Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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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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Plant a Tree for Earth Day 2016

April 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Plant a Tree for Earth Day 2016 | A group of teens plant a tree.

As your family watches the plants, trees, and flowers wake up this spring, say thank you by celebrating Earth Day on the 22nd.

This year, Earth Day’s global theme is Trees for the Earth, as they are working toward a goal to plant nearly 8 billion trees by Earth Day 2020—the 50th anniversary of the day.

Rally your family to help Earth Day reach its 2020 goal by planting one or more trees this year. Not only is it great for the environment—after all, it takes about 96 trees to remove the carbon dioxide produced by one person in a year—it’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about the benefits of trees while watching it grow over the years.

After checking to see what trees will grow best in your area, let your kids pick one out from your local nursery or home improvement store. If you have the space, choose a small one to maximize the growth your children will see over the years. My family planted a small tree when I was in middle school and that tree is over 30 feet tall now. Every time I visit, I’m amazed by its magnitude. That small tree grew so much in size while I was growing up and becoming an adult.

While you’re planting your tree (and creating your own memories), teach your kids about the value of trees with these facts from EarthDay.org:

Your family will also get a good workout by digging the hole for the tree and planting it, so celebrate afterward with lots of liquids and a delicious meal!

If you’re planting a tree for Earth Day this year, snap a few photos and share them with us on Facebook or Twitter. We want to see the beautiful trees your family chose!

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7 St. Patrick’s Day Facts to Share with Kids

March 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

7 St. Patrick’s Day Facts to Share with Kids

St. Patrick’s Day is known for a lot of things, but did you know it started as a religious holiday in Ireland and was first celebrated in the U.S. to help Irish soldiers feel less homesick?

Share these facts with your kids to give them a better understanding of the legends, superstitions, and history behind the March 17 celebration.

Why do the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick is believed to have died on March 17. He is known for bringing Christianity to Ireland, which is why the day he died is an Irish national holiday.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.?
It all started before we signed the Declaration of Independence. Irish soldiers were fighting for the British Army on American soil, and they held a St. Patrick’s Day parade to help the soldiers feel less homesick through music and friends.

Years later, when the Irish immigrated to the United States, they continued their traditions from their old country in their new country by celebrating the holiday.

What are leprechauns?
According to Irish legend, leprechauns are small, Irish faeries who work very hard as cobblers and craft specialists, earning a lot of gold. But they were very thrifty, and it’s said that leprechauns would bury their gold in pots at the end of the rainbow.

The legend says that if you catch a leprechaun, you can ask him where he hid his gold and he must tell you the truth.

Why do you have to wear green?
It’s tradition that if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, anyone is allowed to pinch you.

Why do we eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?
It all comes down to the other green stuff: money. Corned beef and cabbage used to be the least expensive options for meat and vegetables.

The Irish ate a lot of salted pork in the 19th century, so when Irish immigrants were looking for an American option for salted meat, they found corned beef was the least expensive choice.

They paired it with cabbage because cabbage was (and still is) an inexpensive vegetable in the U.S.

Why do we wear shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day?
Shamrocks are three-leaf clovers that are supposed to give you good luck on St. Patrick’s Day. They represent Ireland’s magic number of three and also represent the Holy Trinity in the Christian religion, which are the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

Why are four-leaf clovers lucky?
Clover plants don’t naturally produce four-leaf clovers, only three-leaf clovers. Finding a four-leaf clover is quite the anomaly, which makes you very lucky!

Tags :  academicholiday
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How Women Can Make a Difference

March 8, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How Women Can Make a Difference | Every woman has qualities to become a great leader and should take inspiration from the aforementioned history makers and other women to impact their families and communities. How can you tap into those qualities to make a difference? | A girl dressed in a superhero costume stands flexing her biceps.

Maya Angelou. Susan B. Anthony. Frida Kahlo. Rosa Parks. Sandra Day O’Conner. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

Women. Leaders. Revolutionaries.

Each of these women’s actions have impacted our lives in various ways. They have shaped America’s history through artistic expression, by leading women’s suffrage, by joining civil rights efforts, and by holding respected government offices once belonging only to men. Our lives and our families’ lives are better because of their courage.

On International Women’s Day and during National Women’s History Month, it’s especially important to remind women how valuable they are to this world. Every woman has qualities to become a great leader and should take inspiration from the aforementioned history makers and other women to impact their families and communities. How can you tap into those qualities to make a difference?

Respect Yourself and Your Family
You can’t change others’ lives until you take care of your own. Take stock of your commitments and ensure you’re only doing what you can and what you want. You need to schedule time for rest and relaxation, both for you as an individual and for your family.

You’re at your best when you are rested, without stress, and inspired. Take inspiration from your family, from your hobbies, or the causes that you care most about.

Set Goals and Plan for Them
Take a few moments to write down what you want for your life and for your family. How can you obtain those goals? Set small, incremental goals that contribute to larger goals.

For example, do you want to improve the arts offerings at your child’s school? Sit down and think about the big picture needs: staff, funding, materials, and the school board’s buy-in.

Then, set the small goals. By the end of the month, you will research how much the staff and materials will cost for the program and determine the final funding costs.

The next month, you can focus on a proposal for the school board. These are small goals you can set that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.

Take a Leadership Role in Your Child’s School
The best way to make a difference in your child’s education is to be involved. While you are your child’s only teacher in the first few years of his or her life, you remain your child’s first teacher for the rest of his or her life.

Join the PTA, volunteer as a parent leader, or volunteer as a classroom aide if you have a flexible schedule. Ask your child’s teacher what opportunities are available to be more involved at school, like chaperoning a field trip. Those efforts demonstrate to your child that you care about his or her life at school.

Celebrate Others’ Successes
It truly takes a village to raise a child and make positive changes. When you see another woman taking steps to better her family and community, congratulate her. Thank her for her work, her strength, and her efforts. Ask how you can help her.

Every woman who makes a difference starts as an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. Little steps lead to big changes. By respecting your needs and setting goals for you and your family, who knows what you can accomplish? Maybe we’ll see your name in the history books 100 years from now.

Tags :  socialacademicfamilymotherhood
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Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

February 23, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Do You Want to Build a Snowman? | This month's exercise is building a snowman! Bundle up the family, hit the snow, and burn an average of 285 calories an hour. | A family runs around a snowman they just built.

It’s the end of February and winter hasn’t fully released its grip on us just yet. And while we tire of the snow and cold, upcoming March reminds us that spring is near. With that in mind, I challenge you to embrace the winter and take advantage of the next snowfall—which could be your last of the season—for this month’s exercise: build a snowman!

Building a snowman is so much fun. Kids young and old love it and you can burn an average of 285 calories an hour, so bundle up and hit the snow. Toss in a friendly snowball fight to burn an extra 319 calories an hour.

You can even turn this exercise into a learning opportunity by trying to build a mathematically perfect snowman. Teach your kids about the golden ratio and get your ruler out to follow Dr. James Hind’s instructions, found here.

Regardless of whether your family attempts or succeeds at the mathematically perfect snowman, snap a pic and share it on our Facebook page. And most importantly, have fun with this winter exercise challenge!

Check out last month’s exercises here.

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