1. Flu Season Tips for the Whole Family


    At its best, the flu can be a few days in bed with a sore throat and other unpleasant symptoms. At its worst, it can require hospitalization. As with many illnesses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. How can you prevent your family from getting the flu this season? Check out these no-nonsense tips!

    The best line of defense is a flu vaccine. Although everyone should get a flu vaccine, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) highly recommends the elderly, children between 6 months and 6 years, people with a preexisting illness, pregnant women, or anyone who works with the aforementioned groups get vaccinated. You can get a flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or pharmacy, usually at little to no cost.

    The typical flu vaccine prevents against the 3 major flu viruses. The antibodies it spurs your body to create, however, can help prevent many other forms of the flu. But even though the vaccine dramatically reduces your risk of contracting the flu, it doesn’t offer 100% protection. Vaccinated individuals will still be susceptible to certain forms of the flu virus. There are also a host of non-flu viruses that can cause similar symptoms.

    What else can you do to reduce the risk of getting sick? Scientist have found that people who have healthy habits overall are better equipped to fight the flu, and are sometimes able to get rid of it before symptoms appear at all. What’s your family doing to stay healthy? During flu season, take extra care that you and your family eat nutritiously, sleep enough, and exercise. Not only will this kind of behavior make you less likely to get the flu, it will make your case of the flu less severe if you do end up falling ill.


    Another effective preventative measure is hand washing. Make sure to wash your hands constantly during flu season. Get your family in the habit of washing up before meals or after interacting with large groups of people. Use hot water and soap with at least 30 seconds of rigorous scrubbing, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    People who do get sick, especially those who get a milder strain, tend to go about their daily lives and not stay home. The CDC warns against such behavior. The high communicability of the flu means interacting with people who aren’t sick puts them at risk. Your coughs and sneezes can infect people up to 6 feet away! The best thing you can do if you’re sick is stay home and minimize contact with others. And make sure your kids stay away from you, too – we know it’s hard not to give them hugs sometimes, but it’s for their own good.  


  2. Family Fun: Fall Edition


    Although fall marks the end of trips to the beach and water balloon fights, it also brings new and exciting ways to have fun as a family. Check out some of these activities!

    October’s here, which means Halloween’s on the horizon. Dressing up in coordinating costumes with the rest of your family can be a great way to get everyone in on the fun. The cast of your favorite TV show, a flock of Angry Birds, a coven of witches – discuss some options with your kids and see what sticks. Even if you choose not to do a family costume, your kids will probably be dressing up, and you should consider getting in the spirit, too.   


    Thanksgiving presents lots of other opportunities for family bonding. It may be a food-centric holiday, but the good times don’t have to revolve around the Thanksgiving Day meal. Get your kids involved in the whole process. Have them make hand turkeys to show guests, or cut leaves out of craft paper to decorate the house. The festivities will be all the sweeter if your whole family played an active role in making it happen.

    The fall is the last time your family can spend a significant period of time outdoors before winter’s cold sets in, so don’t squander the opportunity! Go apple picking, spend time in the park watching the leaves change, or go to an outdoor event. But make sure your kids have warm clothes to suit the season – if they don’t, check out our selection of jackets, sweaters, and accessories

    Fall also features a selection of unique culinary treats. Cook up a batch of mulled cider or a pumpkin pie for your family. The fact that these treats are seasonal makes them all the more special.


    The great thing about fall is that so much is happening. No matter what your family’s interests, you can find something awesome to do. Sport fans? Fall is prime tailgating season! Craft masters? Try your hands at making pine cone bird feeders! Nature lovers? Take a hike! And when the air really starts to cool, build a fire.

    What will you do this fall?


  3. One More Game?

    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. 






  4. No More Chore War!

    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!   






  5. Teaching Good Siblinghood

    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.