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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Gift Ideas for After School Teachers & Camp Counselors

Looking for the perfect last-minute present for your kids’ favorite instructors? Here, 5 clever ideas that will melt their heart without breaking the bank.

By Laura Quagliochild giving gift to a beloved camp counselor

“The most thoughtful gifts that I have received from my students are handwritten letters and/or pictures that they have given to me,” says Latasha Casey, Founder of P.O.M. Squad (Positive Outcome Mentoring and Dance, Incorporated), a youth development program empowering girls through the art of dance. Tasha’s programs increase confidence, build social skills, and provide memorable experiences through dance classes, mentoring, and performance opportunities. “Knowing that they took the time out to think about me reassures me that I am making an impact on their lives. It always warms my heart to receive these types of gifts from the girls I work with!”

Here, a few other great ideas for gifts that your kids’ instructors will truly treasure.

1. Liven Store-Bought Gifts with Handmade Labels
Maybe you’ve seen these custom wine labels: “Our child might be the reason you drink, so enjoy this bottle on us!” There’s no shame in copying this cute idea — mimicry is the most sincere form of flattery. You can make a similar label using a computer, or let your child create a hand-made drawing to paste onto the bottle — with or without this funny commentary. Not comfortable giving the teacher an alcoholic beverage? Use the same idea with a bag of fancy ground coffee or a travel mug: Our child might be the reason you need caffeine…

2. Offer a “Moving” Display of Appreciation
Instructors love when students show off the skills they’ve been taught in class! Have your child create a dance for their hip-hop instructor or come up with a kata for their martial arts teacher. Cheerleaders can create a personalized cheer, complete with pompoms. If creating something that complex is too challenging for your child, have them take a few minutes before their next class to show off what they know — and thank the instructor for showing them how to slam-dunk, sprint, kick, catch, or whatever else they are now able to do.

3. Cook Up a Clever Present
Everyone loves cookies and candies at the holidays. You can make your instructor’s cookie tray even more special by creating goodies that are customized just for them. A math tutor might love cupcakes topped with icing equations. Gingerbread people can be posed doing martial arts kicks, or you can find ballerina or football player cookie cutters. You can even make little flags using toothpicks, tape, and paper cutouts of favorite activity-appropriate pictures. Tuck a tiny flag into the top of each cookie, cupcake, or candy before delivering them to the coach or teacher.

4. Give the Gift of Your Time
There’s no time like the present, and there’s no present like your time! Many programs can benefit from an extra pair of hands. It costs you nothing to help out (other than an hour or two), and has plenty of payoffs. You can show your appreciation to your child’s instructors. You can get a personal peek at what your kid’s up to. And you just might find a hobby or interest that you enjoy. Perhaps you’ll decide to become a scout leader or computer coding instructor yourself.

5. Help Them Fill Their Camps and Classes
One of the best things you can do for the programs your child loves: Promote them to your friends. You’ll be offering your favorite instructors some added job security, and your child benefits, too: If more kids join the program, there will likely be more resources and offerings for everyone, including your kiddo. You can also promote ActivityHero providers right online, reaching hundreds of parents. Here, discover tips to help you — quickly — write a stellar provider review!

For additional clever gift offerings, check out Teacher Gift Ideas from Over 50 Real Teachers from Love from the Oven!

Happy holidays!

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

3 Unplugged Crafts for 4th of July

Looking for something crafty (but easy!) to try with your kids to celebrate the 4th of July? Here are three colorful patriotic-themed crafts we love.

By Margo Bayne

My kids have been at camp doing lots of fun crafts and I wanted to continue the momentum through the long weekend. Here are some of my favorite red-white-and-blue ideas from a couple of crafty bloggers. They all have enough information and instructions to help us non-Martha Stewart types (i.e. me!) and help our kids get some great results they’re proud to share with the family and neighbors.

1. 4th of July Paper Lanterns

Paper Lanterns work for just about any festivities and spangling them up for 4th of July is fantastic. The Crafting Chicks have a great tutorial if you haven’t made lanterns recently. They use festive ribbon to string them up and edge the lanterns. Nice!

See the full tutorial at The Crafting Chicks.


2. 4th of July Twig Ornaments

We love this sweet, simple craft from Jackie at the Happy Hooligans Blog. Gathering sticks is a great activity for a nature hike and a perfect use for rejected marshmallow sticks!

To unplug this craft, we used small clear hair elastics to tie together the twigs rather than a hot glue gun. We think loom band elastics will probably work well too!

Check out the full tutorial at Happy Hooligans.


3. Red White and Blue Table Décor

Layering colored rice and beans is such a simple and fun craft to make and then use for barbecues and decorating!

Kids will love the process of dyeing the rice and layering up every jam jar you’ve been saving.

Check out the full tutorial at Today’s Creative Life!


Have a happy star-spangled holiday!

For a memorable summer, check out updated schedules for kids’ camps, classes, and workshops at ActivityHero.com

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Parenting Resources

Wheel Kids Expands to Walnut Creek

If your child needs a boost in learning how to ride a bike or just wants to hit the road and discover cool trails and destinations, Wheel Kids is the camp for them! The program started in San Francisco, but popular demand has spurred locations in Palo Alto and now Walnut Creek at Larkey Park.

Wheel Kids gives elementary and middle school students a chance to build their cycling skills and get a great workout while having fun with fellow campers. Children with solid skills tackle an adventurous agenda featuring off-the-beaten-path trails. Kids riding bikes

And for children between 5 and 8 years old who have trouble riding or just have shaky skills, the Wheelkids beginner program will give them the confidence and balance they need to move from training wheels to a two-wheeler and finally over to the adventure group, so they can start tackling trails with their fellow campers.

Here are the Wheel Kids locations for your pedaling adventurer.

Wheel Kids in San Francisco: Richmond Clubhouse and Marina Green East

Wheel Kids in Palo Alto: Mitchell Park Community Center and Addison Elementary School
Wheel Kids in Walnut Creek: Larkey Park

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Parenting Resources

Grow Without the Dirt – Gardening Indoors With Kids

With spring on the horizon, most of us start to plan our garden. At least here in my Chicago suburban home, planning our summer garden is one of the ways that our family survives the final push of winter weather. I can make it through any random April (or May!) snowstorm if I know that gardening is just a few weeks away. Gardening indoors with kids is one of the first steps to get them excited about summer!

We’ve started our plants indoors this year, and have watched our seeds grow steadily. Jackson, our preschooler, has always enjoyed helping out with gardening tasks but this year he is into it tenfold. I’ve been looking for ways to harness and expand his enthusiasm, but simply don’t have the living space to add one more seedling to our home. Enter our very own form of hydroponics, or growing living things without dirt.

Besides being a fun science experiment, learning to grow things without dirt has given him more plants to check on each day. He thinks it is awesome that he can grow plants in dirt, in water, and in other mediums entirely. Here are a few ideas to get you and your little gardener started.

Start an Avocado Adventure

While I might be the only person who doesn’t love guacamole, I do love that you can start an avocado tree in your home with just a few toothpicks and a glass of water. The next time that you are at the grocery store with your child, pick out an avocado together. Talk about where he thinks avocados come from – a bush, a tree, etc. Avocados do indeed come from trees and you can start one together.

After you use your avocado, save and rinse the pit. Pierce it with 3 or 4 toothpicks so that it can “hang” in a glass half full of water. Keep the pointy side as the top. Now, you wait. It might take up to eight weeks to see things really start to happen, but if you and your family can have the patience, your avocado pit will start to sprout roots.

If you live in appropriate weather, you can plant your sprouted pit. About 10 years later, your tree will start giving you avocados. If you don’t have that kind of time, just seeing the sprouting process right in your kitchen is enough to call this experiment a success.

Lettuce, Onions, and Leeks (Oh My!)

This spring and summer, our family is committed to working on reducing our kitchen waste. While we are good at using most of our ingredients up, I’ve already started our compost pile and am still looking for ways to decrease our household trash. Our dirtless plants fascination works great for this.

The next time you are chopping up green onions or leeks, don’t throw away the bottom part with the roots. Instead, toss them into a bit of water. Within no time at all, you will have new green onions and leeks to use for your next recipe. Be sure to rotate some new starter roots every few times so that you are getting good nutrients, but this is a fun way for your child to see how things grow. You can also use this technique with romaine lettuce and even fennel.

Hit the Pet Store

If you already have a fish tank at home, or a pond in your backyard, you might find your next aquatic plant adventure in your pet store. Our fish Blue now has a lovely aquatic plant in his tank, courtesy of the nice lady at our local pet store. We had fun “planting” it in his tank and I think that Blue is pleased with this recent upgrade.

If you have a pond as a landscape feature, you already have a gateway to water lilies and other aquatic plants. Get your child involved in choosing appropriate plants for the health of your pond, as well as “planting” them. It is a wonderful way of hands on learning.

If you aren’t sure if avocado pits and green onions are the way that you want to test out dirtless plants, or if your child is more advanced and ready to take something else on, you can dive more into hydroponics; or, find clear gel that you can grow root cuttings in. Get your child involved with you by visiting local garden centers or botanical garden locations that are local to you; gardening or nature camps are also a great place to get information.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

7 Unique Birthday Party Ideas

Your child is special so why shouldn’t his birthday be just as special? When celebrating with friends and family at your home, you can make it themed like a birthday party place. With a little creativity, coming up with unique birthday party ideas can be super easy and super cheap. Most of the party idea decorations can be found at local dollar stores. Not only can you do these super fun party ideas cheap, but your kids will be learning without even knowing it.

Hawaiian PartyDollarphotoclub_52698588.jpg

Most parents just can’t afford to have a birthday party in Hawaii, so instead of trying to go there, make Hawaii come to you. You can usually find Hawaiian skirts, coconut tops and lays at your local dollar store during summer months. Find some Hawaiian music and have a Hula dance competition. Complete your look with orange light bulbs for the sun, blue table cloths for the ocean and and a kid painted mural of a coconut tree. Play pin the coconut on the tree for a fun game. Watch Lilo and Stitch for a fun Hawaiian film.

Under the Sea

Have a deep sea adventure birthday party. With a little creativity, and some construction paper, you can fill your house with deep sea creatures. To give the effect of being under water, cover lamps with blue vinyl table cloths. Create rainbow fish by drawing a fish and pasting tin foil fins on it; make handprint octopuses and different kinds of fish (fine motor skills). Cut your fish out and hang them on the ceiling for a feel of swimming with the fishes. Play sharks and the minnow. Watch a sea movie like The Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo.

Camping Party

Camping is always a fun activity for birthdays, but some birthdays just don’t fall at the right time of the year. No worries, you can have an indoor campout. Have roasted marshmallows over the gas stove, put up a small tent or blanket tent and create a fire place with blocks or legos (spacial skills).

Indoor Obstacle Course

When the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor activities on birthdays, friends will enjoy a little indoor competition. It isn’t everyday that you let your kids run through the house, jump on pillows or scream and holler like their outdoors, so why not let their special day be really special with an indoor obstacle course. If you have stairs, a basement or an easily accessible attic, use it. Use every part of your house as a fun course to get through. Have friends and family line up to relay race through hula hoops, dive under blanket forts and hop from pillow to pillow. Create your obstacle course and give winners a handcrafted, gold olympics necklace.

Hula hoops, pillows and couches what more do you need?

Lava Party

Instead of having specific activities, invite your kids to use their imagination with a lava party. Cover your floors with orange and yellow table cloths, blankets or construction paper. Tell your party animals that the whole floor is lava and if they fall in they will burn up. Have a goal to get to the treasure as a group. Every time one of your team mates falls in, everyone must start over. Or, have them storm the castle surrounded by hot lava and save the captured princess. Have a volcano cake and make a volcanic eruption with a pop bottle by adding vinegar, dish soap, red food coloring and baking soda.

Bubble Party

Bubbles are fun for everyone no matter what the age. You can get some dish soap and glycerin from your local dollar store and have a bubble making party. Use pop bottles, water bottles or containers to shake up your bubble mixture and make a pool of foam. Have a bubble making contest for the biggest bubble. Do experiments to see how much soap and glycerin to use to make the best bubbles. Have an outdoor bubble bath to swim in or if you must bring the party indoors let kids swim in their suits in a bathtub filled with bubbles. And, of course, a container of bubble party favors are sure to make a big hit.

Homemade Pizza Party

Everyone loves pizza, so why not let your party kids make their own. There are two ways of doing this:

-Buy pre-made pizza crust: Most local grocery stores will sell individual pizza crusts.
-Make your own pizza crust: Self rising flour and greek yogurt mixed together is a great two ingredient pizza crust.

Get enough pizza sauce, pepperoni, veggies and cheese for a whole army of hungry kids. Once pizza is cooked and cooling, have a best pizza competition where they have to vote for someones pizza. Play pin the pepperoni on the pizza by using a poster board cut in the shape of a pizza and round, red construction paper (peperoni) to tape on. Enjoy pizza, cake and ice cream, good games and fun times.

Unique birthday parties don’t have to be expensive. They just take a little creativity and a lot of imagination. Let your mind wander and give your special kid a unique party every year.

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Holiday Break Camps Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Create a Boredom-Busting Spring Break Bucket List!

Are you ready for spring break? Here’s a bucket-list plan that will keep the kids occupied and won’t break the bank.

happy father and little girl with colorful kite

Whether spring break is right around the corner or months away, it’s never too early (or late) to start planning what you’re going to do to keep the kids occupied, engaged in activities, and (shhh … don’t tell them) even learning. That’s why starting a Spring Break Bucket List today is a great idea.

Wondering why you need a special bucket list just for spring break? Isn’t one bucket list enough for a lifetime? Creating a specific list of spring break activities will help you be more intentional about your use of time. To put a finer point on it: You’ll be less likely to wind up glancing at the clock halfway through Day 3 and wonder how it got to be 4 p.m., what on earth you actually did for the last few days, and why you have virtually noting to show for it. Plus, your kids’ “what I did on spring break” essay can include more than a Netflix mega-marathon and junk food fest.

One last note before you let the kids in on your plan: While children love the idea of generating ideas for this bucket list, it’s probably best if parents have the last say on what makes the final cut. That way the elements included are more likely to be doable, affordable, and enjoyable for the whole family.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >

What Should Be on a Spring Break Bucket List?

Get your creative juices flowing with the following guidelines and ideas.

Mix it up. Choose a variety of activities that will be fun for the whole family. If you’ve got kids that span a wide range of ages, maybe have one parent do something with the older ones while the other takes the younger kids elsewhere. For instance, half of the clan might go to a local playground, while the older family members go roller skating.

Keep tasks short and less expensive. That is, compared to what you’d put on a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list. So, for instance, a three-day stay at Disney is perfect for your “lifetime” list, but “visiting three parks” might be a better fit for spring break.

Don’t take on too much. Depending on how time-intensive your activities are, you shouldn’t aim for more than three a day. Since kids still will have to do all the usual things — meals, baths, maybe even homework — consider how much time you actually have before making any promises. You might also consider devoting a day or two to chores and schoolwork (if needed) and then designate other days for bucket-list adventures.

Give back to the community. You’d be hard-pressed to find a parent who doesn’t want to teach their kids to do random acts of kindness for others. And many schools, clubs, and religious programs require a certain number of hours of volunteer service. When generating your bucket list, include activities that allow your family to help others and give back to the community. To get started, check out the ideas in Volunteer Options That Teens and Tweens <3 (Love) right here on the ActivityHero blog.

Continue to collect ideas. Tack a paper to the fridge where kids and parents can write down a new bucket-list idea when they think of one. You certainly can’t do everything during one spring break, but you’ll have plenty of ideas to stay busy during summertime or on the next three-day weekend.

Ideas for Your Spring Break Bucket List

  • Fly a kite or teach kids another low-tech activity you loved as a child.
  • Choose one bookshelf and read all of the picture books on it.
  • Research authentic cuisine from a foreign country, then prepare some of the dishes as a family.
  • Bake cookies and take them to neighbors.
  • Make homemade cards and deliver them to a nursing home.
  • Go through a drive-thru and pay for the car behind you.
  • Try a new-to-you restaurant or cafe.
  • Park the car on the main street of a nearby town, and take a walk to discover hidden gems.
  • Stay at a hotel in your own town. Choose one with a pool, if you don’t have one at home, and ask the concierge for local activities to try.
  • Have a family slumber party, complete with pizza, games, and movies at night … and chocolate chip pancakes in the morning.
  • Invite grandparents over for a meal made by the kids.
  • Deep-clean closets and dressers in prep for a family garage sale.
  • Host a neighborhood ice cream social.
  • Go to a state or national park.
  • Plant seeds for a garden — veggies, herbs, and/or flowers.
  • Visit a zoo or aquarium.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Create a music video to a favorite song and upload it to Youtube.
  • See what special programs the local ski resorts and other tourist spots are offering during break time.
  • Take a class as a family, in art or cooking or something else you all enjoy.

How to Display Your Spring Break Bucket List

Instead of writing down your ideas on a sheet of paper, you can boost everyone’s excitement by typing up the list using fun fonts in bright colors. Put a small check-box beside each item so you can X it when it’s complete.

Another option: Write down each idea on a small slip of paper, fold the papers in half, and place them in a clean bucket or sand pail. Then when someone says that they’re “boooorrrrrrrrrred,” tell them to go to the bucket and select an activity.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >

Need a Little Break Yourself?

Check out ActivityHero for kids’ holiday break camps in your area! There’s something for everyone, and you can find options that last for a few hours, a whole work day, or a few days at a stretch — whatever suits your family’s needs!

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Parenting Resources

Is Your Kid Addicted to Minecraft? Here’s Why You Should Learn to Play Too

My 12 year old son loves Minecraft and plays almost every day online either solo or with friends. And when he’s not building or adventuring, he’s watching YouTube videos of others playing and building. Seems like an addiction, right? That depends on your perspective. I have to say that I thought his hours of Minecraft screen time were verging on unhealthy until my husband and I tried it for ourselves.

My husband was the first to give it a go, playing on our PS3 with our son. It seemed to be a great bonding experience but I was even more surprised when I would wander in on my hubby playing the game when my son was nowhere in sight. He took to the game like a fish in water. I held out longer, but when my son gifted me with a Minecraft download for my birthday, I could no longer resist.

Let’s be frank – I’m bad at the game. My son and his friends laughingly call me a “noob” and I have to admit that I’m less into building than chasing virtual bunnies around, but my tween is just thrilled that I’m online with him. He’s even taken to recording our sessions and editing them into his own Minecraft YouTube series he plans to publish about teaching your clueless parents how to play.

But it was more than curiosity about the game that got me to log in and play online with squares of dirt and trees – it was wanting to be closer to a kid that puberty is turning into a “don’t hug me in public” hormonal creature. Here are four reasons to consider investing the $30 and a couple of hours of your time each week to play Minecraft with your kids.

#1 It gets your tween to willingly spend time with you

My sweet little son is growing a pubescent fuzz-stache and is migrating to that stage where he needs me less and less. Logging on gets me dedicated time where I have all his attention. My lack of skill in the game allows him to step into the position of authority and instruct me on how to mine, build and protect myself. He’s proved himself a patient and generous instructor. I sit down with a pledge to play for half an hour and then suddenly realize we’ve been at it for an hour or two. Offline, I get monosyllables. Online, I get quality time. Think of it as a relationship tool.

#2 It’s a great way to stay in touch online when you’re traveling

If you have to travel for work regularly, playing Minecraft is a great way to thoroughly engage with your kids when you can’t be physically present. Minecraft can be played in a variety of way – as a single player, you can play alone on your computer or on a public server with other players. You can even set up your own server and make it invitation only. From wherever you are, you can log on and play with your kids while simultaneously chatting on Skype so it’s a genuine hangout. This can ease the separation pangs that both you and your kids suffer when you have to travel.

#3 You can see who your kids are spending time with online

In addition to playing as a solo player, my son plays on public servers, sometimes with people he doesn’t know and sometimes with a handful of school friends. He and his buddies also Skype chat while playing so it’s like a virtual play date. Minecraft also has a text chat function where you can talk to other players, but my tween sticks to audio chat so he has hands free to build. It’s easy to monitor Skype activity, confirm that your kid is chatting only with friends and family and isn’t in stranger danger. Sometimes players on public servers may start an argument, but mostly it’s pleasant interaction.


#4 It’s fun

I’ll just say it – I don’t care for today’s video games in general. When I was my son’s age, video games came in increments of what a quarter could buy at an arcade. Saga adventure games on the Xbox or PlayStation have never held allure for me. But Minecraft, I have to admit, is fun. I chop down trees, dig holes, chase pigs around and build shacks. My son, by comparison, builds castles and sophisticated machines. But we laugh and he encourages me to evolve my skills. I even invested in a set of Minecraft Essential Handbooks with all the recipes for crafting (two sticks plus three wood planks = one wooden axe) that my adult brain can’t retain without reference material. You can even book your tween a Minecraft birthday party or camp!

What’s infectious about Minecraft is that, no matter how inexperienced you are, you can play and have fun. If you die, you respawn immediately. You can also turn on creative mode (rather than adventure mode) while you’re learning so you can play without worrying about running out of virtual food, being attacked by zombies or running short of building resources.

Even for the least computer game savvy parent, Minecraft is learnable. I highly recommend not only buying it and playing with your kids, but letting them take the lead to teach you the game. This will let you experience an aspect of your child’s personality you may have never seen because they’re in the driver’s seat and you’re the one with the virtual training wheels. Flipping the dynamic can deepen your relationship and bring you closer to kids that are growing up and away from you far too fast.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Making Your Own Music

Brief History of Music

Music may very well have existed even before man. The first musical instrument was likely to have been a hollowed out stick that one could blow through to make sound. There are 6 major periods of Western Music:

Middle Ages (400-1400)- This period consisted of mostly chants and church music. Some greats included Hildegard and Machaut.

Renaissance (1400-1600)- Music became more sophisticated and a variety of different styles emerged. Some greats included Marcello and Monteverdi.

Baroque (1600-1750)- Music became even more complex with lots of experimentation with instruments and form. Some greats include Bach and Vivaldi.

Classical (1750-1800)- Music now follows well defined forms with the main form being the Sonata. Some greats include Beethoven and Mozart.

Romantic (1800-1900)- Music shifts to emotional and expressive as it tells a story. Some greats include Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

20th Century (1900-2000)- This period took on a rule of “no rules”. Lots of new styles and ideas. Some greats include Stravinsky and Bernstein.

The collaboration of all these periods makes up the roots of music. And, it keeps on growing and growing.

Making Your Own Music – Instruments

Maracas

maracas.jpg

Supplies Needed:

-Empty and rinsed 20 oz. soda bottles
-Sand, dry beans, rice or small pebbles
-Low temp glue gun
-Decorations such as stickers, ribbon or yarn
-Funnel

 Instructions:

1. Using the funnel, fill each bottle 1/3 full with your sand, beans, rice or pebbles. (You can easily make colored rice by mixing rice in a bowl with some food coloring)
2. Secure the lid on with the hot glue.
3. Decorate your maraca with ribbon, yarn, stickers, anything you like.
4. Shake!

 Drums

drum.jpg

Supplies Needed:

-Empty tin cans, various sizes (bottom end should be removed with can opener too)
-Leather laces
-Decorative fabric
-Low temp glue gun
-Large needle or hole punch
-Pen
-Dowels (3/16” x 12”): 2 for each drumstick
-Spools (3/4” x 5/8”): 2 for each drumstick
-Piece of leather (large enough to cover both ends of your tin can)

Instructions:

1. Start by cutting your decorative fabric to fit around your can. Glue in place.

2. Next, place your can onto the leather and trace with a pen. Measure 1 inch from your traced circle and draw another circle. Repeat this process so you will have a covering for each end of your drum. Cut out your circles along the outside line.

3. Go around the outer circles and mark holes where you will string your laces through. Make sure not to get too close to the edge. Use a large needle or a hole punch to poke out your holes.

4. Run your lace through the holes like you are sewing and place over the top of your can. Cinch up tight and tie. Turn the drum over and repeat the process for the other end. String some laces diagonally from the top to the bottom of the drum if desired. Your drum is now complete!

5. For your drumsticks, put hot glue on one end of the dowel and poke into the spool. Set aside to dry. Repeat the process for your second drumstick. Once dry, you are ready to start drumming!

6. If your child can’t get enough, they can learn drumming at a number of locations!

Kazoos

kazoo.jpg

Supplies Needed:

-Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
-Scissors
-Wax paper
-Markers
-Rubber Bands

Instructions:

1. Decorate the tube by coloring designs with the markers.

2. Cut a piece of wax paper about 4” x 4”. Place the wax paper over one end of the tube and secure it tight with a rubber band.

3. With your scissors, poke a small hole in the tube near the end with the wax paper. (The hole should be no bigger than the end of a pencil)

4. Play your kazoo by blowing into the open end.

Techniques

-You can play your maraca in several different ways. Shake it once per note, twice per note, play every note of the song or try every other. You can shake it in the air or shake it against the side of your leg.

-For your drums, try making different sounds depending on where and how hard you strike the drum. You can hit the drum once per beat, or a couple of times. Try some drum rolls too!

-For your kazoo, experiment making different tones by changing the form of your lips or changing how hard or light you breathe into your kazoo. Make distinct beats by saying “to” as you blow into the kazoo.

Song List

Familiar songs that everyone knows work the best and provide the most fun (and laughs). Consider some classics like:

-Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
-Yankee Doodle
-If You’re Happy And You Know It
-Mary Had A Little Lamb
-You Are My Sunshine
-Skip To My Lou
-When The Saints Go Marching In
-She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

How to Find the Perfect Nanny

Finding the perfect nanny for your family can be a difficult task. You want someone whom you can trust with your child that has similar beliefs and lifestyle, someone that is capable of taking care of your child but also at keeping them entertaining and helping them learn. Depending on your intentions, a nanny can also become like another member of the family. Children are highly influenced by those they spend a large amount of time with and your nanny will definitely fall into this category.

However, though some effort is required, finding a nanny does not need to be difficult, especially in the San Francisco Bay area. Hiring a nanny in San Francisco is a very common thing and therefore there are qualified nannies abound.

Below is a general guideline on how to find the perfect nanny.

Where to Find A Nanny

There are 3 ways to find a nanny – online, through an agency, or via recommendations.

There are several sites dedicated to connecting families with the perfect nanny, such as UrbanSitter and SitterCity. Both sites allow both families and nannies to create a profile about themselves, their lifestyle, and what they are looking for. Families are able to post a specific job for their family detailing the position and expectations and are also able to search through the available nannies in the area to reach out directly.

The upside to such sites is that there is often a wide range of nannies to choose from, allowing you to connect with multiple people. Many of these sites also offer a section for nannies to post references and offer a free background check. Additionally, previous employers are able to leave feedback based on their experience with the nanny.

The next option is city-based nanny agencies. Utilizing agencies allows you to do less of the work – they often vet the nannies and work hard to make a match for you. The downside, of course, is that you have to pay an agency fee.

The final option is to reach out to friends and family for suggestions. Whether they are able to recommend a past babysitter or have a friend looking for work, this can be a great starting point. Nannies looking for work often reach out to “mommy groups” as well.

Interviewing Applicants

At this point, hopefully you’ve found a few potential nannies. I’ve always found it important to set up interviews with several people as occasionally people won’t show up or will find another job. Plus, there’s always the chance that the person you anticipate to be your Dream Nanny won’t be so great after all.

Interviews can be held in your home or somewhere public, like a local park. If only interviewing one or two potential nannies, I recommend holding the interview in your home and introducing the children as how someone interacts with your child the first time is a big indicator of how they will be as a nanny.

Prior to the interview, create a list of exactly what you’re looking for in a nanny. Divide the list into “non-negotiables” and “strongly desired”. Include things like CPR/first aid certification, non-smoking, drivers license, experience, availability and flexibility on the list. Remember that the ideal nanny may have most but not all of these qualities so it’s important to decide right away what is a deal-breaker and what you can potentially work around.

Create a list of questions around your requirements as well as other important questions like –

Why do you want to be a nanny?
What is your previous experience (in detail)?
What would you do in X situation?
How do you handle punishment?
Do you foresee any obstacles (family obligations, etc) that may prevent you from arriving at work?
Do you foresee any schedule changes?
When are you NOT available?
Also remember to inquire about driving record and insurance if the nanny will be required to drive the children around.

When interviewing, there are a few red flags to look out for – they reschedule the appointment several times, acts disinterested when introduced to the children, provides vague answers, etc.

However, perhaps the most important part of the interview is introducing the potential nanny to the children. If you are interviewing several nannies and plan to do several rounds of interviews, this can be saved until the last interview so that the children do not become confused but if you are interviewing only one or two nannies, bring the children in right away.

After all, they will be the ones spending all of their time with the new nanny and it’s important for both you and the nanny to decide whether or not your children will be the right fit.

Making the Decision

Prior to making the final decision, request and call at least 3 references. Be wary of references that are overly positive – too often people provide fake references in the form of relatives.

Finally, after references are checked there are a few more things to consider:

How did the child(ren) react? Does the nanny fit into your lifestyle? For example, if you live a very active lifestyle and eat all organic, it’s probably best to not hire a nanny who prefers to cook boxed meals and let the children watch TV all day.

At this point, it’s best to have one nanny that you believe would be the absolute perfect fit but also hopefully one or two back-ups, in case the first doesn’t work out.

The final step is to call the potential nanny and let them know you would like them to be take care of your children. Make an offer regarding pay but be open to a little negotiation -after all, isn’t it worth a few extra bucks to know your child is in good hands? Be super-clear on what the expectations are so there’s no confusion later.

Hopefully at this point you’ve found the perfect nanny and can look forward to leaving your child in good hands while you work.

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Parenting Resources

How to Teach Your Child to Hand Sew

How to Teach Your Child to Hand Sew

Sewing seems to be one of those lost arts. Ready made clothing is available everywhere. Bedding and kitchen cloths are at our disposal. Why sew any more? First, because it is one of those lost arts. Second, it is a skill that will remain with you and your children for a lifetime. Once you learn to hand sew (or machine sew for that matter), you never forget how to do it. Just like riding a bike or learning to swim.

Best age to teach your child to hand sew. Only you will be able to gauge the best age. You know your child and his or her ability. A couple of things to look for is interest, though they could lose interest just as fast as they gained it, that does not mean to toss the task to the wayside. Sewing with them will help keep them interested, especially if they know you are engaged and interested too. Their hand-eye coordination. If they have good dexterity, chances are they can handle a needle, thread and a piece of fabric.

Choose sewing materials. There are the traditional materials, such as a needle, thread and fabric. These things may be purchased at a fabric store or craft center. Then there are lacing shapes, which can be purchased from Melissa & Doug, Kaplan Toys, Amazon and many other retailers. All of which may be bought at a reasonable price. Lacing shapes work really well with younger children.

The fun thing about going the traditional route is going to the fabric store and choosing a piece of fabric with your child. Then you can teach them how to buy matching thread and how to choose the right size needles. littlegirlsewing.jpg

Keep it short and simple. The sewing lessons do not have to be very long. 10-20 minutes is probably as long as any young child is going to remain interested and still enjoy it. Listen to your child’s cues. But do not be afraid to push them just a little bit to finish a shape or a line of stitches. Remember to set a timer.

If going the traditional route, the best way to go about the lesson is to cut out 4”x4” squares of fabric and make a nine patch pillow top. After each square is cut, use a ruler and draw pencil lines on the squares about ⅝  ” away from the edge of the fabric all the way across the 4” side. Then draw dots a ¼” apart on the line and show your child how to sew up and down on the dots to make a solid seam. This helps them sew straight and sets them up for success rather than failure.

A full pattern for a nine patch pillow may be found here: http://extension.usu.edu/_sites/4hsewing/sewing/graphics/9Patch.pdf

Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Patience is worth repeating. Learning a new skill can be challenging. Give your child a chance to make mistakes. There will be knots in laces and thread. Stitches will be crooked. Thread will break. Fingers will be pricked with needles (get a thimble!) and there may be exclamations of, “I can’t do this!” “I don’t want to do this anymore!” Set the timer for 10-20 minutes and keep to it. This helps prevent creating a quitter and builds perseverance.

Great quotes for inspiration in almost anything worth doing:

“The line, ‘if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,’ is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left ‘the things worth doing’ to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.” ~ from Chesterton’s book, What’s Wrong with the World, 1910.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Anything worth doing does require effort. Be sure you make this fact a part of your sewing lesson. Choose materials that fit your lifestyle, budget and are age appropriate for your child. Keep your lessons short and simple. Remember to be patient with yourself and your child. Last of all, do not forget to have fun and celebrate your accomplishments with a cup of hot cocoa or a tea party. Part of the process is creating memories with your child too.

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Parenting Resources

Teaching Your Child to Read

Each child will learn to read at his/her own pace, but here are 5 key signs to look for that might indicate your little one is getting ready.

  1. Your child shows an interest in reading. One of the many ways children do this is to pretend they are reading the words of a book or they ask, “Mommy, what is this word?”

  2. He knows the alphabet. Once a child knows the alphabet they usually will make the connection between their ABC’s and words in print.

  3. She “reads” or recites a book she has memorized.

  4. He engages in conversation about a book. Children do this by asking questions, re-telling the story in their own words and have the capability of answering questions about a book that was just read to them.

  5. She asks, “Will you teach me to read?” or “When will I learn to read?” This usually happens when a child had been taught the love of books and reading, have been read to a lot by their caregivers.

Choosing a Curriculum. Again, there is no one size fits all curriculum. If you were to ask teachers or homeschooling parents what the best reading curriculum is, you would get as many different responses as there is curriculum. What you have to consider is how your child learns, what is his or her attention span, how much time do you have to devote to the curriculum? Once you have answered those questions, it will be easier to narrow down your choices.

It is very important that you choose a phonics based curriculum, not one that requires children to memorize all the words. Yes, there are sight words and words that do not follow phonics rules, but knowing phonics gives children the ability to sound out the majority of words in the English language.

Five popular reading curriculum among homeschoolers and public schools:

  1. Saxon Phonics.

  2. Teach Your Child How to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

  3. Hooked on Phonics.

  4. Sing, Spell, Read and Write.

  5. Abeka Reading Curriculum.

There are plenty more out there. These just seem to be the ones most talked about in a quick internet search.

Keeping a Schedule. Consistency is key when teaching your child to read. It helps them remember the sounds. It enables them to practice on a regular basis. Reading every day to your child and then doing their lessons is important to their developing reading skills. Just because your child is learning to read does not mean they are too big to be read to. Keeping to a schedule or routine also gets you into the habit of sitting down and practicing the lessons and sounds with your child. Without a schedule you are setting you and your child up for failure.

Knowing when to take a break. Children are children and can grow weary of a lot of sit down study time. Take a break if they are frustrated over sounding out a word or keep getting a sound mixed up with another. Cut a story in half if you find their attention waning. Give them time to get up and move around. Active children need this so they can go back to focusing on the task at hand. Know when either of you are tired so you can take a break for that reason too.

Knowing when to take a break if your child is not getting the reading concepts is just as important as taking a break during a lesson. Sometimes we can misread the signs of readiness and that is ok. It is completely acceptable to put the reading curriculum back on the shelf for a couple weeks or a couple months to give our child more time to grow into their readiness. This is not failure, this is giving your child a chance to become more ready. You do not want to squelch their desire to read and want them to LOVE reading. Better to take a break than do that, right?

If you love to read, then you will naturally desire that love of reading will be passed onto your children. Be a good example. Let them see you read. Have books and magazines in your home. Let your children have access to books and magazine they can pick up and look at. Read, read, read to your children and read some more. These are all things to do while your child is young so they have the chance to fall in love with books and the idea of reading. Teaching your child to read begins long before they are school age and curriculum has to be purchased. Be aware that you can be a part of teaching your children to read right from the beginning. After all, parents are a child’s first teacher.

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Parenting Resources

Marin kids get coding, making and inventing

It’s long been known that kids learn best when they can get their hands on a project.
And when you involve technology in that project, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity.

Getting kids inventing through making and coding is the mission behind Codemaker Club, part of the already popular making sessions held at the Intel Computer Clubhouse and ROP Media Center on 3rd Street,  in San Rafael.

Maker enthusiast, Marin mom, and ex BBC children’s magazine editor Claire Comins got together with Clubhouse manager John Macleod to create Codemaker Club. Starting out with summer camps, they now offer girls and boys codemaking classes plus family drop-in sessions.

‘There are so many skills involved in a project you design yourself, from brain-storming to finding your way round a new computer program, problem-solving and working to a deadline,’ says Claire. ‘The learning happens during the process. Sometimes, the new learning is in real practical skills – how to sew so you can make a soft circuit with conductive thread, for instance. At other times, it’s more creative like editing photos or movies you might use to document your project.59271ffe-4359-45db-ba72-08c4348e9ce5.jpg

‘At Codemaker Club, we start each session with a challenge like wiring up an LED light circuit or programming an animation in Scratch, and then let the students choose bigger projects to work on. It’s amazing to see the creativity in action as children realise that with modern tools like a 3D printer, a laser cutter and the latest computer software, they are inventors with the power to turn their ideas into something that they can actually use or play with.’

‘You can make anything you like at Codemaker Club,’ says Emily, 12, who came on a summer camp and then did the gift-making for the holidays workshops. ‘They have lots of cool things you can use, like the 3D printers and laser cutters. There are computers, a making table, lots of cameras and a woodshop area where you can put what you’ve made together. And it’s fun because you can create lots of fun memories with your friends.’ 99b8a654-20a5-460b-a205-7eb697e3c951.jpg

For families, the attraction is having all the materials and technology you need in one space – as well as making the time for it. ‘We’re all so busy that it’s sometimes hard to find time to sit down and make stuff with your children,’ says Claire. ‘At the Clubhouse, we’ll set up all you need for a project – like making a light-up puppet, for instance, and then show you how you can use it either as a character or a controller for an animated story on the computer. It’s a lot of fun.’76a0e1b8-e499-4757-ae9b-7f6b7264c0a9.jpg

Apart from running the Clubhouse, John teaches Digital Communications classes at local schools and organises maker events such as the Marinovators with the Marin County Office of Education. He strongly believes in learning by doing: ‘Using state-of-the-art technology is a good way for youth to learn the 21st century skills needed to be productive members of a global society.’

‘For me, the magic is in bringing coding and making together,’ adds Claire. ‘Both involve a positive mindset that puts children at the centre of how and what they learn. It’s a very empowering experience.’

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Cookie Recipes to Make With Kids

Letting kids help out in the kitchen is the first step toward teaching them to cook on their own. One great thing about kids is that they naturally want to help out, especially when the job seems fun and new. Even the smallest of your kids can find jobs to do in cookie baking: dumping ingredients into bowls, smashing down balls of dough, and other simple tasks. If you’ve got school-age kids, they can be equal partners with you when making these five simple, tasty recipes.

The World’s Biggest Cookie

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This tasty version of the classic chocolate chip cookie is baked in a pie pan or skillet, making one very large and thick cookie. Serve it warm with ice cream for dessert, and pack small wedges of leftovers as a treat in their school lunches the next day.

1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg plus one egg yolk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick cooking spray (butter flavored or plain)
  2. Use a stand mixer or handheld mixer to beat the butter for one minute, then cream in the brown sugar. Mix this on medium speed for one minute.
  3. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Mix this until it’s all combined.
  4. Mix together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt in a separate bowl. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture slowly until completely blended. The dough will be very thick.
  5. Stir the chocolate chips into the dough until it’s evenly mixed.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cookie is golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan.

For extra variety, use milk chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, chopped walnuts, or chopped pecans, substituting them for part of the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Super-Easy Nutella Brownie Cookies

nutellacookies.jpg

This recipe makes a small batch, so if you’re watching your kids’ sugar intake, this makes a nice treat without leaving cookies around for days. These soft treats taste like a combination of brownie and cookie, soft and chewy.

1 extra large egg
½ cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup Nutella

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all four ingredients together in a large bowl with a sturdy wooden spoon.
  3. Have your kids form balls about the size of a walnut, and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, and allow them to cool completely before eating

Cake Mix Cookies

This simple recipe allows kids to choose their own unique cookie flavors. He loves lemon? Check! She’s a butter pecan fan? You can do that, too. The cookie flavor depends only on their imagination.

2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 15-ounce box cake mix, any flavor

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Measure the oil in a measuring cup and add the eggs on top of it. Stir the mixture with a fork until it’s well blended.
  3. Pour the dry cake mix into a large bowl. Add the egg/oil mixture and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until it’s thoroughly mixed. The batter will be stiff and glossy.
  4. Scoop the dough by tablespoons onto two cookie sheets, placing 12 cookies per sheet
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes until they look puffy. They won’t look done when you pull them out of the oven, but they will flatten and firm up once they begin to cool

Be careful not to leave the cookies in the oven too long, because they dry out and get hard very easily when over-baked.

Filled Cookie Cups

Sometimes you want to bake some cookies with your kids, but you don’t want to measure out a ton of ingredients. These fancy-looking cookies look like they took all afternoon to make, but they’re simple enough for even your smallest kids to help with.

1 package cookie mix
Eggs and oil according to cookie mix package list
Miniature peanut butter cups or chocolate-cover caramel rolls

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix the cookie dough according to the package directions
  3. Spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray
  4. Allow your kids to make 1-inch balls of the dough, and drop one into each muffin space
  5. Bake for 10 minutes and remove immediately. The cookies will look puffy and not quite done.
  6. Push one unwrapped candy into the center of each cookie. The center will squish down, forming the cookie into a cup shape that cradles the candy
  7. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the pan

This recipe is also great for getting rid of dozens of tiny candy bars after Halloween.

Classic Cut Out Cookies

No cookie-baking year with kids would be complete without making and decorating cut out cookies. Between the fun of using cookie cutters to the pure artistic creativity of using frosting and candy decorations, no cookie allows your kids more free expression while making a sweet treat. Plus, this cookie is a natural gift for proud grandparents.

2 ounces room temperature cream cheese
1 cup (two sticks) room temperature unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer. Beat them for several minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, extracts, and lemon zest.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients, then add them to the egg and creamed mixture, one cup at a time, until completely blended. You will be left with a soft dough.
  4. Divide the dough into two balls, and roll each one out ¼ inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Stack the layers together with parchment between them and refrigerate them on a cookie sheet for at least one hour
  5. Cut cookies out of chilled rolled dough and place on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8-12 minutes until lightly brown. Cool on the pan for five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Frost with commercial frosting or your favorite frosting recipe, and let your kids go wild with the candy decorations

Do your kids enjoy cooking and baking? Find cooking camps and classes on ActivityHero that will help them expand their skills.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Choosing Figure Skating as a Sport






The days of tot classes are now far behind you, and your kid wants nothing more than to be on the ice. Go figure! Figure Skating is often an underrated sport in my opinion because many people just don’t understand the dedication that is put into it and how fiercely competitive (and selective) it truly is. For most, figure skating is associated with winter as a fun cold day activity or an entertaining Olympic sport, but not many actually pursue it as their sport of choice or competitively. If your child couldn’t get enough of their beginner classes, it is time to get them skating more consistently. Here are a few ways to get your ice princess or prince where they want to be.Dollarphotoclub_59678328.jpg

Private Lessons

Private lessons will vary in price depending on the instructor that you choose. If your child liked the summer camp that they went to, start with either that coach or at least at that rink to find someone they have synergy with. Since figure skating is mostly an individual sport, it’s especially important to find a coach that your child trusts and one that understands your child’s intentions within the sport. They will be spending a lot of time together and hopefully moving up the levels, and you don’t want a coach that is going to put too much pressure on them. Like I mentioned before, figure skating is a very competitive sport, and it’s important to be supportive but not pushy. I have seen way too many good skaters leave the sport because the pressure was too great. Beyond that, setting up a consistent training program with the coach you choose will help your child get better and better. Once your child has a training schedule in place, it will be time to start testing up the levels and most importantly, competing! Even if you can’t afford for your child to compete in every competition in the area, have them do one or two to just get the experience. Aside from just training on the ice, figure skaters are often required to supplement with off-training classes such as ballet, yoga, and Pilates, in addition to weight training, to make sure they are receiving a well-rounded training program.

What They Need

Like previously mentioned, skating in not an inexpensive sport. So if you are worried about costs, start with the basics at first until your child in well associated with everything. If they are in a consistent program, even a consistent camp program, you are probably going to want to buy them their own pair of skates so that they fit correctly. A good pair of skates will make all the difference. If you kid is going the competitive route and quickly advancing in the sport, it is time to look into custom skates. Ask your child’s coach if they are ready for this before making any purchases because they are very expensive and if your child is still growing, they will quickly grow out of their skates and will need to be replaced.  So you will want to make sure that is the correct move to make. Aside from skates, make sure they have a few pairs of tights. I always liked wearing two pairs of tights, one pair that was close toe and then a second pair that covered my boots, if I was wearing a skating dress. Double layering keeps you warmer and will protect your skates while training. Wearing a pair of closed toe tights with yoga pants or leggings is another popular option and more common these days. Just have your child pair them with a fitted fleece or shirt, and they will be good to go. It is just important not to wear anything too bulky while training since the movements require fluidity and precision. If they can’t move, they can’t be accurate. Then just add a pair of gloves, and they are good to go!

Figure skating often feels like an exclusive club since so few people actually pursue it seriously as a sport, so if your child is interested in giving it a shot, go for it! It may be expensive, but since it is so selective, if you child is good enough and sticks with it, it can be very fulfilling. It could even get them into an amazing college! If anything though, I have no doubt that your kid will have an amazing time escaping the heat of summer while in camp and come out with some great stories they can share the rest of their life.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Fast & Fun Rainy Day Play Plans for All Ages






Rather than letting rain put a damper on your plans, why not teach your kids to relish the bad weather as an opportunity for indoor fun and games? Too often, when plans fall apart, kids end up in front of the TV, computer or with a video game controller in their hand. Instead of moping, try these five rainy day activities to bring your family closer together. Soon, your kids may be watching the forecast hoping for a drizzle so they can try out these fun games again and again.

Board Game Buffet

Let each child choose their favorite board game and set them all up at once. If you have a long dining room table, pop the leaf in and make it a buffet. If you want to make it more physical, set one game up in each room so everyone takes a turn at one game, then run to the next room for a turn on the next game. This ensures that everyone gets to play their favorite game while getting your kids moving on what would otherwise be a lazy day. Leave a notepad by each game to remind whose turn it is next and what order the turns progress. Set a rule that winners cleanup to spread the task around. If you have an only child, you can be their opponent and try out two player games like Battleship and checkers.

Treasure Hunt

This is a great game for little ones that don’t yet have an attention span for board games but definitely want to play. This game can be hosted by you or an older sibling. Have them step out of the room while you hide some of their favorite toys in a couple of different rooms of the house. Let them come back in and tell them the item they’re looking for such as “your teddy bear” then lead them by warmer or colder until they find it. Eventually let them hide some things for you and guide you to them through the same clues to teach them critical thinking skills. They’ll be thrilled they were able to trick you. Even if you immediately spot what they’ve hidden, play along for a couple of minutes before you spot it. Gradually make the game more difficult and soon you’ll have a master detective on your hands.

Take a Wet Walk

As long as it’s not chilly, there’s no thunder and lightning and none of your kids are sick, why not get out and play in the rain? Dig out some already stained clothes and shoes and go outside and puddle jump. Make some mud pies, go on a nature walk and get rained on. The only real health risk is lightning or slipping on something wet. It’s on old wives’ tale that getting your head wet or being out in the rain will make you sick. Take a walk around your neighborhood or go to the local park or just play in your yard. Dig out your beach stuff – including sand buckets and shovels – for making mud castles. Sure you’ll get muddy, but then you’ll have the fun of bubble baths and hot cocoa when you’re done!

Blanket Fort Film Festival

Movie marathons are great on rainy days and indoor camping is always a treat, so why not combine the two for an extra special rain day surprise? Either put a group of chairs together back to back and throw some blankets over them or just throw a couple of blankets over your dining room table to create a cool and good-sized fort. Toss in some sleeping bags and pillows and you’ve got a comfortable nest. Add a laptop or tablet with your Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming service for movies and you’ve got your own miniature cinema. Just add juice boxes and a bowl of popcorn. By creating this environment, your kids will enjoy movies the old-fashioned way without a multitude of distractions.

Make Your Own Movie

Watching movies on rainy days is great, but why not take it to the next level and let your kids make their own? Most smartphones and tablets record high quality video so you can just hand over a device, cut them loose and see what they can do on their own. Encourage your kids to recreate their favorite TV show or movie, bring their favorite book to life or even conjure up their own script. You could get involved and do costumes, hair and makeup or, if you’re brave, let them have free rein in your closet. You never know, you could be raising the next Spielberg. Once they’ve got their movie done, watch and be amazed.

There’s no reason to ever let a rainy day get you and your kids down. Keep these five rainy day ideas in mind, take them for a test run and see which works best for your family. You never know, you may start a whole new family tradition. We’d love to hear some of your out-of-the-ordinary rainy day play plans. Be sure to share in the comments below.