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Events Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

5 Gratitude Activities for Kids on Veterans Day –

To some it’s just another holiday on the calendar like Presidents Day or Memorial Day: we put out the flag and maybe have a barbecue celebrating our freedom from the office or school for the day. But to some families like ours, Veterans Day is a big deal.

By Sarah Antrim

Veterans Day
My husband is an Iraq war veteran that served two tours overseas with the US Marine Corps. We are thankful every day that he arrived home safely and proud of the service he paid for our freedom. Making kids aware of the sacrifice that our veterans have given for our freedom and safety is extremely important, and the pride-filled look in a child’s eyes as he looks up to a hero is priceless. Here are some ways to teach kids how to show their gratitude on Veterans Day:

 

1. Send a message or donation through 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 USO.org.

Editor’s note: You can also mail a letter or child’s drawing to A Million Thanks. Over 9 million letters have been sent to active, reserve and retired military members through this organization.

2. 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 Veterans 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.

3. Decorate the memorial of a fallen service member.

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 the National Cemetery Administration at cem.va.gov for a complete listing of veterans cemeteries and contact information.

4. Make a care package for “Adopt a Platoon.”

Founded in 1998, the AdoptaPlatoon 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 AdoptaPlatoon for more details and guidelines on how to get involved.

5. Pay homage at a local veterans hospital or retired veterans 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 children to a veterans 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 veterans hospital or are looking for another way to get involved, contact AMVETS to see what sort of assistance you can provide to help veterans in your area.

 

Categories
Events Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

5 Tips for Fun & Safe Trick-or-Treating

Halloween means a lot of things: carving pumpkins, decorating the house, dressing up. But for kids, Halloween means one thing –CANDY.

Written by Sarah Antrim

Trick-or-treating is clearly the highlight of this holiday for most kids, I know it was for me when I was that age! To make the most of the holiday, here’s a few tips to keep in mind when getting ready to head out for treats:

1. Let the kids pick their costumes.

As adorable as a family with coordinating costumes can be, the kids usually don’t get quite as excited if they can’t pick their own costumes. This is the one chance of the year that kids get the freedom to be whoever and whatever they want! As a compromise, you could consider having the kids dress up with the family for pictures then change into their desired costume before trick-or-treating. And heck, if you’ve still got a little one toddling around, go ahead and milk that for all it’s worth!

2. Research neighborhoods and events ahead of time.

Since Halloween falls on a weekday this year, many towns have events planned for the weekend or days prior to the actual holiday. Contact your village hall and local businesses to see what sort of special events they have planned. Get some mileage out of that costume and make sure the kids get their candy fix!

3. Prepare for tired legs.

Bring a wagon, toddler carrier, or be prepared to be put on piggy back duty; especially if you have a kids of different ages. Be a good sport–Halloween is supposed to be fun, kids are supposed to wear themselves out!

4. Remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Nothing can ever be perfect–they may not get their favorite candy bar, the weather might be yucky, the doorbells might not be answered–and that’s okay. Play games along the way, like who can guess what the next piece of candy is coming next, to make the experience more fun for everyone.

5. Hold off on the sugar overdose.

It’s tempting to tear into that sack of goodies as soon as it starts to pile up, but try to get them to hold off for a bit. Sugar highs are followed by crashes which will not make the night enjoyable for anyone. Making sure everyone has a hearty meal or big snack before hitting the pavement can help curb the urge to indulge. Just remember to be reasonable, having a few pieces throughout the night won’t hurt anyone!

kids-eating-halloween-candy

Remember to keep it light-hearted and fun. Kids don’t want the perfect holiday, they just want a real one. So relax, have fun, and stay safe!

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Social Networking: Use It to Enrich Your Child’s Life






image from marlonsite.blogspot.com

Social networking is all around us and often replaces face-to-face interaction in many instances. Even small children need to live a practically isolated existence to not know what Facebook is. Rather than shield your children from internet socializing, you can use it to positively teach them about the world around them. The end result often involves a little one who properly understands the basics of internet safety, cultural awareness and proper regard for one another.

Basic Safety and Enrichment

Don’t forbid your child from using the internet. Likewise, do not give them free reign of it. Sound confusing? It can be if you are not prepared. Instead, share with your children basic internet safety protocols that can then translate into real life – don’t accept gifts from strangers, do not provide personal information to someone you don’t know (or even those you think you do), and respect the internet as a wealth of knowledge, information and fun – that does not need to be used 24/7.

image from youritkalamazoo.com

Spend computer time together with your child, allowing them to see pictures and comments from people on your Facebook account they know and love. Seeing cheerleading pictures of a favorite cousin or receiving a special message from grandma through your personal Facebook page may curb the curiosity and desire to venture into their own social networking world. And spending extra time with mom is usually a bonus too – especially with the younger kids.

Encourage Creativity

If you share space with a right-brained child, why not allow them to create videos to share in cyberspace? YouTube has a little-known guide available via their homepage on how to make an account safe for kids. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, then leave the uploading and comment moderating to the parents – kids can fulfill their music video aspirations through planning, practicing and filming – then you can reward them via uploading it and showing them encouraging comments from friends and family.

image from safetyweb.com

Artwork can also be created online. Whether you use MS Paint or Photoshop, your kids can learn to use these tools and then use a personal email account to send it to friends and family. Email for kids is usually safe – but make sure you have their password so you can check on what exactly is being sent, and to make sure they aren’t receiving any spam that is inappropriate in their inbox.

Stay Connected

If your child is old enough to have a Facebook or personal YouTube page, be sure to use it to further enrich your relationship. Comment on your kid’s wall or “like” their status. They won’t be nearly as embarrassed by you as you may foresee, and it can strengthen your bond when you’re willing to enter into their cyber world.

Sites that are Safe

Today’s world, if nothing else, is very small. Kids are able to communicate with others their age living across the globe – and they should. Having pen pals in China, Africa and England has never been simpler or more instant – and there are ways for your kids to connect and share activities with these youngsters without ever needing a Facebook account!

  • Fanlala – Set up almost exactly like Myspace (remember them?), your child can blog, share photos and participate in various virtual groups. Best of all, it requires parents to verify their identity with a credit card or phone call.
  • Edmodo – classes can connect with both classmates and other schools around the world. Teachers tout it as a Facebook for the classroom, and kids who are normally shy in class will speak up in written form. It’s a great way for your child to participate and grow academically.
  • Club Penguin – created by Disney, it is fun and enriching for kids, allowing them to play games and network socially with other young children around the world.

These are just a few of the great ways for kids to be enriched and grow alongside a world that depends upon technology to function and thrive.

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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After-School Activities Community Service Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion






From sports leagues to community centers, there are plenty of things demanding your family’s attention. Children today tend to have jam packed schedules with plenty of kids’ activities available to them.

While we are fortunate enough to afford our children plenty of avenues to broaden their horizons, at times we forget to remind them how fortunate they truly are.

Taking some time out of your family’s busy lives to gain some healthy perspective is well worth the effort. It can help your kids truly practice gratefulness, humbleness and provide them a sense of compassion for others that can last a lifetime.

Disaster Relief

how kids can help
Photo by Flickr user regionalfoodbank

Sure, your town may not get hit with hurricanes or reside in earthquake country, but there are still plenty of ways to get your kids involved with disaster relief.

Encourage them to raise their own money to donate to a worthy cause. Lemonade stands, collection jars and letter writing for sponsorships are incredible ways to raise funds for the Red Cross or a local fundraiser aimed at a particular issue.

Your child will gain self-confidence, feel accomplished when they reach their personal fundraising goal, and learn that giving money away instead of spending it can be just as rewarding as receiving a new toy or taking a special outing.

Search for Community Service Classes →

Religious Opportunities

Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank
Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank

From food closets to special children’s events around the holidays, almost every church is equipped with at least a handful of activities each calendar year where families can serve together. Perhaps you are already plugged into a particular church or spiritual center. If this is the case, there are usually instant ways to get involved with helping others. If your child is older, teen missions trips and service days are the norm in many churches.

If you aren’t particularly religious, you can still call your neighborhood church and ask for ways your family can help out. Chances are plenty of needs have yet to be met and they will welcome your willing service.

The best part of church involvement is many service projects only last a day or weekend. You can get your kids connected to a world of compassion and humanitarianism without having to commit to months at a time.

Habitat for Humanity and other groups that focus on providing basic resources for low-income families may also be more local to you than you think. Sometimes you can conduct a United States search and find a project happening practically in your own backyard.  These local tasks often involve families working together – and if not, they certainly can direct you toward a regional group that does.

Search for Community Service Activities →

Community Service

Finally, one of the simplest and most practical ways to teach kids empathy is to have them volunteer in an arena they are already interested in.

Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti
Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti

Does your child love animals? Find out if your local humane society is in need of dog walkers.

Do your kids’ grandparents live far away? Encourage them to still spend time with the elderly through visiting a convalescent home and bringing crafted gifts or a performance of dance, music or drama.

Call up local shelters, soup kitchens or community centers. They are usually overflowing with opportunities to get involved, and are often well-equipped to give tasks to young people.

The best time of year to call? During the school year away from major holidays. This is when many groups are forgotten – they are overwhelmed with donations and offers for assistance during the Christmas season – but not so much in May or October.

Photo by Flickr user Amy O'Neill Houck
Photo by Flickr user Amy O’Neill Houck

Whatever you decide to do, try to find an activity your child will recognize as helpful to others, and they will soon find it is in fact helpful to them as well!

Search for Community Service Camps

Written by Tamara Warta

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion
Photo by Flickr user dzbass

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Kids and Money: 10 Ways to Help Them Jive






1. Lead by Example

It’s a fact that most Americans are in debt. Sometimes it is not easy to avoid, especially once you have your own family. Set a good financial example by living within your means; if you can’t afford a new television don’t buy one. Your kids won’t care about shiny new toys and gadgets if they live in a happy, healthy home.

kids and money 1

2. Make Kids Earn Their Money

Instead of handing over an allowance to your child every week, make them earn it little by little. Simple things like brushing their teeth, picking up their room, and doing their homework on time will get them a full allowance. If they want more money, offer chores to be done around the house like washing dishes or dusting cabinets. Kids will be more likely to appreciate their hard earned money.

kids and money 2

3. Encourage Kids to Save

A savings account can help your child see a bigger picture, set goals, and plan for the future. If your kids aren’t too keen on saving their money, offer to put a small amount into their account each time they make a deposit. Don’t discourage your child from withdrawing money from their account or it may discourage their wanting to save altogether.

kids and money 3

4. Don’t Let Your Children See You Stress About Money

The number one reason that most couples argue is financial troubles. It’s hard to live in a happy, peaceful household when you’re constantly worried about how the bills will get paid. As hard as it may be, put on a happy face for your kids. Worrying or stressing will only make the situation worse.

kids and money 4

5. Set Financial Goals with Your Child

Does your child want something pricey like an Xbox or a new bike? To learn and appreciate how valuable big purchases like these are, sit down with your child and set a goal. Let’s say that your child’s allowance is $5 per week. If they save half of their allowance and put it in a savings account that pays interest, how long will it take to get what they want? If they are diligent with their saving, you could offer to match their savings to get to their goal quicker.

kids and money 5

6. Teach Kids to Be Smart Shoppers

The grocery store might seem like a bore to many kids, but it can be a lesson waiting to be learned. Let’s say your child’s favorite snack is $2.50. A similar product of a different brand is on sale for 2/$3. Show your child the difference in what being flexible can buy you. Would they rather have one box of their favorite granola bars or two boxes of a similar kind for almost the same price? Luckily most super markets make it easy and do the math for you and post the price per ounce on the sale tag. You could even create a “treat fund” for your child and see how wisely they spend their money. Give them a $5 allowance to get whatever snacks or treats they wish and see how far they can stretch it.

kids and money 6

7. Talk to Kids About Giving

It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the value of their money. While their allowance of $5 per week could buy them a bag of candy and a toy, a single dollar could feed a family in a starving country for a week. Check out charitynavigator.org where kids can choose a charity to donate to.

kids and money 7

8. Teach Kids About Investing

Stocks and bonds can be purchased online with a small fee. Encourage your child to pick a stock of their choosing and buy a share. They can watch as the stock grows or falls and learn the power of investment. It’s also never too early to start a 401K and saving for retirement.

kids and money 8

9. Communicate the Differences Between Needs, Wants, and Wishes

Allow your children to make their own spending decisions, but encourage them to think hard before they spend their money. If they want to spend their allowance on a toy, ask questions about the toy beforehand. Do they NEED this toy? How often will they play with it? What else could they buy with that money? Kids are quick to act on impulse so raising questions may just change their mind.

kids and money 9

10. Involve Kids in Spending Decisions

Holding your child’s hand through every financial decision or simply making them for them will never teach kids to be financially independent. Kids have to learn from their spending choices whether they are good or bad. They must learn the discipline and rewards of good decisions and consequences of poor decisions.

kids and money 10

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