Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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9 Ways for Your Child to Be Physically Fit & Healthy

July 11, 2017

By Jessica Vician

9 Ways for Your Child to Be Physically Fit & Healthy | Being active and eating well for life is such an important lesson that it needs to be practiced in and out of school.

Did you know that the President Physical Fitness Test—the gym class staple that you might have loved if you were athletic and loathed if you weren't—ended in 2016? Without those annual check-ins to see how your elementary student did in comparison with their peers, how can you gauge their level of physical fitness and health?

The good news is that the President's Challenge has been replaced with the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, which better assesses a student's overall health instead of only athletic fitness. According to the Health and Human Services website, this program focuses on helping students stay fit for life—not just for an annual test. This means that your child is learning to be active and eat well for their lifetime instead of only focusing on athletic competitions.

Being active and eating well for life is such an important lesson that it needs to be practiced in and out of school. As you know, healthy decisions and patterns you start now can stay with your child throughout their lifetime, so use the tips below to make healthy decisions for your family.

Get 60 minutes of physical activity every day
Your child needs 60 minutes of physical activity five days a week. You need at least 30 minutes. Try these small activities to reach those goals:

  • Walk to a neighborhood friend's house instead of driving. Let your child bike, skateboard, or scooter while you walk.
  • Wash the car by hand together. Let your child wipe down the interiors while you start on the exterior. Then switch and vacuum while your child soaps up the exterior parts they can reach.
  • Start a vegetable garden and tend to it daily. From watering to weeding, you and your child will gain activity points while reaping healthy vegetables to eat once they've grown.
  • After dinner, head outside to the basketball hoop (in your driveway or at a nearby park) for a few rounds of Horse.

Ensure meals & snacks hit all the food groups
Each meal should offer a lean protein, fruit or vegetable, and a whole grain.

  • Focus on one food group per snack, like a hard-boiled egg for protein in the morning, and an apple and peanut or almond nut butter in the afternoon for a fruit and protein.
  • Switch from sodas, juices, and sports drinks to water. For flavor, make an herbal (non-caffeinated) iced tea or add strawberries and cucumbers to water.
  • Get creative with your grains. Instead of regular pasta, try farro, bulgar, barley, or quinoa. You can even find quinoa pasta at the grocery store for a healthier option in your favorite shape.
  • Find a recipe for your family's favorite restaurant or take-out meal. Cooking it at home will eliminate a lot of extra sodium, sugar, and fat.
  • Reroute your family's sugar cravings away from candy bars, cookies, and other processed sweets and satisfy them with lots of fruits. The natural sugars are a healthy way to feed the craving.

What tips do you have for establishing healthy practices for your kids in the early years that will stay with them for life? Share in the comments below.

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What Is the Summer Slide and How Can You Prevent It?

May 30, 2017

By Sandra Braceful-Quarles

What Is the Summer Slide and How Can You Prevent It? Here are activities to prevent the summer slide from happening to your child.

With summer break on the horizon, kids are looking forward to a break from school and spending more time with friends. As you plan your child's summer, incorporate activities and learning opportunities to prevent the summer slide from happening to your child.

The summer slide is the loss of learning that takes place during the summer months when children are not engaged in educational activities, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Over 100 years of research shared by the National Summer Learning Institute suggests that students score two to three months lower on the same standardized test given at the end of summer compared to the beginning of summer vacation. After a few summers, those months can easily add up to a loss of one school year.

To prevent that loss of knowledge, plan activities that focus on your child's interests to ensure they're having fun while learning over their summer vacation.

Visit your local library.
Many libraries have summer reading programs to encourage students to read over the summer. Kids usually receive a reward at the end of the program based on the number of books they read.

Cook your way through lessons in the kitchen.
Cooking is a fun way to incorporate reading, math, and art into a learning activity. The reading part comes with following the recipe, which makes the dish taste delicious. Have your child—the chef of the day—read instructions aloud as you act as his or her assistant. The math is the measurement part of the recipe. Instead of using 1 cup, use 1/3 cup (pour three 1/3 cups into 1 cup) to show that they are equal. Children can show artistic skills when plating and presenting the meal.

Learn more about their hobbies.
Hobbies are the perfect opportunities for reading and learning. If your child shows an interest in a particular topic, suggest he or she learn more about those activities. For example, if your child is interested in swimming, read about how to become a better swimmer, convert laps in pool meters into miles, or learn about famous swimmers.

Optimize your vacation.
Use the weeks leading up to your summer vacation to learn about your destination. Read brochures or books together before you leave. While on vacation, point out locations and cultural qualities that you learned about in those reading materials. During the vacation or upon your return, encourage your child to write about the activities in a summer adventure journal.

Enjoy your summer. Your child has many resources available to prevent any learning loss. With these tips, the only summer slide your child will ride is at the local playground or amusement park.



Sandra Braceful-Quarles is an educator, community liaison, and tutor working in the south suburbs of Chicago. As an active member of her worship community, she is passionate about giving back and volunteering to help others. She and her husband have three children and two grandchildren.


Looking for more ways to improve your child’s learning experience outside of school? Pick up a copy of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher on Amazon.

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March into a Big Month

March 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

March into a Big Month | Besides bringing spring-like weather, March is bringing important awareness days and weeks that we should pay attention to. See what's lined up and what you need to know this month. | A girl poses with her biceps flexed while she wears a superheroine costume.

Besides bringing spring-like weather, March is bringing important awareness days and weeks that we should pay attention to. See what's lined up and what you need to know this month.

International Women's Day—March 8
March 8th is International Women's Day and March is National Women's History Month. What better time to remind our girls how valuable they are to this world?

Teach your daughters how women can make a difference by sharing inspiration from female history makers featured in this post.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—March 10
Later this week is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This annual, nationwide observance reminds us of the impact HIV and AIDS continue to have on women and girls. Read this post to learn how and why you should talk to your daughters (and sons) about the illness.

St. Patrick's Day—March 17
Make St. Patrick's Day a magical holiday for your kids by sharing the mystery and wonder of old Irish tales, then send them on a treasure-hunting adventure.

National Poison Prevention Week—March 19–25

Did you know that 50 percent of all poison exposures happen to children under age six? Most poisonings occur from ingesting products that you probably have sitting around at home. Read these tips to learn how to prevent your kids from unintentionally consuming poison.

Cesar Chavez Day—March 31
Cesar Chavez spoke up for what he believed in and rallied for change for the betterment of individuals and society. We believe that every child should have access to a strong support network so that he or she can succeed in life and give back.

Use this day as inspiration to make a difference in your community starting with your own child. We offer tips to get started in this post.

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4 Family Activities to Celebrate Las Posadas

December 13, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Family Activities to Celebrate Las Posadas | A pointed star piñata waits to be hit by children on Las Posadas.

What is your family doing to celebrate Las Posadas this year? We have four ideas for family activities that range from educational and fun to delicious and filling.

Las Posadas Learning Activity
Teach your toddler or early elementary student about Las Posadas by sharing the symbolism of the poinsettia, the story of Las Posadas, and the traditional way of celebrating in Mexico.

This Las Posadas activity from Scholastic is designed for a classroom but would be fun at home or at a party.

DIY Nativity Scene Toys
A nativity scene can be found in many Christian households during the holidays, but often, the pieces that make up the nativity scene are fragile and not to be touched.

Encourage your child to learn Mary and Joseph's story on the night of Jesus' birth while letting him or her play with a kid-friendly nativity scene that you make together. Mommy Maestra has a great DIY tutorial on making your own nativity scene.

Gather the Kids for a Play
Tap into their inner performer and encourage your kids and their friends to put on a play that tells the Las Posadas story. Gather the adults for an audience and share your parent pride with applause!

Recipes for Las Posadas
Celebrate Las Posadas with traditional Mexican recipes that will warm your family's hearts and bellies. Latino Foodie has recipes for chile verde pork tamales, chipotle-glazed ham, Oaxacan pollo almendrado, and pan dulce. ¡Que rico!

Ask your children to help prepare the meal by giving them age-appropriate tasks. Young ones can stir or set the table, while teenagers can do prep work like cutting vegetables. Let everyone help to keep the family close and the holiday spirit alive.

How does your family celebrate Las Posadas? Share your traditions in the comments below.

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How can we start a holiday tradition for our own family?

December 6, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can we start a holiday tradition for our own family? | A young girl helps her mother make holiday cookies.

Question: My 6-year-old daughter wants to start a new holiday tradition. She said she wants one that's just for our family. I'm stumped on ideas. Can you think of an activity we can start that will grow with our family as we get older?

Answer: It's wonderful that your daughter takes pride in your family and wants to do something that will bring you closer. Her request reminds us that even though the holidays are busy, it's important to dedicate some time or an activity to your immediate family, and in this case, your daughter.

We have a few ideas for traditions that will hold up as she matures—they might even stay with you if you become a grandparent one day!

Ornament Exchange
Choose a date during the holidays for an ornament exchange. Each family member can spend the week prior making or buying an ornament. After a special lunch or dinner, put the wrapped ornaments in a pile. Draw numbers, and let the person who drew number one choose the first ornament. In order of their number drawn, each person unwraps an ornament, keeping it for him or herself or trading it for another one. Then, the family puts their new ornaments on the tree together.

Holiday Market Visit
Set a date each year, like the first Saturday in December, to visit a holiday market as a family. It might not be the same market each year—if you have a lot of options in your area, you may want to make a rule to never repeat. While your daughter is young, choose a market with activities or shops for children. The activities might change as your daughter grows up, but the warm feeling of being surrounded by holiday traditions, smells, and your family will stay the same.

The Nutcracker
See a performance of The Nutcracker every year together. There are many performances in various price ranges, from professional ballets in big cities to college performances to dance school recitals. Choose one in your budget and expose your daughter to a dance form not often shown on television or YouTube these days.

Borrow Traditions from Other Cultures and Religions
Do you celebrate Christmas? Borrow the candle-lighting tradition from Hanukkah and teach your daughter about why Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah. Do you celebrate Hanukkah? Borrow the principals of Kwanzaa to teach your daughter about community. SheKnows has a great list of global traditions that you can incorporate into your new family tradition while teaching your daughter about other cultures and religions.

Do our readers have suggestions for fun family traditions that grow with your kids? Share in the comments below.

For more family-focused holiday fun, read our 5 Must-Do Holiday Family Activities article.

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