s a completely natural impulse to want to help everyone before you. But taking time explore your own interests is a great way to show your children that doing things on their own can be a lot of fun. They’ll be eager to develop their own hobbies and passions, which in turn boost their self-esteem, confidence, and budding independence. By putting yourself first now and then, you’ll be showing your loved ones how much you care.
Your daughter is obsessed with her best friend’s Jack Russell terrier, who gives new meaning to the word “adorable.” Your toddler squeals with delight every time they see another Animal Planet special on fluffy kitties. The signs are all there – they want a pet. And while you have fond memories of Misty, your childhood cat, it can be expensive and time-consuming to add another member to your family. Having a pet can teach children valuable lessons in responsibility, compassion, and respect, but don’t take the decision lightly. Is your family ready?
Your family dynamic, as well as your children’s ages, temperaments, and personalities, will go a long way in deciding if and when your family is ready for a pet. A busy family may not have the time to give an energetic puppy the training he needs. And while tiny kitties are undeniably cute, young children may mistake them for stuffed toys and play too rough. Everyone has a unique relationship with animals, so take your cues from your kids. And don’t assume just because you loved pets as a kid, your family will too.
Adding a pet to the family is like adding another child. And like most children, animals do well in structured, routine environments. Having a set time to walk Zero or feed Champ makes it easy for children to get involved, and may even become something they look forward to. Younger kids can help pick a new toy for Izzy to use during playtime, while older ones can take turns cleaning cages or litterboxes. Caring for an animal gives children a sense of well-earned satisfaction and is an excellent way for them to see how their actions affect others.
But what if your son promises you the moon for a dog, then decides feeding Wagsy isn’t that much fun? This is a perfect opportunity for you to have a talk with him about taking responsibility. Cooking after a long day at work isn’t always fun for you, but how would your child feel if you decided not to do it? We do all kinds things we may not particularly want to do for the people and animals we love, and realizing that is an important milestone for a child. While it’s ultimately up to you to make sure Wagsy doesn’t go hungry, it’s important for your child to realize that feeding Wagsy is an essential step to the privilege of having Wagsy around. And if you want to make feeding a pet more than a chore, try a friendly competition: have your kids take turns calling her to dinner, and see whose voice she responds to first. The good feeling that comes from knowing she recognizes the sound of their call will be its own sweet reward.
Pets are a great source of companionship and love, and caring for them from newborn to full-grown adult can instill fundamental values like commitment, respect, and consideration in children. But knowing when your family is ready to take the big step, and preparing ahead for the challenges of pet ownership, will make you that much appreciative of the good times you’ll share with your animal companion.
A lonely wind howls through the swing set. A tumbleweed rolls across the nature trail. Backyards, front yards, side yards – all abandoned. Where are all the kids?
It’s no secret that kids are spending more time indoors than they used to. Between homework, various screen entertainments, and after school activities, there seems to be little time left in kids’ schedules for unstructured outside play. And some parents are concerned about everything from neighborhood safety to their kids’ clothes getting muddy. But despite the risks, being outside is an essential way for kids to get active and learn to appreciate nature. This spring, take these tips to get your kid outside – and loving it.
If your kids need some motivation, start inside – by planning fun outdoor activities. Make a list of some group activities to do outdoors, and ideas for individual play outdoors, too. Activities with family and friends might include capture the flag, a nature hike, or even a scavenger hunt, complete with treasure maps. Sorting through the garage might turn up some fun items for outdoor play: that pogo stick might just have some spring left in it, and – who knows? – maybe the kids will love bocce. Encourage your child to find some activities they can do on their own outside, too, like skateboarding, bike riding, tending to a few plants in the garden, or even bird watching.
To get kids interested in the outdoors from a young age, go outside with them and point out all there is to wonder about: “See that tree? Did you know it’s alive?” If scheduling outdoor time is difficult for you, hire a babysitter for a few hours or skip the gym in favor of a bike ride or walk with the kids.
For older kids, outdoor play is a great way to explore their independence. But be sure to set clear boundaries. Let them know exactly where they’re allowed to play – that abandoned construction site should definitely be off-limits. And if your child is out playing with friends in the neighborhood regularly, try to be in touch with your child’s friends’ parents. Knowing that other parents are keeping an eye on your child can be a confidence booster if you’re concerned about neighborhood safety.
As for parents concerned about dirt and mud, there’s really no way around it. But ultimately a little mud isn’t so bad – it’s a small price to pay for a fun time outside. A bone-chilling soak in the rain is another story however, so if your children are going outdoors this spring, make sure they have the right equipment. Rugged outdoor clothes from CookiesKids.com can boost your child’s confidence, motivating them to experience the outdoors no matter the weather. Rain? Wind? Mud? Bring it on!