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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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4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger

May 24, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger | Teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

Dealing with an angry child is one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of parenting, but you can teach your child to manage his or her anger and channel it toward a productive outlet.

After all, anger turns into aggression, which can lead to harmful behavior such as hurting someone or destroying property. According to one study, one in seven kids who show signs of aggression early in life have a higher risk of school failure, adult unemployment, physical violence, and mental illness.

Help your child manage his or her anger by communicating that anger is a normal emotion. Accept your child’s anger—do not deny or repress his or her emotions. Then, try a combination of these four suggestions.

  1. Let it out
    Communication is one of the best ways to understand what is really going on. Let your child vent and vocalize his or her anger or frustration. Listen to your child for a few minutes before responding, as it will help you understand the problem and decide what to do next.
  2. Bring in reinforcements
    Ask a close friend or family member to come over or speak with your child by phone. Ask someone your child trusts, like a godparent, aunt, uncle, close family friend, or even a favorite babysitter. If your child won’t talk to you about the problem, he or she might talk to another trusted adult.
  3. Provide physical outlets at home and at school
    Encourage your child to journal, exercise, meditate, talk to someone, listen to music, or take a walk. Depending on the situation, your child might need 10 minutes alone to collect his or her thoughts and calm down. Teaching these coping mechanisms now will help your child manage his or her anger later in life, too.
  4. Always model positive behavior
    Children observe how their parents react to situations. Parents must be aware of the powerful influence their actions have on a child’s behavior. If you curse or even punch a wall when you’re angry, don’t be surprised when your child does it. Children mirror our behavior, so always set a good example and deal with your anger the way you want your child to.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help your child grow and respect him or herself. This vital process takes years of patience but pays off in the long run, as it helps your child become a happy adult. The earlier in life you teach your child how to manage anger and share his or her feelings, the more outbursts you can help prevent.

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3 Easy Exercises for Kids

January 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

3 Easy Exercises for Kids | Did you know that kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity]? While they might get some of that at recess, try these three exercises with your kids at home to help strengthen their muscles. | A group of kids stretch on colorful mats.

While many New Year’s resolutions focus on adults losing weight, a health focus is just as important for kids. Did you know that kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity? While they might get some of that at recess, try these three exercises with your kids at home to help strengthen their muscles.

1. Plank for core strength
If you’ve ever taken a yoga or core strength class, you probably know how to do a plank. Have your child lie on his or her stomach and then push up with the forearms and toes on the floor. Keep the body straight, sucking in the belly and tightening the glutes (butt muscles). Start by holding the pose for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds, and then holding again. Try it three times.

After practicing for a few weeks, work up to holding the plank for 45 seconds and eventually a minute. Make it a competition for more fun—who can hold it the longest while still keeping their body straight?

2. Push-ups for arm and core strength
If your child is younger or overweight, start these push-ups with knees on the floor. Keep the arms just wider than shoulder-width apart, and keep the knees in line with the hips. Suck in the belly and push up and down, bending the elbows. See if your child can do 12-15 push-ups in a row. Try three sets of these 12-15 reps during each session.

When 15 reps become too easy, have your child do push-ups with toes on the floor (no knees), and eventually increase the number of push-ups he or she does each time.

3. Walking lunges for leg strength 
First, start with a regular lunge. Stand straight with feet together and step forward with your right foot, bending both knees to about 90-degree angles. Your back knee will be closest to the ground but won’t touch, and the front knee should be lined up with your ankle.

To move into the walking lunge, step forward with your left foot, moving into a lunge with the left leg (same as the instructions for the right leg lunge above). Keep moving down the hall for 20 total steps (10 with each leg). Do this exercise of 20 steps three times.

Once this exercise becomes easier for you and your child, add small hand weights of one to three pounds for an additional challenge.

Regular exercise helps your child regulate stress, feel happier, and be healthier. Take the challenge and do these three easy exercises with your child every day for a month and see how much better both of you feel.

Do you have a favorite exercise to do with your child? Tell us in the comments below.

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4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family

January 21, 2016

By Ana Vela

4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family | A girl writes a letter to her family in another state.

Being very close with my family, I never imagined raising a child without them nearby. And yet, that’s where life has taken me—1,200 miles away. Seeing how close my parents are to my brother’s children (who live near them), I was nervous at the thought of my daughter missing out on that bond by living so far away.

Because of that, I made a point to make sure family continued to be central in our home. Here are some methods I developed for our daughter Mariana to maintain a close relationship with my family, regardless of the distance.

Schedule phone and video calls.
I schedule calls and FaceTime with my family every other week. Mariana loves to “talk” on the phone and loves seeing her cousins on video. To help my family feel like they are not missing out on Mariana growing up, I make a list of any new things Mariana is doing to share with them during that call. And my nieces share their schoolwork and drawings with us.

If you don’t have FaceTime, you can use Skype or Google Hangouts to have a video call with your family.

Send mail.
My 18-month-old can’t write yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t send mail. Together we send cards, drawings, stickers, and photos to her cousins just so they know she’s thinking of them. What kid doesn’t like to get mail? And it gives us something to talk about on a follow-up call.

Plan for visits.
With our family budget, both sides plan to travel and visit the other one time a year, usually around birthdays or holidays. Making these plans give us all something to look forward to and talk about, and my nieces love counting down the days until they see their little cousin.

Capture and talk about memories.
We love taking photos when we’re with each other! Weeks and even months after our visit, we’ll take time to look at the photos again. My husband and I use the photos to tell our daughter stories, while pointing to and naming each family member. That way she continues to recognize them and stay connected.

I’m happy to see that Mariana enjoys being with my family and that she recognizes them when we connect through these other methods. So far it doesn’t feel like the distance has lessened the bond.

What methods do your family use to stay connected? Share in the comments below.

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Teach Your Child Conflict Resolution to Create Positive Change

January 14, 2016

By Amelia Orozco

Teach Your Child Conflict Resolution to Create Positive Change | "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically...intelligence and character—that is the goal of true education." | Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with that quote.

Celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great way to create change for good in our homes and communities. His insistence on nonviolence in the face of hatred and racial discrimination shows us that even the toughest fights can be fought without one flying fist.

“I have decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems...hate is too great a burden to bear,” Dr. King said at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967.

Even today, both in the mundane and in the monumental, we must make the conscious choice to decide to follow the path of love and peace.

As parents, our actions dictate the manner in which our children interact with others. In a world saturated with news of riots in the streets stemming from racial discrimination, our demeanor matters more than ever. After all, your home is your child’s first school and you are his or her first teacher.

In high school, where adolescents experience both physical and emotional maturity, it is just as important to address these issues. This is the day and age when the skewed images of perfection are dictated by social media. Bullying abounds behind the mask of a phone or computer as people lash out and insult each other with abandon, never fearing the consequences. At this formative stage, a young person can still be swayed to one side or the other. Will your children be the peacemakers or the fighters?

To be peacemakers, it starts with a plan to agree to resolve conflict intelligently. Conflict resolution is taught in many schools and organizations around the country, but you can also practice at home with your teenager.

Unpack ideas such as:

  • How to de-escalate an argument
  • Dealing with anger
  • What our body language communicates to others
  • Training our tempers
  • Acknowledging our feelings and others’

We are all entitled to be angry, but what we do with that anger can have significant consequences in our lives, whether they are good or bad.

Ask your teen’s school if they currently offer a conflict resolution program for students. If they do not, ask if they can offer one in the near future. Your opinion is very important in your child’s education and most schools are open to new ideas that affect positive change.

At home, encourage your child to stand up for him or herself and others to affect positive social change. It starts with your child’s world and can grow larger as his or her peers are affected. What change will your child make to honor Dr. King’s legacy?



Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.
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