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Parenting Tips for Raising Self-Reliant Kids

Many parents understand the importance of always being there for their kids. But what about the flip side–learning to let go gracefully so kids can develop their own identity?

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a mother of two, former dean at Stanford University, and author of How to Raise an Adult, explains that parents can set their kids up for success by knowing when to step aside.

By Wendy Chou

Make “pitching in” an early habit

Kids age 4-7 often enjoy doing things for themselves and feeling helpful. Give them simple opportunities to contribute around the house by putting away toys, making a snack, and choosing clothes they’ll wear in the morning. (A side benefit: these things fall off your to-do list!) Practicing completing tasks now will prepare them well for more challenging expectations later in life.

Allow time for critical thinking

When a child talks about a problem she’s having, a normal parenting reaction is to quickly offer a solution. This might be efficient in the short run, but in the long-term the child won’t ever have the chance to problem-solve for herself. Also, allow kids moments to discuss current events or even a book or movie you just shared together to help them find their own voice.

Discover the pursuits that matter to your kids

Teach kids that hard work, grit, and dedication really pay off when it comes to excelling at sports, music, and other activities. But make sure you’re enabling their dreams, not yours. According to Lythcott-Haims, it’s best to offer lots of choices in activities, then step back and let kids lead with their own passions. Ask your kids what they love to do, and be supportive of those interests and hobbies.

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Seek growth, not perfection

Making a mistake is a fundamental life experience that can lead to growth. Lythcott-Haims lists several milestones that we shouldn’t shield a child from, including “being blamed for something he didn’t do”, “coming in last at something”, and “regretting saying something she can’t take back”. These kinds of mistakes can be very painful, but also represent opportunities to become more resilient.

As parents we all wish for our children’s ultimate success. Over-managing children, however, is probably counter-productive to this goal. The best definition of successful parenting, according to Lythcott-Haims, is when our children develop into individuals who can look out for themselves, without us needing to hold their hands.

Reference: Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult

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ActivityHero is an online resource that helps parents find great camps and after-school activities for kids.

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Summer Camps for Teens

Discover summer camp options (and alternatives) that are perfect for teenagers. From sports camps to robot camps, volunteering to leadership training, there’s lots to consider! Here, tips to make an amazing summer for your teen.

By Sarah Antrim

summer_camps_for_teensThe transition from childhood into the teenage years presents a lot of changes–changing bodies, attitudes, and of course, changing interests.

Things that your kids might have found interesting before are no longer “cool” to teenagers which may leave parents at a loss as to how to fill up their teens’ free time, especially during the summer.

So how do you find productive activities for teens during the summer?

1. Explore Summer Day Camps for Teens

Many camps have been designed specifically with teens in mind. Below are just a few selections which have multiple locations across the U.S.

See all teen day camps near you >>

Digital Media Academy – Coding, video production, photographic, graphic design, game design and other technical topics are available for teens.   

Gamebreaker Lacrosse Camps for Teens

Gamebreaker Lacrosse Camp – Play lacrosse and get specialized training from college coaches.

 

Adidas Tennis Camps – Learn from college tennis coaches.

See all teen day camps near you >>

2. Consider Overnight Camps for Teens

As teens develop more independence, they may be ready to travel to an overnight camp, ranging from academic to adventurous. Be sure to check out our tips to help you find the right overnight camp.

See all overnight camps for teens >

3. Counselor/Leader Training Programs

One of the most popular option for summer camps for teens is a counselor-in-training (CIT) or leader-in-training (LIT) program. Many camps offer these training programs to teens as an unpaid position or at a low fee to parents, sort of like an apprenticeship or internship on the road to becoming a camp counselor. Best of all, once they finish the required training, your teenager will have a job opportunity lined up for them!

See teen counselor/leader training programs near you >>

4. Look for Volunteering Programs

Summer is a great time for kids to learn about community service. Not sure where to get started? Check out our blog post with 6 tips to help you find volunteering opportunities for tweens & teens.

Teen Boys at Summer Camp

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World Holidays for Kids: Books, Movies & More

Are you interested in helping your children become “global citizens”? The holidays are a nice time to enjoy our own traditions while exploring others, too.

world holidays

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeed

The winter season offers the perfect backdrop for introducing your kids to holidays celebrated by different cultures, both in the United States and abroad. And media can provide us with a window into their varied and colorful traditions.

Here is a collection of books, along with a few other media treats (a movie, TV show, and app) that will help your children broaden their horizons and learn more about others who share our planet. Enjoy these titles with your kids, and you all may learn something new!

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Books About Favorite Holidays From Around the World

Let’s Celebrate Diwali
Ages 3+
Diwali, or the festival of lights, is celebrated around the world. This book explores the different traditions and customs of many different groups. The colorful illustrations make this an especially engaging read.

 

AmmaAmma, Tell Me About Holi!
Ages 4+
This colorful tale shares the story of the Hindu holiday of Holi, using colorful pictures and simple rhymes to make it easily understood by children.

 

CelebrateCelebrate: A Book of Jewish Holidays
Ages 4+
This book is a terrific introduction to the traditions and stories behind many of the Jewish holidays.

 

OskarOskar and the Eight Blessings
Ages 4+
As a refugee from Nazi Germany, Oskar finds the people of New York to be kind and giving on a day that is both the seventh night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. The people’s warm welcome shows Oskar that there is love and compassion in the world still.

RamadanUnder the Ramadan Moon
Ages 4+
In this picture book, a family’s month-long celebration of Ramadan is connected to the moon’s movement. The giving, sharing, praying, and caring for others that occurs during the month is beautifully conveyed.

 

Day-of-the-DeadDay of the Dead
Ages 5+
Brightly colored illustrations and detailed descriptions draw the reader into the preparations, foods, and celebration of the Day of the Dead.

 

Egg-TreeThe Egg Tree
Ages 5+
One grandmother’s childhood tradition of an Easter Egg tree is discovered by her grandchildren, who are quick to embrace the custom themselves. This winner of the Caldecott Medal is a true classic.

 

MarcoMarco’s Cinco de Mayo
Ages 5+
Narrated from the perspective of a young dancer in a Cinco de Mayo parade, this book brings the holiday and its history to life.

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holidays_around_the_worldHolidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year
Ages 6+
With over a billion people celebrating Chinese New Year worldwide, it’s a great idea to learn about the food, gifts, visiting, and celebration that are key to this holiday.

 

Seven_spoolsSeven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story
Ages 6+
The seven principles of Kwanzaa are brought to life through the story of seven brothers in an African village. When their father dies, they must cooperate and make gold from seven spools of thread. As they work together, they learn to value each other and their community.

A Movie About Favorite Holidays From Around the World

The_Black_CandleThe Black Candle: A Kwanzaa Celebration
Ages 9+
This documentary, filmed around the world, explores the African-American experience, both the triumphs and sorrows. Of particular focus is the Kwanzaa holiday, which now is celebrated by over 40 million people.

 

A TV Show About Favorite Holidays From Around the World

RugratsRugrats Holiday Collection
Ages 6+
Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah get the Rugrats treatment in this holiday special.

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An App About Favorite Holidays From Around the World

My-MenorahMy Menorah
Ages 2+
A fully featured Hanukkah app with a menorah to light, a dreidel game, songs, and some foundational Hebrew. Included are “Eight Days of Happiness” tips for parents on teaching children about the meaning and traditions behind the holiday and expressing appreciation for the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights.

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14 Christmas Classics to Spark Kids’ Holiday Spirit

Are there any favorite titles from your childhood that you haven’t yet shared with your kids? Dip into this list for some old-fashioned holiday fun.

charlie_brown

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeed

Many of the following movies, books, and TV shows will be familiar to you, bringing back fond memories of Christmases gone by, but they may be “new” for your kids! Take some time this holiday season to introduce your family to a title that made you feel like you just couldn’t wait for the holidays. There might even be a few titles here that you missed out on when you were just a “tiny reindeer” yourself.

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Books to Spark Kids’ Holiday Spirit

Perfect_Tree
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story

Ages 5+
A mother’s love for her child, memories of missing loved ones, and a Christmas tree are all important elements in this beautifully told and illustrated classic.

 

life_adventures_santa_claus

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
Ages 6+
Part mythology, part fantasy, this tale of Santa Claus growing up as an orphan is well told by L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard of Oz. An excellent choice for reading to a child.

 

too_many_tamales

Too Many Tamales
Ages 4+
While helping with the annual Christmas Eve tradition of tamale-making, Maria finds herself giving into temptation. This is a funny, heartfelt story with lovely illustrations and strong messages about love and family and honesty.

 

Gift_Magi

The Gift of the Magi
Ages 10+
This classic O. Henry story is a bittersweet tale of a husband and wife who sacrifice in order to buy presents for each other. Love for each other becomes all they have, and all they need. A true lesson about the meaning of Christmas.

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Movies to Spark Kids’ Holiday Spirit

A_Charlie_Brown_ChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas
Ages 3+
Charlie Brown finds that love and friendship can overcome his holiday blues. Bonus: Now your kids will understand what you mean when you talk about buying a “Charlie Brown tree”!

 

FrostyFrosty the Snowman
Ages 3+
This holiday favorite tells the story of Frosty, a snowman that magically comes to life on Christmas Eve.

 

grinchDr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
Ages 4+
The original animated movie from 1966 is always worth watching during the holiday season. Family, friends, and togetherness are what’s important, and even the Grinch finally learns that.

 

santa_claus_is_comin_to_townSanta Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Ages 4+
The story of Santa Claus is creatively told in this excellent special from the 1970s with guest appearances (and a catchy tune) by Heat Miser and Snow Miser!

 

christmas_carolA Christmas Carol (1951)
Ages 6+
Christmas Eve visits from three ghosts persuade miserly Mr. Scrooge to change his ways. Always a classic to watch during the holiday season.

 

year_without_a_santa_clausThe Year Without a Santa Claus
Ages 7+
Hard to imagine a holiday season without watching this stop-motion animation favorite.

wonderful_lifeIt’s a Wonderful Life
Ages 9+
This perennial classic is sure to remind you and yours what the holidays are about. George Bailey learns that he is, in fact, the luckiest man in the world because of the love of his family and community.

 

MillionsMillions
Ages 10+
This is a bit of an unusual choice for a holiday movie, but the messages of selflessness, giving, and kindness will resonate with the whole family. Note that this is best for ages 10 and up, as there is some language, along with a few iffy situations.

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TV Shows to Spark Kids’ Holiday Spirit

ArthurArthur’s Perfect Christmas
Ages 5+
In this special, all different ways of celebrating are explored by Arthur and his group of friends, including Francine, whose family celebrates Hanukkah. Everyone has a different idea of what makes a “perfect” holiday.

 

hanna_barbera_christmasHanna-Barbera Christmas
Ages 5+
Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, and the Smurfs celebrate Christmas in this fun and nostalgic collection of cartoons.

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14 Sure-to-Be-Classic Christmas & Winter Books, Movies & Shows

Get in the holiday spirit with these recently created books, movies, or TV shows. Who knows? Maybe your family will help them reach “classic” status.

christmas_blog

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeed

We all have favorite books and movies that we look forward to enjoying during the busy holiday season. This is a wonderful time to snuggle up under a blanket together and let your imagination whisk you away to a far-off land. Maybe your kids have outgrown some of the old favorites, or perhaps your family is ready to try something new-to-you. See if a few of the following titles warrant a spot on your holiday must-see list!

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Sure-to-Be-Classic Christmas & Winter Books

Snow
Ages 3+
Perfect for the preschoolers in your family, this is a beautifully illustrated ode to snow and winter.

 

 

Miracle on 133rd Street
Ages 4+
A beautiful holiday story showing how important community, and a delicious meal, are for properly celebrating and giving thanks.

 

Mooseltoe
Ages 4+
Moose’s holiday preparations are perfect…except for one big thing! Follow along as Moose uses creativity and imagination to create a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas tree.

 

The Wild Christmas Reindeer
Ages 4+
Young reindeer herder Tekka learns that kindness is the key in this beautiful Christmas classic.

 

Olive, The Other Reindeer
Ages 4+
Olive is an imaginative little dog, and a simple misunderstanding sends her off on a Christmas adventure that is pure fun for kids and dogs alike.

 

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama
Ages 5+
Families that celebrate more than one December holiday will find a lot to like in this story. Respect for cultural differences is an important theme, and you’ll discover ways to share food, traditions, and songs.

A Christmas Memory
Ages 7+
This story evokes a time long ago, when the author baked fruitcakes with his elderly cousin. This is a touching, vivid glimpse of the past that will become a family favorite.

 

Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure
Ages 9+
This biography is an inspiring adventure story following a woman and her dog as they travel on foot to the magnetic North Pole. Along the way, they encounter wild animals and extreme weather, all while showing tremendous grit and fortitude.

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Sure-to-Be-Classic Christmas & Winter Movies

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
Ages 4+
Appropriate for the whole family, the Muppets once again combine hilarity, adventure, and strong positive messages in this holiday movie.

 

 

Arthur Christmas
Ages 4+
From the same animation studio that made the Wallace and Gromit movies, Arthur Christmas is great fun. It’s a film that will appeal to young and old alike, sharing important messages about family and caring for others.

 

Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas
Ages 5+
Crafted as an animated mashup of the movie and musical of Elf, this animated stop-motion film is quickly becoming a holiday classic. Musical numbers, love of family, and a healthy dose of true holiday spirit make this one a must-see.

 

Samantha: An America Girl Holiday
Ages 7+
If you prefer your holiday stories with an old-fashioned bent, this one is for you. Samantha, an orphan in early 1900s New York, lives with her grandmother and experiences the opening of the original subway and the women’s suffragette movement. She is a role model for others, thanks to her kind heart and spirit.

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A Sure-to-Be-Classic Christmas & Winter TV Show

Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas
Ages 6+
Known for programs featuring love and enthusiasm for animals, the Kratt brothers offer this Christmas special that’s no exception. Along with learning about animals, you’ll also understand more about the joy of giving, especially around the holidays.

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Surprising Secrets About Summertime Sibling Wars

Kids getting on each other’s nerves … and yours? Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., a registered clinical psychologist, shares insights that can help restore peace.

By Laura Quaglio

sisters fighting

Why does it seem like kids argue more often during the summer? Because it’s probably true. “The amount that kids get on each other’s nerves depends on the amount of contact they have,” says registered clinical psychologist Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., who has worked with children, adults, and families for more than 35 years. During the school year, kids are only together in late afternoon, evening, and on weekends. With after-school activities, homework, and weekend play dates, there is even less time for them to interact. “In summer, if kids are hanging around the house and they’re bored, they’ll find that torturing each other is an amazing pastime,” jokes Dr. Phelan, who is author of the best-selling book 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2 – 12, which has sold more than 1.8 million copies in 22 languages.

Knowing you’re not alone in this parenting predicament helps a little … but only a little. When you’re tired and frazzled, you don’t want to listen to your kids’ disputes. That’s why we asked Dr. Phelan for his recommendations on dealing with this age-old issue. His insights may surprise you — and make you feel better about the state of your household. The first tips will give you some reassurance about this common sibling experience, and the latter ones will help you bust up and even prevent some of those squabbles.

Need a break from the battles? See summer camps near you >>

Truth: Sibling Rivalry Is Normal

According to Dr. Phelan, the first step to managing sibling rivalry is to change how we think about it in the first place. Lots of parents worry that there’s something wrong with their kids because their behavior toward each other can seem idiotic, childish, and senseless. In reality, he says, it’s completely normal for siblings to quarrel. “It is basically ingrained — evolutionary,” he says. Sibling rivalry is actually a manifestation of basic competitive instincts like those that enable animals to survive in the wild. Baby birds, he says, will actually try to flip their siblings out of the nest.

“Siblings are in natural competition for resources that include food and shelter and, with humans, parental attention,” he says. “Don’t expect your kids to have a glowing, warm relationship all the time. It’s not in their makeup.”

Sibling rivalry does not mean your kids are mentally ill either, adds Dr. Phelan. “And it does not mean you did anything wrong as a parent. It’s a horrible burden on parents to think that sibling rivalry is your fault. Parents have to accept that sibling rivalry is chronic and aggravating but totally normal.”

Truth: Siblings Are Best of Friends, Best of Enemies

Most of us behave worse at home than we do outside the house, says Dr. Phelan. Home is where we’re most comfortable and, deep down, we know our family will love us even if we’re cranky sometimes. Beyond that, people show their absolute worst behavior when interacting with siblings, he says. So when siblings are at home together, it’s natural for battles to ensue at least once in a while.

The good news is that most siblings also have wonderful times together. “The way of thinking about it is ‘best of friends, best of enemies,’” says Dr. Phelan. “They will fight half the time and be wonderful playmates half the time.” Try to remember the good times when you see your kids gearing up for another showdown.

Truth: Sibling Rivalry Can Turn Abusive (But It Doesn’t Have To)

Just because tiffs are normal doesn’t mean they can’t turn ugly. If a child is being physically hurt or if there is emotional abuse occurring, it’s time to seek professional help. One of the signs that there is emotional abuse: when one child is always the aggressor and the other is always the victim. Oftentimes, says Dr. Phelan, a younger sibling will idolize an older one, but the older one despises the younger. “Some studies are indicating that this kind of abuse can take a big whack at self-esteem,” says Dr. Phelan.

What to do? Don’t tell the older child that they have to like their siblings; people have a right to their own feelings. Dr. Phelan says this demand is unrealistic, though understandable. We parents feel deep love for each child and want them to feel the same way toward each other. But you can’t dictate who someone likes or loves. What you CAN dictate is how your kids treat each other. “You can tell the older child, ‘You don’t have to like them, but you do have to treat them with respect. You cannot be verbally or physically abusive,’” he says.

Truth: Parents Don’t Have to Stop Every Squabble

Here are a few of the rules from Dr. Phelan’s book 1-2-3 Magic:

  • If you can ignore the battle between two siblings, let them work it out themselves  provided that there’s no abuse going on and that you can stand to listen to it.
  • If you can’t stand to listen to the argument, count both kids. In 1-2-3 Magic, when a child misbehaves, they know they will be counted. The parent says, “That’s 1,” at the first offense, then “That’s 2,” if the child continues to misbehave, and “That’s 3” if they still persist. If a child reaches “That’s 3,” they are told to go sit on the step. (You can learn more from the book or the website 1-2-3 Magic Parenting.) If you absolutely know that one child was the aggressor and started it, you can count that child by themselves. But if you’re not sure, don’t ask what Dr. Phelan calls “the world’s stupidest question,” which is “Who started it?” If you don’t know who started it, both kids should be held accountable.
  • Never expect older kids to be more mature in a fight. “Even at age 50, siblings will have the emotional maturity of 3-year-olds when they are arguing,” says Dr. Phelan.

Truth: Family Fun Is Overrated

“Family fun is a constant dream of parents, especially moms,” says Dr. Phelan. But in reality, he explains, the “divide and conquer” approach works better. What this means is dividing the kids up and doing things separately with them — one parent with one child. “Kids cherish alone-time with a parent,” he says. “You can just see them blossom when they have you all to themselves. And the second thing is there is no chance for sibling rivalry when you’ve divided them up.”

How does this work in real life? Instead of going out to eat as a family, Dr. Phelan suggests having each parent take one child to dinner separately. You can go to different venues or just sit across the room from each other in the same eatery. Do the same one-child/one-parent routine when standing in line for rides at an amusement park or when going to a movie (selecting different rides and sitting in different rows).

You can also split up the family for vacations. Dr. Phelan used to take his son on vacation and his wife would take their daughter, and then vice versa. “We’d stay in a motel room and goof off,” he says. These getaways created fond memories for all involved, and there’s no sibling rivalry when siblings are miles apart!

Dr. Phelan does acknowledge that the more kids you have, the more difficult one-on-one fun becomes, but it’s worth trying to plan for it. You’ll deepen your connections with each child in addition to limiting the time that they can be bothering each other.

One more note: Dividing-and-conquering with the kids doesn’t mean that you should always be separate from your spouse. Make sure to schedule date nights, too. Dr. Phelan reminds us that dating was a time when you and your spouse got together and had fun. When you’re married, however, challenges of everyday life can take precedence, and you could stop seeing each other in the same enjoyable light. Date nights (or lunches or getaways) ensure that you retain some of that original spark, camaraderie, and fun.

Truth: You Can Limit Sibling Rivalry

Some things can aggravate sibling rivalry, while others can reduce its occurrence, says Dr. Phelan.

  • If possible, allow a few years between children. “Competition is based on similarity,” says Dr. Phelan. “Anything that makes two siblings more the same can aggravate rivalry.” If you have kids who are close in age or are the same gender, for instance, that can make sibling rivalry more prevalent. He recommends spacing out when you have children (if possible) to can make things easier for you down the road.
  • Help siblings have fun together. Encourage your children to associate each other’s presence with having a good time. Dr. Phelan suggests sitting down kids together to watch a movie. “It’s almost like parallel play,” he says. “There is very little interaction, but they are having fun at the same time.” They also will have that shared experience, so they can talk about the movie and the characters.
  • But give them alone time too. If kids are going to be in the same house, hotel room, or vehicle for a long time, ensure that they can have a little peace and space. For instance, if your children each have a designated amount of screen time per day, let them watch different shows in different rooms. (This seems to fly in the face of the previous tip, but sometimes your kids may have a shared fondness for a movie but a strong dislike for each other’s favorite TV shows.) In the car, if kids are old enough to sit in the front (or if you have a van with extra seats), don’t seat the kids next to each other. Put a parent or grandparent with each of them, and then switch things up when you get out of the car at a rest stop.
  • Get kids out of the house. Sending kids to summer camps, classes, and workshops like those listed on ActivityHero — even if they go to the same location — will help limit the opportunity for tempers to flare. If kids need a sitter, it might be better to have them go to the sitter’s house or another venue like a zoo or park. (Remember the earlier tip about kids acting their worst at home?) Bringing along a friend for each kid can also keep them from bothering each other; kids don’t want their friends to see them being a pain in the neck … or getting scolded by their parents.
  • Engage in physical activity together. Swimming, biking, hiking, taking a walk in your neighborhood — these kinds of activities will keep kids busy. And the busier they are, the less bored and the less likely to aggravate each other. What’s more, you can keep kids away from each other in terms of distance simply by placing a parent in between them. (Along the same lines, when at church, movie theaters, etc., parents shouldn’t bookend their kids, as we often do. Instead, always keep an adult between the kids to reduce negative sibling interactions.)

Truth: Family Meetings Can Help Activities Go More Smoothly

“The worst thing to do is to rely on having a spontaneous discussion of what you’re going to do in the next hour,” says Dr. Phelan. If you’re planning a family vacation or activity, Dr. Phelan recommends sitting everyone down together to discuss it well in advance. Talk about what you’ll be doing and answer any questions they have. Kids should also tell you what they’d like to do (or not). This way, people won’t have different expectations, and everyone is likely to have something they look forward to.

Dr. Phelan notes that most kids will balk about taking part in a “meeting,” but once they start participating and realize they have a voice, they really become involved. If you’re not sure how to run a meeting smoothly, follow Robert’s Rules of Order. This strategy, used in parliamentary procedure, explains how to ensure that everyone is heard and that the discussion remains positive and productive. “You can even have a family meeting to talk about sibling rivalry,” adds Dr. Phelan.

Truth: Sibling Rivalry Diminishes Eventually

“If you have kids who are the best of friends sometimes and the best of enemies other times, that best-of-enemies part starts dissolving,” Dr. Phelan assures us. “That will warm your heart. But you’ll have to wait to have your heart warmed till they leave home.” As a father of two kids who have “grown and flown,” he knows this to be true.

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San Francisco Bay Area Summer Camp Sale

Deal-hunters, this is for you: last-minute savings (20 to 50% off!) on top summer camps in the San Francisco Bay Area. But they won’t last long.

By ActivityHero Staff

laughing & swimming at camp

School’s out and summertime is here — which means it’s time to finalize those summer camp plans.

We know how tough summer camp planning can be. You’ve got to factor in work schedules, out-of-town guests, holidays, family vacations, and tons of other details. Add to that the challenges of balancing the family’s summer budget and it’s no wonder that many of us are making summer camp decisions well after the last day of school.

Here’s a bit of good news that should make your planning and your budgeting a little bit easier this summer: The ActivityHero Bay Area Summer Camp Sale is here!

When you shop ActivityHero, you’ll find exclusive deals and sale prices you won’t find anywhere else. We’re amazed at some of these deals, too — camps are offering 20% off, 30% off, and (for a few) 50% off their last few spots!

Act fast: The sale lasts only until June 30, 2016, or whenever these popular camps fill up, whichever comes first.

Help your kids pursue new interests or further existing skills with camps focused on:

  • Robots
  • Jewelry making
  • Spanish immersion
  • LEGOs
  • Minecraft
  • Adventure sports
  • Cooking
  • Photography
  • And so much more!

Shop the Bay Area Summer Camp Sale now >>

Below you’ll find a partial list of camps on sale — but be sure to visit our Summer Camp Sale Page so you can see all of the offerings filtered by age, city, date, and subject matter. There, you’ll also find helpful reviews from families who have participated in these camps … so you an learn what they and their kids think of them.

Summer Camps on Sale with Multiple Locations

San Francisco Summer Camps on Sale

South San Francisco Summer Camps on Sale

San Mateo Summer Camps on Sale

San Carlos Summer Camps on Sale

Palo Alto Summer Camps on Sale

South Bay Summer Camps on Sale

East Bay Summer Camps on Sale

Los Angeles Area Summer Camps on Sale

Camp EDMO Summer Camps are on sale through January 31

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Dancing for Kids: Should Your Child Be in Dance Class?

Do your kids know all the latest moves? Want to train in ballet? Yearn to be in musical theatre? Dance classes may be on point. Here, some must-know info.

By Sarah Antrim

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modern danceIt’s not too difficult to tell if a child likes to dance. You’ll see them wiggling and swaying to TV theme songs as toddlers. They’ll tap their toes to pop songs on TV — or go into full-out routines in the living room. In fact, it’s probably true to say that most kids will shake their groove thing when they’re little. The question is, “Are dance classes the logical next step?”

If you’re looking for an after-school activity for your child, dance offers plenty of benefits. According to the London-based Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), this activity is perfect for kids who aren’t necessarily drawn to other team sports, but it’s also perfectly wonderful for those who seem to be good at all things athletic. In fact, it can improve flexibility and strength, which may help those kids improve at another sport. Read on to learn more about the perks of enrolling your child in dance classes or a dance camp — and to see the answers to some commonly asked questions from parents.

What are the benefits of dance classes?

According to Berkeley Wellness, dance offers myriad benefits far beyond what you might first imagine. “Dancing provides physical, psychological, and social benefits galore,” says their online article entitled “The Many Health Benefits of Dancing.”

Dance is a fun activity for kids that exercises both the body and mind. In addition to increasing fitness levels, dance classes for kids also help with better posture, creativity, and cultural understanding. It helps improve balance and flexibility. Studies have found that dancing can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. It can bolster self-esteem. It can help kids achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It provides both cardiovascular activity and weight-bearing activity, so it’s good for kids’ hearts and bones.

It can also open doors to a variety of careers, including more obvious options such as dance teacher, professional dancer, and dance movement therapist (using dance and movement to support physical and emotional health). It also can lead to other careers that support the arts in general or dance specifically, such as a publicist, producer, costume designer, or promoter.
Dancer on Pointe

How do I know if dance is a good activity for my child?

First, consider your child’s personality and interests. Have they enjoyed dancing in the past? Do they ask for lessons? Do they like to watch other people dance? If so, it’s worth trying a dance class or a summer dance camp. A one- or two-week dance camp is a great way for kids (and parents) to figure out if regular dance lessons will be a welcome addition to your regular routine. It can also allow you to check out different studios to find an instructor and location that is a good fit for your kids and your budget.

Many studios allow parents to be present during class or view from a window in the lobby of the studio. If they take an introductory class or participate in a dance camp, watch your child and make sure they are smiling and having fun during class. Dance class can be hard work at times, but it should first be enjoyable.

How do I know if my child is ready to start dance classes?

Some studios will enroll toddlers as young as 3 years old. These may be called Pre-K or pre-ballet classes, or the like. Kids younger than this often lack the attention span and physical strength needed for basic dance lessons. Perhaps your child has friends who are already enrolled in classes or who are planning on signing up. Different studios offer different programs, and they may do a quick assessment to see which class may be a good fit for your child. This decision is best made by talking to the dance school instructors or owners about your child’s personality and level of interest, as well as any concerns and expectations you may have.

What can I expect the costs to be for kids dance classes?

Of course, as with any activity, costs vary depending upon your geographic location and factors affecting the individual studio, such who the instructors are (and what their background and skill level are), as well as how long classes are. Enrolling kids in multiple classes or enrolling more than one family member may bring down your per-class cost.

That said, the website Howmuchisit.org reports that dance classes cost about $40 to $120 per month and are typically held weekly. So the per-class cost will likely be $10 to $30. Private lessons typically cost more than group sessions. The studio may also charge a registration or membership fee.

Also inquire about the dance gear and clothing you’re expected to provide. Some studios have very strict policies about what they expect students to wear. Ballet classes usually require tights and leotards (sometimes in specific colors), while some jazz and hip-hop teachers prefer dance pants, capris, or shorts paired with a tank top, dance top, or fitted T-shirt. You’ll also need to invest in some good dance shoes. Ballet and tap shoes often are available at discount stores, but other footwear like hip-hop and pointe shoes may need to be special-ordered at a dance boutique or online. Prepare to spend $45 to $175 on the outfit and $12 to $60 for a pair of shoes, reports Howmuchisit.org.

Also keep in mind that most studios put on a yearly recital in which you’ll have to purchase a costume, usually averaging around $50 to $75 depending on the studio.

If you’re on a tight budget, ask the school if scholarships are available or if they might be offering a special deal or coupon, such as one that waives the registration fee. You can also look into purchasing dance gear and shoes online or from gently-used children’s clothing stores. Often once you get to know the families at your dance studio, those with kids in larger sizes will offer hand-me-downs to younger children.

What questions should I ask the dance teacher?

Many times the dance studio’s website will list each instructor’s bio, so you might want to check there first. You can also ask to set up a time to talk to the instructor. (They may have very little or no time between classes, so it’s best to arrange an appointment when they’re truly free.)

When you’re face-to-face, ask what the teacher’s background is, including where they studied and what they like to teach. Also find out if their emphasis is on classically training kids in proper technique or if they’re more focused on fun and physical movement. Many places offer a blend of both, but if they know you’d like a class that is heavy on serious technique, they may recommend some specific dance classes for your child.

Also, see what other dance activities the instructor is involved in; some teachers also run a dance camp over the summer or teach at different studios. Or maybe they perform locally. If so, you may want to take your child to a performance to show them what their teacher can do on stage.

Which type of dance is best for my child?

Kids usually get their interest in dancing by seeing it somewhere first. Many girls start out their dance experience with ballet simply because they dream of someday becoming a ballerina. Boys may express an interest in hip-hop or tap initially. Or if your child is seriously pursuing musical theatre opportunities, maybe their directors have suggested specific types of classes to help them pick up choreography for a show.

A good place to start is by showing your child as many different types of dance as possible then observe which appeals to them the most. Take your child to a dance recital or performance in your area and see which numbers hold their attention or pique their curiosity.

If they are still unsure, see if a local studio will allow your child to drop in on a few different classes and decide which is most enjoyable to them. Many studios also offer combo classes such as tap, jazz, and ballet all in one, with the recital numbers utilizing parts of the same outfit in each. For instance, a leotard may come with a ballet tutu, a fringe tap skirt, and jazz pants. This is less expensive than buying three entire outfits. If you enroll your child in a combo class, you might want to ask about recital outfit requirements and costs, especially if budget is a factor.

What other options are there besides studio classes for dancers?

For kids who have found their passion in dance and want a bit more flexibility than an organized class offers, a dance camp might be a good option. Dance camps expose kids to a variety of different dance styles and are also a great way to help shy kids break out of their shell before enrolling in weekly dance classes.

Looking for great dance classes? Check out the top-rated dance classes and dance summer camps on ActivityHero!

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Special Needs Super Activities for Super Kids

Volunteer Options That Teens and Tweens <3 (Love)

Many kids need community service hours, and summer is the perfect time to volunteer! Here, 6 ideas to help you find charities that are a good fit.

by Laura Quaglio

teens volunteering in a soup kitchen
For many teens and tweens, volunteer work is not only a wonderful way to give back to the community, it’s a necessity. “In Marin County, numerous high schools require community service in order to graduate,” says Jordana Perman, director of community outreach at SummerAde, a non-profit that provides teen volunteering opportunities in Marin County, Calif. “One of the local Catholic schools has a 100-hour minimum.” Other programs, scholarships, clubs, and religious organizations also require volunteer hours each year or from time to time. If your teens and tweens are among those seeking a place to earn their hours — or if your kids simply love helping others — it’s important to find volunteer work that speaks to their individual passions and interests. Why? Because that ensures a more rewarding experience for your child and the charity they serve. In fact, says Jordana, finding the right fit is so important that SummerAde has recently revamped its screening process in order to select those volunteers who are truly the best fit for their program.

Find camps for teens & tweens >>

A Good Fit = A Better Volunteering Experience

Careful screening of teen applicants, says Jordana, ensures that kids are there for the right reasons. Their role can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. The same holds true for any charity: Kids who are handy in the kitchen might enjoy working at a soup kitchen or food bank. Those who adore pets or are a bit shy around people may prefer serving at a local animal shelter. Teens whose grandparents aren’t close to home might benefit from spending time with older adults at a senior center.

teen volunteering to do yard-clean-up workSurprising Career Perks of Teen Volunteer Work

The benefits of community service, of course, reach far beyond “earning hours” for school. Many colleges will ask applicants about their community service experiences (whether in interviews or essays). Listings of charity work may also impress future employers. Sometimes the experience can alter the trajectory of a teen’s life, revealing whether a particular career path, such as veterinary work, special education, or a medical career, is truly their calling. “We have one young woman who volunteered for two summers and she went on to attend a special education program at the local university,” says Jordana. The girl reported that her time spent with SummerAde played a big part in that decision. Other mentor teens have reported that their experience taught them patience, understanding, tolerance, awareness of personal limitations and capabilities, and flexibility — rewards that can be reaped from helping out charities of all kinds.

tween volunteering environmental clean-upFind the Right Service Option for Your Teen or Tween

There are thousands of charity organizations that welcome assistance from teens and tweens. To find the best fit for your young volunteer, start by thinking of the activities, classes, and camps your child enjoyed when they were younger – or something they still do today. Or do some exploring online on sites such as the ones listed below, then check out those your kids find intriguing.

Join a Teen Volunteer Team with Lion’s Heart
This provider actually teaches teens how to “become the change they want to see in the world.” Since 2004, this national non-profit organization has helped teens in 6th through 12th grade create volunteer groups in their own community, serving in whatever way the teens choose. The activity teaches not only charity but leadership, teamwork, and decision-making skills. (You can contact Lion’s Heart right here on ActivityHero.com.)

Learn About 100,000+ Charities on VolunteerMatch
VolunteerMatch touts itself as “The Web’s Largest Volunteer Engagement Network.” Its website connects more than 100,000 non-profit organizations with volunteers looking for opportunities in a wide variety of causes. The most popular include charities devoted to animals, children, the local community, education, the environment, health care, the homeless, and women, and more. It has made 10.6 million referrals since 1998.

Get Involved in Santa Clara County with GoVoluntr
GoVoluntr is a social network that helps teens in Santa Clara County find local non-profits, register for events, and encourage their friends to join them in their volunteer activities. Not only can kids earn service hours, but they can earn “VP points” (as you would with a rewards card from a retailer), which you can later redeem at participating local businesses. Bay Area teens can check out the Bay Area Volunteer Information Center or HandsOn Bay Area for volunteer options close to home.

Join the Microvolunteering Movement with Help From Home
You don’t have to spend a lot of time at one organization to make an impact. And time-pressed teens might love the idea of “microvolunteering” – do-gooding for a small chunk of time ranging from under a minute to a half hour. Not all activities will count toward service hours, but they all add up in the grand scheme of things! Getting started is simple and quick: Teens visit Help From Home, click on a category, choose a type of action (Do Good, Green, or Advocacy), and select from a diverse menu of creative ideas.

Build Your Resume with ActivityHero Teen Counselor-in-Training and Teen Leadership Programs
ActivityHero providers are always looking for middle school and high school students to step into the role of mentor at their camps and classes. This volunteer work offers summer fun (and volunteer service hours) for kids who feel they’ve outgrown summer camp. It might even lead to a future part-time job as a counselor at that ActivityHero provider. Search ActivityHero to find opportunities near you based on age, budget, schedule, and other factors.

Find camps for teens & tweens >>

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for Providers Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s an ActivityHero Provider!

Have you spotted this badge on the window of your favorite after school provider? It’s a sign that they have joined the ranks of thousands of programs, classes, and camps that make their schedules and information easily accessible to families across the U.S.

Below are just a few of the places you might find the ActivityHero badge.

Kids: If your school, studio, academy or other provider is an ActivityHero, show how “super” you think they are by sharing a picture of you (with your parents’ permission, of course) beside the badge.

>> Businesses: Request Your Own Badge

Learn more about Tech Rocks
Learn more about School of Rock San Mateo
Learn more about KMTV

Learn more about Twisters
Learn more about Brookside Swim & Tennis
Learn more about Young Builders

Learn more about Bay Area Acting Studio
Learn more about Core TKD
Get your ActivityHero badge decal today!

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Santa Magic … Without the Trip to the Mall!

Love the magic of meeting Santa … but hate standing in line at his workshop in your local shopping center? Try these clever alternatives instead!

By Margo Bayne Tyahla

Santa on the phone
I’ll be honest: I hate to go to the mall. Bringing my kids makes it worse. Adding a long wait to visit Santa can leave me a complete wreck. (Will my kid be the one to try to pull of that drooping beard? Have a meltdown? Unwrap a fake present? Ugh!)

Video Conference with Santa

A friend turned me on to the Portable North Pole a few years ago and I’ve been making Christmas Video Magic ever since! This fun and easy site allows me to create free custom video calls to Santa from each of my kids — without having to leave the house. (Yay!) You can download it onto your PC desktop or use the mobile app to “enjoy up to 5 minutes of Santa time.” To personalize the magic, you input some specifics for your child, such as a recent photo, their name and age, where they live, and the habits that helped them make it on to the “Nice” list this year. The website weaves this information into a magical video that makes your child feel like they got a chance to really connect with Santa — and that he really knows what they’re up to!

Chat with Santa on his Cellphone

Portable North Pole also offers an option for Santa to phone your child! This service costs a few bucks ($3.99 or $7.99, depending on which option you choose), but it includes a good deed: 5 percent of your purchases are donated to children’s hospitals. Visit their website for more details.

Check it out here: PNP Santa – Portable North Pole

The part of me that wants my kids to believe in magic loves this … The part of me that wants to avoid the mall loves it even more!

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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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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Getting Started Playing Tennis

Here are my tips for children who are getting started playing tennis.

Equipment/Clothing Required

Clothing: Comfort is the main concern when selecting what to wear. Any sports clothes will work as long as you can move freely/easily.

Footwear: Any tennis shoes you are comfortable with. However, running shoes should be avoided as they don’t support the sudden changes in direction that you make while playing the game.

Racket: The tennis racket has definitely changed over the years. No more wood! Now, there are many styles available and all sorts of string types. When children are playing the game, you want to make sure the racket is a size appropriate for them. Many manufacturers make rackets specifically tailored to a child’s age and height. Guidelines are as follows:

AGE                         HEIGHT                  RACKET SIZE

5 yrs. or less            44” or less               19” or 21”

6-8 yrs.                     45”-49”                    23”

8-10 yrs.                   50”-55”                    25”

10 yrs. or older         55” or taller              26”

For adults, you want to make sure you are using a racket with the right grip size. To test: when you hold the handle, there should be a 1cm gap between your thumb and index finger. As far as the racket type and string type, try a few out. See what is comfortable for you. Oversize and heavier rackets typically provide more power while smaller heads tend to give more control.

The Ball: You probably never thought about this one before, huh? But, there are actually several different varieties. Here’s a good guide for what to use when starting out:

-Ages 4-6: Use foam tennis balls with high density foam
-Ages 6-8: Use low compression balls at 50%
-Ages 10 and older: Use low compression balls at 75%
-Adults: When learning, start off with a low compression ball and once comfortable, switch to a regular ball.

 Rules of the Game

tennis court.jpg

 1. Tennis is played on a rectangular court, 78 ft. long and 27 ft. wide (for singles) or 36 ft. wide (for doubles) with a net running across the center of the court.

2. The object of the game is to hit the ball over the net into your opponent’s court while keeping the ball within the margins of the court. You gain points each time your opponent is unable to return a ball that you landed within those guidelines.

3. Play can consist of one person on each side of the net (singles) or, a team of two people on each side of the net (doubles).

4. To start the game, a coin toss is performed. The winner of the coin toss can either decide to serve or, decide which side of the court to start on.

5. The serve takes place behind the baseline, starting at the right hand corner and alternating right side, then left side for each point. The ball is always served cross-court (diagonally) into the opponent’s service box. The score is announced prior to each ball served. The server’s feet must remain behind the baseline until the service is complete or they are subject to a foot fault. If a server hits the net and the ball bounces inside the service box, this is called a let and they are allowed to serve again. If the ball hits the net and bounces outside of the service box, that is a fault. Two faults and the opponent wins the point. In the case of a doubles game, service is shared by the two players of each team alternately and changed between the opposing team after every game (each player will serve every 4th game). The receiver may stand wherever they wish to return the serve. But, on the serve, the ball must bounce once. If it is returned without a bounce, then the server will receive the point. If a serve is good but the opponent fails to hit it, the server will receive the point (this is called an ace).

6. If the serve is good, play continues until a player fails to return the ball, the ball bounces twice or a player calls a ball “out”. The ball is allowed to hit any part of the baseline or sideline to be “in” during play, if the ball bounces outside of the baseline or sideline, the ball is “out”. The baseline is the line furthest back on each side of the court and the inner sideline is for singles with the outer sideline being for doubles.

7. The player who scores 4 points first wins, as long as there is a difference of two points in the score. Win 6 games to win a set.

8. Remember: Always respect your fellow players.

Learning a Good Grip

right palm.jpg

Forehand

The easiest grip for learning the forehand is the Eastern Forehand Grip. To use the Semi-Western Forehand Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad should rest on bevel 4. And, for the Western Forehand Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad reside on bevel 5.hand is the Eastern Forehand Grip. To execute this grip, pretend you are going to shake hands with the racket. You could also follow the illustration above and place your index knuckle and heel pad on bevel 3. Some other grips include the Continental Grip, the Semi-Western Forehand Grip and the Western Forehand Grip. For the Continental Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad should rest on bevel 2. This grip is popular for serving the b

Backhand

Some players prefer to use two hands for their backhand. To execute a Two Handed Backhand Grip, the right hand will be at the bottom of the grip with the index knuckle at bevel 2 and the heel pad at bevel 1. The left hand will be higher on the grip and the index knuckle and heel pad will rest at bevel 7. An Eastern Backhand Grip is done by placing the index knuckle and heel pad at bevel 1.

How to Volley

The volley takes place near the net. It can be risky to come forward and leave the court behind you open. But, it can also mean a point for you if you do it right. You want to be in a ready position; facing forward, knees slightly bent and your racket held in front of you with both hands and your grip in place.

-Move your elbows forward so they are just in front of your body.
-When you see the ball coming, move your head and hands toward the ball.
-Do not swing at the ball but rather, the shot should be short and choppy.
-Use your wrist and forearm to bring the racket head down on the ball in a sharp action.
-Follow through in the direction you would like the ball to go.

Types of Tennis Shots

In addition to the volley, here are some tennis shots to get you started:

The Serve: This is the shot that starts the game. It is carried out by throwing the ball up in the air and hitting it at its peak height. Remember, your feet need to stay behind the baseline until the serve is complete. Start serving on the right hand side of the court and serve diagonally into the opponent’s service box.

The Lob: This is when you return a ball that goes very high in the air, usually out of reach of your opponent.

The Drop Shot: When your opponent is playing the baseline, you can try this trick. Hit the ball just enough to go over the net and bounce in. Your opponent rarely has time to get to the ball before it bounces twice. Be careful though, if the ball doesn’t make it over the net, you opponent wins the point.

The Backhand Shot: This is when you swing the racket from the opposite side of your strong hand. Some use two hands for this shot. The backhand is essential for when you can’t make it to the ball using your forehand.

The Forehand Shot: The easiest and what you will use the most. Just swing the racket away from your body on the same side in which you hold your racket. Always step into the shot and follow completely through with your swing.

Slice: A slice can be used when serving or during a forehand or backhand shot. A slice shot is hit by brushing underneath the tennis ball and creating backspin.

Scoring

When starting the game, each player has 0 (referred to as LOVE).

1 point = 15
2 points = 30
3 points = 40
4 points = Game

If both players (or teams) reach 40 (and the score is tied), a deuce will take place. In order to win, a player or team must win both points consecutively. A deuce is served on the right hand side of the court. If the server wins the point, he or she then serves from the left hand side of the court and has advantage (ad-in). If he/she wins that point, they will win the game. But, if they lose the point it goes back to a deuce. This continues until the deuce and advantage points are both won by the same person/team.

SETS- A set is completed when one of the players wins 6 games by a margin of two or more games.

MATCHES- Matches are played in several different ways depending on the players and the setting. The best 2 out of 3 sets is the most common.

Games for Fun

Tennis is a great sport and provides exercise and excitement. But, the most important thing is to have fun. Tennis involves a lot of rules and regulations. Here are a couple of games that still have you learning about the game but are a little less rigid.

The Bucket Game: To set up, place 5 buckets on each side of the court. Players stand on the baseline. The first player tries to hit 20 balls into any of the buckets on the other side of the net. If a ball doesn’t make it over the net, the other player will add it to their ball count. The other player then does the same thing. After all balls are hit, each player collects the balls not in the buckets on his/her side of the net and tries again. Play continues until all balls are in the buckets. Whoever makes the most shots wins.

The School Game: Players start at the service line and try to serve into the service box. Once he/she gets three serves into both service boxes, the player will graduate from Kindergarten to Grade School. Now, do the same thing but 4 ft. from the service line (Grade School). Then, 12 ft. from the service line (High School). When a player is able to serve from behind the baseline, they have graduated!

Looking for some tennis camps? Here’s a few ideas.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

17 Tips to See if Basketball is Good for Your Child

About 8 years ago my world changed as we entered the unknown territory of Basketball.  It was totally unintentional, just a homeschooling Mom wanting to give her kids a chance to get some good cardio exercise and maybe a chance for me to catch a little break at the same time.

From the moment my daughter hit that gym floor, she was destined to be a basketball player, along with her little sister who would soon follow in her footsteps.  Having had 5 older children, I pretty much thought that I knew everything there was to know about sports…I didn’t.  Not for this generation of kids anyway!kids and basketball.jpg

You see the level of competition is tenfold compared to the level 15 years ago.  There are things I wished I had considered and known before we ever delved so deep into this world called Basketball.

In order to help you navigate and make an informed decision I’ve compiled these tips to see if basketball is for your child

The Bonus Side of Basketball:

  • This seems obvious, but the amount of exercise that playing basketball brings to your child is so beneficial.  It gets their cardio up for a good hour, all while having fun with teammates.  It builds stamina which can be helpful for happy moods too!

  • Coordination skills are built up by dribbling down the court and switching from left to right hands.

  • Confidence is built while looking opponent’s eye to eye and not getting flustered or being fearful.  Confidence is also built by learning to make baskets.

  • Good sportsmanship is learned as players learn to work as team and not be selfish with the ball.  Kids also learn how to have compassion on the other team when someone is hurt, such as kneeling or leaving the court and clapping when the hurt player is ok.

  • Kids learn to trust and obey another adult other than yourself during a game situation.  This seems scary, but if you have done your homework on your coaches, this can be very encouraging.

  • Kids learn what good healthy competition is all about.  They learn to win with grace and lose with grace.

  • Each child is different, but most have their own individual areas of growth they need to  work on.  Working with others brings these areas out into the light, therefore giving them a chance to grow. (crying to much, sharing, etc.)

  • Many wonderful lifelong friendships can be built.

The Caution Side of Basketball:

Many of these little cautions could be for any sport your children participate in.

  • Basketball is a physical game.  I did not really realize how physical it was until my girls started playing.

  • There may be 10 players, but not every child is on the court at the same time.  Very young kids can have a hard time with this at first.

  • In my opinion, basketball isn’t really for the very young.  It is simply too hard to bounce a ball and play a game all at the same time.  Wait until they are around 2nd or 3rd grade for this sport, it will help them to succeed, rather than fail and be frustrated.

  • Count the cost! Financially, physically and emotionally.  As kids get older the cost of doing sports can be a real drain on the pocket book.  The time it takes going to practices and actual games can also take away from other things you may want to do as a family.

  • Don’t try to make your child be something that they are not.  If your child is not enjoying playing basketball or any sport, don’t make them.  Not everyone is created for sports, even if you tend to be favorable toward them.  Pushing them can only lead to a disaster.

  • Speaking of disaster, sports are suppose to be FUN!  Even with both of my girls now in High School and playing on the Varsity Girls Basketball team, we push FUN!  The older kids get, the more serious sports get.  Don’t lose the fun or your kids will lose their passion.

  • Basketball is a cut sport.  As kids get older they will face try-outs, cuts and sitting on the bench during game time and so on.  It’s just plain hard, but it’s also good for character as in real life…not everyone gets chosen for everything.  OUCH!

  • Don’t let basketball or any sport become your whole life…it’s easy to do.  Make sure you do other things as a family.

  • Make sure you child has an EXCELLENT Coach.  Coaches are competitive and a small few can become overly emotional which leads to outbursts of anger and sometimes belittling.  Believe it or not, people have their children on teams with Coaches like this. DON’T be one of them.

basketball coach.jpg

You will need decide if your child and family are ready to try basketball or any team sport. Although basketball has it’s ups and downs, our family has found a way to have fun and navigate the sports world while still enjoying a bit of life on the side.

Ready? Look for basketball camps or basketball classes near you!

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Indoor Gardening With Kids

It may be the end of January but the sun is shining in our neck of the woods, which is actually pretty unusual for this time of year.  I live in the Pacific Northwest and it is usually freezing in January!

Whether the sun is shining in your area or not, this is the time of year that kids get antsy from being indoors a good amount of time.  So it’s a great time for gardening with kids and for igniting their imagination, to dream, plan and create!

gardening kids.jpg

Gardening with kids at this time of year?  Yes!  What do you think of when you think of a garden?  Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs?  A huge garden in a country backyard or a petite garden in the inner city?

I happen to believe that all children should have the confidence and knowledge to know that they can plant a seed in the ground and learn how to nurture and care for it in order to see the fruit of their labor.  After all growing flowers, fruits and veggies is a life skill that someday they may need!

Here are a few guidelines that you might like to use to get you started growing a little garden;

  • Make it easy ~ In this day and age of being busy we want things to be easy.  Easy seeds to grow, easy gardens to tend and easy to gather supplies.

  • Purchase child size plastic garden utensils so that the kids have their very own.  Even if you plant a small seed indoors, kids can become familiar with what each utensil does.

  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of a garden.  A “garden” can be 1 seed in 1 container on 1 windowsill of your home.  There you have it…an indoor garden.

See how easy a little garden can be?  Let’s further investigate the reasons having a garden with your child is such an awesome thing.

Types of Gardens you can grow with kids:

  • As mentioned above, you can have a teeny tiny garden on your window sill to a big elaborate garden outdoors, but since we are thinking along the lines of indoor gardening, let’s start there.

  • You can plant a seed in any kind of container you like; buckets, boots, milk cartons, 2 liter pop bottles…anything!  The main thing you need  to have is some drainage on the bottom so that over watering does not occur.  If the container you use doesn’t already have holes, make them.

  • Seeds that grow super easy indoors are Beans,  Radishes,  Onions,  Peas,  Sweet Alyssum,  Nasturtiums,  Parsley.

  • Make sure that you pick a spot in your house that will get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.  If you don’t have this, there are special growing light bulbs you can buy at your local garden nursery.

  • Be sure and do the above things together! Planning a garden is a big part of the fun.

Benefits of gardening with kids:

  • Creates a sense of self confidence and self reliance.

  • Stimulates the senses with wonderful smells.  Not to mention the fun of digging in dirt!

  • Kids become curious and start to ask many “scientific” questions: How does the seed grow? How long will it take?  How can we make it grow faster?

  • Parent child bonding happens when doing a fun project together while investigating the wonders of that little seed that is underground.  Use your own sense of wonder Mom and Dad!

Gardening projects to do with kids:

There is no end to the little garden projects you can do with kids, here are just a few!

  • Plant grass in the shape of your child’s handprint ~ super easy and grass grows fast.Grassy Handprint.jpg

  • Seed Sorting ~ Buy different sizes of seeds and sort them, glue them into pictures and then plant them.
  • Create little garden markers (even if you plant one seed) out of popsicle sticks.

  • Create a little chart to keep track of the day you last watered your seeds.  Then make a chart for when your seed starts to grow.  Measure each week out big it is growing.

  • Grow Seed Hair!

  • Gather free catalogs and cut out the pictures, sort by whether they are flowers or vegetables.  Glue them into a little notebook.grow seed hair.jpg

For more ideas on gardening fun with kids you can hop over to this great Pinterest resource with over 64 great ideas or check out nature camps near you.

Teaching patience is hard to teach children.  With gardening, you can be doing other fun projects while they wait patiently for that little seed to pop out of the ground.  Part of being patient if finding other things to do while you wait.

Happy Gardening!