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DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry

December 11, 2014

By Judy Razo

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | 4 shrinky dink ornaments, a snowman, a Christmas tree, a red and green wheel, and a heart with the words "Emma's 1st Christmas."

As the holidays approach, the concept of giving and receiving gifts piques your children’s interests. Creating gifts together is a great way to teach your children the concept of giving—they create something they’re proud of and then give it away for the sake of someone else’s joy. Try this easy DIY activity with your children to make heartfelt, homemade gifts.

Here’s what you need:

  • #6 clear plastics
  • Hole-puncher
  • Scissors (An adult should handle these. Practice scissor safety.)
  • Permanent markers
  • Yarn, string, or ribbon
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tongs

Here’s what you do:

Gather all of your materials. Many plastic to-go boxes, cups, and container lids are made of number 6 plastic. Ask your children to search for usable materials by locating the recycling arrows on a plastic item and checking for the number 6 inside those arrows.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | Plastic containers, cups, lids, and tongs, scissors, a hole-punch, markers, ribbon, and foil.

Place the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat your oven to 350°F. Take the foil paper and create a platter by bending the four sides up. Ask your children to help you. This is also an opportunity to ask them what shape the foil is, how many sides it has, and even measure it with a ruler. When you’re done making the platter, set it aside.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | A foil platter.

Depending on the age of your children, either cut the plastic into the shape they desire or let them cut it. To start off, keep your shapes basic, such as circles, squares, hearts, stars, ovals, and rectangles. Once you get the hang of it, you can get creative and cut the plastic into more non-traditional shapes. Remember that the shape is going to shrink to about one third of its size, so cut it oversized.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | Cut plastic in the shape of a heart.

Next, your children can decorate the plastic shapes with permanent markers. They can draw free-hand or trace their favorite designs or images. Placing a sheet of paper underneath the shape will help your children see their artwork better and will also help prevent that permanent marker from getting on your table.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The colored plastic shapes sit on the table.

Discuss with your children how to string the gift, be it a necklace, bracelet, or ornament. Then take the hole-puncher and punch a hole in the place where your children want the string or yarn to go. Do not add the string yet.

Let your children place the plastic shapes onto the foil platter.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The plastic shapes on the foil platter.

Then place the tray on the lowest rack in the oven. Turn the oven light on so your children can see the magic happening. It only takes about two to four minutes for the plastic shape to shrink and be ready, so keep an eye on it. Ask your children to track the time with you.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The foil platter, with the plastic shapes on it, is on the lowest rack in the oven.

Using the tongs, remove the foil platter from the oven. After allowing the Shrinky Dinks to cool, add the string, yarn, or ribbon to the hole you made earlier. Now it’s time to wrap the gift and give it to the recipient.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The snowman Shrinky dink.

In addition to spending time together and learning about giving, this is also an opportunity to ask questions that can support your children’s learning. They can measure, tell time, count, name shapes and colors, read instructions, and more. This activity shows your children that learning is not only useful but also fun.

Lastly, remember to let your inner child come out and play. Be as creative and silly as your heart desires. The holidays are a time for joy, and there is great joy in making fun and loving memories with your children.

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Why Parent Engagement Month Matters

November 24, 2014

By Sunny Chico

I heart my child. I am an #EngagedParent. November is Parent Engagement Month.

I love that the entire month of November is dedicated to parent engagement. It brings awareness to the critical role of parents in our homes. Every day should be Parent Engagement Day, because each day your child is learning and growing. Parents need to be present and aware of what’s happening and nurture positive development.

But what does this engagement look like? Many times we focus on what’s happening in the classroom and rely on the school to take care of the child’s needs. Parent Engagement Month helps remind us that it’s not just about academic needs.

A child’s development occurs in four core areas: social, emotional, physical, and academic. In order for the child to succeed in school—and in life—he or she needs to possess strong social and emotional well-being, have his or her physical needs met, and engage in learning for cognitive development and academic success.

A teacher in a classroom cannot nurture all of those areas in a child. If the parents are engaged and understand the development of a child and how to provide support, the child will be better prepared to learn. Then the teacher can do his or her best to help the child academically. Remember that while children change teachers every year, they do not change parents. Parents must be consistently nurturing those core needs in their child.

I often hear from parents that they want to be more involved in their child’s development, but are afraid that they are doing it wrong. They think the school can do a better job with their child. But the school can’t do everything. 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent outside the school, and much of that time is at home. Only eight percent is spent at school. Eight percent! It’s impossible for the school to do everything with only eight percent of a child’s time. But when parents are supportive of a child’s development, the teacher is most effective helping the child academically.

As parents and as a society, we depend a great deal on schools to help our children. We spend billions to educate children. If we truly want education to help our students compete in a global economy, we must rely on the parents. It’s the parents who encourage the child with homework and learning activities, guide the child to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, and nourish the child with healthy food and exercise, and yes, love.

So parents, I’m calling on you to think hard about your relationship with your child during Parent Engagement Month. Are you paying attention to your child’s social and emotional well-being? Are you making sure he or she is living a healthy life? Are you coordinating with your child’s teacher to foster academic success outside of the classroom? Are you modeling the behavior you want to see in your son or daughter outside the home?

This is what parent engagement looks like. If every parent is dedicated to becoming an engaged parent, our children will grow up and contribute to making this the world we want to see. Let’s all become engaged parents this month and every month hereafter.

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Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core

November 12, 2014

By Maureen Powers

Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core | An apple and pencil sit on the desk in front of a grading scale.

The school year started months ago. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, progress reports or quarterly report cards have been issued. While you likely want to review those reports to evaluate how your child is performing, there is a chance the grading system may have changed.

Some schools continue to use traditional letter grades A through F but many schools now use Standards-Based Report Cards. What are these standards? Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do at each age and grade level. Student progress is determined by measuring how close the student is to being “proficient” at the skill in the standard.

The acronym FAME can help parents remember progress toward the standard:

F= Falls Below the Standard

A= Approaches the Standard

M= Meets the Standard

E= Exceeds the Standard

In the Unites States today, 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards for children in elementary through high school. Understanding what your child is expected to know and be able to do is important and will help him or her be successful in school. You can find more information about your state’s requirements through the Core Standards website.

In addition to the elementary through high school students, all 50 states in the nation have now created early learning standards for three- and four-year-old children. Many states have even added educational guidelines for infants and toddlers. The American Psychological Association has created a State Resources for Early Learning Guidelines Toolkit where you can find links to the early learning standards in your state.

You might need to use your child’s teacher as a resource in deciphering a new report card. Ask if the report card measures what students are expected to know for that reporting period or by the end of the school year. If you don’t understand the new criteria, contact the teacher and ask him or her to walk you through the report and explain how your child is performing. This is a learning opportunity for parents, too.

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4 Steps to Support Learning at Home

November 5, 2014

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

4 Steps to Support Learning at Home | A mother helps her daughter with her homework.

Most parents today have limited free time, but still want to help their children succeed in school. National Parent Engagement Month is a great opportunity to evaluate how you support learning at home.

Whether we choose to or not, our children will learn from us. Basic learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years, children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language or two, they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood.

This is quite a curriculum. Fortunately, parents can seek help with teaching these skills to their children from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members, books, and educational videos.

Once the child enters school, parents’ roles in learning shift to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in understanding what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.

Support your child’s learning at home with these four steps:

Readiness
A healthy child is better prepared to perform well in school. Ensure good health by seeing that your child eats properly and sleeps enough, by making sure his or her backpack has the required books, pencils, and assignments due, etc.

Learning Environment
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying. See our article on creating an ideal DIY study room for kids for more ideas.

Homework
Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it for them. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives. Look for opportunities to praise your child for a job well done as well as for improvement on future assignments.

Communicate
Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Remember, teachers are your partners in helping your child succeed in school.

By practicing these simple parent engagement tips, you can help your child continue to learn and succeed once he or she has started a formal education.

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8 Ways to Address Struggles at School

October 28, 2014

By Maureen Powers

8 Ways to Address Struggles at School | A child cries at recess.

It is 5:30 PM and you are rushing to pick up your three-year-old. When you get to the classroom door, the teacher greets you and says, “He had another rough day today. He hit another child and left a mark.” You read the incident report and sign it. You begin to wonder if this is the right center for your child.

You sit across the breakfast table from your kindergartener and she whines for the fourth day in a row that she has a stomachache and doesn’t want to go to school. You suspect she isn’t really sick and have made her go to school all week but you are still concerned. What could be making her not want to go to school?

Do any of these concerns sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Children often tell us what they are experiencing through their behavior. In both of these situations, contact the classroom teacher in order to get a well-rounded picture of the situation. Then use these eight tips to address your child’s struggle and help him or her overcome it.

The first thing to remember is to stay calm and be objective. If you are angry or defensive, it will take longer for you to get answers. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts. Make sure you can discuss exactly what you are concerned about: “Matthew has been getting two or three incident reports per week,” or “Kaylee has been saying she does not want to come to school and is complaining of stomachaches.”

Approach the teacher at a good time. Teachers are busiest at pick-up and drop-off times. These are not the times for an extended conversation. Call and leave a message, or tell the teacher you would like a meeting and leave your phone number and e-mail as well as the best times to reach you.

Prepare your questions ahead of time. Be direct and specific. What happens before and after the hitting? Have there been any major changes in the classroom? Does your child ask for frequent passes to the bathroom or the nurse? Does your child often ask for help?

Work as a team. You both want what is best for your child.

Share your child’s likes and dislikes. You know your child best. You know what motivates your child, what he or she enjoys or detests. In-depth knowledge about your child may be the key to supporting him or her at school.

Be open to suggestions. Allow the teacher to share with you how your child is at school. Children can behave differently in different situations. Be open to new ways of looking at your child.

Ask for ways you can help your child at home. If you don’t understand a concept, ask the teacher to show you how the concept is taught at school. What words are used?

Make a plan. Be sure you leave the meeting with a clear idea of what each of you will be doing to support your child at school and at home.

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