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DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget

October 16, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

For kids, Halloween isn’t just one day of the year; it’s a month-long celebration! And who can blame them when there are so many fun and exciting things to do daily? Sure, you can take them to the pumpkin patches or apple picking, but money can get stretched thin fast, especially if you have a costume to purchase for one or more kids. There are plenty of low-cost or free Halloween crafts that you can do in your own home. It’s also a great opportunity to bond and create holiday traditions!


DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget | milk jugs decorated like ghosts

Ghost Jugs
Need: 3-4 clean gallon milk or water jugs, black markers, holiday lights or battery-operated candle

Remove any stickers from the jugs and make sure they’re clean and dry. Using the black marker, draw a face on the opposite side of the handle. Keep the cap on so the jug doesn’t dent while drawing on it. If you have clear holiday lights or a battery-operated candle, cut a hole in the bottom of the jug (about the size of a half dollar) and insert either type of lighting inside to make the jugs glow. Put them around the house or in the windows for ghoulish decor.

DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget | paper towel rolls with eye-like cutouts glow from the bushes thanks to glowsticks inside the tubes

Spooky Eyes
Need: 4-5 clean toilet paper rolls, kid-friendly scissors, tape, colored glow sticks

Cut pairs of small holes in the middle of the toilet paper roll. Put a glow stick in the toilet paper roll and tape the ends so it doesn’t fall out. Scatter the rolls around the front or back yard in the bushes. Don’t put them too deep—keep them near the surface of the bushes so they’re seen.

DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget | black bat cutouts line an orange wall

Paper Cats, Bats, or Mice
Need: Black construction paper, pencil, kid-friendly scissors, masking tape, traceable template for the animal of choice (we found some good options here)

First, print the templates and cut out each animal you will be using. Using that animal as a guide, trace the shapes onto black construction paper and cut them out. Then mount as desired throughout the house, using the masking tape. If you have a staircase, put them at the bottom of each step to spook people walking up.

Food and Liquid Fun

DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget | Orange and black plastic spiders sit inside ice cubes.

Spider Ice Cubes
Need: ice cube trays, water, plastic spiders

Put plastic spiders in the ice cube trays and fill them with water. Freeze overnight. If you have other tiny plastic critters that are clean and safe, you can use those, too. Once frozen, put the ice cubes in your favorite cold beverage. It will look like you are drinking critters!
Caution: only do this activity if your children are old enough to understand they shouldn’t swallow the plastic critters. To be safe, remind them that they should remove the critter once the ice melts.

DIY: Spooky Halloween Projects on a Budget | Halloween cookie and candy white chocolate bark

Halloween Bark (Easy No-Bake Treat)
Need: 1 lb white chocolate (melted in the microwave or on the stove), 1 tbsp Halloween food sprinkles, 1 cup of pretzels, 12 orange and black sandwich cookies, 1.5 cups candy corn, 20 candy eyeballs

Break apart the pretzels and cookies. Mix together the sprinkles, broken pretzels and cookies, candy corn, and candy eyeballs. Spread the mixture onto a cookie tray. Pour the melted white chocolate over the mixture, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Then place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to harden. Once hardened, take out and break into small pieces. Enjoy!

For more creative Halloween ideas, check out our Pinterest page. Please share some of your Halloween traditions or creativity in the comments below!

Tags :  DIYholidayactivitiesbudgetfamily fun

5 Ways to Address Bullying

October 15, 2014

By Sunny Chico

5 Ways to Address Bullying | A teen son sits glumly while his parents argue, modeling negative behavior.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and while I’m saddened that this issue even exists, I’m glad that we have the month to focus on preventing this terrible behavior that affects our children so deeply.

As parents, one of the first ways to address this problem is to think about what values we model at home. We must demonstrate how to communicate respectfully, whether it’s with our children, our partners, or with our own family and friends. We must also remember that the behaviors we allow in the home are behaviors that our children will practice out in the world. While this awareness can help us guide and shape our children in a way that can prevent bullying later in life, we can’t always prevent it at first. All we can do is deal with it as best as we know how.

If you ever learn that your child is bullying or being bullied:

  1. Talk to your child. Try to understand the situation.
  2. Seek assistance from the teacher. Find out what the teacher has observed and what he or she recommends.
  3. Review the school bullying policy. Many schools are legally obligated to follow their stated bullying policy exactly as written.
  4. Work with the school to make an action plan. Determine what steps will be taken, what the ideal outcomes are, and when to assess progress.
  5. Sometimes, it may be best to call the other child’s parents and say, “I need your help.” You should make this discussion as positive as possible, and not angry or negative. Let them know what is happening. Tell them, “My son told me about this today, and I was wondering if I could seek your help with it.” 

We all want the best for our children and want to protect them from any pain or heartbreak, but so often the best protection—and prevention—is to be a positive role model for them.


Early Intervention: Part II

October 14, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Early Intervention: Part II | A young boy sits on the floor, reaching up.

Last month I wrote about the early intervention program that is required by law in every U.S. state and territory to provide services to qualifying infants or toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. After going through the intake and evaluation process with my son, my husband and I learned he had a 33 percent delay in expressive language, and we opted to enroll him in a speech therapy program.

After attending several therapy sessions, I have the following advice for parents who want to get the most out of their child’s therapy sessions—whether they are for speech or any other type of developmental delay:

Recognize that therapy is “play.”
According to my son’s speech therapist, many parents go into the sessions expecting worksheets and an intensive drilling of skills. They may be a little surprised when the therapist pulls out a variety of toys and starts to play with the child. However, each toy and game serves two specific purposes: it grabs the child’s attention, and it relates to a specific skill.

For example, one toy my son’s therapist used was a simple coffee can with holes punched in the lid. My son was entranced as he spent the next five minutes putting different-colored straws through the holes in the lid. However, he also practiced making d-sounds as the therapist guided him to say “drop” each time a straw went in the canister and then “dump” when he poured them all out again.

Be present at therapy sessions.
If at all possible, sit in and observe multiple therapy sessions. You will soon pick up on some of the techniques the therapist uses with your child, which you can then apply on your own. I was amazed by how many simple-yet-effective communication skills I learned. For example, instead of letting my son point to the sippy cup he wanted to use each morning, I learned to prompt him so he’d have to give me a verbal response: “Do you want the blue cup or the green cup?”

Communicate with the therapist.
If you are not able to be present for therapy sessions, ask your child’s therapist to call or e-mail you after a session to provide a brief progress report. Find out what specific skill your child worked on and what accomplishments your child made. Also keep the therapist apprised of any gains or setbacks you notice in your child. This will help the therapist monitor your child’s overall progress.

For instance, after he’d completed a few speech therapy sessions, I suddenly noticed that my son was becoming much more vocal in terms of repeating what my husband and I said—without any prompting. Communicating this information to the therapist helped her determine that our son had achieved one of the goals in his development plan—unprompted imitation of language.

Practice with your child.
Just like playing an instrument or riding a bike, the main way a child makes progress with developmental skills is through practice, practice, practice. Look for ways to incorporate the techniques you observe into your child’s everyday life. My husband and I have turned elements of our son’s daily routine into opportunities for practicing speech. During diaper changes, we sing songs with repetitive phrases that he’ll repeat. At bath time, we offer him two different toys and prompt him to verbally respond with his choice. At bedtime, we read books about animals and he mimics their sounds.

I am amazed at the amount of progress my son has made in such a short amount of time, and I am grateful that the affordable services of my state’s early intervention program are available to him. I would definitely encourage parents who suspect their child has a developmental delay to take advantage of this program. It is a valuable resource that, along with parental engagement, can be the key to a child’s success.

Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.


Old Wives’ Tales in Parenting

October 9, 2014

By Ana Vela

Old Wives' Tales in Parenting | Baby Mariana has a red thread on her forehead to stop the hiccups.

I recently had my first baby, and I must admit I didn’t know what I was getting into. Fortunately, my mother flew in from out of state to help me care for my baby for the first three months. I was so desperate and grateful for her help that I pretty much believed and followed anything she said. I mean, she had three kids of her own and has helped raise my two nieces. Why wouldn’t I?

I started sharing some of my mom’s guidance with friends. They questioned, and even laughed, at some of the things I shared with them. That’s when I started to realize that they might just be parenting old wives’ tales. Perhaps my vulnerability as a new parent caused me to believe anything she said at the time.

Out of curiosity, I posted some of these on my Facebook page and asked people if they believed in any of them. I was amazed with the feedback I received. Many people grew up with these same stories and believe in them. Of course, there were many who were skeptical, regardless of the fact that their own family members follow them. There were even people correcting each other in how the tales go.

These are a couple of parenting old wives’ tales that I have encountered since becoming a parent. I’ve since learned that these are prominent in the Latino culture.

Ojo or Evil Eye
My mother was very serious when she sat me down and talked me through how to cure “ojo,” because my baby was sure to experience it one day soon. Ojo is sort of like the evil eye. The story varies, but generally it occurs when someone really admires and/or is envious of your baby. If they don’t touch your baby then the baby will develop a fever and will cry uncontrollably when you get home. It could last for days if you do not perform the cure, which involves rubbing an egg on your baby, reciting prayers, and cracking the egg open to release the ojo.

My mom even said I constantly contracted ojo as a baby (apparently I was quite adorable), and at some point she would avoid taking me out in public to not deal with it anymore. I later learned that there is a special bracelet you can have your baby wear that will block them from ever getting ojo. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, I grew up with family and friends swearing that their babies had ojo and that the cure worked.

Curing Hiccups
This one came from my husband. Our baby had hiccups that wouldn’t go away. He asked me in a serious manner if I had tried using red thread to cure her hiccups. I had no idea what he was talking about. My mom overheard jumped in, agreeing that red thread cures hiccups. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten about it. My husband found red thread in our drawer, cut a piece, placed it in his mouth to wet it with his saliva, then stuck it onto our daughter Mariana’s forehead. And then we waited. After what seemed to me like a very long time, the hiccups went away. My husband proudly claimed that the red thread cured the hiccups. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, several of my friends swear it works, too.

And there were more! Do not have the baby roll her eyes back at me or she will become cross-eyed. Do not eat eggs, beans, or pork while breastfeeding for the first month or else my baby will get sick and become colicky. Don’t let the baby see my dogs poop or pee because she will get red eyes.

For the most part, these old wives’ tales are harmless. They were likely pure coincidences that were then declared factual, and were passed down from generation to generation. As crazy as some of these old wives’ tales sound, when you are a parent, following these tales can make you feel like you are helping and protecting your child. As long as we are not risking harm, whatever makes us feel at ease is worth following. So although I don’t believe in these tales, you won’t find me ignoring an opportunity to help my baby by using any of these!

What old wives’ tales have your heard from your family and friends? Tell me in the comments below or start a thread in the forum. 



Writing an Outstanding College Admissions Essay

October 8, 2014

By Judy Razo 

Write an Outstanding College Admissions Essay | An essay is edited with a red pen.

A college application usually includes the application itself and additional documents that help paint a bigger picture of the applicant. Those documents can include an official transcript, standardized test scores, a résumé, letters of recommendation, and the college essay.

The essay tends to be hard for a student to write because it’s a personal essay, not a report assigned in class. Guiding your child along this task will be especially important because most students have never written anything of the sort. Let’s talk about the basics of how you can help.


To start, keep in mind that a college essay should only be between 250-650 words; that is about one to two pages when double-spaced. Remember that 650 words is a limit, not a goal. Admissions counselors read hundreds of essays, so you want your child to stand out without writing a novel. The essay should be expressive but concise. It’s an opportunity for your child to demonstrate his or her writing abilities as well as showcase his or her personality.

Outline, Research, and Draft

It will take more than one draft to create the final essay, so make sure your child is working on his or her essay far in advance of the application deadline. He or she needs enough time to write, rewrite, and edit the essay without the pressure of a looming deadline.

Before your child starts writing, suggest that he or she sketch out ideas and do any necessary research in advance. If the essay is based on a personal story, ask your child to jot down a few main points that he or she doesn’t want to miss. Then, encourage your child to write a first draft in one sitting to put his or her thoughts down on paper. You can later help your child organize what he or she wrote into a basic 5-paragraph writing outline.


Is your child having a hard time choosing a topic or direction? Suggest writing about a challenge or failure he or she experienced and how he or she overcame it. If that doesn’t feel right, suggest writing about what makes your child unique. Your child should consider how he or she would contribute to the university culture. Why should the college not only admit your child, but also want him or her to be a part of the student body? Let the ideas flow and you can always go back and edit accordingly.

Don’t encourage your child to write about what you think the admission counselor wants to read. Let him or her write about something that has significance to your child. A sincere and honest essay goes a lot further than a contrived one.

Make sure your child answers the question or addresses the topic given. If the essay doesn’t cover what was asked, it’s a sure sign to the admissions counselor that the student doesn’t know how to follow instructions and has poor attention to detail.

Proof and Edit

A great way to help your child is by proofing the essay. Check for spelling, grammar, and typos, as this is very important. If proofreading is not your strength, find a friend or coworker who can help you proof the essay as well as provide feedback.


It is important for your child to receive feedback from someone other than you. As the parent, your advice might be taken as criticism instead of as helpful feedback. Have your child share the essay with a few trusted adults, including a teacher, or someone in your circle of friends that you think could influence your child in a positive way.


There are a few recommended resources for both you and your child to reference as you work on this ever-so-important essay. Big Future by College Board offers great articles with tips for your student and videos that college applicants will find helpful as well as appealing. The National Association for College Admission Counseling can also guide you and your child along the entire college application process.

Don’t worry, getting into a college or university doesn’t entirely hinge on your child’s college admissions essay, but it is an important component that neither of you should neglect. Aside from using it to showcase your child’s personality and writing ability, the college admissions essay can be saved and repurposed when applying for scholarships. Websites like College Greenlight are great resources to help your child find scholarships that will come in handy when paying for college.

Tags :  high schoolcollegeacademicteachers
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