1. 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.

     

  2. 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. 

     

  3. 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. 

     

  4. Plug Up the Summer Brain Drain

     

  5. 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.

     

     

  6. 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?

     

  7. 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!

     

  8. 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!    

     

  9. 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!  

     

  10. 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!