1. 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! 

     

  2. Family Fun: Fall Edition

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    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.   

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    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.

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    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. 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!

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    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.

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    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!

     

  4. Best Behavior!

    Are your kids always on their best behavior in public? Do you wish they were? Public places can sometimes bring out bad behavior even in normally well-behaved kids. Check out these tips to make sure that when your child goes out and about, they’re on their best behavior.

    Preparation begins at home. If you don’t set high standards for kids’ behavior at home, they won’t know how to behave outside. As children grow older, and places like skating rinks, shopping malls, restaurants, and the movies become age-appropriate for them, start thinking about how you can prepare your child to transfer good behavior tendencies at home to good behavior in public. Point out positive things they do – like saying “please” and “thank you” – and tell them that in places like a restaurant they should do that stuff as much as they can. Any little way you can prepare them goes a long way. Next time you’re peacefully watching TV with your young child, try this line: “When we go to the movies together, I hope you can be as quiet as you are tonight.” 

    If you know you have an outing planned that might be a challenge for your child – like a fancy restaurant or a holiday party – take steps to prepare your child beforehand. Give them a little synopsis of what you think will happen at any given event – “the bride and groom will kiss, then we’ll hear some speeches, then we can dance” – just so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Explain that fun outings are a privilege that’s only earned by good behavior – and be specific about defining exactly what “good behavior” means to you. 

    Despite preparation and coaching on your part, it’s still possible your child will have a meltdown in public. Instances of bad behavior or tantrums flare up more frequently outside the home for many reasons; most often, it’s an instance of kids testing the boundaries. If your child starts throwing a tantrum in public, take some deep breaths. Remain calm and don’t argue with your child, because if you lose your cool, it can make their tantrum worse. Next, drop whatever you’re doing with your child and get them to an appropriate timeout zone. A public timeout can be a little different than a timeout at home, but try to select a quiet area to wait with your child until they’re calmed down and ready to behave. If timeouts don’t seem to work for your child, try other activities that calm them down. If a favorite toy or game seems to have a soothing effect on them, make sure you keep that item close at hand.

    For a period of your child’s development, every trip outside the house will be a learning experience for them: how not to bump into strangers; how to deal with a world of unfamiliar faces and objects; how to react when other people around them prevent them from getting their way. It can be a lot for some kids to handle, so be patient. Make sure you note improvement in your child’s behavior, and reward them with praise – and the promise of more public outings – if they keep up the good behavior.

    As kids get older and begin to go out on their own, they’ll apply what you taught them about good behavior, and see that things are a lot easier for them when they’re respectful of a certain behavioral code in public. It may not happen immediately, but someday they’ll thank you for showing them how to behave. 

    Sources:

    http://childcare.about.com/od/volunteerism/tp/goingpublic.htm

    http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/26/kids-behaving-badly-blame-it-on-mom/#ixzz2BTzVGoqA

    http://www.life123.com/parenting/education/add-adhd/coping-with-tantrums.shtml

     

  5. Avoiding Gender Stereotypes

    It probably started at your baby shower. If a girl was on the way, you got piles of pink; if a boy, you got bundles of blue. And from the moment your little one was born, their gender has influenced how people treat them. Studies show that adults describe a newborn wearing pink as “sweet” or “feminine”, but that same baby in blue is “sturdy” or “vigorous.” But your little one is unique, so how can you make sure they aren’t defined by narrow gender stereotypes?

    Remember, kids are learning from you at all times, which means the biggest influence on kids’ ideas about gender is what they see at home. If you and your partner enact traditional gender roles, get creative! Show your child that men cook and women fix things. Spend time with friends whose households are different from yours. Comment positively on people who do jobs not typical for their gender, such as male nurses. And ask your child what they think: “That boy grew up to be a nurse. What do you think you’ll grow up to do?”

    When it’s time to play, consider gender neutral options. Keep toys like blocks and crayons in rotation with dolls and trucks. Read books together with a child of the opposite gender as the main character. Invite a child of the opposite gender over to play – both kids will be amazed how much they dig each other’s stuff!

    Did you know that the compliments you give kids can affect how they perceive gender? Girls in particular receive a lot of specifically feminine encouragement. Adults are more likely to compliment a girl on her looks, clothes, and hair than they are a boy. Similarly, boys are often encouraged to be less emotional because “big boys don’t cry.” Try to compliment children on what they do or say rather than how adorable they are (that’s the hard part!), and help them feel safe sharing their feelings. As kids get older, they’ll probably be thinking a lot about what being a boy or a girl means to them. As always, encourage them to be open and honest with their feelings and questions.

    Shopping trips can be a great opportunity to explore what kids feel good wearing, regardless of the garment’s “intended” gender. Some stylish choices, like skinny jeans, can even walk the line between genders. Keep in mind many kids clothing brands offer unisex styles – check out our selection! And remember, it’s great to be a tough guy or a girly girl if that’s what your kid desires. It’s all about encouraging them to be whatever they want to be.

     

  6. Saying Sorry…And Meaning It!

    It’s a tale as old as time: your toddler borrows her older brother’s toy truck without asking, and – whoops! – breaks it. Tears flow, shouts fly, and finally your angry son declares his sister can never, ever play with his toys again. As the adult, you know she needs to apologize and he needs to forgive. But these are big concepts for little ones. It takes effort on your part to teach kids what goes into a sincere apology and what forgiveness really means. If you put in the time now, these skills will help your children resolve conflicts for their entire lives.

    As anyone who’s received a half-hearted apology can attest, there’s a lot more to apologizing than just saying, “I’m sorry.” An apology is most effective when it comes from a genuine understanding of how the other person’s feelings may have been hurt, and a willingness to accept responsibility. For the person granting forgiveness, accepting a sincere apology is the healthiest way to release negative feelings and move on.

    Talking with your children about how their actions affect others is an important step in developing the empathic attitude required to apologize and forgive. Make your child aware of others’ feelings by asking questions like, “How do you think your brother feels?” and, “Why do you think she did that to you?” Being constantly considerate of others’ feelings is the surest way to prevent the kinds of situations that require an apology.

    But everyone has to apologize and forgive at some point. Whether you’re playing the role of mediator, or talking with kids about these situations afterwards, be sure to give the right advice. Apologizers should know that accepting responsibility is the most important step, and forgivers understand that when apologizers really mean it, forgiving is the right thing to do. Also, remember that it’s okay for kids to be temporarily angry, or sad, or frustrated. Letting these feelings out is healthier than bottling them up. But screaming and yelling is rarely a clear way to get feelings across, so let tempers cool before the process of apology begins.

    Asking someone for forgiveness can be risky. It means admitting you made a mistake, and opening yourself up to further hurt or embarrassment. But holding onto resentment or anger can be emotionally draining and make it difficult to form healthy, long-lasting relationships. As your children get older, understanding their responsibility in any given situation, and knowing how to let go of negativity, will help them stay sincere, increase their confidence, and lead to stronger, more fulfilling connections with family and friends.   

    Sources

    http://www.parenting.com/article/forgiveness-101

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-development/201009/forgiveness

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/magazine/04fob-wwln-t.html?_r=0

     

  7. Making the Grade

    It goes without saying that getting good grades is important. Parents and teachers know they’re the key to everything from college admissions to important scholarships – even future careers. But since explaining all that to your 4th grader who’d rather watch iCarly than do her math homework is easier said than done, here are a few simple strategies. Following these tips will make this school year the Year of the Great Report Card.

    First off, it’s important to define just what a good grade means for your child. They should strive to do their best, and realize that they shouldn’t compare their scores to anyone else’s. If they put a lot of time and effort into homework and studying, a B on a particularly hard test can be just as rewarding as an A.

    Kids will find it easier to grasp the practical implications of good grades when you put the issue in terms they understand. Instead of telling them how a high score on this week’s math test could mean admission to a great college later on, show them how studying now means they’ll have free time later to watch a movie. Knowing your child’s motivations for doing well will help you establish guidelines for homework and studying that will result in better grades and a happier child. Consider implementing a rewards or bonus system to honor their hard work; it could be anything from an extra hour of TV to a special day out with Dad. Whatever you choose, though, be sure to follow through promptly.

    Creating consistent conditions and clear expectations will go a long way in helping kids achieve their goals. Establish a “homework zone” that’s free of distractions, and set a specific time every day for kids to work on projects, test preparation, and take-home work. Getting them to into a habit of doing their work when it’s assigned has several benefits; not only will it help prevent the dreaded “night-before” scenario, it’ll also help them become more organized and confident. Showing an interest in their studies and keeping tabs on their performance is a small but significant way to communicate the value of good grades.

    Instilling positive work habits in your kids will take some time, but talking about it right now is a good way to get them thinking about how they want to approach the new school year. They already have new clothes and maybe a new pair of shoes or two – why not better grades to go along with them?

    Sources:

    http://people.rit.edu/kecncp/keys.htm

    http://www.lifescript.com/life/family/parenting/8_strategies_for_encouraging_good_grades.aspx

    http://www.outsidethebox4kids.com/education/ten-strategies-to-improve-or-maintain-good-grades/

     

  8. Tips for Successful Sleepovers

    Sleepover, slumber party, pajama party – it goes by many names, but the idea remains the same. Children get together at someone’s house, have fun, and go to sleep – or don’t. The sleepover is a rite of passage for kids, and a chance for them to taste a new kind of independence. But if it’s your turn to host a sleepover, it’s up to you to define when lights-out comes.   

    Preparation will go a long way in making sleepover night a success. The first thing to determine is how many children you want to have over. Eight is the generally recommended maximum, and sometimes the fewer kids, the better for your sanity. Before you commit to a larger number of guests, make sure you have room to fit them all.

    Once you have your guest list, call guests’ parents to invite them. Make sure parents know when your party begins and ends, and where they can drop off and pick up their child. Also, get each parent’s cell phone number, and ask them about dietary restrictions or other specific issues their children might have – have a notepad handy to keep track. Once you know how many kids are coming and what they’ll need, stock up on supplies. Make sure you have extra linens, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.  A grocery run should cover snacks, drinks, and breakfast items, but might also include plastic plates and cutlery for larger groups.

    You might also consider working out a rough activity schedule before guests arrive. Talk with your child about what they’d like to do at their sleepover. Watch movies? Paint fingernails? Play flashlight tag? Also, make sure your child knows what playing host or hostess entails. Explain to them that they can have some extra say in what they and their friends do on sleepover night, but that this also means they have to take responsibility if a rogue attendee decides to finger paint the pool table.  

    When the big night arrives, there are two things to do right at the beginning. First, give all your sleepover guests a tour: show them where all the bathrooms are, and where you’ll be should they need you. Second, lay down the rules. These are up to you, but might include no leaving the house, no using dangerous appliances, and no “ganging up.” Rules should definitely include a specific time for lights-out. In fact, you might step in about a half-hour before lights-out to remind everyone.

    Even with all this preparation, be ready for some typical problems. Be available to comfort kids who are homesick or otherwise upset. Try to imagine what it’s like to sleep somewhere strange, to adhere to another family’s rules and quirks. On the other hand, be ready with stern warnings for out-of-line behavior, and don’t hesitate to call parents should kids drastically overstep your rules.

    That said, staying up all night is par for the course for many sleepovers. It might be best to just let it happen and accept that you probably won’t get the best night’s sleep either. Take a nap the previous day or the next. And take solace in the fact that while you might miss out on one good night of sleep, your child’s sleepover memories will last forever.

      

    Sources:

    http://party.kaboose.com/your-sleepover-party-planner.html

    http://childcare.about.com/od/enrichment/ht/slumberparty.htm

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/a-doctors-guide-to-the-sleepover/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/health/views/08klass.html?_r=1&ref=health

     

  9. Water Safety for Kids

    Splash! Swimming and playing in the water is one of the great joys of summer – good exercise and great fun. But before your little ones dive in head-first, take some time to explain the risks of oceans, lakes, and pools, and know what you need to do to ensure your children’s safety. A few water safety precautions can prevent drastic consequences.

    When introducing young children to swimming, it’s important to instill in them a healthy fear of water. You don’t want to scare them away from it, but take steps to illustrate the power of water: “See those boulders? The ocean can move them.” Make sure your child knows that water is something they need to respect by following certain rules.

    The most important rule to tell young swimmers is this one: never swim alone. Make sure your child knows that if there aren’t adults around to supervise, kids shouldn’t be swimming, even if there’s lifeguard on duty. Watch your child whenever they swim. And when kids go swimming in a lake or the ocean, make sure they swim with a buddy. 

    If you have your own pool in the backyard, it’s a good idea to come up with a list of specific rules that are appropriate for your children. Whatever your rules are, they should be clearly explained, or even written up and posted somewhere near the pool. Some standard pool safety rules might include no running by the pool, no swimming without an adult, and no diving head-first. You can also take certain precautions to make your pool especially safe. Be sure the drain is fitted with an anti-entrapment cover. Pool noodles and inflatable toys are fun, but they’re not flotation devices; have a life preserver on hand in case of emergency.

    At the beach, another set of rules and precautions applies. The ocean presents many hazards to swimmers, and it’s best to prepare your children by making sure they know about them ahead of time. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but any kid who goes in the ocean must already know how to swim – don’t let a weak swimmer paddle in on a raft and assume they won’t fall in. Even for strong swimmers, currents and rip-tides can present a risk. Tell your child to pick a permanent landmark on the beach and swim near that – better yet, they should choose the lifeguard chair as their landmark. Sharks and toothy, tentacled creatures of the deep can scare some kids a little too much, but make sure children have some idea of the sea creatures that can harm them. Stinging jellyfish and the sharp shells of oysters and mussels are important to avoid; bring a first-aid kit just in case.

    Once your little swimmer demonstrates they know and observe water safety rules, consider rewarding them with a pool party or trip to the beach! Introduce classic pool games like Sharks and Minnows, or throw coins into the pool for an underwater treasure hunt. Beach towels and bathing suits make great gifts for responsible swimmers – check out our selection at CookiesKids.com!

     

    Sources:

    http://www.kidspot.com.au/kids-activities-and-games/1-2-years+8.htm

    http://blog.intheswim.com/2011/11/01/swimming-pool-party-games-for-kids/

    http://suite101.com/article/basic-pool-safety-for-children-and-toddlers-a122379

    http://suite101.com/article/ocean-safety-tips-that-kids-and-all-beach-vacationers-should-know-a223235

    http://www.babycenter.com/0_water-safety_65766.bc

     

  10. The Joy of Music

    Do your kids have enough music in their lives? Numerous studies have shown that steady musical exposure, whether it’s listening to a song or mastering a difficult solo, can boost children’s reading comprehension, improve their motor skills, and even increase memory retention. Following a rhythm or melody requires the same kind of abstract thinking and patience used in problem-solving, while learning how to dance and keep time helps young kids gain control of their bodies.

    In the past, kids might have been exposed to music in school. But with tight school budgets all over the country, many school music programs have been cut back and even eliminated, leaving parents to pick up the slack. So what can you do to get your kids engaged with music? 

    There are lots of ways to make your home a musical one. You can start off by playing soft music during downtime and upbeat tunes when it’s time to play. Kids will start to pick up on the emotional cues and associate certain kinds of music with specific moods. Singing is another great way to keep little ones musically engaged; you can hum the tunes at first, and then add the words once they’ve mastered the melody. Exposing children to a variety of sounds, rhythms, and musical styles enriches their senses and encourages their curiosity.

    A great way to further young kids’ musical experimentation is by adding instruments to the mix. Try keeping a basket of simple percussion instruments handy, like tambourines and rhythm sticks, and play a Simon Says game; you tap out a pattern and your little one has to duplicate it. As they get older, make the patterns more complicated by adding new sounds and rhythms. And if they express an interest in pursuing a particular instrument, such as guitar or violin, try finding one at a secondhand music shop and hiring a musical tutor.

    But it’s not just about making music; taking time to listen and appreciate music is also beneficial. Many parks have outdoor concerts in the summer, so try organizing a family outing to see a musical performance, and lead a discussion with your children afterward. Getting them talking about what they enjoy, what they don’t, and how a particular type of music makes them feel is an important critical exercise that will help them in school and beyond.

    From nursery rhymes to pop radio hits, music is an integral part of our lives. Encouraging your children to understand and engage with music in all its forms will lead to more than just treasured memories of dancing around the living room with Mom. It’ll help them build an identity and set them on a lifelong journey of learning and discovery. 

    Sources:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090316075843.htm

    http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/learning/preschool_music.html

    http://parentesource.com/2011/01/24/nine-benefits-of-music-education-for-kids/