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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Vacations

5 Tips When Kids Won’t Listen

Does it feel impossible to get your child’s attention? Does your child tune you out when you have something important to say? When you are frustrated because your child is not listening, try these 5 tips to make communicating with kids more productive and get kids to really listen.

By Wendy Chou

Susan Stone Belton is a noted author and speaker on family and parenting issues. Her book, Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk, has excellent advice for saving our sanity, one day at a time. Here are some of the tips we learned from the book.

1. Talk less

Fewer words will have more impact and staying power. Remember the saying about drinking from a firehose? Kids are better able to process directions when you prepare your main point in advance and stay laser-focused. For many parents, this doesn’t come naturally. But that’s OK, because –guaranteed — you can get in a lot of practice! Keep trying. And do keep the tone neutral or positive, rather than negative.

2. Listen more

Role model the way you want your kids to listen to you. Don’t interrupt or be dismissive. “If we want our kids to listen to us, we need to listen more. We need to give our kids our full attention. We need to feel that what they are saying is important. We need to be patient and listen to their entire story,” says Stone Belton. She recommends a strategy called “Listen and acknowledge; then respond.” With a billion things running through a parent’s head at any given moment, it’s easy to tune out the things our kids are telling us. Monkey see, monkey do.

Kids who feel heard are more likely to reciprocate. So slow down and really absorb what they are saying before responding. A thoughtful response shows a child that what they said matters to you. The child may not be able to move past their own thoughts until they feel heard and understood. It also prepares them to listen to you.

3. Use non-verbal cues

When children are absorbed in their task and don’t respond to your voice, try another approach. Getting close and putting a hand on their shoulder makes a big difference in getting someone’s attention.

With younger children, get down on one knee to be at their eye level, which can create a better connection.

4. Seek out opportunities for communication

Family schedules can get packed, so making connections with each other sometimes needs a little forethought. The classic example is nightly conversations around the dinner table. But even if you’re on the go, parents can still connect with kids in the car — say, on the way to soccer practice or choir rehearsal. Other kids may enjoy talking about the day’s events just before bedtime.

Know your own kids and when they feel most comfortable opening up. Some kids open up more if you’re not even there — for instance, through text messages or written notes — because these forms of communication are more neutral and less emotional. Make a mental note of what works for your family. These everyday moments, especially added up over time, are valuable!

5. Schedule in low-tech “no phones” time

Sometimes all we need is a digital break to be able to reconnect with each other. For some pointers, check ActivityHero’s blog post on how to turn off distracting smartphones.

Susan Stone Belton is a parenting/family coach and author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her website is: http://susanstonebelton.com/

Families: ActivityHero is your convenient online destination for kids’ after-school activities and summer camps. Browse schedules, read reviews, and book your whole summer with our easy registration form.

Wendy Chou is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Parenting Resources Science Science/Technology Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms Vacations

5 Kid-Friendly Podcasts for Road Trips

happy child on a road trip

Planning a summer road trip? These 5 podcasts can help keep curious kids entertained.

By Wendy Chou

Your bags are packed, the kids are strapped in, and you’ve hit the open road. As parents, we know all too well that having the right entertainment for a long car trip can make the difference between happy kids and hysterical ones. Whereas we used to have to spin the radio dial or organize our CD collections, smartphones can now fit hours of audio right in the palm of your hand. Podcasts just may be the best thing to happen to road trips since the cup holder. Best of all, more podcasts have come out that especially appeal to kids by offering engaging–and even educational–content. With topics ranging from self-empowerment to science, even adults might learn a thing or two while listening!

Start by Creating a Playlist

If you’re new to podcasts, you’ll need to use a podcast app to help you search for podcasts. Some popular podcast apps (also called Podcatchers) are Apple Podcasts and Instacast (both compatible with iOS), PocketCast (for Google Play, Android phones), and Stitcher (supports both platforms)

Now download your podcast to a smartphone or iPad. Both audio and video podcasts exist depending on your style.  

Download away! If you like a particular program, browse the archives and grab as many episodes as you want. They’re generally free. The only thing limiting you will be the amount of memory on your device.

A Few Caveats

Podcasts are free to listeners because they have regular sponsors who run advertisements. These ads can be off-putting to some. Another drawback to playing lots of podcasts is the danger of running down a phone battery, though with audio podcasts, this generally isn’t a big concern. If you’re worried, pack a spare source of power or plug into your car’s power source.

If you’re used to high-quality stereo sound, consider connecting your phone to an auxiliary input headphone jack, or (if available) even using a car’s Bluetooth capability to play your phone directly through your car’s speakers.

Make sure that you set up a playlist before you turn on the engine. To prevent dangerous distracted driving, only manipulate phones and other devices when you can do so safely!  

5 Recommended Podcasts for Kids

Slip on some headphones and test-drive these kid-approved audio podcasts.

Brains On! 

In every science-filled episode, host Molly Bloom is joined by a different kid co-host who helps interview scientists and field questions from kids across the country. It’s anything but textbook fare; there’s a good dose of silliness and fun. Recent topics have included the science of cooking, how paint sticks to things, and what causes allergies. My six-year-old loves to try to identify the “Mystery Sound” (stumpers submitted by kids across the country). Probably good for ages 6 – 13.

Dream Big 

Hosted by Eva Karpman, current 2nd-grader, who brings refreshing energy and positivity to the show. Eva is also accompanied by her mom, Olga, while interviewing special guests–astronauts, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, and more–and learning about their passions and their life journeys. The message of the show: follow your dreams and do what inspires you. Suitable for all ages.

Pants on Fire

If you like a game show format, try this. Kids try to figure out which adult is truly an expert and which adult is only pretending. Hosted by Debra Goldstein and a sidekick “robot”, there’s quite a bit of musical and sound accompaniment throughout to keep kids interested. The topics are very wide-ranging with something to appeal to everyone. As a concept, it’s smart, creative, and smoothly executed. Probably best for ages 6 – 11.

The Story Pirates

Welcome to storytelling with a zany vibe. The “pirates” are actually actors, comedians, improvisers, and musicians who share a lot of enthusiasm and humor. The stories they tell are written by actual kids who also get a moment in the show to talk about themselves. This is great catchy fun for any age (my kid was hooked after one episode), though if you’re looking for something more educational, there are others more suited to that.

Book Club for Kids 

This new addition to the podcast scene amassed a listenership of 300,000 kids in 2017. The format: a rotating panel of middle-schoolers chats with host Kitty Felde about fiction and non-fiction books. Their conversations encourage introspection, touch on current events, spark the imagination, and more. Each episode also features a celebrity guest reader. This podcast will appeal to older elementary school kids and middle graders who love to read; the website also has a list of books recommended by peers.

 

 

Need more ideas for your curious kid?  Here’s more great podcasts to try: Wow in the World, Pickle, ExtraBLURT, But Why, Ear Snacks, Smash Boom Best, Tumble. And also head over to our blog post on tips for screen-free travel with kids. Happy travels!

Looking for summer activities and camps? Activityhero.com is your all-in-one destination for updated schedules, parent reviews, and registration options.

About Wendy Chou

Wendy Chou is an environment writer and parent based in the Bay Area.

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Vacations

6 Family-Friendly Summer Movies for 2018

The smell of fresh popcorn in an air-conditioned theater–who doesn’t love a summer trip to the movies? Check out these 6 great movies to bring your family to this summer!

Solo: A Star Wars Story (opens late May)

This latest offering in the mighty Star Wars franchise is a prequel in which young Han first meets future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian (a character introduced in Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back). Though the plot is being kept under wraps until the film opens, look for a strong supporting cast accompanying young Solo on his fast-paced galactic adventures. Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, and Woody Harrelson and directed by Ron Howard.

Good for: Tweens age 11+

 

Incredibles 2 (opens June)

It’s been 14 years since Pixar released The Incredibles, but the sequel appears well worth the wait, with wide-ranging appeal for kids as well as their parents (who will appreciate the in-jokes of superheroes getting stressed out by family life). Director Brad Bird and the original cast (including Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, and Samuel L. Jackson) return.

Good for: Everybody

 

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Opens July)

and

Teen Titans GO To the Movies (Opens July)

Young fans of these two series will get a kick out of these new animated films– one about a comic family of monsters and the other about a chummy band of superheroes, respectively. The language and positive messages are appropriate for small viewers, and nothing here is too scary or violent.

Good for: Littles (age 6 – 10)

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Opens July)

If you saw the 2015 original, you’ll know that actors Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly play Ant-Man and the Wasp, a charismatic duo who can become super-small yet remain super-strong. Also starring Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburne. The film has more of a sense of humor than some of the other Marvel films, plus the thrilling action sequences we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Directed by Peyton Reed. 

Good for: Tweens age 11+, teens, adults

 

Eighth Grade (Opens July)

A good choice for indie film lovers. This coming-of-age story (part comedy, part drama), written and directed by Bo Burnham, had a great reception at the Sundance Film Festival. Critic Scott Menzel wrote: “This tour-de-force performance is one of the most authentic and honest portrayals of a teenager in cinema history.” In fact, the young woman playing the lead had never appeared on screen prior to this film. 

Good for: Teens, adults

 

Want more ideas for fun kid activities this summer? Check ActivityHero.com for schedules, reviews, and easy booking.

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Creative Arts Vacations

12 Apps, Shows, and Books to Inspire Creativity Over School Breaks

Do your kids have extra time over school holidays? Get inspired and find new ideas for hands-on, creative projects from these apps and shows.

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeed

What do the following items all have in common? Trampoline, Popsicle, Ear Muffs, Calculator

They were all invented by kids! Creativity, curiosity and a unique perspective are keys to coming up with a new idea. The inventor of the trampoline was at a circus in the 1930’s and saw the trapeze artists falling into a large net. He was a gymnast, and realized that the net could help with his training, so he worked with his coach and together they invented what is now known as the trampoline.

Here are a few ideas to help inspire your budding inventors, engineers, and artists during the upcoming school breaks and Columbus Day holiday. While we don’t expect every kid to become an inventor or artist, we can promise that they will be inspired and entertained. To get you started, below are 12 hand-picked apps, shows, and books that will engage your little creator.

Apps to get Kid’s Creativity Flowing

Wizard School

Ages 7+

This creative tool is chock full of fun interactive challenges. Start with an informational video or two, then move straight into an art project, learning amazing animal facts, or venture outside to take a photo of the sky for your Weather project. With topics as varied as Design, Animals, Imagination and Space, everyone will find an interesting project to keep them busy!

MOMA Art Lab

Ages 7+

This well-rounded app guides the user first to viewing art from MOMA’s expansive collection, then to simple tools to create their very own masterpiece. Group projects are possible as well as adapting some of the app activities to hand-on art projects.

Drawing Pad

Ages 4+

Creativity is number one in this art app. If you can imagine it, you can create it with every digital tool you need. Draw, paint, create!

Wreck This App

Ages 8+

Making a mess and using your creativity in new ways is the focus of this app, based on the book Wreck This Journal. Scribble, draw outside the lines, whatever you like.

How to Make Origami

Ages 9+

It seems as simple as making a paper airplane, but the 80+ origami patterns in this app use reasoning skills, spatial thinking and fine motor skills, all while creating something beautiful with your own hands.

Big Nate: Comics by U!

Ages 8+
Imagine yourself creating your own comic strip…this app helps make that a reality. There are multiple settings, so you can decide how much you want to do on your on. Especially fun for fans of the Big Nate series of books.

 

 << Find art classes & art camps

TV, Videos, and Movies that showcase creativity

Goldieblox – Hack Along with Goldie Blox and Scrappy Robots with Simone Giertz

Ages 7+  Fans of Goldieblox will love their latest venture, two new weekly STEM-based shows on their YouTube channel—“Hack Along with Goldie Blox” and “Scrappy Robots with Simone Giertz.” Both shows feature DIY engineering projects that combine crafting and invention.

Underwater Dreams

Ages 10+

Future engineers or robotics fans will love this underdog story of a group of high schoolers from LA taking on a powerhouse college team from MIT in a robotics competition. Great teamwork and perseverance are on full display here.

Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Ages 7+

What drives creative people? This movie seeks to explore those reasons along with strong examples of innovation, creativity and how engineering can change lives.

 

All-American Makers

Ages 10+

This STEM-based reality show follows the path that inventions take. Seeing the progression from from idea to product is a great lesson for want-to-be inventors.

 

Annedroids

Ages 5+

Centered around a girl-genius scientist, her androids and school friends, this excellent tv series pairs STEM education with real-life examples of scientific exploration and discovery along with a healthy dose of friendship and creativity.

 

Book that Encourages Creativity

ScrapKins: Junk Re-Thunk

Ages 7+

Using recyclable material around the house, the Scrapkin characters make a variety of fun projects that readers can copy, and expand upon. This book not only sparks creativity, but also encourages responsible recycling.

 

For a deeper dive, see these playlists at SmartFeed (SmartFeed Makes Finding Good Media Easy) – Art Apps for Elementary School Kids and Apps and Shows for Young Makers & Engineers.

 Want to get more inspiration from a camp or class? Find activities near you on ActivityHero

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms Vacations

Best Resort Pools for Kids

I’m a huge fan of a good resort pool. When I book vacations for our family, I look for the most amazing pool I can find. Some of the features on our wishlist this June is a lazy river, a beach, free towels and maybe even a waterslide. Bars that you can swim up to are a nice bonus. In this article, we’re going to take a tour of some of the most amazing pools California has to offer.

Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, California

Let’s start with the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. You know about the iconic monorail that goes back and forth from the Disneyland Hotel to the theme park, right? The hotel decided to take this a step further and create a monorail-themed pool. You’ll find a replica of the original Mark 1 Monorail trains at the entrance of the two water slides – the larger of the two is an impressive 180 feet long. In addition to the monorail pool, there is a retro themed pool clocking in a 4,800 square feet and a lap pool. Adults can melt their cares away in the Mickey and Minnie bubbling whirlpool, order a poolside cocktail or one of many food options and get a private cabana. Disneyland Hotel starts at $329 and admission to the park is an additional cost.

Sheraton, Hawaii, Maui

The Sheraton on the island of Maui is perhaps one of the dreamiest settings imaginable. Located on the Kaanapali section of the island, you’ll find a world class beach alongside a world class pool. As sun sets, the hotel honors Black Rock, a Hawaiian sacred site, with Hawaiian dancing, conch blowing and music. This can all be viewed while floating along in their gorgeous, 142 acre pool. On one end, you’ll find a shallow kids area for toddlers to splash about. On the other, adventure awaits as you float in your tube from pool to pool that includes a gentle waterslide. Waterfalls, large volcanic looking rocks and bridges adorn the scenery. Hidden in the middle of the winding paths of the pool is a jacuzzi surrounded by large rock formations and tropical Hawaiian fauna. BBQ and drinks are available at all three of the cafes lining the pool and towels are free. Once your child has explored the pool, the beach is equally as nice. Gorgeous white sand, incredible scenery and warm water awaits. Sheraton, Maui starts at $349.

Silver Mountain Resort, Kellogg, Idaho

Thousands of miles from Hawaii is one of the most incredible indoor pool arenas in America. Silver Mountain Resort in Idaho offers a plethora of water activities with weather never being a deterrent. Let’s start with the Flowrider. Surfers and bodyboarders alike will enjoy 60,000 gallon per minute, 35 miles per hour waves. If that’s too intense, there is a 315 foot lazy river to grab a tube and float in. Waterfalls and pit stops are at every corner. For the little ones, Cub Cove has sprayers, misters and other water fun on land. The warm springs is nearby and perfect for children who wants something warmer than the pool but not as hot as a hot tub. There are also obstical courses, water basketball, a rafting ride, restaurants, a fifty four foot slide and a pond for toddlers with two kiddie slides and a bungee swing. In short, this place has something for everyone in the family including a ski resort right out the front door. Silver Mountain Resort overnight stays start at $103.

Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, Nevada

Ever wondered what it was like to swim alongside sharks? No, we aren’t talking about somewhere out in the ocean. You can safely swim inches away from sharks at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the middle of the Golden Nugget’s swimming pool lives a 200,000 gallon aquarium filled with sand tigers, black tips, zebra sharks, brown sharks and nurse sharks.  You’ll find a 30 foot tall shark chute and a three story waterslide that goes right through the tank that will let you explore wildlife while getting a nice adrenaline rush. There are restaurants and bars dotted alongside the indoor pool. If you can’t get enough of the sharks, you can go on one of their daily shark tours led by on staff marine biologists. Golden Nugget rates start at $50 and the Shark Tank Tour is $30 per person.

MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Las Vegas was hard to pass by on our list. There are a bunch of hotels with incredible pools. However, the Golden Nugget’s shark pool and the MGM Grand’s quarter of a mile long lazy river are our picks for kids. Grab an inner tube and begin your journey around this seemingly endless river. 26 Cabanas are available to rent as well as pool gear like inner tubes and rafts. From all angles of the 6.5 acre Wet Republic pool complex, you can hear music and feel the bubbling energy of the guests. Alongside the lazy river, there are 3 additional pools, 3 whirlpools and a multitude of waterfalls. This is a blast for children (make sure you bring sunscreen) and if the kids get hungry or thirsty, poolside service awaits. After a long day at the pool, the kids can step inside the hotel for a world class Cirque Du Soliel show. The MGM Grand starts at $113 per night.

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Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

As I’m writing this post, it is currently zero degrees in Wisconsin Dells. But no matter, this amazing pool park is indoors and 84 degrees. With over 80,000 square feet of activities, it’s easy to forget the nasty weather that awaits you outside. Unique to this resort is a four story tree house that includes suspension bridges, swinging cargo nets, slides, spray stations and a 1,000-gallon bucket of water that dumps on top of guests. A few other notable features of the park are a giant funnel to swirl in, a wave pool, 400 foot water slides, a water slide raceway, a slide that goes pitch black and spits you out in a pool to start all over again, toddler areas and more. Days can be spent inside this pool wonderland and you’d still find it tough to do it all. Great Wolf Lodge starts at $129 per night.

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Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Orlando, Florida

Because one isn’t enough, Nickelodeon Suites Resort has two full water parks. The Nickelodeon Hotel’s Lagoon Pool includes a four story water tower that has seven slides, water jets, climbing nets, flumes and a four hundred gallon water tank ready to dump water (or slime) on unsuspecting resort goers. You’ll find Spongebob themed water toys throughout the park alongside poolside cabanas with food and beverage service. If you’ve had enough water, you can take a break at the full scale miniature golf course or the basketball courts with hoops that you can adjust for height.  The resort also includes two relaxing whirlpools for grownups. Daily at 4:45 the resort has a mass sliming where a bucket of green goo at the top of the water park shoots out to cover all of the guests below. We haven’t even gotten to the Oasis Pool. The second resort on the grounds offers a water tower, slides, snack bar and a kids’ play area. This area includes an olympic sized swimming pool, jets, and much more. Rates for the Nickelodeon Suites Resort start at $159 per night.

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Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona

This hotel is a kid and adult paradise with 10 swimming pools, 45 waterfalls and 20 fountains and a 30 foot, high speed waterslide. Kids can hit speeds of up to 25 mph while they go flying down the water tubes and end with a giant splash at the end. The waterfalls and jets are fun for kids as they cross several narrow paths between the immense pools. This resort is located in one of the most beautiful and exclusive parts of Scottsdale adding to the incredible scenery around the pool. There are cabanas for rent, bars and restaurants poolside as well as several places to load up on sunscreen and pool accessories. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort starts at $479 per night.