1. 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!

     

  2. Beyond Summer Reading

    Does your child dread summer reading? If they don’t like the assigned books, that’s one thing, but if they’re not interested in reading at all, there may be a problem. Often it takes a parent’s guidance to ignite a child’s passion for reading. Luckily, summer is the perfect time to transform your child from a reluctant reader to an avid one. But how?  

    Reading to your child from an early age is a great way to get them hooked. Choose a book you think your child will love and read the first few chapters aloud to them. If they seem to like the book, ask them to read a few chapters to you. Before you know it, they’ll be unable to wait and will zoom ahead in the story – the desired effect.

    You may need to try a few books before you find one that captures your child’s imagination. Once you do, make a mental note of what kinds of stories they like: stories with a plucky female heroine? Stories about adventures on the high seas? Suspenseful stories? Stories about magic? If you can crack the code to your child’s reading interests, it’ll make a trip to the library or bookstore a lot more fruitful. 

    It doesn’t have to be a book that introduces your child to a story or character. If your child loved the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, introduce them to the books next. Pique their interest by telling them the movie is only a small part of the story – which is usually true. To get the full picture they need to read.

    If your child loves being online, you can make reading a multimedia, interactive experience. Have your child go online and connect with other fans of a book. There are lots of activities they can do to flush out the story, like drawing scenes or characters from the book, writing their own fan fiction, or even dressing up like their favorite characters.

    Your encouragement and interest will make it much easier for your child to develop a lifelong love of reading. Try to read some of the same books as them. Ask about their opinions on the story, what they expect to happen next, and what they would change if they were the author. Their answers may surprise you!    

     

  3. Waterside Safety

    Summer is here, which means more trips to the beach, pool, and lake. Before you plan a family swimming trip, be sure to brush up on waterside safety.

    No one likes to get sunburned, so applying sunscreen is a must. Most experts suggest sunscreen with an SPF of 20-30 for kids. Try to select a sunscreen that’s waterproof and provides full spectrum protection (this means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays). For kids with sensitive skin, find something hypoallergenic and free of fragrances. The best protection from the sun is time in the shade. If your little guy or girl looks like they’re starting to turn a bit pink, have them relax in the shade for 30-45 minutes and reapply sunblock. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every 4 hours.

    When it comes to water safety, one must first factor in such concerns as how strong a swimmer a child is and what kind of water they’ll be swimming in. While your child may be good enough to swim alone in the backyard pool, they won’t be able to in choppy seas. In general, the buddy system is useful for staying safe in the water, but that shouldn’t stop you from keeping a pretty constant eye on your little swimmers. Those new to swimming should wear life jackets.

    It’s important to work out some kind of system with your kids about what they should do if they feel they’re in trouble. Many parents don’t know what drowning looks like, so agree on a clear and easy-to-remember distress sign – a wave or a whistle, anything to let you know they need help. Make sure your kids know they should call for help the moment they feel danger. They should never wait until they are already exhausted from trying to get to shore. If someone is missing, the first things you should do are call 911 and check the water. Being lost on the beach or by the lake is much less serious than being in trouble in the water, so always start there.

    Once you have established some safety protocols and applied some sunscreen, you can get to having fun by the water. Make sure to snap lots of pictures, and bring plenty of snacks, water, and your favorite aquatic toys. Enjoy the water this summer!  

     

  4. Throw an Affordable Summertime Birthday Party!

    Summer birthdays are a blessing and a curse for kids. It’s ideal to have a bright, warm day on your birthday, but on the other hand, it can be much harder to organize a party with friends when you don’t see everyone at school every day. Sometimes it takes a little extra effort on your part to make your child’s summer birthday special. If you’re trying to help organize a great summer birthday for your child, check out these party ideas. 

    Homemade Waterpark: Going to a waterpark is fun, but it’s not ideal for a birthday party. Not only are waterparks expensive, their size makes it difficult to keep track of a group of unruly kids. Fortunately, you can bring the waterpark to your backyard or local park. Get some water balloons for throwing, soap up a tarp for a homemade slip and slide, and make some homemade bubble blowing solution. Sprinklers are great for running through, or poke holes in an old garden hose for the same effect.    

    Painting Party: If your little one is a creative type, a painting party will bring lots of smiles. All you need to do is put out some paints, markers, paper, and other art supplies. Create funny masks and frames for adorable photo opportunities. Buy or build one big canvas that all the kids can collaborate on. Best of all, the pictures, drawings, and paintings your party guests create become memorable party favors!  

    Backyard Camping: If you have a spacious backyard, you can pitch a tent and build a campfire there. A rented campsite might run you $20 a night, but that’s pretty reasonable for a big group. Pitch a couple of tents or, if the weather permits, sleep under the stars. Make a fire, break out all the fixings for s’mores, and enjoy some quality time around the campfire. Don’t forget to brush up on your campfire stories!

    Trivia Bowl: Summer is traditionally when kids let their minds atrophy, so whip them back into shape with a trivia bowl! You can find age-appropriate questions online. Make sure to include a mix of knowledge categories to appeal to everyone. For a real multimedia experience, try incorporating video and audio clips. Split your partygoers into teams and test their mental mettle. Winners get to be first in line for the sundae bar – after the birthday boy or girl, that is!

     

  5. A Parent’s Guide to Doctors & Pediatricians

    Showing up with your 15-year-old to a pediatrician’s office can be an awkward experience. A waiting room full of toddler’s toys and Sesame Street posters won’t exactly make your teen feel like they have come to the right place. As a result, many parents wonder when it’s time for their child to stop seeing the pediatrician and start seeing a doctor that handles adult patients.

    Ultimately the choice is up to you and your kids, but many parents make the change from pediatrician to adult physician at age around 13. Around that age, an adolescent begins to have questions about sexual health, hormones, and other issues they may not want to discuss with the doctor they have been seeing since early childhood. Even if you don’t switch doctors, you should make sure to give your child some alone time with their doctor at around this age so they can ask certain questions they may not feel comfortable asking around you.

    There are some benefits with sticking with a pediatrician through age 18. If your child has a chronic condition your pediatrician has been working on, it may take time an effort to catch up a new doctor. If your child and doctor have good rapport, you may not need to switch.

    For an in-between fix, check out whether there’s an adolescent medicine specialist in your area: Google “adolescent doctor” or “young adult doctor” plus your city or town. These doctors are great for high school age kids, and can provide a stopgap between a pediatrician and an adult doctor.

    A lot of kids make the switch to a new doctor at age 18 when they go to college. Having a doctor near where they go to school has a lot of practical advantages, and age 18 is a good time for soon-to-be-adults to start making their own medical choices.  

    There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making the switch from pediatrician to young adult doctor or adult doctor. What is convenient for your family and who your child feels most comfortable with should influence the choice the most. Make sure to keep your child involved in the discussion – after all, they’re the patient! 

     

  6. Child Identity Theft

    Just when you thought the world of cybercrime couldn’t get any scarier, this alarming trend rears its head. Children are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. What is behind this trend, and how do you protect your children from becoming the victims of identity theft?

    In many ways, kids are the perfect target for identity thieves. Their social security numbers and credit files are completely pristine, and these blank slates are exactly what cyber criminals need to take out fraudulent loans and credit cards. These scams can go undetected for a long while because it doesn’t occur to parents to check their kids’ credit ratings.

    There are certain red flags of which you should be aware. If you suddenly get an influx of credit card or loan offers addressed to your child, there is likely a problem. Collections calls, IRS notices, and bills addressed to your little one are all signs that someone is maliciously using your child’s social security number.

    If you suspect something is amiss, you’ll need to check your child’s credit score. This is a bit more involved than checking your personal credit score, as you’ll need to provide your child’s information plus information proving that you are the child’s guardian. Use a variety of companies (many are free) to run several credit checks; different companies draw on different databases, so using just one won’t necessarily unearth fraud.

    A blank credit file means there is no credit activity related to your child’s SSN – if you come across that, consider yourself in the clear. If there is illegal activity, you can freeze your child’s credit, which will prevent any further damage. Make sure to also file a police report and gather as much documentation as you can. This will make it easier to restore your child’s credit, and may help catch the cybercriminal. Some states even allow you to create a credit report for your child and freeze it as a preventative measure.

    When it comes to preventing identity theft, you need to be as careful with your children’s information as you are with your own. Protect their SSNs and personal data, especially online, and if you think something might be amiss, don’t hesitate to take the steps outlined here. 

     

  7. What to Wear for Graduation

    Graduation season is here, and all the ceremonies and celebrations are an opportunity for kids of all ages to look their best. Whether your child is attending a graduation ceremony for a big brother or sister, or graduating themselves, now is the time to give some consideration to what they’ll wear.

    Before you jump into shopping, look through the information provided by your son or daughter’s school. Is there a graduation dress code? What is the policy on jewelry? Makeup? What do you think people in the audience will wear? Also take note of where the graduation takes place. Is the ceremony outdoors? How hot will it be? Chance of rain?

    Once you know a bit more about the ceremony you can start shopping. Suits for boys and party dresses for girls is standard graduation wear. If wearing a robe, kids only have to look dressy from the shins down: boys can wear their dress shoes and slacks with a T so they stay cool and comfortable during the ceremony; girls can wear dressy shoes with leggings or tights. After the ceremony ends and you snap some pics of the graduates in their robes, they can change into their full outfits.

    Make sure your graduate or attendee wears comfortable shoes (especially for girls who sometimes choose fashion over function). They’ll be wearing these shoes through the graduation ceremony, the celebratory meal afterwards, and graduation parties. You want them to be comfortable!

    What about choosing the actual dress or suit? If you’re picking out a first suit for your little guy, try to go for something versatile – could he wear it to a fancy dinner? A family wedding? Will your 8th grade girl’s graduation dress work as a prom dress in a few years? You know best about your child’s future plans, so choose dresswear that might work well for upcoming events.

    Once you and your child choose an appropriate graduation outfit, you can sit back and enjoy the event. Snap lots of pictures and take a moment to pat your child and yourself on the back for all your hard work. And don’t forget to thank their teachers, too. Happy graduation! 

     

  8. Negotiating with Kids

    When kids reach age 5 they enter what some parents call the “little lawyer” phase. Everything becomes a negotiation. They want just 15 more minutes of play before bed, or they outright refuse to eat certain foods. Parents often find themselves frustrated at the fact that every situation becomes a prolonged standoff. And it can be difficult to know when to put your foot down, when you should negotiate, and when to let your child ‘win’ the argument. Here are some tips for dealing with the little lawyer of your family.

    Softening an ultimatum with choices is a good way to avoid a fight or a more drawn-out negotiation. Instead of saying “Go clean your room!” try “What part of your room do you want to clean first?” or “What music do you want to put on while you clean your room?” Simply building some choice into your command can be enough to satisfy that budding need for independence.

    Take advantage or your child’s newly developing empathy when negotiating. If they refuse to eat the vegetables you cooked, turn the tables on them. Ask, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” or “How do you think I feel when you don’t eat the food I worked hard cooking for you?” This is precisely the kind of thinking you want to encourage in your child, and can often lead to a truce both sides can accept.

    However, you’ll have a hard time negotiating with your child if they don’t understand that you mean business. Let them assert their autonomy, but draw a clear line in the sand as to when you’re engaging in a negotiation and when you’re issuing a command. Giving your child some leeway to exercise choice and negotiation in certain cases will make a command that much more meaningful.

    Don’t forget to have some fun with negotiations. If your child wants 15 minutes more playtime tonight, let him or her plead their case. You may be surprised how convincing they can be!

     

  9. Tattle Battle!

    Is tattling a problem for your child? Do they tattle too much, or are they hesitant to share important problems for fear of being labeled a tattletale? As a parent, how do you keep tattling in check?

    Kids begin to tattle between ages 5 – 10. Many kids tattle because they’re testing out a newfound sense of wrong and right, which is ultimately an important part of their development. But they need your guidance to understand how to respond to certain kinds of wrongdoing.

    Playacting can be helpful here. Describe situations, like witnessing bullying or littering, then let your child decide whether they should alert an adult, intervene themselves, or just ignore the behavior. Make sure they’re aware of certain things they should always tell an adult.

    For some kids, tattling is a way to vent frustrations. They may not want you to do anything other than hear them out. In these cases, all you need to do is offer a sympathetic ear. Validate their feelings of anger towards a person or behavior. Let them know that even adults need to gripe sometimes.

    Don’t validate tattling, though. When kids tattle, you don’t want to reward them, but you also don’t want to scold them, punish them, or make them feel as if their concerns are being brushed aside. As a solution, don’t praise them for actually tattling. Instead, try praising them for being attentive. If you find they’re REALLY attentive, assign them something else to observe and relay to you. Ask them to look for 3 examples of kindness to report. Sure beats hearing about yet another playground name-calling incident.

    If you find the tattling habit persistent and hard to break, it may be tied to insecurity. Kids who feel unable to control their surroundings will sometimes engage in constant tattling because it makes them feel more powerful. This bad habit won’t exactly endear them to their peers or build their confidence. When they come to you to tattle, offer support and advice but resist the urge to get actively involved. Give praise when they are able deal with an issue on their own.   

     

  10. Fun & Easy Science Experiments for Kids

    Sometimes it takes a little extra spark to ignite a child’s interest in science. Many parents will read or draw with their kids, but much fewer are comfortable exploring scientific concepts. However, there’s no reason you can’t make science a part of everyday play. You don’t need to be a science wiz yourself, and you definitely don’t need to know the answer to every question your child may have. Simply having fun experimenting will introduce your child to the fascinating world of science.

    Here are some fun experiments that are easy, kid-friendly, and relatively mess-free to perform at home:

    Taste Testing: Explore the connection between taste and smell with this simple experiment. Blindfold your child and have them try a small piece of red apple then an equally sized piece of green apple. They should be able to taste the difference. Now try the same thing while they pinch their nose shut. Suddenly tasting the difference is a real challenge! Use this experiment to talk about the five senses and how they interact (learn more here).

    Baking Soda + Vinegar: Mixing baking soda and vinegar to create a fizzy eruption is a classic science experiment for good reason; it illustrates so many scientific concepts! Mixing two ingredients shows your little chemist a basic reaction.  Make things a little more complicated by mixing the ingredients in a lightly corked bottle. Watch the cork fly off and explain the buildup of force behind the impressive pop (learn more here).

    Making a Rainbow: A CD, a glass with some water in it, or a crystal – these are some of the household items you can use to create a homemade rainbow. Shift the light to see how it affects the size and colors of your rainbow. Make sure to use natural sunlight. Reflecting onto a white piece of paper is the easiest way to see the vivid results. Use this experiment to explore the light spectrum, and explain how all light contains these colors (learn more here). 

    Egg Parachute: The goal is simple: use household items to design a parachute that can float an egg to the ground from a given height (a roof or 2nd floor window should be sufficient). This is a great group activity because everyone can try their own design. It also serves as a launching pad for discussing physics – and making omelets.