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Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

7 Ways to Save Money on Family Activities

Photo from blog.al.com

No matter what the season, every parent knows it’s essential to get kids out and about in order to keep your sanity. Stir-crazy little ones can quickly lead to a crazy mom, which means there should always be activity options that are affordable, local and simple enough to navigate through. Unfortunately, many children’s activities are out of the price range of a typical family. More affordable options like visiting a local pool or hiking a nearby trail can be made much more difficult if there are very young siblings involved. Oftentimes elementary school-aged children end up sitting around more than older or younger kids often because of a lack of time or money. If you often find yourself placing your child in a similar situation, take heart – there are plenty of ways to save money on family activities that will enrich the lives of your kids and not break the bank.

Buddy Up!

Many local amusement parks offer group discounts or some sort of deal if you refer a friend. Gather some close friends with similarly-aged children and enjoy a discount on admission, lunch or any other number of things. All running deals should be listed on a destination’s website, but feel free to call and ask about group or tell-a-friend deals.

Have a Flexible Schedule

The local water park may be too expensive for a weekend trip for a family of 5, but do they have a discounted rate for a weekday or evening admission? If you live somewhere warm enough, a “night slides” deal or something like it might work out particularly well for you. Even Disneyland offers a twilight admission price. Look for mid-week promotions, deals for those visiting a winter destination in the summer (like ice skating), or be on the lookout for grand openings in your town that may offer great incentives in order to build a customer base.

Pack Smartly

Often the admission price to an amusement park, museum or other attraction isn’t the issue – it’s the money you spend once you’re inside the gate that can cause problems. Packing smartly can save some major bucks. Pack lunches for every member of your family – while it probably won’t be as tasty as the resident pizza or hot dog stand, it will be healthier, more affordable and convenient. Double checking your bag before leaving the house can also save you money – did you remember to pack sunscreen? Extra diapers or a change of clothes? Extra camera batteries? Remembering everything on the first try leads to avoiding the purchase of marked-up essentials at the closest gift shop.

Use Cash

Avoid the use of those magical debit cards and you’ll save a bundle without even trying. If you’re headed to an amusement park or another pricey destination, budget out how much you can spend beforehand. Withdraw that exact amount of cash from the ATM and limit yourself to that. Money becomes much more precious and tangible, and gives you an opportunity to teach your kids an important lesson about valuing cash and pacing themselves when it comes to spending.

Coupons

Coupons are obviously a good idea when you’re trying to save money, but there are many available in places you probably never even thought to look. Fast food restaurants often offer incredible discounts to local attractions, and many websites have cropped up in recent years. Use those sites to print your own coupons or order tickets ahead of time online with a particular promo code. Coupons can also be unexpectedly found on box tops (cereal, juice, fruit snacks, etc.) and in the free parenting magazines available on many newsstands where you live. Sometimes even mentioning a certain radio station or local TV show can get you a hook up at a place you normally would’ve had to pay more for.

Embrace Free

Encourage your kids to enjoy free activities rather than the big, impressive things. Parks, libraries, some museums and nature trails are always free and available for play and exploration. Sometimes our kids get too wrapped up in electronics and “wow” factor-driven events which can lead to paying a high price not only monetarily but also in the sacrifice of imagination and intellectual engagement. Try to challenge your kids during school vacations to find three free things they love for every one thing they have to pay money for. Teaching joy through frugality is something they can carry with them for their whole life.

Do a Swap

Maybe your kids love swimming but you don’t have the money or space for a pool. Have you ever taken it one thought further to realize maybe the neighbor’s kids love video games but don’t have the latest hit your son happens to have? Or maybe you have access to a horse, volleyball net or even a coveted book collection? Get to know your neighbors and arrange goods swaps. Your children may enjoy an afternoon in a backyard pool while the other local kids happily eat your famous chocolate cupcakes. Everyone has a talent to share or swap, and this can save you a lot of money while helping you make new friends at the same time!

Try to keep money out of conversations with children unless you are trying to teach them a lesson in value and restraint. Kids tend to become stressed out if they sense instability, so stay positive and emphasize the fun that can come out of being budget-conscious and grateful for all the things your family has!

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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Parenting Resources

Heat Wave! 10 Indoor Activities for Kids (that aren’t TV)

Written by Sarah Antrim

I am a firm believer in spending as much time outdoors as possible; but when the thermometer reads into the triple digits, and you break a sweat stepping outside before noon, sometimes it’s best to stay indoors. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are very serious things and can sneak up on kids pretty quickly. Instead of flipping on the TV and letting kids get sucked into a screen coma, try some of these activities that will give their bodies and minds a workout.

1. Build a fort

Grab the blankets, couch cushions and as many pillows as you can find and let the kids go wild. Fort building encourages kids to work on their architecture and problem solving skills. For even more fort fun, turn out the lights and bring out the flashlights so kids can pretend they’re camping indoors. It may make a mess of the living room for a day, but an activity where kids can entertain themselves for hours is well worth it.

2. Board games

I can’t stress enough how important it is to invest in a few good board games. Games like Clue, Candyland, and Monopoly never go out of style and when the time comes you’ll be glad you have them! Board games are a great activity for the whole family. Just remember that even though everyone loves to win, try not to get too competitive with kids or they will lose interest pretty quickly.

3. Hide the thimble

A game that goes by many other names, this can keep both toddlers and kids busy for hours. Since this isn’t 1920 and you’re unlikely to have a thimble lying around, pick any small yet distinguishable object such as a golf ball or a large coin. Take turns being hiders and finders with your kids—one person hides the object and the other directs them to it by uses indicators like warmer and colder as they get closer to or farther from the object, or if it’s a butterfly up high or a snake down low.

4. Icebox baking

One of the reasons cooking can be such a chore in the summer time is the fear of turning on that dreaded oven. A great way to fulfill the sweet tooth craving in the nasty heat is icebox baking. If Jell-O and pudding don’t tickle your fancy, all of these recipes can be made without turning on the oven:

Cookie Crisp Pie
Lemon Cream & Coconut Cupcakes
Strawberry Icebox Cake
More great no-bake recipes from Martha Stewart

5. Put on a play or talent show in costumes

kids in pirate costumes

Encourage your kids to work together to write a play or each come up with their own skit and present it for the family. Kids can dress up and dance to their favorite song, act out a silly scene from a movie, or sing their heart out. Dress-up doesn’t just have to be for girls, costume changes make the whole event more fun for everyone!

6. Treasure hunting/cleaning

Getting kids to do chores without complaining is all about the presentation. If you’ve got boxes of old junk in the basement to get rid of like most human beings, send the kids to “discover” what’s inside. Who can find the neatest treasure? Who can find the silliest treasure? You’ll get something checked off your list and the kids will be entertained.

7. Recycled crafts

a boy crafting

Turn your trash into treasure, literally! Anything from milk jugs to egg cartons can be re-purposed into crafts. Milk jugs make great bird feeders and lanterns while egg cartons can become the beginnings of an indoor garden. Check out Craft Gossip for an extensive list of recycled crafts.

8. Photo books, scrapbooks and collages

Most memories are digital nowadays making the days of the photo album a thing of the past. But there’s something nostalgic and exciting about a photo print you can physically touch. Buy some photo paper and print out your favorite memories. Cut out pictures and encourage your kids to write out their favorite thing about a certain memory. It will make a great keepsake in time.

9. Write a letter

boy writing a letter

Remember how exciting it was to find a hand-written letter in your mailbox from a friend or relative? Aside from quick notes in birthday cards, hand-written letters are quickly becoming a dying art. Help your child write a letter to a grandparent or relative and make their day when they open their mailbox.

10. Just dance

Got the stuck inside and bored blues? Just a few minutes of dancing can help reduce stress and improve your mood. Plus it’s a great way for kids to get rid of pent up energy from being stuck inside all day. Turn on the silliest music you can find (think Purple People Eater) and catch the boogie fever.

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources Sports

Top 10 Qualities of a Good Coach for Kids






When it comes to kids’ activities, summer camps or anything else that is part of the life of your child, a good coach or teacher can quickly make or break an experience. From that first soccer coach to a high school music instructor, it’s essential you find someone who truly connects with your son or daughter in a way that will inspire, encourage and enlighten them.

Here’s some of qualities of a good coach for kids to look for:

1. A Kid at Heart

Kids can be noisy, annoying and even gross.

That’s why it’s important for anyone working with children to have a little piece of childhood still within them. They may be a theme park fanatic or love a good round of laser tag – whatever it is, they need to be enough of a child at heart to relate to children on a level they will appreciate.

2. Enduring Patience

While a childlike spirit is undoubtedly important, your child won’t get anywhere unless the adult leading them is patient beyond belief.

Even the most easy going child can grow frustrated with a sport or other activity, and the primary adult in charge needs to be right there with the long-suffering outlook that is required to repeat instructions for a third time, or keep a crying child going when they are ready to quit.

Patience is a virtue, and one of the best qualities of a good coach for kids.

3. Experience

Your child’s teacher or coach may have won many awards or medals personally, but how long have they worked as an instructor?

More importantly, how long have they worked with children?

A swimmer that qualified for the Olympics does not automatically equal an outstanding coach for a 7-year-old afraid of putting her head under water. Look for someone who has experience not only with the activity focus, but also in leading little ones in it.

4. Qualifications

Is your coach confident in what to do in the case of an emergency or injury?

What paperwork or references do they have to back this up? Experience via formal education and training still counts for a lot.

5. Encouragement

Almost every teacher and coach involved in summer camps or kids’ afterschool activities is encouraging. But in what way?

Some may consider the examples seen on popular shows like Dance Moms or Toddlers in Tiaras as “encouraging,” while others may consider a good encourager to be someone who never yells. In reality, a healthy balance between the two will serve your child best – someone who is firm with the rules, but gentle with the reprimands.

6. Billing Practices

How do they invoice for lessons or a camp session? Do they have positive reviews from others in the community?

Check to make sure your selected instructor uses best honesty practices when it comes to all things money-related. If they are a non-profit, are their spending reports available for review? If they are charging you directly for a professional service, how do they measure up compared to others in the region?

7. Flexible Perspective

Is the coach able to evaluate a situation and adequately see various points of view?

Since little ones all learn in different ways, you don’t want an individual who is pigeon-holed into one mode of operation. If your child needs to learn visually, and an instructor isn’t able to provide resources for that, it may not be a good fit.

Look for someone with flexible viewpoints and multiple strategies to instruct and drive home a point of understanding in your child.

8. Pride in Accomplishments

Your child’s, that is – not their own.

Do they conduct regular recognition nights or issue ribbons, certificates or something else of the like to students who reach certain milestones?

Even the most elite extra-curricular shouldn’t be completely void of accolades. See what they do to commemorate your child’s improved skill set as the months go on, and talk to your child about how they personally would feel they reached a goal worth being proud of.

9. Commitment

Just as a quality school teacher is far from done working when the bell rings, after school activity leaders need to make themselves available for extra practice sessions, parent meetings and fundraising events to make their business worth something.

If they are willing to put in the extra time, or assign someone of equal merit, to work with your child individually, then you’ve likely found a great fit.

10. Community Involvement

Who knows them in your city? What have they been involved in both within your activity and beyond?

A well-rounded individual who’s active in their community will always make the best teacher or coach when it comes to children. Research what non-profits they’ve donated to, what they have done to benefit those around them. If they seem to lack charity and a decent relational life, then they may not be the best at working with kids.

The most important thing to look for in a teacher for your child is a good feeling. While it may sound cliché, your parental intuition will oftentimes kick in to reassure you that you’ve found a good match.

Do your homework, go the extra distance to compare and contrast what’s available, and you are sure to find a great coach for your kids.

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Parenting Resources

10 Fun and Easy Recipes to Get Kids in the Kitchen






Summer can easily turn into a season of too much junk food and ice cream and not enough of the healthy foods kids need to stay active. Getting kids involved in the kitchen not only makes them more willing to eat the food they’ve made, but when you bring your kids into the kitchen they learn positive character traits such as patience, teamwork, and how to follow directions.

Fun Watermelon Shapes

Watermelon is a rich source of vitamins A & C and lycopene and also a great way to keep kids hydrated on hot days. Not only is it good for you but it’s mighty tasty too. Grab a seedless watermelon and some cookie cutters and you’re just about ready to go. Cut the watermelon into about 1-inch thick slices then let kids cut out fun shapes with cookie cutters. For an extra cool treat, pop them into the freezer for a couple of hours and enjoy on a hot summer afternoon.

Kabobs

Everything is a little more appetizing and fun to eat on a stick! Kabobs are a great way to get your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. Grab some skewers (be careful of sharp edges) and simply feed fruits and vegetables on. Some great ideas are grape tomatoes, broccoli, green pepper chunks, pineapple chunks, strawberries, grapes, and watermelon.

Popsicles

Ditch the high fructose corn syrup and red dye on a stick and replace it with something tasty and healthy. Popsicle molds are available at many grocery stores, but an ice cube tray works just fine. Simply puree fruit with either juice or water and add to the tray or mold. Frozen strawberries and orange juice are a personal favorite in our house. Cover with foil and insert a popsicle stick in the middle (the foil keeps the stick in place) and freeze. For an extra healthy treat add yogurt to the mix.

Granola Bars

The best thing about granola bars is that they can have the chocolate chips kids want and still be healthy! All you’ll need is:

3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoons melted butter
3-4 cups of trail mix, nuts, coconut, M&M’s, etc.

Simply mix together all of the ingredients, press into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Encourage your child to be creative and mix as many different ingredients into their bars as they want! If you’re craving fruit, stick to the dried variety as fresh fruit may make the bars soggy.

Quesadillas

If you child is sick of sandwiches, try changing up the lunchtime routine with a quesadilla. Encourage kids to put their favorite lunch meats, cheeses, and whatever else they fancy between two tortillas and simply heat in a non-stick pan or on a countertop grill for 1 minute. Our favorite is peanut butter and banana in a whole wheat tortilla served with a side yogurt and honey dipping sauce.

Banana Breakfast Pops

Bananas are rich in potassium, essential to the active kid’s diet to prevent them from getting muscle cramps. To start, simply halve a banana and stick a popsicle stick in the end. Roll in yogurt, then granola, and place on a tray covered in wax paper. Freeze for about 1 hour or until the granola sticks well enough and enjoy! Kids can add special treats like slivered almonds or even chocolate chips. You’ve got a healthy breakfast and a free hand!

English Muffin Pizzas

These were my personal favorite as a kid. There’s something special about having your own tiny pizzas—and much healthier than a greasy delivery pizza!

All you need is:
English muffins
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Toppings of choice

Encourage your kids to make their pizzas just the way they like. Offer an array of vegetables to top their pizzas with such as sliced peppers and broccoli. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow at least 5 minutes to cool before serving.

Ants on a Log

A tried and true favorite, something about celery covered in peanut butter and raisins makes it so much more appetizing than plain old celery sticks! This snack is rich in both vitamin C and protein—great to keep kids energized for a long day outside. Simply cut celery stalks into 2-3 inch pieces, fill with peanut butter and top with raisins. If your children suffer from peanut allergies or simply don’t care for peanut butter, whipped cream cheese makes a great alternative.

Cheesy Pizza “Fundue”

All you’ll need is:
1 cup spaghetti sauce
6 oz.  Velveeta cheese
2 tbsp Kraft grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cups of bite-size vegetables and bread

Place spaghetti sauce in a microwave-safe dish and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir in cheeses and microwave another 2 ½ minutes stirring occasionally until cheese is fully melted. Allow mixture to cool before serving with vegetables and bread.

Caramel Apple Nachos

Here’s what you’ll need:
2 apples, cored and cut into slices
1 small tub of caramel fruit dip
1 cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup roasted peanuts

Simply arrange apple slices around a large plate, pour as much caramel dip as desired (be careful, a little goes a long way), and arrange with the rest of the toppings. Kids can also add crushed graham crackers and chocolate chips for an extra treat.

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After-School Activities Events Parenting Resources

10 Summer Activities that will Satisfy Bored Kids AND your Wallet






Summer: the ultimate free-for-all.

Instead of being entertained and engaged for 5 to 8 straight hours every day, kids are now looking to you with those big eyes that say “I’m bored.”

Here’s some fun and thrifty ideas to beat summer boredom that will keep both your kids and wallet happy.

Make a tire swing

A simple summer classic, tire swings can easily be put up and taken down as often as you’d like. On the days that the park is too crowded or it’s too hot to make the walk, hop on the tire swing and let the fun begin!

Simply hang a tire from a sturdy branch with strong rope and you’ve got yourself a swing.

10 Thrifty Summer Ideas Guaranteed to Beat Boredom, not your Wallet
Photo by Flickr user twred

Have a cooking day

For those days that the air conditioning is more comforting than the wicked heat, rally the troops into the kitchen and come up with some fun recipes to make as a family.

On those especially hot days where turning on the oven is a no-no, check out this list of no-bake desserts that are sure to beat the heat.

Cooking with Kids

Backyard obstacle course

Who is the greatest obstacle warrior of them all?

Have a competition in your backyard that will be sure to keep kids busy for hours. Make an obstacle course out of wading pools, tires, and ropes to test kids’ balance and agility. For some great obstacle course ideas visit here.

Scavenger hunt

Keep kids entertained and having fun by sending them on a scavenger hunt. Hide clues throughout the house and yard so that kids will have to follow clues to get to their final destination. Place clues underneath rocks, hide a message in a balloon, or even bury clues in the yard so kids will have to dig for them.

The final destination could be anything from a surprise ice cream cone to a special screening of their favorite movie.

geography for kids
photo by Flickr user artstreamstudios

Rainy day fort

What better place to set up camp than in the comfort of your own living room?

Grab some pillows and blankets and build a fort worth writing home about. Shut off all the lights and bring out the lanterns so kids feel like they’re really at camp. Kids can share ghost stories, eat s’mores, and play flashlight tag all just steps from their bedrooms.

Photo by Flickr user designerBrent
Photo by Flickr user designerBrent

Have a boat race

Toy boats can be made out of anything from wood to Tupperware—as long as it floats, it can be a boat!

Go to your local creek or simply fill up a pool in the backyard and let the races begin. Kids can use straws to set their ships sailing and see whose boat is the quickest. For some ideas on how to construct your own boat, check it out.

Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes
Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes

Tie dye

This is a great outdoor craft as it can get pretty messy!

Grab some white pieces of clothing such as socks, t-shirts, or dresses, and get ready to dye! Tie dye kits can be purchased at any craft store, or simple fabric dye will work just the same. Be sure to follow all the instructions provided to avoid too many stains.

Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner
Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner

Dress-up box

Kids love to pretend, and what better way to create a living story than with costumes.

Raid your closet for old bridesmaid dresses or bedazzled jean jackets that you knew would come in handy one day. Most thrift stores are a gold mine for dress-up boxes. Fancy hats, heels, and costume jewelry can be found at a fraction of their cost if you know where to look!

Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}
Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}

Backyard water wonderland

This is a great activity for those unbearably hot days. Drag out the inflatable pool, sprinkler, water guns, and even water balloons and have an all-out water blast–bored kids no more!

For an extra cool dip, float some ice cubes in the pool and call it the “cool off zone.” When kids get overheated from running around they’ll get a quick chill of relief.

Photo by Flickr user jennyhud
Photo by Flickr user jennyhud

Fly a kite

Check your local forecast and plan for the next windy day. If your kids have never flown a kite before, I recommend picking up a cheap starter kite. You can find them at any super store or even some dollar stores.

Keep in mind they probably won’t last long, but it will teach your kids the basics of kite flying. Once they’ve mastered it, consider purchasing a good kite that will last all summer.

Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh
Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh

Written by Sarah Antrim
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Parenting Resources

10 Ways to Instill Healthy Eating Habits in Your Child






Encouraging your child to develop healthy eating habits is not an easy task. Throw in a few busy schedules, after school activities, and fussy eaters and you’ve got your work cut out for you. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, instilling healthy habits in your child are more important than ever. Here are a few things you can do to help your child have a healthy future.

1. Try as many new foods as possible. If kids are used to a regular regimen of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and French fries, they’ll grow to expect that and become picky eaters. In order for their taste buds to develop, they have to try new things. Keep your kids guessing at dinner time and it will be exciting for everyone. Try to have a few side dishes with every entrée so that if they don’t like one thing they won’t go to bed hungry. Once you discover some favorites, you can create a dinner rotation filled with tried and true meals as well as new recipes.

2. Avoid saying “you wouldn’t like this.” First impressions are everything. Once kids have an idea in their head that they don’t like something, they are not likely to forget it. If they’re not allowed to try your spinach, they may write spinach off altogether and refuse to eat it. Let your child explore and be their own judge of what they do and do not like. You may be surprised!

3. Educate your child about their food. Did you know that carrots used to be purple before the 17th century? What do you think a purple carrot would taste like? What animal is famous for loving carrots? What do they look like when they eat their carrots? Ask your kids questions and learn some fun facts about food to encourage curiosity and eagerness to try new things. If kids insist they don’t like something that they’ve never tried before, such as carrots, ask them to show you how a rabbit would eat a carrot. Think Randy’s piggy mashed potatoes from “A Christmas Story,” only less messy. They may just find out that they have loved carrots all along!

4. Lead by example. Most kids are more willing to try foods if they see their parents enjoying them. Don’t be afraid to let the “mmm’s” and “ahh’s” flow at the dinner table to encourage your kids try the dreaded broccoli. Try to bring as many new tastes into the home as possible and let your child observe you enjoying them. Liking the same foods can create a bond that only you and your child can share. Perhaps everyone in your house hates kiwis, but you and your daughter love them. You can share your love of kiwis by creating recipes together and finding out what other tastes you have in common.

5. Grow a garden. A garden is a labor of love and a great learning experience for any child. Once kids see how much effort goes into growing a garden, they’ll be less likely to waste their food. They’ll also learn responsibility and how much a garden is affected if not watered for just one day. If your family lives in an urban setting where gardening is not an option, try growing herbs in pots. Most herbs can easily be grown inside and will open your child up to new tastes.

6. Let kids help in the kitchen. The more involved that kids are with the cooking process, the more excited they will be to indulge in their finished product. If kids are presented with a mystery dish again and again, they’ll be quicker to turn it away or pick apart the pieces that they don’t like. Encourage your child to help prepare dinner by doing simple and safe tasks like washing vegetables and measuring ingredients. If they’re interested, allow them to taste each piece that goes into the meal before it’s a finished product to appreciate every aspect of it. Try a sweet pea before it goes into a shepherd’s pie or a bit of green pepper before tossing it into the pot of chili.

7. Don’t use negative reinforcement with food. “If you don’t finish your vegetables, you won’t get dessert.” How many times have we heard this phrase? Forcing kids to clear their plates can result in overeating. If they are constantly rewarded for eating everything in front of them no matter how hungry they are, they’ll stop paying attention to the voice in their head that tells them to stop when they’re full. In addition, your child may begin to dread meal time and see it as a punishment if they simply aren’t hungry.

8. Start with small portions to avoid waste. We’ve all heard the phrase, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” This is especially true for kids. Serve small portions of meals with equal amounts of each dish on the plate to begin with. If they decide they’d like more of something, they can take more once they’ve finished their portion. This reduces the amount of wasted food and encourages kids to clear their plate without using negative reinforcement.

9. Create a good balance. According to the USDA, a meal should consist of almost equal portions of vegetables, grains, proteins, and fruits with a smaller portion of dairy. Try to include as many healthy and diverse options in every meal as possible. Even pizza night can get a healthy makeover with some diced broccoli and peppers. The more kids are used to seeing different food groups the more willing they will be to clear their plate.

10. Try to make family dinner time as regular as possible. With varying work schedules and after school activities, most families have very diverse schedules making family dinner time a thing of the past. When everyone eats at different times, it often results in too much snacking and not eating a full balanced meal. Try to clear your schedules to arrange a time that your entire family can sit down together for a meal. Even if it’s only once per week, family dinner time is sometimes the only time that the entire family can be in the same room and have a conversation. Kids may even look forward to the structured bonding time.

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Reuse, Recycle, Repin: Pinterest-Inspired Crafts for Kids






Is perusing Pinterest your favorite way to unwind online? We’ve got a great pinning assignment for you: Search the site for fun, easy, and inexpensive ways to entertain your kids with at-home crafts! Here’s a sampling of some projects that we just love — all involve recycling and reinventing common household materials to create fanciful, colorful art projects that are perfect for rainy days, days off, summer vacations, winter breaks and more!

By Amanda Austin

Kids love crafts — and so do their creative caretakers. That’s because making original artwork keeps children amused while challenging their imaginations, fine-tuning their fine-motor skills, and exploring their world in a way that’s hands-on fun. Pinterest is a great place to find an almost endless supply of ideas for all ages. Here are some of our favorites to entertain your children the next time they cry “I’m bored” during a quiet weekend, rainy day, school holiday, or summer vacation. Plus, all are made with items you likely have on hand, so there’s no need to run to the craft-supply store first!

Turn “Trash” into Treasure

Pinterest is teeming with projects for kids created from products you have around the house — or would normally throw out. Here, a few clever selections:

  • Instead of recycling your empty toilet paper tubes, save a few for this adorable toilet-paper-tube snake project.
  • Are all those broken nubs of crayons driving you crazy? Melt them down to make multicolored recycled crayons with the help of this easy tutorial, or have your children glue longer crayons to canvas and use a hair dryer to melt them into unique crayon art.
  • Paper grocery or lunch bags can be embellished to become adorable paper bag puppets, with a wonderful bonus of “puppet show playtime” when the craft project is complete.
  • Every home has dozens of mismatched buttons cluttering junk drawers and sewing boxes. It’s almost as though they are just begging to be turned into beautiful button art.

  • Or dig through your craft cabinet and use up odds-and-ends in “combination” projects, such as this stunning “starburst” artwork made with glue, salt, and watercolors.

Preserve Kids’ Tiny Handprints

What mama doesn’t love adorable handprint art? Plus, these personalized pieces make great gifts to send to far-flung relatives and friends — or to give as a thank-you gift to a favorite teacher or after school instructor. If you’re stuck for unique ideas, Pinterest has you covered. Consider searching with a theme in mind: Maybe, for instance, you can connect your handprint artwork to a recent activity or outing. Here, a few ideas:

  • Planning on paying a visit to a flower show or butterfly garden? Check out this Very Hungry Caterpillar handprint project idea to create before or after your trip.
  • Did your kids get along swimmingly with the dolphins and fish at a recent aquarium visit? This fish aquarium handprint idea is the perfect project to commemorate the trip.
  • For a little girl who loves to dance, check out this ballerina handprint project. It’s the perfect craft to make before (or after) a recital — or to give to a cousin or sister after her big solo.
  • You can also create a handprint craft that helps you preserve special memories of the whole year. This tutorial gives you ideas for a new themed handprint every month. When you’re done, glue the handprints into a calendar. Add a few notes about what you did as a family each month, for a touching memento.

Make Your Own Craft Supplies

DIY-ers and penny-pinchers rejoice: Pinterest is the hottest go-to source for “make-your-own” art supplies. Plus, creating one of these items can serve as a kid-friendly project in its own right! Consider these options:

  • Have a child who loves to sculpt? Create some homemade “play dough” in every color of the rainbow using — surprise — colored gelatin as an ingredient!
  • For kids who love lightweight modeling foam, grab the shaving cream and cornstarch and whip up a batch or two of foam dough, using this super-simple recipe.
  • Pinterest can even help make bath time colorful with this washable, non-staining homemade bath paint. With this craft, the art-making and the cleanup are an all-in-one event!

Pinterest has scads of ideas for making unique art projects with your kids in ways you might not have thought of on your own.

If you find your child has a flair for fine arts, take a few minutes to call up the art-class offerings on Activity Hero — there, you’ll also find some great ways to nurture your child’s muse through camps, classes, and drop-in art sessions.

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

10 Awesome Green Activities for Kids






Our children are our future. The world will soon be in their hands. Show them the importance of caring for their environment, recycling, and appreciating the luxuries of everyday life with these green activities.

1. Make a compost pile. A compost pile is a way for kids to watch nature recycle itself in action! Natural waste, such as grass clippings and table scraps, is slowly broken down to make new soil that many farmers and gardeners consider the golden ticket to a thriving crop. Did you know about 30% of the waste in landfills across the country is yard and food waste that could be used for composting? According to the Clean Air Council, the average American generates about 4.5 pounds of trash every single day—that’s over 1600 pounds per year! If every person turned their natural waste into compost, it would eliminate almost 500 pounds of garbage from going to the landfill! This project will encourage your kids to think twice about wasting their sandwich crusts or uneaten vegetables. Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to turn your trash into treasure.

2. Start a worm farm. Not only are worms fun to watch squiggle and wiggle about, but I bet your kids didn’t know what a huge role they play in the environment. Worms are basically nature’s way of recycling. They munch on dead leaves and grass clippings and create pathways in the soil for plants to grow and breathe. Making a worm farm is fairly easy and low maintenance; they are just about the easiest pet to have. When you’re finished with the worm farm, you can set them free in a garden or compost area and watch them thrive in their natural environment! A worm farm is a great way to teach the responsibility of being in charge of another living thing—practice for a future pet perhaps? Follow these simple instructions.

3.  Plant a garden. Kids are more willing to eat their vegetables if they’ve seen where they come from and put forth the effort into tending to them. Have your kids to pick out plants or seeds of fruits and vegetables the like, and encourage them to pick out something they’ve never tried before like zucchini or sugar snap peas. Kids will see the watch magical process of how food is grown and how much work goes into it!

4.  Recycled arts & crafts. From toilet paper tube teddies to broken button bottle banks, just about everything old can be made into something new. All you’ll need is some clean recyclable waste—such as Kleenex boxes, paper towel rolls, empty soda bottles, or plastic cutlery—and some craft supplies like glue, string, ribbon, etc. Turn empty baby food jars into memory jars, brown paper bags into puppets, and old tin cans into wind chimes. Find a list of great recycled crafts at favecrafts.com. Once your crafts have run their course, snap a digital picture of them and place them back into the recycling bin to keep the use cycle in motion.

5.  Make recycled paper. A great project to show kids how much effort goes into making a single piece of paper. Perhaps they’ll think before wasting too many sheets next time! All it takes is some old newspaper, water, and a few other supplies to make a brand new sheet of paper from old newspaper. Kids will need the supervision of an adult for this project as it requires the use of a blender. Follow the instructions at childrenoftheearth.org.

6.  Make reusable grocery bags. It’s a widely known fact that most plastic grocery bags end up right in the trash; only a small amount are actually recycled. Paper bags aren’t much better and use even more energy to create and transport than plastic ones. Teach your child how something seemingly small can make a world of difference. You’ll need a sewing machine for this project as hand stitching won’t quite hold up to the weight of the groceries. Gather a few pillow cases and as much “old” fabric as you can. All you’ll need is a couple of straps to stitch on and you’ve got yourself a bag! Kids can decorate their reusable grocery bags with pieces of fabric or use fabric markers to personalize them.

7.  Create a backyard habitat for neighborhood animals. With expansion and construction on the rise, many animals’ habitats are being threatened or eliminated. Have you child help you create a welcoming environment for local wildlife and enjoy the views of butterflies, birds, and small mammals. Set up a bird bath to attract a variety of local birds, plant local flowers and trees, and set out a few bird and bat houses and the will find its way! Kids will love watching the joyful wildlife enjoying the gifts they’ve provided them!

8.  Go for a nature hike. A growing number of kids spend most of their time indoors, and many don’t even make it a point to go outside every day. Encourage your kids to explore the wide world around them and appreciate all the beauty that nature has to offer! Visit a nature preserve in your area and take a long walk. What colors, animals, and plants do they see that they don’t see at home?

9.  (Almost) zero carbon footprint day. Pick one day to be the greenest family on the block! When children see their parents setting an example and getting involved in a cause they are more likely want to get involved themselves. Spend the day biking to the grocery store, shutting all lights off before leaving the room, and conserving as much water as possible. Kids will learn to appreciate everyday luxuries that are often taken for granted.

10.  Make a milk carton bird feeder. Your kids will enjoy watching the local birds flock to their backyard and enjoy a tasty treat! Cut a hole in the side of the carton big enough for birds to come and go about 2 to 4 inches from the bottom of the carton. Cut a small hole below to add a dowel rod below the hole for birds to perch. Cut 2 holes in the top of the carton and thread twine through to hang from a tree. Finally, using a pin, poke several holes in the bottom of the carton to promote moisture drainage as soggy bird feeders can cause illnesses in birds. Fill with a wild bird feed and watch the birds flock to your snack station.

Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

Kids Activities Are Crucial for Your Child: 10 Essential Reasons Why






1. To find something he loves doing.

Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life, said the former Mr. Jennifer Lopez. Most of us dream of being able to make a living doing something we love – being able to share our talents with the world. Having a passion in life is a gift, and it is important that children be allowed to explore their unique combination of interests and talents to find something they truly love doing. Whether or not it leads to great success, or even a career, the opportunity to find true joy in an activity or organization can be a source of lifelong happiness.

2. To learn how to lose, and to win.

 Any activity done over years will involve competition — both with others and beating one’s own personal bests. Like it or not, competition is a fact of life, and understanding how to deal with competition builds character. Committed participation in an activity helps children see that defeat and rejection are not the end of the world, and makes losing a teachable moment. Long-term involvement in an activity also shows kids that success is not an endgame, but rather a jumping off point toward a new goal.

3. To find identity and community. 

When a child finds a pursuit to which she wants to devote herself, it redefines how she presents herself to the world. As this sport, subject or art form becomes a deeper part of herself, she will likely want to explore it further by reading, doing research online, going to professional events or by starting her own groups. This identity will unite her with a new support system or “family” of people who share her interests, goals and possibly, worldview.

4. As an emotional refuge. 

Bullying currently occupies a large and troubling space in our national dialogue about childhood and adolescence. With the current prevalence of bullying, it is crucial for kids to have a space, both physical and emotional, where they feel safe and valued. A place where a child comes to practice a favorite activity with friends with similar interests can be, quite literally, a life-saver.

5. To have a way to express herself. 

People express different aspects of their personalities in different settings. Many famous people including Brad Pitt, and (really!) Lady Gaga are shy in person. A boy who is introverted and withdrawn may be a colorful and dramatic actor. A bookish and quiet girl might manifest an aggressive tenacity on the debate team. A high-schooler who could write a master’s thesis on being popular, might have a gift for working with small children or performing community service. An activity can bring out hidden facets of your child’s personality or skill set, and give him or her an outlet to shine!

6. To develop a strong work ethic. 

There is no happiness, Henry Ford wrote, except in the realization that we have accomplished something. Successful people find joy in working toward a goal. In their chosen field they live by the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well. They know that success doesn’t happen overnight, and they take responsibility for their own process. They learn from their mistakes. The disciplined, exacting approach that comes from mastering an art form, sport or subject is a foundation for achievement in any endeavor.

7. As a way to focus a frenetic mind and body.

Children with ADHD, who often have some combination of behavioral, social, emotional and academic issues can benefit immensely from a constructive way to organize their thoughts and direct their impulses. Kids activities such as martial arts, basketball or soccer, where there are specific skills and constant movement done under close direction, are an excellent way for a child to focus and develop his or her gross motor coordination. Studying a musical instrument or the fine arts can also develop muscle control and focus. Furthermore, if a child comes to excel at a given activity, her success will likely downplay the negative aspects of her condition in her own eyes and others.

8. To work closely with adult role models.

Parents know that they will not always be the sun, moon and stars to their children. Adolescence is often a time of disillusionment with other adults, as peers replace grown-ups as confidantes and idols. A child who is involved in a longtime activity has the opportunity to interact with nurturing adults who love and understand the activity in question just as much. An experienced and well-respected coach, or dance or music teacher can fill a void in a teen’s adult interactions, especially when it comes to providing valued life and career advice.

9. Because competence breeds confidence.

Self-esteem is fabulous. Kids need it. But it has to be based on something – getting a trophy just for showing up gives kids a dangerously wrong message and that in the end leaves them feeling empty and defeated. The “Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua was taken to task for her decrying of Western parents’ emphasis on self-esteem at all costs. But Ms. Chua understands that a child’s self-confidence comes from excelling at something. It comes from working diligently and not giving up and being better than one was before. It comes from knowing that s/he’s good at something.

10. To have a higher purpose. 

Children are extremely susceptible to the message that material things and being friends with the right people bring happiness. Having something healthy, something bigger than themselves to aspire to – to occupy their whole beings – body, mind and soul is an important life principle.

 

 

 

Keesha Beckford

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Parenting Resources

10 Things to Do on Memorial Day with Kids






memorial day for kids
Photo by Flickr user DooleyPhoto

Memorial Day weekend is often regarded as being the unofficial beginning of summer—the local pool and beaches are open, the ice cream truck pays a visit, and kids get an extra day off of school.

It often slips our minds to remember what Memorial Day is really about; it is a day to remember the fallen heroes of war. As grim as it may sound for a young child, they must learn and appreciate the risk that our servicemen take to protect their freedom.

Here are a few things to do on Memorial Day to get kids involved in the holiday.

1. Make a Care Package for “Adopt a Platoon”

Founded in 1998, the Adopt a Platoon program strives to improve the quality of life for deployed service members by ensuring they are not forgotten by their country.

Kids can express their gratitude for our servicemen away from home by putting together a care package or sending cards and letters. Some of the most highly anticipated treats are hard candy that can withstand extreme heat, powdered drink mixes, air fresheners, small pillows with pillow cases, playing cards, small hand-held fans and disposable cameras. Your child can put together a thoughtful package and include a personal drawing or letter thanking the platoon for their dedicated service.

Check out adopt a platoon for more details & guidelines on how to get involved.

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2. Make a Patriotic Wreath of 5-pointed Stars

According to USHistory.org, George Washington’s original sketch for the American flag contained 6-pointed stars for each of the 13 colonies. However, Betsy Ross, who stitched the first American flag in 1776, suggested that each star have five points after demonstrating that it could easily be made in one snip by folding the fabric just right.

Grab about a dozen sheets of red, white and blue construction paper and follow the instructions to snip your own stars at USHistory.org. Visit your local craft store to purchase a Styrofoam wreath ring and cocktail toothpicks with red, white and blue tips. Use the toothpicks to stick the stars into the wreath and hang it proudly upon your door.

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3. Pay Homage to Your local Veteran’s Hospital or Retired Veteran’s Home

No matter what age, a veteran always appreciates a word of thanks for their service.

Some wounded soldiers may not have the opportunity to interact with the public often because of injuries or disabilities. Take your child to a veteran’s home or hospital and encourage them to shake hands and thank the residents. If they feel comfortable enough, they can even ask questions and learn a thing or two about the retired servicemen and their duties.

If you are unsure of the nearest veteran’s hospital or looking for another way to get involved, contact AMVETS to see what sort of assistance you can provide to help veterans in your area.

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4. Volunteer with Your Local USO Center

The USO provides veterans and their families with great programs such as “United Through Reading” which allows deployed parents to record a bedtime story onto a DVD for their children.

The USO is always accepting donations of your time or monetary value. Services and opportunities vary by center and some USO centers have a minimum age requirement of 18 years of age to volunteer so be sure to contact your local center beforehand.

If you are unable to make it to a center, kids can also volunteer virtually by sending a personal instant message to the family of a veteran at JoiningForces.uso.org.

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5. Suggest Your School Participates in the “Take a Veteran to School Day”

Developed by the History Channel, “Take a Veteran to School Day” encourages kids to learn more about the different branches of the military and what service members do when they are deployed. Veterans are asked to visit the school and given an assembly where they are asked questions about their service and often given a token of thanks such as a flower or thank you note from each student.

To learn more and see step-by-step instructions of how to get involved in this program, visit history.com.

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6.  Visit Your Local American Legion or VFW Post

A regular hangout for many veterans, the VFW and American Legion posts are open to the public. Many local posts have special events for Memorial Day such as picnics or pancake breakfasts.

Contact your local VFW or American Legion to see what sorts of events they have planned for the holiday weekend and encourage your kids to interact with veterans in their area.

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7.  Get Involved with Your Community’s Memorial Day Parade

Most communities have parades for Memorial Day that include participants from local schools, retired veterans, and village board members.

Visit your village hall to inquire about any help needed to participate in the parade. Your child will feel honored to march alongside his community. If the parade is not in need of volunteers, be sure to attend the event with your child. Ask your child which of the uniformed  service members he recognizes and which are new to him.

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8.  Learn to Distinguish the Different Military Uniforms with Coloring Pages

Can your child spot the differences between deep blue Marine Corps dress blues and the green camouflage battle uniform of the Armed Forces?

Visit PatriotColoringPages.com for fun coloring pages all about Memorial Day and Military service uniforms. Visit Military.com’s Guide to Uniforms to find correct coloring and facts about the different uniforms of the military.

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9.  Bake and Decorate American Flag Cookies

Although it would take a pretty big cookie to make an accurate representation of the American flag of today, that’s not to say that baking cookies can’t be educational.

Follow the Taste of Home’s recipe for flag sugar cookies.  Assign your child small baking tasks such as measuring the dry ingredients and rolling out the cookie dough. While the dough is chilling in the fridge, educate your child on the history of the American flag. Show your child the evolution of the flag and what each aspect of the flag means.

For a complete timeline of the flag, visit USHistory.org. When the cookies are finished baking, encourage your child to be creative and attempt to replicate some of the flags from the timeline.

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10.  Decorate the Memorial of a Fallen Service Member with Flowers or Cards

Most states have established cemeteries reserved for veterans. Many are regularly open to the public for visitation. Have your child pick some flowers and decorate a thank you card for a veteran.

Explain to your child the importance of sacrifice and courage that military members exhibit on a daily basis. Visit cem.va.gov for a complete listing of veteran’s cemeteries and contact information.

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Written by Sarah Antrim

Photo by Flickr user DooleyPhoto

Categories
Parenting Resources

Summer Camp Planning






Does it feel like you spend a LOT of time and money planning and sending kids to summer camps? Well, you do. Here is something we put together from the data we have on San Francisco parents and summer camps.
San Francisco summer camp: 2012 factsSan Francisco Summer Camp

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And, here’s some shameless horn-tooting: use our search & summer planning calendar tools to save time, and, check out our discounts page and our free week of camp to save some money! You can even subscribe to our newsletter on the sidebar (look to your right) and get these discounts delivered to your inbox once every 2 weeks!

And, it doesn’t stop there, we give you two sham-wows!!! ok, we don’t. But we do help you find after-school activities during the school year too.

We would love to hear how we can make this even easier. Please tell us!

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

Outfitting Your Child for Summer Performing Arts Camps? Start Here






The San Francisco Bay Area is filled to the brim with artistic activities for kids of all ages. From first steps into a dance studio to summer performing arts camps for mastering a classical concerto, the truth of the matter is young people involved in the arts have special shopping needs that at times can be difficult to accommodate.

Fortunately, many businesses exist throughout the bay area to supply anything under the sun you could possibly need to make your child’s performance dreams come true. From musical instruments to dance attire, the list below will guide you toward the top 10 destinations to prepare for a summer of fun and creativity.

1. Capezio Dance Theatre Shops

(throughout Bay Area) If you are the parent of an aspiring dance star, chances are you’ve heard of Capezio, one of the biggest names in dance supply. From shoes to recital costumes, Capezio has truly cornered the market when it comes to obtaining what you need for summer dance activities.

2. Victoria’s Dance and Costume (San Jose & Santa Cruz)

If you prefer a more intimate shopping experience and a chance to support small business, check out Victoria’s Dance and Costume, located in both San Jose and Mountain View. This shop features plenty of basic dance supplies, as well as a fun costume collection that will make you want to revisit come Halloween season.

3. World of Music (Cupertino)

A small, lively shop in Cupertino, World of Music features a massive collection of sheet music, as well as various instrument rentals. They also sell percussion and wind instruments. If your child is taking music lessons of any type this summer (even harp!), chances are World of Music will be able to find you what you need.

4. The Starving Musician (Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Berkeley)

For parents on a budget, perhaps concerned their child’s rock star dreams are fleeting, the Starving Musician is the place to be. Their business is all about buying and selling used instruments, and they also tout a large supply of other music-related needs. All three locations offer private lessons if your child wishes to continue honing their craft after camp opportunities are through.

5. Fun House Theatrical (Mountain View)

A fun and affordable destination for actors, Fun House Theatrical is the South Bay’s premier location for costumes, makeup and other theatrical supplies you’ll find yourself needing for the summer, but stumped on where to get.

6. East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (Oakland)

Whatever your child is signed up for this summer – even if it’s nothing at all! – the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse supplies both teachers and parents with art supplies and resources that will help check things off your camp list, while allowing your child to express their creativity in an environmentally friendly way.