1. 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!

     

  2. 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.

     

  3. 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. 

     

  4. 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!

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    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.

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    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/

     

  5. 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. 

     

  6. Childhood Nutrition

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    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.

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    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!

     

  7. 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! 

     

  8. 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?

     

  9. 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!

     

  10. Giving Never Felt So Good!

    It’s been a wonderful holiday season here at CookiesKids.com. Our warehouse was bustling, our website was filled with holiday deals, and we worked around the clock to ensure that toys and clothes got to you in time for the holidays. But this year we also did something more. As a member of the NYC community, we knew we had to do something to assist those affected by Superstorm Sandy, so we found seventy-five lucky kids whose holiday seasons had been darkened by the storm’s devastation. Then, in partnership with American Express and the Brooklyn Nets, we gave each of these kids a $250 American Express gift card to spend in our store. Players from the Nets were on the scene to take pictures, sign autographs, and offer the occasional toy-related advice. The day proved a memorable one for these kids, who pushed huge shopping carts full of toys to the register with even huger smiles on their faces. But for a young basketball fan, there’s really no toy that can compare with a high-five from Deron Williams or Kris Humphries.

    Call us sentimental, but we find that times like these make all the stress of the holidays worthwhile – the little moments of giving back. Did you or your family have the opportunity to give back to your community this holiday season? If so, we want to hear about it! Tweet us @CookiesKids or visit our blog.

    If charity might have gotten lost in the shuffle this holiday season, we have a few suggestions on how you can still make things brighter for those less fortunate around you. Vacations from school are a great time to sort through kids’ closets and your kitchen pantry. See if you can put together some lightly used clothes (especially coats) and non-perishable foods to donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or another community organization.

    If your child receives some holiday cash from you or a relative, ask them to consider donating it to a charity of their choice. Try discussing with your family the charities and organizations you might want to support, based on your family’s unique values. Maybe there’s one organization you can all agree could use a few extra dollars for the New Year.

    Lastly, consider those in your community who might not have anyone to visit them this holiday season, like the elderly or infirm. Try to spend some time with these folks. They could probably use some extra holiday cheer.

    Charity doesn’t have to mean giving a down-on-their-luck kid a shopping spree in a toy store (though doing that was pretty fun!). It’s the littlest gestures that make the biggest difference, and they’re always twice as appreciated this time of year. Talk with your family about what giving really means to you. You might find some extra meaning in your holiday this year.

    Happy Holidays from CookiesKids.com!