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Academics After-School Activities Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Sports Super Activities for Super Kids Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Organizing Hacks Perfect for Back to School

Prepping for back-to-school means juggling after-school activities and loads more stuff. These 5 organization hacks will keep your family organized and ready for anything.

By Jillian Chamberlain

happy girl with organized folders

Where are my shin guards? Did you sign that permission slip? I can’t find my sheet music!  When you’re trying to get kids out the door and to their after school activities, time is at a premium. Taking a few minutes now to modify your organization process can help streamline things when you’re in a rush. Here are some of our favorite ideas from parents and caregivers who’ve been there, organized that.

1. “Stuff Station” — The One Place to Keep Everything

Photo Credit: IAmNotTheBabysitter.com

There’s so much to keep track of during back-to-school season, it gets overwhelming. When school is back in session, so are all of those music lessons, soccer practices, and martial arts classes. As parents of active children, you are guaranteed to be dealing with more STUFF. How do you keep it all straight and teach your children to be responsible for their things on any given day? Keep it all in one place, and color-code it! Your kids’ activity station can come in many different shapes and forms, but here is one ‘stuff station’ idea we thought was appealing to the eye and highly functional. Check out this and more organization hacks from IAmNotTheBabysitter.com

2. There’s a Bag for That

Source: Momtastic.com

Once you create a ‘stuff station’ for homework, permission slips and projects are sure to add a hook for an after-school activity drawstring bag. If you have a child with a lot of various interests, consider making an individual drawstring bag that is designated as the one place to keep any and all equipment for each sport or lesson. On Mondays and Wednesdays, your child knows to grab the yellow drawstring bag with their shin guards and cleats for soccer. On Thursday the red bag is ready at the door for martial arts. Momtastic.com has a great DIY tutorial for customizable drawstring bags. So simple!

3. Car Homework Station

Homework happens. If there’s one thing to dread with the start of the new school year, it’s the renewed battle over nightly homework assignments. Convincing kids to sit down and do their work is one of the hardest parts of a parent’s job. One way to get them excited about homework is a comfortable and creative space dedicated to them…even if that is in the car. Consider creating a homework station in the car so that your little ones can knock out some homework while you’re on the road.

4. After-School Snacks on the Go

Kids start school relatively early in the morning each day. That means a big gap between lunchtime and after-school snack time. Kids need to refuel, and every parent knows how difficult it can be dealing with cranky, “hangry” youngsters. StuffedSuitcase.com has made it easy to steer clear of junk foods and other unhealthy quick fixes by gathering some easy-to-assemble snacks to keep ready in the car. After-school snacks can be healthy, fun and mobile!

5. Organize Your After-School Schedule, Too!

Searching ActivityHero on a phoneActivityHero can help you find local activities that work with your child’s calendar — and nurture his or her interests! Whether your child likes to dance, sports, outdoor recreation, music, or computers, ActivityHero makes browsing and registering easy.

Getting organized is about clearing the space and time for your family members to meet their needs and find focus, in whatever way works for you!

Search for after-school classes near you >>

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After-School Activities Classic Guitar Drums Flute Guitar Music Music Theory Piano Rock Saxophone String Trumpet Violin Voice Wind

7 Ways Music Lessons Help Kids Excel

Looking to avoid summer brain drain? A music-loving mom shares her personal research into 7 impressive benefits associated with music lessons. Drumroll, please!

By Katie Femia

One, two, three, four … With all of the counting and time signatures, it makes sense that learning a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s ability to do mathematics and problem-solve. Years of research have borne that out. But what about socially? Emotionally? Physically? Personally? It turns out that music lessons can be an effective way to help children grow in all of these areas, too.

My own daughter began playing the piano at the age of nine. It was something she had asked us to sign her up for after she received a keyboard for Christmas the year prior. She was at the age where we expected more responsibility from her, and we were also looking for an effective way for her to channel her feelings. Music lessons have helped her in both of those areas. Being able to use her hands to create something beautiful is a therapeutic experience for her. Working with her instructor and practicing at home means she has developed more discipline and motivation to excel. As her lessons continue I am seeing growth in other areas of her life as well.

Here’s a medley of the amazing benefits that can come when children take up an instrument.

1. Improved Memory

Whether your child is memorizing the alphabet, multiplication tables, or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, they will need to be able to focus on the information and store it in a retrievable manner. Music reinforces memory in the sense that it requires the child to memorize notes along with hand/mouth movement, turning the information into a tune. Using this part of the brain often to store and recite information is important, and music lessons continue to put memorization skills into practice.

2. Stress Relief or Prevention

Artforms are a wonderful way for children to express themselves while relieving tension at the same time, and music is no exception. The hands-on experience, the practice of manipulating the instruments, and the sound of the music that is created can all help put children at ease–especially after a long day at school.My child’s music school even has a school outreach program where kids with special needs are given musical instruments to play as a form of therapy.

3. Better Focus

Traditional classroom learning typically involves long periods of sitting still and concentrating, which can be a challenge for children. Music lessons can help children improve their focus, as their concentration and attention to detail is important when learning a tune. Improved attention leads to mastery of the tune and progress on to the next one. The positive feelings that result from this accomplishment strengthen their desire and ability to focus on goals related to the classroom.

piano-lessons-for-kids

4. Fine Motor Skill Development

Fine motor skills–for example, tasks that are done with the fingers–typically require hand and eye coordination. Learning to play a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s fine motor skills, which can come in handy in the classroom when the child writes (in print or cursive), paints, cuts, measures, glues, and so on.

5. Enhanced Self-Esteem

When a child becomes familiar with playing a musical instrument, they can feel a great sense of pride in their accomplishment. As they realize that they can entertain others and even evoke emotions through their performances, their confidence may grow even more. Every child wants to feel like they are good at or successful at something, and music lessons give them the chance to do that … and then treat others with their talent. The resulting self-esteem follows that child throughout their school day and throughout their life.

6. Lessons in Accountability

My daughter’s piano lessons are an intense 30 minutes in length, so it is important she is ready with her music sheets, notebook, and a sharpened pencil in hand when the lesson begins. She knows that stopping to find any of these items during the lesson would take away from valuable class time. The “homework” assigned by music instructors can also help create accountability in kids. At home, kids learn to make decisions on how to allocate their time to prepare for the next lesson. Children who take music lessons can carry this skill of accountability over to their classroom life, where deadlines for homework and classwork need to be met.

7. A Sense of Responsibility

Whether you decide to rent or own your child’s instrument, you will find it does not come cheap. Caring for the instrument properly is essential to protect your investment. Music lessons teach your child to be responsible for cleaning, caring for, and storing their instrument properly. The habits kids learn in music lessons can translate into increased responsibility for their school supplies, homework, and even their actions.

Consider music as a summer enrichment activity which can prepare your child to succeed in the classroom when the next school year rolls around. There are options for every budget and level of experience, so do some exploring and what might interest your child! Find summer music camps near you at ActivityHero.

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Academics Reading

4 Tips To Beat Summer Brain Drain

Research shows that summer brain drain is real — kids can fall behind academically during the long summer vacation. Here, 4 practical tips that can help.

By Jillian Chamberlain

Child reading in library in the summer

It’s the time of year that teachers both look forward to and dread: summer vacation. Don’t let their sad smiles fool you, many teachers are just as excited for the break from the vigorous routine as the kids.

But deep down they know what’s going to happen to all the time and attention that they’ve given to their students. According to Marra DeGraff, GiftedandTalented.com’s Personalized Learning Ambassador, “Recent studies have concluded that students show little or no academic growth over summer and at worst may lose one to three months of learning – with the greatest loss in Math.”

 >> Find an Academic Camp or Class

A growing number of schools are giving students summer homework, taking a cue from Asian countries, where summer is not a two-month break from school but two months of mandatory school-at-home whereby teachers give piles of workbooks that kids need to finish by the start of the next semester. Even if your child’s school isn’t assigning extra worksheets or reading lists to help kids better retain their knowledge, there are four things that you can do this summer to help your kids return to school in the fall with the same level–or even more!–of knowledge that they left with in June.

Read, Read, Read!

beat summer brain drain

Reading is a terrific way to keep kids’ minds engaged. If they’re avid readers, they’re probably already looking forward to the quiet days of summer reading.

And if they’re not excited about reading? Remember that a little reading is better than none, and try some of these tips to help boost their enthusiasm:

  • Choose books that match their reading level. Make a book list, or ask the children’s current or future teacher for a list so that the kids are reading quality books that are age appropriate.
  • Create a special space. Set up a reading nook and have snack and reading time each afternoon. Even if they’re a little too old for picture books, try to join them during this reading time, if your schedule allows. Pick up a novel or a magazine (but maybe not your phone), and you’ll not only keep them company, you’ll demonstrate for them just how relaxing it can be to immerse yourself in great reading on a long summer afternoon.
  • Join a community reading program. Most local libraries offer summer reading programs, often with milestones and prizes to help make reading more fun.
  • Make a game of it. Try this summer bingo idea from Pre-K Pages. Print off a copy or get inspired and create personalized bingo sheets for each child.

Find an Academic Summer Camp

A week or two of an academic summer camp can let your child go deeper into the subjects they like, or discover something new to love. One SF Bay Area parent recently raved about a math camp and explained “my daughter, 14, hates school math. She likes puzzles… I was looking for a different kind of logic camp and Mathletes was the jackpot.”

A parent in Atlanta had similar comments about Discover Science Center, “My 6 year old had so much fun playing and doing experiments. She loved bringing home her final results and the lab journal they created and used to document their findings. She honestly didn’t even know she was learning.”

Popular academic camps include math, writing, science, STEM or STEAM and foreign languages such as Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese.

>> Find an Academic Class or Camp

Make Use of Online Learning Programs

online-learning-programs-for-kids

Kids can challenge themselves with a number of academic websites. Two to consider:

  • GiftedandTalented uses a combination of multimedia instruction and automated assessment of student work to personalize each student’s experience. In just 20 minutes, 3 times a week from home, kids can not only retain but also advance in math over the summer. They also have reading comprehension and writing courses. Get a 10% discount with code: LEVELUP.
  • Khan Academy is another popular resource that offers free video lessons in math, biology, art history, computer programing and more. Your kids can get extra help in areas where they’re weak and need to get ahead or branch out and study something new that intrigues them.

Take Educational Outings

Along with the traditional summer outings to state fairs, water parks, and roller coasters, fit in a few educational trips to keep your child’s mind active and the curiosity flowing all summer long. Start with the local art, science, and history museums, but don’t stop there. Have you always wondered how farms operate, how potato chips are made or what it was like to live 100 years ago? This is the perfect opportunity to plan outings to local places where your kids can get answers to the many questions that they have.

 

 

Categories
Dance

Video Roundup: Dance Is for Boys, Too

Ever think “dance class is just for girls?” We beg to differ! Here, amazing, inspirational videos from young guys whose dance skills wow us.

By Jillian Chamberlain

Thanks to “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Step It Up,” and plenty of YouTube videos, the boys-in-dance movement is in full swing! Some perks for guys who are getting in step: Dance builds strength and improves coordination, making it a great workout for boys. It can also be the perfect option if your son isn’t big into playing sports or hitting the gym.

Dance classes also give guys an edge if they want to perform in musical theatre, onstage with a rock band, or in a talent show, or simply hit the dance floor with confidence on prom night.

But we digress: These male-dominated YouTube dance videos make the case for boys-in-dance all on their own.

tWitch (aka Stephen Boss) from “So You Think You Can Dance” with 6-Year-Old Tanner Edwards

In addition to being known for his moves on Season 3 & 4 “SYTYCD”, tWitch has gone on to secure roles in major motion pictures and a resident DJ gig on Ellen Degeneres’s talk show. Here he is in 2010 dancing with 6-year-old Tanner Edwards!

Derek Hough from “Dancing with the Stars”

Derek has won five Mirror Ball trophies on the popular ABC dance competition. He has also won 2 Emmy Awards for his choreography on the show. His most recent Emmy was won for the choreography in this routine.

Find Dance Classes for Boys (and Girls!) Near You >>

Segway routine to Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”

In this one, young guys taking gliding across the dance floor to a whole new level. They perform the entire routine on Segways!

Watch Me (Whip It/ Nae Nae) – Silento

There’s always a new dance craze — The Whip It/Nae Nae — is from a 17-year-old rapper in Atlanta, Georgia, who goes by the name Silento. The video is a compilation of the following dance moves: Stanky Leg, Break Your Legs, Bop, Yule, Superman, Duff … and of course the signature moves Whip It and the Nae Nae. Now you may be asking yourself, “What is the difference between ‘Stanky Leg’ and ‘Break Your Legs’?” Well … you’ll just have to watch the video and see!

Whether your son is into hip-hop, jazz, or ballet, we have a list of dance class providers in your area where they can get their moves on! It’s hard to keep up with ALL of the latest trends — if any of you know a dance studio that offers hip-hop classes on Segways, please let us know — we’d like to get them on our roster!

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Sports

The Participation Trophy Debate

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the emergence of a modern trend that emphasizes positive reinforcement in sports. The result? Kids in many activities have begun bringing home awards, trophies and ribbons simply for participating in an activity or on a team. Is rewarding a child for simply showing up sending the wrong message — or is it a team-building and esteem-building tool?

By Jillian Chamberlain

The great Participation Trophy Debate received renewed attention last month when James Harrison, a professional NFL player for the Pittsburg Steelers, posted a photo on his Instagram account stating that he was going to have his two sons return the participation trophies that they had received. Harrison had the following to say in his Instagram comment:

The post garnered scorn from trophy supporters, who argue that participation trophies remind young kids that they are part of something, and they may help build enthusiasm so the kids will return for another season. The trophies, some feel, are along the lines of the team T-shirt and car magnet — a pleasant reminder (especially during the off-season) of time well-spent.

Others argue that there are different ways of accomplishing camaraderie, while still awarding only excellence or unique achievements like, say, most improved player. Team pizza parties and post-game gatherings can be held to honor the team for their collective accomplishment. Such gatherings remind kids that their effort is valued, regardless of ability or results.

Rewarding children for for their participation and effort certainly is important — just think how you’d feel if your boss didn’t care whether or not you showed up to work or, worse, how hard you tried to do well at your job. But should everyone get an actual trophy? Or should certain awards be reserved only for those who are exceptional? Or are physical trophies and awards not necessary (or desirable) at all?

To be sure, many coaches, instructors and teachers have strong opinions on the subject. And many parents take matters into their own hands, as Harrison did, if they disagree.

One thing, though, that almost everyone can agree on — kids deserve to stretch their legs and their minds, to enjoy more friend-time and less screen-time, and to find a fun activity or two to rejuvenate them. Help your child find a class or activity that they are passionate about: Check out the thousands of activity listings that we have in your area!  If you like, you can give yourself a gold star for checking us out — or not. It’s really up to you!

Categories
Cooking

3 Truly Gross Recipes That Kids Love

Disgusting recipes are a win-win: You show kids some valuable life skills in the kitchen, and they get to gross you out! Check out these delicious, disgusting offerings from some of our favorite bloggers.

By Jillian Chamberlain

gross recipes for kidsWhat is it with kids and poop? They think it’s hilarious and they love talking about it, usually at the most inappropriate times. (Like, for instance, at the dinner table!) Well, why not use their propensity to be entertained by all things disgusting to get them into the kitchen and interested in food! (If it makes you feel better, cooking with kids is a great way to reinforce math skills, thanks to all of the measuring — and it’s great quality time for both of you!)

I have searched the internet to compile a truly gross recipe roundup for kids from some creative bloggers.

Unicorn Poop Cookies

unicorn-poop-cookies
Photo Credit: Hallecake.com

First up is Unicorn Poop Cookies from an adorable kid blogger who goes by the name Hallecake. Be sure to check out her website and YouTube channel for more cool and geeky recipes! These cookies are easy to make and perfect for play dates, parties, or school snack day! .

Kitty Litter Cake

Photo Credit: KatherineMariePhotography.com
Photo Credit: KatherineMariePhotography.com

For all of the feline-loving fans out there, Kitty Litter Cake is sure to be a hit! There are many recipes out there for Kitty Litter Cake; however, I happen to think that this presentation from Katherine Marie Photography is one of the best looking! WARNING: Make sure you use a NEW kitty litter box and a NEW kitty poop scoop. Or, if that’s too gross for you: Use a baking pan and slotted spatula!

“Used Band-Aid” Snacks

Photo Credit: KatherineMariePhotography.com
Photo Credit: KatherineMariePhotography.com

Katherine Marie Photography seems to have the market cornered on beautiful photography of truly nasty snacks! Cinnamon graham crackers, frosting and a strawberry jelly is all you need to make these snacks. I would even try swapping out the frosting for cream cheese, if your kids are into that. These Used Band-Aid snacks are easy to make and sure to please.

What’s Cookin’ in Your Town?

If your kids love making these gross recipes, they might be game for dabbling in a cooking class or program after school! Find a wide variety of options at locations near you on ActivityHero! Bonus: When kids enroll in a cooking class, you usually get to enjoy the fruits of their labor (fruit pies, too) — and your kitchen stays clean!

Calling All Readers: Give Us Your Grossest!

Hope you enjoyed this roundup of gross goodies! If you have a recipe that you want to share, leave us a note in the comments below! We’re short on booger recipes …