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A Different Back to School List

A Different Back to School List

Back to school is back. Again. I started to think of all the ways to prepare for the new school year, and I quickly realized that the typical checklist was not what we needed to hear this year. I listed all the things that have been said on hundreds, actually thousands of blogs. Sure, I could add my own twist, but I trust that you already know most of these tips and probably implement many of them into your own family routine. Suggestions that go something like this: Organize: clothes, food, supplies, home Plan homework time Do your best to not over schedule Plan your meals Create a family calendar Develop routine for mornings Get proper sleep, for everyone involved Checklists and checklists for your checklists And yes, I agree, all of these will help you. With that being said, I would love to offer a new tip for preparing for back to school: Focus on what our children want the most: To feel heard, acknowledged, validated, and to know that they matter. It all boils down to one thing: Authentic communication. How do we prepare to communicate authentically? Well, the answer recently came to me from a group of high school students enrolled in a child development class. I was asked by a dear friend to come into her class and test out a new game I developed for families focusing on communication and connection between parent and child. It was initially targeted for children 3-12 years old. The opportunity to test the game out with high school students was terrifying for me. Would they think it was stupid? Would they even participate? Would I be transported back to my own high school years and be bullied and ridiculed by these students? I was scared. And I did it anyway. I had a heart to heart talk with the students before I introduced the game. I let them know my own story about my experience in high school, how I was bullied, and made fun of every day, every year. I went on to explain how I created a successful preschool at 21 years old, opened a wellness center at 29 years old, and founded my current company shortly thereafter. I explained how my classmates that made fun of me had not experienced much success in life both personally and professionally. I reminded them of their greatness and...

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He’s 8. He’s Already Asking.

He’s 8. He’s Already Asking.

Walking home from school yesterday, my son turns to me and says, “So, when can I get a cell phone, Mom?” He’s 8. How on earth… What the…Why? Who? What?! He went on to talk about the kids in the fourth grade (fourth grade!) who are texting each other in the hallways at school. He talked about how important it is to be able to talk to his friends. Let them know if he’ll be late for class. I turned my head to look at him at this point, and I swear I felt like the exorcist when her head started spinning. What on earth was he talking about? It’s my job to let his teacher know if he’s late, not his. And certainly not to his friend. Did he turn 16 and I hadn’t noticed? I had to know this was coming, why was I so surprised? Well, like most parents, I was surprised because this growing-up-and-being-influenced-by-others thing is never supposed to happen to our kids, right? He actually pointed out several kids who were walking home around us, with their heads bowed down and their thumbs flailing wildly over these little black rectangles in their hands. It was a beautiful fall day. Crisp, clean air. Gorgeous blue sky, some leaves starting to turn. And there they were…heads bowed down, missing all of it. And of course the reason I was so uncomfortable is that this experience was making me evaluate my own behavior (how rude). It made me wonder how many times I had missed beautiful things so my own thumbs could flail over my own little black rectangle. I turned to him and said, “Wait a minute. Can’t you just talk to them face-to-face? You remember that? Like, talking, talking? You know, like we’re doing now?” He looked up at me and shrugged his shoulders. Gave me a sideways smile and said, “Yeah. I guess.” I didn’t talk to him too much about the studies being done lately about the lack of empathy in children. About the brutal texts that start to fly back and forth, and the confidence, courage and happiness that have been squashed because of them. I’m not sure how I could ever explain the suicides that have followed. When kids are only eleven years old. I certainly didn’t talk to him about online porn, and the horrifying studies about the findings that...

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12 Outdoor Family Snow Activities

12 Outdoor Family Snow Activities

Fresh snow and chilly days make winter the perfect time to get the whole family together. Because snow is only around for a few months, now is the perfect time to enjoy twelve kid-friendly snow activities. 1. Skiing Whether downhill or cross-country skiing, this activity is perfect for a family outing. Most resorts have small bunny slopes for beginners with plenty of advanced slopes for experienced riders. Kids can start skiing as early as 4 or 5, and most resorts offer lessons for children and new beginners. 2. Snowboarding While you are out on the slopes, your family can try snowboarding. Most snow resorts provide runs for both skiers and boarders so families can enjoy these similar activities together. Find the right snowboard types to fit the boarders in your family. 3. Sledding Hiking to the top of a tall hill is a small price to pay for the excitement of gliding through fresh powdery snow. Sledding is a favorite past time for all ages. Whether it’s on a sled, toboggan, or saucer, finding the perfect hill and smoothing your very own run will entertain your entire family all day. 4. Tubing A wintertime snow activity similar to sledding, tubing can reach considerable speed caused by the friction between the inner tube and the snow. Because tubes do not have the same controls sleds do, most tubing is generally done at a resort on a special run designated for tubes. Although it can also work when attached to the back of a snow mobile to ensure complete control. 5. Snowball Fights When bundled up and prepared for wet snow, a snowball fight can be the perfect competition. Whether it is a free-for-all fight, girls versus boys, or parents versus kids, this is a great activity to cure any cabin fever. 6. Catching Snowflakes During snowfall, one of the greatest and probably simplest activities is trying to catch a snowflake on your tongue. Not only does it remind everyone to enjoy the small things in life, but it is also a practice in patience because it is not as easy as it looks. Head back, eyes closed, and tongue out, this can become a family tradition for every yearly snowfall. 7. Building Snowmen An easy task that provides endless fun, building a snowman is a terrific and artistic activity. Unless the sun is out to melt Frosty, he can last...

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How to Savor Summer While You Get Them Ready For School

How to Savor Summer While You Get Them Ready For School

While children and teachers everywhere are looking wistfully at September drawing closer and closer on the calendar, many parents come mid-august are good and ready for the year to start. Is it starting to feel like too much unstructured time, too much of a good thing and too much time together? You’re not alone, believe me, but there are some things that even you, the eager-to-get-back-to-school-parent, might want to savor in the last days of summer. You can actually spend this last bit of summer doing a few small things that will help your child get ready for the new school year, all while savoring these last days. These may seem like small things but they are things that usually take quite a bit of adjustment the first few weeks of school. And the best part is that you can do them while you enjoy the last few weeks by also taking advantage of some simple joys that summer holds. If that bedtime has slowly crept to a later and later time as summer days are long and schedules are more lax, slowly start to bring your child’s bedtime back to the time it needs to be for them to wake in a reasonable mood on school days. This will be a huge help in having them start the year smoothly. I’m talking no more than a fifteen minute difference at a time, making the change gradually will be easier on them and you, and can really help them get through that first week well-rested. Now as I give this advice, I painfully aware that this falls under the “do as I say not as I do” category. I think this is a great idea and I think it can make a huge difference in your child’s adjustment to that first week of school, but I was never good at imposing it on myself. When I was teaching full-time, I was always up until at least midnight the night before the first day. While I always made it through the first day on the rush of excitement, it caught up with me and I was exhausted by the end of the week. Imposing an earlier bedtime will ensure your child is well rested for those first days and she can end the week as cheerily as she began it. Oh, and you can be the one shaking your head...

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I Survived Summer Camp. Will The Kids?

I Survived Summer Camp. Will The Kids?

Aah, my memories of summer camp: sitting on a rusty nail and the tetanus shot that followed, gazing into the camp fire and my glasses falling in, being slathered in calamine lotion after lying in poison ivy, walking terrified from bunk to bathroom in the middle of the night with all manner of animal—including stinky boys—observing. These are the memories of a lifetime, and I wanted to make sure my kids had them as well. So when we moved to Rochester, the first thing I did was search for summer camp programs. People thought I was nuts. Why would you send your kids to camp? Let them do nothing. Let them just play. They’ll figure out what to do with themselves. But they were five and three at the time, and I knew that if I didn’t find a summer camp, I would end up as their camp counselor. Somehow I knew this would not be a good thing. I searched and searched until I found the day camp that sounded like Club Med for kids; with arts and crafts, singing around the campfire, canoeing and swimming, and lots and lots of dirt (none of which would enter my home, as I intended to hose them down before entering). It was called Creative Themes. and for 27 years they have entertained kids during Rochester summers. And, of course, I couldn’t get them in. There was a huge waiting list, and no amount of cajoling, begging or crying worked. How could this be, since everyone I met kept telling me that no one in this town sent their kids to camp?    When I was a kid growing up in New York City, there was no question that I was going to camp—day camp first and, when I was older, sleepaway camp. It’s not that I was a fresh-air kid growing up amid city asphalt and in need of some green. I grew up in the greenbelt of Staten Island (yes, there is one). But my mother knew that an idle child and a busy mother was not a good combination. By the time I came along (the youngest of four), she signed me up at birth to attend the day camp my siblings had gone to before me.  From the very first day, I hated going. It was buggy and hot, and the grounds were near a fetid-smelling swamp....

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Active Indoor Activities for Kids

The dog days of Summer have arrived early this year. Blazingly hot weather poses pitfalls for young and old alike. As a parent of young children though, the challenge lies in how to keep your active kids entertained indoors when the heat is too extreme outside. They’re bound to get cranky due to boredom unless you engage them with compelling activities. Therefore I’ve come up with a list of ideas to diminish the possibility of the kids plunging into cabin fever meltdown. Active indoors games: Duck Duck Goose – a classic which only requires a small space and a couple of participants. Musical Chairs – A few chairs (small stepping stools work well too) and music. Play Catch – Make use of an open space. Soft bean bag or plush balls. Can roll the ball or catch. Mix it up based on the ages of the kids. Hop Scotch – Might require some assembly of a board. Check out the following link from Nick Jr. for a Backyardigan’s Hopscotch board. http://www.nickjr.com/crafts/backyardigans-hopscotch.jhtml Jumping Jacks – Not only do they get exercise, but you can incorporate counting games into the mix. Build a fort – Make use of pillows, sheets, etc. to build a fort. From there the kids can choose to create a game. Storm the castle anyone? Have a Music Jam – Play guitar? Even if you’re playing causes the neighborhood dogs to sing, it doesn’t matter. The point is to just break out some instruments, play them, and let them belt out some songs to their heart’s content. If you don’t have any instruments on hand make use of pots, spoons, pillows, boxes, etc. Basically anything that can be safely used as a percussion instrument. For kids 3 and older, the Nintendo Wii offers interactive entertainment which really gets kids moving and excited. I’m not usually a proponent of video games for young children, but this particular game console is geared towards active compelling fun play for kids. When the children are ready to cool down you can always direct them to more sedate interactive activities such as craft building, painting, coloring, drawing, card games, and more. Reading books with them can also be used as a catalyst for imaginative play. Perhaps they can act out the stories. The possibilities are endless. Post written by Vincent Daly: Please visit his wonderful blog: CuteMonsterDad  You can also follow him...

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