1. Making Time for Time Management

    Time management is an important life skill, and the earlier you can teach it to your kids, the better. Proper time management not only leads to better academic performance, it lets your kids free up time to do whatever they want, which reduces stress. But when and how do you start teaching your kids about managing time?

    Kids 10 - 13 years old typically have a basic understand of timing and deadlines. This is also around when academics and other activities can really start to pile on, overwhelming many kids, so it’s a good idea to start teaching time management before things get really hectic at school or at home. If you’re looking for a good time of year to teach time management, try teaching them around summer, the end of a school vacation, or any other generally slow time when they can devote some extra capacity to the project of time management.

    Ask your child to split up their upcoming deadlines and events into have-to-do and want-to-do tasks. Have-to-dos will be things like math homework or soccer practice, while want-to-dos will be things like playing video games or chatting with friends on the phone. This teaches them to prioritize.

    Once tasks and times have been divided, the more difficult part begins: making a schedule. Making a schedule can be tricky because it can be hard to determine how much time is needed nightly for a long-term project. A heavy load of homework one night can throw off the whole rest of the week’s schedule. Let your child know these are just estimates and they can always adjust things as they go. As time goes on, they should have a better idea of how long a given task will actually take. It helps to overestimate how much time a task will take, especially in the beginning. Any surplus time becomes time for want-to-do tasks.

    It’s important to get your child into the habit of constantly updating and adjusting their schedule. If they have a smartphone or tablet, make sure they’re using the calendar function, but if not, invest in a simple paper calendar for them. This makes it easier to keep track of due dates and social obligations so they’ll never miss a beat. One might think that keeping track of play dates is excessive, but it’s just as valid a way to learn time management as scheduling math homework.      

    Time management habits carry through kids’ college years and into their adult life. People with good time management skills experience less stress than their disorganized peers, because they find they actually have the time to relax. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?

     

  2. Bedtime Means Bedtime

    Many kids will avoid going to sleep no matter how exhausted they are. They’ll argue with you while yawning and rubbing their eyes. If this is the situation in your household, you may wonder about whether your kids are really getting the sleep they need. What methods can you use to make sure your kids are getting to bed and sleeping enough?

    WebMD offers this handy breakdown for how much sleep kids should be getting: 3 – 6 year olds, 10 – 12 hours of sleep; 7 – 12 year olds, 10 – 11 hours of sleep; 12 – 18 year olds, 8 – 9 hours of sleep. These are rough guidelines that you can alter to suit your child’s needs. Trust your instincts; if your kids look tired all the time, they’re not getting enough sleep.

    No matter what age your kids are, it’s important to stick to a regular schedule for bedtime. If you make sure your child gets to bed and wakes up at the same time every day, they’ll begin to develop an internal rhythm. In a matter of weeks you won’t need to remind them about bedtime, because their biological clock will be primed for sleep. Being on a schedule also makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

    Even with a schedule in place, many children will bicker with you when night arrives, claiming they’re not tired. Why do kids do this? Sometimes the mind just doesn’t realize how tired the body is. Certain activities can exacerbate this problem. Screen time of any sort – computer, TV, mobile phone – often disrupts the process of winding down toward sleep. You may want to consider banning or limiting the use of such devices in the hour or two before bed. Replace screen time with activities more conducive to falling asleep, like reading a book or listening to music.

    Many kids, especially energetic ones, simply don’t get enough opportunities during the day to put their energy to good use. This can lead to genuine sleeplessness. Make sure your child is getting enough exercise. An hour or two at the park or playing in the backyard can make all the difference when it comes to bedtime. Limiting sugar and caffeine intake is another way to make sure your children feel sufficiently tired at night.

    If your kids are still not sleeping after taking these kinds of steps, contact your pediatrician to look into other sources of insomnia. But for most kids, these tips will suffice and they’ll be asleep in no time. 

     

  3. Closet Cleanup!

    Kids have a hard enough time keeping their room clean. When it comes to keeping a closet neat, most are at a complete loss. Things that don’t have another place tend to end up in the closet, which results in a huge, disorganized mess. This stops you and your children from maximizing the closet as an actual storage space.

    The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean out the closet in question with your kids. Chances are there are a lot of things that you can throw out. Other items can be moved into a more permanent storage space like under the bed or in the basement. Once the closet has been thoroughly cleaned out you can decide what items you’ll store there.

    It’s important to have a system in place for the closet. Cleaning out a closet is a good start, but the mess will slowly begin to accumulate again if there isn’t an organizational system in place. Designate different places in the closet for various items. Make sure your child knows what specific items go in the closet and where to put them.

    Maximize space in your closet with organizing accessories. Get a shoe rack or door hangers to make use of door space. Stack shelves or milk crates on the floor to get the most out of the floor area. You can find many more ideas for how to get the most out of every inch of closet space online.

    Cleaning the closet should be part of your child’s room cleaning routine. Once a system is in place, they’ll have no excuse for not keeping their closet organized. It may require some gentle reminders at first, but once a routine has been established it will be easy.

    Once your child’s closet is organized you can clone your success in every closet in the house! Don’t be afraid to get rid of things you never use. The key to success to creating a system and sticking with it. What will you do with all your extra storage space?

     

  4. Keeping it Current

    When a major news event occurs – natural disaster, financial turmoil, political scandal – kids get curious, and most often it’s up to parents to explain what’s going on. But this process catches many parents off guard. Most news stories are very complex, so how do you simplify them for kids? Furthermore, the news can be pretty scary, so should you leave out gruesome or disheartening details? 

    Before you can approach these kinds of questions, it’s first important to get into a routine where you and your kids discuss current events regularly. Think about what times of day might be appropriate to start this discussion – some time when your kids are alert, but looking for something to do.  

    Sometimes one event is all it takes to get your child interested. A local news story can be a good entry point because it allows your child to put abstract news into the context of their life. Are there any stories brewing on a local level you think your child might find enlightening?  

    Once you find a news event you think will interest your child, collect some articles about it from the internet or newspapers. Make sure it’s juicy stuff, preferably with a video or two, and try to seek out a news event that seems to be ongoing, such as the debates on fracking or gun control. If your kids need more information, help them find new sources. Take them to the library or even on a field trip – show them that you support their quest for knowledge.  

    What if some news stories go way over your kid’s head? Not to worry. There are many kid-friendly online news resources out there, such as Dogo, Time for Kids, and Scholastic. These resources specialize in taking complex news events and breaking them down in relatable and understandable ways. Let your child read these, you read the grownup stuff, and then the two of you can discuss.


    When your kids get a bit older you can have even richer discussions about what certain issues mean to them, and how they think a given story is going to play out. But what about the darker side of the news? News stories of famine, genocide, and sectarian violence are never in short supply. Should you share these stories with your children? It depends on their age and maturity level, but eventually, yes. Your kids trust you as their confidant, the one with whom they can discuss anything. You can’t sugarcoat the dark stuff for them forever, but you can be there to discuss.    

    Lastly, be sure to encourage your kids to formulate their own opinions about current events. You don’t have to agree with them, but telling them there’s no room for their point of view is a sure way to snuff out their budding interest. If you continue to ask for your kids’ opinions, and keep challenging them to delve deeper into a story, before long your kids will be the ones filling you in about the subtle nuances of current events. That should be enough to make any parent proud!

     

  5. Birthdays on a Budget: Having a Blast without Breaking the Bank

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    The cost of a child’s birthday party can add up fast. Food for friends and family, appropriate entertainment – and don’t forget a present for the birthday boy or girl! Unfortunately, many parents find that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting more. Before you start booking the magician or renting the arcade, look over our affordable birthday solutions. You’ll find lots of ways you can give your kids and their friends a unique and memorable birthday without spending much at all.

    For spring and summer birthdays, a day on the lake is great fun. A quick internet search will reveal the parks in your area. In most cases, reserving a site with a fire pit and lake access is under $20. Some sites are free, but in those cases you’ll need to arrive early to stake your claim. Then all you need is a cooler full of hotdogs and any outdoor play things you have around the house. The parents can relax while the kids run around, swim, and make their own fun. As the day ends, gather everyone around the fire to sing Happy Birthday, open presents, and eat some birthday s’mores!

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    If the weather doesn’t permit, or you’re not around any lakes, you can organize a scavenger hunt. If you plan this properly it can cost you a total of $0. You can organize a scavenger hunt around your neighborhood, if weather permits, or at the local mall. Just create some clues based on your chosen location, split the guests into two or more teams with a few parents per team, then let them loose to solve the puzzle. Look online for inspiration; you’ll find lots of clues and riddles to incorporate into your hunt.

    Chances are there are some fun, low cost cultural institutions in your area. Museums, zoos, and historical sites are all affordable options. Call and ask about group rates or reduced rates for kids. Many such places will also have free days every now and again, though they do tend to become crowded on those days. Make sure to bring enough parents on your outing. Keeping track of so many rowdy kids in a crowded place can get tricky.

    When planning a birthday on a budget, it’s important to take advantage of all the resources available to you, from other parents to local attractions. With enough planning and creativity you can deliver a birthday experience your little one will never forget.  

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  6. Pajama Party Picks!

    The #1 rule for sleepover parties? Bring the right pajamas!

    There are favorite pajamas girls wear at home…and then there are the favorite pajamas they wear to the sleepover party. They’re totally different species. At-home pajamas can (and should) be threadbare and centuries old, but most girls want to show off a little bit at a sleepover party. That means their pajamas should be matching, fresh, and cute – not to mention comfy enough to last through a night of movies and mischief.  

    This pair of PJs is way too stylish for bedtime. Between the legging-fit pants and metallic “Chase Your Dreams” graphic, it’s more like a favorite outfit than pajamas. She might even wear it in the daytime.  

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    Kind of a punky, baseball shirt-inspired thing going on here…

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    Sometimes having cute PJs is as easy as showing off a favorite character, like Hello Kitty.

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    Other times, it means proclaiming oneself the future Mrs. Bieber.

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    The nightgown is making a comeback in a big way. Check out this one. Extra positivity! Extra glitter! 

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  7. Flu Season Tips for the Whole Family

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    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.

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    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.  

     

  8. Getting the Family Engaged this Thanksgiving

    National polls have found Thanksgiving to be our nation’s second favorite holiday after Christmas. Why do people like Thanksgiving so much? Food and family, most say. All too often, however, the prep for Thanksgiving is not a family activity. It’s just stressed-out parents shopping, cooking, traveling, and much more. This year, involve the kids! If they help make the holiday happen, they’ll be even more thankful for the season’s blessings.

    The first thing you should do with your family is come up with a plan. Let your kids know you want their input on how to make this Thanksgiving the best one yet. Make family decisions on things like the menu, decorations, and music. Assign everyone tasks.

    Thanksgiving is a food centered holiday, so it makes sense to have your kids help out in the kitchen. It’s also a great excuse to spend some time together. Find age-appropriate tasks for your kids to do. Cutting vegetables, making whipped cream, even just reading the next step in the recipe: these are all ways to involve your kids. If you have an older child who likes to cook, let them create a dish or dessert on their own. When the guests arrive, your kids can state with pride that they helped create the holiday meal.

    There are a lot of other tasks your kids can do to get your home ready for Thanksgiving. They can help you clean, cut out hand turkeys to hang around the house, and decorate dinner menus. Even if it’s just busy work, it will keep the kids out of your hair and make them feel engaged.

    Their engagement doesn’t have to stop with the feast. Remind them that they need to be gracious hosts. Have them help bring out food, clear the table, and make sure elder family members are comfortable. And, as the meal draws to a close, the cleanup brigade should be prepared to spring into action.  

    Many families like to go around the table and say what they are thankful for. This is a great time to thank your kids for all the help they gave you in planning and executing Thanksgiving. Hopefully your kids will thank you, too!

     

  9. 6 Fun Ways to be Charitable as a Family

    Getting your family involved with charity is a great way to teach your kids how concepts like sharing and helping the less fortunate are put to work. If you get kids into the habit of helping while they are young, they’ll develop naturally into thoughtful, caring adults. Here are six ways your family can have a positive impact:

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    Donating Clothes:  Donating clothing not only helps the less fortunate, it’s also a good opportunity to clear some of the clutter from your home. Having your kids go through their stuff and see just how much they have can be an eye-opening experience. Make sure to take your kids with you when you drop of your donation so they can see firsthand the good to which they are contributing.

    Walking to Raise Money: If your family is the active type, put that energy to good use. There are thousands of charity bikes, walks, and races each year. Show your kids that helping others doesn’t have to be a chore – it can be fun!

    Spending Time with the Elderly: Volunteering at a local nursing home is a sure way to bring a smile to the faces of the elderly residents. It also allows the elderly residents to impart some of their wisdom and knowledge to your kids. Don’t just tell your kids to respect their elders, let them practice it!

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    Volunteering at an Animal Shelter: If your kids are constantly badgering you for a puppy, maybe they need to spend some time at the local shelter. Let them experience just how much time and energy it takes to care for an animal. If they can stick with volunteering weekly at the shelter, they may be ready for that pet.

    Issue Activism: Chances are your kids have an issue they are passionate about. Let them put that passion to work by writing letters, starting a petition, garnering support on social media, or getting involved on a local level. Allowing your kids to choose the issue they want to impact will ensure they approach their charitable work with cheerful diligence.

    Collecting Money: This is a great one for shy kids. It gives them the perfect opportunity to strike up conversations with community members and tell them about a cause that deserves their support. You can choose worthy causes as a family, and make a competition out of who can raise the most money.

     

  10. Weekly Series: Reasons to Love School Uniforms

    Last week we looked at how school uniforms level the playing field for students. We explored how uniforms make it easier for some kids to stop focusing on clothes and start focusing on their studies, and how, for kids who can’t afford the latest fashion, wearing a school uniform can be a major relief.

    This week, let’s take a look at how uniforms can make peace between students and their parents and teachers.

    Reason 3: No More Arguments

    As they get older, kids tend to dress more rebelliously. And for every rebellious dresser, there’s a parent or teacher that has to tell that kid to put on something appropriate for class.

    This battle rages on in most schools that don’t have uniform programs. Schools have to set rules about what’s appropriate to wear, such as no revealing clothing or no violent imagery on clothing. But not only do schools have to make the rules, they also have to update the rules every time someone pushes the envelope in a new way. And they have to enforce the rules, turning teachers into the fashion police – literally.

    Ask any teacher who’s had to enforce dress code rules, and they’ll tell you: it’s not fun. It creates poor relations between students and teachers, an “us vs. them” mentality.

    The same goes for the poor parent who tries to stop their kid from leaving the house wearing something inappropriate – it can be a source of real tension and enmity, because kids feel they have the right to express themselves.

    Can’t we all just get along?

    School uniforms might just be the peacemaker in this situation. Uniforms eliminate the need for complex, endlessly changing rules about dress. Teachers can go back to teaching without having to worry about whether they’ll have to bust some kid over what they’re wearing. At home, parents can stop hassling kids about “going out looking like that!”

    Ultimately, rebellious kids will rebel in other ways. But if the way they dress is always uniform, it’s just one less argument to have.