Many schools are shifting to emphasize the core subjects like reading and math. Because of this, enrichment programs (i.e. art) are getting left behind. And while some believe art education amounts to just basic finger painting or coloring books, shifting this mindset for future generations is key.
Join us for a brief but informative chat with Ginhee Rancourt, CEO and Founder of Young Art.
In this podcast, the importance of art for kids is discussed. How does art spark innovative problem solving? What does the future of design thinking behold? Answers to these questions (and more) are also covered.
Simple activities that support creativity and teach an appreciation of art contribute to your kid’s development right now with many added future benefits.
Did you know? Kids involved in art are:
4x more likely to be recognized for their academic achievement
4x more likely to participate in a math and science fair
3x more likely to win an award for school attendance
Americans for the Arts and Vans Custom Culture
Our Podcast Guest
Ginhee Rancourt founded Young Art and over the past seven years has worked to provide communities with a vibrant outlet for creativity as a children’s drop off art studio, activating experiential spaces in shopping centers and online. Making art enrichment and education accessible to kids is at the core of their values.
Discover more art classes, camps, and activities for your child at ActivityHero.com
Celebrate National Video Games Day on September 12th. While the date and origin of this holiday are unclear, many Americans have decided to designate this day for video games. Why pass up the opportunity to celebrate with them? Here are three ways to enjoy honor this holiday.
Play from home.
Take a cue from gamers all over the world in 2020. Last year, millions turned to video games to have fun and stay connected during the pandemic. According to MarketWatch, video games became a bigger industry than film and North American sports combined due to the pandemic.1
While video games are now dominated by at-home gaming consoles like the XBox or Playstation, now is a great time to revisit the classics. Gather friends and visit an arcade to bask in the nostalgia of timeless games like Pac-man, Space Invaders, and Pong.
Create with your favorite video games.
Games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Animal Crossing have exploded again in popularity this year. These games all have something in common: the creative element. Within these games, players have the freedom to create their own mini-games, whether it’s roleplaying, designing your own worlds, or even coding your own add-ons. Collaborate with other players to use video games as a creative outlet, or even learn to code your own games!
The seasonal change from summer to fall for you and your family can be overwhelming. Here are some quick tips to help make the transitional period more smooth (and even a little fun) for everyone.
1. Bike, walk, or scooter to school.
If you live nearby, beat the morning traffic by walking, biking, or scootering to school together. Start the morning with some exercise and burn some energy before getting to the classroom.
Quick Tip: Find neighbors and classmates to walk with to make it fun both before and after school!
2. Keep a checklist on the door.
Create a picture “checklist” on your kid’s door to review before school each morning: brush your teeth, make your bed, check your backpack, get your shoes on, feed the dog, etc. It’s really helpful in building personal responsibility and will minimize your having to say reminders like, “put your shoes on!” a hundred times.
Download our checklist >
3. Wear school clothes to bed.
Here’s a hack not many people think of! For younger kids or kids who are especially slow in the morning, put on your school clothes the night before. As long as the clothes are comfortable to sleep in, your morning routine will be faster with one less step. Forget about pajama tops and have kids sleep in the t-shirt that they are going to wear to school.
Quick Tip: This works really well in pre-school and before kids could dress themselves.
4. Keep a common calendar.
Make sure everyone knows what’s happening each day. Keep a calendar or schedule somewhere where everyone can see it easily, like on the fridge or the front door. Plan out lunch schedules, after-school activities, and special school projects. Use post-it notes or a whiteboard calendar to easily make changes and add reminders.
Quick Tip: For older kids, have a family calendar on your phone that you can all update!
5. Separate pre-packed bags for after-school activities.
Do your kids have a jam-packed after-school schedule? Save time by packing go-bags the night before and leaving them in a designated spot, whether that’s at the front door or in the car. If you have time in the mornings, you can add snacks to this go-bag and make the scramble of afternoon activities so much smoother.
6. Let your kids choose their own school supplies.
You may be tempted to shop alone and save yourself the trouble of searching for supplies with your kids there. However, bringing your kids along will help them organize their belongings independently and increase the chance that they’ll use all their supplies.
“They’ll be more excited about using the cool stuff they get to pick out.”
Marcella Moran, PhD, coauthor of Organizing the Disorganized Child
7. Use a portable homework station. Once you have your supplies sorted, make a caddy or use a wheeled cart to organize all your supplies at home. Easily bring all your supplies between rooms or on the go.
Quick Tip: For DIY options, use a muffin tray to organize small objects or arrange old tins and cups to hold your writing utensils.
8. Have your kids make their own lunches.
Let kids choose their own lunches, and they’ll be more likely to finish their meals every day. This is a great way to teach your kids how to be independent and start choosing their food for themselves. To make sure they’re still getting the right nutrients, have a designated food drawer or refrigerator section that you fill with the dairy, proteins, veggies, fruits, and grains that they need! Designate a space in your refrigerator or pantry for your kids to easily reach their snacks for self-service.
Quick Tip: Give your kids input on the weekly grocery list to better minimize food waste.
9. Start a file bin now.
Instead of waiting for the end of the year, start organizing finished projects and old handouts now! Decide which papers and projects are important to keep as they complete work during the school year. At the end of the year, the decluttering of old school supplies will be much easier.
Quick Tip: Organize for easy access: separate between long-term storage, frequent use (like a times table), and short-term storage (like handouts for each unit).
10. Sign up for online after school classes. Online after school classes are a great option for busy students. Instead of being shuttled from activity to activity, kids can join live online classes from home. Get access to the best instructors and classes that are available nationwide and have fun working with friends in online groups.
Create an account and profile for your kids to find personalized after school enrichment classes at ActivityHero.
In this 2-part series, Peggy Chang, co-founder of ActivityHero chats with Nir Eyal about how to help kids, and their parents, be indistractable and in control of how much time is spent on screen devices because we all struggle with striking the right balance between screen time, homework, family time, chores, work and free play.
In the first episode, we cover Nir’s research and his 4 strategies to help kids and adults avoid conflicts, especially battles over kids screen-time are covered in this discussion.
In the second episode, Nir shares his approach for scheduling Free Play and the Benefits of giving kids Autonomy, without giving kids unlimited access to screen devices.
Our Podcast Guest
Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches psychology, technology, and business. He is also the author of “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life”, a best-selling business book that is also on the top 10 list on Amazon’s School Age Parenting list.
In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today.
As you plan your child’s schedule, visit ActivityHero.com for summer and school holiday camps, online classes, and on-demand activities for your kids all year long.
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.
3 Benefits of Tutoring
Online tutoring benefits kids in academic performance, life aspirations, and even psychological health — much more than just learning loss prevention.
2. Students are 16% more likely to attend online classes regularly and 6% less likely to exhibit behavioral problems during the school day.1
3. Tutoring is the most effective among earlier grades. However, it’s worth noting that reading generally yields higher results in earlier grades whereas math tutoring is more impactful in later grades.2
Our Podcast Guests
Ben Brogadir co-founded The Teacher Marketplace as a way to help teachers and families nationwide during the pandemic. As the father of two, he is focused on educating students safely and effectively, and firmly believes in equal access to tutors so that no child is left behind.
Chessa Kenney taught in New York City for 13 years before joining The Teacher Marketplace. An educator, parent of two, and is committed to making individualized educational experiences more accessible and efficient for families nationwide.
Based on the number of votes, reviews, and overall ratings from families in 2021, New York Chess Academy is 1st Place in ActivityHero’s Best of 2021 Awards. This amazing business inspires a love of chess for all levels and ages.
New York Chess Academy (NYCA) organizes programs and services for all levels and ages. ActivityHero families love camps, after-school classes, private lessons, and tournaments held by NYCA!
“My five year old loves chess and loves coach Philip. We had trial class with another school before we had our trial with coach Philip and from the first minute I knew he was amazing and NYCA is the right choice. My son is learning so fast and the coach is able to keep his focus on an hour long zoom class. The price per class is far less than what you will find at other schools. Just have a trial class and if your child shows interest so not hesitate to sign them up for classes. Chess is amazing and the coaches at NYCA are wonderful.”
Parent Review – Chess for Ages 3-5 Years
“The instructor is really great! He not only teaches chess skills but also enjoys chess and chat with kids. He also take care of interests with different ages and levels of kids.”
Parent Review – PAWNS Online Group Class
“My daughter has been taking chess classes via zoom shortly after COVID began, we live in FL. Her cousin from NY also joined and they are having so much fun together. Coach Ivan is wonderful he takes the time to really get to know the kids. We will continue to enjoy these classes during the summer and fall.”
New York Chess Academy is determined to promote chess, in all its aspects, to all those interested in it. Through chess, kids can develop self-confidence, decision-making skills, friendships, and sportsmanship.
By offering its services at affordable prices, New York Chess Academy strives to ensure that chess, its undeniable benefits, and its welcoming community are accessible to all. It is this drive to provide equal opportunities that distinguish New York Chess Academy in the field of chess.
New York Chess Academy is an organization formed by a group of chess enthusiasts and friends to promote chess and provide knowledge, experience, and assistance to everyone interested. Programs and services include camps, after-school classes, private lessons, and tournaments.
New York Chess Academy believes that chess is fun and the real fun will only begin when you truly understand the game and you started loving it. Kids and adults alike love NYCA instructors and classes.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Krakeln is a friendly vocabulary-building app suitable for even young users.
Orange Street Newsis 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.