1. Fall Family Fun

    The arrival of fall can sometimes mean less time to spend together as a family. With kids in school, parents back in work-mode, and the days growing shorter, this time of year can indeed be a lot busier than summer. But that doesn’t mean you should let this magical season slip by without doing some fun stuff as a family. Here are some ideas for activities that will make your family “fall” in love with the new season:

    Get Outdoors: Crisp weather and foliage in transition make fall one of the best seasons to take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether you go apple picking, hiking, or just enjoy a campfire on a brisk evening, make sure to spend some time outside. And don’t forget that the weather can change quickly, so take along quality kids’ outerwear.

    Tailgating: Even people who aren’t huge football fans can appreciate the cooking, comradery, and excitement of a fall tailgate. If NFL tickets are out of your price range, check out the local collegiate or semi-pro team for some great deals.

    Make a Halloween Costume: Halloween is the highlight of the season for many youngsters. Rather than cramming all the fun into the week before October 31st, starting now will give you and your family the chance to create some truly incredible costumes.   

    Fall Cooking: Fall is a great time to do some family cooking. The bounty of in-season items at your grocery store can inspire budding cooks and help you expand the palates of picky eaters. Traditional favorites like spiced cider and chili are simple to make and can be stored for weeks of future enjoyment.

    Fall Crafting: Show off fall’s vivid colors with some seasonal crafting. Dry leaves, pinecones, Indian corn, and other seasonal bounties can make for eye-catching crafts. Take a trip to the park to collect items, then combine them with the crafting supplies you already have at home. Better yet, invite some craft-savvy friends over to share in the fun. 

     

  2. The Best Ways to Praise

    There’s a lot of information online, in parenting books, and elsewhere about the right way to discipline kids, but what’s the right way to praise them? Meting out praise can be tricky. Check out these guidelines to ensure you praise your child in a way that nurtures their developing talents.

    Parenting experts agree that you should praise your child for the effort they put in as opposed to the end result. If your child is naturally good at math and doesn’t need to study much for tests, you may want to hold off on showering them with math-related compliments. Instead, encourage them when they tackle the subjects they find challenging. This promotes hard work and lets your child know it’s okay to leave their comfort zone and try things that don’t come naturally.

    Be as specific when as you can when complimenting your child. If you see them working on their layups before a big basketball game, compliment them on layups after the game – better yet, let them know exactly why their layups were looking so good, and in what ways their layups have improved since last week. Vague compliments can leave your child confused about what exactly they did that warrants praise. Highly specific complements let kids know you were really watching, sound more sincere, and help your child identify their unique skills.

    Whatever you do, don’t praise kids only for succeeding. Praising kids for trying and failing is important because sticking with things is a sure way to be successful. Anything from a new hobby to tying their shoes for the first time can be a chance to praise them for taking on something new. This will help them develop both perseverance and open-mindedness.

    When it comes to rewarding a job well done, avoid giving a material reward, especially money. It’s important for kids to understand that not all work yields a tangible reward. Instead, spend some quality time with your child eating ice cream, doing something fun, or just unwinding together. Let them develop personal pride in what they accomplish – that’s a quality that will stay with them forever.

     

     

  3. Student-Teacher Conflict: What’s a Parent to Do?

    With a new school year comes new teachers. Getting to know a new teacher is usually fun and exciting for kids, but every now and then teacher and student clash, and the results can be troubling. What do you do if your child doesn’t get along with their teacher? When and how do you, as a parent, step in to mediate?

    First off, take time to determine how serious the conflict is. Kids tend to report on teachers in vague terms, something like “My math teacher hates me,” or “Mr. Smith is mean to me.” Ask your child to name more specific mistreatment. Determine if the problem is related to schoolwork, or has more to do with the way your child and their teacher interact personally.

    Once you have an idea of what your child’s take on the situation is, talk to the teacher. Schedule a one-on-one meeting and bring your best non-confrontational language. Open the discussion with something like: “I know my child is having a hard time in your class. What do you think we could all do to change that?” There’s a good chance the teacher has considered the problem and can offer some specific and thoughtful advice.

    If the problem is serious, parent, teacher, and student should come together to discuss the issue and make a plan to move forward. It can be worthwhile for your child to be present, just to let the teacher know that they want to make an effort to get along. And for the most part, kids walk away from these kinds of meetings with a much clearer idea about what they need to do to move ahead.

    Avoid taking sides in a student-teacher conflict. Taking the teacher’s side alienates your child and doesn’t validate their potentially serious claims of bias or mistreatment. Siding with your child may boost their confidence, but it won’t help them solve their own problems or learn to work with people they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with. With older kids, it may be wise to let your child settle their student-teacher disagreement on their own. Here, try to offer advice from your own experience. Ever have a disagreement in the workplace? How did you get over that?

    Student-teacher conflicts present teachable moments and promote inter-personal skills. It may be the first time your child comes into contact with an authority figure, but it won’t be the last. Only your guidance can help them find a solution to their conflict – and make sure they develop the conflict-resolution skills for a harmonious life.

     

  4. Bye, Bye Baby Bed!

    One of the first milestones of toddlerhood is making the transition from crib to big kid bed. It’s a switch everyone makes, but how do you know when your child is ready? And how do you make it easier for them?

    Most kids make the switch between ages 2 and 3, when they are about 34 to 36 inches in height. When they can stand in their crib and potentially get out, you know it’s time.

    The first part of a smooth transition is making sure the idea appeals to your child. Toddlers tend to crave the familiar and are just starting to assert their individuality, so you don’t want to just surprise them with a big kid bed out of the blue. This is especially true if the crib is being vacated for a baby sibling. Let your toddler know they’ll be getting a big kid bed soon. Let them get involved in choosing the bed and bedding; it will up the excitement. Tell them about all the benefits: more space, no more bars, fun characters on the sheets and pillowcase.

    Don’t get rid of the crib the moment the toddler bed arrives. Having both the crib and the bed in the same room can lead the child to naturally make the move, whereas seeing the crib gone can create a bit of a shock. If your child is hesitant at first, have them simply use the bed to nap before transitioning to using it for a full night’s sleep. Move the crib out of the room only once you’re sure your child is comfortable in their new bed.

    Besides the new bed, try to keep the rest of the bedtime routine familiar. Too much change will overwhelm your toddler. Sing the same songs, read the same stories, and otherwise stick to what you have always done to get your little one in the mood for sleep. Your child may be resistant at first, but after a few weeks (at most) the crib will be a far off memory.

     

  5. Keeping a Journal

    Journaling can be both educational and therapeutic for kids. It’s more than just a way to practice writing; it allows kids to reflect on their emotions, an important process and something they might not ordinarily do.  

    Getting a kid to start a journal, especially if they aren’t crazy about writing, can be a tough sell. Emphasize the open-ended nature of the project. It’s their journal and they can fill it with anything they want. If they want to write about things they saw on TV or their favorite videogame, let them. It doesn’t have to be full sentences. There can be doodles. No limits or minimums on entry length. The only rule? Date all entries.

    When first introducing the idea of journaling to your child, it can help to show them a few inspiring examples. There are many great children’s books on the subject of journaling, and even more fiction books, for all reading levels, written in diary format. If you kept a journal as a kid, dig it up and show it off to your child; it might be more inspirational than you think. Also, having a cool journal can be a booster to get started.

    Although you should encourage your child to share their journal with you if they want, be sure they know they can also choose to keep it private. Part of growing up is deciding what problems to share with parents and which ones to tackle yourself. A journal is a safe space to grapple with those problems and deliberate over solutions. It’s also a space for thoughts they might never say aloud to anybody, not even a parent. If a kid fears their journal may become public, they will not be honest, which defeats the point of journaling.

    One of the best things about journaling is that it can become a lifelong project. Some people start keeping a diary in first grade and by the time they graduate college have a thorough record of their lives. Other people return to journaling in times of stress, as it helps them work through difficult times. Even if your child doesn’t keep a diary every day for the rest of their lives, you will have taught them an important lesson on recording and organizing their thoughts and emotions. 

     

  6. Let’s Make Back-to-School Better

    Making the transition from summer to back-to-school season can be stressful for your entire family. The change in scheduling, navigating a new academic environment, and other stressors often add up to a tense situation that puts everyone on edge. But back-to-school doesn’t have to be stressful. They key to success is giving your kids the right kind of support at the right time. Here are some helpful tips for easing them into a new school year.

    With younger kids, especially those starting in a new school or building, help familiarize them with their routine and surroundings before the first day. Drive or walk by the new school and point it out them. If possible, go inside. Show them where their classroom, lunchroom, and closest bathroom are located. They’ll be more confident on the first day if they’re already familiar with their environment.

    As a parent, you also need to project confidence. Being nervous on behalf of your kids is only going to make things worse. Tell stories about how much fun you had starting a new grade. Emphasize the perks of being older, having more responsibility, and going on to bigger and better things academically.

    Though we’re biased, we recommend getting back-to-school shopping done 2 weeks or more before the first day of school. This not only gives you ample time to find exactly what you need, it also give your kids time to mentally prepare for the new school year. The moment you take them shopping, back-to-school ceases to be a far off specter and becomes a tangible event. Plus, if you go early, the hottest new trends aren’t sold out yet.

    Make sure to schedule any dental or medical appointments for at least 2 weeks before school starts, and ensure your child is up to date on their vaccines. Discovering medical issues before the start of school allows you to deal with them before your family starts juggling back-to-school responsibility. It can also help your child avoid getting sent to the school nurse’s office on the first day.    

    A successful back-to-school season is all about making kids feel excited or at least comfortable about the transition. Make the most of what remains of summer with your kids, and let them know that you’re there for them no matter what may come during the school year. 

     

  7. Plug Up the Summer Brain Drain

     

  8. Preventing Childhood Obesity

    Although the childhood obesity rate has dropped in recent years, it still hovers around 17%. That number is far too high, especially considering that childhood obesity is linked to adult obesity, diabetes, and a host of other medical conditions. What is the best way to prevent your little one from starting down the path of unhealthy eating?

    The best strategy is a long-term one that aims to increase physical activity and improve diet. Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, a growing child typically does not need to lose weight; a better strategy is to help them stop any weight gain and let them grow into their current weight.

    Your efforts should start at the kitchen table. Go online and find recipes that are healthy, enjoyable, and nourishing (hint: we post a lot of these on our Facebook page). It’s a lot of work, but the more meals you prepare at home, the healthier the food will be. Outside foods from restaurants will often be loaded with sugar, salt, and empty calories. Furthermore, try to get your child in the habit of sitting down to a real meal; constant snacking is an easy way to sabotage a diet.

    One thing you will want to greatly reduce, or even eliminate entirely, is sugary drinks. A large soda can pack the same caloric punch as a filling, healthy meal. Even things like 100% orange or apple juice, while healthier than soda and fruit drinks, can contain a lot of calories and sugar. Get in the habit of checking the nutrition facts on the back. When it comes to dessert, choose a healthy option like peanut butter on apple slices or fruit salad. You can still occasionally have cake or other sweets, but try smaller serving sizes.   

    What’s the most important thing you can do to help a child improve their diet? Make healthy eating a family project. Losing weight is easier when you have a support system. It’s also a great way to bond as a family.

     

     

  9. Homesick Blues

    Homesickness is one of the most common camp-related ailments, up there with bug bites, heat rash, and skinned knees. Unfortunately, it still confounds campers and their parents alike. The American Camp Association says that 10% of kids experience homesickness, but this number is likely much higher because many kids feel homesick but don’t say anything. As a parent, what can you do to keep your child’s homesickness in check?

    Preventing homesickness can start at home. If it’s your child’s first time at camp and they haven’t spent much time away from home, send them on a few practice runs. Sleeping at friends’ or relatives’ houses for the weekend can be a good primer.

    Are you nervous about your child going away? Try to project a nonchalant attitude to your kids. That way, your anxieties don’t rub off on your camper. Keep reassuring them that they will enjoy camp. Even saying something like “If you don’t like camp, you can always come home” sends a subtle message that camp won’t be fun, so keep that kind of talk to a minimum.

    The key to keeping homesickness at bay once a child gets to camp is making sure they stay busy. If they write or call complaining about homesickness, encourage them to take on more activities. Talk to their counselors; they can get your child more involved in the daily life of camp. And although phone calls and email are important, put a limit on this behavior. Too much parent-child contact, especially in the first days of camp, can intensify homesickness. You want your child out having fun, not dwelling on missing you. Letter writing can be a good alternative to phone calls. Ask your kids to use the letters to tell you how much fun they are having.

    The great thing about homesickness is that it usually takes care of itself eventually. All you have to do is offer a compassionate ear and support. When you send your child off to summer camp next year, homesickness will be a thing of the past. Plus, doesn’t it make you feel good to be missed?

     

  10. Road Trips with Kids

    Jumping in the car and going on a summer adventure is a time honored tradition. But as fun as road tripping can be, having kids in the car, especially young kids, can be taxing. The constant noise, bickering, and requests for pit stops are enough to drive even the most patient parents insane. What can you do to make sure your long distance summer travel goes smoothly?

    Make sure kids have a lot to do in the car. Heavy luggage should go in the trunk, but make sure each kid has a compact carry-on bag as well. Help each child pack their bag with things like books, art supplies, an iPod, handheld gaming device, and anything else that can reliably distract them. Make sure everyone has their own stuff so the kids don’t argue over a coveted toy.

    Make sure your kids have what they need to entertain themselves, but also plan some group activities. Family games like I Spy or 20 Questions can help pass the time. Make use of your car’s stereo system. There’s plenty of family-friendly audio content out there, such as podcasts, audiobooks, and language learning programs. If you have some free time before the trip, go to a record store with the whole family. This will ensure that everyone has some fresh tunes to contribute.

    Nothing fails to annoy parents like young passengers’ persistent need to stop. This is usually brought on by a mix of boredom and legitimate needs to eat or use the facilities. Curbing boredom will go a long way toward limiting these stops. Make sure to also have snacks and drinks on hand for the kids – fruits, nuts, and energy bars are popular choices. Avoid sugary drinks, as these are more likely to make young passengers have to pee.

    With a bit of planning ahead, the car ride can be the highlight of any trip. Just make sure the kids stay comfortable and entertained – that way you can enjoy the ride, too. Safe travels!