Friends of ActivityHero Holiday Break Camps

The Origins of your Favorite Christmas Traditions

There are many popular traditions at Christmas, from gingerbread men to ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’. But where exactly did these traditions come from? Many American traditions come from Europe and have evolved over the years.

Here are some fun facts about the origins behind some of your favorite Christmas traditions:

Gingerbread men and houses

The first recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. But it was Queen Elizabeth I who decided to decorate the cookies with gold leaf and shaped like animals, kings and queens. These became very popular around Europe. The tradition of Gingerbread houses came from Germany and were popularized by the Brothers Grimm story of Hansel and Gretel. Every year for the since 1991, children and volunteers in Bergen, Norway build an entire town, out of gingerbread, which they call Pepperkakebyen.

Holiday cooking camps and workshops offer kids a chance to make their own holiday treats.

12 Days of Christmas

The 12 days refers to the time between Jesus’s birth and Epiphany, the day that the Magi come to honor the newborn. The song, however, is of French origin. It was published in an English children’s book in 1780, which made it popular in the English-speaking world. The song was used as a memory game, where if a player failed they had to perform some sort of forfeit. Today the most popular Christmas song is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Christmas Trees

The idea of the modern Christmas tree started in western Germany. Germans would bring in what they called a “paradise tree” on Christmas Eve. It was called a “paradise tree” because it represented the Garden of Eden. The tree was used to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve, thus the connection to the Garden of Eden. However, it was Queen Victoria who popularized the tradition in England when she and her German husband, Prince Albert had Christmas trees as part of their festivities. 25-30 million Christmas are sold each year in the United States.

Candy Canes

While the true origins of the candy cane are unknown, it seems that they came to America with August Imgard,  a German immigrant, in 1847. White candy sticks were already popular at Christmas, though it wasn’t until the turn of the century when Georgia candymaker, Bob McCormack, started manufacturing the red and white curved candies that we know today. Every year 1.76 billion candy canes are sold in the US.

courtesy of CD’s Art Bash Studio

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is based on the very real Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop who had a reputation of helping the poor and secretly giving gifts to those in need. However, the modern day image of the jolly man in the red suit with his flying reindeer did not emerge until the mid-1800’s, when Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’, which we now call ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. Initially the poem was only for his children, but it was published anonymously the next year, and by the late 1800’s, political cartoonist, Thomas Nast had created the first illustrations for the piece. Today, Icelandic children believe that there are 13 different Santas and many of them like to steal things from houses.

Here are some holiday workshops and crafts for kids that celebrate these Christmas traditions near you.

Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Comics to Learn About Science & Real-Life Scientists

A new comic reader app engages kids in stories about famous scientific discoveries.

Kids love comics, and while more and more kids are getting their information from digital devices, most kids’ content is purely for entertainment. Tinyview brings wholesome content to kids in the form of an app, and a comic series on the lives of scientists, called IN SCIENCE WE TRUST. We had a chance to ask one of their founders, Rajesh Lalwani, about the inspiration behind their brainchild.

What is Tinyview?

Print comics typically use the zig-zag pattern that can be hard to translate to smaller devices like phones. Tinyview app solves this by allowing readers to read comics by scrolling up and down on their mobile devices.

What type of content can we see on Tinyview?

Our first comic series is called IN SCIENCE WE TRUST, and it has fun stories about real life scientists and the work they have done. The first comic was written by my middle-schooler son, Rishi, and I — on the life of Nikola Tesla. Rishi loves comics and has read almost all Tintin and Asterix comics — multiple times. We created stories of Archimedes, Nikola Tesla, Ada Lovelace, and many other scientists to let kids have fun while reading.

How can reading stories of scientists help kids?

We decided to start with stories about scientists because learning about the scientists behind inventions piques the curiosity in kids and makes them more open to learning science at school. Once they have read how Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current motor, suddenly terms like AC or DC don’t seem so boring in the classroom!

We wanted to make science more personable so kids would know not just about the invention, but how the scientist created it. Kids may know Archimedes for density and his Eureka moment, but learning about how he ran through the streets naked when he had his moment makes the story more interesting and can help with remembering it. Our stories encourage readers to overcome challenges in their lives and let them know that they are capable of doing great things even when things may get tough.

Do you have any stories about women scientists?

Absolutely! We already have stories of Ada Lovelace and Mary Anning. An interesting fact about Mary Anning, a fossil collector and palaeontology, is that she was not allowed to present her findings because she was a woman. We are working on the stories of Lise Meitner, Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, Chien-Shiung Wu, and many more.

What age group is Tinyview Comics appropriate for?

Our comics are appropriate for children of all ages. If you have younger kids, Tinyview Comics are ideal for you to read to them — comics have pictures and fewer words. Children aged 10 and above may get the most out of the comics since they will have heard about the scientists in school and have more background information to supplement the comics.

Where can we get Tinyview Comics?

Tinyview Comics is a free app that can be downloaded on the app store. Go to and scroll to the bottom for download link or enter your phone number for a text with the link to download.

Do you have any questions or feedback you want to share with Tinyview? Perhaps you have a favorite scientist you want them to write a story about? Feel free to reach out to Tinyview at [email protected] — they are all ears and excited to hear from you.

For more ideas on camps and classes for kids, you’ll find science camps and classes and art camps and classes on ActivityHero.

Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

A News Podcast Just for Kids: KidNuz

While you shuttle the kids to and from school and their activities, podcasts are a great way to be entertained or learn something new. KidNuz is a daily news podcast for kids and we had a chance to ask one of their founders, Stephanie Kelmar, about their inspiration.

What is KidNuz and how long has it been around?

KidNuz is the first daily news podcast created for kids age 6-13. It features stories on current events and politics, entertainment, science, sports and more – followed by the KidNuz quiz. We launched the podcast last year to inspire thought-provoking conversations between parents and their children. As four busy moms with 12 children between us, we are committed to giving kids the top quality journalism they deserve. Five minutes of news that informs without bias and educates without opinion.

What gave you the idea to start a news podcast for kids?

Several years ago, my now 11 year old son began to show interest in reading the newspaper at breakfast. Sadly, the front page often contained images and/or headlines related to death and dying, wars and natural disasters. Often, I found myself tucking the newspaper away and had nothing else to offer him. As every parent knows, the news that populates today’s newspapers, cable TV stations and radio broadcasts is not appropriate for children. In fact, kids between the ages of six and thirteen have been wildly underserved when it comes to engaging, age-appropriate news and information. My kids are now 9 and 11 they listen to KidNuz everyday on the way to school.

Why is age-appropriate news important?

Kids love having information and sharing what they know with their peers. Parents need a trusted resource that’s won’t expose their kids to news that’s scary and unpredictable. Not only is adult-oriented news not geared to kids intellectually, it could damage them emotionally. According to a 2017 report by Common Sense Media, “News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News”, 63% of kids say “the news makes them feel sad or depressed, angry or afraid.” As kids can easily feel scared by the violent images they see and stories they hear, they deserve a newscast all their own.

How can learning about the news help kids?

Elementary school is a time when kids begin to dig into the world around them and a prime time when parents can begin to safely expose them to worldly events. And as former television news journalists, we understand the importance of presenting unbiased information. KidNuz is nonpartisan, but parents don’t have to be. Our podcast contains daily, digestible nuggets of news that parents can use to help their kids develop critical thinking skills. One of our goals is to help create the next generation of engaged citizens. Why? Because kids are curious, the world is fascinating and knowledge is power.

Tell Us Something You’ve Learned Since Starting KidNuz

Erik Burmeister, the Superintendent of Menlo Park City School District, and his son are regular KidNuz listeners. In fact, Burmeister says that if he fails to play the podcast within the first two minutes of getting into the car in the morning, he’s “quickly scolded.” His son also really enjoys the KidNuz quiz and listens intently (and quietly!) in the car, so he can get the most correct answers. In addition to enjoying the podcast himself, Burmeister has identified an important educational value to the podcast: “What listening to and discussing Kidnuz with my son has reminded me is that listening is a skill we can practice. Listening is a skill we can hone. If we can find tools that make building listening skills fun and engaging…why not?”

Where Can We Listen to KidNuz?

Our podcast is free and you can find it on our website And since we know parents are busier than ever, you can sign up to receive a daily reminder by text or email. KidNuz is also available on Stitcher and Radio Public or you can subscribe on Google Play and iTunes.

Find kids writing and journalism camps and classes

Friends of ActivityHero Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Parenting Resources

Building Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence in Children

Natalie is a high school teenager who believes she is not smart enough. Her parents noticed her self-esteem is low and want to help her regain her confidence.

Stories like Natalie’s are not uncommon in today’s high achieving environment.  Students may be influenced by their classmates and their perception that a subject is hard or challenging. In order to help Natalie, her parents reached out to certified WISDOM Coach, Aditi Verma. Together, they worked through stories and activities to find negative patterns and thoughts. Natalie and Aditi replaced them with new, positive thoughts and Natalie’s self-esteem and self-confidence grew. She was able to overcome the anxiety that she had for tests and even started getting A’s due to her newfound confidence. In fact, all of her grades improved.

Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unlovable, and/or incompetent, according to Dr. Neuman in his post on Psychology Today. To learn more about how to help families improve their child’s outlook, we spoke to Aditi, who is also the co-founder of EmpowerandHelp.

What happens when a child compares themselves to others?

When kids continually assess whether they are “better than” or “less than” others, it creates either low self-esteem if they see themselves as “less than” or can create arrogance and entitlement when they see themselves as “better than”.  Parents and educators can discuss why differences are good and we need all different types of people with different gifts to thrive. Particularly when self-esteem is low, we can help them identify their special gifts and honor their uniqueness.

Why does self-esteem and self-confidence need to be taught?

Self-esteem and self-confidence are like the air we breathe; we need it to feel alive, happy and worthy. Children with high self-esteem have a higher value of themselves and their capabilities than those with lower self-esteem. They naturally have higher self-confidence in their abilities to do things and are more prone to try to new things and take risks, they feel loved, confident, accepted and heard. Even when they make mistakes or face failures they will know how to cope with them and move on.

What are ways that parents can help kids with self-esteem and self-confidence at home? For example, if my child says “I’m not good at math” is there a way to respond to this?

If a child says, “I’m not good at math”, dive deeper into why he or she feels that way?  Is he comparing himself to other kids who got better scores? Is he getting frustrated when he is not able to solve a problem even though he is at a higher level math?  Or there is something else?

Listen to the child’s needs and brainstorm ideas together to support that need and implement the solution that child feels more comfortable with.  It could be hiring a tutor, going to additional support classes, creating a routine at home for child and parent to sit together and practice some math, etc.

How does your course help kids understand these topics?

We teach skills through a fun short story.  Kids connect to different aspects of the stories, which helps them open up about challenges or questions that they may be struggling with.

We also create some real life scenarios that kids go through to understand how to apply what they learned.  Sometimes kids provide a scenario that they faced and as a group everyone provides feedback on how to handle that. By working with the instructor, kids develop an amazing problem solving attitude that they can use on their own.

Our goal is to increase self-esteem and self-confidence so kids feel capable of facing life’s challenges and don’t give up. They learn to achieve their goals, make progress, to help and give.

Register for the next course on Building Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Best of ActivityHero Camps Friends of ActivityHero

ActivityHero’s Business Grant: Rewarding Camps Who Make a Difference

In our summer contest, your votes and reviews can help your favorite camp or class win money to improve their programs, plus enter you in a drawing for an ActivityHero Gift Card!

By Wendy Chou


Have you seen this logo on your favorite camp page in ActivityHero and wondered what it’s all about? We’ve just launched a new contest that benefits you and your favorite camps.

Help Support the Camps You Love

For a limited time, your favorite camp or after-school class can apply to win an ActivityHero Business Grant to enhance or grow the services they provide for families. The grand prize is $10,000 in cash and services from ActivityHero and co-sponsors, GoDaddy Website Builder and 4imprint Branded Promotional Products. This contest is a great way to reward a business that makes a positive impact for your family or community!

Vote and Write Reviews to Help You AND Your Favorite Camp Win

Businesses who have earned parents’ trust and recommendations have the best shot of taking home the prize. Here’s how it works. You can vote directly from your camp’s ActivityHero listing (look for the logo), or you can search the gallery of contestants and click the “vote now” button under your favorite camp or class. Each vote counts as an entry. You can also write a review of the business, which counts as three entries. Here’s a bonus: Every vote and review you submit enters you in a drawing for ActivityHero gift card worth up to $100! Votes and reviews will be tallied from now until July 31. Votes received before May 31 will give the business the best odds, since there are 3 monthly drawings in total (May 31, June 30, and July 31) to determine finalists. In August, the judging phase of the contest will determine the ultimate winner based on whether camps stand out in innovative ways or make a significant impact on their communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I vote for more than one camp or class?

A: Yes, you are allowed at most 1 vote per activity provider, but can vote for as many providers as you want.

Q: Can my kids participate in the Business Grant contest?

A: Unfortunately, you must be 18 or older to participate. You must also have a valid e-mail address.

Q: Where do I submit a review?

A: Go to the camp’s individual ActivityHero listing and scroll to the bottom where you’ll click on a  “write a review” button.

Q: Can I write more than 1 review?

A: You may submit at most 1 review for a specific business. You may review as many businesses as you wish.

Q: I don’t see my favorite camp or class in the gallery. How can I support them?

A: We’d love to know about your recommendation! Just visit the “suggest a camp or class” link and fill out a short form. You can also contact the business and tell them about the Business Grant contest. Encourage them to apply by visiting

About ActivityHero is the leading online marketplace for camps, activities, after school classes, workshops, and kids’ nights out. More than 2.5 million families use us to find and book kids’ activities from a wide variety of local providers. Visit to start your summer camp search today!


After-School Activities Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Sports Uncategorized

Fencing builds physical and mental strength for kids!

Fencing Class

As parents, we want to give our children every advantage in life we can afford.  I love fencing because it can help your child build their strength on so many levels.  How many sports do you know of that can give your child a physical and mental challenge while building their confidence, social skills, and academic future?  Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?  But this is exactly what fencing can do for your children. 

With its rapid footwork and thrusting, your child will get a high-impact aerobic workout.  He or she will build stamina, strength, and coordination.  I like to think of fencing as a type of dance, because we use the same sort of skillset – understanding timing, tempo, measure and velocity. 

Likewise, in the dance of fencing, the student has to develop a sense of body awareness, not only knowing how their own body is positioned, but how they are positioned in relation to his or her opponent.  This body awareness is something that transcends beyond fencing – it’s a huge part of healthy living!  At Academy of Fencing Masters, we encourage our students to be aware of one’s body and the awesome machine that it is; adopting healthy attitudes and eating habits.  Fencing will instill in your child the idea of treating their body as an instrument and a temple … and taking care of it! 

Fencing is also a terrific stress reliever.  Your child can release their aggression and frustration through fencing in a controlled environment.  When they go to the strip, nothing else matters.  All problems and worries melt away – as they concentrate on technique and strategy.  Some of our high school students say that fencing is their escape from the pressures of peers and school. 

Improves your child’s strategic thinking and academic discipline

Fencing is obviously a very physical sport, but what most people don’t know is that there is a whole other mental layer that goes with it.  It’s like a game of physical chess:  Every move by the opponent spurs a reaction and response.  The key is learning to think strategically so that you can score a hit, or point.  While coaches provide a lot of guidance and training during practice, the real mental challenge comes on the strip when the fencer is squaring off against his/her opponent.  There, all the thinking that goes on is independent.  Your child has to learn to focus, be intuitive, and stay in the moment.  Fencing will teach your kids to think on their feet – a valuable skill that will stay with them all through their lives, helping them academically, socially, and in the workplace.      

By the way, colleges LOVE fencers!  Many colleges actively recruit applicants with fencing backgrounds, even going as far as to offer fencing scholarships.

Confidence booster

Fencing is a wonderful tool to bolster confidence.  To meet an opponent’s attack, the fencer has to be quick on their feet with their defensive strategy, this means there’s no time for second-guessing oneself.  Fencing requires bold moves and self-assuredness both in defense and offense. 

This is the one sport where size doesn’t matter, only skill.  I’ve seen fencers win competitions against opponents twice their size because they had the skill and talent to do so.  It’s an amazing thing!  This is one of the few sports that events the playing field between size, age, sexes, ethnicity and personality.

Likewise, fencing is a sport where parents and children can compete together.  At Academy of Fencing Masters, it is not unusual to meet a parent and son or daughter fencing in the same competition.  At a recent Senior Mixed Foil tournament, we watched a father and his teen son compete together.  We also had a mother and her teen daughter in the same competition.  It’s a great way for a family to bond together:  sharing the same passion and vision in a sport – especially during the teenage years when the ties with our kids can become strained. 

Expanding your child’s social circle

While many people who aren’t enthusiastic about team sports may enjoy the individuality that fencing offers, I think one of the biggest benefits your child will appreciate is the ability to make friends.  Fencing bridges the gap between age differences, sexes, size, and ethnicity – opening the door to a network of friends that might not have been available through everyday venues such as school.  This will give your kids exposure to many different types of personalities and experiences they might not have otherwise faced. 

Fencing is one of the few sports where kids can compete not only on a local level, but nationally and internationally as well.  Fencers often have the ability to meet — and even compete against — professional fencers on a regular basis. 

Guest writer Irina Chirashnya is the founder of Academy of Fencing Masters in Campbell, CA.  

Find fencing classes and camps on ActivityHero.  


After-School Activities Friends of ActivityHero Parenting Resources

A Bejeweled Birthday Experience

bejeweled birthday party

Sometimes the idea of hosting the perfect soiree can put any mom into a tailspin.  In the era of Pinterest and the perfectly crafted birthday party, it’s a daunting task to try and create a memorable day without wanting to pull all your hair out.  So, how about this year you throw your unique girl a fashion friendly jewelry themed birthday party and let her imagination soar!

Self-expression is a crucial part of every young girl’s development. She is on a constant search for ways to not only express who she is, but to feel confident about that expression. Her birthday is the perfect opportunity to provide a way for your young lady coming into her own to really explore the depths of her creativity, vision and style.

dragonfly2Treat your young lady to a day of creativity, style and fashion on her special day with a few of her closest friends creating pieces of jewelry that they can be proud to wear!  You can let girls choose from different jewelry styles such as earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, hair pieces and more!  A wide variety of beads will allow the girls to have endless fun creating custom designed pieces of jewelry to suit their own styles and color palettes.  Also, with the recent surge in loom bracelet popularity, guests can also explore the limits of the rainbow and their imagination with their own loom and a wide variety of band colors.  Whether they want to work with wire and glass beads or create a piece with a loom and colorful bands, the creative options are limitless!  There are few things more exciting than creating a beautiful pair of earrings or a stunning necklace and being able to wear it proudly knowing it was crafted with your own vision and skill.

dragonfly3Dragonfly Designs can help you throw a jewelry birthday party with a staff of creative and skilled instructors in the SF Bay Area, or you can order supplies online. With the skills they will learn in this experience, they will be able to create new, professional looking pieces for years to come!  Watch the confidence of your young lady flourish with each new project she takes on, displaying her originality and true style.


Dragonfly Designs also has a line of handmade jewelry pieces you can browse online or at the birthday party.    Everyone can walk away with something beautiful, colorful, and made with love! If a party isn’t enough time for your daughter to make her creations, find a jewelry making class or camp.

Friends of ActivityHero

5 Date Night Ideas that Don’t Require A Babysitter

I’m a firm believer that new parents need to figure out a way to get out of the house and have some dates. Best case scenario, that’s only one night a week. More realistically, that’s one night a month. Or never.

Photo by Flickr user TandLeosGreatAdventure!
Photo by Flickr user TandLeosGreatAdventure!

So, what about all those other nights? Here are five fun date-night ideas that don’t require a babysitter. I’m assuming that you can get your baby in bed and have the date afterward. I put my kids to bed around 7:30 and can trick them into bed at 7pm if I’m really on my game (because they can’t really tell time yet and we have black-out shades in their room).

See the entire list on Rookie Moms blog at:

Have you heard of Rookie Moms and 510 Families? Started by a pair of Moms, these sites attempt to answer the question of what to do with a new baby (and what to do with your SELF) every day. From crafts and fun ideas to local happenings, these are the ultimate to-do guides for Moms.

Original post by Heather Flett on Rookie Moms.

Friends of ActivityHero

Taking the Pain out of Birthday Party Planning

Photo by Flickr user Migoto Chou
Photo by Flickr user Migoto Chou

Kids birthdays can be so bittersweet. Our children grow up so quickly before our eyes, and every year we try to fit a year’s worth of accomplishments into just one day. As impossible as it ultimately seems, we have a few suggestions on how to take the pain out of planning and getting the most out of your child’s special day.

Catch My Party has hundreds of ideas from the decorations and games to the desserts and more. Some of our personal favorites are the Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Celebration and Classic Arcade Birthday parties.


Not much of a DIY-er? Don’t want to get your house dirty? Take the stress out of planning and let someone else take the reins this year.

ActivityHero can help find a local birthday party place that will gladly host your shindig. Forget the crowded pizza parlors and overdone amusement parks, and opt for a one-of-a-kind birthday in ActivityHero’s Birthday Party Places. Some of our favorites include Jewelry Design Birthday Party,  LEGO Birthday Party.

How do you take the pain out of birthday planning? Share with us!

Friends of ActivityHero

Will You ‘Leave No Child Inside’?

Remember what summer in your neighborhood looked like? Kids everywhere, laughing and playing? That’s what I remember about my childhood – being outside from dawn ‘til dusk. Now I look around in the summer and find it eerily quiet. Where are all the children? The sad answer: inside. No longer do you see hoards of kids everywhere during the summer months. What can we do about this as parents? Let’s start with the ‘Leave No Child Inside’ Movement and #PlayOutside Week.


Read more at:


Originally posted on Planet Fassa by Errin

Friends of ActivityHero

Why Do Kids Quit Sports? Five Ways To Keep Them Playing

If sports are so beneficial, why are kids quitting? The top reasons kids give for quitting are losing interest (#1) and not having fun (#2).  Other common reasons are because sports take too much time (#3) and they want a non-sport activity (#6) or need more time for studying (#8) and because there was too much pressure (#5) or an over-emphasis on winning (#11).  In other words, more kids would stay involved if they could balance sports with other interests, have fun while playing and play for the love of the game, with less pressure and less emphasis on the outcome.


Read the rest of this article on TeamSnap’s blog here:

Written by Ann DeWitt for TeamSnap