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!
The chore chart: such a well-intentioned grid. Hanging on the fridge, it tries to keep your kids informed of what chores they must do, it really does. But sometimes your daughter misses Table Setting Tuesday to eat dinner at a friend’s house. Sometimes your son has WAY too much homework to fold laundry. And so the chore chart sits unheeded, like a calendar stuck on last month. A few days pass, then a week, and soon the chart is forgotten. If you’ve made chore charts nobody seems to pay attention to, it’s time for a new approach. Check out these tips to get your kids to do their chores – complaint free!
Start your kids on chores from a very early age. It’s not unreasonable for a 2-year-old to be able to pick up their toys and put dirty clothes in a hamper. And young kids, unlike some older ones, actually like to help out. Harness this eagerness by assigning tasks whenever you can, but be sure to keep your expectations low. The idea with young kids is to get them to enjoy doing chores, not necessarily to complete chores efficiently. Even if you have to completely redo your 4-year-old’s laundry folding attempt, if you let them do it from an early age, they’ll be more likely to think it’s fun and keep doing it once they can do it properly.
Whatever you do, don’t step in and take over completely. You wouldn’t take over your child’s homework assignment if they were doing it wrong, would you? Chores can be an opportunity to teach your child a necessary, if not exactly thrilling, life skill, so you should try to instruct rather than correct. Teaching kids how to do chores is just like teaching anything else: it takes patience, but eventually you’ll be rewarded – in this case, rewarded with not having to do a chore yourself anymore!
Chores are not fun, so how do you inspire kids to do them? The most reasonable and pleasant approach is to let kids choose which chores they want to do from a set list. Start by tallying a huge list of chores – aim for 30 or 40 – and narrow down to find the ones your kids are most capable of doing. Then, write the chores up on note cards. Be specific with the way you write them: “empty desk trash, pick up clothes, and sweep under bed” is a much more actionable item than “clean room.” When you give kids a choice between specific tasks, they’ll have a lot less reason to complain.
Even if they have a choice, chores can be a lonely business: sometimes a trip to rake leaves in the backyard can feel like an exile. So, whenever possible, try to establish times to do chores as a family. This can be an opportunity to show young kids how to do certain chores, but it’s also a chance to demonstrate how much effort everyone – yourself included – must put in to keep things tidy. And everyone can have a lot more fun doing chores together. Pick certain songs to put on, or play a word-game that you can shout above vacuum noise. Chore time will be over in no time!
You’ve been tapping your foot all morning. “We’re going to be late!” you announce, but your daughter keeps primping her hair, your son starts another round of foosball with his little brother, and none of them have brushed their teeth yet. If this sounds like your household in the morning, it’s time to talk to your kids about punctuality. As kids get older, there will be more and more situations where they’ll need to show up at a certain place at a certain time. These tips will make sure they show up on time.
First, make sure you’re on time yourself. If you’re ever late, don’t make excuses. Explain that your lateness was inexcusable, that it showed selfishness and a lack of respect. This kind of profuse apology might seem like overkill, but trust us: your kids will remember every time you were ever late – in vivid detail – if you start nagging them about punctuality.
Nagging is no good. Try buying them a watch instead. Both analog and digital watches have their benefits: digital is easier to read; analog is easier to get a sense of how time passes. The sooner kids can tell time, the sooner you can hold them accountable for being on time.
The next step is to schedule one event at a very specific time every day: dinner, for example. If kids know they absolutely must show up for dinner at 6:00 PM – or no dessert – they’ll learn pretty quickly how to keep track of their time. Try not to call out “Almost dinner time!” at 5:55 either; let kids figure it out independently.
For older kids, more drastic measures may be necessary. If they’re persistently late, and their excuses are getting more and more implausible, it might be a deeper issue. Be sure to talk seriously with your kid about how their lateness makes you feel, and also try to discern whether it’s symptomatic of a deeper lack of respect. Without being confrontational, ask them exactly what they were doing that prevented them from being on time. If they answer honestly, they’ll realize that the things they were doing were probably not worth being late – and disrespecting you – over. If they can admit this, they’ll be less likely to be late again.
Like most things you teach your kids, positive reinforcement is also a good trick to get results. Try adding up the minutes when kids are early, and doling out treats based on these amounts. Or, let’s say your kids want to go to a really hyped-up concert. Show them how you have to be early to get the best tickets: take them with you when you stand on line, and be sure to bring snacks and entertainment for the long wait. When concert time rolls around, and you’re all living it up in the front row, your kids will realize that sometimes punctuality…rocks!
The bond between siblings is one of the most common yet least understood types of relationships. For some, a sister or brother can be a lifelong source of comfort, reassurance, and love. But for just as many others it can be a constant stream of resentment, anger, and rivalry. Differences in temperaments, personalities, interests, and ages can all fuel unrest between siblings, but teaching them how to work through their problems is an excellent way to prepare them for life’s more difficult moments.
One of the simplest ways to prevent rivalry between children is to treat them as individuals. As tempting as it is to want children to be equals, parents sometimes do them a disservice by not nurturing their own unique skills and abilities. If Jack throws a mean curveball but John can barely swing a bat, don’t encourage them both to try out for the Little League team. Instead, praise them for their own special talents. This will boost their self-esteem and help them understand that being different isn’t such a bad thing.
Even if you do encourage siblings to do their own thing, disagreements between them are bound to arise, and the way you intervene in these situations can deeply affect a sibling relationship. Take tattling, for instance. Any sibling rivalry is bound to manifest itself in one child tattling on the other, because, ultimately, they’re both seeking your approval, and sometimes the easiest way to get that approval is to throw a brother or sister under the proverbial bus. When faced with a tattling child, it’s often best to ignore them. This will make it clear that not only is tattling not the way to gain your good graces, but it’s also not an effective way for Sibling A to punish Sibling B.
But tattling goes through an important change when a child tells you not what their sibling did (which is probably exaggerated anyway) but how that action made them feel. In such a case, be respectful of a child’s feelings; listen, and show them their emotions are valid. Then, encourage your child to tell their sibling about their feelings. If a child can respectfully confront their sibling about something they did, it’s a big step in the development of their conflict-resolution skills.
Sibling relationships are often the first time children experience how to work out a conflict independently of you. So don’t just encourage good behavior between siblings; encourage siblings to resolve their conflicts together. The sooner they can do this, the better prepared they’ll be to navigate the unpredictable personalities and tough situations they’ll encounter in school, work, and beyond.
“So, how was school today?” If this dinnertime conversation starter is often greeted by a shrug, it’s probably time to try a different question. Getting kids to open up about their lives can be difficult when they reach grade-school, and nearly impossible as high school approaches. But don’t despair. Take some of these tips to regain your child’s confidence and build a sturdier bridge into their lives.
Deep down, your children want to share their everyday tribulations and feelings with you. Often, the trick is asking the right questions of them. Make sure your questions require real, complex answers, not just “yes” or “no.” Avoid general questions; ask specific ones. Who won capture the flag at recess? Was it anyone’s birthday today? What was for lunch in the cafeteria? Did you see any sports cars on the bus ride? The more specific the question, the more it shows you’re interested in the details of their life. And even if they can’t recall seeing any sports cars on the bus ride, it might remind them about that driver that got angry at another driver and made the gesture that they didn’t really understand. As you can see, asking about unimportant details can often lead to more important stuff.
Once you get your child talking, listen. Good listening requires patience, and when kids open up to you, it requires a particular kind of patience. As your child talks, you’ll probably feel a surge of really great advice build up in you. Wait. Save that advice till later. Keep asking questions until your child unspools the entire situation. If you do this, you’ll ultimately gain a wider perspective than you would have if you jumped in at the beginning; your advice will be better informed and more potent. Most importantly, holding all advice until your child has finished talking proves to them that you’re a good listener. They’ll be a lot more likely to tell you things in the future.
Once you’ve gained your child’s trust as a listener, don’t betray their confidence by telling their secrets. If, for whatever reason, you feel a secret must be told, it’s crucial to ask your kid before you go telling someone else. Even if the secret doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it may be to your kid, so ask. An even trickier situation: tweens and teens may tell you about bad choices their friends are engaging in, but think twice about picking up the phone to call that friend’s parents. Unless the friend’s behavior is truly dangerous, keep it to yourself.
It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’re the person your child trusts most in the world. But it takes daily determination to prove that you deserve that trust. The only effective way of doing this is to make time to connect with your child, every day. Establish a specific place, a routine, or even a special ritual – anything to get them talking. Work to gain your child’s confidence. It’s worth it.
First it’s a mosquito in your ear…then it’s that obnoxious squeal of air escaping a pinched balloon…and by the time the sound reaches its crescendo, it’s a few decibels away from shattering your glasses. The dreaded whine. Children whine to get your attention and, sadly, it works. But if your child is beginning to believe that whining is the only way to get what they want, it’s time to teach them otherwise.
There are a few measures any parent can take to prevent whining before it begins. When you can’t respond immediately to a child’s request, try to be as pleasant and respectful as possible when asking them to wait. Give an accurate time estimate for when you’ll be with them: “2 minutes” rather than a vague “later.” Also, try to consider factors that may have caused your child to clamor for attention more often. Have you been busier than usual? Taking care of a new baby? In these cases, whining may be a child’s plea to reconnect.
If you think it’s time to bring your child’s whining to their attention, there are some dos and don’ts to remember. The first time you tell them, it might be best to wait until they’re not whining. If you bring the issue up when your child is in a good mood, they’ll be more likely to take heed. Then, the next time they whine, ask them to listen to what they sound like. It may be necessary to cultivate a passable impression of their whine – “This is what you sound like to me…” – but be careful about mocking: the only thing worse than a whiner is a whiner with hurt feelings.
If a whining problem persists, get consistent about how you respond. It’s important to resist caving in to your child’s whined demands; if you do, it lets them know that it works. But telling your child that they’re whining again and again can become tiresome and somewhat antagonistic. For a different approach, tell your child you don’t understand them when they whine. Suggest that maybe it’s a problem of enunciation, and let them know that you’ll only respond to requests you can hear clearly. Also, it might be worth pointing out to your child that most of their idols and heroes, like Batman, iCarly, and Dora, aren’t big whiners…though Justin Bieber’s songs have been known to get a little whiney.
Once you draw a line between whining and not-whining, it’s very important to reward non-whiny requests with your full attention. And when you notice your child has made an effort to decrease their whining, tell them that you’re proud of how maturely they’re acting. Indeed, a child who has moved past whining is beginning to recognize the difference between wants and needs, and so a whining phase, while annoying, is a key step in learning this lesson. It’s a long and whine-ding road, but the destination is worthwhile.