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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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Super Activities for Super Kids

5 Ways to Celebrate Dr. Seuss Week

With his birthday on March 2nd, celebrate this week — also dubbed ‘Read Across America‘ — with fun, wacky words and silly stories with these great ideas.

girl reading a book

With the groundhog seeing his shadow, winter seems to drone on, so why not add some Wacky fun to March with a little Dr. Seuss.

Make Green Eggs

Photo credit: Masshole Mommy

One of Dr. Seuss’ most famous books is “Green Eggs and Ham.” Along with pin the eggs on the ham activities, you can make your own “green eggs.” There are many recipes for green eggs, but many kids don’t really want to eat eggs. So, instead of using real eggs, you can use a little creativity and imagination with pudding, food coloring and vanilla wafers. Get instant vanilla pudding so your child can help. Show them how to use a measuring cup to pour milk/water into the pudding powder (great math concept). Allow them to stir until thick then add a couple drops of green food coloring. watch as the swirls of green turn into a bowl of green. Explaining how food coloring works or even mixing blue and yellow to make green makes a great science experiment! Once the pudding is complete plop a circular shape on a plate and put a vanilla wafer on top. Your pudding creation will look like green eggs with a yellow yolk. This also goes great for St. Patricks Day.

Inspire Younger Children with Academic Reading Camps & Classes >>

Make a Family Foot Book

“The Foot Book” is another Dr. Seuss Fav by many. Why not join his left foot, right foot, clean feet, dirty feet joy of opposites and create a family memento. Teach your kids opposites by showing them their feet are little and yours are big and left from right. All you need is a few sheets of construction paper, a stapler, paint and feet of course. Place feet in paint and print them on construction paper. Make your feet into your own “Foot Book.” To keep it nice, laminate each page before stapling the book together. This makes a great memento to look at during graduation open houses as your child realizes another Dr. Seuss lesson of “All the Places You’ll Go.”

Play One Fish Two Fish Game

Nothing gets the family having fun quite like a game of competition. Not only can you play this game but you can design it. With “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, there are so many many fish you can make. Create them with your hand prints, feet prints or even trace them from the book. Then place a piece of magnetic tape on them. Next, create your fishing poles using a string tied to a pencil or stick with a metal paper clip on the end. Throw your pole into the pile of magnetic fish and see who can catch the most. To make it a little more educational based, write words that rhyme on the fish and fish for rhyming fish. If they don’t rhyme throw them back and try again next time. There are endless possibilities with magnetic fish from alphabets to word families and spelling. Be creative and have fun.

Make a Cat in the Hat Clothes Pin Craft

Photo credit: Sarah Butler 

Of course, who can celebrate Dr. Seuss without the good old “Cat in the Hat?” All you need are some clothespins, bow tie pasta, rotini pasta, a hot glue gun, paint and a printed Cat in the Hat cat. Glue your rotini pasta onto the opening of the clothespin. Underneath your rotini, glue a cat face. Underneath your cat face, glue a bow tie pasta. Then paint your rotini pasta red and white like the cat hat and the bow tie pasta red. Pin the cat wherever you want.

Make a Lorax Cake

And, how can you celebrate any birthday without some birthday cake? There are tons of complicated ways to make a Lorax cake, but it can be super simple and your kids can help too. First, make a regular round cake from a cake box. Any flavor you like. Next, get some vanilla icing and turn it green either by using green food coloring or mixing yellow and blue to make it green (science). Spread it all over your round cake so it looks like grass. To make Lorax trees, make another cake box as directed on back of box. To make them into balls, (for the top of the trees) crumble two slices of cake into a bowl. Add one spoon of icing into the cake crumbles at a time until you can roll the cake into a ball. Put your balls in the freezer for 20 minutes. Have kids decorate the balls with icing and any other cake decorations. Place balls on straws and put in your green cake for a homemade Lorax cake.

Of course, all these activities are great ways to celebrate all Dr. Seuss has brought to our reading system, but reading his books with your kids is a great way to promote reading and celebrate his creativity in reading. Or perhaps your children might want to learn how to write their own Seuss like stories at creative writing camp? I hope you enjoy Dr. Seuss for a whole week with all his numerous, silly and adventurous books.

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Super Activities for Super Kids

10 Board Games for the Family






Board games for the family is a classic past time. They a perfect for bringing the family together during a game night or entertaining the children on a rainy day.

There’s no shortage of games out there but when playing with children, it can be difficult to decide on a game the whole family will enjoy. After all, the adults may enjoy a long game of Monopoly but your two-year-old won’t.

Below are 10 games (plus a bonus one at the bottom!) guaranteed to provide fun for the family. They are listed by age but consider this a guideline – chances are even the older kids will enjoy playing a game like Trouble and if your three-year-old has enough patience and concentration to play Jenga (or they at least enjoy stacking blocks), definitely give it a go.

Just a quick warning, however – be sure to supervise small children during these games as some of them do include small play pieces.

Ages 4 and under

Memory. Memory is a great first game for kids as it is basic but encourages important skills like memory and taking turns. Somehow the simple concept of finding matching cards can keep a child entertained for hours. While the Original Memory is great for everyone, almost every character or TV show has their own version of Memory, which offers children an extra incentive to play.

Connect 4. Connect 4 is yet another simple game that manages to keep young children entertained for hours. The concept, similar to tic-tac-toe, is to “connect” 4 dots of the same color in a row. The youngest children have a blast putting the dots in the slots while the older children are able to think strategically about the best place to play and keep the other team from winning.

Boggle Jr. The original Boggle is a fantastic game for older children, especially when teaching them to write and spell. However, the new Boggle Jr is probably one of the best games on the market for younger children. Boggle Junior aids in teaching children letters and basic words in a game that the whole family can enjoy. The kids won’t even realize that they’re learning.

Ages 4-6

Trouble. Trouble is yet another game that can be bought as the original game or featuring any number of characters, such as the Teenange Mutant Ninja Turtles. The concept is simple- take all of your game pieces around the board and back to your home spaces. However, the possibility of getting sent back to the beginning aids a level of intensity to the game. Math skills are encouraged to decide which piece to is the most appropriate to move at any given turn – either so you hit your home space or get to send someone else back to the start.

Candyland. Candyland is perhaps the go-to board game for young children. Who didn’t play this game growing up? I’ve never met a child who didn’t love playing Candyland. It helps children learn their colors but, most importantly, it teaches that just because you’re winning now that does not mean you will be in a few minutes.

Ages 6-8

Jenga. Who knew that stacking blocks could be so fun and competitive? Jenga tests your concentration, patience, and hand-eye coordination as players attempt to remove blocks, using only one hand, without sending the rest of the tower crumbling down.

Simon Says. A spin off the common playground game, the hand-held Simon Says game flashes colors in a specific pattern which the player is then asked to repeat back. The sequences get faster and more difficult as the game progresses, encouraging hand-eye coordination and memorization. The game has settings for use as a single-player or multi-player game.

Ages 8+

Scrabble. The traditional board game is great for teaching spelling and building vocabulary as players build words crossword puzzle style. Additionally, it encourages strategic thinking to plan each move based on the points value of the letters and what made stop an opponent from scoring.

Clue. Clue encourages critical thinking and memory as players attempt to solve the mystery of who murdered the host through asking a variety of questions. Players use deductive reasoning to figure out where the murder took place and which weapon was used.

Telestration. Telestration is a combination of Pictionary and the old “telephone” game. Each player is given a whiteboard and a word to draw. The boards are passed around the room where each person guesses what the original word was and adds to the drawing before finally learning what the original word was. The results can be hilarious as the final drawing is often completely unrelated to the original word.

Chess. Chess is incredibly challenging game that helps older children think strategically. It’s so popular that there are even camps dedicated to doing nothing other than strengthening your child’s chess skills. Here’s a few in the Bay Area:

The Chess Club in San Jose, CA
Academic Chess in San Francisco, CA
Chess Wizards in Menlo Park, CA
Yes for Chess in Stanford, CA
Firecracker Math in Berkeley, CA
Success Chess in Fremont, CA

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After-School Activities Super Activities for Super Kids Uncategorized

Finding the Perfect Activities for a 5-Year-Old






Is your little one restless? One mom shares her tips for finding affordable, practical activities for a 5-year-old.

by Kristine Munroe

child with sandy hands

Find Classes, Workshops & Camps for 5-Year-Olds Near You >>

5-Year-Olds Have Opinions

I’m not a homebody. As soon as I could find activities for my son, Isaac, I signed us up. It started off as new mom/new baby groups before Isaac could even sit up. Then we graduated to mommy and me playgroups. And after he grew more active, we both loved Gymboree. Living in New England, I particularly grew desperate for classes where he could get some exercise during the winter months. So, I would just pick whatever suited our schedule and sounded fun to me. Easy enough!

But sometime after Isaac turned 2, he started getting opinionated. I signed him up for Soccer Tots through our local community education department. At the time, I thought the idea of 2-year-olds playing soccer sounded adorable. And, yes, it was adorable, but getting my stubborn little Isaac to participate was a challenge week after week. His favorite part was the snack break midway through the class. It wound up being really exhausting just trying to convince him to kick the ball into the goal.

toddlers playing soccer

After that, I realized that as Isaac left the baby/toddler stage, he was starting to develop his own interests. It was time to find activities that my soon-to-be 5-year-old would be enthusiastic about. I couldn’t necessarily just pick whatever I thought sounded cool anymore. Activities are supposed to be enriching, but above all, they should be fun — especially at the preschool age. The last thing I wanted was to drag him to weekly classes that he didn’t like. It would just be a waste of time, money, and the stress would suck the fun right out for both of us.

Trial Classes

Soon I discovered that many activities will allow you to do a trial class to see what it’s like. That was how we got hooked on Music Together classes when he was 3. Those classes were lots of fun. We’ve tried various trial classes here and there to see what would work. If we find something that Isaac loves, we usually will enroll for a few sessions.

Advice From Friends

We love to get advice from our friends, too.  Word of mouth is an awesome way to find out which classes are fun.  Ask around!

Looking for Deals

Price is also a big factor. Like many families these days, we’re on a budget. Activities can get expensive, but there are still plenty of options for reasonably priced activities or great discounts. I love to scour Groupon to see what deals I can find. I’ve seen Groupon deals for Gymboree classes, music classes, sports, ice skating lessons, ski lessons, and more. I’ve definitely taken advantage of these discounts. Often there are great sale prices, sibling discounts, and multiple session discounts on ActivityHero, too.

Community Rec Centers

Community recreation departments are other inexpensive places to find fun activities. From art to sports, they’re usually easy on the pocket book.  This past fall, we participated in a super fun farming class through a neighboring city’s community education department. The kids got to plant and harvest all sorts of herbs and hardy plants.

swimming-lessons-for-5-year-olds

Mommy’s Priorities

I like to keep practicality in mind as well. It was important to me that Isaac takes swimming lessons because of safety issues. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him going off to summer camp or even playing alongside the Charles River without him knowing how to swim. And since we live in New England, I’d like him to learn a winter sport — ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, or something — because it seems like everyone here knows how to do a winter sport except for me.

Look For Activities With Added Value

I try to look for activities with certain perks beyond the specific classes. Places like Gymboree and My Gym also offer open play times, which is an absolute lifesaver in a Boston winter. The open play times give you and your kid an opportunity for unstructured play in a safe, indoor environment, and it’s covered by the cost of your monthly membership.

We also joined our local YMCA. I use it as a gym, plus it deeply discounts activities. So far we’ve done t-ball and swimming there. Many YMCAs are not just for sports; you can find lots of classes ranging from arts to music to cooking. Our family membership is worth its weight in gold.  You can also use it for discounted prices on after school programs, summer camps, and camps for school vacation weeks.

As for Isaac? Right now we’re about to head out the door for his final swim class of the year at our local YMCA. These swim lessons have been one of his favorite activities and he can’t wait to start up again next year.

Find Classes, Workshops & Camps for 5-Year-Olds Near You >>

Swim Lessons Around the U.S.

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After-School Activities Sleep away camps Super Activities for Super Kids Uncategorized

10 Truly Unique Sleepaway Camps for Kids






Check out these far-flung camps that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences for kids. Volcanos, roller coasters, chefs, circus performers, zombies and more!

By ActivityHero Staff

Science Camps of America- volcano

How far are you willing to go to find the perfect camp for your children to explore? Let’s take a trip across the globe and “visit” 10 camps that parents absolutely must know about. Of course, camps that offer extraordinary things tend to come with extraordinary price tags. But, as the saying goes, you (or, to be more precise, your kids) only live once!

Shop for kids’ overnight camps near you > >


1. Science Camps of America

When you read the camp description, you may be asking your teenager if you can go with them to explore volcanoes and learn about oceanography. This camp is on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Land & Sea campers will visit Kilauea, the world’s most active (and easily studied) volcano. There is also an Air & Space version where campers get to visit some famous observatories.

thrillcoaster.jpg2. ThrillCoaster Tours

Does your child have a need for speed? Believe it or not, ThrillCoaster Tours offers roller coasters all day, every day. Your teenager will travel the country on a first-class motor coach/van, hitting up theme parks on a daily basis. The counselor-to-kid ratio is 1 to 6, and the staff is as enthusiastic as the campers will be about testing the nation’s best coasters. Kids (ages 12 to 16) are grouped according to their tolerance for vertical spins, 120-mph whirls and upside-down action. They’ll stay in Marriott, Embassy Suites, and Hilton hotels (one teen per bed) to rest up for their daily dose of action. There are several sessions, and they’re a little costly, but let’s be honest: What’s it worth to have your little speed demon consider you the coolest parent on the planet?

3. Plantation Farm Camp

Does your child prefer the peacefulness of nature? Plantation Farm Camp, on California’s beautiful Sonoma Coast, offers children the chance to temporarily swap their increasingly wired worlds for front-row seats on a working farm. Campers spend full days doing farm chores, swimming, tending campfires and more. It’s a lovely way for your child to take a break from technology and get in touch with nature. (Note: There’s a generous sibling discount.)

russia5.jpg4. Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow

Sometimes “one of a kind” is a slight exaggeration. This is not one of those times. After all, how many programs put their campers up in Joseph Stalin’s former mansion? What horse-loving teen will ever forget a Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow? Kids who experience this remarkable program stay at hotels with first-class equestrian centers and enjoy intimate (and English-speaking) horseback tours of Moscow, includes the Kremlin, museums, Red Square, the ballet, opera and some of Russia’s best restaurants. In the middle of the trip, your child will fly to St. Petersburg and stay in the gorgeous Astoria Hotel. The price tag of $13,500 in 2017 includes luxurious accommodations, gourmet food and flights to and from NYC.

ImageSampleLg_Tall_0018_Layer 8.jpg5. Camp Winnarainbow

 Did you think we’d forget to include a circus performing arts camp? If so, you were wrong! Camp Winnarainbow in Berkeley, Calif., offers your child classes in circus arts, drama, multi-cultural dance and martial arts, play production, trapeze & aerials, tightrope, juggling, unicycling, stilt-walking, gymnastics, magic, music, clowning, art, and environmental awareness! The camp stresses an inclusive atmosphere that’s low on competition and high on support. One-week sessions are $925 and two-week sessions are $1,845 and include meals, lodging, and (of course) a final show for parents at the end.

Shop for kids’ overnight camps near you > >

DSC_0508_8136_Final.jpg6. Teton Valley Ranch Camp

For an authentic ranch experience with incredible scenery, look no further than Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Jackson, Wyo. Campers begin their mornings choosing from a list of adventures that changes daily, and they’ll wind down in the evening with a low-key activities and festive campfires. This is a real outdoor camp, including a full equestrian experience, and campers will need to bring a bunch of items, including rain layers, sleeping bags for different terrains, and roping gloves. Separate sessions are offered for boys and girls. Both month-long sessions run $6,600 (for 2017) and include food and lodging.

kids on a giant tree in big sur7. Camp Chrysalis

For 35 years, this camp has offered kids the opportunity to explore gorgeous natural settings like Mendocino, Big Sur, and the Sierras. There are options for younger kids (8 – 15) and older teens (15 – 18), and 2017 session prices start at $1,207.

zombie_camp_2.jpg8. Zombie Summer Camp

From the sublime to the … well, we aren’t prepared to call zombies ridiculous because, after all, you never know. The counselors at Zombie Summer Camp dress as (what else?) zombies, and the children get Nerf blasters to fend them off. (Nerf blasters are provided, but your child can bring his or her own.) Beyond battling zombies, activities include protecting the land, creating and executing team-based plans, foraging for supplies, problem solving, and learning life skills and basic first aid. The counselor to camper ratio is a terrific 1 to 5, and all have two-way radios to keep the plot going, zombies at bay, and campers safe. Zombie Summer Camp is offered by The Story School at Waltham, Mass. and starts at 1,570 for a one-week overnight stay (if you register by March 31st). There are also multi-week sessions, scholarships and other camp themes, such as Wizards & Warriors and Blackwatch Summer Camp.

SpaceCamp.png9. Space Camp

Located in Huntsville, Ala., Space Camp is known throughout the world as the premier destination for would-be astronauts to learn about and experience outer space. Kids from the age of 9 to adult will experience a gravity chair, build a rocket, plan a mission to Mars, learn the history of space exploration, and launch their rocket at the end. Teens aged 15 to 18 can even earn one hour of freshman-level general science credit from the nearby University of Alabama-Huntsville and. The five-night summer program is $999 in the summer of 2017, and scholarships are available.

homeimage4.jpg10. Camp Jam

Does your child appreciate Led Zeppelin? If not, shame on you, and rectify this oversight immediately by sending them to Camp Jam. Aspiring rockers start by learning how to tune their instruments and create beats and, throughout the week, they will enjoy performances and advice from local indie bands, create their own music video, perform at nightly open mics and, at week’s end, join their fellow campers to put on a show to remember. There are 10 locations throughout the U.S. to choose from. Check their website for details on locations and fees.

Shop for kids’ overnight camps near you > >

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Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Best of San Francisco Bay Area 2014: Kids Camps and Classes






Best of ActivityHero 2014 Winners

Congratulations to this years “Best of 2014″ winners!  These classes and summer camps and classes are parent favorites.

 

Abantey:The Roleplay Workshop, Oakland

Art Bash Studios, San Jose

ART-Smart Studios, Foster City, San Mateo

Aviation Camp at Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos

Centro Armonia, Campbell

Golden Gate Tutoring Center, San Anselmo

Math Quest Discovery Camp, Santa Clara

Mr. D’s Music Club After School and Summer Camps, Oakland

Redwood Ranch Stables, Oakland

TechKnowHow LEGO and Technology Summer Camps, SF Bay Area

The Sketch Collective, San Francisco

Wheel Kids Bicycle Club, Inc., San Francisco and Palo Alto

If your favorite camp or class isn’t on this list, write a review to share why it’s special. Just visit their page on ActivityHero, and click the Reviews tab.

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Guest Posts Super Activities for Super Kids

Crafting Upcycled Home Décor with Kids






Photo by Flicker user  simplyla
Photo by Flicker user simplyla

These days, it seems that “upcycled” is the new black in home décor. Yet if you go to thrift stores and swap meets without a clear idea of what you want, you can end up with items that really are junk.

However, beginning a shopping trip with the end in mind can help you pick up just the right quirky, off-the-wall pieces to put on your wall, in your kitchen, or wherever in your home needs the vintage touch. Adding kids to the fun of decorating will provide you with quality parent-child time and help your kids with lifelong skills.

In the Living Room

As the center of your home, most of your energy in decorating is likely spent in the living room. Asking kids to help decorate this part of the house will ensure they feel like they have an active part in the home, increasing their family bonds and self-confidence.

The Fireplace—Hearth of the Home

If you have a fireplace, it’s likely that this is the focal point of your living room. You can find some gorgeous old grates at thrift stores and estate sales, classic pieces handcrafted as heat guards back in the days before grates became standard. The mantle also likely houses a large family portrait and other pictures.

Elegant grates and frames can be found at garage sales and thrift shops, and then painted to match your living room décor if necessary. Picking out colors and sponging layers of acrylic paint into an object’s corners and small spaces is a project made for kids. It’s simply perfect to teach them about painting techniques and finishing a job thoroughly.

Sitting Pretty

You can find many old pieces of fabrics that are easily cleaned; these can be made into excellent throw pillow covers. Have your children weave ribbons over a square of fabric before you sew it in place, let them point out fabrics or designs they like when you go looking, teach them about working with delicacy as you sew on an antique doily.

And if you want to take advantage of the current obsession home decorators seem to have with painted Mason jars, kids are the perfect little painters—you can even let them have free reign to paint one jar as a decoration for their own room!

In the Kitchen

Old, unusable kitchen implements make excellent wall hangings. Old cheese graters, coffee tin lids, and other relics of kitchens past will add homey charm to any kitchen today! Hang old things on your bare kitchen walls in groupings; common groupings include covering one small section of wall in a symmetrical or asymmetrical grid, or in a diamond in the center of a large vacant wall. This same idea works with old, un-matching dinner plates on dining room walls—and the whole process is a good way to teach your kids art principles like patterns and colors.

You can also turn upcycling to more practical and pretty kitchen tasks—why not have a hanging kitchen garden? Once the responsible adult (that’s you) has poked holes in the sides of old coffee tins, watering cans, or other metallic vintage-chic salvages, allow the kids to repaint them if desired, fill them with gravel, soil, and your chosen plants. Then help them string twine, raffia, chain or heavy-duty wire trough the holes to hang from adhesive hooks you’ve attached to the ceiling. Add water and grow lights and watch your hanging gardens grow.

And an animal-topped jar is as simple as finding a jar, gluing on the animal you want (think the cheap, dollar-store plastic toys) and letting your kids painting with colors you provide!

What’s in style every bit as much as upcycled things? Upcycled things covered in chalkboard paint. Virtually any old thing with a flat surface can be covered in chalkboard paint, and can be turned into a unique message board for your family. Let your kids paint the new board on newsprint, and when it’s all dry, let them have the honor of being first to write on it!

Nearly any age-appropriate craft activity—such as painting or gluing, perhaps some sewing—is an excellent way for your children to spend time with you as you both upcycle your way to vintage-chic home décor.

 

About the Author

Leslie Mason is a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and fixing up the house.

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Super Activities for Super Kids

Language Courses for Kids: Is Your Child Ready?






Language courses for kids: is your child ready?

What are the benefits of children learning another language?

Some benefits associated with learning a second (or third, fourth, to infinity…) are increased cultural & global awareness, superior cognitive performance including better problem solving skills, and more opportunities for the future.

There are many additional benefits of language courses for kids, but the bottom line is as simple as this: Knowledge is power. The more your children learn, the better!

How do I know if my child is ready to learn another language?

According to linguists, even a fetus can even pick up on language from inside the womb. The ability to learn language is innate, and the earlier that children are introduced to a second language the better!

Children are infinitely better at learning languages than adults are, because since language is new to them anyways they are more likely to pick up on it naturally.

How much time do language courses for kids require?

The answer to this question depends on the individual child’s goals as well as your own.

If the ultimate goal is to be fluent in another language, your child will need a lot of help and support. It is not a bad idea to learn the language yourself so you can help your child practice. Or, learn simple words so that you can help with flashcards. If a family member or friend is fluent in the language your child is learning, try to expose them to this person often. If your child is really devoted to learning another language, it is best to make time for a daily practice or as often as possible.

On the other hand, if your child is simply dabbling in a second language for fun, he may not need much assistance. Just make sure that your child is keeping up with his course work and not getting frustrated or confused.

Talk to the teacher. Talk to your child. Make sure you are available to support your child. If you can do these things, you child will surely succeed.

Which language is best for my child?

Every language is different, just like every child is different.

To find out what language is best for your child, first ask them what sparks their interest and why. If they do not have a language in mind, review your local options. Do they have friends in French classes or buddies who speak Mandarin? Are they more interested in sign language than a spoken language?

If they don’t have a specific preference, look at it from a more broad perspective. What will be beneficial for your child in the future? Currently, one of the most popular second languages to learn in the US is Spanish.

It can create great business opportunities in the future to know how to speak another language.

What sorts of language courses and camps are available?

Many communities have specialized learning centers devoted to a specific language. There are also language schools that offer a variety of different language courses for kids. Many language schools offer immersion programs which can be a big help in becoming more comfortable speaking another language.

It is wise to begin with a basic class to make sure your child takes an interest in learning the language. From there, the sky is the limit!

Where can I find a language camp for my child?

ActivityHero has hundreds of language camps and class listings. Search locally to find the right one for your child’s needs, then filter by price, location, age, date & time, and more. You can even check out the discount page which is updated regularly to check for special pricing near you.

 

Written by Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Finding Kids Activities They Will Love (and Stick With!): 5 Tips for Parents






When it comes to keeping kids active, it can be quite a hassle to get them away from the screen.

However, one of the biggest challenges that I have found as a mother is not getting them off the couch, but figuring out what to do with them when they do!

They need constant engagement and it can be difficult to find kids activities that they will enjoy and stick with.

kids activities they will love

As a mother of two I went through a lot of summer camps and after school extracurriculars in the hunt for the “one”—that special sport or activity that would regularly occupy my energetic daughters.

After multiple failed attempts to get my daughters excited about these activities I was almost ready to surrender them to a life of computer gaming and television.

Relief finally came when I opened myself up to their opinions. I told them that they were allotted only a certain amount of time in front of the screen and that they could choose what activity they wanted to participate in.

My eldest daughter, Rory, indicated her enthusiasm for cheerleading, while my youngest, Amy, asked to join a craft club after school. While my husband was disappointed that they didn’t want to play soccer, we agreed to let them try, under the conditions that they commit to stay through the end of the season.

activities kids will love

Both girls are now enthusiastically engaged in kids activities that do not involve computers or televisions!

In my own crusade to pull my kids away from the screen I have learned some valuable lessons that I think apply to any parent. Here are five things I have learned about finding activities kids will love.

1.       Let your children tell you what they want

A major key to finding an activity that your child will stick with is choosing activities they enjoy. They are the best judgment of what their interests are. Listen to them.

2.       Don’t be afraid to try new things

While this applies to children, it also applies to parents. Don’t be afraid as a parent to introduce new kids activities (even ones you aren’t familiar with).

Just because you may have certain biases towards a sport or activity doesn’t mean it can’t be a great opportunity for your child. Don’t close the door to potentially rewarding experiences.

3.       Support your child’s interests

When your kid does express excitement for a particular sport, support them! Just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it won’t be fun for your kids.

Be open minded and encourage them to pursue their interests.

4.       Be involved

Be involved in the process. Help your kids explore their interests and stay engaged when they find something they love.

Go to their games, talk to them about practices or rehearsals, and ask about their accomplishments.

Your enthusiasm will be contagious and help them stay excited.

5.       Don’t be discouraged

So what if your son doesn’t like football? Maybe he is a great sprinter or talented actor.

Don’t be upset if your kid doesn’t pursue the path you had envisioned. We all fantasize about what our kids will be like, but we can’t let our ideas get in the way of their real identities.

Don’t close the door to positive experiences just because they aren’t what you had in mind.

Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker from Idaho whose pride and joy is her family. She is her daughters’ number one fan, always ready at a moment’s notice to grab her foam fingers and spirit shakers and cheer on her girls. In addition to spending time with her family, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others.

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Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

3 Reasons Why Cooking with Kids is Great for your Family






cooking with kids
Photo by Flickr user Nestlé

With more and more people getting busier than ever, wouldn’t it be nice to spare an hour or two to bond with hubby and kids and enjoy the blessings that cooking together has to offer?

Cooking and eating with the family yields many benefits—not just for the body but for the soul, too. Aside from munching a nice meal, cooking together has a lot of advantages, not only in making the family closer than ever, but also warding off kids from bad influence.

Read on and find out more blessings that cooking with the family has to offer.

Introducing a Healthy Diet

Susan Moores, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, reveals that cooking with your kids can boost their desire to choose healthy foods.

According to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD who writes for WebMD.com, eating more fruits and vegetables, options for whole grains and beans, and cooking leaner fresh produce are what kids consider healthy foods.

Patience, team work & organization

Cooking with kids teaches you the art of patience and support. For example, you will need more time (and patience) to teach your kids the right way to cut fruits and veggies, beat the eggs, prepare the ingredients, follow instructions, cook meals and many more.

Cooking together also makes your kids feel that you are there to support them each time they make mistakes—or feel low. They may spill the flour or oil or cut the cabbage the wrong way, but you need to make them feel it’s alright.

Teach them the right way of doing things. And most of all, always appreciate their efforts.

Use polite words like please and thank you. Give them a hand whenever you see that they’re having trouble over something. Cooking together is all about teamwork and respect to the “team members.”

Cooking with kids also teaches them the virtue of organization—keeping things at their rightful places, like meat have to go inside the freezer and veggies on the crispers, and that dishes have to be cleaned right away.

Teaching kids to follow the recipes also enhances their skills to keep things organized.

Protects kids from harmful vices

According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids who spend time preparing and eating dinners with their three times a week on average are “less likely” to fall prey in drug addiction. A child who finds time to regularly bond during family dinner is 50 percent less likely to smoke tobacco or marijuana and 35 percent less likely to drink alcoholic beverages.

So, moms and dads, there you see the blessings of preparing and eating meals together. So, make it a habit of getting everyone in the family into the kitchen table every evening, if you can, and see the miracles that having a family that bonds together has to offer.

About the author – Manilyn Moreno writes for a catering software company. When not working, Manilyn Moreno spends most of her time cooking and baking. 

cooking with kids

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

The Benefit of Education in Art for Kids






The Benefit of Education in Art for Kids

“What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give”. – P. D. James

Children and Art

Children and art just go together like strawberries and cream.

All children like to get to grips with things that squidge and slide and slip and if the result is something they can keep and can take home and see proudly stuck on the fridge.

The looks on their faces when they spread the finger paint over a lovely clean piece of paper are something which every parent or carer should cherish; those expressions are the outward sign of creativity at the moment of its birth.

Art is Fun and Educational

It is an intriguing look into a child’s mind as they interact with what they see and turn it into a visual interpretation that, although it may not look too much like the original to anyone else, they can recognize.

Parents can always tell what their children enjoy and art is something that never fails to amuse and engage a child.

If they are going through a time of change, such as a move or starting nursery or play group, art for kids is a great way to express what is happening in their world. Even if they don’t have any worries to work out, children still get a huge amount of pleasure from the creative process.

If encouraged gently at this point, it can give them a creative pathway that they can follow lifelong, even if at a very amateur level.

Learning Communication Skills

Some children find it difficult to communicate in words and for them, art can be an excellent outlet.

Art for kids contains so many of the most important life skills which will set your child on the right path.

Many things happen in a child’s daily life – they watch TV, they are taken from A to B, they are taught eventually to count and read.

But with art for kids, they are involved in a direct act of creativity. If the child is left alone to draw green cows and a purple sun, then they will learn a lot about themselves and the world around them.

In the early years, a child’s painting is unlikely to be representative, but can tell us a lot about what is going on in that little head.

Problem Solving

Why does my clay horse keep falling over? Because one leg is shorter than the other.

Why does that tree look wrong? Because the leaves aren’t all joined together like that on a real one.

Problem-solving is something that a child has to come to naturally. When kids are making something or painting or drawing something, they are problem-solving all the time. And so, the art gets more realistic, the models get more stable and the pieces of the child’s world click together just that bit more securely.

Social Skills

Seeing another child’s artwork and accepting that they can do things that they can’t is a good way to spur a child on to a higher level of creativity.

Snatching a paint brush is unlikely to create a social atmosphere and a child will soon learn how to share, how to say please and thank you.

Creating art for kids in a group is also very good for the child who has ‘stalled’ in their creativity. Skills which they have not yet mastered, such as cutting out or finer pencil work can also be learned from peers with no pressure from a formal teaching session and are therefore much more likely to succeed.

One thing that it is very important for a supervising adult to remember is that children see art as creativity, not an expression of a talent.

Until they can express themselves in words, art for kids is a wonderful way to share what they have going on in their heads – even if it is of a green cow and a purple sun – is worth a thousand words.

 

Bio: Marlene Stucker is a part-time blogger married with two kids and currently works at Photo Canvas, specialized in designing personalized photo canvas prints.

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Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Super Activities for Super Kids

Yoga for Kids: 10 Tips for Flexible Fun






Yoga for Kids

Yoga can be as relaxing and beneficial for our children as it is for us; and what’s better is it can be an activity you and your child do together.

Perhaps you’re wondering if your child will stay still, or even be able to remain quiet enough to allow themselves to relax. The good news is that there are specifically designed poses for children that you can easily teach them.

By following a few of the simple guidelines below, you and your child can prepare for a joyous and relaxing yoga experience together.

Yoga for Kids

1. There really is no age limit (beyond toddler) as to when to start yoga for kids, however, children under six can usually do exercises that last for about one minute, with their session ending by the 15 minute mark.

2. Children over 6 can handle exercises that last up to 1 ½ minutes, with sessions maxing out around 25 minutes.

3. Try not to push too hard for perfection. Remember that they are kids learning these poses for the first time. Encourage them to breathe correctly and follow the pose the best that they can.

4. Always try to demonstrate the exercise before having your child attempt it. They will grasp the pose with the visual demonstration much faster than just telling them what the pose is supposed to look like. Playing follow the leader is a great way to do this.

5. Offer your child lots of breaks. Adults need breaks after strenuous exercise, so be aware of the cues your child gives you to signal they have had enough.

6. No one should have tummies that are too full when attempting yoga poses. Perhaps offering the lesson before lunch could ensure they will feel their best while exercising.

7. Don’t compare children to each other or to yourself. They will hopefully do the best they can to learn the poses as accurately as possible, but if not, turning it into a competition will ultimately defeat the purpose of learning yoga for kids.

8. Use descriptive language; turning the lesson into a storyline that can be fun and interactive as they try to stretch and lean a certain way to progress through the jungle or forest.

9. Let your child show you how they are learning the yoga poses, offering them positive feedback so they will be encouraged to continue learning and practicing.

10. When teaching the poses to your child, pick some of the easier ones, give them a cute name, and demonstrate that pose to your child before asking them to do it themselves. Almost any pose can be simplified for a young child, enabling you to exercise together without frustration.

Yoga for Kids

There are some neat benefits of yoga for kids learning at an early age. It can help promote flexibility and a health, improve concentration and calmness, boost self-esteem, and help children deal with difficult emotions.

So roll out the mats and enjoy a stress-relieving exercise that you and your child can do together!

Yoga for Kids: 10 Tips for Flexible Fun

About the Author

Christina Stoltz is a fitness instructor and Owner of Philadelphia Pilates studio named Ploome. She is a frequent author and speaker on all things fitness.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Bored Kids on School Break? 5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Keep Busy

Written by Sarah Antrim

It’s happened. School breaks are here, the time your children have been waiting so anxiously for since their return back to school in the first place… until the boredom hits.

bored children sitting on a bench

“Mom, I’m BORED!”

The zoo is fun, but factor in the cost of parking and lunch and it can end up being a pricey day. As exciting as it is to get out and enjoy the local attractions, the expenses can add up pretty quickly.

Here’s some fun ideas on how to have a mini “stay-cation” with kids on all their school breaks, no matter what the season.

Find a school break camp or class near you >>

“Spring” Cleaning

I know what you’re thinking…cleaning sounds like the opposite of fun, no matter what season it is, right? When it comes to getting kids to help out, it’s all about the pitch.

Cleaning out the closet? Tell your kids that for every outfit or toy that they donate, they’ll make room for a new one.

Get kids to help with simple tasks like wiping down tables and mirrors by making it into a contest. The first one to finish their chore wins a prize of your choosing.

Break out the Craft Bins

When in doubt, bring out the crayons. I like to keep a small bin with labeled drawers full of art supplies on deck in case of a boredom emergency.

Brightly colored paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, and glue sticks can keep kids busy for hours on end.

Give them the supplies and and see if they can create a seasonal collage. Bonus: Display it until the next season!

Spring Break craft
Photo by Flickr user IamSusie

Movie Night

It doesn’t get much simpler than a movie night in.

Grab a quick flick from Red Box or see what’s new on Netflix and gather the family around the tube.

Pop up some popcorn on the stove or microwave and prepare some sweet snacks like frozen yogurt pops or chocolate covered raisins to snack on. More affordable and much healthier than the movie theater versions!

Nature Adventure

Do you live near a forest preserve or nature conservatory? What better time to get out and explore the local flora and fauna than than the freedom of school breaks?

Create a nature scavenger hunt with such items as pine cones, leaves, turtles, tulips, or whatever wildlife is indigenous to your area. The first one to finish their list wins!

Spring break scavenger hunt
Photo by Flickr user SueASB

Use your Imagination & Play!

There’s nothing more powerful than the imagination of a child. So let them lead the way and teach you their favorite ways to play!

Create a stage production with costumes, build a fort of couch cushions and blankets, or just visit the local park and get some energy out.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

One-Day Camps & Workshops

When you’re trying to keep costs low, but you still want your child to have camp or workshop experience, search ActivityHero for single-day and half-day options. Your child can try out a maker camp where they try a new DIY project, or maybe a day of painting on canvas, or a day of basketball. Encourage your child’s friends to register, too — for the most awesome playdate ever.

Find a school break camp or class near you >>

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Choosing Musical Instruments for Kids: How Parents Can Help






musical instruments for kids
Photo by Flickr user tony kearns

The ability to play a musical instrument is a great talent that takes time and dedication. Learning to play music is a lot like learning to read—the earlier it starts, the better.

When your child shows interest in taking up an instrument, try to resist the urge to pick for them or let them pick on their own. Picking the right musical instruments for kids is a commitment that should involve both the child and the parent.

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the right musical instruments for kids.

Physical limitations.

A child with asthma might not have the best luck with a wind instrument, and a child with braces probably wouldn’t have much luck with a brass instrument.

Take into account your child’s physical characteristics—are their arms long enough for a trombone? Are their hands strong enough for a string instrument?

Cost.

Musical Instruments for kids can be extremely expensive, but just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean your child can’t play an instrument.

Do some research about the maintenance of each instrument and see what you can comfortably commit to.

Clarinets and oboes require reed replacements and string instruments need their strings replaced quite often. Brass instruments are costly but relatively low maintenance.

Personality.

Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user ptcentrum

Does your child like to be the center of attention or prefer to hang back with the crowd?

Some instruments, like trumpet and piccolo, are more prone to have solos or leads while others such as percussion and tuba create more of the backbone of the music. Which fits your child’s personality better?

Instruments like piano require personal rehearsal time while other instruments are better practiced in a group.

Does your child have the dedication to practice alone or would they prefer a group rehearsal?

Availability.

Your community may not have an oboe or accordion teacher to help your child master their skills. Perhaps your town is known for their impressive jazz band.

Your child may be better suited to take up something that provides opportunities in the area.

Look into what sorts of specialists you have locally. However, don’t discourage your child from playing an instrument because of a lack of opportunities in the area. Being the only bassoon playing in the metropolitan area might mean a greater chance of a scholarship in the future!

Introduce new instruments.

Which instruments has your child been exposed to?

Are they interested in the drums because they played them at a friend’s house?

Most kids haven’t been exposed to many instruments so their interest in a certain instrument may be ill-guided.

Take your child to a music instrument store to see and learn about all sorts of instruments. Some stores will even let kids handle and test the instruments to see which best suits them.

Musical preferences.

Helping your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user Crystal.

Does your child have a love for jazz music or rock and roll?

Kids are more prone to be interested in an instrument that fits their musical preferences. Asking your children what sort of music they like listening to and what their favorite part of that music is can help to uncover what the right musical instruments for your kids are.

Your expectations.

How important is learning an instrument for you?

Is it important to you that your child study classical music or will you allow them to choose their own path?

Think about the practice time at home—if there are instruments you can’t stand, you probably won’t be too keen on hearing it for hours in end. Choosing an instrument should be a group decision.

Written by Sarah Antrim

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Super Activities for Super Kids

Camp Director Diaries — AcroSports Preschool performing arts organization






Here at ActvityHero, we believe that kids’ activities such as camps and classes encourage kids to grow, learn, and discover new hobbies and passions.

Acrosports in San Francisco offers gymnastics, tumbling, trampoline, and so much more. We interviewed preschool camp director Dharam Khalasa about his start with the program.

270948_10150203407111053_6714561_n

Tell us a little bit about how you got started with Acrosports.

Acrosports is a gymnastics, circus and physical performance arts organization originally founded by Russian acrobats who defected from the Moscow Circus.  I first came in the doors looking for a class for my preschooler back in 1993, but soon I fell in love with the place myself and signed up for adult gymnastics instruction.  After several years of training, I began to coach and eventually took over management of the preschool program.  My daughter went to Acrosports’ Circus Camp every summer for years and had the time of her life.  She loved the chance to make a show out of all the skills she’d been learning during the week.

What surprises or delights kids and parents about your camp? What sets your camp apart from the rest?

Acrosports’ Preschool Camp is a half day version of Circus Camp, and the highlight is the circus performance at the end.  Parents are always surprised and delighted by the range of skills and the focused unison choreography our young campers perform.  Our secret to keeping campers’ attention is that they love to move and we give them every opportunity to move in fun ways.  We have trampolines, a trapeze, rings, bars, rope swings, tunnels and climbing equipment to inspire full physical engagement.  Our playful, enthusiastic coaches work with the campers to create an encouraging environment for all children to contribute, which always shows up in the cohesiveness of the final performance.  I have been directing these camps for over 7 years now, and I never get tired of seeing these shows.  There is nothing cuter than a group of 4 & 5 years old dressed in their choice of costumes tumbling to their heart’s content.  Their high energy and pure joy is one of the wonders of the world.

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For more information about Acrosports including current schedules and how to register, check out their listing on ActivityHero!

Written by Sarah Antrim