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Backyard Summer Learning for Toddlers

June 21, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

Backyard Summer Learning for Toddlers | Learning opportunities exist right in your backyard! Try these fun activities with your toddler. | A young boy and his brother play with a water toy in the backyard, wearing matching plaid shirts.

I love summer. The season allows my son and I to have lots of adventures, creating bonding opportunities and memories for a lifetime. Although sometimes I get so wrapped up in planning these adventures that I forget he can get just as much out of playing in the backyard exploring as he could on a field trip with mommy and daddy.

Outside time is golden time for discovery, development, and growth. Children can learn on so many levels: basic, fundamental, and even about the universe. And they’re more likely to remember what they learned because it was a memorable and personal experience.

Take advantage of the summer for learning with your toddler by trying these backyard lessons.

Ice Block
Freeze a few toys in a block of ice overnight. On a warm, sunny day, bring the block of ice onto the porch or sidewalk and lay kid-friendly tools next to it.

Explain to your toddler that that the toys are frozen in ice and he or she needs to break the ice to get the toys out. Your toddler will see how frozen water melts, and you can answer any basic questions he or she has about liquids and solids (and even gases if you talk about evaporation).

Gardening
My son loves to garden so I picked up gardening tools at the dollar store. He was so excited to pull weeds, dig holes, and plant seeds.

Gardening is a great opportunity to teach your child how trees and food grow from seeds. Now that my son has played in the garden, he has an appreciation for plants and their importance for our survival in the world.

Bugs
There are a lot of neat bugs that come out during the summer, like worms, ladybugs, and fireflies. Why are these bugs so important and why do they only come out in summer?

The next time you see a worm, teach your child the importance of a worm’s role in increasing the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. When you see a caterpillar crawl by or a butterfly land on a flower, teach your child about the insect’s lifespan and how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

Space
For children, there is something magical and special about the night sky. The next time your child is up late enough, explain what the moon and the stars are. If you’re lucky you will see a shooting star!

Parents and relatives play a crucial part in advancing a child's learning, health, and well-being, so prioritize and have fun with these backyard lessons!

What are some activities you do with your child in the summertime?

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5 Unique Father’s Day Gifts

June 14, 2016

By Jessica Vician

5 Unique Father’s Day Gifts | This Father’s Day let your kids get Dad a unique gift or take a family outing that speaks to how special he is. | A father hugs his daughter.

Forget the ties, money clips, and grilling tools. Father’s Day is about more than cliché gifts for Dad. It’s about saying ‘thank you’ for all that he does for you and the kids, and about creating an experience he’ll remember for years. This Father’s Day let your kids get Dad a unique gift or take a family outing that speaks to how special he is.

For the Bearded Papa
If Dad has or wants to grow a beard or mustache, elevate his look with a beard or mustache wax. It gives the facial hair more control and can soften the beard for better face-to-face cuddles with your child (and you!).

For the Hands-on Dad
DIY isn’t just for moms and kids. When Dad starts dreaming of carpentry and making his own chair or side table, encourage him to do it right with a woodworking class. If he already has basic skills, he can take a specialty class, like wood carving.

Bonus points for classes that are kid-friendly, so both Dad and his daughter and/or son can watch and help with the little things. If your child is a teenager, sign both of them up for a class so they can learn to build together.

For the Rockin’ Daddio
Help him learn a new instrument or a new musical style with a music class. Local colleges and music schools offer classes for children and parents, as well as solo classes just for adults.

Register the novice for introduction to guitar or the advanced guitarist for a Beach Boys ensemble and he’ll keep the tunes rocking at home. And if guitar isn’t his thing, schools may offer classes in piano, harmonica, drumming, songwriting, and more.

For the Social Pops
If Pops is a social guy who likes having his friends and family hang out together, organize a mocktail party with your kids and invite family friends.

The kids can make the invitations and help you choose a menu with alcohol-free Bloody Marys, piña coladas, punches, and fizzes. Let them pick out napkins, plates, plastic glasses, and swizzle sticks from the party store. Serve cheese and crackers and a few easy-to-make appetizers, turn on Dad’s favorite tunes, and celebrate!

For the Sports Dad
For a Father’s Day the sports lover will never forget, take the family to the Father’s Day baseball game in your nearest city. Many ballparks have Father’s Day games with special giveaways for kids. Get a picture near home plate and savor the memories for years to come.

Do you have a unique idea for Father’s Day? Share it with us in the comments below.

Tags :  fatherhoodactivities
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6 Summer Activity Ideas for Every Age

June 7, 2016

By Jessica Vician

6 Summer Activity Ideas for Every Age | Once your child finishes school for the summer, it’s time for less traditional and more fun learning. Keep your child’s mind stimulated throughout the summer to prevent them from losing the knowledge they gained over the past year with these activities.

Once your child finishes school for the summer, it’s time for less traditional and more fun learning. Keep your child’s mind stimulated throughout the summer to prevent them from losing the knowledge they gained over the past year.

To avoid the summer slide, ask your child’s teacher for a list of learning outcomes they accomplished this year and think of ways to incorporate that knowledge into your activities throughout the summer.

Your kids can also try these activities for additional stimulation this summer.

For toddlers

  1. 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!

  2. Develop their fine motor skills.
    Fine motor skills involve the movement of muscles in smaller actions. According to Baby Center, “it's equally important that kids work on their fine motor skills—small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements—because they support a host of other vital physical and mental skills.”

    To help your young toddler develop these skills, prompt your child to stack toy blocks, sing songs with hand movements like “Wheels on the Bus,” and go to the playground and let them figure out the play equipment.

    For more activities that will develop your child’s fine motor skills, read this article.

For elementary students

  1. Join a summer reading program.
    Your local library likely has a summer reading program for your child’s age group. Encourage him or her to be social and read by enrolling in a free or low-cost program.

    You can also create an independent summer reading program. Challenge your child to read two books a month (at his or her reading level) and offer a reward, like a family dinner at your child’s favorite restaurant. Remember Book-It? It still exists and you can set up an at-home version.

  2. Create a DIY summer. 
    Teach your child how to make common things like lip balm, lotion, exfoliating scrubs, and even household cleaners. The American Girl YouTube channel has great video tutorials and Pinterest has an endless supply of ideas and directions.

    Your child will learn math skills, like how to measure and a practical application of fractions, as well as learn what goes into these products.

    Supervise your child and use natural ingredients instead of potentially dangerous chemicals, as there may be an unexpected reaction combining different liquids and solids.

For teens and tweens

  1. Learn an instrument.
    Enroll your child in a music class this summer. Learning to play and read music can teach your child valuable emotional and academic skills by engaging both the right and left sides of the brain. It also helps him or her learn to focus, improves critical thinking skills, and nurtures your child’s emotional maturity, according to VH1 Save the Music.

    If your child already plays an instrument, register him or her for a class in a different musical style. For example, if he or she knows how to play guitar, enroll in a blues or jazz guitar class, or a class modeled after your child’s favorite artist. If your city or town doesn’t offer those types of classes, find YouTube videos that focus on learning new songs.

  2. Learn to code.
    Your child should learn to code for many reasons. For one, there are so many jobs out there that require a minimal knowledge of HTML and CSS. And like learning a foreign language, it increases brain mass.

    Let your teen learn and invest in his or her future this summer with these free online resources that teach coding.

Do your kids have favorite summer activities that keep them learning in a fun way? Share them in the comments below!

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