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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Vacations

5 Tips When Kids Won’t Listen

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

By Wendy Chou

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

1. Talk less

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

2. Listen more

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

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

3. Use non-verbal cues

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

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

4. Seek out opportunities for communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Kid-Friendly Podcasts for Road Trips

happy child on a road trip

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

By Wendy Chou

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

Start by Creating a Playlist

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

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

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

A Few Caveats

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

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

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

5 Recommended Podcasts for Kids

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

Brains On! 

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

Dream Big 

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

Pants on Fire

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

The Story Pirates

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

Book Club for Kids 

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

 

 

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

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

About Wendy Chou

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

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
Parenting Resources

5 Ways for Working Moms to Plan Around Their Kids’ Schedules

working moms schedule tipsPhoto by Flickr user tombothetominator

Working moms, we salute you.

You juggle your kids’ schedules. Your spouse’s schedule. Your work schedule. And that tiny, sometimes-depressing thing you still refer to affectionately as your social calendar (even though it’s mostly filled with play dates . . . the ones with moms you like).

As a mom today, managing time is a full-time job. That you have on top of your actual job. And on top of being a mother, a.k.a. full-time job number one. Today, women’s roles are larger than ever before.

For women in full-time jobs, it is impossible to be around for our children around the clock. So, we strike a balance. While it is important to make time to be with our children as much as possible, and we find ways to maximize that time, we also ensure that our children are in safe hands and well looked after when we’re not around.

But how do we manage it? How do working moms juggle motherhood and career and strike a healthy balance between the two?

1. Create a Fool-Proof Schedule

working moms schedule tips make a perfect schedulePhoto by Flickr user Joe Lanman

Sure, there are days when you cannot get your child to ballet no matter how much kicking and screaming is involved. But having a schedule of activities for your children after school (and a schedule with your spouse, family, or babysitter to get them there) can give you the space you need not only to get your work done, but get some chores done at home and get dinner ready before the evening chaos begins.

It can be a headache to work out the perfect schedule yourself, but ActivityHero has recently added a calendar feature that makes things much simpler. When you’re shopping for activities, save them and compare everything you’re considering side by side to see how your son’s baseball lines up with your daughter’s self-defense. That way you can choose providers that fit time wise and geographically without a lot of complicated charts.

2. Get a Well-Trained Baby Sitter

working moms schedule tips babysitterPhoto by Flickr user FamilyTravelCK

Baby sitters are lifesavers to parents with full time jobs. An experienced sitter will not only fill in for you when you are away but ensure that your baby gets proper care and necessary attention. And in some ways, a well-trained sitter is better suited to take care of your child because s/he has been trained in the art of childcare.

But a baby sitter doesn’t need to be a personal sitter; it’s really anyone who watches your baby for you, including day care and summer camp staff. For many parents these options are not only more cost-effective, but also socialize your child so you have to worry less about scheduling play dates.

Either way, with experienced hands taking over the reins from you when you take off for work, you can be better relaxed and be more productive at work.

3. Avoid Doing Overtime by Bringing Work Home

working moms schedule tips bring work homePhoto by Flickr user k.streudel

Overtime makes you stay longer than necessary at work and reduces the time available for you to enjoy with your kids. If possible, take the extra work home.

This is ideal for parents who can work from home. Bringing work home makes it easier for you to leave early from work to spend more time with your children. You can take care of work after your child has retired to bed and you get your alone time. If you kids are old enough, you can have “homework” time together.

4. Cut Down on Your Lunch Hour

working moms schedule tips take less lunchPhoto by Flickr user stevendepolo

The less time you waste over lunch and idle talk, the more time you have on your hands. With the extra time, you can cover more work and finish early. Spending the extra time on work gives you more time to spend on your children.

While this is not to say that as a working mom you have to give up on your own entire social life to spend time with your children, save lunch breaks or extended chats with co-workers for special occasions instead of everyday. They will feel more special and meaningful that way, and you really will find more time to get your work finished early during the day.

5. Compromise

working moms schedule tips compromise at workPhoto by Flickr user jim.greenhill

Sometimes, you might have to delay what you want to make space for something else. If working late will qualify you for a promotion but cause you to reach home when your children are already asleep, you will have to choose between giving up the promotion until your child is older and better adjusted or working out a schedule with your spouse or a baby sitter that allows you to get your work done while your child is cared for.

Whenever possible, work out an arrangement with your boss. In some cases, it might mean taking a personal day when your child needs to go for vaccinations or taking ‘sick’ days when your child is not feeling well at the expense of sick days for when you are actually sick. All in all, it requires understanding and bargaining from all parties involved.

It is ultimately up to you to prioritize which comes first or which is more important, though it can often feel like you receive one type of pressure at work and another one from other mothers, or women in general. Remember, that with promotions come bigger responsibilities and less time with your children and loved ones.

Whatever time you have to spend with your kids, spend it wisely.

 

Guest blogger Virginia Cunningham is a writer based in Los Angeles, California, who has found ways to work full-time at home with her children. She currently blogs about vitamins and other supplements for the Canadian pharmacy NorthWest Pharmacy.

5 Ways for Working Moms to Spend More Time with Kids