Activities Your Child Can Do at KLA Schools Summer Camp

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Activities Your Child Can Do at KLA Schools Summer Camp

KLA Schools Summer Camp is a fun, supportive, and secure place for your child to have fun and learn new things. When your child is attending KLA Schools Summer Camp, they will spend time outdoors, and learn several skills such as teamwork, tolerance, self-esteem, and resiliency.

Here are some of the activities your child can do at summer camp.

  • Spanish Immersion. KLA Schools Summer Camp offers Spanish language immersion programs. Your child will be able to develop their Spanish skills naturally, and in an enjoyable way.
  • KLA Schools Summer Camp offers music as one of its many activities, encouraging children to move, dance, sing, and express themselves.
  • At KLA Schools Summer Camp, your child can put on theater performances for their friends. This will help to teach them teamwork and confidence, and it naturally appeals to a child’s love of make-believe.
  • Sports and movement. Whether it’s hiking, swimming, organized sports, or fun activities such as tag, and climbing, your child will enjoy a range of physical activity to develop their gross and fine motor skills.
  • Outdoor exploration. There is nothing more natural in KLA Schools Summer Camp than spending time outdoors. Your child will enjoy the great outdoors while learning more about nature.
  • Children of all ages can learn cooking skills. Whether it’s mixing ingredients or creating entire meals from scratch, KLA Schools Summer Camp provides an ideal opportunity for your child to learn about food.
  • Sensory exploration. Summer camps provide a unique opportunity for sensory exploration. Your child may already use a sensory table at home or at preschool or daycare, but the abundant natural materials at KLA Schools Summer Camp will help your child use their senses to gather information and ask questions about the world around them.
  • Field trips and sightseeing. Whether it’s visiting a farmer’s market or local museum, your child will have a variety of opportunities to get involved in their community and explore. Special themed events and trips can also give your child a chance to expand their horizons while experiencing a new location.

There are many enriching experiences and activities available to your child. At KLA Schools Summer Camp, your child will enjoy these activities in a fun, non-competitive, and safe environment.

Strengthening the Child-Grandparent Relationship

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Strengthening the Child-Grandparent Relationship

As a parent, you know it’s important for your child to have a strong, caring bond with you. But did you know that the child-grandparent relationship can be just as important? According to a study by Boston College, a strong bond between grandparents and grandchildren can reduce symptoms of depression in both groups. Because grandparents often have more free time and are more removed from daily childcare duties than parents, they “give their grandchildren more emotional, time and intellectual capacity,” according to the University of Hradec Kralove, in the Czech Republic.

Here are some tips to help you strengthen the relationship between your child and their grandparents.

Encourage grandparents to share family stories and photos

Children of all ages love a good story, and grandparents are an ideal source of interesting and amusing family stories. Looking through old family photos together is also a good way for your child and their grandparents to bond. Remember, this is their special relationship, so try to have a good sense of humor if your parents unearth an embarrassing childhood photo or story of you.

Communicate long-distance

Many grandparents live far away from their grandchildren, but they can still form a strong relationship. Thanks to technology such as Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, they can talk in real time, face-to-face. If your child’s grandparents prefer the phone, you can encourage your child to phone them whenever they feel like saying hello. Younger children can draw pictures to mail, and older children can send handwritten letters and cards.

Ask grandparents to babysit

Some parents feel like they are imposing when they ask their child’s grandparents to babysit. However, by doing this, you may actually be standing in the way of your child forming a strong, independent bond with their grandparents. So whether it’s for an afternoon or a weekend, leaving your child in the care of their grandparents will allow them to develop a relationship in their own unique way.

Help children and grandparents start new traditions

In a similar vein to having grandparents babysit while you’re out running errands or on holiday, encouraging grandparent-specific activities can also help strengthen the relationship. For example, everyone might enjoy movie night at the grandparents’ house, scrapbooking with grandma, or special Friday dinners with grandpa. Try to let these activity ideas come from your child or their grandparents, so they will look forward to these shared interests.

A strong relationship with your child can help grandparents learn new things about the world and be more open to new ideas. For your child, grandparents can offer them a unique perspective that comes with life experience. The relationship between your child and their grandparents is an important one, and these tips can help you to encourage a strong bond.

Discipline With Love

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Discipline With Love

For a child to grow up in a safe, loving and warm environment, it is necessary to work every day to cultivate a solid emotional base. If the emotional well-being of ​​a child is strong enough, they will be better prepared to meet their milestones in in other areas of development.

  • To guide our children, we must always take into account the example we are giving them. Let’s be a positive role model, in which respect and empathy for others is highlighted. Most children learn behaviors through observation. Therefore, we must act in a way that we consider is the most appropriate for our children to emulate. If a parent or teacher yells at a child, it is likely that the child will repeat this behavior in the future.
  • It is important to be clear in letting our children know what we expect from them from the very beginning. Together we can create certain standards (reasonable, logical, fair and realistic) or expectations that are appropriate for their level of development. Consistent communication is the best tool to use to enable children to understand what behaviors we expect from them. We should take advantage of all opportunities to talk to our children about situations that happened or will happen.  Enlist your children in navigating situations and reach agreements together to show them that you respect them.  By including them in the decision-making process you provide them opportunities to practice reasoning skills while giving them ownership of the behaviors you are teaching them.
  • The famous “Timeout”, from my perspective, is usually best utilized by adults. There are times when it is better to take a moment to breathe and analyze the reason for their behavior.
  • You can also talk to a child and remove him from a place or group if you have explained to him why you are doing so. Explain your intention of having him helping and supporting him to calm down (if that is what he needs) or to help understand how best to express his emotions. You can also give him a hug, which can be more helpful than a punishment. However, this should not always be the strategy; as a child can be given the option of either staying where he is, or leaving (if he wishes) to come back whenever he is ready.
  • It is our responsibility to accompany children in their growth with a consistent and loving presence, without the need to be authoritarian, and never with the use of violence. Finding a way to make a child feel bad, so that he learns a lesson, does not teach him anything but damages his self image and teaches him this is okay to do to others.
  • Both children and adults learn from love and communication, not from shame or anger.
  • It is likely that for some parents or teachers, yelling or imposing punishment seems most effective. The truth is that through dialogue and respectful communication we can achieve much more, since solid foundations, safe and effective relationships are formed without the need to hurt or harm the others.

Raquel Roa
Assistant Director of Professional Development

Follow Raquel’s personal blog on WordPress, Twitter, and on Facebook.

Is Your Child Afraid of the Dentist? How to Help

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Is Your Child Afraid of the Dentist? How to Help

Many adults do not enjoy going to the dentist, and sometimes children can feel the same way. We know that regular dental checkups are essential to maintain our oral hygiene and overall health. But for a child, the sounds and unfamiliar environment can be scary.

Here are some ways you can help your child overcome their fear of the dentist.

Start the dental visits young

Make dentist visits part of your child’s routine as early as you can – the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child to the dentist by their first birthday. With early visits, your child will have time to get used to their dentist, as well as the general environment of the dentist’s office. The dentist can slowly introduce the usage of dental instruments to prevent your child getting overwhelmed. The dentist will also be able to advise on dental issues specific to your child, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Read books about the dentist

No matter your child’s age, there are many books available that will help them learn about the dentist. The colorful pictures and positive stories will inform your child about what happens at the dentist’s office, while allaying any anxieties they might have. Some children’s books about the dentist are Peppa Pig’s Dentist Trip, The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, and Just Going to the Dentist.

Model calm behavior

According to a study by the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid, parents pass on a fear of the dentist to their children. No matter your own feelings about going to the dentist, it’s important to show your child that it’s not scary. Avoid talking about the dentist in a negative way, avoiding words like “drill,” “needle,” or “pain.” Maintain calm and relaxed composure once you’re there. This will show your child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Have an open conversation with your child

When you explain the importance of oral health to your child, they can begin to understand why going to the dentist is a good thing. If your child has questions about the dentist, tailor your answers in an age-appropriate way. You can also ask your pediatric dentist about how they recommend you answer your child’s questions.

Be patient and compassionate

Sometimes, despite the best preparation, your child may still whine, cry, or squirm while in the dentist’s chair. This can feel frustrating, but try to stay positive and patient. Your child’s dentist is used to working with children and will likely have strategies to help calm your child down. Try to remain calm yourself, to show your child that everything is okay.

Going to the dentist regularly is an important part of oral health, and oral health is an important part of our overall health. It can be a scary and unfamiliar environment for children, but with these tips, you can help your child soothe their fear of the dentist.

Time-Saving Tips for Single Parents

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Time-Saving Tips for Single Parents

When you’re a single parent, your time is at a premium. You want to make sure that you manage your work and family priorities, all while making some time for yourself as well. Here are some time-saving tips for single parents.

Get things ready the night before

For many families, the morning routine is a hectic one, and there isn’t much free time to spare. To help you save time in the morning, prepare as much as you can the night before. For example, you can assemble lunches, pack backpacks and bags, lay out everyone’s clothing for the next day, or even set the table for breakfast.

Meal prep on weekends

Weekends can be an ideal time to cook for the week ahead. If you find yourself with an extra hour or so, you can chop vegetables, or even create large batches of easy-to-freeze meals such as chili or casseroles. These can be reheated for lunches or dinners during the week, when you might have less time to cook from scratch. You may also want to take a few minutes to plan your meals for the days ahead, which can mean less time wasted looking for ingredients at the last minute.

Write down your weekly commitments

Having all of your chores, meetings, and appointments written out will help you to ensure that you’re planning and using your time most efficiently. You can simply write these items in a weekly organizer, and some families benefit from having the schedule posted in a communal location like the kitchen. Be sure to include things you may not think you need to, such as picking up your children from school.

Enlist help and delegate

Asking others for help now and then can help to make your daily life run smoother. You can ask a neighbor to sign for a package you’re expecting, share carpool duties with another parent from your child’s school, or have your child spend one evening a week at their grandparents’ house. You can even give your children duties, such as helping to unload the dishwasher or putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket. This will not only free up some time for you, but your child will learn to feel included as well.

Don’t expect perfection

You’re just one person, so remember to go easy on yourself and pick your battles. It may not be possible to cook a hot breakfast every morning or have a spotlessly clean home. Instead, decide what things are most important to you, and try to not waste time worrying about the other things.

Learn to say no

Along with letting go of perfection, learning to say no is an important skill for single parents to develop. Every family has certain responsibilities they must meet, but it’s also important to carve out some unscheduled time. You’ll have more time to spend with your family, and reduce your overall stress.

Identify time-wasters

We all have small tasks that, when added up, account for a significant amount of wasted time. Evaluate your own daily routine and schedule, and look for any ways you can maximize efficiency. For example, do you spend five minutes circling the grocery store parking lot for the best spot? Try parking a bit further away and walking – you may find that you save a couple of valuable minutes.

Parenting solo comes with its own set of unique challenges, and it can seem like there isn’t enough time to get everything done. However, with our seven tips, you may be able to find a bit more extra time in your day as a single parent.

How to Navigate the Challenges of a Blended Family

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How to Navigate the Challenges of a Blended Family

An estimated one in five families are stepfamilies or blended families, where at least one parent has children that aren’t related to their partner. While bringing two families together can be exciting, navigating a blended family also comes with its own unique challenges. Here are some ways you can help to make the transition easier for the children of a blended family.

Keep communication open with your child

Depending on the age of your child, they may have trouble understanding what it means to become a blended family. Children may see your new partner or any new stepsiblings as competition. Be sure to give your child sufficient time to express their feelings, and have respectful discussions with them as honestly as possible. Their questions may range from everyday things such as living arrangements and what to call your new partner, or larger concerns that are making them anxious. Above all, reassure your child that you love them and will be there to help them. Your child will need time, so start this process as soon as you can.

Parent consistently

Many parents in new blended families often discover that their partner has a different parenting style, which can result in confusion for the children involved. In order to maintain the consistency that helps children to thrive, it’s important to sit down with your partner early on to discuss your parenting values and beliefs, and agree on household strategies and rules that you both can put into practice. Marjorie Engel, PhD, president of the Stepfamily Association of America, suggests that discipline should be handled by the child’s biological parent at first, with the stepparent supporting them. This will help your child get used to their stepparent’s new role.

Be patient and considerate

According to Judy Osborne, a therapist and director of the Stepfamily Association, it can typically take between two to five years for a blended family to become established. Whether there are custody arrangements in place or not, it’s important for your new blended family to take the time to connect with each other. For example, you can create a weekly family movie night, or make sure to have dinner together every day. These routines will help your child gain much-needed stability during the transition, and will allow everyone to bond and form new relationships. This process will likely see some setbacks, but remember to remain patient and respectful.

Manage new sibling relationships

If your child will be living with stepsiblings, this can be stressful and difficult for them in the beginning. There may be issues of jealousy, unworthiness, or confusion about where they belong. As always, being patient and open with your child can go a long way in helping them get used to new siblings. Setting up new family traditions and routines can help all stepsiblings learn to bond with each other. While it’s important to treat all the children in the family equally, it can also help to spend some quality one-on-one time with your child, to reassure them that they are still important to you despite the new family arrangement.

Starting a new life as a blended family can be a wonderful opportunity for your child to develop new and lasting relationships. However, it is also a highly complex process, and one that can be difficult for a child. With these tips, you can help your child navigate the challenges of a blended family.

Childhood is Not a Race

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Childhood is Not a Race

Childhood is not a race to see how fast a child learns to walk, run, talk, stop using diapers, read, write or count. Childhood is a wonderful time that goes from birth to adolescence, in which children learn, develop and grow at their own pace.

Each child is different and unique, and we must respect the pace in which they learn. There is a strong social pressure in our society about what children should learn, how and when.

A child’s emotional state is the first thing we must take into account. Making sure, that they feel safe and loved is the most important thing. At the end, I do not know of any adult that does not know how to count, write or read after having had the possibilities to learn how to do so.

Respect each other’s rights and allow them to enjoy their lives. Let them explore with their bodies, so that they can build knowledge of the world to which they belong. Make the most of every situation that is presented to them.

We must focus on giving them tools for life. It is better to stop thinking about preparing them for a future that is not here yet (such as the next school year), since you might be anticipating what their body is not ready to learn yet.

We have to let them live one day at a time, we have to let them be little. Let’s not make them grow before they are ready to do so, we shouldn’t make them grow too quickly.

Raquel Roa
Assistant Director of Professional Development

Follow Raquel’s personal blog on WordPress, Twitter, and on Facebook.

Fun Springtime Crafts for Children

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Fun Springtime Crafts for Children

With its blooming flowers, budding trees and chirping birds, spring is full of elements that can spark your child’s imagination. Celebrate the return of springtime with these fun crafts for your young child.

Spring Suncatchers

You and your child can create your favorite spring flowers, and hang them in your windows to enjoy them all season long. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to cut out and glue the flower shapes yourself. However, even young children can help by dipping muffin liners in watercolor paint, and sticking tissue paper to the contact paper flowers.

Find out how to make the spring suncatcher flowers here.

To enhance your springtime scene, you can create rain suncatchers by sticking blue tissue paper into raindrop shapes.

Rainbow Flowers

Another flower-themed craft, creating rainbow flowers is educational as well as easy. Using only water, food coloring, and flowers, this craft will help to spark young imaginations. This craft also serves as a quick and simple science project, as your child can clearly see how flowers draw water up through their stems and into their petals and leaves.

What you’ll need:

  • Small clear containers such as vases or jam jars
  • Liquid food coloring
  • White carnations, daisies, or mums

Mix water and 20-30 drops of liquid food coloring in each container, with each holding a different color. Take the flowers and cut each stem on the diagonal. Place some flowers in each of the vases. After a few hours, you and your child will begin to see color appearing on the petals. You can even cut the stems open to see the color inside.

Tissue Paper Rainbows

With paper plates, markers, tissue paper, and glue, you and your child can create a colorful springtime rainbow. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to assist with the initial drawing and cutting. Your child will have fun gluing and sticking the colorful tissue paper onto their rainbow, and they will develop their fine motor skills and color recognition at the same time.

Find out how to make tissue paper rainbows here.

Toilet Paper Roll Bird Feeder

This homemade bird feeder involves a little hands-on work by you, but older children can help too. Younger children will have fun adding the peanut butter and the birdseed, and the entire family will enjoy watching birds visit the feeder again and again.

Find out how to make a toilet paper roll bird feeder here.

You can also purchase wooden birdhouses from a hardware or craft store, and have your children get creative by painting them with liquid watercolor paint.

Footprint Robin

Celebrate the first birds of spring with this fun and easy footprint robin. This craft only needs washable child-safe paint and green construction paper. Your child can help you decorate the green field their footprint robin stands on.

Find out how to make a footprint robin here.

These springtime crafts are an ideal way for you and your child to spend quality time together while also celebrating the elements of spring. For more crafts, try these 5 Easter Crafts for Preschoolers.

Why Summer Camp is Beneficial

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Why Summer Camp is Beneficial

For many parents, a good summer camp is a place for their child to spend their free time during the summer holidays. However, there are many other reasons why summer camp is good for your child. Discover why summer camp is beneficial for children.

Time spent outdoors being physically active

This is perhaps the most common reason parents enroll their children in summer camp. Whether it’s an overnight camp where children hike, canoe, or swim, or a day camp where children take field trips locally and draw outdoors, your child will be sure to reap the benefits of increased physical activity and fresh air.

Active play

Children learn through play and hands-on experiences. At summer camp, they will get a chance to dig, splash, run, climb, jump, sing, dance, and play pretend. Under the care of camp staff, your child will have an opportunity to problem solve, learn social skills, practice empathy, and be creative through active play.

Teamwork and tolerance

At summer camp, your child will meet other children from diverse backgrounds. They’ll sing together, play together, and work on projects together. Summer camp is an ideal place for children to develop their social skills and learn more about others. According to Troy Glover, director of the University of Waterloo’s Healthy Communities Research Network, summer camp “develops emotional intelligence in children by making them more empathetic.”

Increased self-esteem

According to Michael Popkin, Ph.D., “The building blocks of self-esteem are belonging, learning, and contributing. Camps offer unique opportunities for children to succeed in these three vital areas.” Outside of home and school, summer camp gives children a third opportunity to experience new things and make friends. This will help to strengthen their confidence and self-esteem.

Greater resiliency

Many summer camps offer activities and experiences that may not be part of your child’s everyday life. Whether it’s performing onstage, swimming in a lake, learning a new language, or spending the day sightseeing, summer camps are a secure environment where every child is treated equally and fairly. Staff members will show your child that it’s okay to fail, and give them encouragement to try again. Your child will take risks and face challenges, further increasing their independence and resiliency.

Summer camp is a secure, supportive, and non-competitive environment for your child. At KLA Schools Summer Camp, your child will spend time outdoors, build upon skills in active play, learn teamwork and tolerance, and increase their self-esteem and resiliency.

6 Children’s Books About Spring

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6 Children's Books About Spring

Spring is an ideal time to help your child learn about the world around them. Together, you and your child can read books about flowers, trees, baby animals, and spring events such as Easter.

Here are six books that will help your toddler or preschooler learn about spring.

I See Spring

Age range: 2-4 years
In this colorful and easy-to-read book, your child will learn about rain, blooming flowers, and spring animals such as robins and butterflies.

Springtime Babies

Age range: 2-5 years
In this book, Pony and Gray Goose search for new animal babies on the farm. Children will learn about the different names for animal babies, and about the different animals that live in a farm.

Peppa’s Easter Egg Hunt

Age range: 3-5 years
Young fans of the Peppa Pig cartoons will enjoy following along as Peppa and her friends have an Easter egg hunt.

Worm Weather

Age range: 3-5 years
Rainy days are a key feature of spring, and children love to splash in puddles. This book’s simple rhyming text and playful illustrations help young children to understand spring weather.

And Then It’s Spring

Age range: 4-7 years
A young boy and his dog decide to plant a garden at the beginning of spring. This book teaches children about planting seeds, rain, and how things grow in spring.

What Does Bunny See?: A Book of Colors and Flowers

Age range: 4-7 years
In this book, Bunny explores a garden with colorful flowers. Children can learn their colors, as well as the names of some common springtime flowers.

With blooming flowers, budding trees, and new animals to see, spring is a great time to indulge your child’s natural curiosity about the world. These six books will help your child learn more about spring, and will provide some quality time for you as well.

Tips to Prepare for Maternity Leave

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Tips to Prepare for Maternity Leave

When thinking of your maternity leave, you’re likely focusing on spending time with your new baby. Bonding with your baby is very important, but taking certain steps to prepare for maternity leave will ensure that your time away won’t be spent worrying about work. Here are some ways you can prepare for maternity leave.

Have a discussion with your boss

It’s best to inform your boss of your pregnancy first, as early as you can. This will ensure that both of you have enough time to prepare. For you, this can mean thinking about your tasks and responsibilities and how they can best be handled in your absence. For your boss, this can mean strategizing which of your coworkers can take on some of your duties, and beginning the search for a temporary replacement if necessary.

Together, the two of you can create an action plan for your role while you’re on maternity leave.

Look for child care

Although returning to work may seem years away right now, getting child care arranged as soon as possible will mean you don’t have to worry about it during your maternity leave. Look for a child care center that is licensed (if applicable in your state), has clean and safe facilities, and is staffed by educated and caring caregivers. Read our list of 28 must-ask questions before choosing a daycare to help you find a child care center that will be best for your infant and your family.

Think about finances

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49% of mothers did not have paid maternity leave between 2006 and 2008. Sit down with your family and figure out your planned expenses during your leave, as well as any expenses you think could arise –  even ones unrelated to your baby. You may want to set up a savings account specifically to create a financial cushion for your maternity leave. U.S. News has more advice for preparing financially for maternity leave.

Document your processes and systems

A few weeks before your leave, start documenting all your tasks, responsibilities, systems, and processes. These notes will help your temporary replacement to handle your tasks without getting confused or needing assistance. The way you organize these notes is up to you, but consider it from the perspective of someone who may have little knowledge of your daily, weekly, and monthly routine.

You may also need to train your coworkers or temporary replacement on how to perform your regular duties. Set some ground rules for contact during your leave if they have a question your documentation doesn’t cover.

Planning for your maternity leave involves many factors, including creating an action plan with your boss, looking for child care, planning your finances, and working with your coworkers to handle the transition. However, starting as early as possible will ensure that you don’t have to rush, and will have everything set up so that you can spend your maternity leave bonding with your new baby.

How to Encourage Empathy in Your Child

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How to Encourage Empathy in Your Child

As adults, we may take empathy for granted. We have years of experience seeing a situation from someone else’s perspective, and caring about others. However, empathy is a skill that is learned, and takes practice to develop.

For children, empathy is an especially important skill to learn. It is the basis for other life skills such as forming strong relationships, conflict resolution, gratitude, and behaving ethically to others.

A study at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley showed that 18-month-old children were already developing the foundations of empathy, and by age four they were beginning to consider other people’s feelings in relation to their own.

Here are some tips to encourage empathy in your child.

  • Lead by example. As a parent, your actions and words have a strong impact on your child. Some ways you can model empathy include: Making sure your child sees you being kind to others, asking your child how they think their favorite book or movie character feels in a tough situation, or asking your child about their own feelings and responding with care and compassion.
  • Respect your child’s feelings. It goes without saying that your child cannot learn to respect the feelings of others if they do not receive that same respect themselves. Make sure your child knows that they can count on you to help them work through their negative emotions, and provide emotional support. A study by Drs. Everett Waters, Judith Wippman and L. Alan Sroufe showed that children who could count on their caregivers for emotional support were more likely to sympathize with and help others.
  • Show empathy in pretend play. Pretend play is an ideal time to practice empathy, as your child is already imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, even if it’s just their favorite stuffed animal. You can help your child by asking questions about what their toy or doll is doing, feeling, and thinking – and why.
  • Read books that demonstrate empathy. Children love to read stories and look at picture books, and there are several books available that teach empathy. For example, you and your child may want to select some empathy-focused books from this list created by Common Sense Media.
  • Help your child find common ground. Humans are naturally inclined to feel empathy for someone who is similar to them. However, you can show your child that they can have something in common with someone who might look, act, or think differently from them. You can help your child find common ground with others, whether it’s a favorite song, similar personalities, or a comparable life experience. This is also a good way to discourage sibling rivalry.
  • Expose your child to a variety of people. Finding common ground amongst a wide variety of people can be easier when your child is exposed to different cultures and beliefs in a non-judgmental way. Research has shown that limited exposure to people who are different from us is one of the biggest predictors of racial prejudice and lack of empathy.

Developing empathy is an important skill for your child to develop. However, it will take time, patience, and a positive attitude. With these tips, you can build the foundations of empathy for your child, which they can continue to build upon throughout their life.

How to Support Your Child’s Language Skills

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How to Support Your Child's Language Skills

Language is very important for toddlers and preschoolers. Through conversation, they learn many other things, such as social skills and how to understand their emotions.

There are several ways parents and caregivers can help babies and young children develop their language skills.

Respond to your baby. Even though babies cannot yet use words, they are still trying to communicate. By responding to a baby’s babbles and gestures, you are teaching them that they’re successfully connecting you. For example, when your baby reaches for a toy, you can say, “Oh, you want to play with this toy. Here you go.” Even though conversations with a baby can seem one-sided, they validate the importance of conversation and communication.

Read with your child. No matter what age your child is, reading to them is invaluable in helping them develop language skills. You can read the exact story that is written, but you can also discuss the pictures, and ask your child questions such as, “What do you think the puppy is looking for?”

Tell stories. Like reading a book, telling a story is a good way for a child’s imagination to assist with language development. You can invent an age-appropriate story similar to your child’s favorite book, or you can recount a true story. For example, if your preschooler has just received their first tricycle, you can tell them a story about getting your own first tricycle.

Build upon what your child says. Though it can seem like a lot of information for a child, adding on to what they say allows them to make greater connections between words and the world around them. For example, if your child says, “Car,” you can respond with, “Yes, that’s a green car. Where is it going? Maybe it’s going to the store.”

Pay attention when your child speaks. Whether or not your child is speaking clearly and confidently, it’s important to model the importance of being present in a conversation. Calmly and patiently listen to what your child is saying, and give them time to respond to you as well. When your child sees that you value what they have to say, they will be motivated to continue practicing.

Discuss things as they’re happening. Your everyday activities offer a great opportunity to help your child learn new words, as well as learn more about how the world works. You can say things like, “I’m looking for apples. I like green ones the best. I’m choosing ones that aren’t soft. I’m getting this bag to put the apples in. Can you help me find some green apples?” You can also narrate your child’s experience, such as, “You’re playing with your big brother. What is he building?”

Give and ask for simple directions. Giving and receiving directions also helps your child practice their language skills. The directions you give will vary depending on your child’s age, from “Throw the ball” to “Please go up to your room and bring me your favorite book.” You can also ask your child to direct you in an activity, such as drawing a picture of the family pet.

Be positive. When helping your child develop their language skills, it is important to be calm and patient, and let your child grow in their own way. Resist criticizing your child’s pronunciation. Instead, repeat the sentence back to them with correct pronunciation and word usage. Give lots of praise and encouragement to show your child that making the effort is worth it.

Exposing your child to language as early and as often as possible will help them to understand the importance of good communication. Strong language skills are key to developing social skills, vocabulary, and emotional management. With these tips, you can help support your child’s language skills.

The Preschool-Parent Relationship

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The Preschool-Parent Relationship

When it comes to choosing the best preschool for your child, there are many things to keep in mind. However, one of the most important qualities in a good preschool is the relationship between parents and educators. According to Diane Levin, Ph.D., of Wheelock College, a positive preschool-parent relationship “demonstrates to your child that he can trust his teacher, because you do.”

Here are some ways you can help foster a strong preschool-parent relationship.

Keep the lines of communication open

As with any relationship, strong communication is a key to success. You may already expect to receive updates about your child’s activities on a regular basis, but it’s important to keep your child’s preschool teacher updated as well. For example, if your child has been more interested in reading than usual, or is beginning to become less shy, their teacher will benefit from knowing this information. Together, you and your child’s teacher can create a welcoming, educational, and caring environment for your child’s development.

Pick the best time for discussion

As with any important topic, choosing the best time for both parties to have a discussion is important. For example, if you were hoping to ask your child’s preschool teacher for advice on appropriate discipline, the busy morning drop-off might not be the best time for that sort of lengthy discussion. A good preschool teacher will be happy to talk with you during busy times, but try to stick to more informal topics. Scheduling a later time to discuss lengthier issues will ensure both of you can contribute more effectively.

Keep an open mind

As a parent, you’re doing your best to raise your child to be a happy, well-rounded individual. You also know your child’s unique personality better than anyone. However, your child’s preschool teacher spends several hours a day with them, and is also well-versed in the latest findings in early childhood education. You may find that a suggestion from your child’s teacher may be beneficial, even if it’s something you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

Of course, as a parent, your role is most important. When looking for a preschool, trust your instincts about how well its teachers will give advice while still respecting your parenting.

Get involved

While getting involved with your child’s preschool is not a necessity for a good relationship, it can help immensely. Becoming a part of the preschool community will not only help you become a more familiar face to your child’s teachers, but it will help you to understand more about the school and its values. Learn more about getting involved in your child’s preschool here.

You have a busy life and many things to keep track of on a daily basis, and so does your child’s preschool teacher. To that end, remember that you are both partners collaborating for the benefit of your child. Work together to create ways to help your child, and keep this partnership going when things are going well, too. A strong parent-preschool relationship will help your child feel more secure, and develop a strong foundation for success.

The Importance of Family and Friends for Your Child

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The Importance of Family and Friends for Your Child

As a parent, you know the necessity of forming a strong bond with your child. But did you know that strong relationships with other family and friends can be just as important? Here are some reasons why family and friends are so important for your child, and how you can help foster those relationships.

Greater empathy and understanding of others

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a toddler who plays with friends can demonstrate “less aggressive behavior and calmer play sessions.” This is because playing with their friends allows preschoolers to understand that people are unique, and each have different wants and needs. With this growing awareness of the feelings and actions of others, they will begin to see that cooperation is often more ideal than competition. Empathy is a very important skill to develop, and playing with friends is an ideal, low-stakes environment for this to take place.

Improved conflict resolution skills

Strong friendships can help your child build good conflict resolution skills. With both acquaintances and close friends, conflict is bound to arise from time to time. However, according to psychologist Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D. “What a friend says and does really matters. And because you are friends, you are motivated to work it through.” With familial relationships, this concept can be even stronger.

Greater independence

When your child was an infant, you were their closest friend. However, as your child grows, it is important to practice independence. Strong relationships with others, both inside and outside of the family, can help your child understand their own unique personality and where they fit in with their world. Good relationships will also increase your child’s self-esteem, which will increase their independence even more.

Sense of belonging, support, and enhanced well-being

We all have at least one friend who is always ready to listen, or who has consistently been supportive. For children, this is equally as important. According to a study by the British Journal of Psychology, having at least one close friend has helped children overcome challenging situations.

This type of positive influence isn’t limited to overcoming adversity. Other studies have shown that friends can influence children to be more physically active, and have better attitudes towards school. Also, thanks to the security and sense of belonging that these relationships bring, close family and friends can be an excellent source of stress reduction for your child.

How to encourage strong relationships for your child

As a parent, you can do several things to foster strong and healthy relationships for your child. Here are some examples:

  • Set up play dates with your child’s closest preschool friend.
  • Read books about friendship with your child.
  • Offer to host a sleepover for your child and a few of their friends.
  • Make regular visits to family members, and invite them to do the same.
  • Encourage your older child to sign up for extracurricular activities that interest them.

As always, the behavior you model will have a strong influence on your child. Let your child see you nurturing your own relationships, and they will be able to learn from your example.

When Should Your Child Give Up the Pacifier?

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When Should Your Child Give Up the Pacifier?

For young children, the pacifier can be a great source of comfort. It can also be a useful way for parents to soothe a fussy infant or toddler. However, many parents wonder about the best time to encourage their child to stop using it, especially as their child gets older.

A child’s pacifier is a way to calm themselves. In fact, when a child is too young to ask for comfort, it’s often the only way. However, as a child grows up, they will begin to look for other ways to help them self-soothe. These other methods include security objects such as blankets or stuffed animals, a snuggle with a parent, or talking about their feelings.

There are no hard and fast rules about when a child should give up the pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting or stopping pacifier use after the age of 6 months to reduce the risk of ear infections. However, pediatric dentist John Stritikus recommends reducing pacifier use after age 2, and getting rid of it completely by age 4. By the time an infant becomes a toddler, they may also naturally develop other stress-management techniques, and give up the pacifier on their own.

Ways to encourage your child to give up the pacifier

If you’ve decided your child is ready to stop their pacifier usage, here are some ways you can help the process:

  • Remove the pacifier in situations where your child is completely calm and happy, such as playing at home.
  • Try distraction methods when you notice your child becoming upset. For example, give them a favorite book, or a stuffed animal.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of time your infant uses their pacifier. For example, you may want to wean them off it at naptime to start, or let them use it for shorter periods of time during the day.
  • Use the Tooth Fairy approach. Encourage your child to gather all their pacifiers for the “Pacifier Fairy,” who will take them in exchange for a toy or gift.
  • Many toddlers like the idea of being a “big kid.” They may enjoy the idea of having a party to say goodbye to the pacifier, and say hello to being a big boy or girl.
  • Encourage your toddler to choose some of their “baby” things to donate to babies who might need toys, clothes, and pacifiers.
  • Read books with your toddler about giving up the pacifier, such as Pacifiers Are Not Forever, Bea Gives Up Her Pacifier, and Ben Gives Up His Pacifier. Together, you can talk about what it means to give up the pacifier, and how your child will feel.

When weaning your child off the pacifier, it’s important to remain consistent as well as optimistic. Your child has relied on the pacifier all of their life, and some rough nights are bound to happen. These tips will help you figure out when your child should give up the pacifier, and the best ways to do it.

Ways to Teach Your Child About Colors

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Ways to Teach Your Child About Colors

Children begin to identify colors at around 18 months, and it’s important to help your child continue this process. Colors are all around us, and being able to differentiate between them is an important skill related to math and problem-solving.

Here are some fun ways you can teach your child about colors.

  1. During snack time, have your child sort their veggies, fruit, and crackers by color.
  2. Go for a walk and point out the colors of things around you. The classic game “I Spy” is ideal here.
  3. Color and draw with sidewalk chalk, finger paint, or a coloring book.
  4. Using a sheet of multicolored stickers, have your child match a sticker with a colored circle you’ve drawn on a separate sheet of paper.
  5. Decide on a color of the day, and choose your child’s clothing, family meals, and other activities based on that color.
  6. Have your child help you decorate cookies or cupcakes with colorful icing and sprinkles.
  7. Read books together that focus on colors, while also telling a fun story your child will enjoy.
  8. Play board games such as Candy Land, that are designed to help children learn their colors.
  9. Hold a color-related scavenger hunt in your home. Some ideas for items to use include: crayons, toy blocks, pieces of construction paper, and small balls of yarn. Give your child paper bags with each color’s name written or drawn in the corresponding color, and have them fill each bag with their discoveries.
  10. On a nice day, head outside for some spray bottle painting, filling each bottle with a different color of paint.
  11. In the produce section of the grocery store, ask your child to help you pick out fruit and vegetables based on color.
  12. If your child is confident in identifying basic colors, you can help them learn about shades and hues with paint swatches. Ask your child to sort the swatches from light to dark, or make a collage using different shades of their favorite color.
  13. Play with play-dough and small craft items such as buttons, beads, and wooden shapes. Your child can match the items with the dough, creating a sensory experience as well.
  14. Using a few easy-to-find items, you and your child can create rainbow shaving cream marbled art.
  15. With food coloring, you can make fun multicolored ice cubes with your child. This is an ideal opportunity to talk with your child about colors – you can ask them to predict what will happen when colors are mixed, and when the ice melts.

Color recognition is an important skill that forms the basis for math and problem-solving skills later in life. With these 15 fun and educational activities, you can help your child learn more about colors.

Productivity Tips for Work-From-Home Parents

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Productivity Tips for Work-From-Home Parents

Whether it’s full time or occasionally, many parents are able to balance their careers and personal responsibilities by working from home. If you are one of these parents, you may have struggled with maintaining your productivity while working from your home office. Here are some productivity tips for parents who work from home.

Create a designated area for work

Many people who work from home find a dedicated work space very important. Whether it’s a separate home office or a small desk in the living room, a designated work area can help you stay organized and focused on your work.

Stick to a schedule

When you work from home with kids, a schedule may seem impossible. However, it’s an important way to stay productive. You can create a detailed schedule outlining all the projects you will work on and when, or your schedule can be more general. In either case, a schedule can help you balance work responsibilities and family duties during the day.

Work in blocks of time

Scheduling your day in 30 or 60-minute blocks of time can help you to reduce distractions when working from home. For example, you may want to schedule one hour for finishing a project, and then spend the following half hour returning phone calls or putting together a puzzle with your toddler.

Make time for your kids during the day

Knowing that they will get to spend time with you at some point can help your children learn to respect the times when you have to work. When creating your schedule, be sure to add in time for activities such as quick trips to the park, or eating lunch together. Not only are these breaks good for your own productivity overall, but your children will have their own daily routine as well.

Consider preschool or a babysitter

Though many parents choose to work from home in order to remain closer to their children, preschool can help you stay focused and productive. Many parents also hire a babysitter for a few days a week when they have important deadlines or meetings they need to focus on.

Give your children their own tasks to work on

Many parents working from home like to give their children their own special projects to work on during the day. For example, you can give your preschooler play dough or stickers to play with while you’re working. Older children can feel included by helping you do things such as sorting paperwork or putting stamps on envelopes. Setting up a workspace of their own near you can also help them to feel included.

Working from home as a parent can seem difficult, but staying productive is possible. With these tips, your working day can become more manageable.

Tips for Raising Bilingual Children

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Tips for Raising Bilingual Children

In today’s global society, raising a bilingual child can be more useful than ever. In addition, children who can speak more than one language have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems, have increased creativity, and can develop more flexible ways to think through problems.

Here are some tips for raising bilingual children.

Start as early as possible

According to the National Science Foundation, we can “acquire a language (and sometimes more than one), to the level of native competency, before age 5.” Children younger than age five can learn more than one language easier than older children, so it’s advisable to start the process as early as you can.

Older children can still learn a second language, but after the age of five it may require extra time and patience.

Replace common words and phrases

Introducing your child to common words in their second language is an easy way to help your child associate things they already know with new words. For example, you may want to start saying “Guten Morgen” every morning, or using “gato” when you talk about a cat.

Try the One Person, One Language method

The One Person, One Language (OPOL) method is ideal in two-parent homes where one parent speaks in their first language, and the other parent speaks another. The idea behind OPOL is that each parent speaks to their child exclusively in their own language, thus exposing the child equally to both.

Take advantage of books, music, and other media

Children love to read, sing, and watch movies, and this can be used to help you teach them a second language. Many local libraries have media in other languages, and fun and interactive songs can be found online as well. Take the opportunity to make language fun for your child, and they will be more encouraged to learn.

Go out into the community

Depending on where you live, there may be existing resources in your community that you can turn to. For example, there may be a bilingual daycare, play group, place of worship, or other groups in your area. You may also consider looking for a babysitter who speaks the second language you are trying to help your child learn.

Travel to help your child practice

If it’s possible, you may want to consider traveling to a country or region where your child’s second language is widely spoken. Not only will this help your child practice speaking and understanding the language, but they’ll also gain valuable exposure to the local culture and people.

Remain consistent

One struggle of raising a bilingual child is maintaining the proper focus on the second language. For example, if your child attends an English-speaking preschool, has primarily English-speaking friends, and reads English books, there is a risk of their second language becoming underdeveloped. It may help to make a plan for teaching the minority language, so that you can be sure your child’s exposure to both is more balanced.

Raising a bilingual child can be challenging, but it will also equip your child for success later in life. With these tips, you can start helping your child learn a second language in a fun and meaningful way.

6 Family Tradition Ideas for the New Year

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6 Family Tradition Ideas for the New Year

Many families enjoy partaking in traditions at this time of the year, especially around the holidays. However, January is also an ideal time to start some new family traditions. Try these six family New Year tradition ideas to help your child build a strong feeling of belonging, set goals, and learn more about their world.

1) Interview your child

As adults, we’ve become used to reflecting on our lives at the beginning of each year. This can also be a fun activity for children. Create a list of easy, open-ended questions about your child’s current likes, favorites, and goals. For example, you might ask, “What is your favorite color?” or “Is there something new you want to try this year?” If you choose to do this on New Year’s Eve, you can ask more retrospective questions such as, “What made you feel happy this year?”

Many families print out these interview questions for their child to fill out, and some even record these mini-interviews. This way, you can have a collection of keepsakes to look back on in future years.

2) Create a time capsule

You might think of a time capsule as something that gets buried and uncovered years later, but a New Year’s time capsule doesn’t have to involve digging up your backyard. In much the same way as the New Year interview, a time capsule serves as a snapshot of your child’s life at a particular time. Some ideas for a time capsule include a photo of your child, a drawing, an example of their handwriting such as a story or their name, small mementos from the year, even a small item of clothing.

You can also buy time capsule kits that come complete with ideas, supplies, and containers for safe storage in your home.

3) Take a family photo

Many of us look back on old school photos fondly. A yearly photo is a fun way to chart progress, especially when it comes to children. You can take this same idea and turn it in to a New Year tradition by taking a family photo every January 1st. Try a combination of group and individual photos, and you can incorporate your own unique twist on the photos, such as special outfits or props.

4) Learn about New Year celebrations around the world

Children are endlessly curious, and the New Year provides multiple opportunities for your child to learn more about the world around them. Reading about New Year customs worldwide is an ideal way to spend quality time together, while also helping your child to gain exposure to the beliefs and traditions of other cultures. Incorporating ideas from your family’s culture is another fun way to celebrate a new year while also learning more about their own background.

5) Set family goals

We’re all familiar with the New Year’s Resolution, and many of us set our own personal goals each year. However, setting goals as a family is another good way to encourage a strong feeling of togetherness. Sit down as a family and give each person the chance to talk about what they want the family to accomplish in the new year, and figure out ways to make those goals happen. Creating a vision board with photos, drawings, and checklists can help young children feel included, and they will have a visual reference they can refer to all year long.

6) Create a surprise for the next New Year

For a child, it can be very exciting to receive a gift on New Year’s Day, especially if they’re also the gift-giver. At the beginning of the year, sit down together as a family and have each person create something special to be given as a gift to themselves on the next New Year’s Day. It can be a drawing, a poem, a song, or even a letter. Store these gifts in a secure location, and your child will wake up on January 1st to a surprise they may have forgotten about entirely.

If you like, you can modify this activity by having each family member create a gift for another family member. This way, each person can be assured of a personalized, heartfelt gift.

A new year is the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, and set goals for the future. It’s also an ideal time to get your child involved in activities, and these six New Year traditions will help reaffirm their secure place in the family.

Holiday Season Crafts for Preschoolers

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Holiday Season Crafts for Preschoolers

The holidays are rife with imagery, colors, and ideas that can spark a preschooler’s imagination. Here are some fun and creative holiday craft ideas for your preschooler.

Hanukkah Menorah Shape Collage

This Hanukkah craft can help your child recognize and create shapes, and practice counting. It is also an ideal way for your preschooler to participate in lighting a menorah that is still safe.

Find instructions for creating the Hanukkah Menorah Shape Collage here.

Paper Snowflakes

Folding and cutting paper snowflakes is a fun winter tradition the whole family can enjoy. If your preschooler’s safety scissors skills are still being developed, they can decorate the paper before you cut.

Find ideas for paper snowflakes here.

Sugar Ornaments

Ideal for a Christmas tree, you and your preschooler can create these ornaments using only sugar, water, glitter, Christmas cookie cutters, and ribbon. Your child can help you to mix the dough, cut the ornaments, decorate, and thread the ribbon through the ornament.

Find instructions for making sugar ornaments here.

Yarn-Wrapped Window Ornaments

These creative ornaments are an idea that doesn’t have to be limited to the holidays. Your child can express their creativity and hone their fine motor skills with this easy craft. All you need is cardboard, scissors, and some yarn in different colors.

Find out how to make yarn-wrapped window ornaments here.

Fake Snow

With just baking soda and shaving cream, your child can create their own artificial snow. This messy, hands-on craft is ideal for a sensory tub, or to play with outdoors in warmer climates.

Get instructions for making fake snow here.

Getting Your Child Involved in Holiday Traditions

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Getting Your Child Involved in Holiday Traditions

This holiday season, you may be wondering how you can get your young child more involved. No matter what your family celebrates, holiday traditions are an ideal way to spend quality time together, and create lasting memories for everyone. As well, holiday traditions can reaffirm to your child that they are part of a secure and loving environment, and demonstrate the importance of showing goodwill to others.

Here are some ways you can get your child involved in holiday traditions.

Festive meals

Depending on the age of your child, they can get involved by helping you prepare a festive holiday meal. Preschoolers can help you stir flour and salt for cookies or mash cooked potatoes. Older children can measure ingredients or wash vegetables. This is also an ideal time to teach your child about kitchen safety and cleanliness.

Hosting family and friends

The holidays are a time for visiting family and friends. If you’re hosting a holiday get-together in your home, it can be enjoyable for your child as well. Depending on your child’s age, they can get involved by helping to take guests’ coats, setting the table, or handing out gifts. It’s also a great time for your child to practice their conversation skills.

Holiday hosting can be overwhelming for your child, so setting expectations with them beforehand and remaining patient will help the event to go smoothly for everyone.

Decorating the home

Holiday decorations are a quick and easy way to help your child become involved in a family tradition. Older children can help decorate a Christmas tree or light the menorah. Younger children can get involved by picking out ornaments to hang, or drawing holiday designs on kraft paper for DIY gift wrap.

Getting involved with charity

Teaching your child the importance of charity and goodwill over the holidays will help them to develop empathy, and reduce the focus on gifts and material possessions. Families with older children can volunteer to serve meals at a local homeless shelter, visit seniors at a nursing home, or help organize food at a food bank. Children of all ages can get involved by choosing their gently used toys and clothes to be donated to children and families in need.

Incorporating cultural traditions

For holiday tradition ideas, take some inspiration from elements of your own cultural background. You can prepare a holiday meal that you remember from your own family history, attend a traditional worship service, or teach your child how to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in another language. You can also spend time as a family learning about holiday traditions all over the world.

No matter what your family celebrates, getting your child involved in holiday traditions is a great way to spend some quality time together, and help them to feel included in the family.

All About Conscious Discipline

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All About Conscious Discipline

The best way to discipline a child is something all parents think about. What is the best way to show your child the correct way to behave, without ordering them around? How can you teach your child to behave properly because they know it’s right?

Conscious Discipline is an emotional intelligence program where children learn to express their emotions, resolve problems with words, and work with others. It was developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, an author and early childhood educator. It is designed to create an environment where the motivation to behave comes from the nature of the relationships a child has with others.

Benefits of Conscious Discipline

One of the main messages of Conscious Discipline is that when people feel loved and valued, cooperation flourishes. Whether it’s used in a classroom or home environment, the goal is to help your child connect with those around them, and develop caring relationships. This way, they can modify their behavior due to their own feelings about themselves and others, rather than simply reacting to what an adult tells them to do. Instead of using punishment and rewards, Conscious Discipline encourages problem-solving, cooperation, and acceptance.

In doing this, your child can learn how to problem-solve, become more accountable for their own behavior, and gain self-control.

How to use Conscious Discipline at home

Because Conscious Discipline is focused on creating strong relationships, parents and caregivers can participate as well. Here are some ways you can use Conscious Discipline at home:

  • See the situation from your child’s perspective. Being able to see an event through your child’s eyes can help you to respond appropriately, and can help inform the way you deal with the situation.
  • Offer closed-end choices. Letting your child participate in the decision-making process can help them feel a sense of control and practice collaborative problem-solving. However, a limited amount of choice is easier for a young child to handle. For example, you can say, “Do you want to brush your teeth first, or put on your pajamas?”
  • Set rules beforehand. When your child knows what to expect, they can feel secure, and you have a shared frame of reference. For example, when getting ready to run errands, you can say, “I won’t be buying any candy today, but you can bring a snack from home. Would you like crackers or fruit?”
  • Plan ahead to avoid difficult situations. Thinking about possible scenarios can help you prepare, or avoid difficult circumstances altogether. For example, you may realize that your trip to visit family will mean your child will have a later than usual bedtime, which could make them more prone to tantrums.
  • Remain calm. Though keeping calm can seem difficult at times, it is an important thing to practice. This way, you are less likely to lose your temper, or give in and break the rules you set for your child. Model proper behavior and emotional control for your child as often as you can.

Conscious Discipline aims to help children express their feelings, regulate emotions, problem-solve through an issue, and create strong connections with others. In this way, your child can learn appropriate behaviors based on their relationships, and understand what is expected of them.

The Importance of Routine for Children

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The Importance of Routine for Children

As adults, our reaction to routine varies. Some of us rely on routine, while others feel it’s dull. However, young children are different. Here are some of the benefits your child can gain from a consistent routine in daily life.

  • Increased confidence and independence. According to Dr. Peter Gorski of Harvard Medical School, knowing what to expect from daily life can develop a child’s confidence. Being able to rely on past experiences in a safe environment allows your child to feel comfortable performing the same activities, such as putting on pajamas, on their own.
  • Greater self-control. If a child has no limits on when they can watch cartoons, for example, they may not learn that sometimes they have to turn the TV off in order to do something less fun. A routine helps your child understand the balance between enjoyable tasks such as play, and functional tasks such as brushing their teeth.
  • Stress reduction. When a child has a predictable daily routine, it reminds them that they are in a secure, loving environment. If your child knows what they can reasonably expect to happen each day, they don’t worry about “what if” scenarios, and it’s also easier for you to enforce rules. When your child knows what is expected of them, it will help to reduce their stress.
  • Exposure to healthy habits. When your child routinely performs the same activities such as washing hands before meals, cleaning teeth, and taking a walk after dinner, it may seem like just an organized way to get things done on time. However, this repetition also creates habits around these healthy activities that your child can carry with them naturally into later life.  

Tips for creating routines for your child

There is no perfect routine for each family, because each family is different. You should design a routine based on your family’s unique situation and needs. However, think about a routine that is well-planned and regular, with reasonable roles that everyone in the family understands. Depending on your child’s age, you may consider creating routines for the following:

  • Getting ready for preschool, school, or daycare
  • Getting ready for bed
  • Eating a meal as a family at the same time each day
  • Spending time outdoors together
  • Visiting friends and family
  • Attending a place of worship
  • Holding a family game or movie night
  • Working on arts and crafts together
  • Doing family chores

While routines are important for your child, it is also important to remain flexible, leaving room for free, unscheduled time. This will help your child learn how to deal with unpredictability and change, and will also prevent a family routine from becoming a source of stress.

Helping Your Child Stay Safe Online

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Helping Your Child Stay Safe Online

Today’s preschooler is surrounded by technology, and may already have experience accessing the internet to watch videos or play games.

However limited your preschooler’s internet exposure, there are still inherent risks involved. For example, your child may encounter content they find confusing or disturbing, they may come into contact with strangers, or they may accidentally make an in-app purchase.

Here are some ways you can help your young child stay safe online.

1) Understand the apps on your child’s device

Whether your child has their own kid-friendly tablet, or uses your phone to take selfies with you, be aware of the functionality of all devices your child encounters. Check to see if the device can do things such as take photos or videos, share photos or videos, search the internet, download apps, or send and receive instant messages.

2) Activate parental controls on all of your devices

Nearly all popular devices such as smartphones and tablets come equipped with parental controls. You can use this feature to enable a passcode, disable in-app purchases, and control what age-level media will be shown on that device. On apps such as Netflix, you can create user accounts specifically for your child.

Additionally, you may want to investigate software tools that can add an extra layer of security to your family’s computer or tablet. For example, Net Nanny masks profanity, monitors social media, and sends reports about your child’s online activity.

3) Determine if any other devices in your home connect to the internet

Thanks to “the Internet of Things,” many of our everyday household devices connect to the internet and share data. While most of these devices pose no threat to your child’s online safety, it’s a good idea to investigate the functionality of these items.

For example, does your e-book reader have Wi-Fi access? Does your family video game console have a microphone enabled? Does your computer monitor have a built-in webcam? Review the features for your internet-connected household devices to ensure all security settings are up to date, and understand what personal information is being collected.

4) Restrict website access

Depending on your child’s age, they may already know how to access the internet and search for songs, games, photos, or videos. You can help your child stay safe online by restricting their access to certain kid-friendly sites. Some examples include:

  • Kiddle – A safe, child-friendly, visual search engine powered by Google.
  • National Geographic Kids – Games, videos, and articles teach children about the world and how it works.
  • PBS Kids – Age-appropriate games and videos featuring some of your child’s favorite characters.
  • NetSmartzKids – Aimed at children ages 5-17, NetSmartzKids offers age-appropriate videos and games to help teach internet safety.

5) Monitor your child when they’re using a device

As a parent or caregiver, you are your child’s main source of information about internet safety. Ensuring that your child is not using an internet-connected device unsupervised is beneficial for both of you. Not only will you rest easy knowing what your child is doing, but your child can also ask you questions about the apps or websites they are visiting. You can also more easily keep an eye on the amount of screen time your child is getting.

The internet has the potential to help your preschooler learn more about their world and learn important skills. By understanding your devices, setting parental controls, and monitoring your child’s internet use, your young child can stay safe while playing videos and games online.

Why Gratitude is Important for Children

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Why Gratitude is Important for Children

With Thanksgiving around the corner, you’re likely thinking of ways you can teach your child about gratitude. But why is it so important that you do so?

Benefits in childhood

There are immediate benefits for a child learning about gratitude. Studies have shown that children who are taught to be grateful receive health and social benefits such as:

  • Reduced stress
  • Increased happiness at school
  • Better performance in school
  • Fewer stomachaches and headaches
  • Improved relationships
  • Reduced materialism

Benefits in later life

According to Dr. Jeffrey J. Froh of Hofstra University, teenagers who were grateful had more self-control, and a recent study suggests that gratitude may reduce aggressive or violent behaviors. Being able to put themselves in another person’s shoes allows children to care for and relate to others. Gratitude shows people that they have benefited from the kindness of others, and so in turn they are more likely to perform kind acts themselves.

Additionally, Psychology Today reports that “grateful people are found to be generally happier, with more social connections and fewer bouts of depression, which affects 20.9 million American adults.”

Age-appropriate ways to teach your child gratitude

It’s never too late to start teaching your child to be grateful.

Toddlers may not yet fully grasp the concept of being grateful, but they are beginning to understand that people do things to make them happy, which is one part of the gratitude equation.

Between the ages of two and four, you can begin introducing concepts of gratitude such as goodwill, empathy, and saying thank you. Some examples include:

  • Asking your preschooler what their favorite part of their day was
  • Thanking your child for a kind act such as a hug or sharing
  • Talking about the non-material things that make you happy
  • Having your child help you with thank-you notes, whether it’s writing their name or decorating
  • Asking your child to draw a picture of something they are grateful for
  • Discussing feelings with your child, for example: “Do you think the new girl in your class is sad because she doesn’t know anybody yet? What do you think you could do to help her?”
  • Letting your child see you donating to charity or helping another person
  • Allowing your child to help with age-appropriate chores

As always, patience and consistency are key in helping your child learn gratitude. No matter the time of year, gratitude will give your child several important benefits that will improve their life both now and in the future.

Physical Activity Ideas for Young Children

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Physical Activity Ideas for Young Children

Regular physical activity is critical for young children. According to Let’s Move! Child Care, the benefits of physical activity include: fewer behavior problems; longer attention spans; increased confidence; better performance in school; improved social skills; strong bones; better sleep habits; and increased strength and flexibility.

Incorporating physical activity into your young child’s life can be fun and easy. Here are ideas to help your child keep active both indoors and outdoors.

Indoor activity ideas

  • Put on some music and dance. Young children love to dance to music, and you can keep it interesting by having them invent their own dance or having them mimic your own movements.
  • Practice throwing, catching, and kicking. Throwing a bouncy ball around your living room isn’t always a good idea, but you can substitute with a small bean bag or even a rolled-up pair of socks.
  • Create an indoor obstacle course. Using household items such as stools, chairs, stuffed animals, and storage bins, you can create a fun supervised indoor obstacle course. Look for ways to help your child practice balancing, jumping, throwing, and running.
  • Not only can yoga help your child relieve stress, it can also increase their flexibility, strength, and balance. Yoga studios often have classes for children, and there are also many books and online videos available.

Outdoor activity ideas

  • Visit the playground. You likely won’t need to convince your child to visit your local playground. Depending on your child’s age, there are multiple chances to climb, swing, run, and jump.
  • Go for a bike ride. Bike rides are a fun outdoor activity. Even a quick trip down the block after dinner is an ideal opportunity for the entire family to spend quality time together while being active.
  • Hopscotch or jump rope. Games like hopscotch and jump rope are not only fun, but they also increase coordination and bone strength. With hopscotch, your child can get involved and help you create a court with sidewalk chalk.
  • Take a walk. Walking is an easy way to incorporate physical activity into your child’s everyday life. You might want to start walking with your child to and from school, going for family hikes on the weekend, or even just taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood.

For more ideas on helping your child get more active, you can also visit your local recreation center for drop-in classes or organized sports. Your child’s preschool or daycare is also an ideal resource for easy and fun physical activity ideas for your child.

7 Baking Recipes For Kids

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7 Baking Recipes For Kids

Getting your child to help out in the kitchen is not only fun, but it helps them to feel included in the family. These seven easy baking recipes are ideal for children to help you make, and are a fun treat for the whole family.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Using just four ingredients, these peanut butter cookies can be ready in under half an hour. Depending on the age of your child, they can help with mixing the dough, rolling the dough into balls, or creating the criss-cross shape on the cookies with a fork.

No-Bake Chocolate Pie

This recipe is made quick and easy with the inclusion of store-bought graham cracker crust, instant chocolate pudding, and whipped cream cheese. As most of this recipe involves whisking, your child may be able to do most of the preparation on their own. If you opt to make your own crust, your child can help you mix the ingredients as well.

Maple Pecan Baked Apples

This warming dessert recipe makes great use of fall apples. Your child can get involved by selecting the apples, choosing the fillings and mixing the ingredients.

Focaccia Bread

This recipe offers an ideal opportunity for your child to learn about the way yeast, flour, sugar and salt become bread. Your child can help you sprinkle the yeast over the water, mix the flours and salt, and punch down the dough. Depending on your child’s age, they might have fun kneading the dough as well.

Happy Face Biscuits

These biscuits afford a unique, hands-on opportunity for your child to have fun with baking. There are several small tasks your child can help with, and they can create their own faces by rolling dough into eyes, noses, and mouths.

Kid-Friendly Pizza

While this recipe is for bell pepper and feta pizza, the flavors can be modified based on your child’s tastes. Your child can feel involved by selecting their toppings and placing them on the pizza. Using store-bought prepared pizza dough will also save time.

Healthy Bites

These easy and nutritious bites involve just a few ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Your child can help you measure and mix the ingredients, and might be able to roll the bites into the ball shapes depending on their age.

Not only is helping in the kitchen a fun way for your child to get involved, but measuring and counting ingredients are ideal ways to introduce them to basic math concepts as well. These seven easy baking recipes for kids are ideal ways to get started.

6 Ways to Teach Your Preschooler About Money

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6 Ways to Teach Your Preschooler About Money

While preschool-age might seem too early to teach your child about being responsible with money, they already understand that money is important in our society.

Here are six ways you can teach your preschooler about money.

1) Have age-appropriate conversations about money

Your preschooler sees you withdrawing cash from ATMs and using your credit card to buy groceries on a regular basis. These everyday moments are an ideal opportunity to introduce your child to money. For example, you can say, “We keep our money safe in the bank, and I use this machine to get some to buy our food.”

2) Demonstrate the cost of goods and services

While you’re running errands with your child, you can discuss what you’re buying, and how much it costs. When paying, let your child see you counting and handing your money to the cashier. If you’re paying with a debit card, you can tell your child, “This card takes money out of my bank account and gives it to the store.”

3) Play games involving imaginary money

Exposing your child to play with imaginary money is a good, risk-free way to help them understand the concept of paying for goods and services. Even though preschoolers’ math skills may not yet lend themselves to complex addition and subtraction, they can still play games like “store” or “restaurant” in a simple way. For example, you can ask how much an ice cream cone costs, and hand over the appropriate amount of play money.

4) Give them control over small amounts of money

While many parents of preschoolers feel their child is too young to get a regular allowance, children should still be shown how to earn and save money. You may want to put them in charge of a coin jar, which they can fill with small change that they earn whenever they perform a certain household task such as helping to set the table. This will help them make the connection between work and money, and give them a sense of ownership and responsibility.

According to a study conducted by asset management firm T. Rowe Price, children whose parents let them decide how to manage their money are less likely to spend it as soon as they receive it.

5) Let your child see you work 

Another way to help your child understand the relationship between work and money is to show them where you work. If possible, bring them to your workplace for a visit, and let them see your workspace and ask questions. This can help your child understand that work is a place where you perform tasks to earn money for the household.

6) Model responsible saving and spending

Even if your preschooler may not yet understand the intricacies of financial planning, they can still be influenced by your attitudes and behavior about money. Do you argue with your spouse about spending? Do you compare prices when grocery shopping? Do you pay for everything on your credit card automatically, or do you wait until you can pay with cash? Be mindful of what your child is observing, and what message it may be sending them about financial habits.

The concept of money may seem like a complicated one for preschoolers to understand. However, with these six ways to teach your preschooler about money, they will learn basic financial lessons in an age-appropriate way.

Promoting Teamwork in Children

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Promoting Teamwork in Children

As adults, we know how important it is to be able to work successfully with others. Teamwork is an important skill for young children to learn, as it provides benefits for later life.

Here are some ways you can help to promote teamwork in your child.

Model cooperative behavior at home

Young children take their behavioral cues from their parents, so the home is an ideal place to demonstrate teamwork. Asking your child to help with simple household tasks such as cleaning up their toys or putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket will help them to see how their actions contribute to the family. Ensure that your child also sees you working in cooperation with other members of the family.

Encourage collaborative games

Children learn during play, so try to get your child involved in games where teamwork is key to success. Some examples of collaborative games that are also fun include: Building a block tower, putting together a puzzle, Duck Duck Goose, a relay race, and bouncing a ball on a parachute. Emphasize to your child that the focus is not competition, but working together.

Look for everyday opportunities for teamwork

Aside from collaborative games, there are plenty of cooperation opportunities in daily life. Activities that may seem minor can have a great impact on a child learning about their world. For example, if your children love pizza, you can have a build-your-own-pizza night at home and have the siblings add their favorite toppings together.

Praise cooperative behavior

When your child is cooperating well with another person, praising them will help them to understand that teamwork is good behavior. For example, you might thank your child for playing nicely with a friend, or express admiration of a drawing your children created together.

Ask your preschool for teamwork advice

Whether you want teamwork ideas specific to your child, or have questions about how to best teach problem-solving, your child’s preschool or daycare is an ideal resource. Not only do they have experience with children of all temperaments and personalities, but they also know your child quite well. Your child’s preschool teacher will also be able to offer advice based on the latest strategies and best practices in early childhood education.

Being able to work with others toward a common goal is a valuable social skill for children to practice. Encouraging teamwork in your toddler or preschooler can be fun as well as educational with our easy tips.

Ideas for One-on-One Time With Your Child

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Ideas for One-on-One Time With Your Child

According to a study by the University of Iowa, infants and children who have a close relationship with a parent are less likely to experience emotional and behavioral issues later in life. As parents, spending time with your child in a meaningful way is always enjoyable. Here are some ideas for one-on-one activities you can do with your child.

  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood. This is a great way to get some exercise, as well as explore the world around you.
  • Take a trip to the library. Talk to your child about their favorite books and let them pick one or two to check out. Later, you can read these books together.
  • Play dress-up. Imaginative play is not only fun, but it’s also a great way for your child to learn language concepts and practice empathy.
  • Use chore time wisely. If your child is helping with household chores, it can be a great time for conversation as well. You can ask about their day and learn more about how they’re feeling.
  • Share in their interests. For example, if your preschooler loves trains, you can spend a few minutes playing on their toy railroad with them, or you can make a day trip out of train-watching at your local station.
  • Run errands together. Going to the grocery store or bank doesn’t need to be boring for your child. Getting your child involved and helping in some way will allow them to feel part of the trip. You may also want to build a treat into the errand, such as a break for ice cream, to make the trip memorable for them.
  • Create a craft together. Making something creative and fun is an ideal bonding experience that doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.
  • Cook their favorite meal. If your child has a favorite meal such as tacos or pizza, preparing it together will be especially enjoyable for them.
  • Get active. Playing a game with your child such as catch, tag, or even hide and seek is an ideal bonding opportunity – and another way to stay active.
  • Play video games. While physical activity is important, studies show that video games can teach problem-solving, healthy competition, and creative self-expression. Have your child teach you Minecraft, or introduce them to your own favorite childhood games.
  • Write a story. Children have expansive imaginations. Together, you can create a story about a topic of your choice. Write it down and decorate your “book” for a tangible keepsake.
  • Work on a puzzle. Collaborating on a small project is an ideal way to bond with your child, and help them practice cooperation and problem-solving.
  • Learn something together. Whether it’s taking a family music class or visiting an educational attraction at the zoo, the shared experience of learning can be meaningful to both you and your child.

Spending quality time with your child can give them a feeling of security, which is a strong foundation for healthy development. Even 15 minutes of your undivided attention will show your child that they are important and loved. This will strengthen their self-esteem and provide benefits for later life.

What to Look for in a Good Babysitter

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What to Look for in a Good Babysitter

When searching for someone to look after your child, you want to make sure you find the best person. You may have several questions and considerations, and want more than a babysitter who simply likes kids. You want to know that your child’s caregiver will keep them safe, happy, and well taken care of.

Here are some characteristics to keep in mind when looking for a babysitter.

  • Experience with children. Ask about specific experience your potential babysitter has with children in the same age group as yours. The younger your child is, the more experience a caregiver should have.
  • Knowledge about children. Basic understanding of the practical aspects of caring for a child (such as diapering and feeding) and child development work in tandem with experience to create a trustworthy babysitter.
  • Training in basic first aid. Many parents want a caregiver who can perform basic infant and child first aid and CPR if necessary. Additionally, your local hospital, Red Cross branch, or YMCA may provide information on babysitters who have completed this training.
  • Safety-conscious. What is your potential babysitter’s attitude toward safety? Will they hold your child’s hand when crossing the street? Do they ensure that your child is playing with age-appropriate toys? Do they understand your child’s allergies or medication? Ensure the babysitter’s practices towards child safety align with your own.
  • Responsibility. Whether you’re meeting friends for dinner or taking a couple of hours to run errands, it’s important that your babysitter is someone who you can depend on. Look for a babysitter who respects your time, your home, and the most important aspects of caring for your child.
  • Good judgment and problem-solving skills. You know that life with children can be unpredictable, and a good babysitter is able to adapt to changing conditions. Look for a babysitter who can confidently handle issues that may arise, such as a fight between siblings over a toy, or a toddler who refuses to eat their lunch.
  • Appropriate communication with you. A good babysitter works with you to ensure your child is happy and healthy. Look for a babysitter who makes an effort to keep parents informed of any issues that arise, and gives general updates about the time spent with their child.
  • A bond with your child. The most qualified babysitter in your area likely won’t work out if they don’t connect with your child. A connection will take time, but you can look for a babysitter whose personality is likely to mesh well with your child’s.

When searching for a good babysitter, ask friends and other parents for recommendations to help you narrow down your options. Your child’s daycare center may also have suggestions. You might consider starting out by hiring your prospective babysitter for an hour while you do tasks around the house. This trial run can help you assess their abilities and observe how they interact with your child. This can help you gain confidence that you have found a good babysitter who you can trust to care for your child.

4 Science Projects for Preschoolers

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4 Science Projects for Preschoolers

Children learn through hands-on experiences, and are endlessly curious. You can help your preschooler learn more about the world around them and basic science concepts with these four easy experiments you can do together.

1) Water Displacement Experiment

This experiment can help your preschooler learn about buoyancy, volume, and mass. It can also be done easily with items you already have around the home. Fill a transparent jar or large bowl with a medium amount of water, and gather several small objects such as coins, toy cars, and stones. Mark the level of the water on the container, and help your child begin to place the objects into the container.

As the water level rises, you can begin to make observations together. Are the stones heavier than the toy cars? How many of each object does it take to make the water overflow? Does the size of the item make the water level rise faster?

2) Gummy Worm Ice Cubes

With Halloween just a few weeks away, gummy worm ice cubes are a fun activity that will also teach your preschooler about turning liquids into solids. You can ask your child what they predict will happen, and find out together how the ice cube will change once it’s placed in a drink.

You can find the instructions for making gummy worm ice cubes here.

3) Turning Grapes into Raisins

Grapes and raisins are both favorite child-sized snacks, but helping your preschooler see how one food transforms into another can be exciting. Allow for approximately three days of sunny weather for this experiment.

Start with clean, fresh grapes, and make sure they are thoroughly free from external moisture. Your child can help you select the best ones and spread the dry grapes on a baking tray. Cover the tray with a kitchen towel to keep the grapes undisturbed as they sit outside in a sunny area for two to three days. You may want to bring the tray inside overnight if it gets damp. Check the raisins and discard any that may have rotted.

As the days pass, you and your child can observe the experiment. How are the grapes changing? Are the raisins getting smaller and lighter? You can help your child understand evaporation caused by the heat from the sun.

4) Catching Bugs with Fruit

If your preschooler is interested in insects and living creatures, you can work together to understand how they live and behave with this simple project using only a grapefruit. Even a child who seems indifferent about insects might feel curious enough to participate, and they can observe from a distance if they are squeamish. You can ask questions about the sorts of insects you might see, and why they seem to enjoy the fruit. You can then begin to ask questions about the insects themselves, such as, “How do you think all those legs help it?” Your preschooler will begin to think more about other creatures and how they behave.

You can learn more about this insect science experiment here.

Helping your child learn basic science concepts can be easy, fun, and affordable. Try these four science projects for preschoolers today to help them develop their science and problem-solving skills.

How to Soothe Your Child’s Storm Anxiety

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How to Soothe Your Child's Storm Anxiety

When your area is experiencing severe storms, your child can feel frightened and confused. Although every child is different, there are some ways you can help your child cope with anxiety caused by severe weather.

Model calm behavior

If your child sees that you are able to react to severe weather in a calm manner, they will feel reassured. Ensure that your child sees you making plans in a composed manner, and review your family’s storm safety precautions with everyone. It’s okay if your child sees that you’re concerned, but explain your feelings in age-appropriate language for your child, and remain in control.

Communicate and answer questions

Your child will likely have many questions about the storm, and it’s important for them to know that you will listen and empathize with them. Encourage your child to talk to you about how they feel, and answer any questions as well as you can. Be truthful, but focus on alleviating your child’s immediate fears.

Get your child involved with safety precautions

Children learn through hands-on experience, and having them help you prepare for severe weather can give them a sense of control. Your child can help you stock a storm safety kit with flashlights, batteries, blankets, and a radio. They can also let you know what they will need in order to feel comforted, such as a favorite stuffed animal or book.

Limit your child’s news exposure

Repeated news reports and images of storms can cause increased fear and anxiety in your child. Younger children may also not understand the timeline of these images, and may believe that a storm is bigger than it is. If you do tune in for an update, keep it brief, and be available in case your child has any questions about what they’ve seen.

After the storm, keep positive

A child’s anxiety over storms can continue after the worst has passed, particularly if your region has experienced severe effects such as flooding or evacuation. To help your child cope, it can help to do something positive such as selecting clothes to donate to other children in need. It’s also important to maintain your regular routine as much as possible, continue to limit news exposure, and spend time together as a family.

If your child’s anxiety symptoms have not decreased after six months, or are impacting their daily life, you may want to speak with an anxiety disorder therapist.

Anxiety and fear caused by severe weather can be especially difficult for young children to cope with. However, by modeling calm behavior, encouraging communication, getting your child involved in preparations, and limiting news exposure, you can help to reduce their fear of storms.

Ideas for Preschool Lunches and Snacks

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Ideas for Preschool Lunches and Snacks

If you will be sending lunches and snacks with your child when they go to preschool, you may be wondering what your options are. Here are some ideas for preschool lunches and snacks that taste great and give your child the nutrition they need for a successful day.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

While dried fruit can seem ideal to include in your child’s lunchbox, they can be high in sugar and lead to sticky fingers. It’s best to stick to fresh options, such as carrots, apple slices, and even cooked vegetables left over from dinner.

Egg salad sandwich

This is an easy and kid-friendly sandwich that can be prepared the night before, when you have more time. Simply hard-boil some eggs, and mash with mayonnaise. This sandwich is highly customizable, and you can make adjustments based on what your child likes. You may also want to include diced celery, lettuce, or mustard.

Healthy muffins

Muffins are the ideal portable snack, but they don’t have to be loaded with sugar. Pureeing fruits and vegetables is an ideal way to help your picky eater enjoy healthy muffins. Get the recipe for Power Packed Fruit and Veggie Muffins here.

Breakfast for lunch

If your family enjoyed pancakes, French toast, or waffles for breakfast on the weekend, they can be repurposed into a lunch your child will enjoy. Simply cut them up into strips and include applesauce or yogurt for dipping. You can also make a double batch of pancakes, French toast, or waffles, and keep them in the freezer for a quick mid-week lunch.

Healthy preschool lunches and snacks can be interesting for your child and easy for you. These four ideas are quick and easy building blocks for a well-rounded preschool lunch that includes healthy protein, dairy, and carbohydrates.

For more ideas, check out these 5 Quick and Healthy Preschool Lunches.

The Importance of Music for Young Children

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The Importance of Music for Young Children

If you have a young child at home, you’ve likely noticed how much they enjoy listening to and moving along with music. Aside from being entertaining and fun, music has cognitive benefits for young children. Here are some reasons why music is important.

Music helps develop language and literacy skills

Studies performed in the 1990s showed that, “exposure to music from early childhood onwards helps children to speak more clearly [and] develop a larger vocabulary.” In addition, according to Susan Hallam of the University of London’s Institute of Education, speech and music have a number of shared processing systems in the brain. This means that listening to and singing along to songs can lead to improvement in a child’s understanding of language.

Music helps to strengthen motor skills

When a young child listens to music, they often cannot seem to resist clapping, jumping, or dancing. Exposure to music helps your child develop fine motor skills such as balance and coordination, and gross motor skills such as marching and sitting upright.

Music can help your child learn math skills

For young children, math concepts are simple, focused on pattern recognition and shapes. Even the most basic song features repeating patterns in its rhythm that a child can follow along with. Additionally, children can get hands-on experience in creating patterns when they perform a song themselves with instruments such as a drum or xylophone.

Music can relieve stress

From their earliest days, children can be soothed by gentle and relaxing music. Listening to their favorite song can help your child feel energized and uplifted, but it can also help them cope with stressful situations. According to neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, “There is no vehicle more joyful and playful for providing [resiliency] training than early childhood music.”

Every parent can help their child gain exposure to music. Whether or not you are musical yourself, you can encourage your child to sing, dance, and listen to music regularly. Many preschools offer music programs as part of their curriculum. In addition, local libraries, recreation centers, and places of worship can be ideal places to find musical experiences for your child.

How to Start a Morning Routine for Preschool

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How to Start a Morning Routine for Preschool

A consistent morning routine is one way you can help your child adjust to preschool. Whether your child is excited or apprehensive about this new stage in life, being able to rely on the same set of events each morning will give them the confidence they need for a successful day. Here are some tips for starting a morning routine for preschool.

Start adjusting your routine as early as possible

If your family has been enjoying the relaxed summer months, the days before preschool begins and the first weeks after your child starts classes are a great time to begin acclimating your child to their new morning routine. For example, if your summer morning routine meant family members ate breakfast as they woke up, you may want to begin transitioning to everyone eating together in the mornings. If your preschooler has older siblings, they might enjoy joining them in their back-to-school transition.

Begin the night before

For many families, the morning is the most hectic time of the day. However, completing as many tasks as possible the night before will mean the next morning will run smoother. If you will be sending your preschooler’s lunch and snacks along with them, prepare as much as possible in advance. Laying out the next day’s clothing before bed is another good way to save time in the morning.

Ensure your child has enough sleep

Along with preparing lunches and outfits the night before, the proper amount of rest will help your child have a smoother start in the morning. Though every child is different, preschoolers typically get 10-13 hours of sleep per night. To help your child unwind and prepare for sleep, read our tips on how to establish a bedtime routine.

Write down morning tasks

Even the most successful morning routine can experience some snags early on. One way to help keep your mornings organized is to create a chart listing all the tasks necessary to help your preschooler start their day. Some examples of these tasks include:

  • Washing their face
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Combing their hair
  • Getting dressed
  • Eating breakfast
  • Packing their backpack
  • Putting on their shoes

This chart can be a checklist on your phone, or a printout on your fridge. Even though your preschooler may not be able to read the chart, they can still feel a sense of ownership over helping you check off each item on the list.

Give yourself enough time

While an extra ten minutes of sleep can feel tempting to both you and your child, it can lead to delays later that could seriously impact your morning. Many parents benefit from waking up slightly earlier than their child to help themselves focus on the morning ahead, and to relax with a cup of coffee before their day starts. Giving yourself enough time will ensure that every member of your family can get their morning tasks done without pressure.

Make mornings fun

Your family’s morning routine may be dictated by the clock, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be enjoyable for your preschooler. Children love music, so choosing their favorite songs to listen to and sing along with can create a positive association in their minds with going to preschool. Music can also serve as an auditory cue for your children about their progress – for example, the end of a certain song can signal that it’s time to put their shoes on.

Life with a preschooler is never the same day-to-day, but developing a consistent morning routine is possible. According to Larissa K. Ferretti of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University, “children whose families follow a daily routine may be healthier, better behaved, and even perform better in school.” Finding the best morning routine for your family can take some experimentation, but it will give your preschooler a strong foundation for a successful day ahead.

How to Set Boundaries for Preschoolers

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How to Set Boundaries for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are endlessly curious, and like to test the limits of their behavior. This is an important way for your child to learn about their world, and the behavior that’s expected of them. However, boundaries are necessary in order for experimenting children to remain safe and secure. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with your preschooler.

Figure out your limits early

If you are clear about your boundaries, you can more easily explain them to your child, and more easily enforce them. Aside from obvious boundaries such as “no pinching your sister” or “hold my hand when you cross the street,” think of what your limits will be about things such as mealtime behavior, technology usage, and bedtime routines.

Set appropriate expectations

As the parent of a preschooler, you know your child’s natural limitations. When running errands with your preschooler, you know that they will not be able to wait in a long line as patiently as an older child can. Set your child up for success by keeping boundaries age-appropriate.

Use clear language with your child

Preschoolers are still learning how the world works, and are lacking the context necessary for many behaviors that adults take for granted. To this end, using clear language will help your child understand what behavior is expected of them, without room for confusion. For example, instead of saying, “When we go to the library, you have to be good,” say, “In the library, use a quiet voice, and walk slowly.” Kneel down so you are on your child’s level, and ensure your child understands what you are saying.

Follow through on boundaries

If you’ve told your preschooler that they cannot stop at the playground on the way to the store, changing your mind can send them confusing messages. If you have to enforce a limitation that you’ve set for your preschooler, remain calm but firm. Sending a consistent message to your child will help them to internalize what they can and cannot do.

Praise good behavior

Noticing when your preschooler is respecting boundaries is just as important as setting them. Praise your child when they are acting appropriately, so that they can better connect their behavior to your expectations. This positive reinforcement will also help to strengthen their self-confidence, and show your child that you love and support them.

Setting boundaries for preschoolers may seem difficult at times, but setting appropriate expectations, using clear language, and remaining calm and positive will help your child to experiment within safe limits.

Car Seat Safety Tips

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Car Seat Safety Tips

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages one to 13. Proper usage of a car seat is an important way to keep your child safe while in the car. Here are some tips for proper car seat safety.

Use the right kind of car seat

The proper car seat for your child depends on several factors including age, size, and your vehicle type. The American Academy of Pediatrics has several tips on how to choose and install the right kind of car seat for your child, including a handy at-a-glance guide.

Keep your child rear-facing until at least age two

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you keep your child rear-facing until at least age two, or until they are the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of your car seat. Rear-facing seats provide the most protection for your young child’s head, neck, and spine.

Have the car seat checked after installation

After installing your new car seat for the first time, you may want some additional assurance that everything is set up correctly. A certified inspector can check that your child’s car seat is installed correctly, and this service is often free of charge. You can find your nearest child car seat inspector here.

Check for an expired car seat

Though child car seats last for several years, they do have expiry dates, and it’s best to make sure that you stay within that date. An expired car seat can become brittle and unsafe for your child. You can often find the expiry date on the label of the seat, or on the seat itself. If you are unable to find the date, the manufacturer will have that information for you.

Don’t use a car seat that’s been in an accident

Even if there is no visible damage to your child’s car seat, it can still be unsafe if it’s been in the car when an accident took place. In an accident, a car seat can absorb some of the force of the crash, thereby weakening the structure. It’s best to replace a car seat if you have been in a car accident, even if it visually appears to be safe.

By choosing the right kind of car seat that is within its expiry date, properly installed, and has never been involved in an accident, you can help to keep your child safe and happy on the road.

Your Shy Child and Preschool

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Your Shy Child and Preschool

Preschool is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn new skills and socialize with their peers. However, if your child is shy, you may be concerned about the experience they might have in preschool. Here are some things you should know about your shy child and preschool.

What is shyness?

 Many parents are unsure whether a child is clingy or shy. While the two things can seem similar, the difference is that shyness is an individual temperament, whereas clinginess is a behavior that is sometimes present and sometimes not. John Malouff of the University of New England’s School of Behavioral, Cognitive and Social Sciences says that shy children “may remain silent around unfamiliar others, even when spoken to . . . may refuse to enter a new setting such as a classroom without being accompanied by a parent . . . [and] want to interact with unfamiliar others but don’t because of their fear.”

Helping your shy child succeed in preschool

While preschoolers are only just beginning to practice their socialization skills, there are ways you can help your shy child have an easier time in the classroom.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher. Your child’s preschool teacher has seen children of all temperaments, and has seen all kinds of behavior. They can share the latest advice from early childhood education experts, and work with you to come up with strategies to make your child more comfortable and confident.
  • Give your child time to adjust. If your child has only been at preschool for a few days, that might not be enough time for them to feel comfortable in their new environment. Shy children often need a longer adjustment period than more social children.
  • Model outgoing behavior. It can help your shy child immeasurably to see how you navigate social situations such as greeting strangers. For example, when grocery shopping with your child, make sure to say, “Hi, how are you?” to the cashier.
  • Empathize with your child. While you may not understand why your child is anxious in social situations, it’s all too real for them. Your child will feel supported and loved by you when you empathize with their feelings, without judgement or pressure.
  • Don’t discuss your child’s shyness in front of them. According to Psychology Today, if your child hears you call them shy, it can make “shy” their self-view. If your child doesn’t want to talk to a stranger, you can say that they’ll join in the conversation later.
  • Set up small playdates. If there’s another child in preschool who your child likes to play with, or a child who might also be shy, you might consider setting up a playdate. Invite the other child’s parents as well, so there is less pressure on the children. Often, shy children find it easier to socialize with one or two others, when they don’t feel overwhelmed by a preschool classroom full of children at the same time.

If your child is not confident or comfortable around others, there are ways you can help them have an easier time at preschool. By supporting your child, modeling social behavior, helping them to feel comfortable, and talking with the preschool, your shy child will be able to see that social situations don’t have to be scary.

6 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Families

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6 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Families

With your family’s busy schedule, you might worry that you don’t have enough time to do all the things you have to do and still spend time together. To help you save time in your day, try these six tips.

Make double batches of meals

On evenings where you have a bit of extra time, cook a double batch of that night’s dinner and freeze half. That way, you don’t have to worry about dinner on another, busier night – all you have to do is defrost what you’ve frozen and heat it up. Meals that freeze well include meatballs, casseroles, lasagna, and soup.

Organize your shopping list

You can save yourself some time in the grocery store by organizing your list before you go. While the specific aisles of your usual stores may differ, most of them follow a similar logic. Write out your grocery list grouped by section, such as Produce, Bread, Meat, Dairy, Canned Goods, Pasta, and Frozen. This will help you go directly from section to section in the store, and reduce the times you’ll have to return to an aisle you’ve already visited.

When running errands, plan your route

On days when you are going to run several errands in one trip, it can be quicker to plan your route beforehand. Much like the grocery store, having to backtrack can cost you valuable time. Map out where you have to go, and choose the fastest and most efficient ways to get to each location. Not only will this save time, it will also save money and gas.

Write out your weekly plan

Creating a family schedule is a good way to help keep your family organized when it comes to regular activities and events, but some families also create more focused weekly lists for everyday tasks. These weekly plans include things like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, and meals. Take some time at the beginning of the week to write out your weekly plan, and keep it somewhere where you can easily reference it.

Prepare for your morning the night before

For many families, the morning is the busiest time of day. There are breakfasts to make, clothes to put on, and lunches to pack. However, you can cut down on the morning rush by getting some things ready the night before. Some things you can do in the evening are: choosing your child’s clothing, washing and chopping fruit and vegetables, sorting snacks into plastic baggies, and getting any necessary jackets, shoes, and bags ready in the front hall.

Avoid complicated clothing

For most families, the amount of laundry to be washed each week can seem endless. However, you can cut down on the time and hassle involved with laundry by avoiding clothing that needs dry-cleaning or ironing. For everyday clothes, look for machine-washable clothes made of durable fabric. This can help you having to spend time and money cleaning just one or two items of clothing.

Time is a valuable commodity for most families. With our six tips, you can spend less time on errands, cooking, and chores, and more quality time with your family.

Ways to Encourage Sibling Closeness

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Ways to Encourage Sibling Closeness

While some minor sibling squabbles are unavoidable, you want your children to get along more often than not. Here are some ways you can encourage closeness in your children.

Demonstrate respectful behavior

Having basic respect for one another is the foundation for sibling closeness. You can encourage this respect by showing your children the right way to speak with one another. For example, if they’re in a disagreement about what to watch on family movie night, ask them to let the other person explain their feelings, rather than shouting. As always, modeling this same sort of behavior is key, as you are your child’s main source of information about the world.

Find things they have in common

Even if one child is obsessed with sports and the other is constantly drawing or painting, that doesn’t mean that they can’t find something they have in common. For example, perhaps they have the same favorite food, or both enjoy taking care of the family pet. Observe your children to find shared interests, and encourage them to explore those interests together as much as possible.

Avoid comparisons or labels

While finding common ground can help your children become closer, the opposite is also true. It can be tempting to label aspects of your children’s personalities, such as “the silly one” or “the serious one.” However, this can illuminate the differences between your children. The same can happen when children hear comments like, “Why can’t you eat quietly like your brother?” Focusing on the similarities between your children is more likely to help them foster a close bond.

Allow them to share experiences together

Memories developed as a family are wonderful, but memories your children develop entirely on their own can help to create a connection that’s unique to them. Let your children share “no parents allowed” experiences as much as possible, such as play, private jokes, or even stealing an extra cookie from the jar from time to time.

Don’t force it

While you may have dreamed of your children becoming best friends for life, the reality is that doesn’t always happen. However, that doesn’t mean that your children can’t love each other. The bond between siblings can be complicated and rewarding, and is rarely static. Forcing your children to spend time together doing activities they don’t enjoy, or when they are not in the best mindset to get along, can work against you and breed resentment.

To help your children develop a stronger sibling bond, encourage an atmosphere of compassion, appreciation, and kindness, and celebrate the things they have in common.

Fun Summer Activities for the Family

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Fun Summer Activities for the Family

The longer days and pleasant weather of summer can be relaxing, but even the most prepared families can still experience boredom. Here are some ideas for enjoyable summer activities that kids and parents alike can enjoy together.

Visit the farmers market

If there’s a farmers market in your area, it can be a great place for the whole family. Your child can help you choose the fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food for the week, and learn about where our food comes from. Vendors at the farmers market are more than happy to help educate your child about what they do, and your child can feel a greater connection to their community and local farmers.

Relax with some good books

A love of reading is an important skill to encourage in young children. According to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, observation and teacher assessments of older children “show positive effects of reading to children at age 4 to 5 on their reading skills at later age.” Summer is a great time to relax with some books, no matter where you are. The Association of Library Service to Children has a list of new books for kids, sorted by age group.

Create an obstacle course

Using items you likely already have at home, you can create a fun obstacle course in your backyard or local park. Look for ways to develop both your child’s fine motor skills (activities that promote balance and dexterity) and gross motor skills (activities such as climbing, jumping, and running). For some added fun, your child can invite some friends along and make it more of a game.

Go camping in the backyard

Whether or not your family enjoys regular camping getaways, sleeping in a tent in your own backyard can be a fun way to spend time outdoors while still being close to everything you need at home. To keep it as authentic as possible, you can pack a cooler with hot dogs, veggies, and drinks, and agree to go inside only if it’s absolutely necessary. Just like with regular camping, don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray.

Visit your local recreation center or library

Most recreation centers offer day programs for children, including swimming, sports, dance, and art. Many local libraries often hold story times for families in the community, as well as drop-in activities for kids to enjoy. Whether you want to spend an afternoon in a day program, or register your child for a multi-day program, your local recreation center, library, or summer camp can help.

Plan short trips

Whether or not your family has a big summer vacation planned, you can still enjoy shorter excursions closer to home. Some family-friendly day trip ideas include: visiting your local zoo, berry picking, a day at a children’s museum, and a water park. Overnight trips are possible with young children as well, even toddlers. Choose a destination that offers family-friendly activities, accommodation, and restaurants, and keep travel time within your child’s limits to reduce the risk of meltdowns.

Take advantage of the longer days of summer to help your child beat boredom, learn new things, keep active, and explore their community. These child-friendly summer activities will create lasting memories for the whole family.

Bicycle Safety Tips for Young Children

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Bicycle Safety Tips for Young Children

Summer weather is an ideal time to enjoy a bike ride with the entire family. However, proper bicycle safety is an important component of the fun, and it should be taught to your child early. Here are some bike safety tips for young children.

Insist on a helmet

According to pediatrician Kristie Rivers, MD, a bicycle helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88 percent. A well-fitting helmet should be worn on a bike ride of any length, anywhere – even if it’s just a quick trip around your own driveway. Getting your child used to wearing a helmet as early as possible will ensure that it becomes a lifelong safety habit.

Choose the right-sized bike

Children grow quickly, but selecting a bicycle that’s the right size for your child means they can operate it safely and confidently. You’ll know your child’s bike is the correct size if they can sit on the seat with their hands comfortably on the handlebars, and the balls of both feet touching the ground. Pedal brakes are often easier for younger children who may not yet have the strength to squeeze handlebar brakes.

Wear safe, brightly-colored clothing

Even during the daytime, brightly-colored clothing will help your child stay visible to drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Attaching reflectors to your child’s bicycle and clothing will increase their visibility as well. Ensure that pant legs or sleeves will not get caught on the bicycle’s moving parts or handlebars.

Stay off the roads if possible

Children younger than age 10 should stick to riding their bicycles on sidewalks or bike paths. Young children that are still building up their bicycling skills may become overwhelmed if they have to worry about vehicle traffic as well. Older children have usually developed their bicycling proficiency and are better suited to riding on the road.

Teach your child basic bicycling safety

Riding a bike is a fun activity for everyone, but children should be taught at a young age that it’s also an important responsibility. Even if you’re not riding on the road, you can teach your child basic safety skills, including: keeping both hands on the handlebars at all times; staying on the right side of the sidewalk or path; looking ahead instead of being distracted by things around them; being aware of cyclists and pedestrians coming in the opposite direction; and stopping and looking both ways before crossing the road or an intersecting path.

Ride along with your child

While your child may be eager to get out into the neighborhood and explore with their bike, it’s important that they are supervised until you’re comfortable they can ride safely on their own. Riding your bike along with your child is also an ideal opportunity for you to model safe bicycling behavior.

Bike riding is a great way for families to spend time together while getting some exercise and fresh air. Young children are often excited to ride their bicycles, and teaching them important bike safety skills will ensure the entire family will enjoy the experience.

How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Bullying

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How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Bullying

Many parents of older children are concerned about bullying, and want to ensure their child is being treated respectfully while also being kind to others. However, bullying behaviors can emerge in preschoolers as well. Here are some age-appropriate ways you can talk with your preschooler about bullying.

Identify the signs of bullying in preschoolers

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers are all too familiar with their squabbles over toys or games. These disputes are often minor and quickly resolved. Young children are still learning how to express and understand their emotions, so brief instances of impulsive acts are understandable. However, this conflict becomes bullying when there is a deliberate attempt to exclude, scare, or hurt another child. For example, a preschooler grabbing a toy truck from another child and then pushing the child over is an act of bullying behavior.

Have conversations with your preschooler about their day

Some preschoolers may not be able to clearly discuss bullying, or become shy and anxious if asked directly. Instead, you may want to have more general discussions about their day, in order to reveal your child’s thoughts about the people around them. For example, you can ask questions like, “Who are your friends at preschool?” or “Do you still play with Kristen?” These questions can help you gain a clearer understanding of your child’s daily life, and how they feel about the behavior of other children.

Remain calm

If you believe your preschooler is being bullied, it’s important to remain calm. Acting upset or demanding answers may scare your child, and prevent them from talking about the situation. Instead, you may want to ask questions such as, “What name did he call you?” and “How did it make you feel?” It’s perfectly understandable to feel upset when you discover your child may be the victim of bullying, but staying calm will help you to better assess the situation, and show your child that you support them.

Offer strategies to help

Your child may find confidence with some age-appropriate strategies they can use to handle bullying. For example, you can role-play telling another child, “Stop that!” and then walking away from the situation, or you can demonstrate how they can talk to their preschool teacher if they’re scared. While it’s not reasonable to expect your child to stand up to a bully all the time, strategies such as these can help them navigate and possibly defuse the situation.

Discuss feelings and encourage empathy

Sometimes, your child may be the one who is exhibiting bullying behavior. While it’s difficult to imagine your child acting this way, identifying the issue early on is key to fixing it. Talk about your child’s feelings with them, and try to figure out what emotions cause their behavior. Encourage empathy for the other child without placing blame on your preschooler, and praise them when you catch them being kind. If possible, helping your child to apologize or make amends can show them how their behaviors can make others feel. Most importantly, model respect and empathy at home to ensure you are not unwittingly encouraging bullying behavior.

Ask your preschool for advice

Your child’s preschool will most likely have policies in place to prevent disputes from escalating into bullying. Review these policies with your child’s preschool teacher, and take this time to ask for any specific advice you may want. A preschool that teaches their children respect and encourages them to work through their feelings can give helpful strategies designed for your child’s specific personality and situation.

Bullying is never an easy topic for children to discuss, and preschoolers are still learning how to process and express their own feelings. However, by keeping the lines of communication open, remaining calm, and working with your preschool, you can show your child that they can trust you to help deal with bullying.

Fun Fourth of July Activities for Children

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Fun Fourth of July Activities for Children

The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate with the whole family, and kids are especially excited to join in the festivities. However, parents of young children are often concerned about the safety aspect of setting off fireworks. Here are some safe, fun, and fireworks-free Independence Day activities that young children can enjoy.

  • Have a Barbecue – A Fourth of July barbecue is a classic for a reason. It’s fun for the whole family, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take up a lot of time. Be sure to read our tips on eating outdoors with your child.
  • Hold a Scavenger Hunt – One fun activity that’s great for outdoors is a Fourth of July-themed scavenger hunt. You can ask children to search for things such as stuffed eagle toys, things in the shape of a star, or baseballs.
  • Draw with Sidewalk Chalk – You don’t need to limit yourself to the colors of the flag, but you can help your children celebrate the Fourth of July by getting artistic. You can ask them to draw what America means to them, or have them color in their own stars and stripes.
  • Attend a Parade – Many cities and towns across America have fun Fourth of July parades that offer entertainment for children as well as adults. Be sure to plan ahead and pack necessary items such as water, snacks, and sunscreen.
  • Read Fourth of July books – There are many books to help children understand the significance of Independence Day in terms they understand. Two highly-rated children’s books include The Fourth of July Story and Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney!
  • Make a Flag Mosaic – Crafts such as this colorful mosaic will not only help children learn about the American flag, it will develop their fine motor skills and teach them about color, too. Find instructions on how to make a flag mosaic here – you can make a smaller flag as well, using this template.
  • Create a Colorful Sensory Bin – Take the red, white, and blue theme one step further and create a fun sensory bin experience for your child. This site offers instructions for making red rice and blue star-shaped noodles. You can add mediums to the sensory bin such as scoops, animal toys, and star-shaped buttons.

 These seven ideas are fun, family-friendly ways you and your child can celebrate Independence Day this year. What’s more, they’re also fireworks-free, so you can feel confident that your child will have a safe and happy time.

All About Toddler Independence

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All About Toddler Independence

Toddlers are endlessly curious, and are beginning to understand the world around them. As the parent of a toddler, you are familiar with your child’s burgeoning sense of independence. They want to do everything on their own, and sometimes it can seem like protests are endless. However, the independence skills your child learns as a toddler will set the foundation for their future life. Here are some helpful things you should know about toddler independence.

Independence starts from a secure environment

Adults know that trying new things means taking risks – which can also mean making mistakes. As a parent, you can give your toddler a secure environment where they can expand their horizons and take risks that will not be harmful. Telling your child “no” every time they try to touch or do something dangerous can have a negative effect on their confidence, and is stressful for you. Instead, ensure that the home is as toddler-proofed as possible, so that your child can freely indulge their curiosity without risk of serious injury.

Non-negotiable rules should be clear

Toddlers testing out their independence will also try to bend or break rules. However, as a parent you know there are rules that are non-negotiable, such as holding your hand when your child crosses the street and not eating or drinking anything new without asking you first. Ensure that you remind your child of these non-negotiable rules and consistently enforce them. Explain to your child that these rules are in place to keep them safe. This way, they can better understand why some rules exist, and will find the all-important structure they need to build confidence and autonomy.

Choosing between limited options will keep you in control

Giving your toddler freedom to make some choices is a good way for them to practice independence. However, it’s important to narrow down the options available to your child, to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. For example, when getting dressed in the morning, you can ask, “Do you want to wear your blue shirt or your green shirt today?” In helping your toddler exert their independence, be patient and maintain a sense of humor.

Allowing your child to experience consequences will help them grow

Understanding cause and effect is a critical component of healthy independence. However, toddlers are often too excited about a new experience to think things through, or sometimes they don’t yet know what the consequences of their actions could be. Having conversations with your toddler about these concepts can help, but sometimes there is no substitute for a hands-on experience. If your toddler insists on trying to eat their crackers with a with a fork instead of their hands, they’ll soon figure out why it doesn’t work. Sometimes, letting your child experiment and make their own mistakes is more beneficial to their development then stopping them before it happens.

Toddlers thrive on praise – even if they don’t get it right

Even if your toddler doesn’t achieve their desired result with what they’re trying to accomplish, your praise will give them a sense of confidence and pride. In the earlier example of trying to eat crackers with a fork, telling your child that it won’t work can make them feel insecure and unwilling to try new things. But saying something like, “That’s a fun way to eat crackers!” will make the situation fun, and signal that you approve of them doing things on their own. This will help your child feel confident about trying more new things in the future.

Confidence, curiosity, and problem-solving skills are the foundation of successful independence. Toddlers are growing, and beginning to show interest in their own individuality. It can seem scary to parents, but finding small, safe ways for your child to assert their independence can help them to become successful later in life.

5 Preschooler Birthday Party Ideas

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5 Preschooler Birthday Party Ideas

Birthday parties are exciting for preschoolers. However, planning birthday parties for children can leave parents feeling tired and stressed. Here are five preschooler birthday party ideas that both you and your child will love.

1) Animal-themed party

For your animal-loving child, a farm or zoo-themed party offers many fun options. You serve food such as veggie sticks, gummi worms, or animal-decorated cupcakes. Decorate with balloons in the shape of your child’s favorite critters and enjoy activities such as animal charades and a piñata. You might also consider hiring a face painter to transform your child and their friends into tigers, zebras, and butterflies.

2) Teddy bears’ picnic

A teddy bears’ picnic is a great birthday party idea that doesn’t have to break the bank. For this party, your child and their friends will bring along a teddy bear or stuffed animal friend, and enjoy a picnic either inside or outdoors. For this party idea, you can lay down colorful picnic blankets, and serve easy-to-eat food such as gummi bears, cookies, cut-up vegetables, and English muffin pizzas. Depending on the number of guests, you may want to buy a small teddy bear or stuffed animal to give out as favors – put each child’s name on the toy and hide them around the house or park for each child to find in a treasure hunt.

3) Movie-themed party

For your young film buff, a movie-themed birthday party with all their friends can be very exciting. And what’s more, the movie is the entertainment, so there is one less thing to worry about. You can serve movie theater classics such as popcorn and candy, and you can create more seating space for this party by laying down lots of comfortable blankets and cushions on the floor.

4) Storybook-themed party

If your preschooler loves books, a storybook-themed party is a great opportunity to let their creativity shine. For entertainment, you can have interactive storytime, asking your child’s friends what they think will happen next in the book, or having discussions about the characters. You can also have each guest make up their own story, or draw scenes and characters from their favorite book.

Find more storybook birthday party ideas here.

5) Rainbow birthday party

Planning your preschooler’s birthday party around a color scheme rather than a theme can be much easier, as you have more freedom of choice. When planning the party’s food and decoration, all you have to keep in mind is incorporating as many colorful items as possible – for example, balloons or streamers, bright party hats, multicolored candy, and naturally-colorful fruit and vegetables. This idea also works well if your child has one favorite color.

Find out more rainbow birthday party ideas here.

No matter what your preschooler’s interests are, there is a birthday party idea that they’ll enjoy. These five birthday party ideas are fun for children, and easy on the parents, too.

Tips for Eating Outdoors With Your Child

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Tips for Eating Outdoors With Your Child

Summer is almost here, and you are likely looking forward to enjoying picnics and barbecues with your family. Here are some tips to help barbecues and picnics with young children run smoothly for everyone.

Prepare in advance

Picnics and barbecues can be fun spontaneous activities, but parents of young children know that a bit of planning in advance can help you prepare for various scenarios, as well as curb meltdowns. Prepare a bag or basket with the following items, and you can more easily take advantage of the summer weather:

  • A picnic blanket
  • Vinyl tablecloth for a barbecue
  • Paper plates
  • Disposable cups and plastic forks and spoons
  • Garbage bags
  • Toys and games suitable for the outdoors
  • Paper towels
  • Sunscreen and bug spray

Keep the food simple

Picnics and barbecues for adults are often more elaborate than those for children. Think about food that’s both easy to eat and easy to transport. Some examples for picnics include: Grapes, carrot sticks, simple sandwiches, crackers, and pasta salad. For barbecues, hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and fruit salad are classics that children also enjoy.

Pick the ideal location

A good picnic or barbecue location has plenty of space for children and adults alike to stretch their legs, and to enjoy outdoor games such as tag, Frisbee, or even hide and seek. Of course, your own backyard can also be an ideal spot for your family to enjoy a barbecue or picnic. No matter the location, spending time in nature can turn your family outing into a fun and educational experience.

Keep safety in mind

Eating outdoors in the summer is always enjoyable, but it can also pose a number of safety risks. If your family is barbecuing, keeping your child away from the barbecue itself is key. Explain to your child the dangers of getting too close to it, and let them know how far away they should be. No matter where you are, your child will likely be excited and eager to run around and explore, so help them to understand basic safety rules for being outdoors.

Get your child involved

Asking for your child to help you get ready for your picnic or barbecue is not only a good way to help them feel useful, but it’s also an ideal time for them to learn. For example, your child can learn math concepts by helping you count grapes, or by helping you pack food into containers.

Enjoying summer weather by eating outdoors is an ideal way for families to spend quality time together. With these tips for eating outdoors with your child, you can focus on creating fond summer memories for the whole family.

How to Choose the Best Summer Camp

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How to Choose the Best Summer Camp

Summer camp is an exciting opportunity for a child to learn more about their world, and to experience new things. However, not all summer camps are created equal. Here are some things to look for when choosing the best summer camp.

Will the camp fit with your family’s schedule?

Many camps offer overnight programs for older children, but even with a day camp, your family’s schedule must be taken into account. Is there a family vacation that could interfere with your prospective camp’s programming? Do the day camp’s drop-off and pick-up times fit with your daily schedule? A camp’s scheduling flexibility may make all the difference to your family.

What programs are offered?

Do you want your child’s summer camp experience to focus on purely outdoor pursuits, or are you looking for a program with indoor activities such as music or dance? Perhaps you would like to find a summer camp with a mix of both outdoor and indoor programs. Some summer camps are focused on activities like sports or arts. The ideal mix of programs depends on what your child is interested in, and what they would like to try.

What are the camp’s values?

A good summer camp should align with your family’s existing educational values and philosophy. For example, if your child is used to a range of different collaborative experiences at daycare and at home, a summer camp with a rigid focus on a singular task may not be a good fit. When discussing the camp’s values and philosophy with its directors, you may want to ask some of the same questions you asked when choosing your child’s daycare to ensure these experiences align as much as possible.

Does the camp meet safety and educational standards?

At the bare minimum, a good summer camp will be a clean and safe environment for your child, with well-trained staff members. When researching prospective summer camps, some things you may want to know are: how staff are screened and educated, if staff are trained in first aid, how children are kept safe both at camp and on field trips, and what the camp’s emergency procedures are.

It is also a good idea to tour your prospective camps to ensure that all structures and toys are clean, safe, and in good repair. Accreditation is not necessary for a summer camp to operate, but you should ensure that your prospective summer camp follows all necessary state regulations.

How does the camp accommodate children with special needs or considerations?

The best summer camp offers enjoyment for every child in its program, regardless of physical, mental, or medical considerations. If your child has a physical challenge, a medical condition, sensory issues, or a behavioral disability, look for a camp that can accommodate them, and delivers a meaningful and fun experience at the same time. A good summer camp promotes respect for all children, with guidance from caring and compassionate staff members.

What are the camp’s policies?

Whether your child will be attending a day camp twice a week, or spending an entire month away from home, you want to be sure that you understand exactly how the camp will handle certain situations. Here again you may want to ask the summer camp directors the same questions you asked of your child’s daycare, regarding topics such as discipline, meals, medical supervision, how they handle conflict, and extra fees or costs.

Once you have decided on the best summer camp for your child, read our tips on how to get your child ready to have the best experience at camp.