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Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages

November 24, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages | How can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages. | A family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Sitting down to the table on Thanksgiving is a great feeling. The cooking is done, the food smells delicious, and everyone is eagerly awaiting that first bite.

So how can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages.

Kids 3-10

  • Get crafty. Prepare Thanksgiving-themed art projects for your kids to do with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Use our Pinterest board to find cute project inspiration.
  • Sing a song. Rent a karaoke machine for the kids to sing their favorite songs after dinner. The adults can sit back and digest while the kids put on the show.
  • Perform a play. Speaking of shows, if you have a group of future Tony Award winners in the house, ask them to put on a play at the end of the day. They’ll spend the afternoon working on the script and rehearsing, and they’ll be so excited to share their talent with the family after dinner.

Ages 11-13
Middle school kids are sometimes difficult to please. If yours like playing with younger kids, encourage them to help with the play or karaoke show. You can also try these conversation starters:

  • Make it a game. Before guests arrive, challenge your child to talk to each member of your extended family by the end of the day. Give them a few questions to ask everyone throughout the day and invite your child to talk about their common threads at dinner.
  • Cook together. Task your tween with a recipe and encourage them to ask an aunt, uncle, or grandparent for help. It will give them a project to work on together and spark more conversation.
  • Have a deck of cards handy. Playing cards can bring the family together, as games encourage us to be competitive and rely on each other to teach and learn the rules.

Ages 14-18
Just like kids in middle school, teenagers might need a little prodding to make the most of the holiday with family. In addition to cooking together and playing cards, try these activities with your teen:

  • Give them talking points. Encourage your child to ask aunts, uncles, and grandparents about their first concert, the first album they bought, or other things that interest your child. While the answers may highlight the age difference, they can also spark conversations about what it was like to live through certain decades that your teen missed out on.
  • Start a new tradition. Ask your teen what kind of holiday tradition they would like to see every year. Assuming it’s doable, have your teen explain their idea to the family at dinner and start right away.
  • Give your teen something to look forward to. If your teen is more focused on seeing friends, host a dessert party after dinner. Your teen can invite their friends over and the family members who are still there can meet the friends and share in that experience.

College students
Your student coming home from college for the holiday will probably be grateful for a home cooked meal and a comfortable bed, so take advantage of that gratitude and encourage them to learn more about their other family members.

Once a person starts college, they start to see the world a little differently. Their studies are more focused on what they want to learn, not what they’re required to learn.

Embrace that shift by encouraging your student to talk to their grandparents. They have lived through a different time than your child and might shed some light on topics your child might be more interested in now.

For instance, did a grandparent serve in Vietnam? What were politics like when the grandparents were growing up? What types of shows were on television?

Not only will the grandparents want to share about their past, but your child will gain great perspective and learn something about their family that they might not have known before.

Do you have tried-and-true activities that foster family bonding over the holidays? Share your secrets below so we can try them this week!

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12 Winter Exercises to Keep Your Kids Fit

November 19, 2015

By Jessica Vician

12 Winter Exercises to Keep Your Kids Fit | These are 12 easy and fun ways to keep the kids fit through the winter. Don’t let the weather stop your family from getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. | A young child and mother have a playful pillow fight with the father on the bed.

As the weather cools, it can be difficult to keep your child physically active indoors. While summers are full of playing outside, riding bicycles, rollerblading, and even hoverboarding, the cooler temperatures and wet weather puts an end to the outdoor fun.

But just because the kids are inside doesn’t mean the exercise and fun should stop. Exercise is critical to your child’s physical development and must continue in every season to help your child:

  • Strengthen his or her bones and muscles
  • Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower his or her blood pressure and blood cholesterol (yes, it’s important for kids, too!)
  • Reduce and cope with stress

Kids ages 5-12 should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

While your school-aged child should get some of that 60 minutes during recess, fill in the extra time (and get the full 60+ minutes on the weekends) with these fun activities both in and out of the home.

In Your Home

1. Crank up the tunes and throw a dance party. Practice routines from YouTube videos.

2. Hop on the bed and have gentle pillow fights.

3. Host hallway races, encouraging the kids to beat their best times.

4. Have a big basement? Play crab soccer.

5. Run to find the best hiding spot during a physical game of hide and seek. 

Outside the Home

6. Visit a trampoline park for bouncing basketball, dodgeball, or just jumping.

7. Find an indoor laser tag center for running, hiding, and fun in the dark.

8. Roll your little ballers into a family bowling night.

9. Kids can practice their swings at an indoor golf center in the off-season.

10. Swim their energy away at an indoor pool.

11. Practice a single lutz or play hockey at an indoor or outdoor ice skating rink.

12. Have a snowball fight after each big snow.

These are 12 easy and fun ways to keep the kids fit through the winter. Don’t let the weather stop your family from getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Join in on the fun for your health and fun family memories.

What activities do you do with your family in winter? Tell us in the comments below.

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The Simple Way to Be a Better Parent

November 12, 2015

By Jessica Vician

The Simple Way to Be a Better Parent | Our YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books simplify parenting with easy-to-understand tasks for each stage of your child’s life. Reading these books helps you keep track of necessary milestones and focus on balanced parenting.

Parenting is overwhelming. Rewarding, but overwhelming.

From remembering the routine but critical things—like feeding your child—to planning a larger focus—like whether to raise your child within a faith—often it’s difficult to keep track of everything you need to do.

Our YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books simplify parenting with easy-to-understand tasks for each stage of your child’s life. Reading these books helps you keep track of necessary milestones and focus on balanced parenting.

Through the Early Years
For example, you know how important routines are for your baby (and for you). In the Through The Early Years book, one of the first activities shows you how to establish a routine for your infant:

  • Choose a time to start the bedtime process every night
  • Soothe your baby with a warm bath
  • Provide the last feeding and changing of the day
  • Snuggle up with a book
  • Put your baby to sleep

Knowing what your baby’s night looks like will help you feel less overwhelmed during the day.

Through Elementary and Middle School
The books also share when you should be focusing on building skills to prepare your child for various milestones at school. In the Through Elementary and Middle School book, there is a section devoted to the importance of reading with your child that explains how to teach reading basics so that he or she is prepared to learn how to read independently at school.

Through High School and Beyond
Parents of teenagers know that parenting isn’t hands-off when the kids enter high school. The third book, Through High School and Beyond, offers checklists like how to:

  • Transition your child to high school
  • Help your teen prepare for college or the workforce
  • Keep your teenager healthy
  • Support homework and study skills
  • Establish technology rules

No matter what stage you’re at in your parenting journey, it’s helpful to have one tool that keeps track of everything you need to do for a happy, healthy, well-balanced child. Grab a set of our YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books to keep nearby. They’re a quick read that make sure you’re checking off each of the seemingly never-ending boxes.

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Take the Parent Engagement Pledge This Month

November 3, 2015

Celebrate Parent Engagement Month! | We heart parents. Show us your pride as an #EngagedParent

It's our favorite month of the year: Parent Engagement Month!

Throughout the month, YOU Parent will be your one-stop website for all things parent engagement, from the parent pledge to photos for Facebook and Twitter to breaking down what exactly makes an engaged parent. Help spread the word on how parent engagement can help children succeed! 

Take the Parent Pledge
Promise to be an engaged parent this year and take the parent pledge. Click the image below and print the PDF. Snap a photo of your signed pledge and share it with us on Facebook and Twitter using the #EngagedParent hashtag. 

parent pledge textparent pledge text

Share Your Pride on Social Media
Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by sharing your stories with the hashtag #EngagedParent. Show your pride by updating your profile and cover photos to the ones we've provided below. 

Downloading is easy. Just click on an image below and it will open in a new browser window. Then right-click on the image to save it to your computer. You can then upload it to Facebook or Twitter directly from your computer—we've already sized each image for you. 

Facebook

A heart-shaped apple logo.





I heart my child. I am an #EngagedParent. November is Parent Engagement Month. From YOU: Your Child's First Teacher.








Twitter

A heart-shaped apple logo





I heart my child. I am an #EngagedParent. November is Parent Engagement Month. From YOU: Your Child's First Teacher.







Click here for the Spanish versions. 

Check back with us throughout the month for more parent engagement fun and be sure to talk to us in the comments below and on social media.

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Activities for a Fun Family Fall

October 22, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

Activities for a Fun Family Fall | From pumpkin carving to hayrides, try these fun family activities while embracing the weather and colors of fall. | A little boy poses in front of a patch of pumpkins.

Ah, my favorite season: autumn. I don’t know about you, but here in the Midwest, fall could be a very short season for us. That is why as soon as the leaves start changing colors, I have most of my weekends booked for family fun. From Halloween baking to carving pumpkins to hayrides, I put together my favorite adventures so you can try them with your family.

Whip up some Halloween treats
Halloween treats are so fun to make… and to eat! Check out my article, 5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Foods, for Halloween-themed recipes to make with your family. Impress at a party with these Pinterest-worthy designs.

DIY fall décor
Instead of buying decorations for fall, spend a Friday night together making kid-friendly art. A Spectacled Owl has a great list of fall crafts you can make with the family.

Carve pumpkins
Carving pumpkins seems to have decreased in popularity, which is pretty sad because it’s awesome! Put down the technology and get your hands dirty with this fun adventure. The Pumpkin Lady offers how-to videos and hundreds of pumpkin-carving stencils to choose from.

Take a trip
Depending on where you live, a pumpkin patch or apple orchard could be anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours away from your house. Plan a day trip with the family—you wont regret it! Many have hayrides, petting zoos, pony rides, and more.

If you are tight on cash, visit for a sightseeing trip instead. The scenic views of the red and orange-hued trees are worth your while and even serve as an opportunity to teach your child why leaves change colors.

Create traditions
Whatever you choose to do for the season, make it a tradition with your family. What starts as a small event one year could be an everlasting memory for your child for years to come.

What are your favorite fall family activities? Tell me in the comments below!

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