1. Flu Season Tips for the Whole Family

    image

    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.

    image

    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. 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!

     

  3. 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:

    image

    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!

    image

    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.

     

  4. 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. 

     

  5. Halloween Dos and Don’ts

    Halloween fun is right around the corner. But think about last year’s Halloween for a moment. If it brings back memories of candy binges and outrageously expensive costumes, it’s time to make some improvements. Check out our list of Halloween Dos and Don’ts for some tips on making this Halloween better than ever!

    image 

    Costumes

    DO make a Halloween budget. It should include anything needed for costumes, candy, and decorations.

    DON’T spend a lot of money. Store-bought costumes can break the bank – and who wants to do that for something a kid will only wear once?  

    DO borrow costumes from friends. Put something up on Facebook or Twitter to see if your friends might have any costumes or costume materials they’re not using this year. But…

    DON’T make your kids wear the same costume as last year.

    Trick or Treating

    DO look up when trick or treating is in your neighborhood. There’s nothing more embarrassing than going out on the wrong night.

    DON’T get hung up on decorations for your house. Some people go all-out. You don’t have to.  

    DO make sure your kids say thank you at every house where they trick-or-treat.

    Candy

    DO make rules about candy. Make these rules clear to your children before trick-or-treating, that way there’s no ambiguity. 

    DON’T let kids eat all their candy at once.

    DO donate extra Halloween candy.

     image

    Sources

    http://www.rantsfrommommyland.com/2012/10/10-halloween-dos-and-donts.html

    http://www.chambanamoms.com/2013/10/15/cu-on-halloween-dos-and-donts/

     

  6. Weekly Series: Reasons to Love School Uniforms

    Last week we discussed how school uniforms save parents money, because they’re a lot less expensive than fashion school clothes. We also got into the fact that most parents who save money on school uniforms get to spend that extra money on stuff for their kids – like fashion clothes for the weekend.

    This week, let’s take a look at another way school uniforms benefit kids.

    Reason 2: Sameness Has Its Benefits

    There’s a lot of research out there about how school uniforms encourage discipline, concentration, even attendance. With uniforms there’s no stress about fashion trends and no more time wasted debating over outfits in the morning. If kids aren’t thinking about their clothes all the time, they’ll be able to apply themselves to their schoolwork with one less distraction.

    Or so goes the argument. You have to wonder how many kids are actually stressing out about their clothes so much it affects their schoolwork. The kids spending a little too much time on their outfits in the morning are probably fine.

    But what about the kids who get picked on because they’re wearing hand-me-downs? Not every kid has the means to put together a great outfit every day. It’s cruel, but these kids get made fun of. And for kids who are bullied in this way, every day they have to go to school in clothes that make them feel like an outsider is a day they dread.

    With uniforms this situation just doesn’t happen, because everyone is wearing the same thing. There’s a certain relief in that. Kids who used to worry about their clothes – for totally valid reasons – know exactly what they’re going to wear, and know they’ll look like everyone else. Are uniforms going to stop bullying? No, not entirely, but they can level the playing field for some kids, and we think that’s worthwhile. 

     

  7. Childhood Nutrition

    image

    The moment a child starts eating solid food, they start making choices about eating. These choices can have a dramatic effect on a child’s current and future health. Anyone who has dieted can attest to the fact that trying to change these habits later in life is extremely difficult. How do we make sure our children are on the right path to nutritional health?

    Most kids are inherently picky eaters. If they had their way they would live off of fries, pizza, and candy. How do we, as parents, introduce them to vegetables, fruits, and other healthy food? The key is to know your child and meet them halfway. Does your little girl have a sweet tooth? Instead of candy, try giving her fruit, raisins, or frozen yogurt. Is your little guy a burger fanatic? Serve him veggie burgers. Keep in mind that the frozen ones at the store are not much healthier than beef burgers. Homemade veggies patties are the way to go.

    Kids thrive off routine. Find some healthy recipes they like, or at the very least don’t hate, and keep them in your rotation. Your kids may not eat them at first, but with time and encouragement, they will budge. Always stay stocked up on the healthy snacks your kids like. Nuts, carrot sticks, and yogurt are all good snack choices that kids can learn to enjoy. They’re also easy, low-to-no prep foods you can put in your child’s school lunchbox.

    image

    It’s not just about offering nutritional choices. Avoiding fast food, candy, salted snacks, and other unhealthy options is key. A growing body of evidence points to the fact that such foods can activate the same reward centers in the brain as addictive drugs. A child’s brain is not fully developed, and is particularly susceptible to the additive properties of salt, sugar, and fat.

    When your kids are old enough to start making their own dietary choices, such as picking out what to eat in the school lunchroom, talk to them about nutrition. Explain the benefits of a healthy diet. Teach them to enjoy things like soda and fast food in moderation. However, don’t just talk; monitor as well. Is your child buying candy with their allowance? Are they stopping into the local burger franchise with friends after school? These are things you need to know about as a parent.

    Keeping a healthy home, nutritionally speaking, can be hard. Picking up the phone and ordering takeout after a long day is easy. But stay resolute – the future health of your family may depend on it!

     

  8. Weekly Series: Reasons to Love School Uniforms

    Let’s face it: if they had the choice, kids probably wouldn’t choose to wear their school uniform. But if their school has a uniform policy, they do have to wear one, so it’s worth explaining to them why uniforms are actually a pretty good idea.

    There’s a lot out there on the school uniform debate, but we’ve sorted through it to bring you the most compelling reasons why school uniforms are actually a good thing. Each week, we’ll post another reason school uniforms could use a little more love.

    Bounce these ideas off your kids the next time they start complaining their uniform’s lame. It might make them appreciate their school uniform policy a little more, or at least understand it.   

    Reason 1: It Saves Money  

    Parents who buy a few uniforms instead of a full fashion wardrobe for their kids save A LOT of money. At CookiesKids.com, you can get a year’s school wardrobe for just $95. And school uniforms are designed to stand up to lots of washes and wear and tear, so you don’t have to buy a million of them. Check out these double knee pants – indestructible.

    You might be happy that you’re saving money with school uniforms, but do your kids care? They will if you tell them how you spend that extra money on them! Seriously, the less you spend on school clothes for the week, the more splurge money you could spend on that dress she really wants for the dance or that jacket he’s had his eye on.

    The more you save with uniforms, the more you can spend on the fun stuff! 

     

  9. Family Fun: Fall Edition

    image

    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.   

    image

    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.

    image 

    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?

     

  10. Learning through Games

    Some kids will fidget and pout if you sit them down to study for 20 minutes. But put the same kids in front of their favorite videogame console or toy, however, and they’ll remain quietly engrossed for hours. It’s no secret that we have infinitely more time and patience for the things we find enjoyable, and our kids are the same way. How can we harness this preference for games to benefit our children? By playing games that educate!

    image

    Start by introducing your children to the games you played in your youth. Games like Uno, Candyland, and Chutes and Ladders teach basic skills like color identification, numerical values, and organization – all important skills for a young child. For little ones, the simple act of sitting for a game, drawing the correct number of cards, and understanding winning, losing, and cheating is educational. The game itself is not necessarily that important.

    As your child ages and their interests become more fine-tuned, you’ll need to expand your game arsenal. For example, if your child is a fan of military history or strategic video games, introduce them to a military themed game like chess, Risk, or Stratego.  All these titles teach planning and executing a strategy, thinking ahead, and calculating risk.

    You can also choose games designed to help your child in an area in which they are struggling.  Word games like Scattergories and Scrabble can boost vocabulary, spelling, and reading ability. Games based in probability, like backgammon or card games, can help improve math skills. With so many games out there, all it takes is a bit of research to find one perfectly suited for your child.

    image

    Arguably the most important aspect of gaming with your kids is the quality time you get to spend together. If you have a favorite game, share it with your family. Even if you haven’t picked up a board or a deck of cards in a decade, you can rediscover your love of play. Newer games like Settles of Catan or Cranium are designed to appeal to both kids and adults. You may find yourself breaking them out when your friends come over!