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Reflect + Reenergize with These Back to School Activities

August 13, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Reflect + Reenergize with These Back to School Activities | Regroup and gather your thoughts and emotions before the school year starts with your family with these 4 activities. | A girl blows bubbles in the park.

You are on top of your game. You have registered your child for school, taken him or her to the doctor for a yearly physical examination, and shopped for uniforms and school supplies. It’s all done. You’re ready for back to school. So why does it feel like something is missing?

It may be time to regroup and gather your thoughts and emotions in anticipation of another school year. It is also a great time to gather the family to do a few simple yet calming activities to help recharge everyone’s batteries.

1. Blow Bubbles and Make Wishes
Take a blanket or beach towel to the park and a couple of bottles of bubbles. Lie on your back and blow bubbles into the air. Make wishes for the new school year as each bubble flies away toward the horizon. Emphasize to your child that these are more than wishes left to chance, and that he or she really has control over the outcome of what they wished for based on the effort they put in.

2. Create a Sidewalk Masterpiece and Let Go of Summer
With giant sidewalk chalk, create a mural on a sidewalk. Take pictures of the finished design because it will soon wash away in the rain. Use this time to reflect on how the summer has come and gone, too, but that the memories you have will remain. The school year is another opportunity for all new adventures. You can print out a copy later and make a “first day of school” card for your son or daughter. 

3. Play Frisbee and Have Fun
It’s a low-impact and inexpensive sport that does not require much agility or skill, but will have everyone running around, letting go of stress, and giggling.

4. Role-play Teacher and Student to Prepare
You can do this at the kitchen table. This is a great time to role-play situations that may come up at school. For example, mom can play a student who is unruly and distracting, and someone else can play along to see how to remedy the situation.

Do you recommend your son or daughter change seats? Should they tell the teacher? Think of different scenarios than can come up in places like the school cafeteria, hallway, or gym class. 

Prepare for kindergarten, high school, or address new school anxiety.

These are only a few examples of how to spend the last few days of summer winding down and revving up for the school year ahead. Each family is different, so you may want to think of fun, simple games and activities you did as a child and make those part of your back-to-school tradition each year. A quick pause from the busyness of it all will give your son or daughter time to reflect and refuel for their demanding schoolwork and extra-curricular activities ahead.

Having an impact on your son or daughter does not have to cost tons of money, nor does it take much time. You will appreciate the sweet memories you are making when they have outgrown their desire to hang out with you on a lazy afternoon. 

Need more suggestions on preparing your family for the school year? The YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books provide activities and checklists to help.

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.


Think Before You Share: Protect Your Child’s Privacy on Social Media

August 4, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Think Before You Share: Protect Your Child’s Privacy on Social Media | When you share photos of your kids on social media, those photos can fall into the wrong hands. Read on for how to protect your family. | A mother and father take selfies with their two kids while on a carnival ride.

This summer, as our kids are having a blast being out of school, we parents are trying to capture every fun moment to treasure it forever. Smartphones have made it easy to snap photos and immediately upload them to social media accounts for all our family and friends to see.

But what if more than just your family and friends are seeing the photos of your kids? How safe are those photos? According to an infographic published by Go-Gulf, over “600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day.” How would a social media hack affect your children’s privacy?

My friends and I were talking about how we can protect our children’s innocence as long as we can in the age of social media. One of my friends told me to Google our names. Luckily only one picture popped up of me (the one used for this website), but my friends and their kids were not as lucky—some of their personal and private pictures were on the Internet for everyone to see because they weren’t taking proper precautions.

Use these quick and easy tips to keep your children (and entire family) safe from being overexposed and away from dangerous people like pedophiles and hackers.

  • Keep all social media accounts private. If you feel your accounts are not safe enough, delete the information you don’t want shared or stored and close the accounts.
  • Only share your pictures with family and close friends. Keep in mind that once you post an image on many social media platforms, that company owns the photo and can use it for marketing purposes. Even when sharing with people you trust, only share what you don’t mind others seeing.
  • Change passwords regularly and be creative with them to avoid having your accounts hacked. Don’t use birthdays, anniversaries, or your children or pets’ names, either.
  • Back up photos to your computer or an external hard drive and then remove them from your phone.
  • Always lock your phone, in case someone steals it.

Remember that memories of your children will be around for a long time, even if you don’t post a photo of it on social media. Some of the best ones are preserved in your heart. Cherish the moment—don’t lose it because you are looking for your phone.

To learn more about proper technology use for your kids, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher 3-book set


Fireworks Alternatives

July 2, 2015

Fireworks Alternatives | If you have young children or animals, fireworks might be too intense for them this year. Instead, try these homemade noisemakers.

If you have young kids or animals, fireworks could a bit too much for them this year. The noises alone can frighten them and if they’re too close, can cause hearing damage or burns.

For a more family-friendly 4th of July celebration, try homemade noisemakers. The noise level is more appropriate for youngsters and it won’t send your animals running for the hills. Noisemakers are a safe and easy way for your kids to participate in the ruckus without harming anyone. Here are some ideas:

  • Put uncooked rice in an empty plastic bottle, tightening the cap, and shake.
  • Give the kids a box of macaroni and cheese that you haven’t opened yet.
  • Tape one end of a toilet paper tube, pour in rice or candy, and then tape up the other side. Let your kids decorate the tubes with colorful markers and glitter.

You would be surprised how fun shaking these bottles and boxes can be for a young child.

Do you have another fireworks alternative we should try? Share in the comments below. Happy 4th of July!

Tags :  family funholidayssafety

Father’s Day for the Modern Dad

June 18, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Father’s Day for the Modern Dad | This year, avoid the cliché gifts for Father's Day and give dad an experience he really wants based on the type of dad he is. | A dad works from home on his laptop while his daughter naps on the couch next to him.

We know the Father’s Day cliché gifts: the ties, the money clips, the cuff links. But today’s American father is very different from the father who might enjoy or need those gifts. Our idea of what a father is and should be has changed, and we can reflect that change with how we celebrate Father’s Day.

Back in the old days (which are as recent as the 90s), men were usually the primary breadwinners. They worked all day, so when a father’s children saw him, it was often at dinner and on the weekends. To his kids, those impersonal Father’s Day gifts seemed to be perfect for the man they didn’t really know. They knew he wore a tie to work or was responsible for the money, so those gifts made sense.

Now, defining fatherhood is just as complicated as defining motherhood, so buying a tie and saying “Happy Father’s Day” isn’t enough anymore (and thank goodness—who wants a generic gift anyway?).

Tradition suggests that dads should spend time with their children on Father’s Day. But isn’t it a day to celebrate and thank dads for all they do? This year, instead of a tie or a new shirt, think about the kind of father he is and help your child plan accordingly.

  • Is he a stay-at-home dad: hands-on, working hard every day to keep his son or daughter healthy, on time, and constantly learning? 
  • Is he the breadwinner: working long hours but trying to see his kids as much as he can and shape their lives in a positive way?
  • Is he a dad who works from home: balancing conference calls with playtime?

Whatever version of a father he is, he deserves a fitting Father’s Day celebration.

  • If he’s hands-on all the time, maybe the perfect gift is a day to himself. Let the kids make him breakfast in bed and thank him for everything he does, then let him be—whether that’s getting the kids out of the house so he can nap or sending him to a game with friends.
  • If he works long hours in a job where he’s on his feet, treat him to an affordable foot or body massage, let the kids make him lunch or dinner, and give him control of the remote for the day.
  • If he works from home during the week, get him out of the house. Head to a nature preserve or a park and organize an activity where he can watch the kids play while taking in the sunshine and smell of nature.

On Father’s Day, thank him for everything he does for the kids and show him he is appreciated. Gifts don’t have to cost money, but thinking about the type of dad and person he is and giving him an appropriate experience (with or without the kids) is a great way to say thanks to the modern dad.


Preparing Your Child for the Arrival of a New Sibling

June 16, 2015

By Jennifer Eckert

Preparing Your Child for the Arrival of a New Sibling | This mother shares five tips for preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling. | A girl kisses her baby sister.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I learned that we were expecting our second child. While we were overjoyed to be adding to our family, Rob and I were also anxious about how our 18-month-old son would react and adjust to the new arrival. As a first child (and only grandchild on my side of the family), Bobby was used to being the center of attention. The upcoming change was going to, in the words of my mother, “turn his world upside down.”

Naturally, I scoured the Internet in search of advice and found tons of it. Many of the articles I found supported each other, and just as many contradicted each other. While every child is different in terms of situation and temperament, the following strategies seemed to work well as Rob and I prepared our Baby No. 1 for the arrival of Baby No. 2.

Provide concrete details versus abstract ideas.
With a young child, it’s better to wait until you (or your spouse or partner) starts showing. Pointing to a growing belly and talking about the baby “in Mommy’s tummy” provides some physical evidence of a change that’s about to occur. I’m pretty sure all Bobby thought about my bump at first was that it was a great shelf to stand on when in the swimming pool. But once he was able to feel the baby’s movement, he seemed to think my belly was pretty cool.

Strengthen the bond with Dad.
If your first child is extremely attached to Mom (or if Mom’s the primary caregiver), it’s going to be a bit rough once she’s busy with the new baby—especially if she’s breastfeeding. It’s a good idea for your child to spend a little more one-on-one time with the other parent before the baby arrives so it’s not such a shock when suddenly Mom’s not as available. Bobby has always been kind of a “Daddy’s boy,” so we accomplished this step pretty easily (a little too easily in my opinion).

Schedule big changes for before or after the due date.
The arrival of a new sibling is probably going to be the biggest change that has occurred in your first child’s life so far. It’s best to get any other changes (e.g., a new childcare situation, a new bed, potty-training) out of the way in advance, or you might want to hold off until things have settled down a bit.

For instance, even though we knew the new baby would sleep in a bassinet in our room for the first few months, Rob and I still moved Bobby out of the crib and into a toddler bed about a month before I was due. We figured that would give him plenty of time to get used to the new bed and not feel as if he was being “kicked out” by the new arrival.

Read books, but don’t overdo it.
Of course, we received tons of books from family and friends about new babies and becoming a big brother, but we used them sparingly. We didn’t want to shove the topic down his throat and cause resentment. One of my favorites was I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole. It emphasized the positive aspects of having a sibling and the idea that the older child would continue to have a special place in his parents’ heart.

Bring out the baby gear early.
This was one of the best pieces of advice for us. We brought out the bassinet, car seat, rattles, mobile, etc., about two months before we needed them. This gave Bobby plenty of time to “rediscover” all his old stuff and get used to it lying around. At first he kept trying to use everything himself (including wanting to take his nightly bath in the baby bathtub), but eventually he chose one of his stuffed animals to be the “baby.” Every night, he’d pretend to feed his toy Glo Worm with a bottle and then lay it down in the crib to go to sleep. Rob and I were quite touched by the nurturing side we began to see.

Armed with all these preparation tactics, we felt we had done our job by the time Baby Henry joined our family in late January. As to how Bobby really did adjust to having a younger brother... well, that is the subject of a future article.

Learn more about preparing your child for big changes in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

Jennifer Eckert is an editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with one husband, two sons, and three cats.

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