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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.