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7 Indoor Activities for Kids

January 29, 2015

By Jessica Vician

7 Indoor Activities for Kids | Three kids work on a puzzle together.

In most states throughout the country, winter means chilly temperatures and few opportunities for kids to get all of their energy out since they’re stuck inside. Here are seven indoor activities that should challenge your children’s bodies, minds, and imaginations, which will hopefully wipe them out in time for bedtime.

  1. Build an indoor maze or fort.
    Use pillows, blankets, cardboard boxes, sticks or rulers—anything goes when building a maze or a fort. This activity will challenge your child’s imagination and should provide hours of fun, from building it to playing in it. If your child is younger, supervise and help him or her for safety reasons, but most elementary school kids will want to do this activity independently.
  2. Play hot lava.
    This was one of my favorite games when I was young. Place pillows on the floor and try to get from one couch to the next by only hopping from pillow to pillow. If you slip off, you’re in the hot lava! This game gets kids riled up and expends a lot of energy, and the stories they might imagine while pretending the floor is made up of hot lava will amaze you.
  3. Play crab soccer.
    While sitting on the floor, put your hands behind your back and use your arms and legs to lift your bottom up. Then crawl around like a crab. Up the exercise by introducing a ball safe for indoor play. Kick it around and play soccer while crawling like a crab. You’ll use muscles you didn’t know you had and everyone will be laughing at how silly you all look.
  4. Organize a scavenger hunt.
    Start with one clue that leads to another, and scatter those clues throughout the house for a fun scavenger hunt. Once you’ve shown your kids how it’s done, let them organize one for you. Send their brains into overdrive and challenge their minds.
  5. Put on a play.
    Encourage your kids to put on a play with friends. Depending on their imaginations, they might write the script themselves or you can print short scripts here. There are many roles to fill, including director, actor/actress, ushers, and more, so even the shy ones can participate.
  6. Construct a puzzle.
    I would recommend trying a puzzle that is just above the age-level of your children. That will ensure it’s challenging enough to keep them interested for a while. Talk to them about how to strategically start the puzzle. Does it help to put all the edges in one pile? Does it help to build the frame first? Why or why not?
  7. Indoor hopscotch.
    In a hallway or other open space, write the numbers on construction paper and tape the papers to the floor. Start hopping away!

What are your kids’ favorite indoor activities to get through the winter? Tell me in the comments below and share a photo with us on Facebook or Twitter with #YOUParent.

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Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style

January 28, 2015

By Ana Vela

Accepting Your Teen's Personal Style | A teen poses for a photo with her skateboard in a leather jacket, big round sunglasses, flannel and printed shirt.

During the teen years, your child will begin defining his or her identity. According to PBS's This Emotional Life, "the main goal of identity formation in adolescence is to develop a clear sense of self." There are many ways teens will explore their identities—one of those being personal style.

Fashion becomes a very important form of expression to a teen. As a parent, you have a critical role in helping your child shape the image he or she projects to the world. It's possible your teen will decide to make personal style choices that do not align to what's considered normal in society. Or your teen may make choices that you do not agree with. Regardless, be supportive through these phases to help your teen's self esteem.  

As someone who dressed "weird" as a teenager, being bullied and teased in school didn't nearly hurt me as much as having my own mother disapprove and be embarrassed of my appearance. 

According to Dr. Alexandra Dells-Abrams, a transpersonal psychologist, low self-esteem has been linked to violent behavior, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement. If your teen feels that you do not like his or her identity, it may lead to further feelings of isolation and a household of constant arguing.

This happened with my family while I was a teenager. If my mother had attempted to understand me and be more supportive, the tension in our household would not have existed. Should this situation arise with my daughter, I plan to handle it differently to help build my daughter’s self-esteem. 

Here are various ways you can help as your teen explores his or her personal style:

Encourage Your Teen's Style

  • Find something to compliment him or her on. You may not like all the choices your teen made, but maybe there's one thing you can compliment.
  • Try to purchase gifts that align with his or her style as a way to show support. Buying gifts that do not align may be viewed as a sign of disapproval.
  • Talk to your child about the fashion choices you made as a teen. Show him or her photos if you have any. Have a good laugh about it, as it will help your teen see that everyone goes through an awkward phase.

Define Fashion Boundaries 

  • Outline what fashion choices are appropriate and inappropriate. Make sure your child understands what personal style options break the school's dress code and are not permitted.
  • Guide fashion choices based on the occasion. Help your child express him or herself even in situations such as a job interview, formal event like a wedding or funeral, or eating at a nice restaurant.

Teach Responsibility

  • Consider giving your teen a fashion budget. This will empower your child to make purchases within his or her budget, and will teach responsibility.
  • Discuss career options with your teen and what the dress code may be in a professional setting. Point out how social media images can be viewed by potential employers. Help your child understand how permanent personal style choices (such as a tattoo) may impact his or her future. Once your teen has that understanding, he or she can make a more informed choice.

Monitor Your Teen’s Behavior

  • Keep track of your teen’s school grades and performance to make sure his or her identity exploration is not negatively impacting his or her academics.
  • Meet your teen's friends. Are they making the same fashion choices? How do they behave when they are together?

Having good communication with your child will be critical. Find out why he or she is making the choices before you negatively judge your teen. Adolescence can be an awkward phase, and it will be so important that your teen knows you are there to support him or her through it.

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Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success

January 27, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

Throughout January, YOU Parent has featured a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. This piece on academic development concludes the series, but look back through the January articles for those addressing the three other needs.

Many strong families place value on learning and education. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is an active mind. Modeling a lifetime approach to learning is one of the best things you can do for your children. Start the New Year off fresh by making a commitment to focus on learning and academics for the whole family. Try any of these 11 tips and see the difference it makes with your child by next year.

  1. Learn a new skill, take music lessons, or enroll in a dance class at the local community center. 
  2. Sign up for college classes and work toward that degree that you have always wanted.
  3. Make a small library appropriate for the whole family by placing a basket of books from the public library next to the couch.
  4. Make a point to read in front of your children and let them know how excited you are about the news article or story.  
  5. Read whatever your teenagers are reading and carve out time to talk about it.
  6. Short on time but have a long commute? Use the time to ask about school. Get over-the-seat baskets for the car and fill them with brainteasers and books.
  7. Download a new trivia application and play it with your children. Check out this site for free games.
  8. Read a book to your child that is also a movie. When you are finished reading the book, rent the movie and watch it together. Talk about the differences between the stories, and the role of an author and a screenwriter.
  9. Choose one school event to attend each quarter that is not a parent-teacher conference.
  10. Find out about your child’s life at school. Open his or her backpack every day and talk about the fliers, completed work, and homework in the pack.
  11. Allow your child to do homework with friends at your house. Older children will enjoy having study parties before a big exam. 
Do you have tips to help your child succeed in school? Share your resolutions for modeling positive academic behavior in the comments below.
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3 Easy Early Childhood Learning Activities

January 22, 2015

By Jessica Vician

3 Easy Early Childhood Learning Activities | A young girl holds a budding plant in her hands.

As you know, you are your child’s first teacher, which means that learning doesn’t start in the preschool or kindergarten classroom. It starts from the moment your baby is born and continues for the rest of your lives. As your child grows from an infant into a toddler, and perhaps before he or she is ready for preschool or Early Head Start, there are easy activities that you can do to jumpstart his or her early childhood education at home.

Plant seeds and watch them grow. Teach your child how plant life begins.

Buy a packet of seeds—try an herb that you cook with frequently (basil, mint, and cilantro grow quickly with minimal human effort)—and some soil. Follow the directions on the seed packet and they’ll be growing in no time.

This activity teaches your child that plants need food to grow just like kids do. The seeds need soil and water to nourish them, like kids need water and healthy foods to nourish them.

Get excited with your child when the first sprouts break through the soil—it’s a big accomplishment for both the plant and your child!

Spend a week talking about the weather.

The weather affects much more than we actively think about. It affects how we dress, how our bodies behave, how we get our physical activity, and how we live. From frizzy hair in humidity to arthritis in rainy weather, open windows to high heating bills, adults know the effects weather has on our lives.

Over a week, talk to your child about the weather and what it means. Here are some sample questions and answers.

  • What happens when it’s sunny outside? We feel warmer. It’s not cloudy or raining or snowing. Plants grow better when there’s sun.
  • What happens when it’s cloudy outside? Sometimes it’s colder and we have to wear jackets. Sometimes the clouds bring rain or snow. The clouds block the sun from shining on us. The sun is still out there—we just can’t see it because the clouds are hiding it.
  • What happens when it rains or snows? The clouds hold water and when they hold too much water, it rains. When it’s cold outside and the clouds have too much water, it snows.

Teach your child about his or her senses.

When a child understands what his or her senses do, he or she can express feelings and needs better. Ask questions during regular activities that engage those senses to help your child learn each sense, and teach which body part he or she uses for each sense. Here are some examples of how to talk about senses with your child.

  • Taste
    What are you eating? What sense are you using? Taste. What body part do you use to taste? My tongue.
  • Sight
    What do you see over there? What sense are you using? Sight. What body part do you use to see it? My eyes.
  • Sound
    Do you like this music? What sense are you using? Sound. What body part helps you hear? My ears.
  • Smell
    Do you like how these flowers smell? What sense do you use when you smell something? Smell. What body part helps you smell? My nose.
  • Touch
    What does that blanket feel like? What sense do you use to feel this blanket? Touch. What body part helps you feel touch? My hands and my skin.

These are just three easy activities that you can do with your child to support his or her math, science, and thinking skills before starting preschool or Early Head Start. After you try these, think of other ways you can teach your child about the world around us—it will surprise you how much and how quickly toddlers can learn!

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4 Last Steps for College Admission

January 21, 2015

By Kevin Rutter

4 Last Steps for College Admission | A student fills in a multiple-choice test with a pencil.

This time of year, I start receiving daily requests from my senior students for assistance in completing the final stages of the college application process. Keep your senior on track by making sure he or she has completed these four final steps. 

  1. Letters of reference
    Don't leave this step for the last minute. Teachers and counselors have a full plate and it's difficult to fulfill last minute requests to write a great letter of recommendation. Sit down with your child and write a general letter of reference that highlights positive characteristics, academic achievements, and extra-curricular activities. Give this sample letter to recommenders to help guide them so they can complete it faster.
  2. FAFSA Documents
    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid requires W-2 forms and your tax information. This application will determine how much state and federal aid will be available to defer tuition costs. Remember that it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the money runs out, it is imperative that your child submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. Most high schools offer parent counseling sessions this time of year to answer questions and help navigate your tax situation.
  3. Interviews
    Several students of mine are currently having interviews to make the final determination on a scholarship opportunity or admission to an institution. Interviews can be tough, but there are some simple strategies that can help your child feel more confident about them.
    • Practice, practice, practice. Generally, interviews involve the same kind of questions: Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to go to school here? Tell me about a time when you were a leader. Where do you see yourself in five years? Review these questions with your child and offer suggestions to refine his or her answers.
    • Make a good first impression. First impressions also play big role in determining the outcome of an interview. Practice shaking hands with a firm grip and eye contact, have your student arrive at least 15 minutes early, and make sure he or she is dressed for success.
    • Send a thank you note. Sent after the interview, a hand-written thank you note is a nice touch that can separate your child from the competition.
  4. College Admission Test Prep
    These tests can produce a lot of anxiety. The best way to have your student feel better about them is to do some research about what specifically will be on the exam. Once that is determined, the student can put in some practice time. This is especially important for admission tests that involve timed essays. Getting the timing right takes rehearsal. Check with the school counseling office to see if there are any practice tests available so that your student can review the format and question types.
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