Categories
Camps

Parent Power: Bridging the Summer and Pandemic Learning Gap

featuring The Teacher Marketplace

This past year has been unlike no other, especially for school-aged kids. Whether they attended school in-person or online, the school year was met with many challenges. The digital disparity is now evermore apparent. So as parents, how can we bridge the gap between everything that’s happened?

In this episode, we’re talking with The Teacher Marketplace, (TTM) an online platform connecting teachers and tutors with students and families for remote and in-person tutoring sessions nationwide. TTM has thousands of teachers on its site including tutors with 10+ years of formal classroom experience, background-checked teachers, and vaccinated-verified for safe, in-person instruction. The Teacher Marketplace wants to make sure no child is left behind and every child who needs a tutor can access one. Some of our tutors cost as little as $10/hour. TTM supports all teachers, donating 10% of profits to non-profit Educators For Excellence.

Discover classes, camps, and activities for your child at ActivityHero.com

Categories
Camps

Parent Power: Fostering a Lifetime of Curiosity Through Astronomy

featuring Look Up to The Stars

In this episode, we will talk about the most appealing science of astronomy and how exploring astronomy helps set your child up for a lifetime of curiosity and learning. Joining us today is Kevin Manning, award-winning astronomer and founder of Look Up to The Stars, a provider of astronomy camps and classes for kids of all ages. 

We love Look Up at The Stars on ActivityHero because Kevin’s mission is to generate interest and foster scientific literacy in students nationwide through the delivery of awe-inspiring, educational, and entertaining astronomy programs.  

Children of all ages can be inspired to think big, dream big, and foster curiosity about an enormous universe in which the boundaries appear unlimited. 

Find the best kids camps and activities including the awesome array of astronomy classes from Look Up to The Stars on ActivityHero.com

Categories
Camps

Parent Power: The Benefits of Science Camp

All about STEM featuring Destination Science

ActivityHero Parent Power is a new series dedicated to helping you discover smart solutions to finding kid activities. Whether you are in need of seasonal camps, after-school programs, or academic tutoring we are here to help you stay informed on all things kid activity-related. 

In this episode, we will talk about science camps, from a variety of STEM topics to the terrific skill set that your kids can learn from attending a science camp. Joining the episode is Nina Conway from Destination Science, a leading STEM camp provider for elementary school kids. 

We love Destination Science on ActivityHero because they believe “Science is a Way of Thinking!” When we know how to “do” science, we know how to be creative, critical, and organized thinkers and problem solvers.

Parents love that Destination Science’s fun-filled programs make positive, powerful differences in their children! Their programs are meticulously designed to use fun science as a tool to grow terrific skills for everyday life, including:

PERSISTENCE, COOPERATION, CREATIVITY AND ESPECIALLY…CURIOSITY!

You can check out Destination Science’s current summer camp offerings on Activityhero.com

Categories
Camps Uncategorized

Parent Power: First-Time Campers 101

What to Expect When Thinking for Your Child’s First Camp Experience

ActivityHero Parent Power is a new series dedicated to helping you discover smart solutions to finding kid activities. Whether you are in need of seasonal camps, after-school programs, or academic tutoring we are here to help you stay informed on all things kid activity-related. 

In this episode we will talk about first time campers 101: what to consider when thinking about introducing your child to their first camp experience. Our guest for this interview is Courtney Cimoli. She is the chief operating officer of Camp Edmo, the leading camp provider in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento regions of California with a multitude of school year programs and 32 on-site summer camp locations. 

You can check out their current summer camp offerings on Activityhero.com.

One of the reasons why we love Camp Edmo at ActivityHero is because they collaborate with leaders in the fields of Science, Maker Education and Social Emotional Learning to design a well rounded and diverse curriculum for their programs. 

Q: How do I know if my child is ready for summer camp?

A: All camps have different guidelines around that. for EDMO, they need to be potty trained and at least 4-years old. Any camp you are looking at, verify what age do they start at and what are the parameters that you child needs to meet to be able to join the camp. From there, once they are starting to develop curiosity over different theme areas, if there’s something they are excited about and can get engaged about, that’s the time for camp. If you notice they love dinosaurs, try dino-science camp to match it off of something they really enjoy. In general, if they love hands-on activities, this is a great time for them to start camp. It’s really great when you can do those DIY things at home with them but it’s a whole other level when they can get in there and experience with other kids, other adults, and counselors. Another thing to note, there is a little bit for every personality type. So you might think “my child is really outgoing! they are ready!” but camp is great for the more reserved campers too. It’s a place to practice those skills. They are going to have to be outside the home and practice [social] skills.

This is an environment where they don’t have to, they get to. For myself, I was that really great place for me where I got to go out and practice my social skill building. I got to be in new environments, in a way that was really engaging and exciting. [Camp] is great for all types of kids.

Q: What types of camps are best for a first-time camper? Should I pick something more general, like all-sports or all-fun? Or should I go for something more specialized?

A: It depends on your kid. Are they really motivated by a particular thing and want to attend a specialized camp? Some kids need more of a general interest level, they are both great. Both camps have awesome benefits. One thing I would pay attention to, regardless of if it’s general-interest or specialized is, “whats the additional stuff to their curriculum?”. Even if it’s specialized, there should be other aspects of the camp day. You want them to be singing songs, performing skits, having outdoor game time, having some sort of SEL or social skill bulding session where they are learning traits such as responsibility and initiative. So whether it’s a general-interest theme or specialized theme, make sure you’re getting a well-rounded package. That’s what is going to really engage your child and get the best out of camp.

Q: Do you have a lot for campers that take the same camp or type of camp for multiple weeks in the summer? Is it better to have a longer time frame for first-time campers?

A: I would recommend, picking a camp and sticking with one or two. Floating them to a different camp every week can sometimes make it difficult for them to get established when they are really just learning what camp is. Camp involves so much culture. You show up, you go here for your rally in the morning, you learn where your boundaries are, when you’re relearning that every week at a different camp in addition to getting used to the atmosphere of camp in general, that can be really overwhelming.

I recommend a camp that offers a variety of themes, so they can mix it up each week. So they can mix it up, but still attend the same camp. At EDMO, they can attend the whole summer but do a different theme each week. So you’re doing this over arching convept of maker or science but you’re doing other themes each week so they can stay really engaged. But the general outline and structure of the day is the same so that can really help them get settled in.

Kids come for 6, 8, 10 weeks and by the end, that’s their home. They end up helping new campers get involved.

Q: Should I register for camp with siblings or friends?

A: For siblings, unless they are really close in age and depending on how the camp does grouping, they will likely be separated. Make it easy on yourself, do one drop off and one pick-up, especially if the camp have a vareity of offerings, like EDMO does. So your kids can have very different interests but still find something engaging.

Coming with friends can be great, it can help them feel comfortable from the minute they get there, especially if your child is a little more reserved and needs that extra support. However, they don’t need to. Make sure that the camp you are signing up for is ready with techniques to help them get engaged, make new friends, at EDMO, the first thing we do Monday morning is you meet your group and we do Team-Love. They do icebreakers, they create a team name and get engrained as a group. So it doesn’t matter if they didn’t have a friend when they walked in the door, they will have an entire group of friends within 15-minutes of being there. And then throughout the day, we have a variety of techniques with our SEL curriculum. The counselors are trained to help them interact with others and make new friends. Don’t be worried, if you are sending your new camper without anyone they know.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add about how counselors bridge the gap for kid and/or parents?

A: We have Team-Love and SEL curriculum to help them make connections thorughout the day. One thing that helps the kids and the parents is distracting them the moment they get there. Naturally, the kids want to stay with the parent, that’s who they know, that’s what they are used to, so a really good counselor is going to help them distract away from those nerves. So the second you walk into camp, there is some sort of activity going on.

Staff members are always friendly and excited to see the kids. That’s going to help the camper and the parent make that transition the first day or any day they are there.

Q: What do you believe is the biggest challenge for first-time campers?

A: Drop off! AM Drop off! Time and time again it’s the biggest challenge for campers and parents. I can tell you as a parent myself, I am not looking forward to leaving [her] for the first time for a full-day. So it can be just as hard on the parent as the camper. One thing a recommend is drop them off, and leave. Staying just allows the child to build up more anxiety, get more and more upset. And when we see a quick drop-off, because we have other techniques, we have activities that are already going on, 5-minutes, the camper ready to go!

Q: What benefits do you believe summer camp offers children, above free play at home through the summer?

A;So many! That’s a really big question. The thing I love about summer camps as an extracurricular activity, camp does not expect your child to fit the mold in any way. Camp is for everybody. There is a little bit of everything and it’s about discovery of yourself within that. That’s why I have devoted my life and career to it, because that’s what summer camp did for me many years ago. I was very shy, afraid of my shadow type, that was able to really find myself and get comforatble at camp. So the benefit of taking them to this environment that is so inclusive and inviting, is huge.

Social interaction, trained professionals, that can help them learn responsibility and initiative. Can they learn these things at home? yes. It it the same as learning this from other adults, surrounded by their peers, no. That’s a very different experience. I think both are important, but summer camp can really have so many levels of value.

Q: When you are a new parent to signing up for summer camp, it can be overwhelming. What do you feel like are the most important questions for a parent to ask when they are researching camps?

A: Make sure the camp is well-rounded throughout the day. There are a lot of safety measures for 2021, but there is still a level of interaction. So make sure there are different parts of the day, with outdoor recreation, various games that include collaboration and team work. Don’t get so excited about one theme that you forget about the schedule of the full camp day.

With COVID, camps are doing things differently. That’s what I would really be watching for this year. Are they truly staying in a stable group? I’m not going to lie, especially in our industry that’s something that’s really difficult to enforce when we are going in and out of different periods throughout the day. At EDMO, we’ve been working tirelessly to make sure our COVID-19 protocols are across the board being followed by our campers and counselors. Stable groupd are crucial right now.

I would pay attention to the staff they are hiring, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on qualifications. Just because a staff memeber is a college graduate in a specicial field, don’t mean they are vibey. You want fun, interactive staff. I’ve see 16-year old counselors who have attended camp for year, be the strongest counselor out of a staff of people much older than them. It’s really about the culture the camp is creating, more so, on-paper resume qualifications.

Q: Last advice?

A: When signing up for camp, get your campers involved. let them read the descriptions and help pick the themes. It is going to be so much easier if they are excited for the program.

Camp is for everyone. Scholarships are available through ActivityHero and EDMO.

Explore your child’s camp options today.

Categories
Family

Are Smartphones Disconnecting Your Family?






ActivityHero providers are experts at getting kids to go (temporarily) off the grid. Here 6 of their tips to help your family welcome more tech-free time.

By Rachel Stamper

Tech is typically banned at school and during after school activities — and for good reason: Smartphones and tablets distract kids from instructional time. At bedtime, exposure to blue light from smartphones, tablets, computers, and the TV can actually make it tougher for kids and adults to fall asleep because the light they emit prevents the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. And with 20 digital devices in the average home, according to a recent Yahoo! poll, there are plenty of screens competing for your family’s attention. Left unchecked, all that screen time could affect your relationship with your children, the quantity and quality of sleep your family gets, and how engaged your kids are during the school day and at activities.

To get some help in corralling the tech, we reached out to a few ActivityHero providers who are experts on powering down kids’ smartphone usage — at least temporarily. Here, we offer their suggestions, along with our own research, to help you figure out the best times and ways to use a little less data each day.

1. Get an Old-School Alarm Clock

“Today too many people use their phones as alarms. That means it’s super-tempting to check your social media or favorite news sites right before you go to sleep,” says Ed Caballero, Executive Director of Camp Edmo, which offers high-quality enrichment programs in science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, and math. His suggestion: Leave your phone in another room to recharge at night, and use a regular alarm clock to rise in the morning. “It’s also a great to give your body a break from being close to that radiation for 6 to 10 hours a day,” he adds. A standard clock with a battery backup is just as reliable as a cell phone alarm.

Find Fun After School Activities Near You >>

2. Schedule Some Official “Silent Times”

Caballero also says, “You might have a hard time keeping the cell phone out of your child’s hand at all times. However, you can establish Silent Times like dinner, family gatherings, etc., when the phone is set to silent. When you don’t have the angst of wondering if your phone vibrated, pinged, or rang, you can actually be more present and conversational. By turning your phones to silent, you can focus on the people you’re with and check messages at socially appropriate times — when you’re alone later.” Whether it’s dinner at home, at a restaurant, or at a special event, if everyone powers down at the same time, there’s a sense of fairness. (Yes, that means us adults, too!)

3. Reframe the Conversation

Blake Longfellow, Co-owner and Director of UCamps, which provide fun, educational, arts, leadership, and outdoor enrichment programs, allows only counselors, not kids, to have cell phones. “When I promote the summer programs, kids always ask can they have their phones,” he says. “I reframe the conversation to remind them if they don’t have their cell phones, their parents can’t tell them what to do.” Kids can make their own choices, choose their own classes, decide who they “hang out” with, and get a break from “parental communication.” Rather than focusing on what you might miss by unplugging, talk about how you’ll be able to positively experience the world without a digital distraction.

4. Don’t Break Electronics Bans

Longfellow adds, “We have a no-phone policy for campers and it’s the parents that complain — 90 percent of the kids are okay with it. Some parents will try and sneak in a phone, but having a phone can foster homesickness. In previous years, 10 or 11 kids left camp each summer due to homesickness, but since we set a phone ban, no kids have asked to leave. Kids are more present and enjoy the time without a phone.” Promise yourself now that you won’t fight phone bans at school or activities, no matter how inconvenient it may seem at first. When you set a good example, says Longfellow, “This teaches kids to respect your phone rules too.”

5. Think About Your Own Habits

Clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, says that it’s not just parents who are upset about tech interruptions; it’s kids who hurt, too. “We as parents have to be much more mindful about … interacting with technology when our children need us …. Children of all ages — 2, 15, 18, 22 — used the same phrases to talk about how hard it is for them to get their parents’ attention when they need it: sad, angry, mad, frustrated.” By putting down your digital device, you model this habit for your kids. This means no checking your phone at mealtime, while in the car, or during family time. It may be a challenge at first, but imagine what a relief it will be to have some off-the-grid moments when no one can steal your serenity with a stressed-out email or text.

6. Go “Old School” in the Evenings

The blue light of devices is particularly bad in the two to three hours before bedtime. To help your kids get the right quantity and quality of sleep, consider reading paper books or playing board games in the evening rather than using eBooks or apps before bed. A recent study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that screen activity before bed makes it harder to fall asleep. Dr. Anne-Marie Chang says, “The best recommendation (although not the most popular) would be to avoid use of light-emitting screens before bedtime.” Plus, board games improve executive function (the brain’s control of cognitive processes such as memory, reasoning, and problem-solving) and let you bond and engage with your kids. Just be sure to silence your phones first!

Give Tech-Loving Kids Another Option

If your child simply loves technology, take a look at the computer programming and coding classes available on ActivityHero! This is a great way to support your kids’ interest in electronics in a way that allows them to learn, socialize, and possibly prepare for a future career.

Categories
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.

Categories
Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Score Some “Me Time” this Summer






Photo by Flickr user *michael sweet*
Photo by Flickr user *michael sweet*

Soon the kids will be out of school, but don’t panic — here are some ways to enjoy some much-needed “me time”.

By Sarah Antrim

Remember when you were a kid and summer meant you were totally free—free from the daily grind of homework, free to sleep in until the early afternoon, and free to spend every waking hour splashing in the pool with friends?

Fast-forward some 20 years… now summer means anxious kids bugging you for entertainment and plenty of skinned knees and bee stings to attend to. Their schedules clear which means your only alone time is in the bathroom (if you’re lucky enough to have a lock on the bathroom door).

Here are a few tips on how to get the kids out of the house and score some much-needed me-time this summer.

Summer Camps & Classes

Even a camp that takes kids away for an hour a day can save your sanity.

Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, once commented on that kids who go away to summer camp have a real opportunity: “[kids] are away from [their] mother and father to make [their] own decisions.” If your kids are new to the camp scene, start small with a class that only meets for an hour or two a day or a few times a week. Sleepaway camp is great for the seasoned camper but make sure that you’re both ready to make that commitment.

Visit Activity Hero and find hundreds of camps featuring dance, music, sports, arts, computers, and more.

Schedule Play Dates

After being trapped in a classroom for 9 months where everything from lunch time to bathroom breaks is scheduled to the minute, some kids become overwhelmed at the thought of having free reign over their routine. Instead of walking outside or hopping on their bike, they’re likely to park themselves in front of anything with an LCD screen.

While decompressing like this might work for a few hours, it’s definitely not a good way to spend an entire summer.

Coordinate with other parents in your area and take turns supervising so everyone gets an occasional break. Schedule a time for the kids to get out and play together. Whether it be at the pool or street hockey, it forces them to get outside for something more stimulating than screens.

Volunteering

Kids cringe at the thought of cleaning up after their own pets, but send them to an animal shelter and they’re a different person. Sign them up to play with the kittens or walk the dogs at the local Humane Society for a few hours every week.

Volunteering builds character and a sense of responsibility, great for kids that are always begging for that puppy but can’t even manage to put the cap back on the toothpaste.

Put Them to Work

Many older kids are mature enough to start babysitting. Check to see if your park district has babysitter certification courses where kids will learn the basics of keeping another tiny human being alive.

If your kids don’t quite fit into that mold of responsibility, just about any able-bodied child can do yard work. Teach them to cut the grass and pull weeds, then send them off to the neighbors. They’ll benefit from the extra money in their pocket and you’ll have a quiet house for an hour or two.

Sleepover at Grandma’s

When in doubt, ship ‘em off to Grandma’s. You know they’ll be safe and she’ll get to fulfill her duty of letting the kids eat ice cream for dinner and stay up past their bedtime.

Don’t limit yourself to doting grandparents, either. Aunts, uncles, and trusted neighbors — it takes a village! Kids who have the support of other loving adults besides their parents have a richer set of experiences and an expanded worldview. Meanwhile, you’ll appreciate some precious moments to recharge.

Exercise

Whether you love yoga, strength training, cycling, or Zumba, try to find a gym or rec class that offers child care options. You’ll have the opportunity for an hour of healthy exercise and come back to parenting feeling more rejuvenated–a definite win-win.

To kids, summer means freedom. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a little bit, too.

Categories
Academic Writing Creative Writing

Tips and Resources for Young Writers at Any Age

ActivityHero shares the insights of writing professionals who work with kindergarteners through high schoolers. With these tips, parents can help support kids’ writing goals.

By Wendy Chou

Writing is a key life skill that engages and empowers kids–and is highly correlated with overall academic success. ActivityHero talked with professionals from two writing programs to learn their favorite tips. We also list online resources that will appeal to today’s tech-savvy kids, ‘tweens, and teens.

Tips for Elementary School Writers (Age 6-8) 

1. Have some fun

Darrell Dela Cruz, of Cupertino’s Communication Academy, recommends playing word-centered games to boost knowledge of words and definitions. Some examples are Mad Libs, Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams.

2. Be a role model

Remind kids that writing matters in daily life. Adventures In Writing (AIW) Camp co-founder Jen Hartvickson tells parents: “Write lists, write thank you notes, write letters. When they see you writing, they will do what you do!” 

3. Check out these resources for elementary school writers

  • Storybird is an online forum that allows kids to create and share their own books or to read from the free online library.
  • Three Good Things – A Happiness Journal is a free app promoting a simple and positive message.
  • Krakeln is a friendly vocabulary-building app suitable for even young users.
  • Orange Street News  is a newspaper created by Hilde Lysiak (with her dad’s assistance) when she was just 7 years old and is the inspiration for her own book series.

Tips for Tweens (age 9-12)

1. Practice, practice, practice.

All the experts we consulted agreed that practice leads to writing improvement. Journaling and writing to pen pals can encourage regular writing habits. Jen Hartvickson also finds that tweens are more motivated when given free rein to choose their own topic.

2. Read widely, then discuss.  

AIW Camp Co-founder Hans Hartvickson sees value in parents and kids reading books together, then talking about “what worked” for them and why.

3. Try a song.

Hans Hartvickson suggests songs help teach writing traits and are fun too. AIW Camp has published many songs on YouTube.

> > Find writing camps & classes near you

4. Check out these resources for tweens

  • Stone Soup Magazine is a high-quality literary publication (in print and online) by and for kids.  
  • Youngzine presents current events for a school-aged audience and accepts kids’ submissions of articles and book reviews.
  • KidPub.com has featured kids’ works since 1995 (requires small fee to publish).
  • Brainstorm great reads with blogs like Brightly which lists dozens of titles sorted by age and genre.

Tips for Teens (age 13+)

1. Experiment with styles.

Take chances and try out new styles and content. Teens are starting to develop their unique voice.

2. The more practice, the better!

Consider entering contests at libraries and at school. Don’t stop there: find open mic events and poetry slams. Teens may enjoy blogging about a particular hobby and developing an audience. Many sites host blogs for free. 

3. Find online networking sites devoted to teens

Online writing communities allow teens to network and seek advice from other writers. Here are 4 recommendations:

  • Underlined is a teen-centered website that provides opportunities for collaboration and feedback.
  • Wattpad is the largest and most visible online reading and writing platform, giving it the nickname of “YouTube of writing”.
    Teen Ink hosts writing submissions by teens, including essays, articles, fiction and poetry. Teens can also contribute their art and photography.
  • Power Poetry is the largest online community for teens interested in poetry.

Final words of advice: Lighten Up!

According to Dela Cruz, parents shouldn’t make writing feel like a chore or something with a clearly defined “right or wrong answer”. The Hartvicksons believe kids need reassurance that mistakes and editing are to be expected along the way. Most of all, our experts all agreed that parents should provide fair and constructive feedback to kids. A “Goldilocks” balance means avoiding unrealistic over-praising, while also refraining from giving only negative comments, which can be demoralizing for kids. 

> > Find writing camps & classes near you

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Parenting Tips for Raising Self-Reliant Kids






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

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

By Wendy Chou

Make “pitching in” an early habit

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

Allow time for critical thinking

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

Discover the pursuits that matter to your kids

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

Find Kids’ Activities Near You

Seek growth, not perfection

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

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

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

Find Kids’ Activities Near You

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

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Camps Featured Posts Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Top Questions to Find the Right Summer Camp






With so many choices available, how do you find a summer camp that fits your family’s style? Here are key questions to ask when starting your search.

By Wendy Chou

Some parents see summer vacation as a chance to try new skills and challenges, and some would rather that their kids unplug and unwind from the pressures of the school year. Whether you are researching camps for the first time or looking for some refresher tips, these simple questions may come in handy when considering a camp for your child.

Staff Involvement

  • What is the ratio of campers to staff?  
  • Is the program staff composed of college students, more experienced teachers, or a mix?
  • Do students roam independently or stick closely with one counselor throughout the day?
  • Does the camp offer more free time or more structure?

[Find camps near you]

Philosophy and Content

  • Is the focus on learning, on fun, or on a combination?
  • Do campers tend to return year after year?
  • What sets it apart from similar camps in the area?
  • Does the camp cover gap subjects (ones that your child sees less of during the school year)?

Special Features and Accommodations

  • For skill-based camps (for instance, coding or sports camps), how do you accommodate different ages or abilities?
  • How would staff try to accommodate the needs of my introverted camper, or my spirited camper?
  • If needed, is before or after care available (if so, how does it differ from the main day’s activities?)
  • Are transportation options (e.g., bussing) available?

A Camp Director’s Perspective

Parents should feel free to call or e-mail camp directors “if they want to know more,” recommends Rory Judge, who has 40 years’ experience with the Bay Area’s Adventure Camps. Chatting with parents one-on-one about their summer camp questions is the perfect way to help “even the most nervous first-time parents warm up to camp,” Judge explains. For starters, he likes to find out a prospective camper’s age, how much camp experience they already have, and what school they attend. With websites, reviews, and other online tools becoming more popular, Judge finds that parents today seem comfortable doing their own research online in lieu of calling in.

Whether you like to gather information online or talk to camp staff, keeping these questions in mind can help you narrow down the field of camps that really fit your family’s style. And to easily find camps that match your child’s age, interest and available dates, check out the search tools on ActivityHero. You’ll find reviews from parents and can book your camps with one convenient registration form.

[Find camps 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

Categories
Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Tips to Choosing the Best Summer Camp Programs for Kids

With so many summer camps to choose from, how do parents know what to look for in finding the right fit for their kids?

Written by Sarah Antrim

5 Tips to Choosing Best Summer Camp Programs for Kids

Not all children are the same, so what might be the right fit for one may not be for another. Never fear, ActivityHero is here to help!

We’ve put together some tips on how to choose the best summer camp programs for kids this year.

1. Think about what your child is getting out of the school year, and then consider what they’re missing.

A deeper connection to nature and the outdoors? An opportunity to build on the core academic subjects of the school year?

Determine what you think matters in your child’s development, and view summer as a chance to fill in the missing pieces.

2. Once you’ve narrowed down the subject matter, look for these things:

  • Adult supervision that both inspires your kids and keeps them safe.
  • A ratio of no more than 10 kids per staff member.
  • Age group divisions for kids that span no more than 2-3 years.
  • Positive reviews of the program’s effectiveness and
  • A Director who is experienced, passionate, and organized.

3. Ask as many questions as possible. Here’s a few questions that parents should ask about summer camp programs:

  • What is your program trying to accomplish with children?
  • Who is the director? How many years have they been directing the camp? What does he/she look for in the staff he/she hires?
  • Who is going to be working directly with my child?  What is their education level? How are they trained?
  • How do you develop your curriculum? What are the learning objectives of the program?
  • Do high school students have direct supervisory responsibility for campers?
  • What are the age groupings and camper to staff ratios?

4. Focus as much on who the people will be working with your child as you do the content.

No matter what the summer camp program, the people will drive what your child takes away from the experience.

5. Seek out programs that offer consistency and minimize transitions in location, staff, and fellow campers.

Choosing the best summer camp programs for kids is only possible if you make kids as comfortable and educated as possible about the process. Set your kids up for success by not signing them up for too many different camps.

Find out ahead of time what the first day check in scene will be like, then describe it to your child ahead of time so they know what it will be like. You want to avoid a lengthy separation process on the first day.

With the thousands of summer camp programs available, choosing the best for your kids can sometimes feel like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. With these simple tips, you can help to set your kids up for success this summer.

Search all of our camp listings and find the perfect fit for your child, your schedule, and your budget at ActivityHero.com

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More About Us

Kid tech / parenting tech meetup recap






Recap of the kid/parenting tech meetup co-hosted by ActivityHero and 500Startups on 11/07/12

Knowledge dissemination in progress…….

Over 70 early stage startups working on parenting and kid focused technology, and the awesomely knowledgeable panel who came to enlighten these 70 startups on distribution techniques, together rocked the house. The only fly in the ointment, I discovered later, was that the audio feed wasn’t recorded. Doh!

Those who are still adamant about watching 5 mute people mime in a terribly boring fashion, watch the video here

And in a vain attempt to mollify the angry mob that turned up in twitter with pitchforks in hand, I have begged/borrowed/stolen notes from our awesomely generous panelists and pasted them below. Go forth and have your fill.

Mike Greenfield, Founder of Circle of Moms and TeamRankings, and self professed data geek who blogs extensively about data and startups at his enlightening yet convolutedly named NumerateChoir blog (a must follow!) said the following:

  1. Measure things and make decisions based on data, not hunches.
  2. A/B test
  3. Growth needs to be integrated into your product properly; the tactics that worked for someone else won’t necessarily work for you.
  4. Moms of kids under one are a different from moms of older kids; once kids reach one or two, moms are far more likely to have social structures for their kids, so “meet moms in your area” is less compelling.
  5. Circle of Moms grew a lot early on with Facebook invitations, but that channel became less effective over time (for a variety of reasons).  Later on, we used a bunch of channels to grow and re-engage users.  All things equal, it’s easier to grow quickly with one really strong channel.

Seth Rosenblatt, the governing Board Member & President of San Carlos School District and the former president of San

Mateo County school boards association was very empathetic to the startups’ need for speed while politely sharing his knowledge about the constraints from the educators’ perspective. Follow him on his blog where he muses about education and other local issues. He said the following:

  1. Public education definitely has constraints and is historically slow to adopt (funding constraints, legal constraints, etc.)
  2. But educational leaders do fundamentally want to innovate, and we may be at a tipping point for “21st Century Education” – breaking down of the virtual “walls” of schools
  3. Common Core standards coming — lots of opportunities to connect there (e.g. teacher training, test taking skills, etc.)
  4. Opportunities to better connect teachers, parents, students for collaboration – anything that connects out of school time with in school time (i.e. blended learning)
  5. Solutions that save districts money are always valuable
  6. Make pitch very specific — it’s not about how you will “save education” but tie specifically to some of the issues above – you have to cut through the noise
  7. Look for champions within a school district — could vary by district
  8. Look at organizations such as county offices of education, eSchoolNews, CSBA, county organizations, etc – ask who are champions/visionaries within school districts
  9. Emphasize thought leadership, case studies, etc — districts want to learn from other districts
  10. Multi-pronged approach to marketing (parents, schools, board members, etc.) — depending on community, could be led by parents who then put pressure on schools

Beth Blecherman, tech blogger and contributing writer to Mashable, Laptop magazine and Cool Mom Tech and co-founder of Silicon Valley Moms Group, a network of regional mom blogs across the country (it was sold to Technorati) was overflowing with tips on how the startup community can reach parents through mom bloggers. She spoke mainly about:

  1. How to identify the right parent bloggers
  2. How moms use different social media platforms
  3. Difference between a press pitch and a service pitch
  4. How to pitch to bloggers & bigger media sites

She was kind enough to write an entire blog post elaborating these points above: Top Tips for Kid-Tech apps to pitch parent bloggers. Check out her new book My Parent Plan about applying project management to parenting.

Satyajit Sahu, a computer scientist turned entrepreneur whose super successful app iRewardChart, featured on NBC’s Today show, CNET, CNN and several other national media outlets, recommended by Apple as a parenting essential, winner of the Best Parenting App award two years in a row, came well prepared with 10 essential points to note about mobile distribution:

  1. App review websites sites
  2. ASO
  3. Pay per install
  4. Giveaways
  5. Vanity URL
  6. Facebook app center
  7. Cross-promotion with your other apps
  8. App integration with platforms
  9. Strategic partnerships
  10. App store curated lists

He elaborates on all these 10 points above in this post on Distribution Tips for Mobile Apps

Cool Startups + Awesome Panelists = Mind-blowing Meetup!

All in all, the combination of a very knowledgeable panel and an excited audience made for a fun event. Sign up to the kid and parenting tech meetup group and watch out for cool future panel discussions on topics like design, fundraising, legal etc. specifically focused on parenting and kid-tech.

Also, keep the conversation going between meetups by joining this facebook group.

 

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

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






image from marlonsite.blogspot.com

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

Basic Safety and Enrichment

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

image from youritkalamazoo.com

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

Encourage Creativity

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

image from safetyweb.com

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

Stay Connected

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

Sites that are Safe

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

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

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

 

Written by Tamara Warta